An Introduction to The Story of Existence
In the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society,” Robin William’s character John Keating quotes Walt Whitman’s exquisite poem O Me! O Life!. This poem cuts through the drab ordinariness or unrelenting pain of living to give life a purpose: to contribute a Verse to the unfolding of the Universe.
O Me! O Life!
BY WALT WHITMAN
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
William’s furthers the point when at the end of the poem, he asks the students “What will your verse Be?”
The Story of Existence
This is the core of the Story of Existence. This story posits your life not as some scripted part in a play or some meaningless random occurrence. Rather, The Story of YOUR Existence is the play you write for yourself. The part you contribute to the conscious unfolding of the Universe.
The Story of Existence is broken into eight different “Verses” or as I think of them, different Universes that you inhabit and/or construct during your life:
The PreVerse is the state of the Universe prior to the existence of conscious beings. This is the foundation upon which consciousness arose.
The PreVerse is a Modern Creation Story.
The MeVerse is the world of “Me.” The development of conscious beings that have self-awareness. The focus of a being in the MeVerse is inward, toward the development of the Me.
The iVerse is the Universe of Identity; the constructed self that we present outwardly to others. Our Identity is not Me, it is a representation of Me.
The TheeVerse represents our first experience and interaction with Community. TheeVerse is Authoritarian Community. Authority is based in power and control. We are first exposed to TheeVerse through the power of nature over us, the power of our parents, the power of religion, the power of state, and the power of culture.
For many, TheeVerse is a comfortable place to be, as it can shield one from the potentially overwhelming responsibility of a self-directed life. TheeVerse gives answers and guidance. It provides clear rules and boundaries.
But ultimately, TheeVerse robs an individual of the expression of their own Verse.
The UnIVerse, pronounced “You and I” Verse. This is the communal universe of attempted equality, or egalitarian community. This is the Universe of democracy and market economies.
Egalitarianism is a utopian ideal, as captured in the mantra in the U.S. Constitution to “build a more perfect union.” Egalitarianism can never be reached, but the invention of such communal structures can and has improved the lives of many humans.
This is the Universe of the Golden Rule, which says “Do Unto Others as You’d have Others Do Unto You.” That rule is fundamentally self-directed, as the standard of treatment of others is still self-focused: what you want others to do to you.
The majority of people who live in Western Culture inhabit the UnIVerse.
The LieVerse is the Universe of exploitation of others, the Universe of sin, greed and power. This is the dark side of each of us. We all exist in the LieVerse to lesser or greater degrees. We all prioritize self over others to different degrees throughout our lives.
The LieVerse gives us an understanding of the relative nature of our values, the impossibility of being universally “good” in the judgement of all other beings. You are both good and evil.
The BeVerse is the Universe in which a Me chooses to overcome the given self, the self that has been shaped primarily by biology, politics religion and culture. Instead, a BeVerse individuals seek to transcend the MeVerse and enter into a higher plane of existence. Being.
This is a choice, captured nicely in Shakespeare’s saying “To Be of Not To Be.”
The WeVerse is the communal parallel to the BeVerse. This is chosen community. WeVerse can only exist in a collection of BeVerse beings.
The WeVerse is Tribe. The WeVerse is the Universe of The Platinum Rule, which says “Do Unto Others As Others Want Done Unto Them.” It is an other-focused standard.
The WeVerse, however, does not discount the individual. The mantra of the WeVerse is “You Are My Foundation, I Am Your Extension.” This emphasizes the centrality and the importance of the Being.
The only measure of the conscious universe is a measure of individuals. There is no “collective consciousness.” There are only individuals gathered into community. And Community is a technology, a tool that individuals build and use to further their own interests.
So, What will your Verse be? The Story of Existence is your story, our story.
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
the dreams in which I’m dying
are the best I’ve ever had…
— Mad World, Tears for Fears
You are blessed to live today, right? We are wealthier and more technologically advanced than ever. Western culture is a marvel of bright & shiny things. We are told that the economy is booming, that we are healthier than ever. And yet, as a now-fallen comedian once deadpanned, “everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”
Maybe bright & shiny things are not the primary elements of happiness. In fact, it may very well be that the course of life that we’ve chosen is leading us away from the life we want. Shouldn’t we take a deeper look? Question our core assumptions? Yes, let’s.
