Worth a Read

Creating a better world from the bottom up

Beautiful world.jpg

If you, like me, are convinced that the ‘story’ of the world as we have lived it is coming to an end – that perpetual growth on a planet with limited resources and an economic/financial system based on ‘paper-money’ is not sustainable – there is a book you must read.

Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible takes a truly holistic look at the story, or history if you want, of our civilisation and how it has developed to the point where it now faces crises on just about every conceivable front – from the biodiversity crisis to that of an economic system driven by the growth imperative.

Turning conventional thinking on reality and change on its head, Eisenstein argues that humanity has been riding along a progressively intensifying and polarised narrative, which he calls the Story of Separation.

In this story humans experience the world as separate from themselves – individuals with our singular motives based on the survival-of-the-fittest mantra; separate from each other; separate from nature. This Story of Separation, he argues, is at the core of all the problems that exist in society.

The alternative

Rather than fighting our way to social change, Eisenstein offers a new story and a visionary insight into an infinitely complex and interconnected world where small actions can help a more beautiful world of abundance to come to fruition.

In a very readable narrative he explores a new story of discovering what he call “interbeing” and interconnection that transcends our Cartesian, dualistic, technological and control-based culture.

He does not claim that there is never a time for struggle and violence, but simply: “All things have their place in this world: the buck struggles against the wolf, and sometimes he gets away. It is just that, because of our ideology, we apply the mentality of fighting, struggling, and warfare far beyond its proper domain.”

Throughout he relates real-life stories showing how small, individual acts of courage, kindness, and self-trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation, which, he shows, has generated the present planetary crisis.

The new “Story of Interbeing” he proposes will be built on a “Gift Economy” which is very much the opposite of the present system. He argues that “by turning things into commodities, we get cut off from nature in the same way that we get cut off from community”.

What the author says

The More Beautiful World has to be read with an open mind, but the author’s non-dogmatic approach leaves enough room for one’s own thoughts to be formed.

He himself says about his book, among other things:

• My childhood perceptions were part of a narrative I call the Story of the People, in which humanity was destined to create a perfect world through science, reason, and technology: to conquer nature, transcend our animal origins, and engineer a rational society;

• This narrative of normal is crumbling on a systemic level too. We live today at a moment of transition between worlds. The institutions that have borne us through the centuries have lost their vitality; only with increasing self-delusion can we pretend they are sustainable. Our systems of money, politics, energy, medicine, education, and more are no longer delivering the benefits they once did (or seemed to). Their Utopian promise, so inspiring a century ago, recedes further every year. Millions of us know this; more and more, we hardly bother to pretend otherwise. Yet we seem helpless to change, helpless even to stop participating in industrial civilisation’s rush over the cliff; and

• This book is a guide from the old story, through the empty space between stories, and into a new story. It addresses the reader as a subject of this transition personally, and as an agent of transition — for other people, for our society, and for our planet.

The book was published last year already, but I unfortunately only discovered it recently. Like me, most readers will find some elements of Eisenstein’s narrative with which they do not fully agree. But it is thought-provoking and for sure worth a read, especially if you find the time over holidays to really get stuck into a book.

Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible is available from Kalahari.com; ISBN 9781583947241; and advertised at R357, including delivery.

by Piet Coetzer

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