A lovely midsummer day with just enough heat to make the beach inviting. The world is a vivid green, not yet the tired, dusty green of August, but a spectrum of vibrant, happy greens that seem to dance across the landscape.
When we slow down, as happened the other day when we sat on our front porch in the early morning, we may become aware that the world is filled with consciousness/es. Those who hold a more materialist view of the world will say that such moments are a function of our projections onto the world. Sometimes they are just that, yet other times there is something that lets us know we have tuned into the essence of the world and been blessed.
One of the lessons of psychology is that our understanding of our experience is largely shaped by our developmental stage which roughly translates to chronological age. Another is that how we perceive and interpret the world is highly influenced by our capacity as a human beings, that perception is shaped by biology. A five-year old human experiences the world in very much the way great apes appear to. After about age five human brains begin to comprehend the world in ways that would likely seem alien and incomprehensible to our primate cousins.
Being seventy, I find that as I watch young adults navigate the world, I am increasingly aware of the ways biology shapes their experiences. While I have known the theory of human development, and even applied it to my work with clients for many years, I now understand the reality behind the theory in new ways and with a surprising intensity.
These days I find myself wanting to soothe the biologically driven anxiety of the young people I meet, to calm their fears they will fail to find a mate, to challenge their beliefs about some imagined personal unloveability, and to assuage their drivenness to find relationship. I also have a new compassion for myself as a younger person, a sense of distance and caring that seem very much a gift.
I believe we humans are caught in the grip of biology in ways we frequently cannot truly fathom. For instance, we seem compelled to create “others” to fight, and to seek to control the resources in our territories even as our sense of territory continues to grow along with our technological grasp. Might it be that one of the roles of elders has always been to provide a thoughtful buffer to these biological demands and that religious codes developed to help us navigate our developmental quandaries?
As we move through this time in our species’ history, with the changes and challenges that have been long foretold by our seers and Holy Ones, we will surely be tempted, regardless of our age, to demonize the “other”. Perhaps the most challenging aspect to this epoch, like many times of transition, is to find and hold a clear moral compass, insisting on compassion and justice for all, and refusing to create “others” even as we hold ourselves, and our leaders, accountable for the actions we take. If we are to do so, this will indeed require a great developmental leap by our species. It is good to remember that we have made such leaps before.