It is September 12, 2020.
We currently face the possibility of US American democracy dying, or becoming so comatose as to be effectively dead. Without immediate international action, devastating climate change seems all but inevitable. And the threat of nuclear armageddon is as real as ever (maybe realer than ever; we need to link to an article about Trump’s pursuit of weapons for so-called limited-nuclear-wars).
I wonder what we should do.
The loneliness is strangling me and I wonder what to do.
I just want to take my baby doll honey pie sweet stuff by her dainty little hand and lead her to our own private Eden on the other side of the flaming sword and the stony-eyed and -jawed angel wrapped in flowing white robes and pouring righteous certainty. I just want to have a nice little life with a woman that fits my pace and lights my fire. I just want to be a man the way men are just so many grains of sand scattered by the winds tumbling down the ice-capped sheer-stone mountains, across the grass-waving plains, over the shifting snaking self-forgetting dunes.
And so we all want that; and so we all want to slip away into a happy afternoon in a sweet-smelling world with bright-colored flopsy-faced flowers sprawling around a sparkling spring, in the sunlight and the dappled shade of large peaceful trees of upward- & outward-reaching boughs and with wide wind-tickled leaves flipping up and over as if to smile, as if to laugh, as if to play and cavort in the free-limbed, easy-wandering life of our little band back on the savanna that spread out and out, miles and miles of grasses over which we’d run out our little hearts in clean air forever in every direction.
We will destroy ourselves through poor management.
Wisdom is our only hope.
But what is wisdom?
And how to pour enough of it into our veins in time?
OK, so wisdom for us is a lost cause.
What about AI.
The machines will be smarter than us.
What if they were also wiser than us?
Is artificial wisdom possible?
Can a machine be designed to hearken to the inner Light that shines through all things?
Can a machine be designed to stop nuclear war, climate change, and political folly?
Or maybe we could yet wise up.
Remember the anti-weapon?
A meme that worked like an irresistible koan: come into contact with it and you can’t escape enlightenment: selfless wisdom overtakes you, becomes you, turns you inside out, makes you gentle and kind, in step with the Light that alone Knows that and in what way it is True to say “We are all in this together”.
Let’s return to that.
First there’s the Introductory Ode to the Invincible Anti-Weapon.
Then A New, Improved Manhattan Project, Part I: Preliminary Worries.
Then Part II: The Proposal
And Finally Part III: Some Tips for the Geniuses
We need to write the anti-weapon meme right now.
Because the committee never materialized and we’re all running out of time.
But how can we, with our oh so woefully limited wisdom-resources, write an irresistible koan that spreads wisdom like wildfire throughout the world and turns heads cooler, opens hearts wider, stays itchy fingers and thundering hooves?
Maybe it can’t be done.
What about a swarm of anti-disaster robotic insects that could capture carbon before it headed into the sky and envelope and reverse nuclear explosions as they began?
And they could also repair damage caused by disease and pollution in the human body, while also perhaps halting them before they spread.
I don’t know.
Sounds really hard to pull off; and could easily go south and make things worse real fast until there was nothing left but a madcap raging storm of microscopic robots, their little artificial wings beating with all the righteous certainty of flaming-sword-wielding cherubs.
So maybe we could just real quick think of a meme that makes everyone wise, even the author, who doesn’t want to be wise, but who, as he himself admits, only want his baby doll and a comfortable, peaceful, safe and sound place to lay with her.
We know that wisdom consists of the adequate organization of ideas and feelings around the Godlight/Truth/Buddhanature within-and-shining-through-all-things that alone Knows that and in what way it is True to say “We are all in this together”, and that ratifies and explicates the universal values, as here imperfectly-but-not-therefore-necessarily-inadequately summarized: “we must feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, selfless, kind, joyfully present, joyfully sharing, joyfully together, joyful — exploring, creating, and playing in and through the Pure Love that embraces everyone, lifting us all up with infinite love-licks.”
But how do we create a koan that immediately organizes everyone’s ideas and feelings around the Light better and better and better, creating a never-ending motion towards more and more clarity of feeling, thought and action? Or that prompts everyone to immediately bound fruitfully and irrevocably into that process?
