by The Zeitgeist Kid
Each of us dwells in two worlds. We share the natural world with many other sentient beings for whom the Earth is also home. And as human beings, we also share a powerful cultural world, a world of creative human imagination. We begin to learn about both of these worlds from within our mother's womb. The combination of these two worlds is the environment that shapes us in profound ways, even altering the way in which our genes express themselves as has been discovered by the relative recent scientific studies in epigenetics. This combination of environment and gene expression essentially define for each of us our experience of what it is to be alive.
As sentient beings, we have a body with sensing capabilities that allow us to perceive the worlds around us, natural and cultural. We never really experience the world directly but instead take the data gathered by our sensory organs and accumulate that data to construct a personal inner map of the world around us. That inner map is sometimes called an ontology or world view. It is not the 'Reality' that exists around all of us but our individual perception of that 'reality'. It is not even based on 'facts', but on our particular perceptions of external 'facts', what can be called percepts. Anyone who has ever been fooled by an optical illusion is well aware that our perception of the world is not always the same as the 'Reality' of the world. This is a universal truth for all sentient beings. We not only have different sensory capacities for perceiving the environment, we each construct a unique ontology of the world based on our unique experiences.
The central importance of that individual ontology is that as sentient beings capable of interacting with our environment, it is our internal map of 'Reality' that informs our inner decision space regarding how we will interact with the world. We arrive at decision on actions or inactions based on the inner map we create through our percepts of 'Reality'. The is equal true for every sentient being who has the capacity to 'learn' for their experiences. As we perceive and interact with the world, our ontology or the inner map we use in our decision space is constantly be revised and updated based on the newest percepts.
Perhaps you have noticed something interesting about this universal way in which sentient beings interact with the world and learn? It is a nearly perfect expression of the scientific method or the scientific train of thought. Even a newborn babe is deeply engaged with what is essentially a learning process that can be described quite accurately as observation(percepts), creation of a hypothesis(ontology), experiment to test the hypothesis(decisions) and observation(percepts) again, repeating the process as long as life continues. There is a reason why using the scientific method is the most effective tool we have developed so far for learning about and interacting with the natural world in the most effective manner. When done well, it is an accurate model of how any sentient being engages with 'Reality'.
So now that we have a fairly solid universal foundation upon which to build our understanding, lets go back to those two worlds in which we all dwell, the natural and the human cultural world. Each of those two worlds has its own unique set of characteristics.
The natural world is shared by all sentient beings and the rules of causality that apply in the natural world apply to all sentient beings without exception. As sentient beings, we may learn to work with those rules to fill our particular needs, but there is no option for changing the rules of causality. We cannot, for example, cancel the law of gravity if we are unhappy with the causal experiences in a particular circumstance, but we can learn to utilize the rules of fluid dynamics to create enough lift on the wing of an airplane to allow a plane to fly in apparent but not actual defiance of gravity.
This absolute aspect of the perceived laws of nature is not true of the second world of human culture. Whereas in the natural world, it is our sentient imagination that generates the internal map of 'Reality', in the cultural world, it is the shared sentient imagination of our human communities that actually create the rules of causality that as individuals we experience and map into our individual ontologies. This is the cultural conditioning that we begin to learn at birth, the cultural rules and cultural consequences that will shape our behaviors from cradle to grave and generation to generation that is the accumulated learning of humanity. There is a type of 'wisdom' in this learning that transcends generations but it must never be forgotten that these rules are simply the creation of human imagination and that they are not the immutable rules of the natural world in which we not only participate but of which we are but a part.
We most certainly participate in human culture but that participation is at least somewhat optional unlike the natural world where we either exist and participate or we don't exist and participation is not optional if we wish to remain alive. Also unlike the rules of natural laws, cultural rules evolve over time. And man made laws are often violated with impunity or with arbitrary application of consequences whereas the laws of nature are applied universally and the consequences are never arbitrary. We may not like the consequences imposed by the rest of the human participants of our shared cultural experience but violating the 'imaginary laws' of human culture does not always lead to immediate and irrevocable causal consequences as it does with laws of the natural world, whether we understand those laws or not. These are hugely important differences.
Another very interesting and not very well understood aspect of the human cultural world is the process by which human culture evolves. Communities of humans act together at a higher level of complexity in a way that is similar to the manner in which the sentient cells of our bodies collaborate and share the community of our bodies. The decision making spaces of the communities of our bodies might offer insights into the manner in which decisions are arrived and shaped within the human cultural community.
Our hearts decide to beat about once a second. Our lungs decide to breathe every 5 seconds or so. Generally speaking we as conscious sentient beings don't usually play a direct role in those decisions. But if we decide to take ourselves out to lunch at McDonald's, our whole body including our heart and lungs will suffer the consequences of that decision. How we arrive at decisions in community is extremely important. What widespread cultural ontology services the decision space of the global human culture? Each individual of the human cultural community has created their own ontology. What they share of their individual worldview with others is what contributes to the expansion and evolution of the general human culture. The decision space of human culture is actually the decision space of seven billion plus individual human beings, capable of seven billion plus individuals actions. I am unaware of a decision making space in human culture that arrives at the overall decisions for us as a global community in a manner that parallels how you decide for the entire community of your body where you will each lunch. That doesn't necessarily mean that space doesn't exist. Are the cells in our toes aware of where we decide to eat lunch when that decision is made?
