Saturday night ponderings in February

Not been feeling well over here. Comes and goes, but always comes back. We each have what we have, incidentally or by our own creation (usually a combo of sorts). Such is life. Shit happens. And shit has to happen. Growing pains are part of the struggle.

But we live in bizarre times too. That matters just as much as anything personal one’s got going on. We are all reflections of sorts of our environments and cultures. Can’t get around that. Times have gotten crazy in the West, with so much happening so quickly that traditions got reduced to mere lip service and romanticized “ideals” and people are trying to fit themselves into new molds determined by the latest technologies.

I was reading this post a little while ago from Inklings blog, and it got me thinking about reality and how it’s come to be so incredibly saturated by illusions. Always has been that way probably, but now aided by new technologies and high ambitions. The sky’s the limit, right? That’s modern life in a nutshell. “Postmodern” — a term I’m still not prepared to fully accept. Bugs me. Might as well call us more modern than modern, kinda like more human than human. Postmodern comes loaded with the connotation of belonging to the time after time has ended, which perhaps is actually an apt description of where humanity stands in this instance.

I’ve long been drawn to the book of Revelations in the Christian bible because, in a sense, I do believe in the essence of its message. Humans wind up fucking everything up and creating hell on earth, though we’re figuring out that hell can take many forms. Why? Because we given in to our base natures: our greed, our lust, our envy, our contempt, our shallowness. We defile ourselves and one another more intensely and more frequently, deliberately or otherwise.

Right about there is where someone likes to chime in saying that humans have always been a rough lot who’ve engaged in ritualistic tortures and rapes and religious persecutions and murders — so this is not new, we just know more about it now that we’re connected in with televisions (and now the internet) with news programs that track events daily. We’re over-saturated with information, and it is that that is making us irrationally fearful. People who read and watch Steven Pinker might also add that violent crimes have reduced proportionally to the rise of civilizations, making it seem that the centralized approach is good for at least curbing violent tendencies. My reply to that is yes and no.

Has human consciousness also not risen over the last several thousands of years, at least for a quite many people? Two thousand years ago something revelatory was (re)born; it was the concept of humanity knowing no racial, ethnic, political, or economic divides. These are human-made constructs that we’ve been increasingly improvising on since the dawn of our being, we have always been social beings first and foremost. When we look back at distant hunter-gatherer societies there is evidence that many were relatively peaceful within tribal relations (in-group as well as with other groups that share in marriage alliances). In abundantly stocked locales with temperate climates, it is reckoned that people actually had to put in far less time and energy in order to survive. And the groups that embarked on hunting and/or fishing and/or gathering did so as brothers, uncles, fathers, sons, sisters, aunts, daughters, cousins — all were relatives. All cooperated because they had to, and leadership was far less formal and not handed exclusively to one individual in the clan. They were bound by their religions and spiritual myths, but these were living religions passed along by oral traditions, augmented and updated by shamans and clanspeople incrementally over time. Religion had a greater significance to people back then. It was not only their explanation system in a pre-scientific world, it was their life narrative that fostered social cohesion and union with all of Life. It was how they understood, as they were able, and I’m tempted to say they were closer to the truth than we in our civilized societies and highly-organized religions (including scientism) are today.

Shit changed. Some peoples learned to grow food and so settled down alongside their crops (though some didn’t and are very interesting to learn about, such as Papau New Guineans before they were pulled into the modern fold). It’s been a project in accumulation from the start, but with the rise of chiefdoms and fancier ideals came the need for more extravagant sacrifices to the gods and to chiefs. Power began centralizing because wealth could be transferred and stored, starting with crops and later precious metals. This led to a new form of economics that has been evolving in complexity ever since. And it was just that sort of economic divisiveness and exploitation that played an important role in the myth about Jesus Christ.

It’s an illusion and always has been. An important one, no doubt, because it’s allowed humans to specialize and to become knowledgeable about ourselves and this world we inhabit. Hence the myth about Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil — it’s a relevant metaphor for how we’ve evolved. We not only have amazing new technologies but we’ve also unlocked all kinds of secrets about humans’ psyches and created environmental (e.g., concrete and plastic jungle) conditions that have had profound psychological impact on everyone in various ways. We’ve become able to delve into and design new forms of torture and control, some that are so subtly felt yet insidiously dangerous and pervasive. In a very real sense, humans have created a whole new world, regardless of whether its turned out agreeable or compatible with our higher natures and aspirations.

And yet we tromp on, thinking we’re in pursuit of ultimate truths. I’ve been thinking for a long while now that humans are doing a fantastic job in unwittingly destroying what’s of actual value to most members of our species. I see us as having become domesticated animals, dependent and sophisticatedly manipulated into accepting the modern circus.

But somewhere along the way romantic love made its debut, plus the notion of extending empathy to distant humans we’ve never directly met and to treat flora and fauna with greater respect pierced through the illusory veil, and this whispered something true. There’s a nugget of truth if we’ve ever found one, and it pulls us in opposing directions since so much in modern life has become about divisions and rankings and serves economic imperatives first and foremost.

I ask, what is a worthy sacrifice under these conditions? What does courage call on us to do in times like this? That’s a mystery unto itself.

See, I figure humanity is going to do what it’s going to do. I don’t have to take it lying down, but I will probably have to take it nevertheless. And don’t we all feel similarly? Most people I talk to parrot nearly the same response about getting with the program and accepting life on its own terms, even if those happen to be human-made and detrimental. If you want to do something about it you’re instructed to join an organization and jump into the political arena, but everything’s about politics and money nowadays. Fuck it, I don’t want it. People are going to do what people are going to do. I aim to look after myself and mine, but I can’t help but be struck with awe and concern for what all is happening to and around us. Life is fascinating and rapidly changing — the most interesting “show” to watch. The common scripts are modeled after what we’re presented with through popular mediums growing in sophistication and spanning several generations back. In simplest terms, the templates we’re working with are very often influenced by unreality. In some contexts it qualifies as art, in others as propaganda — still affects us, though usually subliminally, and then it spreads through our own actions and behaviors. Monkey see, monkey do. On some levels, we’re apparently as simple as that.

And now I need a drink and a distraction. Time to think on something else.

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