There is an awkward time during adolescence, when we are neither child nor adult. At times we revert to our child-like ways, overpowered by emotion and self-centeredness, and other times we are selfless, compassionate and noble, seeing right into the heart of things. Amongst our peers are those who seem hopelessly immature, causing us to speculate as to whether they will ever grow up. And there are those who astound us with their maturity, insight and social conscience.
As humans, we are now squarely in the adolescence of our evolution, complete with identity crises. Yes, we saw how Mother Theresa and Terry Fox dedicated their lives to a cause greater than themselves. Yes, we have compassion for those who struggle, and indeed we make our charitable donations. Our hearts are in the right place, but we are not, for the most part, ready to give up our way of living, renouncing our own pleasures to devote our lives to the wellbeing of others. And that is okay.
Nowhere in the Universe is there a point system or rating scale with highest marks going to the most noble. We do not rate babies according to the age at which they roll over, begin to crawl or how early they talk. Evolution is an emerging process. We must have gentle patience with ourselves.
At the same time we must firmly nudge ourselves in the direction of taking some responsibility for choosing a path of growth. The fifteen-year old who claims immunity from responsibility because he is ‘just a kid’ becomes the forty-year old who blames everything and everyone for his own stagnation. Awareness of the next steps in our own evolutionary path is the beginning of responsible evolution. I have yet to meet an eighteen year old who was not at least a little daunted by the prospect of leaving childhood behind and having to make conscious choices that would determine his or her future. As we stand on the brink of our own evolutionary transition, knowing that we will inevitably have to let go of ego and trust the guidance of our own soul, there is the same trepidation.
Moving out of ego is like moving away from home for the first time. When you move away from home, you have to begin to feel at home with, and trust the world. When you move away from ego, you have to begin to feel at home with, and trust the Universe. It is a much larger (and infinitely more multi-dimensional) playing field! The child sees things from his or her own perspective, largely unaware that other perspectives even exist.
Time, experience, teaching and modeling result in a broader, more inclusive view. So it is with ego. We need to grow, to experience life, to be exposed to ideas that carry us beyond the limitations of our own thoughts, and to have models who demonstrate more evolved ways of being. Then, we can begin to take tentative steps, trying out new perspectives and behaviors. Of course we will slip back to old ways, particularly when we are tired, vulnerable, or stressed. Carlos Casteneda suggested that we must be ruthless in the destruction of the ego. This was in the context of becoming a spiritual warrior. The term ‘spiritual warrior’ seems a bit of an oxymoron, and ruthless destruction is probably unnecessary. Ego is not the enemy, but it absolutely does compromise our evolutionary progress. We will have to move beyond it as surely as the adolescent must grow beyond self-centeredness if she is to become a mature adult. And just as being kind, honest and caring about others does not, for the teenager imply a newfound religious conviction, nor does becoming more soulful necessarily imply a spiritual path. It can , but that does not make it better.
One could live a life based on an understanding of a co-creative Universe and the principles of quantum physics, or based on a belief in survival of the wisest, transcending ego not for spiritual reasons, but simply because it becomes irrelevant. We can grow just because life works better when we do. Feeling guilty, un-spiritual or less evolved will turn us into evolutionary adolescents with cosmic self-esteem problems. The media, which has created mass dissatisfaction with physical appearance and material wealth, could do the same with our evolutionary coming of age.
It is important to remember the hallmarks of the evolutionary perspective: it does not polarize, and it is non-judgmental. It is not about good and bad, right and wrong, lesser or greater. It is about being conscious, honoring the highest parts of our being, and providing encouragement, support and acceptance to those who share the journey.
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