“I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the
modern age has ended. Today, many things indicate that
we are going through a transitional period, when it seems
that something is on the way out and something else is
painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling,
decaying and exhausting itself—while something else, still
indistinct, were rising from the rubble.“
Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic,
Philadelphia, July 4, 1994.
Whether we are in the midst of a personal life transition—entering the workforce for the first time, marriage, birth, divorce, death of a loved one—or navigating a major organizational redesign and reinvention, Vaclav Havel’s words ring a familiar tune in our ears. What is also keenly apparent in today’s age is we have reached a transition period within our institutions and social structures.
The crumbling of our health care, education and industrialized institutions is altering our social fabric. Of the three options from which we can choose—go back to simpler times, stay where we are or walk into the unknown—my personal choice has been the latter. It is my belief this is the quintessential human journey, what philosophers and religious leaders throughout history have referred to as the dark night of the soul. This rite of passage is the essence of human maturation and evolution. Without its experience, again and again, as a species we will not learn to balance survival with self-actualization and extinction rather than evolution could be our end game.
Of course, metaphorical “death and rebirth” require courage and heroic deeds. To be a leader in one’s own life is to become one’s own hero. We do this by confronting and surpassing three hurdles in ourselves and others:
1. judgment (blocks an open mind),
2. depression or emotional withdrawal (blocks an open heart), and
3. fear of letting go of what we have and who we are (blocks an open will).
In order for us to realize any kind of success in overcoming these barriers, our work is of both a personal and collective nature. Facing and abating judgment, withdrawal and fear are great victories that lead to personal freedom. However, our collective energies joined in a similar agenda is the elixir which will reinvent our global social structures bringing an end to:
• 80% of global humanity living in poverty
• billions of healthcare dollars dedicated to illness rather than wellness
• producing toxins that pollute both our bodies and our environment
• preventable diseases currently killing 40,000 children daily
• mistrust from failure of Western materialism and industrialization
• educating for only content (what) and process (how-to) rather than why (purpose and meaningfulness)
During one of my own heroic journeys, I wrote the following as a means of facing judgment, depression and fear.
In facing your own judgment, withdrawal and fear, what actions can you take to walk fully into freedom?