What happens when the world as you know it literally shifts overnight? What happens when you are displaced from everything you are used to doing? What happens when you are forced to spend more time than ever with yourself?
What happens if all the mechanisms to improve your quality of life that your country had didn’t make you feel safe, supported, secure or happy? And what happens when you realize that all the ways you spend your time and money in order to feel fulfilled were just empty promises?
It might feel unbearable. It might feel unsettling. It might feel like the world is falling apart. It might feel like the world is shifting. And that’s exactly what’s happening right now – it’s the unbearable lightness of a paradigm shift.
The concept of paradigm shifts was identified by the scientist Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the landmark book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” In his book, Kuhn talked about paradigm shifts, and that ultimately, as Kuhn put it, old and archaic paradigms that were being kept alive by dogmatic and rigid thinking eventually dissipated as the old ways were replaced with new ideas.
This is what we’re seeing now – everything we believed right is wrong, especially here in the U.S., and specifically with the problems with the economic system and the lack of a social safety net – problems that have been exposed for all to see with the coronavirus pandemic.
The good news is, even if we don’t know exactly what it might look like, we can still embrace the coming new paradigm. To not know what it might look like is to be willing to live with uncertainty, and to be willing to sit with it and let it unfold.
Leaving the Door Ajar
The brilliant and iconoclastic physicist Richard Feynman, who received a Nobel prize for his pioneering work in quantum physics, once said, “I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain … In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.”
What does leaving a door to the unknown ajar look like? It looks like what we see now, and it definitely feels unsettling. That’s because the not knowing is creeping through that door.
The ground has been pulled out from beneath us. But what was that ground in the first place? Here’s the truth of it: that ground was false pretenses, an identity theft, if you will. Your identity was being stolen by a silent, invisible thief who conspired to keep you away from yourself. The thief stole your identity by keeping you caught up in the busyness of life, a busyness that took you away from who you truly are.
Alan Watts called it the taboo against knowing who you are, and we did everything in our power to maintain the taboo. And now it’s all been peeled away. For many of us, your job is not there, or you’re working from home. You’re not so busy. You can’t go out and spend your money on consumerism. You have more time with yourself. You’re not shuffling your kids all over the place. You’re not going to bed as exhausted. Your life has slowed down.
It actually might not feel that bad. It’s truly a paradigm shift in the way you live – slowing down, not chasing the day, not burning the rubber, and not burning the candle at both ends.
It just might lead you to wonder: Why was I living my life in the way I did? Who was making me do that? And do I want to go back to that?
You know what, it’s a scene right out of the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime”:
“And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?”
Yes, how did I get here?
Opening Your Mind
Maybe it’s time to open your mind to what really matters. If you do open your mind, you may just say, hey, there’s a better way to do things. And if you’re more comfortable in your own skin, if you can spend time with yourself and be content and fulfilled with that, you’re on the path to leaving the door ajar to the unknown.
That unknown is actually known – you just have to discover it. The answers are already there. You have to open your mind – to imagine, to vision – and you will find it. And once you do, you will experience an unbearable lightness of a paradigm shift.
What locks us up so tightly that we don’t have the capacity to feel the vast openness of the mind’s ability? Again, it’s that busyness – it’s an addiction that feeds the taboo against knowing who you are. But now we have been afforded an exceptional opportunity to tune into the great wide open. The author Sue Monk Kidd stated clearly the process:
“Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like elevator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the bottom for a ride to the top. The real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long.”
And what happens when you let the elevator doors slide open? Infinite possibilities then abound.
We no longer have to be closed to these possibilities, and we no longer have to be complacent either about what could be. Complacency arises when we’re busy doing everything else but spending time with ourselves – as the saying goes, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.
And why should we be complacent? In the U.S., there’s a lot of things that should shake you out of your complacency, of and by itself. I’m talking about the problems we face: wealth and income inequality; student debt levels; consumer debt levels; racial disparities; the mechanisms of the for-profit health care system; the pollution of the environment; the chemicals in food; and the list goes on.
We are not lacking solutions, we are lacking the imagination, the will, the courage and the boldness to shift the paradigm. The current paradigm is one dictated by growth and profits over everything else, dictated by corporate dominance, and dictated by consolidated wealth that sets public policy.
What would happen if you lived in a society that put the thriveability of the individual first, and from there, everything else then flowed? It would allow you to live in a more authentic manner, and would allow you to know yourself better.
If you went to college, you wouldn’t have massive student debt. If you needed to see a doctor, you wouldn’t have to wonder if you could afford it. If you were concerned about the environment, you wouldn’t have to worry about all the polluting industries that put their profits above the health of the planet. If you wanted to get together with people and collaborate on art, music, a project, a business, an innovative idea, or anything else, you could do so without being weighed down with wondering how you might pay your bills.
This is the society and world we want and desire to live in. And it can happen. The ideas to make this happen are right in front of our faces. It just takes a paradigm shift, and being comfortable with the feeling of unbearable lightness that would accompany living amidst that shift.
If these ideas interest you, I invite you to join a free webinar on Zoom entitled “Investing In and Creating Our Future: Innovating New Ways for Thriving” that Anodea Judith and myself, Michael Wayne, are doing on Tuesday, April 21st at 2pm Eastern Time and also on Tuesday, April 28th at 7pm Eastern Time.
Here’s the call details:
The discussion will take place on Zoom. Go to this link to attend:
You can also call in at: 646-558-8656 U.S. or 669-900-6833 U.S.
or 312-626- 6799 U.S.(Webinar ID: 207 782 666)
For international calling, find your local number:
In this webinar, we will delve into the heart of the matter – the economic system – and the steps we can take to change it. We will look at simple and profound steps that can be taken that would create a beautiful world that allows all of us to innovate into a life economy, one in which everyone can prosper and thrive, and in which you are free to live your life in the manner that is most authentic to you.
Topics that will be discussed include:
***The life economy
***Green New Deal
***The Federal Reserve
***What money is
***Growth vs. thriveability
***Why the city of Amsterdam is leading the way
***Universal basic income
***The unbearable lightness of a paradigm shift
***Why this time of disruption is such a fertile time to shift the paradigm
Talking about economics may sound boring and dull, but this is a conversation that will be very inspiring and exciting about the possibilities ahead for conceiving and designing a more beautiful world, as it will lay out a clear and practical path forward for creating a positive future that allows all to thrive.