The modern world is based on notions of "The accidental universe." Since they can't see with clarity how it all fits together, people have determined that it's an accidental arrangement. That in turn makes each person an accidental being, and that leads to the deep confusion and increasing isolation of individuals in the modern world. So I wrote Why the World Doesn't End first of all to say: the world doesn't end, don't worry about that. It may get into very deep trouble, we're pretty far into the darkness already, but it doesn't come to an end, because it renews itself from it's own ashes. The same is true of an individual. The old idea is that the soul of the individual is connected to the soul of the world, and that when things get really in trouble, or really dark and difficult, that's when people turn in and search out the core of their own inner story, because in living that out, people automatically help bring healing to the bigger world. So I'm trying to make the connection between the individual soul and the soul of the world, and say that we are in a big drama that nowadays often looks like it's going to come to an end, but it won't; and it especially won't if more people live out the meaningful purpose that's hidden inside their life.
Rob Kall: Now I just want to throw at you: I call my radio show "Bottom Up Radio" because I believe we're in a transition from a top down, centralized, hierarchical culture, to a bottom up, decentralized one that's more grassroots, kind of like what humans lived in for most of existence prior to civilization. So if there's any ways you can connect that angle to what you're talking about, I'd appreciate it. You mentioned that when things get really dark, that's when people go to find their inner story.
Michael Meade: Yes.
Rob Kall: What do you mean by inner story?
Michael Meade: There's two big ideas about "When a person in born, what is there?" The one idea, the fancy term is tabula rasa, that is to say, a person is born with a blank state or an empty soul, and then life begins to write on them. The family writes on them, the community writes on them, school writes on them, and that the person becomes the sum of things that have been written on them or have affected them. That's similar to the accidental universe idea: the person is a kind of an empty vessel that becomes determined by the events of their lives. That leads into what's called Social Determinism, and that's a very much top down idea: that things are predetermined by you social position or history.
The other idea, which is the old idea that I have found in every culture I have been able to study is, a person is born with things seeded in their soul, with a combination of gifts and talents, a personal style that's trying to become known, and a purpose to their life that's also trying to become known. And I gather those things under the idea of Genius: that everybody is born with a genius -- that doesn't mean that they have a higher IQ, that's another modern idea that limits the idea of genius.
Genius is an old North African word that means "The spirit that's already there." Each person is born with a kind of genius project, and if they can reveal it (it's like the inner story unfolding from within), then they find the genius of their own life; and in finding that, a person lives with purpose, and has something meaningful to give to the world. And now, at this time, when the world - that is to say, both nature and culture - seem to be unraveling in front of us, we should have full employment, because everybody's genius is needed to help bring nature back to balance, but also bring culture back into a dynamic, creative form.
Rob Kall: Tell me more about what is genius?