The Continuum Theory™
New QuestionsMy experience some 30 years ago with Creative Aging, Inc., an organization I co-founded, was that people resisted the idea of aging. They do not have the perspective that each year, each decade brings the possibility of developing a yet undeveloped potential. A potential which once developed assures one of greater power and satisfaction in life. I researched this by asking hundreds of individuals to chart life on a graph. The results, which are shown to you and explained, clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of people perceive life span as an inevitably declining process. This perception is quite evident when we see people turning 30-40-50, by and large being upset and anxious, rather than enthusiastically looking forward to the next decade of their life and development.
Why is this? I wondered.
Are they correctly perceiving life because their definition of life as an inevitably declining process is turning it into such? Exactly like a self-fulfilling prophecy. What if it turned out that life-span was actually an ever upward curving, ever potentializing process? If that was/is the truth how would people perceive the next decade of their life differently? And if that were a possibility, that life is an ever upward curving process of potentializing, what theoretical framework would support it and prove it? My intuition said that in fact, life is an ever upward curving process of potentializing, which we misperceive because the body, and to a lesser degree the mind/brain, do seem to decline with age. If then, we believe we are only body and mind/brain then we are right to resist this process, and not look forward to the next decade, and then the next. After all, who in their right mind, or left brain, wants to watch themselves decline. So, I set out to find a theoretical framework that would not only prove that life is an ever upward curving process of potentializing, but in the process, change people’s perception, inspire generations to come to find their true potential, find satisfaction, find love unconditionally, and be the most productive in their later years, rather than the least. Whereas presently, being productive in this last stage of life is true for only a small percentage of the overall population. Retirement, for most, is certainly not the most productive part their lives. So with that as background, let’s delve into the theory part.
The Theory of Self - Research
I believe that psychology need not go, as it does presently, in the two different directions of, 1) The study of pathology and 2) The study of well-being. I believe that the body-mind/brain, both being machines can and do break down, can produce variations that are beyond our control and even our imagination, and can lack certain hormones and other chemicals needed for health and well-being. But, I believe that these cases are by far in the minority. As far as the causes of depression, anxiety, and other mental ‘illnesses’ which medicine and the field of psychology is attempting to cure, I believe that most of the pathologies are the result of the same dynamic that applies to a majority of individuals. That is a basic ignorance of who they are as human beings, how they function, their lack of awareness of what their needs truly are, their lack of knowledge as to how to ask for what they want, and finally, how to be unconditionally loving toward themselves (self-sufficiency) and others, and how to ask for and receive unconditionally loving behavior. This can all be taught!! It can happen once people understand that they are ‘Self’ and that they need to develop/rehabilitate it.
I believe that both an individual Life Span and most of Human Evolution, (at least from the Stone Age till today), are 3 part developmental processes. The ‘physical’, the ‘mental’, and the ‘self’. The micro-evolutionary process, or human development / life span mirrors accurately the historic macro-evolutionary process called Human Evolution. Both theories are easy for people to follow and for me to provide evidence for. I will start with the theory of Human Evolution since the historical documentation makes it relatively simple to prove. The 3 stages of human evolution can be easily seen when we document the evolution of ideas relating to the ‘body/me’ survival stage, to the ‘mind/we’ survival stage and finally to the ‘self/us’ survival stage.
It is this theory of Human Evolution (since the Stone Age) that underscores my theory of Life Span.
Although I am not an archaeologist or anthropologist, records seem to indicate that the The Paleolithic, or “old stone age” covered about 99% of human history. 99%. During this period stone tools were developed. During the Paleolithic age humans were grouped together in small scale societies such as bands and gained their subsistence from gathering plants and hunting wild animals. This 99% of human history took more than 2 million years according to archaeologists and anthropologists. Human beings lived in bands, surviving in isolation, with the average life expectancy of their members perhaps 20 years or less. The next stage in human evolution was called the Pleistocene, and it was characterized by the introduction of agriculture around 10,000 BC.
When you consider the fact that for nearly 2 million years human beings existed in a very primitive, survival mode, don’t you have to ask yourself the question, “Why?” I did!
We see how rapidly knowledge advances today, then why did it take nearly 2 million years for mankind to move from stone tools to metals, and from hunting and gathering, to developing the knowledge of domesticating plants and animals, the wheel, etc. when their very survival was at stake?