Where’s the sentence that spawns irresistible, immediate, and irrevocable enlightenment? The one that you read or hear, and within a minute your thought-as-a-whole (ideas, feelings, and the Light, all together in one conscious moment and relating imperfectly but still meaningfully with each other) finds that it is more true for it to state “I know for sure that we are all in this together forever and must treat one another with love and respect, delighting in one another’s company” than it is for it to state “well, gosh, I don’t really know if anything is truly true, you know?” And that then propels you to keep working and working deepen, expand, and live that insight?
i don’t know
what if we admit that we don’t want to be all that wise; that we like the illusion where we’re still a relatively young man and we find a nice young woman and a relatively nonpainful way to pay for ourselves, and we have a nice house far from the city where we decide whether or not we listen to music and also what music we listen to and we also take nice trips and it is nice and we are happy? what if we admit that? would that help with the koan?
we already wrote essays about a shared Something Deeperism, in which we get everyone to agree on sharing and prioritizing the fundamental values (“aware … joyful”) without insight into which no human worldview can be meaningful to any human. We already did all that. That’s a medium-level wisdom that we could all share. But we wrote those essays and nothing happened! We clearly don’t know how to make an irresistible meme — not even for some relatively palatable wisdom like us all agreeing on the universal values while pursuing them in ways that are meaningful to each of us and at our own paces, and together maintaining open, honest, and transparent governments that allow us to keep a relaxed eye on our leaders so that we can mostly live out our individual hopes and dreams while also performing our fundamental civic duty of serving as a final check on madness and corruption in government. Come on! Who wouldn’t sign onto that! And yet: stillness: deadly quiet: as if we’d said nothing at all. Certainly nothing like a charming, friendly, medium-high self-serving but also other-embracing/-buoying and to a nontrivial degree selfless wisdom spreading across the globe. Nope: nothing like that happened.
The scary thought is selflessness. Because who knows what comes with selflessness? Maybe I have to forgo my baby doll. Or maybe we have to forgo our quiet rich estate far from the noise. Maybe not, but maybe, probably even. Who knows? We don’t know what happens when we turn off selfishness as our primary decision-making heuristic. So then again if we could just get this medium-high level of wisdom to be good enough and to spread wide enough. Indeed, that would probably do more towards keeping the world from disintegrating than if I alone were to reach great pinnacles of spiritual insight.
I used to kind of like hip hop. Now I mostly hate it. It’s always forced on me where I live and all I want is enough money for to leave here and go somewhere where I pick the music or the silence. I want the US democracy to not collapse so that there’s a stable socioeconomic structure within which I can live, contribute, work, consume, fraternize and enjoy. I want the world to not be destroyed by global warming or nuclear wars so there’s a stable geopolitical structure and nice parks and open spaces within which I can live, contribute, work, consume, fraternize and enjoy. I want to be a happy animal with my wife and our time in the sun. I want money so I can listen to what I want to listen to, or have quiet, or in the worst case argue with my family about what record we play or don’t play. All this noise is torturing me. I live in fear of it overtaking my mental space like it is now, like now even with the windows shut. Stupid repetitive mindless beats attacking me, crushing in my shoulders. I’m so sick of the exploding droning beats, and when you can hear the lyrics they are usually all the same and so dumb and you can’t escape; people you don’t even know hold you in a cage of their sounds. All I want is for the world to stay basically as it is so I can figure out a way to make money, find my partner, leave this city, and go somewhere quiet — somewhere where I decide whether or not I hear what music. When it is quiet and I feel well, then I may dream wider with a wider heart and mind; but when this noise forces me out of my living room where I was happily writing and sometimes also won’t leave me be in my bedroom and so makes me a prisoner in my own home, then I don’t care about anything except: money, girl, leave and find my own place where I decide what happens to my body and my conscious space. But I know that when human systems and/or their environments collapse, we all go down together.
So what now? We need the wisdom meme to save us from ourselves; but when push comes to shove, we only want it for selfish reasons.
How can you force wisdom on the world when you just want wisdom to overtake the world to the degree that you are still allowed to be basically selfish, focused only on your little family and their mundane concerns?
I cannot write the wisdom meme.
But who can?
Wouldn’t it have been written by now?
Many wise, essentially selfless people have written many wise texts.
