15 February 2004
I would like to continue the discussion developed in "Dear Friends," 12/15/03. Specifically, I wish to further explore the meaning, implications, and consequences of preemptive use of force,1 and the myths underlying its persistent exercise among humans.
The overarching matter of interest here, which has prompted these discussions in the first place, is the "human predicament" on planet Earth. Throughout human history and prehistory, all our admirable, noble, and beautiful accomplishments notwithstanding, the one essential accomplishment we have so far failed to achieve is harmonious integration of the human species into a global ecology that works for us, and for all entities with whom / which we share the planet. In consequence, today none of us can be sure we and our descendants will be here tomorrow, or a year from now, or in a century or a millennium. We have so far failed with any certainty to establish ourselves as a "survivable species" on the planet. No human on Earth is today exempt from this circumstance. This is the human predicament. We either "solve" it, or "perish," suddenly or gradually, but in either case, irrevocably.
I put "perish" in quotes here (and elsewhere) because of the incomprehensible miracle of being. Everyone and everything who is now, ever was, or ever shall be "here," is so inexplicably; incomprehensibly; miraculously. We exist. How this is so, or why, we have never satisfactorily discovered or understood, notwithstanding the innumerable "explanations" various ones among us have ventured over the course of our sojourn here. Nevertheless, it remains an undeniable fact that "we're here," and being here, we can neither comprehend nor imagine "not being." Is this not so? Can you imagine "not being?" "We're here." We must have "come from somewhere," even if we know not where; and we must "go somewhere," somehow, whenever, however, we leave "here."2
This is actually one of the first themes upon which I began writing several years ago, when I started writing The New Paradigm essays.3 In a nutshell, "existence has no opposite," although we, and everything around us, are in a constant state of flux. A sixth century B.C.E. Greek philosopher once observed that "you cannot step twice into the same river."4 Similarly, we are also in a constant state of flux; yet there is an unbroken, and unbreakable, continuity to the life of each of us, with neither beginning nor end. Therefore, "parish" is a figurative term without the "finality" usually imputed to it. It describes a "transition," perhaps into another "dimension" of being. It certainly does not imply the impossible state of "not being."
Nevertheless, the stakes in the contemporary "game" on this planet are high. We've come a long way during the thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands or millions of years we have been developing here, and we seem to have reached a threshold which offers us the potential of "breaking through" into a "transcendent way of life," in relation to one another, and with "All Things" on the planet, and in Cosmos at large. We humans on planet Earth have invested heavily in the outcome of our residency here, and it would be glorious beyond description if we were actually to achieve that which none of us have ever experienced before: a planetary true civilization in perfect harmony, within and without, with "All Things," including all beings on, in, and around the planet, and throughout Cosmos.
This we can do. It is within our reach, if not our grasp, "right here, right now." We can do it. We can have a life as filled with pleasure, joy, wealth, abundance, liberty, and peace, as our present and past have been filled with pain, sorrow, poverty, slavery, and war. This is something we can achieve, each of us, personally, literally, in our daily lives, "right here, right now." Believe it.
How is it to be done then? What must we do, to bring our collective nightmare to an end, and have our highest and most extravagant dreams of plenty, and liberty, and "peace on Earth," materialize in actual and manifest reality?
Those who have read my earlier writings in any depth, will know that I have pondered long upon this very question. It has become clear to me that "business as usual" is not the means of achieving the (so far) unusual state of human affairs described. "Do what you did; get what you got."5 We cannot arrive at a wished-for destination by following a path in exactly the opposite direction, this much is clear. We have been, individually and collectively, repeating the same patterns of thought, emotion, and action for uncounted thousands of years, and have consistently achieved similar results with metronome regularity: poverty, disease, tyranny, and war. What must we do differently, in order to achieve a different result?
What we have been doing in the present and past to achieve the results we have achieved, in a very few words is: we have been exercising preemptive use of force. That is, with hardly any exceptions at all, we have been operating upon the assumption that if you want something to happen, you must take whatever measures are necessary to make it happen. Particularly in what we have called "Western Civilization" this has seemed such a "common sense," "self-evident," and "obvious" presumption that it has been questioned by practically no one. It's simply "how you get things done," everybody knows that. Don't they?
