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.
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.