Thursday, August 09, 2012

is collapse humanity adapting to its own presence?

automaticearth | I think about history ... a lot. It has always been my deepest fascination. When I was little I would construct whole civilizations with my Legos and play out their existence. Monuments would be constructed, kings would die, wars would start, cities would be rebuilt, lineages would rise and fall. I suppose as a child what captivated me was the magnitude of the human epic, the drama of the shifting patterns of human relationship over the course of generations. I simply loved telling their stories, and the sort of melancholic beauty that one feels reflecting on all that has passed, all that has succumbed to time and is irretrievable.

The western historical canon is well known to us in its essential form. The basic narrative runs, "Humans gave up their wandering and settled the fertile crescent, cities emerged, myths and legends were established. Then came the Greeks and all that is noble and virtuous in western culture was born: reason, art, democracy, etc. Next the Romans who brought, law, order and engineering until crushed by the barbarians and the rise of Christianity. The dark ages ensued until Europeans pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and proceeded to make their rightful claim on the world as the descendents of Greece and Rome."

The characters of our narratives have become so familiar to us that we tend to simply view our ancestors as us, separated only by time. I have watched the siege of Troy, the burning of the library of Alexandria and Gladiatorial games all carried out with clipped British accents as though everyone living in the past 10,000 years spoke the queen’s English. What happens in the reshaping of history through our narrative lens is, if you will, a cultural-morphic personification.

We attribute to our ancient cultures our own cosmologies and create a linear relationship between our cultures. Now I am not saying that we are not the descendents of the ancients that preceded us and that they have not had a powerful influence upon us. What I am saying is that we distort our ability to truly empathize and understand the humanity of those who preceded us and in doing so we distort our ability to understand our own position in history and relationship to those that will follow us.

The truth is that the ancients were radically different cultures than ours. The stories they told about themselves are not the same as the ones we tell about them. Though we can only reconstruct their worlds now using what facts we know, it is important that we work to empathize with their reality as best we can so that we might understand our own more fully. We must work to imagine the condition of the ancients. I often think of what it would have felt like to go into battle.

Can you imagine standing on the field, heat bearing down on you as you stare out at the mass of humanity on the opposing side, light glinting off of metal? You would have that deep anxiousness in the pit of your stomach. Drums beating as you and the columns start to move, first walking, jogging, then running, everything moving faster and faster.

Leather and metal strapped to your body chafing against your skin, the scent of other humans and dust from thousands of sandals hitting the earth surrounds you. Blood and adrenaline pumping through your body to match the pounding of the war drums. Closer and closer the inevitability of the clash descending upon you, the roar of thousands of voices screaming in unison fill the air and... impact.

What was the psychology of these humans? What ordered their world, what was the visceral intensity of their experience? What makes them "us", what gives them their own unique truths? The people that we call the "Greeks", were an Iron age people in the Mediterranean, already with their own vast history filled with legends and fallen civilizations as distant from their times as we are from them.

Certainly the Hellenes form part of the DNA of our culture, their ideas and actions have been transmitted through the shifting dynamics of human society and played a large role in the shape and expression of our cultures. Yet they were not "Westerners" or "Europeans". They were a people trying to make sense of the process in which they were embedded, trying to create a coherent narrative out of all that they had inherited and did not even remotely imagine of us.

Yet why is this idea of reframing the narrative so important? I would argue that if we do not demythologize our history we will be incapable of demythologizing ourselves, and if our understanding of our lineage is mythic then our relationship to our own times is equally so. That when we respond to our condition with pre-scripted narratives we are attempting to conform reality to our own thoughts, assumptions and biases. This reduces our adaptability because it reduces our ability to see possibilities and to embrace a diversity of perception and response. Think of all the humans burned at stakes, all the texts that have been obliterated simply because they challenged the dominant narratives.


umbrarchist said...

Physics does not care about history.

That picture may be the single most important picture to the Psychology of Science. Those are the top 29 stories of a building that weighed over 400,000 tons. When the plane hit the building deflected 15 inches and oscillated for four minutes.

So how is it that 50 minutes later the top could tilt 22 degrees and in nearly 11 years SCIENTISTS have not been asking about and discussing the CENTER OF MASS of those 29 stories?

But they can put a robot on Mars!!! In those same ten years.

The Irony of Science. Lack of Curiosity at Politically Correct times.

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