A whirl of light, showing the constant change of life.
Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

Times are always changing, moving like a wave. We find ourselves on peaks and bottoms, but the way up or down is where it is most turbulent. This applies to our individual lives as well as societies. During these moments is when we can find the collective existential crises. It feels like we are heading towards one of these moments. The uncertainty of direction in which the world is moving. With polarized narratives and a lost dialogue. While we try to cling to beauty, doubt can fill our minds. Parts of the human race have nothing, others fight to have more, and some have so much they’ve forgotten the value of life.

This post might sound like doom and gloom, but I’m trying to find a guide for the rapids. Among all the noise and disasters, we are still alive and need to make the best of it. We as humans are resilient and can handle more than we think. It’s the outside world that throws us off and makes us feel we are not adequate. It might not seem enough to follow our own path, but this is our best way to go about it. Through these cycles, it is up to us to stay the course and consistently follow our plan.

“Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it. Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 6.15

Where can we find the value of our existence?

How can we change this collective existential crisis? What is it and how can we alter its course? Or should we even try? Sometimes development can run rampant and we can lose control of it. Take social media for example. We’ve lost control of the amount of information we can share and receive as input. There is overkill that our filters can’t handle. The algorithms have learned to read our minds and pinpoint our desired intake of content. Triggering our wants and desires all the time, making sure we are never not distracted from ourselves. The feelings of inadequacy have plenty of inspiration. While on the one hand we are bombarded with the wonderful lives of those who have more. On the other hand, we are soothed by the view that others are worse off than we are.

This doesn’t sound nice, and it isn’t. If we are continuously rocking between grasping for more and feeling better than others, how can we ever be content with our own lives? Where can we find the value of our existence? Is this value there to begin with? And if it isn’t, shouldn’t we add worth to it ourselves? The collective existential crisis is making people ask questions, look for help, and in other cases yearn for the never ceasing distractions. Yet the cycles are never to be broken. Although we seem to be moving forward, we do so by destroying the progress as we go along.

“Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone – those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the ‘what’ is in constant flux, the ‘why’ has a thousand variations.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 5.23

A torn society, facing a collective existential crisis

A road, split in two by a hill. depicting the divide of human kind.
Photo by pine watt on Unsplash

We’ve been thrown into the age of connection. The time of consumption is still here, but it’s the connectivity and the external stimuli that push this forward. Ever moving away from our basic needs, while vast amounts of people can’t even seem to have those met. The rest ask for the internet first, or ways to connect themselves to whichever place they are not. Our cycle is moving us further away from what we are as a society. New jobs are less personal, there is usually a screen dividing us, and the authentic connection becomes alien to us. The problem is that technology seems to be taking over and has increased the flow and the rapids. We are sometimes found to be holding onto our boats for dear life. And for many, it managed to throw them overboard.

A torn society, facing a collective existential crisis, looking at the river ahead. Afraid of what is to come or what is already there. The divide between us humans, the self-imposed differences, always creating something to fear and something to desire. Only now, our awareness of the rapture is greater. Because we see it everywhere. Ignorance can be bliss and can increase our satisfaction with our present situation.

Can we try to be content with what we have?

In another post, I’ve explained how privileged my life is. And still, there are moments when I feel less than someone else. Only because they seem to have more or live a more extravagant life. While we can find happiness, or let’s start with contentment, in the little things. Breathing fresh and clean air, drinking healthy water, having a shelter, if only we could provide this to everyone. I have this and so much more. Yet, there are times when I feel I need more.

“If it ever happens that you turn to external things in the desire to please some other person, realize that you have ruined your scheme of life. Be content, then, with being a philosopher in everything; and if you wish also to be seen as one, show yourself that you are on, and you will be able to achieve it.”

