As per usual. I take a day off sick and how do I spend a large number of my hours of relaxation and leisure? I start randomly writing. So it keep going from this afternoon and somehow, because I included a quote or two, ended up as a essay. It was not structured. It evolved. It is not academia and there is much room for improvement. As always, I have failed to adhere to all the steps necessary to fully elucidate any argument. But this is not really an argument. It is an attempt to capture the workings of my mind in a given moment of time. Hopefully it will evoke conversation and perhaps an actual paper could emerge from these musings. In the meantime, here is another instance of Cavan spewing forth verbal diarrhoea in an attempt to express the inexpressible. With humility and love. None of this is true, everything is up for revision and ultimately utter renewal.
An old quote first discovered during my time as an undergrad comes to mind today as I wrestle with the paradoxical underlying condition of individual consciousness. So what do I believe individual consciousness is? Well, today, I believe that it is, (maybe), the non simultaneously apprehended subjective introspections of universal consciousness. (My revision of the Buckminster Fuller definition that underpins Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Maybe Logic’, 2003). My very definition echoes Wilson’s need for a lack of truth or adherence to a given model or institution. A desire to deal in probabilities rather than absolutes. An awareness that truth, like all of reality, in in constant flux. So I come back, once again, to Pragmatic Truth and William James.
“There are no differences but differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference.” (William James, 1882)
The distinctions in truth and belief concern me less than the consequences. It does not matter what I believe. What matters is the transformational powers of that belief. What does believing it do for the benefit of the Whole? Static belief systems are a limit on freedom and have only very limited relevance to a continually changing emergent universe.
As Terrence McKenna puts it: “My technique, which I recommend to you, is don’t believe anything. If you believe in something, you are automatically precluded from believing its opposite. Therefore you have given up a portion of your freedom, and freedom is the dearest thing we’ve got.” (McKenna, 1985)
People continuously confuse truth with paradigm and yet even within the existing paradigms, what we hold to be true, is emergent, evolving and pragmatic. Interestingly, the very word paradigm immediately brings to mind the relatively recent idea of a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is a fairly rare occurrence and yet we not only allow for such shifts but as the rate of change accelerates in society, we are applying the term paradigm shift with increased multiplicity. This would seem once again to demonstrate good reason for accepting an emergent universe that demands a constantly updated belief system.
Yet many people still only go this far. Their belief system is fluid and they love to be proved wrong and develop and refine their BS (nod to Robert) until it gets closer and closer to the Truth. This is a common approach for some in the Sciences, for example. It is this notion of singularity of truth that leads people to the very impractical situation of having only one belief system. Having spent a number of years now holding various concurrent belief systems that can, and do, conflict, I can report that I find this not only acceptable but very helpful.
Non simultaneously apprehended subjective introspections of universal consciousness. Think of just your own consciousness. Have not things been true in one time or place that are not now true? Because it is not true now, did it make it any less true then? As our world view alters so do the truths that underpin it. One can suggest that the truth of ‘now’ is more true of course; but all of the evidence suggests a future revision is probable. Anything that purports to be 100% true can only be so in and of an instant, and relating to a particular point. The truth relates to only that time/place and I struggle to make a hierarchy of truth based on linear time. If things thereby get more and more true, the process must go on for as long as time does. The point is that singularity of truth cannot be found outside of a singularity itself. We are not singular. We are processes. Verbs. All that which constitutes our being, is evolving. To quote the amazing verb and influential process, Buckminster Fuller: “I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.” (Fuller, 1970). This singularity of truth can only come about, I would reason, if we come to an end.
But this is not our experience of the world. This is precisely why the paradigms of Quantum Mechanics and Newtonian Classical Physics are both true and cannot be reconciled. Because they relate to different points (and by extension to different planes) in space. If you see spacetime as a continuum, truth then, varies over both space and time. This may help us understand cultural perspectives and variance of truth and paradigm over geography. From East versus West to Northern versus Southern England and so on.
