This is the second “hinge of history” in my lifetime. I didn’t think I’d live to see another, after the simultaneous collapse of the USSR economically and politically, and the US ethically and culturally.
But here we are, witnesses and participants in the slow-motion collapse of the post-World War II international order, indeed, of the nation-state system itself.
Part of history is pre-determined, like a runaway train before a sharp turn and inevitable derailment. A ‘hinge of history’ is a chance to change course after the crash by preparing for it. In earlier times, the context was one’s people or nation. In the thermonuclear age, it is humankind as a whole.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR and the US didn’t change anything fundamentally. Russian pride and cynicism, and American arrogance and triumphalism carried the day. Now we have Putin’s calculated recidivism, and Trump’s insane chauvinism.
Being the optimistic American in the late 1980’s, living in San Francisco and meeting Russians through the now quaint-sounding “Soviets, Meet Middle America” initiative of ‘glasnost’ (openness), I seized the opportunity to form a joint-venture company and flew to Moscow on invitation in January of 1990.
Though ostensibly about business, I saw the trip more as applied philosophy. Could superpower enemies, who had brought the world to the brink on nuclear annihilation, revitalize each other, and help humanity in the process?
Russians need everything materially, beginning with a market economy. What they got was oligarchical capitalism. Americans needed Russian intellectual spiritual renewal. What we got is a culture that literally went to the dogs.
But I learned two things by taking the risk. The first is that as naïve as I was, I was correct that the foundation has to be poured for a new order before the old order collapses.
The second is that though many have to be ready, it only takes a few ordinary people, thinking and acting together, to open the door at a hinge of history.
As Thomas Merton said over a half century ago, “people have become perverted and secularized by the emptiness and cynicism, the thoughtlessness, the crude egoism, and the rank amorality characteristic of our world, even where we see an apparent surface of Christianity.”
Even so, given the upcoming 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, the comment from an astronaut after a spacewalk and seeing the world as a whole is apt: “It’s all about the wide angle…where the totality of human history has passed.”
The Earth is so beautiful, yet man is destroying it. All the astronauts and cosmonauts wish that more people could see the Earth from space. If so, life on Earth, they say, would be vastly different.
As reported in a compilation of comments from astronauts and cosmonauts in the Washington Post, “the first time former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino saw Earth from space he felt like he should avert his gaze, like the scene before him was a secret that was supposed to remain invisible.”
“It just seemed so beautiful,” Massimino said. “How can something so beautiful be tolerated by human eyes?”
Human eyes cannot “tolerate” the Earth’s beauty because our vision has been so clouded and distorted by conditioning, experience, hurt, fear, hatred and self-centeredness. A half hour a day of passive watchfulness in the mirror of nature cleans the windowpanes (and pains) of the mind and heart, and allows, if only for a few minutes, the fresh perception of the child.
Meditative experiencing attests that the beauty of the Earth is meant for human eyes, and that it can be seen from Earth, from where you live, and not from space.
War is coming. Any fool can see that, though MSM fools talk like it isn’t a fait accompli. We can’t prevent it, but we can prepare for it. I don’t mean by building bomb shelters, but by urgently doing our own spadework and awakening insight within us and with friends and family.
Doing one’s own spadework means continually sifting through the inner mudflows of the false, to see for oneself what is true. No one can do inner work for another. Parents cannot do so for their children. All they can do is to be attentive to themselves and to their children, and thereby teach through their example.
Due to the global ecological crisis, and the misnomer of ‘populism’ (actually xenophobia), this hinge of history is truly global. History is speeding up, which simply means that humankind is racing toward its destiny.
Though history is partly pre-determined by its momentum, the future of humanity is determined by the attitudes and actions of the living. Ignite the ‘dark matter’ in human consciousness, which is within all of us, and light the way ahead.