What is asked of us in relationships in the 21st Century?
We have been inspired to look at relationships from a wider perspective by meeting Robert Gilman, an astro-physicist and an international sustainable systems developer, who recently came through Christchurch. During public talks and private interviews he talked about a major shift that is happening. We are currently moving from what he calls the “Empire stage” to the “Planetary stage”. The Empire stage lasted for 5000 years and began with the Pharaos in Egypt, followed by kings and queens. It replaced the “Tribal stage” of human existence and is characterized by static, hierarchical, patriarchic structures .
In a Newtonian world view, f. e., an apple falls to the ground because it is pulled by gravity. Now we know, it would not only be the earth that pulls the apple but the apple that also pulls the earth – observably, if both were more similar in size. It is not only that the moon circulates around the earth, the earth also circulates around the moon and is affected in its course by the moon’s force of gravity.
If I feel dominated by you, I can behave like an apple and make you the earth that pulls me. This as a victim’s stance. In reality, we both affect each other. A wholistic perspective is asked for. We notice that a term like “global” is more and more used and involves such concepts as unity, diversity and sustainability.
Countries at large are increasingly pressured through public exposure via the information web to take responsibility for their environmental mishaps. Increasing health problems have alarmed communities to the links between environmental and human well-being. As resources dwindle and/or become extinct, and waste becomes unmanageable, companies need to carry more responsibility with regard to how they burden the environment. In the near future the “real” costs of production will be taken into account. “Think big” will be replaced by “think sustainable”. Ultimately we are asked to take responsibility for all that we are.
As Robert Gilman, Context Institute, suggests, a dominant task of our times is the transformation of institutions that still largely operate on an Empire stage level. What does this mean to the institution marriage, or emotional committed relationships?
Primarily it means that we have to find a new way with regard to male-female dynamics. Patriarchic role prescriptions are obsolete, yet still very much instilled in all of us, men and women alike. Women still idealise men and men still fear women’s power. Both are confronted with the pain of the world: poverty, random violence, meaningless work, political lies, media distortions, image hype, and contaminated foods. How can we face the condition of the world without becoming numb, cynical, or overwhelmed? John Welwood suggests by letting our “hearts break open”, so that we can feel not only the pain, but also the fullness of our essential selves; our passionate soul response to life. To go beyond resentment and depression requires for us to develop the “broken-hearted warrior”, to face the pain in us and around us by asking ourselves: what is required of us, what qualities do we need to develop to live in this world, to love this neighbourhood, this tree, and this person.
Intimate relationships provide a very powerful path to develop those qualities. That’s where we break open each other’s hearts most often (or if not, break up). Here we are confronted with the worst and the best that we are.
Acknowledging with each other the impact we have on each other helps both partners to make the necessary changes to live in a more harmonious way. Blaming each other, competing, labeling each other, interpreting each other’s behaviour and generalizing usually lead to more confusion rather than clarification.
The new paradigm is about living with the seemingly paradox of self and others and knowing that both are intimately related. One can’t exist without the other, in the same way as day cannot exist without night. A direct relationship exists between you and me, in that in the end I can not be happy at your expense, nor can I give up my happiness for you and sustain myself. My well-being and happiness is closely connected to yours and yours to mine.
The same applies to the wider community. As one multimillionaire has been quoted to say, “it is not much fun to be rich in a poor world”.
Mirjam Busch & Rudolf Jarosewitsch
Copyright © 3/2000 by Rumijabu | Originally published in Southshore Beacon #115, Mar2000