Are humans individuals with personalities or are we simply portions of a greater whole, with little claim to individuality? Some thoughts on cellular arrangement and the end-game thermodynamics of progress ideology. The tension between a glimpsed view of living wholeness and the steady extrusion of deadness that is crushing around and upon us. I wonder how many other people see this?
Life support systems
The appearance of being discrete individuals fully captures most people's perception and belief. In reality however, our form is a fleetingly arranged and fluid part within a basically cellular, holistic global life-form. The shape and content of this overall form shifts and changes over time as and when factors vary within it and around it. Matter and energy flow through and around it like tides and rivers. Life continues as it must in accord with the prevailing conditions. We come and go within this cadence, and are always entirely and imminently recyclable within its constantly alloying form, as individuals, as clans, as a species. Doubtlessly though we do have the very considerable power to engineer the early disposal of ourselves and much of the living infrastructure around us. We could perhaps trigger the reductive disappearance of entire biological classes and perhaps even phylum. What extent of planetary upheaval would be required to take life back to a bacterial drawing board? Would a combination of extreme climate change and thermo-nuclear resource wars tip such regressive imbalance?
Dualism and civilisation
Our sense of separation from the dynamically creative whole is due in very large part to our mono-theistic training, inculcated widely and intensely over relatively recent times, to assist our tolerance of and compliant function within the development of large, hierarchically deep socio-economic systems. This social format is most commonly referred to as 'civilisation', a somewhat benign euphemism considering its essential function of metastasis upon surrounding societies, their resource bases, and within life itself as a whole unit.
Characteristically this form identifies with an existential purpose of 'progress' along a notional linear direction. This view is very militantly at philosophical odds with the comparatively 'aimless' existence of 'uncivilised' society and its accord with, and deference to, repetitive natural cycles. This linear path heads to a destination that is not clearly defined, and is certainly not objectively measured, anywhere within the 'civilised' project. The destination is given various names such as heaven or utopia. It is also embodied in various allegorical forms such 'the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow', which is almost self-deprecating in its inherent impossibility. Materially the pathway equates to a relentless and ever expanding extraction and depletion of natural planetary resources. Properly recognising this core function within the linear pathway of progress, the destination's objective definition can really only be eventual expiration of 'progress' and collapse of the socio-economic project, amidst crushing resource depletion.
Fossil-fuel-powered religion and secular delusion
Modern times, and the intoxicating experiences afforded by abundant fossil energy, have seen the traditional theistic mechanism translated into some variously powerful secular forms. Humanism and capitalism are two of these. Capitalism and its omni-present, omniscient, omnipotent Market-god now reign supreme within the modern global zeitgeist. In its superiority it is quite ecumenical toward the lesser theistic forms. Intense delusions of personal freedom are a central seduction toward common self-imprisonment within and supplication to the Market order. Capitalists can readily include humanism or any of the traditional religions to add flavor to their state of imagined separation from all other living things. The sense of separation is the vital function that is uniformly maintained. It is what enables us to perceive the accrual of individual benefits from the progressive destruction of our own living form.
The Expanding Dead Zone
Accordant with all of this, I am struck in particular by the way we surround ourselves with dead things. We turn life into death and then form the detritus into myriad shapes and mechanisms that we use to facilitate and adorn our lives within our delusion of separation. This constructed dead zone then further obstructs our view of life, it better reflects our illusion about ourselves, and thus it better enables us to wreak even further and more rapid decimation upon our global life-form in a deranged perception and pursuit of our expanding 'needs'.
We animate our dead things with a rich fossil energy stream, distilled from many trillions of days of ancient sunshine and now drawn down to nearly half its extent in just over one hundred years. This animated array performs a zombie caricature of real life and real life systems. It instills us with a loin-stirring sense of an invincible power to prevail over any challenge or circumstance. But these machines and constructions are just dead things. They're doomed to stillness and utterly fatal deficit once their immense hunger for the expensively manufactured energy stream overwhelms its limited supply reserves. Our marvelous dead things then become our graves and our tombstones.
I acknowledge that I'm surrounded with dead things of my own choice and accumulation. I'm complicit in the fabrication that deludes others and which anchors my own delusion. Accumulated doubts and insights have rent many small tears in my inherited cultural fabric. I can peer through this perforated curtain and grasp part glimpses of the total living form that pulses beyond its stifled confines. I can sense the wholeness of this vast organism and can begin to wonder at its profound function. I can feel deep joy and strength flow from this immense beauty however I simultaneously feel viscerally injured by the senselessly violent and rapacious destruction being wrought upon it.
My perception flickers between this glimpsed view of living wholeness and the steady extrusion of deadness that is crushing around and upon me. The shifting, variously composite view between the two states poses a variously decorated, essentially lonely and potentially crazed schizophrenia. I wonder how many other people see this?