The variance of truth is not linear: it is multidimensional.
If things can be conflictingly true within just one organism why do we seek singularity of truth in the greater organism of all being? Surely we can see the Earth as an organism? The Universe? Can they not too have variant truth over time and space? The whole is always greater and more complex than the sum of its parts and so it is with the Universe at large. No entity is an object, they are always a process; and so any attempt at objectivity invariably relates to a mere transection of that entity. A slice through spacetime. A lower dimensional apprehension.
Of course, it is under this way of thinking, reasonable to assert something can be true in a given moment and relating to a given place. Or even that there are levels of practical value in holding certain consensus realities as true, for a given amount of time, in a given place. But if one blindly protects the institutions that are built of consensus reality one slows the pace of progress. And it is progress that produces novelty, innovation and provides ever more freedom. The greater concern, is the horrific actions these institutions will undertake, to ensure their own survival (even over the survival of humanity itself).
The very fact that their domain is primarily within only a given place and time, this also puts geography, and the associated cultural variance, forward as an enemy of our institutions. This creates further conflict. How many times do we hear about “a threat to our way of life”? But what they really mean is “a threat to our current cultural institutions”. The threat they fear is not to life, or you, but to the actual immaterial institutions themselves. And because the only way for any given institution to survive is to be the only option available, they must persist over time and extend spatially, eradicating competitive world views or ‘truths’. This is the root of Globalisation and Empire building. Not only are the consequences horrific but the ends are unobtainable and fundamentally flawed. All Empires fall. Or at least, are utterly transformed. (Such as the Roman to the Holy Roman Empire, for example.) Within this fight for survival, it is no accident that free thinking, is so often discouraged by the institutions of the day. The atrocities in this vain, by states, religions and corporations are clear, utterly devastating to humanity and too plentiful to even begin to list here. All of this, in a cycle of destruction, intended to perpetuate, our variously failed and crumbling institutions of fleeting relevance.
Systems are useful. But what use are systems that are not updated, innovated and replaced? Let me return again to Terrance McKenna and his notion that cultures are our operating systems. In many ways this is true (or better put, in light of this discourse, there are many useful practical reasons for accepting/believing it is true). For example, my ‘Irishness’ creates an operating platform wherein drinking alcohol is more accepted and more acceptable for the most part within society. And of course running the Irishness 3.1 Leprechaun Edition, a number of other accepted paradigms and operating systems exist for the structuring of standardised ‘Irish’ behaviour. We tend towards these cultural groups and stay with them to feel part of a tribe. To experience a sense of belonging. But by adopting a cultural platform we deny other possibilities. This is the precise problem I have with being labelled a hippy, for example. I fear that such a cultural operating system is both limiting for myself and the way that I can be viewed (indeed I have no doubt this statement will invariably be used in evidence of my hippy nature). It is not to say I do not retain similarities with both these groups/systems/institutions but that I deny their limitations and the associated divisions and oppositional conflict this propagates.
Given my prominent use of Terrence’s cultural operating system ideology here I will let him paraphrase in his words:
Well, why should culture imprison us, and somehow place a barrier between ourselves and our true humanness? Well, I think I said at the beginning of this thing, culture and ideology are not your friends. They are not your friends. This is a hard thing to come to terms with, because a certain kind of alienation lies at the end of this thought process. On the other hand, you can’t live in the cradle for ever; you can’t be clueless for ever. So somebody might as well just lay it out for you, and say: Culture is for the convenience of culture, not you. How many times have your sexual desires, career aspirations, financial dealings and aesthetic inclinations been squashed, twisted, rejected, and minimised by cultural values? And if you don’t think culture is your enemy, ask the 18-year-old kid who is given a rifle and sent to the other side of the world to murder strangers if culture is his friend. (Terence McKenna, 1999)
So, certain programmes can be run on certain operating systems. This is true of both machine and cultural operating systems. However, if we focus on machine computer systems for a moment, the idea of staying with Windows XP from here to eternity would be abhorrent and nonsensical. Not only do we currently update our existing computer operating systems but we are willing to completely change them if a more suitable system comes along. People do give loyalty to a familiar platform or indeed one to which they feel a community relation too (bloody Apple Mac) but they soon get left behind. They are very clearly preventing themselves from getting the most out of technology as a platform generally.
