The Myth of “Over There” and “Away”

Where do the minerals in your cell phone come from? “Over there,” right? Where does that phone really end up, after you toss it in the trash or recycling? “Away?”

Too many of us live in the myth that there is somewhere called “over there” or when we no longer see something it’s “away.” This myth originated from a time when the world was bigger than the human view and when humans had limited contact with the other side of the planet. It was a time when “over there” was very far “away.” The vastness of open space and the richness of the natural world seemed infinite.

Just over 100 years ago, a small group of bankers designed the economic systems we use today. They designed the system with an immature understanding of the world. These men fully believed in the myth of an infinite “over there” and “away.” This myth is one of the core assumptions driving our economy.

The problem with this assumption is that it’s simply untrue (and very outdated). We now understand that there are limited amounts of minerals and our ecosystems convert sunlight into energy at a steady rate every day (this doesn’t grow exponentially like our economy).

Our economy can grow — it just has to match the rate of energy our planet metabolizes and we have to reuse our limited mineral resources over and over again. We have to grow at the rate the planet can regenerate. We have to re-design our economy and our modern world from this perspective — also known as regenerative design.

Humans have grown in population. We have developed systems that connect us to each other in a multitude of ways from our communications systems, to our material supply chains. With this, our ability to connect and understand the world has evolved. Over the past 100 years, we have become a highly interconnected global society.

While, yes, there are different countries with their own rules and cultures, from an economic standpoint and resource standpoint, we are one global economy. It’s time we pulled our heads out of the infantile mindset that dominates our economic thinking and listen to the wisdom of not just the scientists warning us about the dangers of proceeding with ‘business as usual’, but also we need to heed the spiritual teachers who have been sharing this message for thousands of years.

Spiritual teachers from almost every tradition, quaker, catholic, hopi, buddhist, etc., talk about “Right Relationship”.[1] “Eighteenth century quaker, John Woolman called for living in “right relationship” as he witnessed to his generation against the evils of slavery, oppression, and materialism- which he warned were causing injury to future generations.”

In the Bible, Proverbs 10:21–30 reads that ‘The lips of the righteous nourish many’. This has been interpreted to mean: “We cannot be righteous in isolation. Righteousness is about our relationships — it is about bringing blessing to others.” [2]

The Hopi Grandmother Medicine Song teaches us that “To live in Right Relation we must respect and honor ourselves, Mother Earth and all the beings in the Web of Life. To walk in Right Relation is to live in a good way.”[3]

What does this mean? We have a moral, spiritual, ethical and survival-based mandate to change the way we design things. It’s time to step into a new paradigm of thinking. It’s time to start living in right relationship with each other and the planet.

So where are these far off lands of “Over There” and “Away?” They are right here in our own backyard.

“The human community and the natural world will go into the future as a single, sacred community or we will both perish in the desert.”

-Thomas Berry

  1. Living in Right Relationship. Quaker Earthcare Witness. January, 23, 2021. Sourced from:
  2. Bible in One year. Blessing of the Righteous. January, 23, 2021. Sourced from:
  3. Hopi Grandmother Song. Hopi wisdom teachings. January 23, 2021. Sourced from: