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Martin LeFevre: The First Question

The First Question

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

The greatest question that science and religion aren’t asking pertains to the relationship between humans and the cosmos.

Specifically, how did Homo sapiens, which evolved along with all other life, evolve the power to become such a destructive force to the entire fabric of life on earth?

Without answering that question in action, firstly within one individually, and secondly in consciousness collectively, governments can hold environmental summits until hell freezes over (or until the ice caps are melted), and nothing will change.

There is obviously a lot more work to be done before the manifest level of politics and policy manifests intelligence. As it is, the lies and games of politics continue unabated. Whether that means the earth will become denuded at the hands of man, and humans will become a consumeristic and technological husk of what we once were, is unknown.

The urgent question of man’s relationship to the earth does not even register in most philosophy programs, nor does it occur to the vast majority of scientists, who are too busy pursuing their specializations and making their reputations to bother about such things. In any case, the question of the human conundrum will not be answered through philosophical treatises or scientific experiments.

Why is ‘human nature’ so impervious to insight? The rampant worldwide culture of self-fulfillment, whether in terms of empty materialism or empty spirituality, is a great part of the reason. So is the absence of a clear alternative. But resistance to self-knowing and transformation goes beyond these things.

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Human nature is seen as both an immutable state and an indefinable quality. At bottom, it is just a series of age-old tendencies over laden with habit and driven by self-fulfilling prophecies. Even beyond these causes however, resistance to radical change is very strong, not just in reactionary conservatives, but in sophisticated progressives as well. Why?

Could insight into how one species became a planet killer spur a breakthrough in ‘human nature?’ Perhaps, but the explanation, however clear and insightful, won’t change the explained, you and me. Only self-knowing and questioning can do that.

Humans evolved along with other life, but all other life functions in a seamless flow of birth and death, prey and predation, emergence and extinction. Only humans acquired the power to become planet killers. What does that mean for the development of life itself?

It’s ironic that Christian theology, which puts ‘man’ at the center of creation, is still the main source of denial in many quarters about the effect that man is having on the creatures and planet under our dominion. Placing humans at the center and above creation has given Western civilization tremendous motive force. But the crude brutalities and impositions of Western civilization have been eclipsed by a much more dangerous global consumer civilization, based on individualism. Perhaps that’s what the Islamic world is reacting to at bottom.

However the conundrum goes way beyond Western civilization, much less American capitalism, no matter how widely adopted and adapted it has become in China and elsewhere. Armageddon fantasies notwithstanding (American TV is chocked full of them lately), it’s clear that something more than random activity is going on here with human evolution.

Apparently, given the right conditions and enough time, the evolution of life involves an increase in neural capacity until a creature capable of symbolic thought emerges. Certainly ‘higher thought’ gave us the ability to manipulate our environments, and break the bond of ecological niche. Even the next smartest animals on earth, the Orcas (named, in man’s image, “Killer Whales”) still live within ecological niches. Only humans do not.

Obviously, along with the capacity for symbolic thought goes the tendency to divide and fragment, which is the root of self-centeredness, war, and ecological destruction. ‘Human nature’ has its basis in man’s ability to separate, which grew into the evils of tribal, national, and individual division. Indeed, so great is the tendency to psychologically divide that separation is seen as the core principle of life, rather than the seamless flow of energy and matter, which is the universe’s actuality.

Without the ability to consciously separate, humans would not exist. But though separation as a function is necessary, and the true ‘Promethean fire,’ the mistake of perceiving the universe in term of it is very deeply embedded. Science requires separation, but searching for “the fundamental building blocks of all things,” as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland purports to do, is an exercise in futility.

“Recreating the conditions just after the Big Bang by colliding two subatomic beams head-on at very high energy” may be excellent science, but it’s terrible philosophy. Einstein and nuclear weapons proved that energy and matter are interchangeable, so the very notion that there are “fundamental building blocks”—that is, supposedly discrete subatomic particles—is absurd. Indeed, the idea of ‘particles’ is a product of the way the human mind works, not the way the universe does.

In short, consciousness as we know it is separative, self-centered, and divisive in its very nature. That’s why we call it ‘human nature.’

But there is another kind of consciousness altogether, as far from New Age wishful thinking as the teachings of Jesus are from Christianity. And life is urgently demanding that we awaken it.

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Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: martinlefevre@sbcglobal.net. The author welcomes comments.

ENDS

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