The eminent British historian Arnold Toynbee talked about civilizations as having life cycles. In an individual life cycle, something begins, develops, matures, and declines. Toynbee said that a newly forming civilization is like a child who is experiencing and trying new things. This would be a civilization’s period of early development. Next, a civilization begins to adopt the beliefs that work for it, and once it holds on to those beliefs, it enters a period of rigidity. This is akin to the child doing all the experimental stuff but then coming up against the wall of a parent saying “This is the way it is” and internalizing that message.
But there’s a problem with this rigidity: The universe is continuously and dynamically changing. So trying to hold on to a belief leads to challenges that are the result of not being flexible enough to bend with the currents of change. What is rigid begins to decline.
Civilizations have always come and gone. Our particular cycle is unique, however, because we’re not just ending a civilization, we’re also ending a complete stage of evolution. We also have the potential to jump into another stage of evolution, but I must emphasize that we have the potential. We cannot tell the outcome. We may or may not make it, and we must really own that. This doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to see how we might be able to survive but that we should be all the more active in trying to do so.