One of the overriding concerns for the human species is what to do with ourselves between birth and burial. We are born alone and helpless, and for fully one-third of our lives we will require nurture and protection so we can enjoy the middle third. The last third is then on the down-hill side, when we become aware that we must meet death. At birth we are alone. And at death we are alone again. In between we spend our money and energy overcoming loneliness—which is how we express the consciousness of our de-facto aloneness and separateness from other human beings and Nature itself.
The existential question, or problem, that every human is asked by Nature is: “How can I find union within myself, with others, and with Nature? We all must answer that question, sooner or later.
We Americans often answer the question by not answering it--by living in a fantasy world, striking out reality inside of ourselves, living completely within the shell of ourselves and thus overcoming the terror of separateness. We try to overcome the anxiety of human distance by regressing to an earlier state of union before consciousness—never allowing even a crack between us and our childhood parents and the assumed security of their care. And, there are many other forms and intensities of escape which our society offers, and they serve this one purpose—to prevent a person from becoming fully born or fully conscious of our separateness and thus not having to deal with the pain.
Our society enables many to evade, or completely forget the question of Nature to us all, by occupying our minds with problems of prosperity, property, prestige, power and productivity. These occupations help us put off the question. When we deal with these distractions, we need only be awake to the degree that social functioning requires. We manage to survive rather than become fully alive, fully born.
Why is it that we are not more conscious, more alive and loving--besides the fact that our economy virtually enslaves us, and our media occupies our minds? What would happen if we were to wake up, to be born again? What happens is that, for the first time, a person becomes aware that they are alone, that they are frightened, that they are full of pain and anger. Before this moment, they lived with the necessary fiction of themselves as modest, brave and loving. This new insight will hurt, but it will also open doors. We will be required by this new self-awareness to stop projecting onto others what we repress (deny) about ourselves. Continued attacks on others is the surest sign that we have chosen not be born again in some dimension of our lives. They also assure us continued loneliness.
As a result of a new insight, we can become less repressed, freer, less in our heads, and more open to sensual awareness—especially to Nature. We can even begin to feel genuine compassion for others, which is the sine qua non for a relationship that is the antidote to our loneliness.
Based on “The Nature of Well-Being” quoted by John Welwood in Awakening the Heart.