Humanity is in its cultural adolescence. Birthed from the primal world of nature, billions of years in gestation, we have risen out of Stone Age infancy, crawled across the land in teeming toddlerhood, and labored through five thousand years of sibling rivalry, to emerge in the present time as teenagers undergoing the difficult process of becoming adults.
Powerful but reckless, bursting with repressed libido, and hostile to any sense of limits, we have been abundantly fed by the bounty of mother nature since our earliest beginnings. But now the fishes are gone, the trees are falling, the topsoil is washing away. The vast storehouse of oceans and forest are being emptied, no longer free for the taking.
With the Mother Goddess having long been denied, and the Big Daddy in charge dangerously lacking in moral conscience, we are being asked, both as individuals and a culture, to quite simply, grow up. This is our maturation into adulthood. But what will it take for us to get there? As a child enters adolescence, he or she undergoes a rapid growth spurt, which stops when the adolescent reaches adult size. That growth may be in height, weight or sexual characteristics, but it’s accompanied by a change in hormones that makes the adolescent, well – a little crazy – as any parent would attest. In addition, this growth spurt is fueled by consuming everything in sight, with little regard for the consequences.
But once the hormones settle down, and physical growth stops, the emotions settle down as well. The child becomes a young adult. There is still much to learn, but the intellectual and spiritual growth now takes precedence over physical growth and life moves forward once again in a relatively sane manner.
In the evolution of civilization, oil has served as our adolescent growth hormone. Oil has grown humanity into a global civilization. Through the transportation industry, we can visit most any place on the planet, and import images of distant people and places into our living rooms. We import goods in a complex network of exchange that brings us everything from the didgeridoos of Australian aborigines to the latest technology from China or Japan. We export computers and cell phones across the globe that enables, for the first time ever, the possibility of a global brain.
But just as an adolescent’s growth hormone doesn’t last forever, our oil-based growth spurt is nearing its end. By every reasonable prediction, the use of oil will outpace its production, and eventually run out. The endless consumption that is destroying the environment, the frenzied activity that keeps us stressed, and the irrational compulsion toward conquest that requires an oil industry to support it, just won’t have the fuel it needs to continue. With the means now in place for maintaining a global network of intelligence, our growth will now be more spiritual than material: more about information than products, networks rather than markets, understanding rather than conquest. As the hormones settle down, perhaps our sanity will return, and we can begin to enter a cultural maturity that will hold blessings we can scarcely imagine.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that getting from adolescence to adulthood usually involves a rite of passage, a challenging initiation that contains loss and suffering, one that asks us to transform or die. With a global economy and lifestyle addicted to oil, the machinery that drives this lifestyle will grind to a halt. It is no wonder that the head of our country is an oil man; the oil situation is clearly coming to a head. Those who are most served by this system, meaning those who most profit from consumption, will suffer, and unfortunately take many others with them. No ones knows how this will play out against the constant ingenuity of human intelligence, but there is no doubt it is going to be a wrenching shift at every level of civilization.
Perhaps there is a silver lining to this impending shift. Perhaps we will lose what we don’t need. Can we let go of another pair of shoes from China to have more time to walk barefoot on the grass? Can we imagine the sound of birds and wind without being drowned out by traffic? Can we imagine joining with neighbors to tear down our fences and grow food that doesn’t have to be trucked from a distance? Will we have more time to read and be with our kids because it’s too expensive to drive to that meeting? Can we finally get in shape riding our bikes to local jobs that serve local communities, while our minds collaborate in the cyberspace of the global brain? Homo sapiens sapiens – the humans that are capable of knowing themselves -- have lived for well over a hundred thousand years without the machinery we take for granted today. If we live a hundred thousand more, it will be with greater intelligence, maturity, and wisdom. Perhaps we will live long enough to become as gods.
"Anodea Judith, Ph.D.":/global-transformation/author
Adapted from the book, "Waking the Global Heart: Humanity’s Rite of Passage from the Love of Power to the Power of Love", Elite Books, June, 2006. Click here to order