Thursday, January 26, 2017

On the way to rehumanize all life....

Time is the all-embracing meaningful movement of each of our lives. We cannot separate time from significance, nor significance from life's movement. There is no "natural world." Nature is an interpretation that subtracts, or better, abstracts, human life from experience. A natural world is a world imagined; it is a [fantasy] world free from the perspectival dynamic of a truly human and living world. The natural world, the historical origins of which live in Ancient Greece, is that abstraction which--when seen through a moralistic lens of ecological thinking--blinds us to a world that pulsates with our breath of life giving rise to human experience.

Here is an illustration of how our "world," i.e., our experience, becomes dehumanized or decultured. Not long ago, European archaeologists began looking at the many megalithic structures, such as Stonehenge or Gobekli Tepe, that have been part of the European and Middle Eastern scenery for many centuries. Archaeologists, being what they are, looked at these megaliths and could only guess what they were, when they were constructed,  and hence, what purpose they served. Nor did they know how these megaliths were constructed. Now, they have constructed several theories or "stories" that serve to answer questions of meaning, construction, use and the like. Now, when these archaeologists and those of us who also take interest in these stone creations look at them, we perceive something altogether different than our 18th or 19th century explorers or archaeologists perceived. We now are "educated" to perceive "places of worship," or "sacred sites," or examples of "sacred geometry." We know what they are, or think we know. So, they are no longer enigmatic, but form a component of our knowledge store of ancient civilizations. We have actually changed what is seen when we gaze at the megaliths.

Now, imagine that everything that we humans perceive or cognize (conceptualize), or "know" in the most general sense, has gone this route from "something unknown" to something "known." All of what each of us knows would then start as "something-to-be-dealt-with" to finding a place in the ensemble of our knowledge. I say "something-to-be-dealt-with" because to come upon something unknown is to come upon a problem, something to be made sense of so that we know what to do with that something--whatever it may turn out to be. In this case, knowledge precedes action. An act (karma) cannot be taken without knowing, in some sense, what the many things around us are. We need to know what there is in order to know what to do. This all sounds so simple and yet this process, if not deeply understood, can cause us a whole litany of problems--not to mention suffering. I hope that we can be guided from its superficial layers to a much deeper understanding of our notion that the world(s) we live, our experience, is made of knowledge and therefore is not a natural world. We can, via our imagination, attempt to suspend our knowledge faculty and fantasize a return to a time before knowledge, as some might interpret the Garden of Eden as being. But this would be a purely fictitious world, not a lived one.

Our ancestors have bequeathed to us a vast number of interpretations of "things," i.e., a history, that does not conceal a natural world beneath those interpretations, but reveals the only worlds we humans have ever known, the perspectival ones. (Even the notion of "thing" arises from interpretation.) We have always lived in human worlds not earth, not the universe, not a natural world, not a noumenal world, and certainly not an imaginary world--for we live our perspectival worlds as reality itself. There is nothing beneath them, no pure unadulterated, or divine world, but the ones we face moment-to-moment in a rarely broken process without interruption.

I mentioned, in the first paragraph, that "ecological" thinking presumes that nature is in need of cleansing--ethics and ecology are inseparable. Well, there is certainly a dire need for cleansing but what precisely needs to be cleansed? If nature results from an adopted and historically generated perspective and that perspective is more often than not a deeply ingrained component of our perceptual systems, then the root problem of ecology lies within each of us. If nature is disclosed as perspectival, as David Hume might have said along with us, then our ecological thinking as well as remedial actions toward our environment must be revisioned.

     ...'tis impossible for us so much as to conceive or form an idea of any thing specifically different from [our perceptions]. Let us fix our attention out of ourselves as much as possible: Let us chase our imaginations to the heavens, or to the utmost limits of the universe; we never really advance a step beyond ourselves, nor can conceive any kind of existence, but those perceptions, which have appeared in that narrow compass.* (Bold italics mine)

*Hume, Treatise of Human Nature,


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