Our New God Will Be Virtual

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A few days ago Russell Lockhart (ral’s notebook.com) published a blog “Hacking Your Dreams”. Here are the last two paragraphs:

“As I noted in an earlier blog post, we are now deep into the robotic replacement of humans. One step along the way, will be the robotic replacement of dreams and as this unfolds dreams will be monetized. You will soon be able to buy the dreams you want. Or, as advertising becomes ever more successful, you will want to buy what others want you to dream.

Be ready.”

After pondering the meaning of the article for a few hours I began to note my reactions to what the blog portends. I felt a range of emotions- grief  for the what a loss of dreams would mean for humanity and the Earth, anger over allowing ourselves to be gradually turned in to machines and pain in my heart for the life lost as the machines sever us from our connection to nature. All of these feelings melded into a sense of sadness about the present and the future.

I wanted to do something about all of this, to make it go away so that I could function in my day. I didn’t like how vulnerable it made me feel. Pushing these feelings away away, trying to forget or deny them, led to dull anxiety gnawing away at me instead. I knew where this angst would lead- body symptoms, a headache or back pain- as my soul reacted to a deflection of life energy into a dark pit. What was this dark pit I asked myself? Was it despair from feeling unable to do anything about a future leading to a soul death of humanity and of the Earth? With the “powers” pushing us towards this eventuality and with the complexity of modern civilization was the angst about finding ways to be heard let alone create change. Was the pain of present losses compounded by the prospect of such a soulless future part of the darkness? Perhaps all of these fears added up to a fear of the unknown, a fear of the future.  I ended up feeling paralyzed as to what I could do or respond with.

Eventually I decided to write as I am doing to undertake a sorting process around these painful issues and engage negative capability as a different perhaps ludicrous response to the paralysis. So I sat still and opened myself to whatever voice wished to speak. This is what appeared.

The imagery of Cypher, a character in the first Matrix movie, first came to mind in what is called “The Matrix Steak Scene”. Cypher is sitting in a fancy restaurant at a small round table with Mr. Smith. Cypher decides to sell out his companions to Mr. Smith because he is tired of the battle against the machines and desires to remain in the world of the Matrix instead. As part of the agreement Cypher asks Mr. Smith to make sure he, Cypher, doesn’t remember what he has done, he wants to be rich in his new Matrix life and someone important, he pauses thinking, “an actor” he says after a few seconds.  We see a wee bit of irony in the script writer’s choice of “vocation” in that moment. In a later scene where he “pulls the plug” killing some of his companions in the Matrix Cypher speaks about being tired of always having to follow orders, of being a minion rather than a boss. In this moment is he experiencing a sense of being powerful even though his power comes through betrayal and cowardice? Does knowing he won’t remember what he has done assisted by the Matrix virtual reality allow him to excuse, compartmentalize, or repress his guilt? What human behavior is like this?

Here we can see the malignant narcissism of the ego in full flower. Reality is too difficult for this man’s weak ego; his ego wants power and control at any cost as compensation; he would rather live in unconscious denial in a machine made image filled oblivion or virtual reality illusion where he has absolutely no responsibility for his previous actions, nor remember them, all characteristics of a sociopath.

Then I asked myself is there much of a difference between what he is doing and our civilization’s denial of climate change, ecosystem destruction and species extinction? Are we not betraying each other and the natural world in particular so that we can live in an illusion of human progress, a kind of virtual reality through unconscious repression? If Russell Lockhart’s suggestions are accurate in the near future we will be able to more thoroughly escape our betrayal by increasing immersion and distraction in technology, VR, and eventually even in our dreams. How convenient it would be to avoid the pain of our souls and our hearts caused by this betrayal.  Stress induced body symptoms from this betrayal will be “medicated” away (alcohol, marijuana, opioids, anti-depressants); the destruction wrought by our betrayal and reflected in our dreams will be soothed with VR. In fact we could be sold a whole new reality to avoid the guilt and pain of our complicity in creating a world in extremity; and like Cypher choose to believe the “steak” or the new story implanted in us is real. The malignant narcissistic ego is capable of that level of self and soul deception. To me this is a form of evil.

Despite our attempts to rid ourselves of religion and God through our belief in reason, the religious or spiritual impulse remains alive in us and finds places to be expressed. We are simply ignorant and unconscious of this process going on underground as it is projected on material things in our secular civilization. Since the Enlightenment this impulse has been projected incrementally on science, technology and the “stuff” of consumerism. More recently and to greater and greater degrees it is projected on money as money is the common thread that binds them. Sounds like the “One Ring” doesn’t it?

