I have, for most of my life, been curious about the creation of a better world. When I think about what this world could be, it comes with feelings of wonder and happiness that are quite the opposite of the guilt and grief that attend the world as we have known it. I think these feelings are related to the sensation of things working out. Or perhaps more accurately, of things having already worked out. It’s like a distant memory of a place we all must know. There is the sense that, somehow, what is true is good, and what is good is so for all of us, and that in our coming to know this we discover there is even more to it than we thought.
This could easily be dismissed as sentimental, even misguided dreaming. Plenty of people along the way have been willing to disabuse me of these notions by explaining how the world really works. To them I can only say, yes… that’s how it’s worked in the past. The question is not whether or not it was, however, but whether or not it had to be. Has the world been the way it has because it simply couldn’t have been otherwise—because of some inviolable law that requires it function just as it has forever? Or could it have been different?
My answer is yes, it could have been, and still could be, different.
This answer permits me to wonder just what it is that might be changed or transformed, and just what it is my heart still whispers about. Such questions may be answered on many levels, but I think we must get to what is fundamental if we are to truly understand. And in the simplest terms possible, I think the world we’ve known has been rooted in the seemingly inviolable principle of death. Death is the ticking clock, the enforcer of our zero-sum games, the tragedy we cannot escape, the ultimate acknowledgment that things don’t work out in the end.
With death as the final arbiter of what is so, the perception of certain realities is inescapable. For starters, death isolates us, each from each. Death is not a team sport, after all—it is the cessation, the extinguishing, forever, of me. In a world beneath death’s sway, the life we “have” is the one thing that is ours and ours alone to do with as we please. We will never receive another, and there is no going back. I am me and you are you, and we are profoundly separate beings, each packaged separately, our lives compartmentalized by the bounding walls of our individual volition and ultimate demise.
To say that conflict arises from this view is an understatement. And there is no escaping it while death is in command. Our responses to the situation vary greatly. Some try to be good, or virtuous. Some to maximize pleasure or profit in the time allotted. Some to pass on a name, a mark, or a brand. Others to live quietly while leaving not a trace. I’m not sure the world will ever be without conflict, by the way, and certainly not without differences of opinion, perspective, and desire. But there’s a tragic edge to things when death is running the show.
So let us talk of Life! We’re all enamored of life in one way or another, but I think precious few of us yet appreciate its true dimension. The life of which I speak is not the life defined by death’s shadow. It is not some fragile, chance dynamic hacking bubbles of being from the inky sea of molasses that is death’s perpetual presence, only to collapse again into nothing at all. It is not defined by bodies or forms or colors alone, though these are most certainly spun-off from its creative flux. It is not some subset of the world we see. Life, real life, is an indivisible movement, a power unto itself alone, a perpetually unfolding wholeness in which nothing is truly lost, and in which we are fundamentally joined even as the platform of Life itself brokers the possibility of freedom, novelty, and differentiation.
We realize how profoundly death’s grip has held us when we try to parse the statement: there is no death in Life. What does this even mean? To the rational mind still isolated from the whole, still divorced from the heart’s clear knowing, the statement would seem to require a sort of superhero immortality—that we live in our current form forever. Wouldn’t this be life without death? Well, no actually! Such a notion is still in death’s thrall; it is simply death inside-out. Still defined by death alone, this existence would be yet another, macabre form of tragedy: day without night, existence without rest, and stasis without transformation. This is not Life!
There’s a great deal more to unpack here, but for now I simply wanted to convey some sense of the spaces we’ve yet to explore. The question is still before us: how would a world nourished by our awareness of Life itself be different than the world we’ve made in the past? I must admit this is where the dreams begin for me, the flashes of what might be. None of us can predict the experience we will have when we begin something new, but we can imagine it, and what I imagine are conditions obtaining in our society like transparency, simplicity, and authenticity. Death is the great obfuscator, you see—the keeper of secrets and guilt, the progenitor of shame. Through these instruments, death commands our allegiance. These could fall away, leaving us with genuine concern for all life, backed by a willingness to make an honest accounting of things, and the space to do so in which blame and mistrust are replaced by compassion and support.
Most importantly what I see is the restoration of rational values, by which I mean those values that emerge when the thrall of death has been left behind, and the power to destroy is finally seen as ineffectual compared to the power to create. The masculine and feminine—the mind and the heart—will merge and our actions will be guided by the principles of life. It is hard for us to even comprehend how it may be so, but it is possible for us to be freed from the horrible trade-offs that stalk us today. And this is how we will know the world has been transformed: when the means of our fulfillment are profoundly just, and the source of our joy is the day itself.