Where’s Your Head At?

Hi everybody!

Thanks for stopping by. Today I’m writing about something I’ve always found difficult to contend with – the fact that people have different views on reality. I don’t mean that I have found it difficult to believe they have different views. I can see they do. I mean that I’m puzzled that these views are no nearer to a considered conclusion than they were thousands of years ago.

When I was young I always supposed that although it was clearly true that many visions prevailed they would one day resolve into a common viewpoint, the right one, which was in complete agreement with whatever ‘reality’ actually was. It seemed like an obvious conclusion to human evolution. History was a thorough testbed of what the world was like when many different views prevailed: mostly a disaster, and with the exception of natural events, an entirely human horror show. Although there was a clear trend of development going on in terms of technology and the use of tools (cognitive or physical) to perform ever more impressive tasks, there was also an emergent process of awareness about thinking. Yogis had started it, philosophers had taken it up here and there, people of all sorts at all times and places had given it a good go although it had never formed up as a mass-movement. Nonetheless, this self awareness would change the ways in which we perceived the world and our place in it, collectively and individually, and it would inevitably change it for the better.

In my mind this ‘better’ future, contained an entire global population who were in broad agreement about what reality was and, in contrast, what was a human invention. The Human Invention bit was, as an invention, up for refinement and negotiation until a pleasing story was settled on which allowed everyone to get along. Because everyone knew it was made-up nobody would have trouble suggesting good adjustments or making such adjustments. They would see that

Reality = what there actually is, viz, a planet with some water and some rocks and living things on it.

Human Invention = everything else.

Reality in this definition is something humans have done a lot to engineer, with mixed results.

It’s also something with which we have only an indirect contact via our senses. Much philosophical hay has been made about the trouble this causes when it comes to trying to get a clear picture of what’s going on. But we don’t really have a lot of trouble with wondering whether our table exists or how we’re going to get lunch on it if it doesn’t. What we have trouble with is:

God – what category does this fall in
Wealth – who should have this and why
Life’s Meaning – what is it, if there is one

These questions are traditionally answered for us by the culture we are born into. The answers we are given determine who we are going to fight next, since we’ve made little progress on seeing all of human meaning as clay out of which to sculpt a better world. Instead we tend to see it as baked solid and are ready to defend its fragile vessel to the death, against any blow. This is true at all levels

the ego
the family
the group
the culture

and probably it is, to stretch the baking thing, cooked into us as social animals at a physiological as well as a mental level, although many individuals can attest to it being far from inescapable. In the past, before we became such technological whizzes, those identities were crucial to our survival. Of course they’re enshrined in us in so many ways. Our ancestors lived, struggled and died within their bounds and they were successful or we wouldn’t be here. They were so successful, in fact, that any hint of giving up their legacy can feel like a terrifying and wanton foolishness that threatens our own lives, even if there is no chance that it would do so. The trappings of a family and cultural history are passed on like treasure, sometimes they were the only treasure a person could ever have. But I don’t think that having it passed to you as knowledge means you have to live as if the conditions of the past prevail. By doing so we are ensuring the conditions of the past prevail. Good if you’re in the top five percent. Not so great elsewhere and, for a future of the planet, very un-great indeed.

If we don’t question this, personally, we will pass it on wholesale to the next generation, leaving them to repeat the same old warfare ad infinitum. If we do question it we immediately begin an Exit process from the culture (secular or religious), and possibly also the group, the family and even the ego. Given how identified and attached most people are to those things the idea of giving them up entirely as fictions is probably entirely out of the question even though it is the only rational conclusion. Does this mean my utopian future is impossible?

The shift in consciousness required would put us firmly into Sapiens 2.0. The difficulty is that these shifts require every individual to shift, until a critical mass is reached, and that mass is very large and deeply unmotivated because the benefits all look like losses: lose group, family, self. Gain??
Actually you gain the entire universe. It’s the inverse of identification. You get everything because instead of dividing yourself off you’re joining all that exists. But this is conceptual and, pragmatically speaking, abstract, something you can experience but it won’t translate into worldly wealth and what is seen as the trappings of success by the present standards. It looks nice on paper but it won’t feed you unless everyone else goes too, and even then there are no guarantees.

If it’s even possible I realise I’ll never live to see it. I’m surprised, disappointed. I really wanted to know how the story ends. I felt sure it was going to have a happy ending and that this was how it would happen. And I’ll never know.

To me this feels like a progression that’s natural, because it reflects how my own thinking has changed over the course of my life and I am one of those people who can’t stop trying to improve things, whatever that means…

What do you think? I’d love to know. Thanks for reading.

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