A great bifurcation point in our global consciousness occurred in 1969, when man landed on the Moon, ushering in a new era in the history of humanity. For the first time since human beings began to stand upright and started our evolutionary journey, we found ourselves in an entirely different environment from our natural, earthly habitat. When standing on the Moon, humanity saw with new eyes an alien land which had previously been mysterious and distant.
The American astronaut, Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 and the first man on the Moon, articulated the momentous occasion beautifully, saying that it represented ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’.
He was absolutely right. The view of Earth from the Moon allowed humanity to have a new perspective on our planet, heralding a major expansion of consciousness; the beginning of a profound new journey, learning about ourselves, others and the environment in which we live.
In an interview with journalist Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell pointed out that the photo of Earth, taken by the astronauts from Apollo 17, revealed to us an image which was both surprising and disconcerting. Humanity could observe itself living on a finite planet with well-defined contours, a small proportion of land in comparison to the full extent of water, and a thin and fragile white layer between the black of infinite space and the Earth’s surface. It also brought home the reality that in fact there are no physical or natural borders, and that it is cultural and man-made artefacts which separate nations.
From the perspective of a human being standing on the Earth, that which had previously been believed to have been infinite, was now seen from this external perspective from space as finite. According to Campbell, this moment marked the start of a new mythology and a new stage of consciousness for humanity; it brought the opportunity for more integration between people, as a result of the new awareness of our co-dependence, together with a greater care and connection with nature, resulting from our realisation of the fragility and finite resources. In this sense, it represented a unique moment, a sacred redemption made possible by advancing technology.
This moment also opened up a new stage in research and studies on the sustainability of the planet and life of man on Earth. From then on, the image of the absence of boundaries would awaken the need for communication without borders, a dream which would become reality with the advent of the internet and the development of networks with a limitless capacity for communication.
These times of greater awareness about ourselves and of the world around us bring up another challenge, and an old question, which haunts humanity: whether the pursuit of happiness is the purpose of life? This question has been extensively examined in Bhutan, a small Buddhist kingdom located in the Himalayas, between China in the north and west, and India on the east and south. In 1970, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the King of Bhutan, decided to implement an extremely innovative policy for their government.
Understanding that the goal of his reign was to ensure the happiness of his people, he gathered a group of experts from different areas to develop an indicator of happiness. This indicator would measure the degree of happiness of the population, and thus highlight more precisely which actions and attitudes should be developed to ensure happiness. After many conversations, surveys, analyses and reflections, the group developed an indicator which is now also being developed in other countries. This indicator is based on the principle that the concept of prosperity goes far beyond economic growth, an idea which is little understood.
Indicators of happiness are designed go beyond gross domestic product (GDP), which is considered by many to be the central measure of the economic health of a country. Concentrating on economic output leads us to lose sight of other factors which play a central role in the happiness of a nation. Because the goal is to measure development, prosperity and economic growth, indicators of happiness also measure the level of living standards, education, psychological well-being, health, use of time, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, and ecological diversity and resilience. These nine aspects are the basis for the well-being and happiness of people, and should therefore be measured and be closely observed. These are the foundations which are the basis for our lives being worthy and dignified, with healthier and more prosperous relationships.
Prosperity is exactly what every organisation seeks; to be sustainable, long-lived, and solid. Interestingly, the word ‘prosperity’ comes from the Latin word prosperitate, meaning the state or quality of someone who is happy, wealthy, flourishing, and includes physical, mental, financial, environmental and social aspects of life. In this concept of prosperity, ‘growth’ has a different meaning; it should not be designated as the number one priority, because the other attributes are just as important.
From the perspective of prosperity, we see organisations in another light. Healthy relationships are recognised as extremely important and a goal to be achieved, and progress can only be recognised if prosperity is guaranteed. With holonomic eyes, the lenses through which we evaluate success consider the system as a whole, without overlooking the constituent parts. In a thriving organisation, values are the fundamental foundation of relationships, with economic and financial results being a natural result and neither the primary focus, nor the only factor to be pursued.
What we wish to emphasise here is the fundamental question of ‘meaning’. We move in the world and we become enchanted with our reality only if we find a meaning in everything we do. This enables us to progress and create. When we shift into a holonomic mode of consciousness, we are able to move upstream and experience the coming-into-being of life. In this mode of consciousness, a higher level of consciousness than mechanistic consciousness, meaning is being. As Campbell has written in The Power of Myth:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
Campbell has pointed to the fact that we humans seek elation and create a constant dialogue between the outside world of physical experiences and our inner world of spirit and meaning. This is the sense of being alive. Mythology has been providing this for us since humanity began the process of understanding the world and experiencing being alive. We are in a process which Campbell has termed the ‘inner journey’, a re-creation of a mythology, in which we reconnect with the world in order to continue our journey on Earth.
We are in a classic moment of inflection, a transformation into something new. In the words of Campbell:
“The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.”
We are at this crucial point, which may represent a threat to everything we know, and yet may also be an opportunity to develop something new and more suitable for the path of personal and collective happiness.
Extract taken from Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson (2014)
Simon Robinson is the co-founder and CEO (Worldwide) of Holonomics Education, a strategy and innovation consultancy based in São Paulo whose mission is to help organisations to implement great customer experiences, powerful and effective strategies, and develop purposeful, meaningful and sustainable brands. He is the co-author of Customer Experiences with Soul: A New Era in Design and his research examines how the dynamic conception of wholeness in hermeneutics and phenomenology can deepen our thinking on innovation, customer experience design and the circular economy.