In this part of the interview we spoke how our feeling of separateness is at the core of a lot of problems in the world. Separateness from our family, from our friends, from all human beings, from animals, from nature. We also spoke about building a community.
In the first part of the interview we spoke about gratitude and finding your passion.
Hope you guys enjoy!
"When the things that I thought were real fell apart, I became more connected."
KB: There was a series of videos that you did on school, where you said: “What you’re really rebelling against is so deep that we’re almost not aware of it. Almost like a fish is not aware it’s wet. What we’re really rebelling against is all pervasive, it’s everywhere in everything.” What are we rebelling against?
CE: You can say that it’s the basic methodology of our culture, the master story of our culture. From that comes the all consuming regime of control. It’s in everything. It’s even in our language.
KB: In our language? How so?
CE: The war against the self is written into some of the ways we speak. Even the word is implies that there is an objective reality out there separate from you. This generates despair and alienation from the world.
KB: I’ve heard Robert Anton Wilson express a similar idea.
CE: These are old ideas. The Tao Te Ching expresses that. 'The name that can be named is not the real name.' Whatever you label is no longer it.
KB: He was talking about how someone invented a language that removed the word 'I' from English.
CE: There’s a small movement around ideas similar to this. There’s a whole intellectual tradition that says that language creates thought and thought creates who we are. And not just how we perceive the world, but how we experience it on a deep level.
There was another thinker that developed a language based on verbs and not nouns, based on process and not on being. So I would be the Universe Charlesing and not this discrete separate other being called Charles.
KB: In Sacred Economics you write about how this feeling of separateness is the fundamental principle that leads to all the crises that we have in our society. What was your path to ridding yourself of separateness and what are some good ways of cultivating that?
CE: My first question would be why do you want to cultivate that? Why do you want to transcend the ego? Why do you want to be less separate?
KB: I don’t know if I do. I’m not set on it. But I think being less cynical for me personally is good.
CE: When the things that I thought were real fell apart, I became more connected and had less of a sense of separation. I think that the state of connectedness and inter-being is already there underneath, but there are these structures that obscure it. Those structures are not sustainable. Just like the structures that keep humanity separate from nature are not sustainable. They fall apart, and then the underlying connection becomes manifest.
KB: So you think it’s a natural process?
I think that a lot of that desire towards oneness is actually moving towards separateness. It can be a way to approve of yourself. It’s something to aspire to. It’s something to overcome. There’s the bad guy and the good guy. And that whole mentality is part of separation.
In Sacred Economics, I mention this pursuit of this unitary thing called enlightenment. It’s very much like the pursuit of money. It’s that one thing that will solve all of your problems. But you never get there. Just like you never get to financial security.
KB: Are you saying that we are always going to be dealing with the problems that we have now?
CE: No, I don’t think that the human condition will always be what it has been. I think we’re on the verge of breakthrough to a radically more happy way of being human. And a lot of the stuff that we’ve been hung up on for generations and generations are on the verge of being healed. And that is both an inner and a social process. I could see a world without jealousy, without envy, without scarcity, without anxiety. These things are based on obsolete paradigms about what the world is, how the world works, what the self is.
KB: So it is a shift of perspective.
CE: Yeah. And it’s happening. It’s not that we’ll be undifferentiated oneness either. But these really tight narrow boundaries that keep us apart from each other are softening. And we’re letting more in.
KB: What did ancient and tribal cultures get right and what are modern cultures not getting right?
"What we can learn from ancient cultures is the importance of needing and being needed by the people around us."
CE: That’s a pretty big question. I think there’s a lot we can learn from ancient cultures. Humanity has gone through a very long process of division of labor as we’ve evolved into a mass society.
Up until a couple of centuries ago everybody knew the person who provided all of their needs, entertainment and everything that makes life good. Those gradually became commoditized. But today we don’t need people around us for hardly anything because we pay distant strangers to meet all of these needs. This leaves us, in economic terms, very wealthy because it’s much more efficient for a specialist to meet the needs of many people through mass production than for each person to do it by hand.
But we don’t have the experience of being wealthy. We’ve lost the experience of connection and the feeling of being needed. If we don’t need any person that you see and they don’t actually need you, you’re dispensable, you’re replaceable.
What we can learn from ancient cultures is the importance of needing and being needed by the people around us. That doesn’t mean that we should abolish the division of labor and global society. But maybe it means that some of the things that we source from far away can be returned to the realm of the personal.
KB: What about building a community in my neighbourhood for example?
So you have to start sharing in some way to have community at all. So really practically you can have lending libraries for example, or you might have some sort of shared toolshed. So every household wouldn’t have to buy a set of tools. Maybe a neighbour would take care of them or help you to learn to use them.
So you’d have a community. You’d be sharing things. Your well-being would depend on the people around you.
KB: Maybe you could organize a dinner and everyone helps once a week. Everyone cooks a little bit of food.
CE: It really helps if it actually meets a need because otherwise it becomes another thing that you have to do. If you’re doing it just so that you can have a community, when push comes to shove that’s the first thing you’ll sacrifice.
KB: In your London Real interview you said that you tried to build a community in Pennsylvania, but it didn’t work.
CE: Yeah, people weren’t really open to it. You’re busy and you have to pay the bills. Why should I go once a week to the neighbour’s house? Why would I do that when I can order in?
The question is why do you want that? Why do you want to build a community and get the neighbours to know each other? I think it’s important to get clear on that.
KB: Why do you say that?
CE: You want to make sure that this idea of community isn’t a substitute for something else that you really want.