The Endowment of Ebb

Peter Russell, author of the book, Waking Up in Time, recounts research about the extraordinary rate of growth in our accumulated body of knowledge. He describes French Economist Georges Anderla who quantified collective human knowledge, starting with the scientific facts of the year AD 1 representing one unit. Anderla estimates that humanity first doubled its knowledge by AD 1500. The next doubling took over 50 years, the one after that 10 years, then 7, then 6 years. It has continued to increase at an exponential rate, and today, human knowledge is estimated to be doubling every eighteen months. These staggering statistics subtly influence us to believe our ability to integrate and utilize this knowledge should be expanding at an equal pace. Herein lies an assumption that demands a closer look.

Humanity functions in rhythms like plants in Nature. These rhythms are important biological regulators that exist in every living creature. Sunlight, chemicals, and habitual patterns all contribute to the repeating cadence of our lives. This cadence mirrors the ebb and flow of our growth, its very rhythm and repetition fertilizing the roots of that which we intend to harvest.

Because of its concentrated high energy, vast creativity, and “in the zone” feeling, flow is the part of the cycle we form a connection with and want to sustain. Relinquishing to the ebb is something we resist and fend off with sophisticated trickery. However, the ebb has more to offer us than we realize. Ebb reflects a slowing, a decline or waning, and is often characterized as a retreat into the darkness. Indeed, these are all elements of the ebb. However, when we are able to let go and ease into the inevitable, we discover an opportunity for renewal and revision.

In the underworld of ebb, we meet the beast, the creature we thought we had to tame, to fight, perhaps to kill. We experience fear, resistance, regret, shame, strength, admittance, insight, and wonder. We realize the beast is not the enemy, rather a teacher we can only access from inside the ebb. It is here that we discover what we are made of, what substance we can count on when we return to the flurry and excitement of flow.

The expansion of our knowledge serves us in our changing world. So too do the natural rhythms which we are compelled to live by. It is in these cycles that we discover our own way and manifest our creativity. Both the individual and the system thrive when we are open and inquiring, willing to discover by turning inward honestly and reaching out from an innate sense of wholeness.

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