And people read them and nothing much happens. Maybe some individuals grow in wisdom, but the totality continues to careen towards the cliff edge.
For the wisdom meme to work, people would have to hear or read it, get enlightened, and then repeat it, enlightening everyone they met. And on and on. Translating it into all languages.
There’s all these fanatics for this or that religion who stand up now pounding their stammtisch, proclaiming their tradition the wisdom meme. But clearly if it was they would be wiser and so would everyone else.
what is the wisdom meme?
i’m hiding from my neighbor’s hip hop in my bedroom and that’s keeping me kind of safe except of course cars drive by all the time also blasting music, usually rap. I used to think I liked hip hop. I think I would again if it was me deciding when I listened to what. Now I live in fear of hip hop.
I thought if I could start my own business and move out of the city. Buy a house. With a nice girl. Have a nice life. Let it all go. Let the world run itself. Let my shoulders relax. But what will keep everything from collapsing around me?
At any rate, me staying here isn’t helping anyone.
My neighbors could be worse. They could play more music louder.
But it isn’t just them. There’s also a restaurant that has live music — from African drums to high-wire-acrobat jazz horns — loud every night outside my bedroom window.
And cars drive by all day; it is amazing how many people play music so loud it disturbs third floor apartments.
i don’t know what to say
the Beatles had a hit with “Love is all you need”
That’s a catchy and basically correct, complete, self-contained wisdom meme.
And yet, here we are, 53 years later, and we’re headed towards mutual self-destruction due to a lack of wisdom and widespread mismanagement of ourselves and our resources.
Well, here’s All You Need is Love.
And here’s One Love by Bob Marley.
Or what about Wheel within the Clay by John Stewart? He just spells it right out: “There’s a clear voice speaking, and it has a lot to say.”
It’s morally easy to be a poet with a snug roof, a contented wife, health insurance, and full belly.
Or to be Iceland in 2020 with a hundred thousand culturally-uniform people and no military beyond a coastguard, with all your proud violence buried in the 800s, 900s, 1000s — back in the wooden ships and soaked swirling beards, cold salt spray in pale blue eyes.
come to us
spite our longing to stay unwise
where we can suck the fruit of folly and lick our splash-damp lips
squish our nonsense out of us
make us see things as they really are
change us while there’s time
the irony of course is that we don’t have to be enlightened to preserve democracy and stop burning fossil fuels. A little dose of openness, accuracy, competency, and transparency in government would suffice for us to make collectively meaningful decisions. (see “Representative Democracy is a Spiritual Good” and related essays on the main NYC Journal Politics page.)
Although how are we going to keep from blowing up the planet? it was one thing when there were two equal weights pitted against each other, assuring one another of mutual self-destruction. Now the holders of nuclear weapons proliferate and alliances crackle and pop. The chances of the irrevocable misunderstanding and subsequent overreactions and the melt-down of most human flesh and irradiation of the bulk of human bones — those chances increase. And enter the machines; so now a hacker or just a fluke 0 or 1 can start the meltdown.
maybe with a widespread wisdom we could figure this one out. or maybe we’ll luck into something. or maybe some amount of common sense, wisdom, good government, and luck will get us through.
i don’t know what to do
Added Sunday 9/13/2020:
Why do 100,000 people get their own language, culture, island, sovereignty, AND a seat on the Nordic Council?
They may as well give me a seat on the Nordic Council.
I gotta stay below 41 degrees North — for the sake of my skin, blood, and mind.
So I’ll need a dispensation there.
Here: We’ll give me my own house and yard and something like a VaticanCity-setup in Madrid. That way I can have my own small kingdom within an easy flight to the Nordic Council meetings.
I don’t know why I should be on the Nordic Council.
But why should this medium-small-sized city’s worth of people get to be on it?
I don’t know what I’d say on the Nordic Council.
I’d agree that there should be no further raids along the coasts of Scotland and England.
And that a second expedition from Greenland down to Vineland would probably be best left off.
And that we should shake our heads at world powers coming and going, and the mess their giant convolutions are making of everything.
I would vote to leave the whales alone and to write a letter asking Japan and Russia to also lay off, because whales are too smart to kill at this point in human history. I will abstain from comment when some tall pale man with flaxen hair rises out of his squeaky folding metal folding chair and suggests we breed a dumber whale.
