The dream of technology is to free “us” from the drudgery of work. The “clean” version of this, as opposed to the way it usually works in practice, is supposed to be a world in which machines do all the drudgery, even including the drudgery of creating their replacements in a toxic “evolution.” This freedomContinue reading “Work”
We inhabit – or would, if we stopped looking past it – a wondrous unfolding present. We are, or can train ourselves to be, witnesses to that unfolding. The discipline and humility required to inhabit our present: to live within a gift, is in itself a corrective that might lead us to a future we cannot predict. If we fail to inhabit our present we lose the only thing we know we have. Unless we turn our meditation on the future into motivation to focus on our present, we give up a “sure-thing” to remain within a chimera, a fantasy of heaven or hell, imagined brightly or darkly, arrived at actively or passively; but assuredly no-where.
This is where art comes in. It’s not in essays or speeches, all of which are so hard to distinguish from polemic by their very form, that minds can be affected. In fiction, in visual art, in poetry we have the best means of establishing a body of shareable “experiences” that begin to forge a new way of being in the world. These can have the effect of drawing people to them as opposed to simply setting up their defenses to resist new ideas. In an eagerness to misunderstand whenever someone hears that “poetry is the answer,” they will only see whatever form of art they personally dislike and find easy to discount. Probe a little deeper and there isn’t anyone who isn’t affected by poetry, of the kind they do open themselves to, by whatever name it goes by.
Externalities. The term has been hidden within Economics since the beginning of its study of human endeavor and its look for potential ways to measure our activities. It’s been there since the first human error in judgment, the first break with the world of pure instinct, our first attempts to outsmart the balanced books that were our pre-human inheritance. The behavior was there, but until a profession created a meretricious term for it; giving these blunders a safe place to hide on our balance sheets, we were ashamed, or at least embarrassed by these holes in our understanding of how our accounts broke down.
In this case, even as we see the collapse of specialized, narrow-view expertise in every part of our public life, we have taken in the assumptions on which their “authority” was based, and strive to act the same way when we make our own decisions. This is a detail within the wider success of the modern world-view. It has been able to dominate without generating an elevated concern amongst its victims that it is coercing them into accepting its premises. Where earlier “tyrannies” wore their coercive powers”on their sleeves,” the current system has internalized them within its individual members.
Here is where I disagree with those still caught up in the optimism/pessimism see-saw. The coming age will assuredly be Tragic, and it will include untold hardship and danger; but it does not have to be seen as a “Fall.” It does not have to be seen as a descent into poverty. As Illich said, “Poverty was invented.” If we can use this opportunity to generate new Forms, actually create a New Age out of the ruins of this one – again, the B.S. attached to this terminology threatens to derail us completely if we do not insist on chipping away the coruscation on our language to find real meanings in what we say. Unless we imagine something else out of the threads that present themselves to us precisely at this moment, we will be condemned to a true poverty, a poverty of imagination, a lack of Deep Imagining.