What we need to become in the future

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 26, 2015 – 12:00am

Think of everything as in a state of flux and moving faster every day. The change that is happening is quick and quickly sweeping. Life and the world as we knew it 25 years ago is on its way to oblivion. If life had software to run it, it has been upgrading for some time now. And it is continuing to do so almost non-stop.

Just when we think that life’s latest operating system has been installed and is sufficient, a higher version is being set up.

That’s what it feels like being alive today. There has been so much change going on that I feel a new world order is taking shape and about to take over.

The technological advances have been mind-boggling. The socio-political and religious landscapes are under intense pressure to change as well. In many ways, push has come to shove. What used to be unimaginable is now the new reality, whether we like it or not. If we want to live in this new world and be relevant and useful, we will need to adjust, and quickly.

Animals adapt to new environments by evolving new survival instincts and acquiring new capabilities and characteristics. We humans need to do the same.

The following are some traits we will need to develop if we are to thrive in this

1. We must learn to think more inclusively. The idea of excluding or discriminating against certain classes of people and making them feel like outcasts belongs to the past. Gone are the days when slavery, misogyny, homophobia and racial discrimination were acceptable forms of controlling or managing society. There may still be a few vestiges left but surely, they are on the way out.

In many societies, wars based on differences in faith and politics are now seen more and more as uncivilized or even barbaric. It is simply not acceptable to disenfranchise people in one form or another based on political, racial, sexual, economic or religious differences.

The historical trajectory is pointing to ever greater freedom and opportunities for everyone. It will take time to fully realize this, but we will get there sooner than we think.

2. We need more tolerance. Now that we live in a world where gay marriage, women’s rights and racial equality have become more acceptable and has been legalized in many places, we must abandon the idea that certain faiths must rule the world and dictate the law. Human diversity demands that humanistic values, not exclusively religious tenets, be the basis of laws that govern society.

If the goal is to allow all types of people of different faiths, creeds and races to live in ways they wish without infringing on the right and freedom of others to pursue happiness, the management of the world must be based on more secular values.

3. We need a deeper understanding of God and religion that is not tied to outdated concepts. We need to free ourselves from a rigid understanding of religion and holy texts. Literalism kills faith more than anything else. For example, the holy books are nowhere near being authoritative when it comes to science, law and even history. They were not meant to be. In the Bible, you will not find a geographical map that leads to paradise or heaven, nor a scientific treatise on how the universe is made up.

Holy texts of all religions were written in a language that fit the times. And their point was to talk of experiencing God. They were written not as accurate physical descriptions of life or the world, but to draw us into the realm of the mysterium tremendum, the real and felt human longing where we as finite beings are drawn to make sense of the unexplainable and imponderable mysteries of life, the afterlife, God, eternity, etc.

4. Accept the reality of constant, never-ending learning and education to navigate this ever-changing environment. We know that many things that held true before are not true now. And the rate by which these so-called truths and facts reach their expiry date is accelerating. It was once believed that the world was flat. Not anymore. Remember when eggs, coffee, butter and fat were believed to be bad for you, and are now supposed to be “good”? I would not be surprised if further studies reach different conclusions later on.

5. Awaken to and fine-tune our sense of unity and oneness with all things. This is crucial if we wish to reverse environmental degradation. We cannot look at the world as apart from us. We must find our place in the entire scheme of the cosmos and play our part in healing the earth. We are not the rulers of nature but its stewards, protectors who are also part of the integral chain that sustains life.

Our economic systems must respect this and make major adjustments to protect the earth while opening more opportunities for everyone.

Runaway capitalism is passé. Running a business requires great social responsibilities that will mitigate its economic, social and political impact on the earth and its inhabitants. This will not be easy. The call of greed is difficult to tame.

6. We need more transparent politics. Politics must have a built-in mechanism that prevents the proliferation of unbridled power while being effective in pushing truly needed change. This has become more possible due to social media. Citizens will find more venues and opportunities to dialogue with their leaders. It will undoubtedly lead to faster and more efficient government service.

7. Lastly, a caveat. Modernity is not always what it promises to be. We must not readily succumb to the dictates and allure of modern life and its values. Humans are not commodities or units of production that must live feeling enslaved by the pursuit of money and material goods.

I believe children should be running and playing outside instead of being stuck indoors looking at their gadgets. Engagement with people face to face in the real physical world should be given greater value than digital encounters. Live interaction of people and real conversations are irreplaceable.

High-rise condos must not replace the great outdoors. Parks and open areas should be preserved and enhanced. People must engage in more relevant social, political and religious rites and rituals that give their lives more meaning. Progress is not about quantity of wealth but about the quality of life.

Modernity for modernity’s sake is empty, soulless. We must heed the natural call to love, to appreciate beauty, to have passion and meaning. This requires us to cultivate timeless values and make them part of who we are. The world will always need men and women of true character. Meditation, silence, respect for others, compassion, detachment, humor, lightness, intelligence, and the appreciation of all forms of art can help create more highly evolved humans the world will need to move towards a more promising future.

The future is certainly not a done deal. The world may still go crazy and enter a new dark age. But I am a natural optimist.

A few years back, one of my favorite recording artists Donald Fagen came out with a nostalgic album (“The Nightfly”) romanticizing the late President John F. Kennedy’s vision of a New Frontier. He wrote the lines, “What a beautiful world this will be. What a glorious time to be free.”

I want to believe we are going there.