10 Mai 2013

The Age of Reunion


In any addiction, the fix appears to work beautifully first: a servant life, an easer of pain, coming at a manageable cost. At first the sacrifices seem worth it, cast into some corner to be dealt with later. But sooner or later the cost grows to such proportions as to engulf the whole of life, even as its power to numb the pain diminishes.
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The inescapibility of the present crises is demolishing the fundamental illusion beneath the course of separation. As long as we believe ourselves to be discrete beings fundamentally separate from the environment, then in principle there is no limit to our ability to insulate ourselves from the degeneration of the social and natural environment. The world is an Other, and its suffering has nothing to do with me, provided I am skillful enough in insulating myself. Today, as the wreckage proliferates, its effects become increasingly difficult to manage. The habitual response is to try harder: to invent new technology to clean up the problems of the old, to insulate ourselves still more skillfully from the mess. But as this becomes impossible, as burgeoning crises overwhelm us, another possibility emerges: to abandon the program of insulation and control, and the conception of the separate self on which it rests.
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The way we relate to the world is written to our most basic mythos, our cosmology, our ontology-belief systems that underlie the superstructures of science and religion. It is our fundamental beliefs about who we are and about the nature of the universe that have generated human life as we know it, and the world as we experience it. If these beliefs remain unchanged, then unchanged as well will be the direction they take us. Our despair, then, is justified. Technology as we know it, and with it the program of control, will never fulfill the promise of the ascent of humanity. But herein also lies a great hope, because from despair comes surrender, and from surrender comes an opening to new beliefs, a new conception of self and world. From this might come a new way of relating to the world, a new mode of technology no longer dedicated to the objectification, control, and eventual transcendence of nature.
The collapse we are facing is more than 'our civilization' but of civilization itself, civilization as we know it. It is a collapse of a whole way of relating to the world, a whole way of being, a whole definition of self. For at the root of the technological addiction is our own off-separation from the universe, our self-conception as discrete and separate beings that goads us toward control. The disintegration of historical civilizations was a mere preview, the diffraction back onto history of the archetypal collapse that is overtaking us today.
What drives our addiction to technology? Underneath all addictions there is an authentic need that the addiction promises to meet. The narcotic says, 'I will kill the pain.' But of course the promise is a lie that leaves the true need unmet. The same goes for technology, driven by the imperative to control nature, which itself comes as well from an unmet need. It is a need that we all feel in different ways: as an anxiety endemic to modern life, as a near-universal feeling of meaninglessness, as a relentless ennui from which we can only ever be temporarily distracted, as a pervasive superficiality and phoniness. It is a feeling that something is missing. Some people call it a hole in the soul. What we are seeking in our technological addiction is nothing less than our lost wholeness, and its recovery is what lies on the other side of the imminent collapse of the regime of separation. 
Charles Eisenstein, The Ascent of Humanity 


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