How 97 monkeys can change the world

Here’s how it happened. I was reading a post by Bruce Sterling on viridiandesign.org; (it had been linked to from Boing Boing). Sterling’s post was a reprint of an essay by John L. Peterson, Arlington Institute on the state of the world, with Sterling’s asides to the reader interspersed throughout. Long story short, things don’t look so good. But, Petereson goes on, the impending collapse may just push humanity to wake up and work together on an epic adventure that redefines what it means to be human.

The a ha! moment came for me when I realized that this brilliant, respected intellectual is talking about the things I’m discovering inside myself. Things that are still risky to say in certain company.

I’d rather talk about the weather. Uh, maybe not

People who come from a background that didn’t address or promote spirituality can be taken aback when they realize the significance and impact spirituality (by which I mean simply the sense that you are greater than the sum of your parts) has in their lives. Coming from a secularly agnostic upbringing myself, I feel uncomfortable discussing anything having to do with me – the real me, not the surface me. It feels like I’m coming out the closet. Which is exactly why I’m doing this 97th monkey project.

Reading Peterson’s essay and Sterling’s replay flipped a switch in me. It was the right message at the right place. I realized that the world really is well and truly screwed if we stay on our current course. I realized that the danger is massive, and very, very near. I realized the only hope of survival lies in rapid change of behaviour at the individual level. Governments won’t do this. Their constituents are the very same creatures that cause this havoc: ego and greed. This change has to happen at the dinner table. It has to come up in conversations at the bar. It has to come from regular people; from teachers, lawyers, police, stock brokers, media, designers…

I know what you think

I’m in so many ways a particular breed of joe average. I reflect a portion of the population. We like the same books, we listen to the same music… I know what you’re thinking, in broad fuzzy terms. You’re thinking metaphysical thoughts and realizing this planet is more screwed than you thought it was. And you have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

Our egos want to bury the knowledge. “Just ignore it” works amazing well. We’re just waking up today to how well it’s worked for the past 100 years.

In many of us, the awareness that we are more than our egos – that our egos are only a minute (and misguided) portion of ourselves – has reached the stage where we’re able to stand aside from our habitual egoic behaviour. That awareness brings a freedom. It frees us from having to repeat yesterday’s mistakes in the name of image or status or greed. It shows us that we can be small and yet infinitely massive, all without a bit of flash or bling.

It also shows you that our observed reality is more fluid than it first appears. It shows you the magic of words and thoughts. It shows you how an inspiration can take solid form in this world through thought, word, and action. And above all, it gives you hope.

I pin my hope on this belief: if enough people believe something, it will become real.

I believe a shift in individual consciousness, from an ego driven dream state to an awareness centered in the present moment, can heal the world. I think that shift needs to come now.

Calling number 100

This is where the 97th monkey comes in. The parable of the 100th monkey* says that once a certain percentage of a population knows a thing, the whole population all of a sudden just “gets it” too. The 97th monkey then, is an interesting one. He’s a bellwether for the rest of the population. When he comes along, you know there’s a wave coming soon after him. I think there’s a whole bunch of 97th monkeys waking up right now. I think that if we get together, we can collectively wake up the world.

The 97th Monkey project is about building momentum in this whole consciousness/spirituality thing. It’s about standing up and saying what you know in your heart is true, and looking for that 100th monkey.

So I’m stripping myself naked and standing on a milk crate shouting “look at me! I’m just like you: totally uncomfortable talking about anything whiffing of new age.” But I’ve been forced up here by our planet’s frighteningly quick turn.

I don’t know what this thing will turn into. I’m going to start with a simple blog to collect links and occasionally post a thought or inspiration or whatnot. If you’re interested in contributing to the blog, let me know. I think a forum probably makes sense too, but I’m open to suggestions. I do know what this thing won’t be though: stuffy, judgemental, or preachy.

Come and join me and let’s wake up the world.

3 thoughts on “How 97 monkeys can change the world”

  1. Okay – a couple of things are beginning to fall into place for me here. I’m very interested in where you’re going with this, and I should preface this by saying that, like you, I’m not exactly comfortable in any kind of new agey kind-of-things. But this whole concept has some resonance for me.

    Dig this. I’m sitting with some colleagues in an editing suite waiting for a render and reading your post. I happen to mention – only slightly aware that I’m speaking out loud – that I’m thinking about pursuing Buddhism a little more intentionally.

    A conversation ensues that I can’t begin to transcribe. Literal recollection isn’t necessary, in any case. Suffice it to say, that people that I had worked shoulder to shoulder with for years began to share ideas and concepts that I had no idea they were hip to.

    They told stories of personal enlightenment, spiritual understanding and moments of inspiration. It was absolutely mind-blowing.

    I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to this post. I am drowning with clients, deadlines and too many ideas. But this concept, this initiative that you are undertaking has really hit home with me, on a lot of levels.

    I’m not sure how it will all play out, what my participation will be, if any, or where it all goes from here.

    But the idea alone is provocative and attractive. And I’m enjoying the sensations of possibility.

    Good on you. We have to have a beer at some point this year. We’re in the same freakin’ city, for crying out loud.

    Happy New Year.

    New design is great, btw.

  2. Jesse,

    Thanks for the wicked complement. You’ve justified the time I spend thinking about this stuff!

    I think you’ll find that this is one of those things that the more you look into, the more you find it around you.

    The sensations of possibility you so poetically talk about are freedom’s wing beats. Just follow them. Doesn’t matter where.

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