Thursday, October 23, 2008

State Change in America

Did someone just turn up the heat?

State Change, or more technically phase transition, in thermodynamics is the point of transformation from one state or phase to another, (i.e. from solid to a liquid, liquid to a gas, etc.), due to the effects of heat variance and pressure. I believe that we are poised for a societal state change in America. The heat and pressure are on full-blast. The financial crisis, credit freeze, and stock market crashes have the whole world in a free-fall, while the government's attempts to hang on for dear life, have had little effect. The political process has divided us not only into red and blue states but into red and blue people - while each side calls the other yellow. Oil prices and shortages, outrageous home prices, food costs and shortages - these aren't just talking points anymore. We live each day with the realities of filling our tanks or filling our refrigerators. Wars and atrocities fill the airwaves. Global warming hangs in the air like the beginning of the storm of the millennium.

In physical systems, there exists a unique combination of pressure and temperature, known as the critical point, at which the transition between states happens. For instance for water to boil, the critical point is 212 °F (100 °C) at sea level. Boiling point varies depending on environmental pressures. Sea Level, or Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP), is the indication of atmospheric pressure. This seems strikingly relevant when drawing parallels between the physical laws of thermodynamics and our social evolutionary process. If sea level is "normal," then socially we are sinking to the bottom of the sea. The depths of human error, defensiveness, protectionism, prejudice, and denial have created a social atmosphere of divisiveness, distrust, dissatisfaction and dysfunction. It is certainly hard to challenge the idea that the pressure has been turned up. As for heat, aside from the obvious parallel in Global Warming, the heat caused by the friction between what we think we deserve as "just-go-shopping-Americans" and what is in fact becoming the reality of what we can afford - both personally and nationally. One could go on and on with metaphoric parallels, but you get the idea.

So what is the unique combination of pressure and heat that will create the critical point for America - and perhaps the rest of the globe? What state can and will we change into? What would a social change of state look like? Is there anything to fear in such a change? And finally is there any evidence that it is actually happening now?

Not all the news is bad, despite what the television networks would have us believe. There are amazing developments in physics, biology, chemistry and medicine occurring right now - promising to make life easier, healthier, happier and longer. There are agreements happening between people with divergent classes, cultures and religious backgrounds everyday - here and abroad. There are mind-boggling advancements in technology - making our access to information more accessible and more expansive moment by moment. There are back-to-basics organizations embracing new ideas and offering cleaner water, healthier food, higher quality products and many new jobs right in our own neighborhoods. There are churches and organizations feeding souls' bodies and minds without hate or prejudice every single day. There are individuals offering to live a life of service to their families, communities, and even to strangers. It is happening right now. AND there is a not-so-small movement dedicated to bringing about a critical mass change in consciousness and they are your neighbors, friends and relatives - I guarantee it. However, these positive trends are not actually releasing the pressure and heat, but increasing it. Why?

At the critical point in a state change of physical systems, the molecule's behavior becomes harder to predict. You actually can't tell the difference between the liquid phase and the vapor phase. They can be both and neither at the same time. This can be dangerous at the atomic level; at which the distinction of one state and the next simply disappears. Depending on the substance changing state, this can be a very volatile environment - i.e. Three Mile Island. We see this in our society as well; good, or perhaps average, people doing terrible things. All in all, when the critical point in a state change is reached, reality gets less clear, and which phase we are in becomes indistinguishable from all the others.

What can happen during this transition could be devastating or it could be wonderful, and it could be both, which, I suspect it is and will be. "It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better." The risks are huge and the level of volatility is extremely high, but I believe the payoff is even greater.

If I were to describe what I think the new phase or state will be, I would be optimistic. We will seek out and find our true vocations versus jobs we hate, and as a society we would support those choices, knowing that if we are happy in our work, we are serving our communities better. We will be more at peace with ourselves and with each other. Less time will be filled with media, television, and video games and more time will be spent in nature and contemplative practices. We will recognize the possibilities that are available in all of life and seize opportunities to create variety, advancements and connections like never before, but with awareness and respect of the effects our creations have on the whole of us. We will find common ground with one another, recognizing that though we differ in how we look and how we think, we still have common needs, wants and dreams and we will find ways to unite, instead of ways to devise. We will define ourselves without excluding others. We will no longer define ourselves by what we own! We will no longer use fear as an excuse, as a stumbling block or as a decisive tool; but instead use it as a file to sharpen our character. We will embrace gratitude as a way of life - for all we are given, for all we have, for all we are. We will forgive and respect each other. We will discard the mindless attachment to black and white and embrace all the subtleties and benefits of what really exists. And finally, we will learn the power of love, not only for each other but for ourselves. "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." -1 Cor. 13:13

There's no way to know when we will actually reach the critical point. But I believe that we are close to a state change and that all the bad things and all the good things I mentioned, are evidence of just how close we are. We could of course, blow ourselves up. We certainly have the technology and the ideology. For sure, we cannot remain on the course we are on. The increase in heat and pressure, and the decisions we have made over an extended period of time, will have a consequence; there will be an outcome. What that outcome will be, I believe, is up to each one of us and the choices we make every single day. We must not allow the perpetual nature of this monumental change lull us into an adopted state of apathy. We must not become mindless sheep, buying into the fear that is pedaled as normal and natural. We must cling to hope, and we must be determined in our choices and assume a keen awareness of the repercussions. We must not be found sleeping as the disciples were when Jesus faced the most critical moment in his life. Your spirit must not only be willing, but strong, determined and in charge of your life. "Critical Mass just became personal" is not just a cute slogan, but just might be one of the truest statements of our time. I embrace a state change in America and the rest of the world and I know I must work to be more aware in each moment - of my behaviors and how they affect that change. How personal is it to you? Welcome the state change and be part of the choice of a better future or, by not choosing, we choose the worst outcome. As always, it is up to you.

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