..the main event

February 12, 2008

Phil Henshaw from New York (whose by line is “it’s not finding what people say interesting, but finding what’s interesting in what they say”) too up the challenge of contributing to this open week for the guest blot.

The ‘main event’ usually refers to the show at the circus that uses all three rings or the grand finale of a fireworks display that makes you gaze transfixed and forget where you are for a minute. The ‘main event’ in the collision between man and earth that now seems clearly underway can be expected to the all that and a good bit more. Most people, of course, are not even aware that anything’s up at all, and see no reason why our continual doubling of resource uses, on a planet that is decidedly fixed in size, would alter any balances at all. We just like expanding our machines for using up everything twice as fast every 20 years or so… and don’t see how that would change anything. The scientists are measuring all kinds of dramatic upsetting changes to the earth that are physically taking place. Oddly, though, they’re not quite sure whether they should tell anyone that conserved addition makes things larger, and so conserved multiplication probably would too… We are clearly confused by something.

The question seems to be whether the clearly approaching upset in the physical world is being paralleled by an approaching upset in our mental worlds. People are so very detached, but also mostly seem to like it that way. I’ve been talking, for example, about the problem of addition to the sustainable design crowd for a few years. Instead of stimulating an open inquiry into what’s wrong with our purposes I seem to very largely stimulate increasing effort to avoid the question. It’s amazing. It’s true that long experience indicates most things that would make you think just go away if you ignore them… so that’s the approach to upsetting evidence most people tend to prefer. For anything this big, and so completely ridiculous, there’s got to be some better actual bottom line reason. We’re so tricked by the illusion of ‘endless’ growth, somehow, that we’re letting it leverage our creativity to suck up the whole earth like some super tornado. We say so, just don’t see how we do so. I think it has to do with not seeing how to connect entropy and syntropy in our minds.

I’ve spent a good bit of time watching tornados, more little tiny ones than great big ones. I think the basic principle holds for both, that they are all perfectly unsustainable. They just accelerate the release of potential, little sucking machines, exhausting anything they touch. I’ve also spent a good bit of time watching other kinds of natural systems, many that begin with run-away growth, as if they’re just tornados, and then stabilize. For the human tornado a very big and very confusing storm of issues swirl around the whole subject, of course. Maybe the true main event will be when people find themselves ready to ask the question, that little moment of wonder that opens new worlds.

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