The Ascent of Humanity 

There is a need that we all feel in different ways: as an anxiety endemic to modern life, as a near-universal feeling of meaninglessness, as a relentless ennui from which we can only ever be temporarily distracted, as a pervasive superficiality and phoniness. It is a feeling that something is missing. Some people call it a hole in the soul. What we are seeking in our technological and other addictions is nothing less than our lost wholeness, and its recovery is what lies on the other side of the imminent collapse of the regime of separation.The causes of boredom are permutations of the interior wound of separation. The ascent of humanity has come at a price, and I am not speaking here merely of the destruction of the ecological basis of human civilization. Our separation-fueled ascent exacts its toll not just on the losers, the victims of our wars, industry, and ecocide, but on the winners as well. It is the highest of all possible prices: it comes out of our very being. For all we have built on the outside, we have diminished our souls. When we separate ourselves from nature as we have done with technology, when we replace interdependency with “security” and trust with control, we separate ourselves as well from part of ourselves. Nature, internal and external, is not a gratuitous though practically necessary other, but an inseparable part of ourselves. To attempt its separation creates a wound no less severe than to rip off an arm or a leg. Indeed, more severe. Under the delusion of the discrete and separate self, we see our relationships as extrinsic to who we are on the deepest level; we see relationships as associations of discrete individuals. But in fact, our relationships—with other people and all life—define who we are, and by impoverishing these relationships we diminish ourselves. We are our relationships. “Interdependency,” which implies a conditional relationship, is far too weak a word for this non-separation of self and other. My claim is much stronger: that the self is not absolute or discrete but contingent, relationally defined, and blurrily demarcated. There is no self except in relationship to the other. The economic man, the rational actor, the Cartesian “I am” is a delusion that cuts us off from most of what we are, leaving us lonely and small. Stephen Buhner calls this cleavage the “interior wound” of separation. Because it is woven into our very self-definition, it is inescapable except through temporary distraction, during which it festers inside, awaiting the opportunity to burst into consciousness. The wound of separation expresses itself in many guises, ranging from petty but persistent dissatisfactions that, when resolved, quickly morph into other, equally petty dissatisfactions in an endless treadmill of discontent, to the devastating phthisis of despair that consumes vitality and spirit. Riding any vehicle it can, the pain from the interior wound manifests in a million ways: an omnipresent loneliness, an unreasonable sadness, an undirected rage, a gnawing discontent, a seething resentment.”

From Charles Eisenstein’s book of the same name as the title here.
Gord Clements

Sent from my iPad

One thought on “The Ascent of Humanity 

  1. My view is that the wound of separation was originally struck by idealism and it’s undermining of our unconditional self-acceptance. Our meaning is found in relationship to others, as Eisenstein says, and the healing of the wound that separates us from others can only take place in a culture of mutual acceptance.


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