Maybe. Only problem is, it doesn't work. It often seems to work, for awhile, for some. "Common sense" repeatedly suggests that if you want something "over here" to be "over there," or in some other condition or configuration, you simply take whatever measures are necessary to make it so. However, such action with surprising regularity (surprising at least to the expectations of "common sense") sets in motion automatic counter-forces which mysteriously combine to neutralize, swiftly or gradually, the action taken, and its intended result. Countless examples can be drawn from every war ever waged, including, but by no means limited to, the "Revolutionary War" in nascent America. Americans are incalculably more thoroughly enslaved today than were the British colonists in the 1770s – and by the very same "Royal Families" who were resisted in 1776! Check it out. "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." The more things change, the more they stay the same. Why is that?
An ancient master from the "inscrutable East" once made the following remarks:
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.6
In the "rational West," such "sage advice" is dismissed as foolishness, or not even comprehended at all as anything more worthy of notice than "pagan gibberish." Yes, and the "rational West" has rolled across the Earth like an irresistible tide, building this, destroying that, and shifting the other, in large and small ways, with never a doubt or a pause... and behold the Earth today! How do you like it so far? Do you seriously believe this is the road to "Heaven on Earth?" If so, you may as well go and read something else, because I don't.
In my 12/15/03 essay on "morality," I wrote that
"Morality" is not the most appropriate frame of reference..., because "morality" implies "action someone might want to take, but 'ought not' to take;" which implies in turn the presence of some sort of "authority" to adjudicate what "ought" and "ought not" be done.7
...the concept of "morality" ... implies some sort of "authority" to give it definition. If it is True that all are One, and each is sovereign, there can be no effective "authority," beyond the inmost "guidance" within each of us, and common to us all; i.e., the "guidance" of the One which each of us is, and all of us are. All such claims to "authority," or "priority" of one peer over another, are without foundation....8
At bottom, the human predicament is not a "moral problem." In fact, I would say that "morality" is part of the problem, not part of the solution; for the concept of "morality" implies and necessitates for its "enforcement" the very preemptive use of force condemned previously as by intuitive definition immoral.9 That is, "morality," like "law," is invariably defined and implemented by "someone else," never by those expected or required to submit to it. Existing "authorities" are either intentionally, or acquiescently, somnambulantly "delegated;" or far more often, their alleged "authority" is derived from the de facto and preemptive claim that such "authority" has been "decreed by God," or by "Scripture," or by the "priesthood," or "tradition," or by some powerful entity, possibly even "elected," claiming "authority" and "priority" over his, her, or its peers. Such claims are universally spurious, for what is their ultimate basis? How can even an "elected authority" possibly, truthfully, "represent the interests" of anyone, other than his or her own self?
Again, every one of us who are "here," are "here" mysteriously and unexplainably by the agency of something utterly beyond the comprehension of any of us – and certainly not by the agency of any peer, or combination of peers, claiming any kind of "authority" over us, be it "moral," "legal," or "traditional." The only possible legitimate claim to "authority" is the instance in which there exists a mutually disclosed and clearly understood agreement among all parties that one entity has authority in relation to others, and defining clearly what that authority is, and its entire scope. There are no "moral" or "legal authorities" on Earth today, or in the past, which are able to meet this simple criterion. Do correct me if I err in this.10
Thus the final resort upon which all "moral" or "legal authority" relies is at bottom preemptive use of force, in some color or form, as illustrated in my 12/15/03 essay on "morality." That is, all "moral" and "legal authorities" rely upon claims which cannot be truthfully substantiated, and are therefore in some measure constructively or deliberately fraudulent, deceptive, and / or not fully disclosed; and therefore constitute the coercive exercise of preemptive use of force. Yet this is not the source of the human predicament. Rather, it is a symptom which derives from a much broader and more pervasive condition.
