Creature Comforts

In my view, the greatest illusion that affects people from industrial and information societies is the illusion of separateness and estrangement: separation from one another, separation from the animal kingdom, separation from the vibrant green milk of the earth itself.

Enclosed in our homes, classrooms, cars, and cubicles, we tend to minimize our cultural inheritance. There are few people I know who understand the thoughts they think are akin to what others also think, that the linguistic patterns in our minds are distributed from one to another over untold generations, poured like intoxicating soma from brainpan to brainpan, from the cradle to the grave, until we are drunk and emboldened with ideas.

This web site, these very sentences I am now composing, are both the intersection and clashes of things I've read about and considered, things like Plato's dialogues, the Old and New Testaments, Zen koans, FOUR QUARTETS, at least ten-thousand books, and the million comments from friends and relatives and teachers and co-workers shared over the years. All of these, steeping inside my brain, give rise to this text. If I had been born in another time or place, on a farm perhaps, if my days were passed working with livestock and vegetables, I would probably be thinking whether the cows needed tending, or about the weather, or trudging out to the back forty to mend fences and shoot at predators, anything but the construction of words and phrases in a digital medium.

Cro Magnon Couple in Undies

On several occassions, books and college classes challenged and changed the direction of my thoughts. They imprinted information but also impressed doubts, strange ideas, skeptical questions, moral and ethical incertitude. Through language I was permitted into the minds of others, I encountered parts of other people's lives. Reading Shakespeare, Hesse, Kirkegaard, Sartre, et al, I lived the passions and emotional bombardments of people other than me. As human beings in the twenty-first century, we are a collection of personalities both past and present, an amalgamation of thoughts and ideas, some of which we chose, some we stumbled upon, some which were imposed on us, some we thirsted after and sought out until we found them, or they found us.

But it is not only this communal nature that seems to escape us. More perilously, we have forgotten that we are animals. That, like other gregarious creatures, we desire to breed, snuggle, have friends, play with others, feel support of the community, interact socially, and so on. Being mammals, we have a limited degree of intelligence. Each of us, if raised in solitude, removed from social conditioning and enculturation, would probably not be much smarter than some of the other primates. What truly distinguishes us is not so much our greater cognitive ability but our lingual-syntactic culture. It was this culture that allowed us to engender agriculture, to put animals to our services, and to colonize the planet. It wasn't simply our intelligence. Our intelligence hasn't increased dramatically in the last fifty thousand years. We have the same kinds of brains that our predecessors had when they roamed the African savanna. No, it isn't our brains, but what our brains carry that is the source of our power. We have become the vessels, not of intelligence and mental dexterity, but the distribution of information, of data and metadata, of memes.

As soon as we are born, we are being conditioned for the dissemination and dispersion of data. We are diligently trained to become tools for the data, that the data may be shared and spread, from person to person, using the artificial data-construct of language. We hear and speak, read and write, and the data is transmitted. Without us there would be no data, no language, without our brainpans to carry it around like great bowls of alphabet soup! We confuse the data for knowledge, the ability to transmit it for intelligence, its storage for education. In the service of this data we have forfeited our animal attributes, our connection with the verdant pulse of the planet, our involvement with nature. In the service of this data, human beings have become less like creatures and more like computers, memory sticks, hard drives, and chipsets. In short, we have become technological gadgets and the data our master.

A few of enlightened folks have seen this, recognized the data for what it is and understood what it is doing to us, how it is endangering our very natures, our inner selves and psyches. A few have realized that our entire culture is a self-replicating organism whose sole purpose is to continue the on-going spread of data, to celebrate the transmission of artificial words and language, and to discourage a return to creature comforts and habits (i.e., primitive basics). A few have even taken it on themselves to subvert and sabotage data-based society at every turn, and with one purpose in mind: to return the natural animal birthright back into the collective consciousness of the human species. But why would they want to do this?

Because every time we embrace technology and enterprise we are moving further and further away from what it really means to be human. We are being enslaved and indentured by the very things we covet. We are sacrificing our humanity on the alters of industry, religion, politics, and economics. Because of words in books, laws and scriptures and statutes, we are unable to howl at the moon, run naked in the streets, eat and sleep and copulate without guilt, sing and dance without reservation. In the service of words, we have allowed ourselves to become narrow-minded and petty and judgmental. We have become an offense to our very temperaments, an affront to the green milk of nature, a destroyer of unrestricted passion. We have become automaton, golem, robots, and for the sake of the data we keep ourselves hooked into the matrix.

Shamelessly cribbed & reworked from a blog by Luar Azul

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Copyright © 2010 by Craig Lee Duckett. All rights reserved
LAST UPDATED: September 7, 2010
September 7, 2010