with Charles Eisenstein
From the melting polar caps to violence in our cities to the rise of fascist governments, ours is an age in which we seem to be able to agree on almost nothing – except that we are in crisis. It would be easy to think of the rising anxiety I’m feeling as something different from the rising sea levels, or to think of the migrant crisis as at odds with the violence in our inner cities. But at the core, all of our crises actually share some of the same roots, and part of the healing process individually involves getting to those roots collectively.
How can we be hopeful when news of our demise comes on the television every night? How can we learn to share our resources when we are told that we can only find meaning by consuming more and more? Most significantly, how can we live as though the planet itself is a single, interconnected community when we have been told that our purpose is to find only individual success, only individual salvation?
I am going to suggest that our spiritual malaise – the loneliness and loss of meaning – is connected to our ecological, political, and economic crises. It’s all connected; and it’s all about the deep story we tell about who we are and our place in the world.
Let me explain.
There’s something in the air, as thick and unmistakable as the CO2 particulates, even if it isn’t as easily quantified. All around us, there is an anxiety about our future, about the future of our children. And like climate change, this anxiety is so massive, so all-encompassing and -consuming, that it feels impossible to escape, impossible to deal with.
We also live in an age of anger, and in an age of fear. But of all the emotions that dominate our age, I am suggesting that loneliness is the most pervasive. It is loneliness that tortures the mass shooter or Wall Street executive who never seems to have enough; it is loneliness that leads us to addictions to shopping or food or anti-anxiety meds.
In some ways, this is my own greatest fear – and, perhaps, that which we all fear: being alone, really alone. I’ve often suggested that this is the ultimate salvation we are all seeking – true communion, connection – far more than any lonely, segregated paradise.
Why are we lonely? The reasons are complex and have to do with the habits and lifestyles of the modern world. We surround ourselves with less family and community; we spend more time staring at screens. But our loneliness begins with a story, a story about who we are on the most fundamental level. This story tells us that our deepest identity is individual, and that we need to buy our way into a meaningful life.
– Theodore Richards
Charles Eisenstein is an essayist, speaker, and author of several books, including Sacred Economics, Climate: A New Story, and The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible.