How many times can you use the word “crisis” and still be taken seriously?

I cannot count the number of times in the past few weeks I have seen the word “CRISIS” blazing from the headlines in reference to the world’s  current financial situation.

Here is a small sample of headlines from the international press:

Euro crisis deepens: ‘There is good reason to be scared’  “The Globe & Mail”

Fear of new financial crisis grows as European contagion spreads  “The Wall Street Journal”

Sovereign, Bank Risk Rises to Record as Europe Crisis Deepens “Bloomberg Business Week”

World stocks fall on Europe debt crisis impasse “The Boston Globe”

Europe stocks fall on Italy auction, crisis fears “Market Watch”

That is a lot of crisis.

The English word “crisis” comes from the Greek “krisis” meaning “a turning point in a disease.” It suggests a point from which there is no turning back. A crisis is a tipping point after which it is impossible to avoid a particular series of events that must inevitably follow.

The use of the word “crisis” commonly carries a tone of fear, even panic. Usually a crisis is something we want to avoid; almost always it is seen as something that needs to be fixed.

This may be why the word is being so commonly used today in reference to international finances. If we throw around the word “crisis” enough, perhaps someone will come along and fix the mess we seem to be in.

I know absolutely nothing about economics. Talk of trillions goes far beyond the limits of my poor imagination. I have no idea what the International Monetary Fund is, or what it might mean to recapitalize banks. The TSX, TSE, NYSE, and 401Ks  are all foreign territory in my world. I do not begin to understand the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or why its rise or fall should make or break my day.

But, there is one thing I do know. I know that, as is frequently observed, no problem can be solved using the same consciousness that created the problem in the first place.

The world is in financial turmoil because we have believed that bigger is always better and that the one who has the most toys at the end, is the winner. We believe it is our inalienable right to have an ever-expanding lifestyle in which we are able to consume more this year than we did the year before. We are driven by greed and by the conviction that it is our destiny as human beings to live in comfort and spend with impunity.

The real “crisis” we face today is a crisis of consciousness. We are stumbling under a faulty worldview. There is no way out of the current financial turmoil that does not address the reality that we must be willing to embrace a lifestyle in which we accept the inevitability of less.

Someone needs to say that we cannot go on spending money we do not have. We need to rediscover the ability to find beauty and meaning in life without using a credit card. We must simplify our lives and find wealth that does not empty our bank account.

The solution to our current financial crisis lies in going for a walk along the waterfront rather than cruising the mall. We will begin to find an answer to our financial woes when we choose to cook a meal at home rather than grabbing a fast food feast on the way to the movie theater.

If we are truly facing a “crisis” in our financial world, we need to recognize that we have reached the tipping point that calls for a radical change of consciousness and expectation. To the degree that we begin to live differently, we will share in moving forward from this tipping point into a new world in which we do not need to lurch from one financial “crisis” to another.