Epictetus, Enchiridion, 23
A field of plants in the sunlight.
Photo by Kent Pilcher on Unsplash

The more we move away from our basic needs, the bigger our collective existential crisis becomes. And I wonder what people would answer if you’d asked them what they want from life. Wouldn’t it be to live a healthy and happy one? But because we want more and can’t stand the fact that others have it all. We wage wars, destroy nature, scavenge our resources, and wreak havoc while doing so. In the meantime, we aren’t destroying our planet, we are only making it less habitable for us. Earth will continue to revolve until the Sun decides it’s over. What is our goal in all of this? Never-ending progress? But it does end at one point. Can’t we try to learn to be content with what we have? Finding value in being human and part of a society?

We assign the meaning ourselves

This might sound a bit paradoxical, but to deal with a collective existential crisis, we should start with ourselves. The Stoics teach us that the only things we can control are our own opinions and actions. Therefore, instead of trying to change others, we can try to inspire them by setting a good example. We can do this by living a virtuous life or at least doing our very best to get as close as we can. Take stock of our wants and desires, and see what matters. We can still do the things that are important to us, but we can do them less excessively. Those little changes might make a big difference. Less consumption, resisting temptations, being less wasteful, and being happier with what we have.

Woman holding a flower between her hands. Being content with little.
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

“Besides, a man who follows someone else not only does not find anything, he is not even looking.”

Seneca, Letters From a Stoic, Letter XXXIII

The existential crisis we have, the lack of value we give to our possessions, and the constant rush and lack of time, will gradually turn around. By being content with the present and our personal situation, we will attribute the value to ourselves, not to things. By chasing fewer things, we can prioritize our time to what matters to us. If we can then combine this with introspection, learning who we are, and understanding what drives us, we can get a better grasp of the meaning of our existence. Because we assign it meaning ourselves.

The collective existential crisis is a whirlpool

While we are working on ourselves and setting the right example, let’s try to be better parts of society. Life is difficult, so try to be kind and supportive to each other. To fight the collective existential crisis, we can give it a collective meaning. Being part of the human race, the unique life we have here on Earth. That, in and of itself, should give us all a sense of pride. Then, the next time you see another human being, give some support, listen attentively, and show respect. We are all in the same boat, we share a powerful thing; conscious life. Don’t think of what you might lose by helping someone, but focus on gaining a true connection. A real-life experience. The collective existential crisis is a shared whirlpool, let’s make sure we get everyone back into the boat and stick together.

The Collective Existential Crisis: How to Create a more Peaceful World
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26 thoughts on “The Collective Existential Crisis: How to Create a more Peaceful World

  • 3 October 2022 at 15:49
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    This is so thoughtful; I think we’ve all felt elements of this throughout life and it’s good to learn from it and/or reframe how we approach these feelings. Thanks for exploring this — it’s got me thinking!

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    • 4 October 2022 at 19:06
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      Great reflections! Our life view benefits from being introspective & focused on purposeful goals. Indifferent to the beliefs & actions of others not in our control. They are learning & trying their best as we are. But we are interconnected & can make decisions to promote the common good. Obstacles or enemies are friends. May we be our best as Captain of our ship. Together we can create & coexist for the common good. Be indifferent, w/ o judgement while focusing on Justice, Courage, Temperance & Wisdom.
      Effort, choices matter. May we be heroic.

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      • 4 October 2022 at 20:29
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        Thank you for this insightful comment. You touched on a lot of important things there. Everyone else is also just trying to make the best life, so their judgements come from a point of view that is their own. We can listen to it, but in the end shoud decide what matter to us.

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    • 4 October 2022 at 20:23
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      Thank you for your comment. It think you touched on an important point; how to refram and approah these feelings is important. Glad you liked it.

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  • 3 October 2022 at 21:07
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    Great post! I love your thoughtfulness and clarity in otherwise murky areas. I definitely agree in finding the value in what we have, and finding contentedness in the here and now. Thank you for sharing!

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    • 4 October 2022 at 20:25
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      Thank you, Savannah, it’s great to read your comment. It means a lot to me. Finding contentedness in the here and now is what I’m trying to do more. It’s not always easy, but we can try.

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  • 3 October 2022 at 23:04
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    This is such a thought provoking post, I’m slowly learning to live in the present after years of chasing the next thing and I’m more content than ever. Thank you for sharing this

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    • 4 October 2022 at 14:44
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      This was a real stop and think post. One that Wally gets your head scratching. Am I really happy with what I have and why shouldn’t I be is a question I shall ask myself today. Thanks for sharing your thoughts xxx

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      • 4 October 2022 at 20:27
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        Thank you for your comment and it’s great to read that it made you ask those questions. They are important to see what really matters to us and how we can add meaning to our lives.

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    • 4 October 2022 at 20:25
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      Thank you for your comment. I understand that feeling of chasing things around, it is difficult to stop doing so, but it’s great to read that you are working on it.

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  • 4 October 2022 at 14:45
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    Learning to listen to others properly, without interruption, judgement, or scrolling on your phone, is so important. As is finding joy in what we have, in the present and now. Great post.

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    • 4 October 2022 at 20:28
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      Thank you for your those thoughtful words. Listening to others and yourself is key in understanding what goes around in you and around you. The only joy is to be found in the now, the rest is either a memory or imagination.

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  • 5 October 2022 at 19:02
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    I agree, life is difficult and we don’t need to make it worse. We need to be kind and support. Great post!

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  • 5 October 2022 at 22:24
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    This is such an interesting post, Benny. It’s sad what the world is coming to. People don’t talk anymore/connect – most are addicted to their phones – the instant dopamine hit. Balance is key but unfortunately most are totally unaware.Thanks for sharing. Jade

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    • 11 October 2022 at 03:26
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      Thank you, Jade. You are right to say that the balance is gone. We can try to find that within ourselves and hopefully project it to the world around us.

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    • 11 October 2022 at 03:27
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      Thank you for your comment. The points you highlight are really important. And let’s show some compassion to ourselves as well.

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  • 7 October 2022 at 23:08
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    This is so spot on: We are all in the same boat, we share a powerful thing; conscious life.

    We are competitive from early ages that we forget that we are not each other enemies. We need to change that and you are giving a huge impact to every reader.

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    • 11 October 2022 at 03:28
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      Lovely to read comments like this. We aren’t each ohers enemies. We are all just trying to live our lives. Thank you for saying that I make an impact. I’m mainly writing for myself to try do live this way. But I’m happy it could help others.

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  • 9 October 2022 at 22:55
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    The best we can do, I believe, is to look and tend to what is within. I’ve been working on catching myself amidst social judgment, which occurs more often than I’d like. Then I ask within where I display the exact same faults or lack of conscience. My attention moves from external to internal, from judgment to healing. Better decision-making comes through too. We can use the social crisis to inform our personal evolution and with that become a source of better ways of being on earth. I’m afraid this must be a side effect of our own inner work, not the goal itself though. Thank you for another great reflection.

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    • 11 October 2022 at 03:30
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      Great comment, Vanessa. I agree with you, that the best we can do is o look within and start from there. It’s great to read your thought process and how you go about it. The social crisis term, is an interesting one. But you are right that it can show us what is going wrong. Thanks for sharing your views on this.

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  • 13 October 2022 at 21:35
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    Such a timely and important post, thank you for sharing your ideas. I love that quote from Seneca. Taking a way forward from the teaching of the Stoics can greatly help with our emotional health and with our physical. All are connected, together with the spiritual. When it comes to it, most people would choose love over material stuff, yet our model of continual growth and quick reward is destroying us, which is something I ponder on in my latest blog post. Mental health issues are on the rise and part of that lies at the door of social media companies using algorithms to bombard us with empty stuff that we may have looked up once. It is a constant stream of noise, and one we could easily live without.

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    • 16 October 2022 at 21:12
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      Thank you, Zac, for your insightful comment. If given the choice, they would chose love. But as you point out, we are being guided away from that and into externals. Learning to calm our mind and soul can make a big difference in how we go about our lives. Loved reading your views on this topic.

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  • 15 October 2022 at 04:36
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    I am totally on board with finding joy in what we already have, rather than seeking more.

    Great post.

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    • 16 October 2022 at 21:19
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      Thank you for your comment and for how you viewed my post. It means a lot.

      Reply

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