The ancient Chinese symbol for crisis, wei-chi, combines two elements: danger and opportunity. The danger is that if one continues to pursue approaches that are no longer working, then disaster is imminent. The opportunity is to let go of the old patterns and find new ways of being that unleash new, and possibly unforeseen, potentials.
The many global crises we are now facing are symptomatic of a set of values and a mode of thinking that is no longer working. Our tools and technologies have given us unprecedented control of the world around us. We have thus fallen into the trap of believing that the path to human fulfillment lies in manipulating the world around us, manufacturing ever more things, and so creating ever more waste. This is clearly no longer working. Over consumption of resources and unbridled pollution of the oceans, atmosphere and soil are now threatening human civilization, if not humanity itself.
This approach also no longer works on an individual level. Despite all our burgeoning material comforts people as a whole are no happier than they were fifty years ago. The need to feel in control of events leads to greed, anxiety and fear, states of mind which, by their very nature, take us away from the peace and fulfillment we truly seek.
Many in the past have seen through the illusion that fulfillment comes from what we have and do. We call them the wise ones, the liberated, the enlightened. These are people who have discovered a deeper meaning to life, an inner joy that is not dependent on circumstances, and a compassion that leads to care for other beings. Such people are often revered as saints, yet there is nothing special about them — apart from the fact that they have woken up from the dream in which the rest of us live. They hold the key to our future. A world in which we can live together, free from unnecessary fear, and in harmony with our surroundings.
Our various crises are pushing us towards this shift in consciousness, calling us to a collective awakening, and to a world governed by wisdom and compassion rather than greed and fear. The time to wake up is now. The danger is too immense to risk. The opportunity is too good to miss.