The World is Falling Apart and 5 Reasons Why That’s a Good Thing

Photo by McKay Savage/Flickr Creative Commons (

Consider what would happen if security were not the point of our existence. That we find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals and expands us.
~Eve Ensler

Sometimes I feel like I live in an alternate reality.

My own world feels fairly happy and insulated, but then I realize I don’t live in mainstream America. Northern New Mexico feels several steps removed from the United States.

I live on a dirt road next door to a Buddhist temple (Upaya Zen Center). I rarely venture into shopping malls. I don’t often need to use my car. Usually, I eat wholesome organic food lovingly made by friends at Upaya. I don’t have a TV. I’m blessed (and have worked hard) to be self-employed, and have enough money to sustain myself and to support causes I care about.

Somehow, by grace and design, I’ve landed up on this island of sanity.

But when I travel to other places, I get a sense of how panicked most people are by the state of the world.

Friends are looking for work. Even if they have a job, many have difficulty keeping up with their bill payments. Most have no health insurance or other protection against a medical crisis, should it hit them. Some are worried about the possibility of foreclosure on their homes.

We share some of the same challenges. Our aging parents need more and more help, and we don’t know where to turn. Federal and local government budgets are in shambles, services are being cut. In many cities, the air is dirty, the waters are polluted. Our earth has been struck by some huge natural disasters these past few years, but the worst damage has come from the impact of our human presence – like the BP oil spill and the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown.

One of the few industries experiencing growth is “security” – we seem to be willing to pay anything and give up a large degree of freedom for the illusion of keeping ourselves safe and out of danger.

The world can be a scary place these days. It all seems quite apocalyptic.

And in fact, the world as we know it is ending.

What could possibly be good about this?

Liberation is only possible when things fall apart. Only when we are completely willing to let go of where we are can we grow into something else. This is just as true for us as a society as it is for each of us, personally.

As a species, our choices and actions over the past century have created an unsustainable situation. In our lifetime, we’re witnessing the natural consequences of these choices – something that Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy refers to as the time of the Great Turning.

If you study your own life, you eventually learn that unhealthy choices may give you instant gratification and yet will eventually make you sick. This is what we’re experiencing now on a social level.

So here are 5 reasons why this falling apart is actually a doorway to possibility… if we choose to act in that way. For every challenge, there is an invitation.

1. Stock markets are crashing, corporations are collapsing. Our economy, built on a house of cards and designed to function on greed, is yielding to something different.

The invitation: The financial crisis is reminding us of the necessity to exchange goods with each other in a system that’s based on trust and relationship. The social phenomenon that is known as the Occupy Movement is all about moving toward a different way of relating to each other and to money.

2. Our schools and the whole education system is being battered by a multitude of problems. Test scores and literacy rates are dropping, students face violence both in and outside of the classrooms, teachers are burning out.

The invitation: Real learning is a transformative process that takes place person-to-person and has almost nothing to do with well-designed curriculums, textbooks, and fancy school buildings (though these things are of course helpful). Organizations like the Academy for the Love of Learning and the Montessori Foundation are showing us the way back to the true meaning of “education” — to bring forth what is within (from the Latin word educere).

3. Technology is exploding faster than our consciousness can keep up with it. Our lives our speeding up, and for some of us, our connection to our computers has become more important than to the real people in our lives.

The invitation: There is a growing movement toward simplicity and a desire to find ways to use technology in service of the greater good. The annual Wisdom 2.0 conference is a wonderful example of how people are practicing and creating more mindful ways to use technology in our lives. Writers like Sandra Pawula offer excellent guidance on overcoming digital overwhelm.

4. The very nature of work is changing. The unemployment rate in the U.S. continues to soar, and millions of people are struggling to find conventional jobs with decent pay. The days when people stayed with the same company for years have come to an end, most likely to never return.

The invitation: We can create innovative approaches to work. We don’t have to depend on someone else to hire us, we can draw on our own talents and passions to create livelihood that matters and that sustains us.

5. Our environment is polluted, our climate is on the verge of spinning dangerously out of balance.

The invitation: We are being invited to live on the planet in kinder and simpler ways. More people are coming forward to give examples of how to do this in creative and bold ways. Take, for example, Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man, who has come up with “42 Ways to Not Make Trash.”

The bottom line in all this: Cooperation and Community lead to sustainability and  gentleness… greed and ignorance lead to destruction and harm.