The source of the human predicament, as I see it, is the almost universal "common sense" state of mind, or paradigm, which presumes, as stated above, that "if you want something to happen, you must take whatever measures are necessary to make it happen." Our entire "civilization" (so called) is seamed and honeycombed with the exercise of preemptive use of force, to such a universal extent that only in its most flagrant and grotesque forms does it rise, typically, to conscious human awareness. And even then, it is almost always "justified" as "necessary."
Meanwhile, at the more "subtle and refined" end of the spectrum, every time you, or I, or anyone, endeavors to influence by any means the free-will decision of a peer, we are at least likely to be exercising preemptive force in one of its many guises. You don't have to haul off and knock somebody down, or shoot someone, to exercise preemptive force. There are far subtler ways of doing it, which are often so routine and habitual that most people aren't even conscious of them. A facial expression, gesture, or a tone of voice conveying the opinion to a peer that such-and-such decision would be "stupid," can be an instance of it. "Any effort to control the will and actions of anyone, other than oneself, is by nature, and by definition here, preemptive use of force."11
Of course, there are also countless exquisitely subtle and devious ways of exercising preemptive force through such fraudulent mechanisms as dishonest currency and bogus taxation; but these fall into the class we have already identified as symptoms, not causes of the human predicament.12 What we must come back to, again and again, until we finally "get it," is the myriad ways in which we, you and I, "just plain folks," and "the high and the mighty" alike, exercise preemptive force in our daily lives; and the "state of mind," or "condition of spirit" we maintain that prompts us to do this. This is not "fault finding," "finger-pointing," or "self-criticism." It is a deliberate inquiry into the underlying cause that prompts us to take action which yields results so contrary to our wishes and intent; quite analogous to the self-analysis a golfer might undertake to ascertain exactly what he is doing to slice his drives consistently into the rough.
Each of us is surely a unique individual, so it is unavoidable that we should distinguish ourselves from one another in our daily interactions. "I" reside in North America, and "someone else" resides in Europe, or Africa, or Asia; and with relatively few exceptions, most of us have never met, or even heard of each other. From this perspective, we seem almost limitlessly distant and remote from one another. Our experience of life is so richly varied, yet hardly shared at all, except very locally among family and close friends. Shift the perspective, however, and enlarge the scope of our view, and all this changes.
From the vantage point of a satellite in geostationary orbit above the Earth, or from the Moon, the entire planet, and all its residents, appear as a lustrous blue-green sphere on a cushion of black velvet. From Mars, Earth appears as but a bluish spark in the night sky, amidst thousands of other planetary and stellar objects; and from among the "nearby stars" the entire Solar System is marked by the position of one among hundreds of thousands of tiny points of light. Further removed, even the Galaxy dwindles away as a dim nebulosity in the midst of intergalactic space, before it vanishes altogether into incomprehensible immensity.
And from the "vantage point" of That Which Creates "All That Is"...
Imagine the furthest point in space – beneath a black portal, cast in some distant galaxy, and then multiply this distance by the highest numeric value you know. Congratulations, you have measured an atom of my body.13
And yet it must be so, as noted at the outset, that we – all of us, who ever have, are now, or ever shall be – are "here" by the agency of That, whatever, however, wherever That may be. "Thou art That." "He," "she," "I," "you," "they," "we," "art That." No exceptions. There is only One here, even though "we" take endlessly various unique shapes, forms, and personalities.
Do you realize how I am unfathomable? I am not what you can know, or see, or understand. I am outside comprehension. My vastness makes me invisible and unavoidable. There is nowhere you can be without me. My absence does not exist. It is this very nature that makes me unique. I am First Cause and Last Effect connected in an undivided chain.14
"...connected in an undivided chain." This, it seems to me, is the irreducible essence of "All That Is." "It" is ultimately "One Thing," of vast and endless scope, and of "many links;" yet there is no "thing" within this vast array that is not intimately related with every other "thing." In other words, as I have written many times before, "All are One."
It is of crucial importance that we "get this," not only the words, or the concept, but the deep comprehension of what it means to each of us, and to all our relationships and interactions. For it is our failure to understand this that has given rise to all our fears, and consequently to our self-destructive, suicidal exercise, in large ways and in small, of preemptive use of force. If we deeply understood that "we" and "they" are One, only different aspects of the same thing, that all "others" are at heart just like "me," only somewhat "different" in minor particulars – there is no way, large or small, that any of us would attempt to impose our will upon that of another. The fact that we do so indicates simply that we don't understand the fundamental simplicity of "All Things," including ourselves.
