“Don’t stick to anything, not even the truth.” Suzuki Roshi
Liberated minds are in increasingly short supply. Bewitched from all sides by the ephemeralities of post-industrial culture, a mind able to run its own numbers is a rare and unique commodity. As a prerequisite, a liberated mind needs to master the art of thinking. Of course, thinking is tricky business.
The world is chock full of facts, many of them meaningless. The ability to ignore a bogus factoid is a sophisticated skill, especially in today’s cheeky Ballroom Data Dancing. But in order to be one’s own chauffeur, sorting through the spam is a crucial talent. To add to the miasmic mess, we are now awash in opinions, including a few of my own. Turn on any electronic device and prepare to be confronted with opinionated drivel. Only the rare free thinker has a chance to surf above this jetsam of human noise.
The point is this: time spent processing streams of cultural hype and circumstance is time lost. And, since the clock waits for no one, the only sane approach to life is to live fully engaged, thinking for one’s self. And in order for a mind to be free, it must be greater than the sum of its synapses.
Yogi Berra once quipped, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” Which raises the proverbial question: Do you want to get there, even if you do know where you’re going?
This seemingly nonsensical bit of dialectical banter is actually a critical data point in the vast matrix of human mind mojo. Which is the long way of saying that most members of the species Homo erectus asphaltus have no idea where they want to go in the first place. So wanting to get there is a patently absurd exercise disguised as organized erudition.
Add to that the absurd conundrum that most humans have little interest in taking responsibility for their own lives, preferring instead to leave the unfoldment of their karmic destiny in the hands of Fate. Or, worse yet, to various forms of syndicated baloney posing as “the government.” Uncle Sham knows best, especially where your life is concerned. And in return for our collective willingness to play along, our benevolent Uncle hands out candy, entertainment, and much needed medication as a token gesture of the wisdom of complacency, to garble one of Cactus Ed’s more flavorful admonitions.
It’s relatively hard to think for one’s self after slogging through an ontogeny fueled by music videos, reality TV, junk food, pseudo-news, Super Pacs, trans fats, disco, Gears of War 3, and talk radio. As the wise man said, “The proof’s in the pudding.” Clones R us.
What’s weird about this scenario is how predictable it all is. Even the ragtag anti-capitalist Occupiers are about as unique as a plastic Bobblehead made in Chongqing. You’d think the so-called “progressive” movement could come up with a new costume by now. You know your Movement is in trouble when the average activist looks like a shroom victim from last year’s Bonnaroo festival.
The situation boils down to a simple question: How does one think for one’s self in the Dimformation Age? It must not be easy, or everybody would be doing it. Or would they?
BBC News recently reported on exciting developments [no pun] at the lovely Rio+20 Summit. Whereupon, a gaggle of science geeks decided that as a prerequisite to saving the world from a host of nefarious human-induced calamities, we must “take action on population and consumption.” While demonstrating a keen sense of the obvious, these same Summiteers appear to suffer from a malady common to many in the neo-Green community: Struthio camelus Syndrome.
Even the dimmest light bulb can see that our blue green planet is being whooped up on by seven billion drunk monkeys. And the idea that Homo erectus asphaltus is projected to reach upwards of nine billion in time for Super Bowl MML is FUBAR, to say the least. But we don’t need the UK’s Royal Society to tell us which way the wind is blowing. We can see for ourselves.
Then there’s our species’ neurotic tendency to consume for the sake of consumption. If the old battle cry “Shop till you drop” makes any sense to you, please have your medication adjusted before you do harm to yourself or others. It doesn’t take a calculus professor to figure out that billions of primates are rapidly gobbling up the planet’s resources in a mad rush to acquire flat screen TVs, Nike Air Jordans, SUVs, iPhones, toaster ovens, mood rings, Patagonia fleece underwear, and a three car garage to put it all in. What is, is.
On the other hand, Green Summiteers seem perplexed when it comes to viable solutions for what ails us. It’s hard to see the 3rd growth forest for the plastic trees while neck deep in the proverbial sand. It’s one thing to tell us what we already know, but workable fixes are another animal altogether.
“If the billion poorest people are to have adequate access to food, water and energy, the academies say, developed countries will have to reduce their own consumption of natural resources…… They say this can be done without reducing prosperity so long as different economic models are followed.”
Ah so — all we need is a “new model” and the Game can go on! Poof, problem solved.
Let’s have a vote: All who believe that the United States, China, the European Union [no pun], India, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Russia will adopt a new economic model by the time Rio+40 rolls around, raise your hand. Drum roll……. as expected, no hands (except a few over at Grist dot org).
Even assuming such models could be foreseen, how would they be created? By whom? Are we talking about a World Government with police powers to enforce the new paradigm? What sort of “prosperity” are the Summiteers dreaming of? Who decides how natural resources are allocated, assuming we’re looking at some sort of “equitable” distribution of goods and services? I don’t know about you, but my bet is that Ted Nugent might have something to say about this mumbo jumbo before it’s all over. And I’m not talking about a “Journey to the Center of Your Mind,” either. No matter what your political sensibilities, never bet against Ted Nugent!
Bottom line time — take a gander at the world around you and ponder why it is like it is. Things don’t simply jump out of hats, like magic. They appear because some form of energy moved in a particular direction, guided by somebody’s hand, for better or worse. CNN doesn’t babble all day for nothing. We are a busy species, creating one hell of a freak show, 24/7.
And while it might seem like the world is a zany kaleidoscope, beyond anyone’s ability to fathom, the fact is that somebody, somewhere, is making decisions right this moment that will affect you in ways you can’t imagine.
Those who cultivate the ability to think for themselves, backed by the kind of data designed to add value to one’s existence (information!), tend to exit the wormhole in better shape than those who see themselves as part of the herd. Of course, such evolutionary sleight of hand is anathema to basic primate social engineering, where the Alpha male sets the tone for the rest of the troop as they swing through the jungle in search of digestible protein. But there’s always an alternative to blind submission to our genetic predispositions. Otherwise, we all might as well take up smoking asap.
In actuality, we do need a new model. And not just where natural resources are at stake. But, as always, the buck stops inside every one of our bony noggins. We’re responsible for our actions, despite the fact that our present iteration of American culture has decided to divest itself of common sense, not to mention long-range strategic thinking in a world shakier than Elvis’ hips.
Perhaps the answer will appear from where it usually does: the ground up. Every time I gulp down a bottle of micro-brewed IPA, or savor a plate of local turnip greens and corn bread, I sense the worm turning ever so slightly. As we make our own choices, we spin the cosmic wheel, creating our world to come. Either we think for ourselves, or somebody will do it for us.
As the Unknown Pundit said, “Think global, drink local.”
NED MUDD is a regular contributor to The Zephyr. he lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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