Why are We Sleeping? An Essay on Disconnection.

Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash

Are we sleeping? And if so, how can we wake up?

Dear reader, thank you for dropping in on this essay, which I pour my heart into in an attempt to describe the epidemic of disconnection.

As explained on the about page of this website, the intention of Wake Up, Human is to explore the ways we humans have become disconnected from our native ways of knowing, what we have lost, and practical knowledge and wisdom for coming back into wholeness.

The intention of this essay is to explore the epidemic of disconnection as the root cause of our ‘sleep’ and reconnection as our opportunity to ‘wake up.’

This is a long form essay, and due to the length of it, I will be publishing it partially and adding to it bit by bit. I’ll drop in the first segment below, and add to it as time goes on.

For anyone not the long form essay-reading type, I’ll post the article’s key points below: a summary of the content without the deep dive. For an audio related to this discussion, check out Wake Up, Human podcast, Episode 2.

Otherwise, I’ll see you on the inside…

Essay on Disconnection: Key Points

  • We humans have forgotten how to use our inherent human powers—powers such as intuition, keen awareness, and sensory communication with the natural world. The sands of time, along with the destruction of our own indigenous cultures, have erased ancient forms of knowing from our shared memory.
  • We’ve been conditioned away from our natural inclinations toward wholeness via modern ideologies of progress, individualism, and cultural superiority.
  • We’ve been distracted by the alluring comforts of technological advancement and placating materialism (and encouraged to do so by decades of targeted advertising and media propaganda).
  • Our psychology is susceptible to negative biases, stereotypes, and fear-based reasoning, which, if continually and unnaturally stimulated, can short circuit our inner knowing.
  • We’ve been manipulated by powerful economic and political interests, and the institutions and systems built to serve them, to remain in such states of fear and separation…for a very long time.
  • This state of disconnection estranges us from our own wisdom, and our place in the interconnected web of life. This estrangement leads us to objectify the natural world, and thus, become able to rationalize the ways we destroy it.
  • This is not the way it has to be. By recognizing our state of disconnection, we gain the ability to address it. We can dismantle the rationalizations that allow us to destroy ourselves, each other, and our home. We can wake up into reconnection, and grow together, and heal.

An Essay on Disconnection.

What are our essential human powers?

Historically, we humans were more attuned to the natural world than we are today. We lived in deeper connection with the rhythms of nature and communion with other forms of life.

Inheriting this attuned sense of knowing as a birthright, our ancestors were able to see, hear, and feel the essence of reality more clearly than we do today. They lived in a state of interconnectivity with the natural world that has largely been lost in our modern distracted and fragmented world. This sense of connection enabled them to survive in harsh and sometimes dangerous environments, but it also allowed them to live full and harmonious lives in tune with the rhythms of time and place.

From indigenous and wisdom traditions that shine light on our historical and spiritual beginnings, we understand that our native state of being is receptive and communal, our inner and outer lives harmonized to our natural surroundings and the lives of other beings around us. We understand that our species is but one instrument in a planet-wide symphony of life.

If we consider our species as but one voice among many, it might worry us at first that in such a worldview our species would become less important or valuable. But this is not true. In fact, the more we understand ourselves as one facet of a greater whole, the more we can tap into the the vast shared capacity of that whole.

Rather than living for ourselves and solving problems by ourselves, we can access all of nature’s combined intelligence as our guide. The more we discern our role, and our power as world citizens, the more impactful we can be.

The wisdom indigenous to every one of us is capable of this understanding: to communicate across time, space, and species boundaries. To be guided and helped by nature. To know the truth of who we are and what we are capable of. To leverage our remarkable creativity and intelligence to collaboratively transform our physical world, for the benefit of all.

These are our essential powers.


We’ve largely forgotten our essential powers—
but they are not lost.

We “modern” humans are less embodied than our ancestors, living more in our heads and less in our hearts. As modernization has urged us forward across thousands of years of historical terrain, we have developed our thought and reason at the expense of our intuition.

In our march toward the mental and mechanical, we’ve forgotten how to use our inherent human capacities—powers such as intuition, awareness, and sensory communication with the natural world. In doing this, we have disconnected ourselves from ways of knowing that are essential, and might even seem magical to our rational scientific minds.

But these powers are not lost to us. They are still alive within us, albeit perhaps deeply buried under lifetimes of conditioning. They are tools that evolved along with our bodies and minds, to help us understand the world, and our place in it. Such tools still belong to us, as our birthright. For those of us who wish to reawaken and use them, is it still possible? I believe it is.