“One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them; One ring to bring them all. and in the darkness [unconsciousness] bind them.”

The commodification or monetization of everything, including dreams is the ritual enactment of the etymological meaning of religion, to “bind to” as is expressed so well by the inscription on the One Ring, the Ring of Power, above. We are binding ourselves ever more tightly to our projected symbol of God as our anxiety and underlying fears about life and the world grow. Binding ourselves to money for its God like or spiritual powers, power over something, more control, security and comfort, enabling the buying of things to calm anxiety and in vain attempts to sooth our tortured souls.  One can see this binding in the financialization of the world economy; coin and paper money becoming mere digits or light in a computer is a form of spiritualization, the complex mystical algorithms finance uses to function, its arcane language interpreted by money priests of all sorts and the outright worship of money by a range of people not just the 1% are all aspects of being bound to something as a form of belief. It is a religion of money, where faith in money’s power gives one seemingly God-like freedom and control over life and a means to defy death especially the death of the planet and the human species.

Now as the crises we are facing deepen technology is likely the next God waiting in the wings for our spiritual projection of the all-powerful one. Why do I say this? Often times when I discuss the crises facing us and the finite nature of the planet the answer I get back is a professed faith in technology. Technology will save us I am told or read in a variety of media. It seems to me individuals and society says this  in order to avoid  truly feeling and thinking about the consequences of the way we live in our civilization. Technology will save us from our sins. Believing this we don’t have to go any further. If we did acknowledge our responsibility then much of the meaning of western civilization, its greatness, our grand visions of progress and of attaining a final utopia would crumble into dust. How could we live with that? I suspect most people couldn’t.  It is a belief that flies in the face of what is actually happening to the planet and to humanity. How then does one come to terms with losing so much that we love?

As life becomes more extreme it is quite possible that technology will become the last great hope for salvation and idolized, seen as magical, even fetished and will be used as a form of control to reduce anxiety and increase security. Many human beings may willingly accept this authoritarian and powerful God if it brings relief however temporary or illusional from the anxiety and underlying fear of collapse. By collapse I mean the collapse of our beliefs and faith in the stories underpinning modernity, and the disintegration of the physical structures and functions of our powerful and “progressive” modern civilization.

We already bow down to the God of money. Will humanity also make technology omniscient and its technologists and owners our masters?

We can become more consciousness of where our religious impulse is going and develop new stories about our relationship to money and technology. Then new roles for money or technology in human life are possible but we are not doing that much at all.

The invisible wires of control developed by Edward Bernays are expanding. Could humanity someday become as in the Matrix, serfs used to provide energy and raw material for a machine or robotic civilization? Will our “bosses” be machines, or AI symbiants, part human, part machine? If we allow ourselves to live in an illusion but accept it as reality there is no telling how far this could go. We are already doing this by denying what is happening to the Earth and to humanity to avoid our fears and the vulnerability that comes from the loss of what we love, of Home.

Some human beings back in the late 1990’s could imagine a future such as portrayed in the Matrix and created it in a movie. The natural world of which we are a part is replaced by machines and technology. Our connection to the root of life is being severed.

We become what we do, we become what we think, the natural world endures all of this. I desire a different path, a life that is led by a relationship to Mystery, my own soul and with the soul of the world. In this kind of life one attempts to be at home with uncertainty and vulnerability, to feel our fears and not deny them. We learn how to find the courage and strength to look at what is truly happening inside ourselves and out there, to see they are related and connected, and then finally act from our hearts.

Cypher holds up a piece of steak on his fork as he sits with Mr. Smith. Looking at it Cypher says he knows the steak doesn’t exist, when he puts it in his mouth, the Matrix will tell him it is juicy and delicious. Then he says “after 9 years [of fighting the machines] you know what I realize?” putting the steak in his mouth, “ignorance is bliss”, chewing his face expresses pleasure.

Is ignorance or unconsciousness of doing something harmful, bliss? The human ego malignant or otherwise, unwilling to experience psychological pain, to suffer and bear the guilt and consequences of its choices, remains deeply narcissistic. Money and technology are used to remain safe and comfortable, our materialist society’s version of bliss. The Other, nature and our fellow human beings, bear the burden of this narcissism.

In the next blog I will write about how one might approach being at home with our fears.