Why is this so? Why do your left hand and your right hand never grapple with each other to decide, for instance, which of them wields the knife, and which the fork, at dinner? Are your left and right hand not distinguishable from each other, and from other parts of your body? Have they not unique characteristics, and "interests," as do "you" and "I?" Ah, but unlike "you," and "I," and possibly the hands of Dr. Strangelove, our right and left hands have no difficulty "understanding" that they are "connected in an undivided chain." They work together in a naturally cooperative and harmonious interaction, in pursuance of advantages common to them both, and to all their peers, i.e. the well being of the entire person.
For we humans, the entire person is nothing less, more, or other than "All Things." If we do not understand this, then of course we may spend our lives in spastic, suicidal struggles for "control" and "dominance." But what if we did understand? Do you suppose then we would still "do what we did," and "get what we got?" Why then do we not understand deeply this seemingly "simple thing," other than superficially, conceptually? What is our "state of mind" that seems so effectively to prevent us from "getting it," and putting into practice, the irreducibly simple understanding that we really are One, and have no need to exercise preemptive force upon one another at all?
There recently came into my hands a few works which, although not exactly "new," I had myself never read before, all dealing with "artificial intellligence:" specifically with the idea that human invention may in the not-distant future be capable of creating a "machine intelligence" greater than that of its inventor. In order for this actually to eventuate, and / or in order for humans to deal with it if it does, it will be advantageous for us to understand as much as possible about what "intelligence" is, and how it may come about. The works, by Ray Kurzweil,15 and Stanislaw Lem,16 are fraught with interest, and I enthusiastically recommend them.
Kurzweil is a pioneer in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), has numerous highly innovative AI inventions to his credit, and is in a position to speak with specialized authority10 on the future evolution of "machine intelligence." Lem writes, originally in Polish, highly entertaining and profoundly thought-provoking science fiction which likewise demonstrates a firm grasp of the "hard science" underlying his fictional speculations. Both adhere to the concept introduced by Charles Darwin in 1859 that "evolution" is an essentially mindless process which develops through opportunistic exploitation of accidental events over the course of vast expanses of time; a process Darwin named "natural selection."
Giving consideration to "The Intelligence Quotient of Evolution," Kurzweil wrote,
Evolution has achieved an extraordinary record of design, yet has taken an extraordinarily long period of time to do so. If we factor its achievements by its ponderous pace, I believe we need to conclude that its intelligence quotient is only infinitesimally greater than zero. An IQ of only slightly greater than zero (defining truly arbitrary behavior as zero) is enough for evolution to beat entropy and create wonderful designs, given enough time, in the same way that an ever so slight asymmetry in the balance between matter and antimatter was enough to allow matter to almost completely overtake its antithesis.17
In Imaginary Magnitude Lem conceives the creation of GOLEM XIV, a super-intelligent super computer installed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ca. the year 2047, who / which is incalculably more intelligent and powerful than its human creators. In a long lecture addressed to humans, GOLEM, recapitulating the genesis of the first biological micro-organisms to have appeared on Earth, makes the following observations:
Once and only once – at the very beginning – did Evolution encounter demands matched to its supreme possibilities; it was an awful task, and it had to rise to the occasion at a simple leap or never; since life's sucking of energy, quantum by quantum, from the sun, on a dead Earth – through metabolism – was necessary. And never mind that the (radiant) energy of a star is the hardest to capture in a colloid. It was all or nothing; there was no one else at the time to feed on! The supply of organic compounds that had united to form life was exactly and precisely sufficient for that alone; the star was soon to be the next task. And then the sole defense against attacks of chaos – the thread stretched over the entropic abyss – could only be an unfailing transmitter of order, so the [genetic] code arose. Thanks to a miracle? Far from it! Thanks to the wisdom of Nature? That is the same kind of wisdom as that whose results we have already described: when a large rat pack enters a labyrinth, one rat makes it to the exit, if only by mistake. That is precisely how biogenesis made it into code: by the law of large numbers....18
Although raised with this model from childhood, in later years it ceased making sense to me, and now I find it curious that obviously highly intelligent humans like Kurzweil and Lem – not to mention, with very few exceptions, the entire body of "Mainstream Science" – should continue to take it seriously.
Intelligence, like existence, is to me a highly mysterious phenomenon. We know there is such a thing as intelligence, for we have all experienced it, at least to some degree. You, and I, are (to some degree) intelligent, and we are acquainted with other intelligent beings; so we have experienced intelligence from both the "inside" and the "outside," and are able to recognize it when we encounter it, at least sometimes.
And yet... and yet, there is much about intelligence that is profoundly perplexing. How did it arise – in us, and in others in whom we recognize its presence? What are its components, or defining qualities? Can it be duplicated, as in an "intelligent machine," or can some of its qualities only be cleverly mimicked? Can intelligence arise from "stupidity," from "mindlessness," "by accident," or can it only arise from some purposeful "higher intelligence?"
These, especially the last, are metaphysical questions, which elude definitive "answers," for the reason that they reach "over the horizon" accessible to any finite "point of view." The argument, for example, that the metaphysical statement, "God created the Heavens and the Earth," negates itself by infinite regress, because it begs the question, "Who (or what) created God?" is specious; for no one can come closer to an "answer" to this conundrum than to state it as an a priori "given." That is, we have experienced the existence of something we may call "the Heavens and the Earth," yet how this phenomenon "came about" we are in no position to say, as it is not within the horizon accessible to our finite point of view. It is a "given," and here, for us, it must rest. That "the Heavens and the Earth" may have been "created" by "God," or by "accident," or a "Big Bang," or "natural selection," are speculations which can neither be definitively affirmed nor denied within our accessible horizon.
What we can observe, within our accessible horizon, is that we have experienced no effects without evident causes, that functional design seems to be a product of intent, and that "intelligence," insofar as we are able to recognize it, seems universally to be a product either of "intelligence," or of that presumed "Cause" that lies inaccessibly beyond our horizon. This unfortunately leads us in circles, for the "definitive answers" lie, if anywhere, beyond our horizon – within which we may easily be taken in by illusion. This too we have observed, at least in part, although not necessarily entirely. We could, as some metaphysical writers have affirmed, be experiencing nothing but illusion, and "reality" may be incalculably different than we have ever imagined it to be.
Be that as it may, we may be led to certain "conclusions" by our experiences, such as they are, which give rise to beliefs and myths19 upon which we structure our lives. We place a great deal of weight upon our myths, yet at bottom, our myths are nothing more substantial than opinions and beliefs about a virtually unknown "something" we call "reality," which lies almost entirely beyond our horizon.
Now, given that our myths are unavoidably subjective, and that objectivity is not really possible for us, because we have no way, in our finite form, to "climb outside our horizon," we are entirely at liberty to fashion our myths to suit our own needs and preferences. This we do anyway, for we can do no other; but becoming aware of this possibility bestows upon us liberating advantages, as we shall see.
The myth that "Life, the Universe, and Everything" came about essentially "by accident," as most "accredited scientists" seem to believe, including Kurzweil and Lem, need have no influence upon your myth, or mine, if this does not serve our purposes. Whether by "accident" or "design," we're all here by the same agency, and are consequently absolutely equivalent peers. Your guess is quite as good as mine, as regards how and why we "got here," and vice versa. We may share and compare our myths with one another, if we like, but no human myth can be legitimately claimed to have priority over any other. Any such claim, if pressed, constitutes preemptive use of force.
Thus I am at liberty to say, so long as I insist upon agreement from no one, that my myth rejects the notion of "accidental creation," basically for the reason that I have seen no clear examples of this in the "reality" I experience. I observe elaborate patterns emerging from relatively small numbers of simple components – such as the sum total of English literature assembled from the 26 letters in the Roman alphabet; or if you prefer, from the 96 printable characters and numbers in the ASCII character set. Yet all this literature is the product of (to some degree) intelligent, purposeful design. This I know by experience too, for I write quite a bit, and the sequence of characters I apply to the page are not purposeless, random, or accidental.
Similarly, the argument that the first micro-organisms to have emerged upon an otherwise "dead Earth" "had to rise to the occasion at a simple leap or never," as claimed by the fictional GOLEM, in the same way "a large rat pack enters a labyrinth, [i.e.] one rat makes it to the exit, if only by mistake," is to me incomprehensible. For my study of microbiology has disclosed to me that all biological organisms are composed of proteins, and all proteins are molecular structures, often of astounding complexity, composed of an "alphabet" of 20 relatively simple amino acids. These amino acids are somehow arranged, like letters and words, into intricately sequenced molecular chains which form the equivalent of "phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages" of very specific and particular design and function. Some of these structures, such as chlorophyll, which is responsible for "life's sucking of energy, quantum by quantum, from the sun," are assemblages of several hundred carefully sequenced amino acid residues, in which a single error in the sequence destroys the entire function of the molecular structure.
I understand chlorophyll, like its close relative, hemoglobin, is composed of approximately 400 amino acid residues. In order to assemble a single chlorophyll molecule "by accident" out of the "primordial soup" alleged to have been present on Earth at the time of emergence of the first micro-organisms, the probability of the first of 400 residues being the "right one" is "one in twenty;" as is the probability of the second residue being "right." However, the probability of both the first and the second being "right" is "1 in 20 × 20," or 1 : 202, or 1 : 400. The probability of the first, and second, and third residues being "right" is 1 : 203, or 1 : 8,000. And of course, if there are 400 amino acid residues in a chlorophyll molecule, then the probability of all of them being in exactly the right sequence is 1 : 20400, or 1 : 2.582 × 10520 – which is a probability so low that it cannot be comprehended. Rounded off, it's 0.0000...(519 zeros after the decimal, followed by the digits, 2582; i.e. the probability is effectively zero).
There is no comparison between this infinitesimally small probability and the probability of one of a pack of rats finding its way out of a labyrinth, "if only by mistake." Likewise, there is no comparison between this infinitesimally small probability and the probability "...that an ever so slight asymmetry in the balance between matter and antimatter was enough to allow matter to almost completely overtake its antithesis." Why this is not obvious to anyone as manifestly intelligent as Stanislaw Lem, or his fictional GOLEM, or Ray Kurzweil, or to the scientific community at large, is a mystery to me. It is almost as if "Mainstream Science" were tenaciously committed to defending a fanatical dogma, in the face of clear logic, for "reasons unknown."
Continuing to flog an essentially dead horse, I observe further that the "accidental" emergence of a single chlorophyll molecule, as astronomically improbable as this is, would by no means have been sufficient to establish a viable micro-organism upon the primordial Earth; for by itself a chlorophyll molecule is not capable of "sucking energy, quantum by quantum, from the sun." A great deal of ancillary cellular machinery must also be present, and the probability of that happening "by accident," we need not even discuss; for these improbabilities are simply added in the same way to the improbability already established for the "accidental genesis" of a single chlorophyll molecule. An analogy would be the improbability of "accidentally" producing Hamlet in its entirety; which is "vastly less probable" than merely producing "Hamlet's Soliloquy" by the same means. Effectively, the probability of both is the same: zero – although, mathematically, there is a difference of many orders of magnitude between them.
In sum, in the "accidental-genesis-of-life" model, life cannot evolve if the necessary molecular components only emerge at billion-year intervals; and a billion years is a mighty short time in relation to the improbabilities involved. All the necessary components of a living cell have to be present at the same instant – or else nothing happens. No, I'm sorry, the shot is simply not on the board. If someone were to offer me an opportunity to wager a penny against a hundred-million dollars that life is the product of accident, if I felt like throwing my penny away, I would probably throw it into a wishing well instead, rather than accept such a hopeless wager. And who knows? my wish might even come true! In any case, life is no "accident."
Therefore, I cannot agree with Stanislaw Lem, or GOLEM; or with Ray Kurzweil, when he says that the "intelligence quotient [of evolution] is only infinitesimally greater than zero." We may not have a reliable definition for intelligence; but if life on Earth, or "That Which Creates" it, is not a prototypical example of it, then I have no idea what would qualify. The vast panoply of life on Earth represents to me an astonishing manifestation of incomprehensibly creative intelligence. Indeed, I am utterly dumbfounded to learn of the existence of a single hydrogen atom, never mind "Life, the Universe, and Everything!" How did such an amazing artifact come to be? It is an impenetrable mystery which also lies far beyond my horizon; yet I can appreciate it with profound reverence as "a miracle of rare device." And it virtually proves (to me) that there is at the core of "All Things" some incredible, incomprehensible, benign, creative intelligence; and further, that I am somehow causally "connected in an undivided chain" to, and am part of, and One with That Which Creates "All Things." This is my chosen mythology.
Such mythology suits my purposes far more ably than does the "Scientific-Rational Myth," which claims instead that I must trace my genesis from an infinitely improbable succession of "mindless accidents" committed by an impossibly "stupid" evolutionary process. My mythology gives me the profoundly self-empowering sense of being inseverably connected to something incalculably intelligent, powerful, and good.20 The "Scientific-Rational Myth," on the other hand, casts me adrift, naked and alone, in an arbitrarily hostile and mindless universe, in which my life, my existence, has no imaginable purpose or value. Further, if I exist "by accident," I can just as well be destroyed "by accident," and the probability of the second is infinitely the greater of the two. This is not exactly a "confidence-building" concept.
The "Scientific-Rational Myth," I submit, is at least one of the major factors at the heart of the abysmal fear that utterly pervades our so-called "civilization."21 People who seriously imagine themselves at the mercy of such a mindless and arbitrary universe are perpetually in a traumatized state of shock, and are in no condition to step forth into their lives with any degree of confidence or optimism. Such a state of mind leads quite understandably to patterns of behavior in which each individual sees him or herself perpetually threatened by everything and everyone, and it is almost "reasonable" for anyone in such a psychological state to attempt to alleviate the unbearable stress of securing a bare and ultimately futile "survival" by seeking an illusory "power" over others, i.e. by the exercise of preemptive force. "Do unto others before others do unto you," is the default "ethic" of the "Scientific-Rational Myth."
As observed earlier, this is a state of mind common to "just plain folks," and "the high and the mighty" alike, which in the case of the latter I have spoken of as the "poverty-consciousness of the 'super-rich'."22 It is actually the poverty-consciousness of whoever is afflicted by such a self-defeating perception of "reality," and it isn't necessary.
No one is "boxed in" to a particular mythology by anyone or anything other than her or himself. Mythology is that with which each of us fills the incalculable void beyond our individual horizons of perception, set in place by the compass, each of our unique "points of view." Our mythologies, like our unique selves, are quite properly in a constant state of flux, and are "subject to change without notice," radically or incrementally, at any and all times. Our mythologies are our individual foundations for "what we do." If "what we get" is not satisfactory, we must change "what we do;" and in order to do this, we may find it necessary to make appropriate adjustments to our mythologies; or possibly to scrap them altogether, and create in their place mythologies that allow and encourage us to change "what we do," and hence, "what we get." This we are fully empowered to do, for our mythologies belong individually to each of us, and to no one else.
This we are empowered to do, yes; yet we may not find it easy, or comfortable to do so in actuality. Yes, there is that; and the unavoidable reply to it is that the human predicament remains. "Do what you did; get what you got." Will we and our descendants be here tomorrow, or a year from now, or in a century or a millennium? If not, then maybe we have erred in naming ourselves Homo sapiens sapiens. Maybe we're not as intelligent, after all, as we have boasted to ourselves, and to one another.
Well, Dear Friends, "It's not over 'till it's over;" and I remain exuberantly optimistic about the prospects for humanity on Earth, and for Life in Cosmos. For we – "you," and "I," and "she," and "he," and "us," and "them" – are That. We are not here "by accident," but by intentional, intelligent design, and there is a purpose for our presence here. That these convictions reside within the domain of myth is no reason, by itself, to dismiss them; for that is the domain in which the sum total of all human thought resides, and always has. Choose, invent, or discover your myths with care, Dear Friends, for they underlie all your choices, including "what you do," and consequently "what you get." With appropriate myths, there is nothing we can imagine that cannot be ours in our daily experience.
Love, Peace, Joy, Now,
1. See "Dear Friends," 12/15/03 edition. Note that links in this and subsequent footnotes link not only to the cited reference, but specifically (usually) to the part of the reference relevant to the context of the cite. Also, the number of this and subsequent footnotes is a link to the paragraph in this essay upon which the footnote first elaborates.
2. See a somewhat whimsical poetic consideration of this matter in "Evolution" by Langdon Smith, 1858-1908.
3. See, for example, my December, 1997 essay, "A 'Christmas Message' on Existence, Fear and Death," about an insight I had had Christmas morning the year before. For a somewhat different slant on a parallel theme, see my January, 1998 essay, "The Ego and the Self." And if that isn't enough, have a look at my August 1997 essay, "Knowledge," among many others.
4. Cratylus, a follower of the pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, ca. 500 B.C.E.
5. A bit of philosophical grafiti brought to my attention by a friend, who found it scrawled upon the wall of a Men's Room somewhere, which gave him pause for thought. I used it in turn in Sharing the Commonwealth in the Peace section of the Freedom Digital Library, in "Dear Friends," 12/15/03 edition, and elsewhere. Thank you, whoever penned that terse bit of philosophy. You may have touched more lives with it than you ever imagined.
6. Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching: A New English Version, with Foreword and Notes, by Stephen Mitchell, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1988, No. 22.
7. "Dear Friends," 12/15/03 edition.
10. I have myself raised one possible kind of exception to this statement, at ibid.: the case of specialized authority achieved by individual human accomplishment, as in the case of a competent architect, aviation mechanic, or musician. Such specialized authorities are able to demonstrate their authority to anyone, because of what they know and are able to accomplish. This is entirely different than the bogus "authority" of those who claim some indefinable "nobility," or "divine right," which gives them an alleged but fraudulent "priority" over their peers. For further elaboration, see my November, 1998 essay, "Governance."
11. "Dear Friends," 12/15/03 edition.
12. For in-depth commentaries on the nature and abuses of dishonest currencies, see The New Approach to Freedom Together with Essays on the Separation of Money and State, and related works by E. C. Riegel, listed in the "Electric Books" section and the "Money" section of the Freedom Digital Library.
13. From My Central Message, emphasis added, attributed to First Source.
15. Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, Viking Penguin, New York, 1999.
16. Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age, translated from the Polish by Michael Kandel, © 1974 by The Continuum Publishing Corporation, A Harvest Book, Harcourt Brace & Company, San Diego, New York, London, 1985; and Imaginary Magnitude, translated from the Polish by Marc E. Heine, © 1984, A Harvest Book, A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book, Harcourt Brace & Company, San Diego, New York, London, 1985.
17. Kurzweil, 1999, p. 44.
18. Lem / Heine, 1984, pp. 149-50.
19. See my November, 2000 essay, "Creation Myths."
20. See my July, 2003 essay, "Waves of Change."
21. Unfortunately, the "Greco-Roman / Judeo-Christian-Islamic" complex of mythology offer scant "improvement," if any, over their offspring, the "Scientific-Rational Myth." The Old Testament God, "YHVH," was "jealous," capricious, and tyrannical, and allegedly demonstrated to those he claimed to "love" that it was quite appropriate for them to fear him. Not surprisingly, fear and aggressive war have been prominent features down the ages of the "Greco-Roman / Judeo-Christian-Islamic" cultures, which have been among the most perniciously warlike cultures in human history; no less than have been the self-claimed "enlightened" "Scientific-Rational" cultures.
22. "Dear Friends," 11/27/03 edition.
"Dear Friends," 2/15/04 edition, copyright 2004 by J. Harmon Grahn. Verbatim copying and redistribution are permitted in any medium provided this notice is preserved.