So OK, you may be running, Conservative 5.0 with the Christianity Free Presbyterian MX plugin right now but who is to say that these are anything more than currently useful to you? Programs in cyberspace are not true, they are useful. And paradigms are not true, they are useful. Just as you can triple boot your desktop, I’m here to say you can run concurrent conflicting paradigms and access them based on your practical needs. That cultural systems, if used, do not require your loyalty. They do not define you. You define them.
They are malleable, up for constant revision and alteration, and should they impede your progress in any way; they should be cast aside, ignored or variously reappropriated. The decisions which inform this should be those that you reason, holistically and as a human being, and not through the limitations of unrelinquished, outdated, institutionalised, thought processes.
What has brought humanity this far is our ability to adapt to given conditions. This ability is inherent and not delivered by our institutions. Homo Sapians. Homo – Man (sorry to all women but it does mean man, even our classification of species is sexist), Sapiens, the wise. It may arguably be ‘the knowing man’, but I prefer the hugely predominant translation, the wise man, for obvious reasons. All the evidence points to how little we know; but can we be wise? I believe we can. The wisdom of the ancients is clear, if we look, and throughout time, great and wise humans have variously attested to how little we know. Therein lies our wisdom. As creatures of wisdom rather than creatures of knowledge, we can adapt and change, applying technology and enquiry to our surroundings and evolve our understanding and relationship with the world. We do all this, in happy awareness of our ignorance.
By way of example I have literally immeasurable source. So for brevity I will mention just two greats, and founding fathers, of Eastern and Western wisdom respectively:
“A wise man has no extensive knowledge; He who has extensive knowledge is not a wise man.” (Lao-tzu, c.550 B.C.E.)
“‘I am wiser than this person;for it is likely that neither of us knows anything good and beautiful, but he thinks he knows something not knowing, while I, as one who does not know, do not think that I do.'” (Attributed to Socrates by Plato, 399 B.C.E.)
If the desired outcome of all of this truth searching really is stasis, then we seek a universe in which nothing can happen at all. We are looking to an End. If the root cause is a quest for the best possible quality of life, then we should be as willing and able to shift our beliefs, as happily and readily as we upgrade our mobile phones.
I for one cannot wait for the next transformational shift in cultural structuralism. The one so huge that from our current perspective we could label it Humanity2.0. I hope that it will mirror its counterpart in the machine world; and herald the emergence of hyperconnectivity on a truly human level.
I embrace change. And I do not fear differences. Differences after all, are really only differences in perspective. Different apprehensions of an everpresent universal consciousness. Literally, different ways of looking at our reflections and our projections. We are all one mind experiencing myriad labyrinthine reality tunnels though our very selves. What lies in the darkness then is our own shadow. Do not fear yourself; even those parts you do not yet know. As a very dear fiend of mine likes to continually reminds me: There is no dark side of the moon.
- Fuller, R. B., 1970. I Seem to Be a Verb: Environment and Man’s Future. Bantam Books.
- James, W., Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide. Mind Vol. 7, 1882.
- Lao-tzu, Lao te Ching c.550 B.C.E.
- McKenna, T., Culture and Ideology are Not Your Friends. In: Whole Life Expo, Denver, April 1999
- McKenna, T., Under The Teaching Tree. In: Ojai Foundation, 1985
- Sanderson Beck, 1996. Apologia Sokratous: Defense of Socrates. [online] Available at: <http://www.san.beck.org/Apology.html> [Accessed 10 November 2010].
- Wilson, R. W., Maybe Logic, The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson, 2003