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Some of the Big Questions about Y2K and Life

by Tom Atlee

There's something in the wind. A growing number of Y2K activists are being drawn to spiritual, transformational and other "large" issues beyond preparation.

In one Y2K organizers' meeting the group chuckled at the idea that dried food was a perfect symbol for Y2K preparation. Preparedness can seem soulless -- a fearful black hole into which people dump all their resources and attention and never really succeed: no matter how prepared we are, there is always some plausable worse-case scenario that could overwhelm us. Perhaps, someone joked, a book about preparedness should be written entitled "Just Add Water: Where's the Juice inY2K?" Someone else decided that the universal principles of preparedness should be the two new "f" words... food and fear -- at which point their group moved to the kitchen to pay hysterical tribute to their new "gods."

This wild joking seemed to generate a shift, felt by the whole group. But a shift into what? What did it mean? Someone remarked, in a pause following a bout of laughter: "Something passionate is waiting for us to be ready." I have that distinct feeling. Something is in the wind. Something is trying to be born.

We need to take time out for reflection. Where have we been? Where are we heading? What is gone? What is coming? What is our role? What's happening? How, then, shall we live?

I think the term "juice" gets at the heart of what's missing and trying to emerge, to get our attention. Mary Catherine Bateson said, "One needs to think not only about survival, but survival of what." And Why? What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? (Yes, dying. This is a time of potentially monumental challenge. Are we ready to die for something worthwhile, or simply to make sure "me and mine" -- even "my community" -- physically survive, no matter what?) Is this not a time to ask ourselves what is missing from our lives -- and what happened to it? Is this not a time to learn more about who we really are -- and who we could be? How many people can say they live "juicy" lives? Why so few? What have we been doing to ourselves? To each other? To the world? Might Y2K be a doorway into a culture that supports the juicy-ness of life, the re-enchantment of life, the healing of our soul and the world's soul?

What is it all that about?

There is something very important going on here. If we discover it, I suspect Y2K preparedness would suddenly become a thrilling vehicle for joy, relationship and transformation. It would expand to include our whole lives, not just food and safety. We would be preparing for a better life, a deeper connection to what matters. Perhaps what we need to do is prepare ourselves and our culture to die into our next incarnation, the next step in our collective evolution. Perhaps...

So where IS the juice in Y2K?

I've been using that question as an inquiry -- as a question to LIVE, holding it in my consciousness, not answering it, just letting it keep generating insights and further juicy questions. I believe that living an inquiry in this way can profoundly reshape how we think, feel and behave.

Among the little tribes of questions that have arisen are these:

Is there something BIG trying to happen through Y2K? Are we supposed to be learning a big lesson (or lessons) of some sort during this time? Are we being challenged and shaken awake? Is some big transformation being demanded of us? What is this about?

To what extent are our responses to Y2K based on
a) fear and running away from the fullness of life?
b) reaching out into life in all its fullness, towards each other, into the world, with passion, interest and creativity?

What is worth living for? If we're obsessed with survival -- survival for what?

What IS survival? -- especially if we have to shoot our neighbors or become totally preoccupied with our own material needs and safety? Survival OF what?

What is worth suffering for -- or dying for? If there is going to be suffering or death from Y2K, to what extent will some of it be pointless and in vain, and to what extent will some of it serve some higher human, social or spiritual purpose? Is there anything to learn here? Anything to envision? Does this have anything to do with us today, with how we are, with what we're doing?

To what extent does our fear of dying, suffering, etc., undermine our aliveness -- our ability to experience joy, connection, and meaning -- and to take meaningful, life-affirming action?

Similarly: to what extent are death and suffering things to prevent, and to what extent are they things to experience, to learn from, to grow stronger through, to share (and thereby deepen our connection) with each other? To what extent are they (or should they be) individual experiences, and to what extent are they properly shared or community experiences? What are the implications of this?

What do near-death-experiences have to teach us about Y2K? (Is Y2K already sort of a near-death experience for some of us?)

To what extent are we trying to hold off Y2K consequences -- suffering, death, environmental degradation, social disruption -- that other parts of the world have lived with for decades or centuries? To what extent have our efforts to be free of hardship -- to have comfortable, secure, prosperous lives -- generated hardships for other people and cultures, and for some species and ecosystems? What kind of sense can we make from this?

Our culture gives most of us so many physical benefits like cheap energy, food, goods, services, physical security, etc. And yet it is toxic to other people and living things. How does that affect our personal and community aliveness? Are there any unacknowledged downsides to comfort, convenience, longevity, pleasure, efficiency, abundance, security and profit? Are there alternative means of achieving physical well-being without so much toxic impact on the environment, distant peoples, our communities and ourselves? What are the upsides and downsides of those alternatives? Are there legitimate limits to personal and community well-being?

To what extent are death and difficulty a natural and necessary part of life, especially for individual organisms like us? What positive roles do death, challenge and suffering play in the health and evolution of natural and human communities and individuals?

What is the role of balance in nature? In society? In our lives? What happens where there is too much, too little, or other extremes? Does Y2K represent some kind of adjustment? If so, how?

People talk about Y2K being a sign that we're "too dependent" on
industrialized infrastructures
the global economy
What does "too dependent" mean? Is it possible to be INdependent? What kind of dependence makes sense? How much dependence on these things makes sense? What is our right relationship to these things -- as individuals, as communities, and as a society? If we believe we should be "less dependent" on them, what alternatives should we develop? What personal and social dynamics stand in the way of us doing that? How is Y2K relevant here -- if at all?

To what extent is Y2K a sign that we, as a culture, are addicted to a complex but shallow "pursuit of happiness" that is degrading our souls and our world? To what extent is recovering our souls, our aliveness, our kinship with each other and the world, necessary or sufficient to address Y2K? What are the consequences of addressing Y2K without such life-recovery efforts? To what extent do efforts to recover our souls distract us from urgent preparatory actions?

What essential understandings are most people failing to grasp about Y2K? What are the deeper sources of this problem? How must our individual and collective stories and perspectives change, in order to even see those underlying causes?

Does Y2K seem to be coming from somewhere else -- as if it is the plan or intention of forces or beings outside our ordinary experience -- from another spiritual plane, for example -- or from tectonic shifts or archetypal rumblings within the collective unconscious of humanity? Or does the Y2K crisis seem to be fairly well contained and explainable within the normal realities of our physical and social existence?

How does it feel to contemplate all this? What do we DO with understandings like this? To what extent do we need to sort this out individually? To what extent is it best dealt with in fellowship with friends and like-minded groups? To what extent does it need to be dealt with as a whole community, with all our diversity? As a whole society or culture?

How, then, shall we proceed?

These questions may inform your individual reflection. They may inspire letters and essays. You may bring them up at dinner, at a bar or movie, or in a playground with other parents. They can be used in workshops, classrooms, and theses. They are not proprietary. They can be used wherever people are trying to engage with Y2K at a level deeper than fixing the code or planning or preparing for contingencies (which, though necessary, may not be sufficient for some of us).

This is just a first wave of inquiries. There are undoubtedly many more we will discover as we go along. Feel free to send inquiries you are pursuing to