My son, age 11, came storming in the door on the verge of tears. He’d just met some new kids in the neighborhood, and they’d gathered in our driveway, where a colony of ants had created their home between the concrete and the grass lawn.
Cedar and I had spent time earlier that afternoon studying the ants and their behavior, and he’d brought out some crumbs to feed them as we observed their herculean efforts to carry objects three times their size.
But now the new kids had showed up on their bikes, and were intentionally driving their front tires over the ants to squish as many as possible.
Cedar had asked them to stop, but their only response was taunting laughter.
“Knock it off, you assholes! Ants have lives too!” Cedar shouted as he stormed into the house.
In the previous weeks we’d been having frequent conversations about the social epidemic of toxic masculinity, and how it shows up in both grown men and young boys alike — as well as in women, sometimes.
The ant-crushing incident furthered our conversation, as we looked at the ways in which our social conditioning perpetuates the illusion that we are all separate, that we humans are superior to other species, and how we live in blissful ignorance of how our actions impact other people and animals around the world.
We talked about how, at a fundamental human level, we are all born with the capacity to attune to what’s “right” — not because of rules, regulations, or even morals, but simply by attending to what resonates as appropriate kindness, justice, and dignity.
And of course we are also born with the capacity to override that attunement and act from motives that cause harm, create conflict, and perpetuate suffering for ourselves and others.
My heart burst with pride as I saw the earnestness with which my son took a stand for our interconnectedness and bringing awareness and respect to our tiny insect neighbors, and I wished I’d had the courage and conviction to do the same when I was his age.
We’ve now collectively created ways of living that so deeply reinforce our separation from others, and other species, that sometimes it feels nearly impossible to imagine how we can ever evolve our society and habits to be conscious co-habitants of our beautiful earth.
We plunk our homes into nature and use pesticides and insect sprays to keep bugs away — a socially acceptable perpetuation of the “conquest” dynamic that has done the same to indigenous peoples around the world through history, and is still ongoing today in our own society and in corners of the world that we turn a blind eye to while consuming the products that are extracted from those regions.
And yet, we are awakening… to our interrelatedness, our interconnectedness, and the ways in which our behaviors deeply matter, in ways that we’ve been oblivious to.
And with this awakening comes the need to deepen our skills for mastery of our body-mind vessel — to re-educate our nervous system to 1) attune to the felt-sense of living in harmony with All That Is, and 2) to speak up and take action that creates systemic social change accordingly.
It requires mastery of a new way of being — to clean up ways in which we’re unconsciously living from conditioned patterns of conquest, control, and compliance, and create new habits sourced from creativity, connection, and compassion.
We are all in this together, and none of us are so enlightened that we have it all figured out. But the more we can lovingly mirror back to each other our blind spots, and tap into our individual and group genius to create new solutions, the more we advance humanity in ways that create possibility and hope.
This is part of what’s happening at Unstoppable, my 3-day live event in Jackson Hole, October 16-18. Because there’s a need for a lot of us to have the courage and conviction and voice to be able to take a stand for the themes, causes, and missions that are most dear to our hearts, and express an appropriate version of “Knock it off, you assholes!”
It’s a time for rising up, more than ever before, and there’s a collective strength in community that allows each of us individually to tap into something that we can’t access on our own.
We need the humility to own where we, too, have been the assholes unconsciously creating suffering … and we need to be unstoppably aligned with our own path of purpose and contribution, as we do the very real work of reinventing the social structures, cultural habits, and lenses of perception through which we’ve created and inherited the hot mess that is our current state of affairs.