18. NEW SCIENCE
A Native American saying sums it all up. I believe I read it inb Lame Deer's book. “The white man builds a big fire and sits far away, the Indian builds a small fire and sits close up.”
The thinking behind this suggests that there is a path on which we can use self-regulation strategies (some based on internal mind/body techniques) to readjust our relationship to technology. We don’t always need a big fire. We can stay warm by sitting close up to a small one or by self-regulating our thermal physiology. To an extent based on our mind/body skills, we have the means to acquire what external technology supplies with a much lower expenditure of energy and materials. (Thoreau used a similar formulation concerning warmth in Walden.)
The point I am making here is that action-oriented low-mediated intentions we discussed earlier follow the path of the small fire. And on certain fannings of possibility, I foresee this route of development bringing with it not only new human capabilities but new sorts of technology that will reduce energy use, lead us to discover new renewable resources, including some internal to ourselves, and give us a deeper reverence for and closer contact with nature. Under certain fannings of possibility I can foresee us changing the thrust of technology altogether. On these radials of destiny, we would continue to invent more daringly than ever, but our devices, culled from a deeper human-heartedness, would serve new purposes. They would become instruments that teach us how to free ourselves from them, akin to biofeedback monitoring devices. In medical technology, for instance, we would make heart pacemakers that eliminate the need for pacing by retraining the heart, electronic implants that grow new tissue and replace themselves, etc.
We’d develop a wider learning model. Our focus would shift from therapy to education. Education in inwardness would thrive, deepening our connection with subtle energy sources inside us and with the rhythms in nature. Moreover, these would open new theoretical approaches to inducing change by efficient means.
In certain scenarios I can even envision us developing new sensory, cognitive and imaginative faculties: electromagnetic senses beyond the visual spectrum (already operating in the electrochemical gradients on cell membranes), radio frequency senses, magnetic senses (that some animals use for location), senses for fabulous agility, dexterity, speed, stamina and focus, combined senses, synesthesias suited for perceiving gestalts.
Our better understanding of timing will give us a modest edge in predicting likelihoods in personal and historical venues. And with that edge, we will develop better judgment and more peaceful approaches to life than we have now. And this will not only make us more effective citizens, it will gentle us down, because it will eliminate action in excess of what we need to accomplish a goal. And these advancements would make us more punctual and calmer too. We’d be less arrogant and selfish because we’d recognize that much of what we’ve seen as strength of character is really an illusion. We’d be happier and more willing to work together too. Seeing through the veils of illusion with comic immediacy, we might even discover new ways to empower low-mediated intention. We might learn how to bring ourselves into lucid dream states reliably and with full consciousness, to improve insight and foresight through conscious recall, and to facilitate healing. Science fiction writers have treated these subjects for a long time. Ursula Le Guin, in The Telling, presents a recent treatment.
The four ethical discoveries themselves travel the path of the small fire. By managing to ease the aggressive overload on the stress response they stimulate new self-regulation capabilities. With better voluntary control, we may be able to moderate the byplay between stress and aggression and aid the re-fusion of aggression with love and wisdom, restoring its old conservative function. In times to come these capabilities could work as catalytic agents to spark transformations that bring the ethical and technical mindsets closer together.
And in small venues, when people are functioning well, their wisdom journeys, tempered by realigned aggression, will produce innovations favor freedom and justice.
At significant moments, love and wisdom, with modest pressure, will be able to soften and shift dominance and territorial relationships. In the aftermath, entrepreneurial energy will not be so intractably associated with financial profit but will rise to broader adventures, including service and amity and the improvement of life in mixed enterprises, some set up as non-profits, others employee owned, others established as the foundation arms of profit-making corporations.
As the aggressive components of human nature fall increasingly under the influence of love and wisdom (using the dynamic definitions we have explained here,) our technical and ethical sensibilities will converge too, merge at times, and then pull apart to restore their primordial reciprocal relationship.
As the new elements in human nature surface from the treasury of the neutral traits, we will reframe many of our old duties and privileges. We will have to reset the stages of life to conform with lengthened life expectancy in the prosperous world, and then worldwide, perhaps extending the period of youth into the fourth decade and middle age to the ninth - after that sagacity.
Many science fiction novels tell how these things might happen. They depict future human societies whose strengths are not material. Some portray successful human societies enjoying every resource of the arts and sciences, but living in decentralized small communities in balance with nature, many with fully developed non-theistic spiritual practices. The science in these utopian novels is of mind. The plot lines trace the advancement of cognitive abilities. They explore new powers of communication, of joined consciousnesses, of shared dreams, of telepathy and magical repatternings of nature. High technology, space flight, virtual reality, robots and extended life spans play parts in other utopian science fiction novels, but the real excitement in the stories comes from the expansion of human capabilities and the deepening of social ties that come with it.
Ursula LeGuin in her Earthsea novels, The Dispossessed and The Telling, deals with these possibilities. Dorothy Bryant covers similar ground in The Kin of Atta are Waiting for You, as does Aldous Huxley in Island, Norman Spinrad in Songs from the Stars, Isaac Asimov in the Foundation series (for example, the Second Foundation’s mastery of inner personal change,) Arthur C. Clarke in The City and the Stars and many others. Modern science fiction explores utopian possibilities in ways unequaled since the Renaissance.
I particularly liked The City and the Stars when I read it long ago. Alvin, its young protagonist, finds his way out of a labyrinthine self-sustaining, million-year-old world city equipped with every imaginable means to support and entertain its vast population, (for the most part happily, peacefully and with respect for personal freedom.) Once outside, Alvin discovers a low-tech, decentralized telepathic civilization living in close touch with nature. He makes friends with the youth there. Together the young people uncover the lost history of their common origins. The mind-centered and technology-centered civilizations join their destiny lines, and that begins a process of reconciliation between the ethical and technical minds.
Convergence on the Path of the Small Fire
In our present mindset, we deplete the energy for convergent turnings by surrendering to the conflicts between the technical and ethical minds as if they were intractable (see # 184). We are stuck here for three reasons. Our thinking is too linear. We refuse reversal. We cannot move smoothly between inwardness and outwardness. Consequently, we cannot align the turning points in love and wisdom. We pull them apart before they can energize each other. Our loves are blind, our wisdoms cold. This makes us opaque to ourselves and dangerous to each other.
Continuing failures of convergence degrade the quality of leadership. The failures spread widely through the population, blighting the growing tip of cultural evolution. When love is absent from wisdom and wisdom from love, parents fail their children and children dishonor their parents.
But human nature changes and so do its competencies and interests (see # 173.) A shift toward low mediated intentions would stimulate inwardness and support the ethical mind. With better balance between inwardness and outwardness, we will make saner decisions. We will handle perturbation more robustly. We will hold more firmly to the resonances between personal and environmental rhythms. We will return to homeostasis sooner. In this ambiance, love and wisdom will choose (and be able) to reach for each other in crucial, conscious turning points.