The future is not like some spectator sport. It’s not something that is happening ‘out there’. The future is actually something that we are co-creating. It is a process that each of us is part of. And, even more than that, the future that we want is something that we can live into every day of our lives.
The inspiring words above are from my guest today on Inside Ideas, Jeremy Lent, author of the award-winning book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, and a writer the Guardian journalist George Monbiot describes as ‘one of the greatest thinkers of our age’.
We live in our modern society according to a worldview that we take as reality that is plain wrong.
In his new book The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find Our Place in the Universe, Lent explores some of the biggest questions: Who am I? Why am I? How should I live? In a narrative which connects findings from areas including modern systems thinking, neuroscience and indigenous wisdom. It is a truly remarkable book, which the author hopes can inspire a shift to a more integrated worldview.
“My biggest hope really is a pretty large one, which is to really help to lay the foundations for a fundamentally different worldview that could lead us to an absolutely different future for humanity on this earth. So – it is a pretty big vision to hope that a book can do that, but basically we have been living, for the last few hundred years, according to this particular paradigm – this worldview of disconnection. It is a worldview that has led to all kinds of positive things such as the development of science, and incredible improvements in many elements of the human experience, in understanding of hygiene, and improvements in technology whereby you and I can speak to each other from thousands of miles away. All kinds of positive things have arisen from it so this is not to disparage elements of our worldview but it’s been a worldview of disconnection that is driving our civilisation right now toward a precipice, and driving many of us in our own lived experience to a place of isolation, alienation and a sense of meaninglessness in our own lives. We absolutely have to shift the direction of where we’re going and my hope for this book is that it lays a very solid and intellectually rigorous, coherent foundation for this different worldview of interconnectedness. That, if enough of a critical mass of people can begin to absorb and start to instil into their own lives, we actually still have the possibility of shifting humanity’s trajectory.”
And Lent says a shift is coming, a civilisational change, which will be massive. Many will agree and probably that it will be of a dystopian nature but Lent believes there is a future for humanity that is positive and that it can emerge from the collapse of broken systems that are paving the way to extinction.
“It involves a certain kind of collapse – not a collapse of civilisation itself but a collapse of this capitalist system that is driving us to this completely unsustainable path: this notion of endless growth on a finite planet that we are on right now. And this path would be to move towards a civilisation that some people call an ecological civilisation, by laying the groundwork for a civilisation that is founded on a different basis rather than one that is based on wealth accumulation, exploitation and extraction, towards one that is actually based on life-affirming principles built on the same conditions that allow ecosystems to thrive for millions of years sustainably and in great health. A civilisation that starts off by setting the conditions for all humans to be able to flourish on a regenerative and regenerated earth. That is the notion of what an ecological civilisation is and it is not only possible but it is being done in certain small places around the world right now, where people are living according to those principles of an ecological civilisation.”
And Lent, who is the founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, insists this future can be achieved, and on a global scale.
“It is absolutely available to us, the technology, the economics, the education systems are all available to us to have that kind of civilisation. There are two major conundrums we need to get through to get to that place, though. One is for enough people to realise what is possible and actually start to shift their lives according to it, and the other – maybe equally difficult, is to actually build that life-affirming civilisation within the current civilisation so that, as the current global civilisation collapses, rather than it leading to this complete downfall of everything we know, the other civilisation has already begun to grow within it so the collapse of the prior civilisation becomes more like shedding off a skin rather than everything falling in and disintegrating.”
Listening to Jeremy Lent, it is easy to see why George Monbiot calls him one of the greatest thinkers of our age. And what a huge pleasure it is to have him on the show – enjoy.