 

 

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Walking the Crooked Path

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Slocan Lake Experience April 2014

On Saturday I ride my bike north on the highway a half kilometer uphill out of New Denver turning west off of the highway to rejoin the Galena Trail (an old narrow gauge railway line) descending downhill along the east side of Slocan Lake. About three quarters of the way to Roseberry which is the small town 8 km north of New Denver the trail is flat and 40 meters from the side of the lake. Something about the beach and the shallow water off the beach attracts my attention. There is a feeling here of quiet, calm and restfulness about the place and an immense strength of some sort. Riding on to Roseberry  I take pictures of a rusted antique truck in the woods and sit listening quietly by the lake. I ride through town to a campground on the side of Wilson Creek which runs through Roseberry and in to Slocan Lake. After riding around the campground for a bit I head back up the Galena Trail towards New Denver and home. Reaching the place where my attention was drawn earlier I stop. I see a small trail off to the right which winds down to the lake. Walking my bike down I see a former wooden address sign with a name and number on it attached to a tree like an invitation. Leaning my bike against a dead birch tree  I walk the rest of the way down to the beach perhaps 20 meters. Sitting on a log I pull Daniel Deardorff’s book “The Other Within” out of my pannier and I lay down on my back on the rocky beach with my bike helmet over my face to relax. The day is warmish and I go into a kind of reverie gradually relaxing in my body. I feel teary-eyed with weariness from the tension I’ve been carrying in myself for quite some time. I feel like this place could support me without asking anything of me, sort of like being on both our parts. I doze for about half an hour and then waking up I see a storm front coming in from the south. I decide to pack up and ride back uphill to the highway and down into New Denver.

The following day I repeat the route towards Roseberry stopping at the beach again. This time after I sit down on the beach and start reading Daniel Deardorff’s book things start to happen. First I notice that the lake is absolutely calm. I feel a responding sense of serenity and quiet rising up in myself leading to an opening feeling in my body and mind. Now I hear noise on the lake. Thirty meters offshore three little brown ducks swim slowly in the calm water. I notice with delight the moving, rippling and shimmering water around the swimming ducks. Suddenly one duck, the next and then the last one dive underwater with a schlooping sound hunting fish. About a half minute later each one comes back up with a schliping sound. I watch the ducks move around for about 10 minutes. Gradually the sound of splashing and many bird calls in the middle of the lake comes in to my consciousness. Looking out on the lake I see hundreds of birds, maybe Terns, splashing and moving about on the water. They have a feeling of life, vibrant life, a sense of continuity and instinct which touches and activates something primordially similar in me. I notice my breathe deepening  Another sound off to my right at about 2 o’clock. Turning I see silvery white movements and splashing of water. At first I can’t make out what is going on especially as it increases in intensity over five minutes. Slowly I realize the silver shapes are large trout spawning, mating or just playing in the water near the surface. I feel the connection, the erotic feeling of it all as my instinctive imagination responds to the action. A ladybug flies by me and comes back landing on the meaty part of my left thumb. Looking down I see a red carapace with no black dots. The red color has a faint purple undertone. The beetle seems be staying so I decide not to disturb its repose and I sit reading and watching all the goings-on in the lake. I feel softness come in to my heart and body around her trust in me. A few minutes later me I hear a snap and a crash behind me. Twisting around to the right I see something dark move in the trees at the edge of the beach. At first it looks like something lept from a dead birch tree into a cedar tree so I search the trees for a minute or two looking for a cougar.  When nothing ferocious appears I relax. I realize a branch has fallen from the dead birch by the trail down to the beach. A large gray branch is lying down on the trail. I leaned my bike against that tree yesterday. Something suggested to me today that I bring my bike all the way down to the beach. If I had left it by the birch it would have been damaged. Hmmm? I feel a sense of compensation, a sense of something balancing out, from this experience.  The image of the dark, alive wooden wagon in a recent dream comes up in me. The dream seems to be speaking about balance from one scene to the next. Now I notice that the ladybug has flown away from my thumb. Maybe from my movements. Looking down to read I see that it has landed on page (XXI) on the word “the”. The full sentence containing the ‘’the’’ is ‘’Blake says Improvement makes strait roads, but (the) crooked roads without Improvement are roads of Genius.” Inside I say well this speaks to me because I have been so busy Improving myself at times that I neglect and don’t fully value the crooked roads. Today was certainly being on one of those crooked roads. She flies away and I say good bye to her, thanking her for her trust and love.