Dreams of a Nuclear Family and One-True-Love Can Do More Harm Than Good
We are a people of dreams. We envision a future and we hope and work to obtain it.
But often, our dreams are shaped not by our own desires, not by what is possible, but by outside forces, such as politics, religion and marketing.
It’s good to take stock as to how well our dreams are serving us. The only “acceptable” family model in our culture is the nuclear family, built on the idea that we’ll find our one-true-love, that we’ll marry happily-ever-after, have children, and that we’ll build loving and supportive family and community for those children.
So, does that happen?
For a growing majority of us, that vision will never be realized. Fewer than half of children are living with their biological parents. And that number continues to decline.
Yet, the entirety of our focus in building community is still based on this idea.
Is it time to rethink our dreams? To choose new and better goals?
Our Culture is Failing Us
Culture and community are technologies. They are the tools by which we organize our communal lives.
As with all technology, we can measure to see if the tool is helping us or hurting us.
Our culture is hurting us. It is an ineffective community technology not well-suited to our current lives. Our community technology is a hold-over from past generations of humans who lived very different lives than we live today.
Compared to millennia of generations of humans, we are living unimaginable lives. Technology in medicine, politics, computers, the arts, travel and business have changed so radically that prior generations would likely think us aliens.
The individual today is a superhuman compared to their great grandparents.
New technology has empowered individuals to live fuller lives. It has allowed people to break free from dominant and controlling communal technologies, like oppressive governments, patriarchal families and authoritarian religions.
The emergence of powerful individuals is a good thing. Healthy individuals are the only real measure of humanity. Communities are abstract tools that should serve the needs of individuals, not the other way round.
The individual today is a superhuman compared to their great grandparents.
With all this change, our communal technology should have adapted to the new individual.
In certain ways this has happened. Shifts toward democratic rule have swept across the earth, bringing meaningful progress and allowing newly empowered individuals to emerge.
But evolution in government is perhaps the least important communal change that individuals need. It is too large to care about us on a personal level, to support us in our unique needs. The best government can do is enforce standards of consent, and consent is the most basic of human interactions.
What humans need most is community built not on consent, but on love.
Current communal technologies have failed in this regard. Even while individuals are more empowered, many are less happy, less fulfilled than ever.
Individualism is not the problem. That is never going away, nor should it. The problem is that our communal technologies are outdated, they don’t take our empowered individualism into consideration. Rather, they ask us to surrender it in service of a community that is failing us.
We Are Bigger Than The Box
Religion is an obvious target of failed communal technology. Religion has not evolved to meet the needs of the modern individual. It is stuck in a backward gaze, repeating the same tired rules and laws that have proven to be ineffective in today’s environment.
By focusing on the magical, the unproven, or the proven wrong, religion simply can’t provide consistent and effective answers to help us live our modern lives. The solutions religion imposes can’t work in today’s world, because they are built on yesterday’s ideas and needs. As a result, individuals are leaving religion behind at an ever-increasing pace.
More impactful than the failure of religion has been the failure of family. The model of the nuclear and extended family as the foundational community for individuals is broken. For many people, this model creates more harm than good.
Individuals today are living lives that are too big to fit into the box of yesterday’s communal technology.
We Are Failing Children
Roughly 50% of children are born into single-parent households. Of the rest, half of them will experience the divorce of their parents. The long-term ramifications of the cycle of broken families on children is well-known by social scientists. Yet we barely talk about it. We rarely talk about alternate solutions to the failed models.
We Are Failing Women
Women have made large strides in the past few generations. On the whole, in western culture at least, women’s lives are more free from domination and control than ever. Women bear the scars of the failure of past communal technology more than men. Still, the positive changes haven’t produced completely positive results.
With increased individualism has come weaker nuclear families. This has produced a crisis of single parenthood. Women, in this regard, are caught in a trap: biologically and emotionally, most still desire children. But the nuclear family is no longer providing the foundational support for women as mothers. This produces enormous stress on the women and significant damage to children.
Despite heroic efforts, single mothers simply can’t provide as rich a life for their children as they could with a solid communal foundation.
We Are Failing Men
Yes, men have it better than women or children in the current community structures. They wield more power, earn more money, and have more freedom. Patriarchy is responsible for untold pain and horror throughout the world. Sexism is pervasive.