I will most certainly ask for a review of the member nation’s contributions to international pop music.
Bjoerk DaughterOfHerFather had All is Full of Love, which is in keeping with Something Deeperism.
And Ace of Base had Happy Nation, which comments fruitfully upon the ability of well-functioning democracies to allow populations to share enough Something Deeperism for meaningful communication and thus meaningful collaboration in the maintenance of a well-functioning democracy.
But what do the Cardigans ever sing about except romantic love? And not even wholesome, love-centered romantic love. But instead a romantic love so sex-obsessed as to not even really make room for love.
And yet, Sweden is doing fine on the whole.
Spiritual wisdom is a good goal, but publicly extolling it is also a good smokescreen for madness and corruption to hide behind. Governments should be fundamentally secular so as to better protect the spiritual lives of its inhabitants. YES: we must agree on the fundamental spiritual values if we are to speak meaningfully with one another; BUT: when you say “we are collectively choosing this because it is wise, good, and/or holy” then you force people into blind-follower-mode and away from meaningful engagement, communication, and collaboration. That’s why Shared Something Deeperism in a large nation state puts must focus both on a public commitment to the universal values and on outward, publicly-verifiable safeguards against abuses of political power: we will not agree on the best way to live the shared values, but we can agree that they are a shared starting point and that none of our political ideas matter to the degree we cannot view our government’s decisions and actions and/or cannot meaningfully discuss our government’s decisions and actions, and/or cannot meaningfully influence our government’s decisions and action. So we can agree that first and foremost we must keep our government open, honest, accurate, competent, fair/rule&law-abiding, and transparent (else we lose our insight into and power over our government’s decisions and actions), and that we must work together as best we can from within a framework of meaningful communication created by a shared public commitment to the universal values and a healthy representative democracy.
The US is losing its way in large part because its citizens do not possess a shared reality. The truth about the so-called “liberal media” is that, while there is bias and spin to some extent in all discussion of political facts, they are very careful to vet the actual facts that they state. Trump has declared a war on half the country and all facts. This is a bad but not completely unpredictable development in a nation that has split into two sides, with the Republican side attacking the media for a generation.
In the US today, it feels like people today don’t really believe the other political side has meaningful access to the universal values. The other side’s members are seen as either too idiotic or too morally flawed to grasp those fundamental values without which no human thoughts are meaningful to any human. And so both sides believe the other side is wandering in the dark of meaningless, but somehow self-satisfied and prideful nihilism. How could you meaningfully converse with people like that? How could you meaningfully collaborate with them to safeguard your republic?
Cooler, wiser, gentler impulses must prevail. Otherwise we’ll all wreck everything for everyone. We can admit that we ,may differ in some places and to some degree on our interpretations of the facts while still making the effort to discover and examine the facts together. We can vote out politicians who are clearly deconstructing the foundations of our shared representative democracy, while avoiding the extremes of conspiracy theories that dig and twist and contort until basically honest, uncorrupted, competent and well-intentioned politicians are “proven” to be enemies of the people. We can agree that some of the concerns motivating Trump’s policies — like what do we do with the rise and not-always-fair and/or -friendly-to-democracy China?, or what do we do when so many people want to leave their countries and start living in this one? — need to be taken seriously, while also agreeing that his blatant attacks on our shared government, his dangerous re-escalation of the nuclear arms race, and his denial of climate change and reversal of environmental protections in general represent immediate existential threats to us as a nation and a world; and that we must therefore vote against Trump and for Biden, who would like to move these critical issues in a better direction. We don’t have to agree on everything; but we must agree on stopping this disaster together and working together to gain mutual trust and understanding. We humans do not have the luxury of only getting along with and working with people who agree with us. We all rise or fall together. Even if it is inevitable that this world fail — and we don’t know that it is and should work together as best we can to together succeed –, the spiritual energy created now by admitting that we are all in this together and must accept one another as fellow participants of the One Light will, it seems reasonable to assume, aid us in the next shared adventure. Because we’re, it seems reasonable to assume, ever going to get rid of one another, and so our only hope is to learn to be glad to know one another.
author: a stumbling forward momentum left over from being a toddler charging ahead through the desert sun over blazing-hot white-bright concrete.
copyright: AM Watson
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