We have known for a while that commodified life, which centers around comforts, work, and consumption, has left us uninspired, wondering what else there is to living. Young generations have expressed their experience of this vacuum loudly, through unleashing experimentation on the fringes and seeking to lose themselves in the collective ecstasy of rock concert mobs. Without something to live for, life becomes a daily exercise of going through the motions.
And then came a pandemic which halted life as we knew it across the planet, disrupted supply chains, sent people back to their homes and families for safety, and revealed our collective vulnerability and interdependence. But we humans learn slowly because our mindsets are hard to change. Even though millions of people began to reevaluate their lives, values, and priorities, we still hoped and tried hard to resume business as usual — which means acting as though we are separate from others, and profit is still the guiding global motivation.
Just as we were starting to take off our masks and venture back into ordinary socializing, the invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Putin sent a shock wave through much of the world. The level of outrage people experienced watching young and unsuspecting Russian soldiers being marched through a thriving independent country and turning it to rubble on the unabashed lie that its land belongs to another country — that moral outrage woke people up from the slumber of existence. Hundreds of thousands filled the streets of the capitals of the world and even defied Putin’s Stalinist fist within Russia to oppose this shameful war and to insist that leaders do something to uphold justice. Governments were forced to come out of their political inertia and act in increasing unison to enforce collective measures that send a clear signal that the world is governed by some shared human principles that cannot be so blatantly violated and will be defended.
Within two weeks of unimaginable suffering for Ukrainian people, the whole of Europe opened its doors and homes to the millions of refugee women and children whose husbands, sons, and fathers were left back home in Ukraine behind makeshift bunkers fighting the invader and upholding the dignity of their land. The grassroot mobilization of humanitarian effort quickly reached a scale unknown until now. Beds, couches, floors, and kitchens rapidly became shared resources for a suffering humanity which no longer made the distinction between friend and stranger but simply reached out and responded to need. Courageous journalists kept reporting from the frontline stories of extraordinary valor, resilience, love, and dignity amid chaos. We learned of Ukrainians who could no longer buy antidepressants in their war-ravished cities, but who, surprisingly, felt less depressed because they suddenly found a purpose — to cook and feed their soldiers. We learned of people all over Western Ukraine opening every inch of private space for the stream of desperate refugees to be fed and sheltered, and even keeping family heirlooms of people they barely knew. We learned of an almost overnight national transformation in which people shifted from ordinary lives to an unimagined level of unity and single-mindedness in helping each other, learning to use guns, and transforming into warriors, while feeding the front lines, and assisting the elderly, the pregnant, and the sick in underground shelters. On March 12, the Washington Post wrote: “Trust, once hard-won, is now freely given and received out of necessity.”
The world is watching this transformation with awe and astonishment. Thanks to the heroic Ukrainians, we are all realizing what we miss the most in life — purpose, unity and single-mindedness in our collective vulnerability and interdependence, willingness to act on behalf of justice and human dignity with valor, resilience, and love. We are realizing that such a transformation is possible for all of us, within days, if we truly wish to participate in the birth of a caring civilization. And we are realizing that there is no greater power than the power of ordinary people choosing to organize for a worthwhile cause — and that when they do, governments are forced to follow.
So, what is it we all long for?
It seems that we long for a civilization that is spiritual as well as material. A civilization that not only applies scientific knowledge to improving the lives of people, but also operates out of equally important spiritual understanding that the essence of life is the development and expression of our qualities of spirit — love, justice, unity, commitment, steadfastness, caring, generosity. When we decide that our commodified lives on the edge of an unraveling environmental catastrophe are no longer enough, and that we wish to live as spiritual beings on this planet, we have the innate sense and capacity to do so.
Driving through downtown Washington D.C. last night, I saw the magnificent building of the Kennedy Center for the Arts all lit up in light blue and yellow, raising the Ukrainian flag in the night — now a symbol of hope for people everywhere that justice and courageous unity can prevail. Light blue — the color of the skies; and yellow — the color of the sun. What clearer visual symbol of horizons of healing and faith?
Perhaps this is the hidden wisdom of these unfolding tragedies claiming millions of innocent lives. Perhaps this is our time of collective awakening to our true nature and purpose. Perhaps this is the beginning of a genuine civilization — material, as well as spiritual, united in planetary collaboration.
It is amazing to me that on the eve before 2022 was to unfold, I was moved to write the piece No One Is a Stranger. Rereading it now, it seems as though a Greater Force was moving through me on December 31, 2021 — it sounds like such a clear warning for what is now unfolding. This same Force addressed humanity at the dawn of the modern age with these prophetic words from the Fire Tablet which I now read for Ukraine every day:
By Thee the banner of independence was planted on the highest peaks, and the see of bounty surged, O Rapture of the worlds…
Today, we witness in the Ukrainian people a sense of independence, dignity, and decency which speaks clearly of a greater spiritual reality than the mere numbers of soldiers and planes, important as those are — one that transforms consciousness and infuses unexpected stamina.
As we continue to read the daily devastating news of violent destruction alongside with columns advertising new luxury products, financial services, and entertainment, it is hardly possible not to notice that this decadent world order of separateness and greed is dying and unraveling fast. In fact, the planet is telling us that it is collapsing. Something new is being born in its place. Can we see it? Will we step forth and channel our energies to whole-heartedly support it?
To learn more about these parallel processes of a dying world and a new consciousness being born, explore Global Unitive Healing: Integral Skills for Personal and Collective Transformation
Elena Mustakova, author of Global Unitive Healing, brings a psychological, social, and historical evolutionary lens and points to spiritual principles and conscious practical steps that can transform collective despair into a path forward.