While men may seem to hold an enviable status, they too are showing the signs of stress and are breaking at ever higher levels than before. All of us, men and women, are working more, earning less, and feeling less a part of the decision that are made about our lives.
Men are less likely to be part of their children’s lives, less likely to feel connected to family or community. This is the flip side of the single mother problem: large numbers of men who live most of their lives childless.
The alarming rate of increase in suicides among men bear witness that in spite of the benefits of being a man, they too are harmed by the current model.
We Are Failing Romance
Humans are no longer primarily monogamous (if we ever were). Were an alien race to study us, they’d conclude that we are not a monogamous species. In the animal kingdom, monogamy is defined as life-long pair bonding, meaning one sexual partner for life.
Humans, rather, have multiple sexual partners; more and more compared to prior generations. The dominant trend in romance today is serial monogamy: the practice of falling in love and then discarding our partners in hopes that the next monogamous relationship will work better than the last. Most frequently, the pattern simply repeats.
A life lived in serial monogamy is a life that will most likely end with few lasting relationships.
Perhaps worse is that it leaves a whole series of people you love but with whom you can no longer talk. This is progress? Sure, the sex may be better for many, but is the tradeoff worth the price?
This is so obviously problematic for human desire to build community, and the fallout so damaging, that our alien visitors would likely marvel at how little we discuss it. They’d wonder at how fervently we hold onto current romantic culture, thinking it will take us where we want to go. For the vast majority of people, it won’t.
Works For Me!
There are those, of course, for whom the current model of communal technology works just fine. “Hey, I’ve been happily married for 40 years!” they’ll say when anyone dares question the effectiveness of such institutions. Yes, there are those who manage to live life within these bounds. But even for these, many are miserable in their marriages and hold onto them for fear of change.
Is success for some a refutation of the damage being done to the remainder of individuals? Of course not.
Anything that works for a few and fails many more is not a good system.
A production line of computers that produced 30% good computers but 70% failing computers is a failed system.
Privilege belongs to those for whom the system works; but their privilege isn’t a reason to not seek a better model.
Time To Talk
It is past time to have real, meaningful dialogue about what is and is not working in our modern world. Many forge ahead, seemingly unaware that communal technology, the way we structure community, is a choice.
One evolutionary advantage of humans is that we can imagine a future that is different than today, and then set out to build that future.
We are in crisis. It is past time to recognize it.
So, What Do You Propose?
Often, this question is asked rhetorically; the assumption being that there can be no other way to live than we currently live. Many stay on this path of failure, repeating the same patterns over and over. Still, they think “next time will be perfect!”
Some of the most vociferous supporters of the failed model are those most hurt by it.
First Step: Recognize the Problem
The first step is to recognize that we have a problem.
Second Step: Have Faith in Your Ability to Change
Second, we need to understand more fully that part of the gift of being human is the ability to change. Humans can imagine and build different ways to live our lives. We must believe that we can actually change our lives.
Third Step: Build A Desire to Change
Change is hard. It takes work. It puts us into uncomfortable situations. It is much easier to simply hit “play next episode” on Netflix and settle into the status quo.
Desire is the fuel that drives us. We must build a desire to live OUR lives differently than the status quo. This is our only life. Wouldn’t it be better if it worked how we want it to work?
Fourth Step: Take A Risk
Life is possibility. But possibility is risk. Reward usually only comes after risk and risk brings failure.
The good news? We are already failing! We’re already taking risk by perpetuating a system that has failed us, that will continue to fail us.
So really, we have little to lose by taking risking in our relationships.
Fifth Step: Think Small
Many of us are focused on global and national politics: racism, sexism, economic inequality, the environment. We are engaged in the scandals and intrigues of these politics. We march. We vote. We direct our passion to a system so large that, individually, we can’t make a dent.
Meanwhile, in the midst of our telling the world how it should live, most of us have not even built a family or a community of friends that works well. We’re busy trying to save the world, but our personal lives are a mess.
Focus first on building your world, and have faith that on that foundation, you can better address the whole world at a later time.
Sixth Step: Be Honest
Many people are aware just how out of sync the current communal models are, but are too afraid to speak out. We must begin to speak openly and honestly about how little the current model is working.
