Hopeful Times: An Essay In Love
The sun is setting over the Indian ocean as I sit atop of a dune shifting in the wind, watching trees sway as the mist rolls in. Time itself takes on a tangible habit, the old cloth worn by an oracle shuffling across the beach to sit quietly with me and look back over everything that has happened. I hold my hopes for the future up in the glowing-fading light as the oracle clicks a rosary against a bowl, ticking time past into time possible and uttering a prayer for now, this ever revolving moment, crying out in the hope that human consciousness might be willing to take the next step in evolution.
I hope that we may come, for now (which is forever), to the centre of a cycle; that the collective unconscious might rise again to meet this sacred ground I’m sitting on, much like our Spaceship Earth rises into sunlight every night.
I hope that I can learn how to capture more of my sense of humour rather than letting all this spiritual stuff snake in at any opportunity*. How to sound less like a mystic mumbling truths only he cares about and more like modern marketers who focus on things like traction and click-throughs and unique visitors. I must admit that I like that last term, ‘unique visitors’ — as if we are building virtual spaces specifically designed to welcome strangers and get them to spend a little time with our thoughts. Cathedrals of the imagination that peddle narratives rather than products. The numinous beginnings of networked consciousness.
I hope that said marketers, musketeers of an age driven mad with advertising, might pay more attention to Foster Wallace’s E Unibus Pluram. That we might take some time out with a man who knew what it was to live in water and consciously confront the narcissism of marketing while holding onto the other-directed nature of the words it employs.
I hope that more will begin to work with me on a language between the subjective and objective — something like the trajective. Words which trace the movement from there to here, capable of occupying different spaces simultaneously and joining disparate points, of transporting I to you in such a way that both remain autonomous yet indubitably connected, a transaction between self and other that is recorded in the very fabric of how it is spoken. An executable language of process, pointing at the transfinite set of immanent life coursing around us, caught up in a dance that sages and prophets throughout the ages have drawn on. A musical language that, like all great metaphysical truths, is rooted immutably in love for those to whom it communicates, with whom it holds communion.
I hope that more people come to realise the great benefits in being able to manage the private keys to your own wealth, data and identities. We can all now, in some small way, opt out of corrupt and failing financial and political systems that continue to kick the can down a road that ends only in mutual ruin for powerful and powerless alike. Rebecca Solnit captures it well in her book Hope in the Dark:
“Imagine the world as a theater. The acts of the powerful and the official occupy center stage. The traditional versions of history, the conventional sources of news encourage us to fix our gaze on the stage. The limelights there are so bright they blind you to the shadowy spaces around you, make it hard to meet the gaze of the other people in the seats, to see the way out of the audience, into the aisles, backstage, outside, in the dark, where other powers are at work. A lot of the fate of the world is decided onstage, in the limelight, and the actors there will tell you that no other place matters.”
I hope that the visionaries building the decentralized, distributed systems that allow for people to manage their own wealth, data, and identities become less like the business people they are trying to disrupt and more like the human beings who would be capable of using such networks to their full potential, of utilising such novel connections to pull an adjacent possible of massive multi-user participation into our human narrative. As a Zulu proverb has it: Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu — a human is only a human being through other human beings. I hope we can find again this sacred sense of ubuntu and learn to appreciate shadowy spaces once more.
“What is onstage is a tragedy, the tragedy of the inequitable distribution of power and of the too-common silence of those who settle for being audience while paying the price of the drama. Traditionally, the audience is supposed to choose the actors, and the actors are quite literally supposed to speak for us. This is the idea behind representative democracy. In practice, various reasons keep many from participating in the choice, other forces — like money — subvert that choice, and onstage too many of the actors find other reasons — lobbyists, self-interest, conformity — to fail to represent their constituents.”
I hope that experiments in global collaboration and organization like BITNATION and Swarm succeed in implementing way-out ideas like liquid holocracy in effective and pragmatic ways. I hope such evolutionary collectives like Enspiral and Hylo can model how we might work together in increasingly greater numbers to solve the many problems left to our generation and the ones to come by a history that has not had a blockchain to ensure its resiliency, security, and immutability.
“The grounds for hope are in the shadows, in the people who are inventing the world while no one looks, who themselves don’t know yet whether they will have any effect, in the people you have not yet heard of who will be the next Cesar Chavez, the next Noam Chomsky, the next Cindy Sheehan, or become something you cannot yet imagine. In this epic struggle between light and dark, it’s the dark side — that of the anonymous, the unseen, the officially powerless, the visionaries and subversives in the shadows — that we must hope for. For those onstage, we can just hope the curtain comes down soon and the next act is better, that it comes more directly from the populist shadows.”
I hope that the vox populi might stand vivified and come to use the technologies that a privileged few are building to achieve an ecstatic understanding of their own autonomy, chained permanently to an appreciation of their fundamental connectedness to everything else. That each of us might experience more deeply the always-here-ness of being.
“Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm, I’m stricken
by the ricochet wonder of it all: the plain
everythingness of everything, in cahoots
with the everythingness of everything else.”
— Diane Ackerman
All of this is to say that I am filled with a great many hopes, and not an insignificant amount of trepidation for the new year. Yet, as Solnit and Ackerman so poetically remind me as I sit on shifting sands next to time’s oracle, that I hope is what matters. Though the Pandora’s Boxes we continually open release a great many problems which are now universal and demand truly global and collaborative solutions, they also set free a few more butterflies of hope. And though their flapping may seem insubstantial now, though they are — as ever — relegated to the fringes, as the network grows I hope these dark fringes will unleash a hurricane of the kind of feeling that has compelled me to write my peace.
Perhaps my favourite story about the natural world has to do with the migration of monarch butterflies across North America. Every year, as winter descends, these butterflies soar across the continent and gather in a few tiny areas in a particular part of a Mexican forest in such numbers that one cannot see the trees, covered as they are in orange and black brilliance. What is particularly fascinating about this whole phenomenon (apart from how they navigate to the same place each year and other magnetic musings) is that it takes the monarchs three generations to return to their summer home and live out a normal life. It is only every fourth generation — known as the ‘super generation’ — that is endowed with the extra strength and life-span to travel back to Mexico. A generation compelled to return.
My greatest hope — the dream that I will fight and die for — is that we are living, once more, in the time of a super generation capable of heeding the Earth’s subtle signs and avoiding a deathly winter of the spirit. Of gathering humanity in ancient and sacred forest spaces, drawn on by some inexplicable, genetic urge to go back. To survive. To come home.
I hope it is not too late, but the oracle beside me chuckles at this childish thought, knowing something we do not. All of time a dream and this sand-strewn wanderer just lately woken up.
*I clearly failed in this particular hope. As recompense for those who have made it this far I offer you a joke. The past, the present and the future walk into a bar… It was tense.