Civilization = evolution

Civilization = evolution

When I hear so much worry and fear about the state of "the world," I often think, "We need some perspective."

We're in process: most people call it "evolution." But I don't mean Darwin's evolution, the evolution of science, which gives us a half-baked idea. Here’s one of my favorite thought exercises.  Suppose we met a genie who agreed to magically reverse all environmental degradation of the last, say, three hundred years or so.  He gives us a pristine planet once again. But alas, we overlook a crucial factor - human thought!  How long do you suppose it would take for us to mess everything up again?

The genie points out: our problem is not of nature, but of culture.  Human beings have evolved so far as to become self-aware, and to some degree, free to shape our experience of life - but in the process, we’ve seriously compromised both nature and society. There is no way to grasp the crucial dimension of human thinking in traditional evolutionary theory—and where there is no hypothesis, we might say " random" or "chance." But to me, an evolutionary theory of "chance" is an admission that we have no grasp of the deeper factors at work; we have an insufficient world view. We don't see that the thinking with which we elaborate evolutionary theory, the story we write about who we are, must also include thinking itself. We say, "whatever." Which tells us nothing about why we we are destroying the earth.

If you want to know what I mean, practice being present. Be present so deeply and so fiercely that your own being present shines out to you for what it is: the manifestation of a spiritual activity. It defies description because it is the source of all descriptions. Being present to presence itself is like staring into the sun—not with our physical eyes, but with our attention. Presence isn't in us—it is us. If we immerse ourselves in it sufficiently, we behold firsthand that it is the source of all meaning, so it doesn't hold water to say, "thinking is just..." or "attention is just..." No. Immerse yourself in the phenomenon of thinking and you participate in the self-sustaining spiritual activity.

Any meaning we give it is like pointing a flashlight at the sun: instead, meditation: being present to presence itself. That is the way to participate in the reality of the source of attention.

What does this mean for evolutionary theory? 

Our thinking is a part of the world that shows up in human beings. But we forget that. Our good and evil; our morality—they are also the world, not merely "the subjective creation of the human being. They are the world's good and the world's evil, the world's morality—through us the world expresses what is otherwise invisible. This means we must enlarge our understanding of nature and our own evolution to include the human being, not as a chance being, but as the vehicle for otherwise hidden and latent aspects of the world's fullness to manifest itself. Those aspects of the world manifests in us, in human beings.

Be present, and it all shows up: the world in its fullness. The inner world of the human being is the inner world of the world. We need to think about this, and talk about it. Evolution has moved indoors: we call it "civilization." And it is in chaos because we do not understand ourselves.