For many, that will require that people stop lying to themselves first. Then, we need to start being honest with our romantic partners, our friends and our families about the ways in which the current model isn’t working.
What good is all of this empowered individualism if in our most intimate relationships we fail to ask for what we want and structure our lives honestly enough to live it?
Seventh Step: Cultivate Values & Discipline
Many choose dishonesty in their intimate relationships as a way to make peace with the disconnect of the current model. They simply cheat and lie as a means to cope.
It is likely that the work to build a new form of communal life will take much more discipline than our current culture of instant gratification has instilled into us.
We must therefore build a new set of values that will guide us toward a better world, and exhibit the discipline necessary to uphold and maintain those values.
Eighth Step: Start Today
Are you waiting for someone else to change your world?
You have the power, today, to start living the life that you know you want to live. Or at the very least, to begin being honest about it and to stop living the life that your culture has decreed you must live.
Many minority populations, such as the gay and transgendered communities, have provided heroic examples of individuals taking risk to live honestly.
We all need to come out of the closet.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the well-known author of The Black Swan, wrote a book called Antifragile. In it, Taleb argues that we need to build systems and organizations that do not break easily. It is a compelling argument.
This concept should be applied in our personal relationships. If any communal organization should be antifragile, shouldn’t it be our most intimate relationships? So what if business lasts centuries if families are breaking apart every few years. Is this really the measure of the world we hope to build?
The Order of The Unknown is the result of one such effort. The decision to stop living a failed model and to begin looking for an alternative.
The term “WeVerse” is meant to suggest that we can build the Universe we live in.
WeVerse is a universe in which we build deep, meaningful and antifragile relationships.
For many, we already have the desire, we just don’t know how to get there. There are few alternative models to follow.
Back to Tribes, Forward to Individuals
The core of this project is to build the philosophical foundation for a return to tribal living. But with a modern twist: the purpose of Tribe is to support the individual.
The Tribe is the foundation, the individual is the extension.
This project is an attempt to make our primary commitments with a group of people rather than on a single romantic relationship. Not in a sexual way; this is not polyamory. But in a deep and meaningful human way. Much the same way best friends build a lifelong relationship that outlasts most romantic relationships.
To get there, to be able to commit our lives into groups, requires a radically different philosophical approach. It requires Shared Story, Shared Values, Shared Ritual and Shared Resources.
This project is building those for a new form of Tribe.
Welcome to The Order of The Unknown. I invite you to explore, question and engage.
At the close of 2016, I left the United States.
My life had not matched the dream I’d been sold. I’d been raised to not only believe in the nuclear family, democratic rule, capitalism and romantic love, but to worship them. America and its values were the shining city on the hill, an example to all the world, to all of human history. We were winning. So much winning. Except…
We are #NotWinning.
My life at the conclusion of 2016, just after that embarrassing presidential election, bore all the scars of our failed culture. Was this it? Consumerism and serial dating? Broken families and the daily grind?
I simply did not accept that this was the best we could do; that I was participating in a culture that was leading toward anything like the life I’d hoped for as a child. So, I sold all but that which would fit into a single suitcase and left the United States.
With the blessing of being able to make a living over the internet, I spent the next two years wandering Latin America. As I worked to put my life into perspective, I began an intensive research project to better understand the forces that had shaped it.
The City of The Fallen Churches
I write this today in my new home in Antigua, Guatemala.This cobblestoned colonial city is punctuated by dozens of ancient fallen churches. The city has chosen to leave these failed structures in place, and they have become a reminder to me of the fallen culture and failed norms that I’ve left behind.
I have charted a new course that has given my life better purpose and stronger meaning.
A New Philosophy. A Better Way To Live
I have developed a new philosophy that can help you to make this same journey. Much of my experience will resonate with your own. My failures are not unique; they are the natural outcome of a culture and system that sets us up to fail. A system that cannot produce the benefits we believe we are pursuing. I learned that despite the glowing lives we portray on social media, most of us are lost in very similar ways.
Are you lost? Are you in the same tailspin I was in? There is a way out. But more importantly, there is a way forward! But you have to be prepared to work for it. You have to be prepared to kill the sacred cows of your cultural beliefs. Doing so save my life, and gave me a new one. It can do the same for you.