IX. Technologies of Perspective: What Truths Do
Understanding our truths for how they lead us to live
In earlier sections we examined how the argument over what is true is subject to too many forces, internal and external, for an emphasis on facts and data to be enough in understanding ourselves and where we are going. Which idea of the world do we want to put power behind? How do we know what information will lead to better lives?
Because seeing a fact or argument, or an action, as belonging to an enemy type of person is a process that virtually guarantees it wont be fairly considered, it is important to see whether we are really enemies. To do that we need to look at what is the basis of seeing a person, an idea, as an enemy before it is even known. This usually falls along lines of what someone “is”, which, if we look at V. The Abstract Ego, is not only not real, moreover, in the mind it is a relationship that is to associations, to a value (hippy is bad, feminist is bad, vegan is bad, Muslims are bad), not what each individual is actually doing, thinking, or where they are coming from.
The significance of people’s understandings of the world being based on imaginary caricatures is that what we have in common: needs and vulnerabilities, are overlooked. We differ on strategy, in how we secure what we need, but that, for the most part, we all want the same things, makes it clear, once we learn to see through arbitrary divisions, to tell when a strategy is not working. When these underlying core needs are forgotten, we are more likely to see the truth of a conflict as relative, somewhere in the middle. It’s more likely we wont notice one side is fighting for their lives and the other is just trying to win.
How does a truth change our relationship to others?
The influence of Buddha was based on thought experiments. He was not a myth or a god, and his teachings did not require faith, and he did not demand worship. He taught fact-less tools for transcending suffering that redirected our innate sense of meaning, of cause and effect, of what things including we ourselves are. By redefining the problem, new solutions that are still with us became available.
Imagination, fiction, thought, is powerful; because if it moves us, it is true, not in the sense of being concrete or infinitely replicable but because of its results, whatever they were, that made life different, better or worse, than it was before.
We have always lived on our ideas of the world, never the world itself, and technology usually is just something that amplifies the structure, the patterns, that are the signatures of our way of seeing. Not every society, culture, or individual, even today, has been war-based, fear-based, hate-based, greed-based, me-based.
As cleverly illustrated in the fictional book Ishmael, people’s evidence of human nature comes from looking at their own culture, at it’s every day results. And if our conditioning is not something we are trained to see, how do we know how deep it goes and across how many societies it has spread?
Globalization has resulted in more and more places becoming Americanized, emulating the outward styles, but more importantly the economics that favor western multinational companies, many of which are actively attempting to undermine democratic choices and institutions, even in ally nations, as these companies act out a truth that people who are victims of their mechanistic logic have been taught to identify with. The whole world is increasingly bound by that singular logic, a timescale not even based on human needs, that concentrates the power to determine the conditions in which we live and even understand the world, in a smaller and smaller group. As different cultures are diluted and destroyed it becomes harder and harder to see outside of how we see.
On this note, it is not in the fact wars that we will find resolution, but in whether our truths show ways to bring us together or drive us further apart.
The notion that “we are all one” seems ludicrous and becomes impossible as a guiding principle given the prevailing assumption that the differences we have are innate, come from what type we are. It becomes more clear when you think of it in terms of human possibilities, human consciousness that is later shaped, filled, limited by local customs, inherited resentments and recipes for life.
The truths at the foundation of our thinking determine what we will try and thus the patterns that create the sense of our nature.
Through The Enlightenment in Europe, a view of a mechanistic world organized by regular and predictable laws began to supplant older views that saw forests field and mountain as domains of spirits, ghosts and Gods. Where once there may have been a reverence and fear for Mother Nature, into the Industrial Revolution humankind’s sense of command and power drove us into it with an impunity and sense of entitlement that continues to this day. Presumably now we see things how they are, and spirits and Gods, things that cannot be reliably observed are no longer in the way of Man’s desires.
But with a certain sanctity to the spiritualized nature that persists in some older cultures to this day, there comes a different way of interacting with it than what comes with seeing the world as only so many atoms, as one after another commodity.
The current way of seeing is seen as true, and yet living in this way, the human horizon is being shortened dramatically. Environmental education is not a required subject and as a result and the environment is seen by many as an extraneous preoccupation of “hippies” and “liberals”. The insulation technology provides us from Nature’s replies to how we are living has created the illusion that we don’t need to pay attention to it. This is the truth of a mechanistic worldview in action.
There are different ways in which one can understand the phrase “seeing clearly”.
While supposedly lacking an understanding of how things worked, societies possessed with older views posed no threat to life on earth, did not in only 500 years, have to develop an escape plan from a planet that had previously supported life for millions. We see clearly, we think, but we cannot act clearly despite our unprecedented knowledge and power.
Its not that believing in spirits and Gods is necessary to protect the planet. The example of long-running civilizations that left the world in serviceable condition before the arrival of modern men shows that the difference is in how you see, not what you know.
Being richer does not mean you will be happier. Being smarter does not mean you will do more good. Our society follows its symbols, its own kind of gods along the path of our destruction, rather than looking at the effects we are creating through our blind faith in them.
When Nature catches up to us, those in position to tell humanity’s story will find some type of person to blame, some political party, some government or ideology. People emerge into belief systems and become reflections of them.
We will not have a choice over our lives, our future until we can begin to see from within different worlds, rather than looking condescendingly down on them from some unintelligible distance.
The idea of different types of people is the gate at which we long ago stopped, at which long ago all virtue and evil was declared. Behind those gates people are invisibly living in ways that lead to different worlds, worlds we will never know if we continue to declare the worldview we inherited to be the only one even as, under its power, our possibilities on this planet slowly fade.