Through good fortune and perhaps grace, we continue to have access to a multitude of living traditions that carry the ancestral threads of our collective being, leading back over many centuries, to the source of our ancient knowing.

We also have access to millennia of written records of mystics and sages who have pondered the deepest questions of existence, and come to conclusions instructive for both their time and ours.

Finally, within each one of us lie dormant the seeds of our innate human powers, seeds that when watered with the light of our attention are ready to sprout to life and direct us toward the full expression of our essential nature.

We need not become anything new. We only need to open to what we already are, and reawaken the great power that sleeps within us.

To the extent we can do this, we may find ourselves once again able to perceive our interconnectivity to the whole: dormant, yet ready to come powerfully alive in us, and reawaken to the truth we have always known:

When we harm one thread in the tapestry of life, we harm us all.


How we got lost: the epidemic of disconnection.

I believe we’re suffering from what naturalist Jon Young calls an “epidemic of disconnection.”

In our species’ centuries-long push toward scientific and economic progress, favoring individual gain over collective evolution, we have isolated ourselves within our own self-centered experience. Focusing on expansion (of knowledge, territory, power, etc.) above all else, we have leveraged our significant creative-intellectual powers to advance our own interests.

Through scientific and technological advancements, we have increased our knowledge, extended our capacities, and firmly established ourselves the most secure, comfortable, and powerful species on the planet.


This advancement has come at a cost. For our growth has been so impressive, progress so enticing, comfort so bewitching that we have largely become content to advance our own interests at the expense of the rest of the world.

We humans have always looked out for our own kind. Self-protective instinct within one’s species is not new, nor is it wrong. Focus on collective welfare is a survival mechanism that has helped us thrive for hundreds of thousands of years.

What is new is that modern humans seem to have forgotten that the collective welfare of our species depends on the collective welfare of the whole.

Ironically, in our unbridled push to secure “our” well-being, we have taken self-interest of our species so far that our collective action now focuses on the individual human to the extent that it threatens the very fabric of the world that holds us.

Thus, we now favor human needs over the needs of non-human animals and the natural world, to the extent that we routinely destroy and commodify nature to advance our interests.

We favor our individual addictions to comfort over the needs of other humans who do not have as much as we do, even when our comforts are frivolous and others’ needs are basic.

And astonishingly, we often favor our addiction to expansion, our desire for more, faster, and better, even over our own inner peace and health.

The upshot is that we seemingly have no trouble destroying our own earthly home, our own species, and our own personal well-being in the name of progress.


The symptoms of disconnection.

Thus we exhibit symptoms of the epidemic of disconnection: estrangement—from the natural world, the suffering of other beings, and the importance of our own physical and mental survival.

This disconnection, while it portends to offer us security against the wild world, has left many of us so-called “advanced” humans in a state of desperation and hopelessness. Why?

Because we are part of the wild world.

We are meant to be wild.

Ahh, we intuit that something important is missing from our lives. We feel incomplete. We struggle to find happiness in the trappings of the modern world, with all its distractions and comforts, and we fail.

Time escapes us and slips through our fingers; we feel we never have enough of it.

Health escapes us; we suffer en masse from ailments with unknown causes, and succumb to modern diseases we’re unable to cure with modern methods.

Understanding escapes us: our science and reason promise to give us all the answers, yet information overload, without connection to true knowledge, leaves us with more questions and less insight into what truly matters.

And peace escapes us. We long to know our place and purpose in life, yet find ourselves overwhelmed by too many choices, unable to discern where we belong.

As all these searches come up empty, in our sense of lack we continue to look for more, to fill the gaps in our hearts that know they are lacking. Pulled in multiple directions by the dizzying array of “opportunities,” we may result full of experience yet devoid of meaning, or falling into depression, sickness, and overwhelm. We sense the lack of security in this; the comfortable rug has been pulled out from under our feet. And we are back where we began, running on the treadmill of daily life, too busy to ask ourselves what is wrong.

Separated from our inherent wholeness, it is not surprising that we feel incomplete.

We have become the hungry ghosts of Buddhism, ravenous beings suffering from endless desires that can’t be fulfilled, compulsively feeding ourselves to soothe an emptiness that only grows larger the more we try to feed it.

Why do we let ourselves live this way?

To be continued…


You Darkness, from which I come, I love you more than all the fires that fence out the world. Because the fires make a circle of light so that no one can see you any more. But the Darkness holds it all. The shapes, the animals, the flames and myself… I have faith in the night.

Rainier Maria Rilke, Translated by Robert Bly


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *