Your Friendly Reality Update (Op-ed from L. Switzer)

December 11, 2008 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

The most objective probability is that Earthlife WILL survive the human race, even if we continue to act like silly, self-destructive parasites.

Check the record. Believe it or not, as toxic as we seem to be, this wise old world had weathered worse than us and thrived on, again and again. She’s created and destroyed a mega-circus of weird experimental life forms and continues to evolve. She even seems to be experimenting with evolution itself. In a sense, evolution is evolving. Check out “symbiogenesis” on Google. Earthlife won’t need avenging angels or alien intervention to resolve the “human question”. It will answer this question all by itself. No problem. The question for us is: Will WE transform OURSELVES in time to survive our foolish selfishness? Will we outlive the consequences of our misguided instinct for violent domineering tribalism, driven by our addiction to mass hypnotic pathological ideologies? Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. At the moment it doesn’t look good. It honestly seems like a tough trick to pull off. Here’s part of the problem: Human consciousness and the culture it generates is a construct based on the neurological process of abstraction, of minds modeling the outer world using our sensory memories to build shared languages of thought forms made up of images and symbols. This innate experiential habit instantly creates an apparent duality, a “me” perceiving, thinking about, and feeling basically separate from the other, “you” or the outer “world”. This innate dualistic habit of perceived experience produces the illusion of the separate self which seems SO very real, that we rarely question it. It’s a bit like the first Matrix film, except we are BOTH the sleeping victims AND the dominating machines. Go figure. The unfortunate consequence of this fundamental human illusion is that it alienates us from nature, from the very living Earth that created us, the actual resource that nurtures us from moment to moment. How crazy is that? It’s this apparent (but not actual) “otherness” that then becomes the “thing” we fear, desire and wish to control and possess. And this collective obsession is all a product of our unique consciousness, endlessly spooking itself inside its own haunted head. We’re constantly shadow-boxing with the sticky ghost of our own imagination. And I’m not just talking about myself. I know I’ve got plenty of company (don’t I?). The rest of nature is going along innocent of this lunacy, except when we eat it, use it, transform it, buy it or sell it, or decide to go to “war” with it and annihilate it. How very, very odd. Think of a nursing child getting the strange idea in its head that it wants to dominate, control, buy or sell, or conquer, rip off and carry around as war trophies its own mother’s breasts. This is not a viable child. His story will NOT end well. He’d better rid himself of this powerful yet dangerous hypnotic illusion of separation from the very essence of what created him – and do it pronto! If he doesn’t free himself from this bizarre, greedy, frightened, infantile delusion of needing to dominate his own mother, he’s bound live a short miserable life and die a lonely, painful death. As he should. Miscarriage does has it uses. Fortunately, his mother will outlive him. And don’t worry, she can still have other children. She’s done it before. She’ll do it again. Granted it’s hard to figure how we’re going to be able to actually change ourselves so fast and so fundamentally to prevent our demise. The first paradox is: if we’re stuck in this delusion together, who’s qualified to recommend the urgently needed corrections? Not to mention that there’s just too damn many of us now and more unwanted on the way. Even though we know better, even though they’re unwanted, they’re on the way. We’ll have to literally recreate ourselves faster than any species ever has, change our nature at a blinding biological speed, and jump ourselves into a fundamentally different new kind of being within this century. How? Modeled on what? But, hey, life IS surprising. It created US. It’s likely to pull off other bizarre wonders. We might even wake up at the last minute and turn ourselves into a new ‘earthuman”-like meta-species. Theodds that we’d ever get this far and be alive to have this conversation are astronomical.

The multi-billion year fossil record suggests weirder things than this have happened, thanks to the mind-blowing process called symbiogenesis. Such as the invention of sex. Who knows, maybe the rise of true “homo sapiens” (man,the wise) might still be possible in time to matter. It’s certainly an exciting cliffhanger. If we pull it off in the next 2-3 generations we might actually ensure that we endure. Consider the fascinating possibility of a more highly evolved role for us humans, serving the Earthlife that created us, protecting it, catalyzing its collective richness, rather than trying to foolishly trying to dominate it. Maybe that would allow us to thrive and remain as evolving players in this ‘greatest show on earth’ for millions of years to come. Wow. That would be way cool. It’s worth a shot. Will we transcend our collective ego trip — or will we join the vast majority of all life forms that have gone extinct sooner rather than later? The human experiment may be fast approaching its greatest test. But ultimately don’t worry, folks. Remember, we’re all earthlings, from the whales to the bacteria. And earthlings will probably endure for a good part of the remaining multi-billion year lifespan of our planet. I’ve got faith in my fellow non-human earthlings. Especially the bacteria. They still make up half the living biomass. And they are tough little buggers. Even miles deep inside the Earth. Earthlings ROCK! Without any help from deadpan Keanu Reeves or his flashy golem, GORT.

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Entry filed under: What is Sustainability?.

The Center for Ecoliteracy website Next SMS Meeting: Thursday, January 8

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Steven Marshank  |  December 19, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Lawrence,

    You start your Op-Ed piece with this “The most objective probability is that Earthlife WILL survive the human race, even if we continue to act like silly, self-destructive parasites.”

    I agree completely with you and where you write later, “Will we outlive the consequences of our misguided instinct for violent domineering tribalism, driven by our addiction to mass hypnotic pathological ideologies? Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. At the moment it doesn’t look good.”

    I have hope and at our age, must look to the generation(s) that are following us and pass on whatever wisdom we may have stumbled upon and can transmit as elders. However, focusing on symbiogenesis could be dangerous–it’s fine for those who live in fear and need reassurance, but it can built complacency in those believe they don’t have to do anything and everything (nature) will take care of itself.

    Beyond insight is action and it will take a concerted effort to change the trajectory we are on. Over a decade ago, John Seed stated that scientifically, we are past the point of no return, or in more recent parlance, Gladwell would say we’ve passed the tipping point. But what Seed pointed out was that it would take far less of a miracle than the one that had humans emerging from primordial ooze, so have hope!!

    Your reference to the non-dual and the Matrix are interesting–we are “BOTH the sleeping victims AND the dominating machines,” and we are everything else as well, including all of nature. Perhaps it doesn’t matter how we got here, but it is clear that the only way we can perceive it (or not perceive it) is through neurological processes and as you point out, they are abstract. So how can we make a pointed statement about it that resides in objectivity?

    If we want humanity to survive, I do not believe we can just be passive and allow whatever is to be, to be. There will be plenty of insects, plants and other lifeforms that will survive. Humanity? A BIG question mark.

    “She’s created and destroyed a mega-circus of weird experimental life forms,” not the least of which are human beings.

    Reply

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