Monday, 23 September 2013

Thoughts On Our Civilization 1

A civilization is created when a particular group of people come together and a common world-view is created. Although there may be different cultures and sub-cultures within this group, they all share a very basic perception of what reality is. Such a civilization, for example, would be the modern technological civilization. So what are the basic memes of this civilization? I might take it back to the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, when the emphasis was put on rational thought, the scientific method, and skepticism toward anything that couldn't be objectively isolated. Humans could progress, using rationality, to a better world. I might add an additional emphasis on providing for the basic material needs of peoples and, to that end, gaining mastery over the natural world. 

After time the basic sense of reality that a civilization embraces becomes built into its warp and woof. It becomes subtly but powerfully embedded through every aspect of a civilization, through art, music, architecture, language, story, institutions and norms. We are born into this world view, or mindset, or mythology, not even conscious of how we have been programmed, of how our sense of reality is just one of many possible ways. If we spent an hour inside the mind and body of a member of the Yanomami tribe of the Amazon, I think we would be truly amazed at the extreme difference in perception (and I suspect the subtle and refined nature of their reason).

Some beekeepers have recently come to believe that the present size of the domestic bee is too large for it's own good, and that this was bred into the species by those who believed that a better bee was a bigger bee. So attempts have been made to breed the bee smaller. but it seems bees build cells the size of the one they were born in, changing their behaviour proves very hard. 

Today many are trying to move away from the values and perceptions of the modern world we have known for centuries. People are looking inward for a sense of the sacred that has been largely not valued by our culture. Materialism has proven to be only part of the equation. We are trying to understand life with more than our rationality. And we see that the natural world needs to be seen as a sacred trust, rather than just a resource.

And yet the old understandings, embedded in our culture, hold us back like a forcefield. The transition to a new perception of reality is a slow process, requiring a new mythology. Certain events, not always happy ones, can serve as symbols to re-orientate our culture. The recent coverage of the plight of the honeybee for example, publicized in a plethora of articles and movies, seems to be one of many events that are creating new images for our common mind, and hopefully our new civilization. But only when the new worldview acquires an overwhelming power, will it be able to dislodge the current reality.