I look out at the lake and I notice FOUR little brown ducks all schlooping and schliping in and out of the water. Something joyful leaps up from my heart. And then the negating rational voice comes. Was I being too irrational  in my seeing and responses to all that I have experienced today? Nature couldn’t be speaking to me so directly could it? Or is it that nature simply speaks holy/wholly as its own being which has nothing to do with me? So then the voice says all of this was coincidence and instinct on the part of the creatures I was with. I pause and take a deep breath in. I listen inside. Deep in my heart and from previous experience I do know that “something” was happening. Putting the negative voice aside I feel deeply blessed and honored to be able to be witness to sacredness of Being all the while being in the container of the Slocan Valley and the mountains. Looking up at the sky I notice the weather is shifting towards rain again so I read a bit more from my book,  pack up and pedal back to New Denver ruminating and mulling over my experience.

In Golden on my way back home I’m lying in bed before going to sleep. I start gently weeping in gratitude for the gift of those moments on Slocan Lake. I keep saying thank you, thank you in deep gratitude. Later, before I fall asleep a sense of service towards this experience begins to take hold in my heart. I pray to Mystery to guide me further. Sleep.

In the next blog I will write about imagination and how I walked further along the crooked path out of this experience.

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Hummingbird

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In this blog I am describing a new way of relating to dreams and imagination to help us creatively deepen and expand a new story of the people and the Earth.

A few nights ago I had a dream with the following scene: I am part of a small group of people about to be shown around a large older warehouse. The outer sides of the space are divided into open cubicles. I am being shown around by an older man who is my mentor. He has us walk over to the first cubicle on the left. I see a younger man with dark hair sitting on a chair. He puts on a set of black headphones and then picks up an object in his right hand. I see that it is oblong, about a foot long and half as wide. There is a whitish dome over the top two thirds and at the open end the bottom is dug out in to a bowl. I see a hummingbird come out from under the dome and sit in the bowl. My mentor says the young man is learning to connect deeply with nature through the headphones. Then the young man takes off the headphones and holds out his left hand. The hummingbird flies out of the bowl and lands on the young man’s open palm. I feel a sense of grace blossom in myself as I watch the hummingbird land. My mentor says that they are one, in relationship out of their own choosing. I feel my heart resonate openly with all I am experiencing.

As soon as I woke up I remembered the dream going over it a few times in my mind. I attempted to notice where a scene would catch my attention and strike a chord in me. Later on in the day as I was doing other things the scene described above came to me unbidden. I feel the scene chose itself with me in relationship with it (like the young man with the hummingbird in his hand). In other words we chose each other. This scene spoke to my heart in a way that I didn’t experience in the rest of the dream. I experienced something new in what arose and in my dream ego’s response to it. There were old familiar patterns in the dream and in some of my reactions to them. Instead of interpreting what this fragment or the whole dream meant I looked for the feeling of an opening resonance in my heart. In another dream what catches my attention will be something else.

It was at this moment, when I and the part of the dream resonated with each other, that I let my imagination go to work. In the past I often sat waiting for something more to happen. Often nothing did. Nothing new moved or arose. Still it may for you.  I realized slowly that I needed to let these resonant parts rest in me like an embryo or and egg rather than focusing intently on having something happen with my mind.  With this approach a new image would arise later unexpectedly, usually when I was moving.

What came this time was the hummingbird flying away from the young man’s hand. Around the warehouse he went. I could hear the sound of him flying. He was humming. Yes a new song. I felt my spirits rise and move with him. There was a sense of freedom and intensity as I soared around. Then the hummingbird was back on his shell in the bowl. I could see his colours. He had light green iridescent breast feathers and a very soft yellow body with light grey sides. At first I felt a judgement in myself about his colouring. Kind of dull colouring a voice said in me. I let this voice fade away rather than engaging with it, or trying to figure out what part of me might be saying that, or what it meant. I take these parts and work with them at the end of the process. Otherwise I end up at a creative dead end conceptualizing and controlling the dream imagery with my ego.

Later that day I painted the hummingbird below.  He is beautiful to me even though the painting is not ‘technically’ very good, perhaps more in the realm of art brut. What stays with me is my being the hummingbird, experiencing his flight, his energy, and his freedom, being unfettered and connected to the air. A new song. I found the experience beautiful and I felt different in myself afterward.

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The description of what I did in relationship to the dream scene above is not cast in stone thereby becoming dogma and technique. What I feel is most important here are all of the new and different experiences that I go through-noticing and relating to the nuances in the dream and then after I wake up. These experiences are new, gifts from our deeper selves and nature that begin to create new threads of seeing and relating to ourselves and other beings. We can also begin to experience new parts of ourselves through our imagination and creativity like in the painting above.

Does the hummingbird singing a new song trigger something in you? Maybe a poem?

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