Anthropologists may have theories about why this took so long to happen. So do I. And the next table I believe can start to explain my theory of why in part.
Humans by Era
Average Lifespan at Birth (years)
|Pre-Columbian North America||25-35|
|Early 20th Century||30-40|
|Current world average||78|
According to the Encyclopedia BritannicaCertainly the fact that human beings were in small groups, isolated from one another, fearful of and hostile to one another, with focus on daily survival, was a contributing factor to their inability to develop better survival tools and ideas. And in some parts of the world where there was warm climate with an abundance of easily accessible animals and vegetables, perhaps it did not necessitate their development as much for survival. But I believe there was an even more important factor. And that was their life span.
I believe that human beings do not develop their mind’s/brain’s potential for problem solving, consequential thinking, until after 20 years of age. And for that to even happen after 20 the groundwork for thinking, as opposed to mimicking/doing, has to be laid. I believe that not only was the training of individual young limited to survival skills, but too few lived long enough where they could have put to use their own brain’s development to analyze their experience, entertain ideas, do trial and error, which could have brought about new solutions. As archeology has shown critical, evolutionary thinking happened only in the most limited sense.
As we can see by analyzing the table, the short, average life expectancy persisted until the early 20th century. So how did humanity still manage to create advances in knowledge, given my theory? The domestication of plants and animals that began around 10,000 years ago, while anthropologically shortening the average life span, (more disease from domesticated animals and closer contact with denser human populations), also had the effect of having more and more people survive to a later age. Although the average life expectancy went down, population numbers went way up. Because of better nutrition the chances of more and more people surviving longer was statistically ensured. Survival wasn’t tied as much to what the environment had to offer, as hard work, and the weather. Agricultural communities also developed specialized trades. This set of circumstances allowed more individuals to reach an age where their brain’s potential could be developed, along with having more time, in winter season and growing seasons, where the potential of their brain could be put to use.
It is not surprising that with the advent of sewage systems, hygiene, antibiotics, and anesthetics, and sufficiently available food in the 19th and 20th centuries, record numbers of people started to live into their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. And it was these individuals who were directly responsible for the industrial revolution and nearly all of the scientific advances that improved the quality of life.
But that is not all that has happened as a result of scientific advancements leading to longer life spans. Another revolution, that of a morality that included strong social responsibility, started to take root.
Again, how would we explain this by looking at life span? But before I explain it let me again ask the same question I asked before. Why were there two world wars and countless others, genocides and holocausts, slavery and child labor, together with all of these scientific advances? After all didn’t we have an ever growing number of these mind-developed, educated, human beings? Isn’t developing the mind enough to make people more caring about other human beings? History clearly tells us, NO! And to this day merely being educated does not equate with being compassionate and caring. It seems that a developed mind is insufficient for the greater causes of humanity – ending hunger, poverty, bringing peace and ensuring that equality and opportunity for self-expression are available to all.
The second question you may want to ask yourself is, “Why did it take 2 million plus another 10,000 years for human beings to start becoming more morally responsible for their fellow human beings?”
If we go back to the table we see that today the average life span is 78 years. At the turn of the 20th century it was 47 years in the USA. In most other countries it was even less.
The answer is relatively simple. With the majority of human beings living only into their 20’s and 30’s not only was there insufficient time to develop the ‘Self’, but not even sufficient time to develop the mind. Along with that fact, survival, dominance and the competitive nature of man were at the forefront of human interactions.
At the turn of the 20th century, more food, penicillin, brought the average life expectancy to 47 and the advent of universal education began to provide the foundation for the wholesale development of people’s minds. Air travel, television, atomic energy, medical breakthroughs, the Internet, and many more inventions are the clear product of the millions of human beings now afforded the opportunity to develop their minds. But world wars, religious wars, hunger and starvation, abuse, slave trade, servitude, hate, cold wars, nuclear annihilation, financially using people by not paying or underpaying them, still persisted.
It wasn’t until the mid-1950’s and on, when the population started to reach 50’s, 60’s and beyond in large numbers, continuing on until today, when the average life expectancy is 78, that millions of people with developed minds have begun to reach an age, with their lower needs (Maslow) having been satisfied, are now available for the full development of their ‘Self”. So it is no coincidence that there has been a greater response to global strife, hunger, and illness that is much more humane and caring than ever before.