Liberation is at our fingertips, if we choose it.

The world is offering us a chance to take responsibility, to be creative. This also requires us to be willing to let go of old habits and step courageously into new ways of living and relating to each other. What we thought of as “security” is actually not what will keep us truly safe.

How will we choose? How do you choose? And what invitations to transform our way of living are you taking full advantage of these days?


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14 Responses to “The World is Falling Apart and 5 Reasons Why That’s a Good Thing”
  1. This post resonates deeply. It reminds me of my all-time favorite feeling – frustration. Without frustration we are never restless or unhappy or uncomfortable enough to MOVE and create change. OK – I am off to do my favorite active meditation in the Chiang Mai early morning sunshine – vigorous sweeping with a hand-made Thai twig yard broom, whilst I visualize all the things I choose to sweep out of my life this day!! :) Blessings to you, Maia. xx

    • Maia Duerr says:

      Marike, I can just visualize you there on a CM morning, sweeping away the old and making room for the new! Blessings to you…

  2. Maia,

    You capture so vividly the current climate of panic and fear and beautifully outline an uplifting alternative. When I read your post, I get the sense of how much is changing all at once. No wonder people feel swept away in the chaos. It’s not easy to embrace this level of change. After reading this post, I feel empathy, compassion, and hope. Thank you also for including my link.

    • Maia Duerr says:

      Dear Sandra,

      Yes, when chaos is all around us, it is so easy to succumb to the fear and overwhelm response. And as you recently wrote, this really is such a key question, isn’t it — Do we respond with love or fear? Not an easy thing to do… I truly believe that’s why we all need each other to help remind each other of what’s possible. Thank you for being such a tremendous resource for me and so many others.

  3. John Eden says:

    Thanks Maia! Wonderful images and suggestions! Helping me to look for the opportunities in even the numbing pain of personal loss, as well as the falling-apart world…

  4. This is a lovely way of seeing all the changes that are happening around us. It’s all good!

    • Maia Duerr says:

      Thanks for your comment, Tess! Sometimes I’m not so sure that’s it’s all good, but I do believe that all of us have the capacity to transform the harmful aspects of life on the planet right now into more healing ones.

  5. Bill Tonw says:

    Very complete analysis and reasonable solutions. The speed of our transformation will increase as a result of technological advancements and our ability to assimilate this technology into our society will speed up proportionally. We will change along with the world and how we handle this change is the key. The linkages mentioned above between love and fear on the balance beam of empathy, compassion and hope are the right path to living amid this flux. To this aromatic mixture I would add faith in a supreme, compassionate, loving, and saving God, who always wants to walk this path with each of us. “Faith – Hope – Love and the greatest of these is Love.”

  6. The White Rabbit says:

    Most excellent write-up, Maia

    When the crisis hit in 2008 I sat in a cafe in San Francisco. It was a sunny day. Just as every day, I joined a group of retired men who meet there in the mornings for breakfast. Aniety filled the conversations.

    Out of my mouth came “This is THE opportunity for the American people”. Sometimes I say things and I don’t know where it comes from.

    Now I know: This is the American hero’s journey – both for us individuals and for the nation as a whole. It will be the maturation of a nation from a narcissistic teenage bully on a Titanic ego-trip, to an adult who knows moderation, an embraces the greater good. The US is growing up. In Jungian terms, it will be the individuation of the collective unconscious of a whole nation. And for the individual, too, there is potential of liberation – first from the chains of materialism to express our deepest calling. For the sake of a better humanity.

    The goal is set. A long winding road lays ahead of us. Onwards then.

    Together, we can reach for the stars.

  7. Julie says:

    LOVED your post! I’m sharing it on facebook at I AM THE CHANGE! Thank you!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. [...] As I’ve written before, we live in fascinating times. If you’re able to move beyond fear about how everything is changing and even falling apart, you’ll find a world that is also filled with opportunities. [...]

  2. [...] The World is Falling Apart and 5 Reasons Why That’s a Good Thing [...]


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About Maia

All my life, I’ve loved the idea of liberation and looking deeply into the question: What does it really mean to be free?

That's what the Liberated Life Project is all about.

You can find my work on two other places on the web -- click on the badges to the right to visit "The Jizo Chronicles" (my blog on socially engaged Buddhism) and Five Directions (my consulting business).

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