It is not a coincidence that the first seeds of this book sprouted in my mind out of something much more intimate and personal. I first put pen to paper in the weeks and months directly following the news that I would be a father. And I’ve completed the bulk of it in the many months following the birth of my son Owen.

For months now, I have been watching Owen slowly develop and take shape, becoming just a little more alert and dynamic bit by bit, discovering something new each day, building some new aspect of his awareness. I watch him instinctively learn to take food from his mother, and to smile as a way to show delight. I watch as he learns to dart his eyes back and forth tracking objects in front of him. I watch as he slowly teaches himself to make particular sounds and gestures. I watch as he grows bonds with his parents, grandparents, friends, cousins.

This growth is both perfectly ordinary and miraculous all at the same time. Nearly every one of the billions of humans who have existed have gone through the same thing. Yet it still boggles the mind to see it happening right in front of me. How does he know how to grow himself like that? How is it possible this wonder of life who will smile into my eyes and grab on to my finger was just a cluster of cells less than a year ago? How can it possibly be? This emergence of life unfolding before my eyes is breathtaking and utterly remarkable to me.

This book comes from the simple thought that if Owen’s life is miraculous and remarkable, worthy of our awe and admiration, then so must be that of all humans, and therefore so must be humanity itself. What if we looked at humanity the same way I look at Owen? What if we chose to see humanity itself as an ever-evolving species that has just scratched the surface of its potential? What if we viewed our species’ many indiscretions, flaws, and vices like we would those of a teenager – inevitable steps along the road to becoming full-fledged responsible adults? What if we thought of ourselves as just on the cusp of coming into humanity’s adulthood?

And yet, in today’s world, the most common view of humanity is not one of awe, gratitude, and possibility. It’s not one of proactively kindling ourselves toward our highest potentials as a species. It’s not one of being humbled before the miracle of our existence.

No, all too often, our view of ourselves is one of cynicism, despair, blame, and shame. We decry humanity for its many failings and “sins.” We despair that change and progress never seem to happen as quickly or fully as we’d prefer. We lament that with every generation we get farther away from a time when humanity was whole, good, and pure. We seem to despise ourselves and hope that doing so will absolve us of our many imperfections.

The purpose of this book is to urge you to reconsider this narrative and to start living by a new one. My core request is that you and I stop feeling shame for our humanity and instead allowing ourselves to see one simple reality: humanity is beautiful.

No, humanity is not perfect. The current state of affairs is not acceptable. In fact, if we continue on as we are, we may bring our own doom upon ourselves.

And yet, humanity is beautiful. I see it every time I witness the bonds between a child and parent. I see it every time someone puts energy into advocating for the change they believe in. I see it in the incredible art pouring out of us every minute from every corner of the world. I see it in the way we all imagine better world for ourselves and our loved ones.
This request is not just so that you feel better. This book will argue that truly believing that humanity is beautiful is the very foundation upon which any change will happen. It is the lifeblood of our evolution into the version of ourselves that we want and need.

Because if I start viewing humanity from a lens of growth and possibility, and so do you, and so does Owen, and so do all the little Owens just coming to live all around the world, then suddenly, in that very act, we can once again turn the page on a new chapter of our long incredible story of self-discovery and self-actualization. We can step into a new frame of mind that allows us to overcome and transcend so many of the problems that vex us: oppression, poverty, materialism and over-consumption, lack of meaning and purpose.

Through the act of seeing ourselves through a new lens, we open ourselves to a new capacity to change ourselves for the better.

So think of this as a self-help book, not for you or any other one person, but for humanity itself. It offers a new story to tell ourselves, one that not only allows us to rid ourselves of the toxic shame and despair that clouds our hearts and minds, but best enables us to drive the change that we so need and activate all the vast potential that lies quietly waiting for us to awaken.

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Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA with his partner Sara, child Owen, and cat Winnie.


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