CHARLES EISENSTEIN

 

“I was born in 1967 and was a very sensitive, intellectual, and dreamy child. I was always consumed by questions like, “Where did I come from?””Why am I here?” “Where am I going?” so of course, embedded as I was in a culture that sees science and reason as the source of truth, I tried to “figure out” the answers. I graduated from Yale University with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, but my development of reason and intellect brought me no closer to any truth I really cared about.

My quest had an emotional dimension as well. From an early age I sensed a wrongness in the world. Sitting in a classroom doing worksheets, part of me rebelled. “We are not supposed to be doing this! It isn’t supposed to be this way.” It was a half-formed thought, embedded in a cloud of indignation and bewilderment. This perception, abetted by a growing awareness of ecological devastation and social injustice, prevented me from whole-heartedly embracing a normal career.

I didn’t know what I was searching for, but I knew that none of the usual options life presents a Yale graduate attracted me. I went to Taiwan, learned Chinese, and soon found myself working as a translator. I spent most of my 20s there, educating myself broadly (though not at all rigorously – it was more through osmosis) in Eastern spiritual traditions. I also read voraciously: books on health, nutrition, globalization, spirituality, physics, and biology. Translation led to other business opportunities, and I became familiar with this dimension of the human experience. In Taiwan, I met my dear friend and ex-wife Patsy, with whom I have three children, all boys. I am since remarried and have a fourth son. No one ever told me the procedure for making girls.

In my late 20s I entered what was to be a long period of intensifying crisis. It started when all my professional work became intolerable. It became excruciating to do work I didn’t care about. Even though a million reasons told me why it was irresponsible, impractical, and foolish to quit, I eventually could not make myself do it anymore. An irrepressible feeling, “I am not here to be doing this!” took control of my life. So I entered a long period of searching. I did a yoga teacher training and discovered I definitely didn’t want to teach yoga. I taught at Penn State University in a very marginal position – my official job title was “temporary employee type 2” – and reaffirmed my aversion to academia. And I stayed at home a lot taking care of our little boys.

What did I want to do? I was 36 and I still didn’t know. Nor had I answered my lifelong question: What is the origin of the wrongness in the world? Then one day both questions were answered at once, when the answer to my question crystallized inside me. As often happens with such questions, the answer was bigger than the question. It dissolved its premises and began reordering my world. I won’t tell you the answer-that-transcends-the-question now, but I spent the next four years pouring my heart and soul into a book, The Ascent of Humanity, that lays out what crystallized that day.

The “reordering of my world” wasn’t only intellectual. The next five years were much like a birthing process. The old world dissolved, and the contractions birthing me into the new took the form of a collapse of all that I once held onto. I went through divorce, bankruptcy, and exhaustion. I had to let go of a “life under control.” In my helplessness, I accepted help. I received the things I had given up on; for example, I met Stella and we had a baby, and there is so much love between all of us including my ex-wife Patsy. I have become rich, if not in money, certainly in connections to other people. Friends and strangers from all over the world write to tell me how my books have affected them; they sustain my faith and nourish my passion for the work I do.

This is the part of a bio where one implies that one has arrived at some exalted state of success, all mistakes safely in the past. Well, I’m not the guy who has got it all figured out. I know that my books and other work comes from a deep, inspired source, but that source is not me! It is more like I’m connecting to a field of knowledge, or to a story that wants to be told. This knowledge is as much my teacher as it is anyone else’s. I’m kind of ordinary, compared to some of the amazing people I keep meeting. I’m just as much in the learning as anyone else, wandering as best I can toward “the more beautiful world my heart knows is possible,” encumbered by the programming and the wounds of our civilization.

One more thing: because the source of my writing is not me, I prefer not to call what I do “my” work. If I weren’t doing it, it would find someone else to do it. That’s also why I prefer not to enclose what I create inside intellectual property walls. Everything on this site is freely available. I welcome you to make the most of it, use it in the way that best serves what we all serve, and evolve it to the next level.”