A really interesting implication of thinking about sentient beings and decision spaces, is that we create an internal composite model of the external world where we tend to combine percepts of the natural and cultural world into a single world map. Cultural rules and consequences are imposed by people while natural rules and consequences are imposed by....well, don't even think it...because, well.... consequences just 'are', whether you think it or not. That thought, the thought you just almost thought, is a consequence of cultural imagination. With the natural world, we simply experience, then use our imaginations to imagine internal models of what we have experienced. Where as it is the shared human imagination that is ultimately the creator of the cultural rules and the imposer of the cultural consequences.
Not only that, but the apparent separation between the observer and the observed is also a false dichotomy generated within the internal model from percepts. There is in fact no true separation between you and the natural world. Additionally, the experience of time is merely the perceptual observation of an eternal 'Now' that is constantly changing. These perceptual illusions of separation and the passage of time along with any number of other perceptual illusions lead to all kinds of distortions in our internal ontologies which ideally would represent an accurate map of the natural and social worlds of our environments that we use to inform our personal decision spaces.
The idea of our separation or isolation from one anther has given rise to a particularly troubling culturally transmitted imagination, money. You did realize that didn't you? That money is a culturally transmitted idea and that all the rules and consequences associated with money, markets and the culturally defined relationships of sentient human beings to one another and to the natural world are merely a consequence of human cultural imagination and not a law of nature, right? Every monetary rule and cultural consequence has no foundation in the natural world. The cultural imagination of humanity keeps the idea of money alive from generation to generation just like so very many other culturally transmitted ideas.
All the ideas of the laws of the science of the natural world are also culturally transmitted with the glaring difference that those laws are derived from perceptual observations of the natural world, firmly grounded in universal phenomena observable by anyone rather than upon shared cultural imagination. We can revise our understandings of the laws of the natural world but we cannot in any way change them. The laws of cultural imagination on the other hand are highly negotiable, subject entirely to the creative imagination of humanity.
So, let's go back, for a moment, into our individual decision space informed by our constantly evolving personal ontology derived from the two worlds in which we live, the natural world and the human cultural world. A nearly universal aspect of the personal ontology of every single person alive today, an aspect entirely derived from the human cultural world governed by its own peculiar set of imaginary rules and consequences is the cultural idea of money. The single imaginary idea of money plays an incredibly disproportionately important role in the decision making processes of nearly every human being. Their decision making processes determines their actions and shape the feedback loop that perpetually modifies their personal ontology. Those actions impact every relationship with every other human being and with the natural world we all share not only in our imaginations. I call this influence upon our personal decision space 'MoneyThink'. It is a constant and powerful cultural current driving nearly all of our socially and environmentally unsustainable individual choices and behaviors.
Have I layed enough ground work yet for you to make the leap of imagination that allows you to understand the extremely detrimental impacts that 'MoneyThink' has on all of our behaviors and the natural world consequences of those individual decisions? Or do I need to be more explicit?
The crises facing us all as members of the human family is a crisis of imagination. If we continue to utterly fail to imagine a world in which we can collaborate and share for our mutual well being and the well being of the planet, a planet to which we are all inextricably interdependent, the overall quality of life will continue to deteriorate. The very foundation of the human cultural world is the collaboration and sharing of ideas. When some of those ideas become self destructive viruses that undermine the very nature of that collaboration and sharing, as a global community, we are headed towards self annihilation. Nature trumps culture every time. Culture only serves humanity as long as the shared cultural imagination continually evolves to more accurately reflect the inalterable laws of the natural world as we are able to discover them. Every man made law and consequence is subservient to natural law and natural consequences. If our collective imaginations continue to lead us towards a constant transgression against the natural laws capable of sustaining us upon the Earth, we are likely to fall victim of our own our delinquent mis-imaginations. Nature is indifferent to our need to protect our financial interests.
'MoneyThink' is the seed at the heart of the monetary onion. Once planted that seed will always grow into the full blown monetary market system we see manifest in all its greedy convolutions in the world today. We can try to 'fix' money as though money is broken rather than the source of the problem. We can peel back the layers the debt based creation of money by Wall Street bankers for personal profit. We may be able to peel back the layers of centralized money creation by using block chain technologies. We may be able to more widely distribute the money generating capacity by moving towards cooperative work owned businesses. We may even be able to avoid the worst of the social externalities generated requiring money for access to basic human necessities by enacting a global guaranteed universal basic income. But the seed of the monetary onion will still be waiting to grow and create social instability by generating inequality and the constant need to grow the economy to create more wealth to distribute in order to alleviate that inequality, a growth that will inevitably never be sated until we devour the last resource the Earth has to offer.
Somehow we must find in our imaginations the capacity to sustainably collaborate and share the resources of the Earth in such a way as to enhance the quality of life for everyone without devouring the only foundation for all life we have ever known. As long as the seed of money resides at the heart of our global culture, we will always fall short of our potential as human beings to create the global community we all know in our hearts is possible.