There is probably no greater contrast between the Old Paradigm and the New Paradigm than that which is found within the overall world view. While the old traditions tend to define the world of physical reality as less important than the world of the non-physical, and the present life as inferior to the afterlife, the new traditions see things very differently. Rather than wishing away the world we live in, the New Paradigm embraces it as the marvelous gift that it is. Furthermore, instead of seeing the physical plane as some sort of foreign and strange land, followers of the new traditions see it as their home, the very place where they belong. In short, this physical existence is inherently good, being both a gift and a very real part of who we are.
An expression I have become very fond of in recent times says that the moment you are in is a gift from the Universe itself, which is why it is called the ‘present’. Although such a play on words can be termed as ‘clever’, which is not always a good thing, this particular example resonates in a very meaningful way. It paints the present moment in a more positive light, one that it is fully deserving of. Thus, instead of counting down my days as if serving a prison sentence, longing for my eventual release, I see each and every day as the miracle it truly is, celebrating it with a newfound joy and enthusiasm for life.
This joy has become so constant that I have come to see each and every day as a Christmas of sorts, where I get to unwrap the gift I have been given and discover its almost infinite potential as the day unfolds. Needless to say, this is a far cry from the way I used to face the mornings before I began to see them for the wonder and the promise that they are. In fact, I have come to feel disdain for those who still wish away this life in the hopes of something better, a perfect afterlife that is supposedly awaiting them. I see that sentiment as ignorant at best and downright ungrateful at worst. The audacity to dismiss the gift of life, a gift of such immeasurable wonder, is now beyond my understanding. And I am all the more grateful for it.
Fortunately, this is one area where I have made the proverbial 180 degree turn within my life, moving away from the tradition I was born into that holds this physical, present life in contempt, and towards a tradition that makes each day feel wonderful and magical. Although I still have my bad days, where moans rather than celebrations ring out as I find my feet, for the most part I do feel like a child on Christmas morning, eager to discover and enjoy the gift that is waiting for me, the very gift of life itself. And I take the time every single day to express my gratitude for this gift, making sure that I never again take it for granted.
There is a passage in the Bible that defines ‘believers’ as those who are in the world but not of the world. Now, this passage has many layers of interpretation, the main one being focused on culture and society rather than on the physical world in which we live. However, fundamentalist traditions do take it to that next level, interpreting ‘the world’ as the physical existence we are in right here and now. That said, followers of these traditions see themselves as pilgrims in a strange and alien world. As such, rather than fearing or dreading death they see it as the release that restores them to their true home, a home beyond physical existence.
Although I had seen myself as a stranger in a foreign land for much of my early years, my mindset has slowly but surely evolved away from that belief. Now, I see this existence as my home, the place where I belong, not a place to be wished away or escaped from. Once I began to see things from this perspective everything began to change. Not only did I begin to appreciate life in general in a whole new way, but I also began to respect and appreciate the world around me in a way I had never imagined possible. I discovered a whole new truth, one that revealed the two things that make up a home, the two things that have come to define my relationship with the world I live in.
The first thing that makes a home is the building itself. Whether it’s a house, an apartment or a teepee, any physical dwelling that you inhabit is your home. That said, once I saw this planet as my home rather than a stopover, I suddenly became aware of my responsibility to care for it. Rather than trashing it like a rock star in a hotel, figuring the cleaning staff would take care of things, I began to take great pride in my environment. This included a wide range of new practices, from such obvious things as recycling and minimizing my carbon footprint, to other, less obvious practices such as letting my yard go back to nature.
This doesn’t mean I have allowed my land to become overgrown and ugly, rather it means I have planted trees where only grass once grew, restoring habitats for birds and small beasties alike. Although this doesn’t make up for the unrestricted destruction of trees and natural habitats that I see each and every day, it does mean that such wanton destruction stops at my door. I have come to respect the natural state of the land I live on, restoring it to its inherent design in an attempt to leave this home better than how I found it.
This sentiment is common amongst those who embrace New Paradigm values. It is behind the rise in environmental movements, where millions of people are uniting in an effort to put an end to the abuse and destruction of the planet. Such efforts aren’t simply done for the sake of preserving life, but they are also done for a genuine, heartfelt love for this wonderful place that is our home. It really is an evolution of consciousness, where people are waking up to the reality that this world is where we are born, where we live, and where we will die. It is our very existence. And to treat it with contempt and negligence is simply unimaginable and unforgivable in the hearts and minds of those who are breaking from the old ways.
The second thing that makes a home is family. And this is another area where I have made a complete turn-around in my way of thinking and living. While I used to see nature as a resource, one that was to provide my personal happiness and contentment, I now see each and every living thing as my family. After all, do we all not live in the same house? How can we share the same home and not be a family? Once I realized this truth the way I saw the world around me changed forever.
One way that I have changed my behavior is that I now respect the birds, beasties and creepy crawlies that share the space I inhabit. Rather than seeing them as intruders or guests, I now see them as roommates of a kind. No longer do I see it as my space that they are sharing. Instead, I now understand that the space belongs to all of us. It is their space as much as it is mine. Just because I pay a mortgage doesn’t mean the trees and the grass don’t still belong to nature. In fact, this land will be reclaimed by nature long after the banks and mortgages have gone the way of the dinosaur.
That is the other reason why I have allowed my yard to go back to nature as it were. Not only am I trying to undo some of the damage caused by ‘progress’, I am also trying to provide a happy, safe place for those I now call my family. The trees I have planted, or have allowed to grow naturally, provide shelter for countless birds and beasties. Watching them come and go about their business reminds me that life is far more than just my personal experience. Realizing this truth has served to give new meaning to the world in which I live. I truly am a living part of a living universe, as are we all.
A rise in conscientious efforts to respect nature and animals of all forms tells me that I am not alone in the realization that we are all just one big family living together in one big home. The growing drive to protect the environment, to rescue stray animals, to end poaching and even to end animal agriculture demonstrates a new consciousness regarding our place in this world. Whereas the old traditions saw humanity as the conquerors and masters of nature, the new traditions see us as a part of nature, another species of animal rather than divine beings stuck in an inferior existence. We are not strangers in a foreign land, we are beasties, and this is our home. This is humanity returning to nature. This is the way of the New Paradigm.