A veil of strangeness is settling over our world; it is becoming more and more a feature of every day. By the ‘strangeness’ I mean incongruous events, Orwellian language, dramatic disconnectedness: Examples: there is great clarity that humans have a massive impact on the biospheric living space, from physical occupation to changing the chemistry of life sustaining biophysical cycles – and yet people who revel in the immediate consequences of our powers often actively refuse to consider that they any responsibility, at all; that the great middle has been, and continues to be, robbed by the economic elite is transparent, yet is ignored by media and government alike; and of course, there is the utter distortion of all things war and peace.
I am not speaking of simple irrationality; although such strangeness rides irrationality as a surfer might ride a wave. This is beyond irrationality: this is the human capacity trying to work in a design and with “responsibilities” well beyond its powers. We could think of movies where a ‘primitive’ is thrust into the present. We have, small step by small step, made the details of our world in such a way that they integrate into a whole that is beyond our comprehension and our powers of adaptation. We are all ‘Encino Man.’
Economists are struggling to understand and, in some way, control a global process of exchange that has grown to become like the energy economy of a rainforest in which only 5% of the species are even identified much less known in any comprehensive way. These people are very smart and yet, ultimately, they are seen to fall back on ideological prejudgments: the conflicts and dueling pronouncements are really statements of largely unfounded belief. Such situations lead only to the opportunism of personal aggrandizement and gain, and not to rational options for whole communities living more successfully in integration in an ecosystem.
I have long felt this strangeness because of training in the standards of biological integration and adaptation. Actions that remove from the universe thousands of species integrated into adapting ecosystems, remove millions of biochemical systems that have evolved through the same processes, over the same immense time, actions that remove these things without the slightest awareness, are incomprehensible. They are exceedingly strange. But there has been a quantum leap in the presentation of strangeness; it requires no special sensitivity or training for its recognition.
I spend a great deal of time with “children” (14 to 18) who are fighting the strangeness, fighting the upsets and uncertainties of their days. The strangeness has left them without a solid surface to build their lives on.
The transition years have always been difficult – the transition from protected childhood to responsible adult. Our ancestors had a solution to this change: a child observed, as he or she grew into pubescence, the behaviors of adults and at a point, decided by tradition, was initiated into the next stage with ceremonies and specific instruction. After such an initiation the child was then a baby-adult, just as he or she had been, at their beginning, a baby-child. A degree of certainty surrounded these human lives like water surrounds a coral reef.
The children I spend time with, for the most part, are overwhelmed by the strangeness and uncertainty that pervades their every moment. They don’t believe anyone or anything and thus contribute to another layer of strangeness. Adaptation for them is an impermanent process of the moment laid over a desperate desire for stability, safety and a future that they can count on – precisely the qualities of life they are denied. And in a dramatic act of strangeness they come to believe in commercial advertising, celebrity and subculture reality.
That they select these things as a reliable source for reality is not in itself strange at all: a large part of the economic world is devoting considerable energy to create just such a platform from which to communicate, sell to and control these children. What is exceedingly strange is that the so-called adult world has allowed its children to be stolen – Pied Piper fashion – from them. But these children are not secreted away behind a cleft in a rock, but are there in front of us, just beyond our comprehension; a condition, they have been told, that is good for them. Our youth and what they will become, what they will do with the increasingly complex world using their decreasingly effective education, is another strange conundrum. It adds to the sense of weightlessness.
The adults, those grown into full size and needing some job to sustain themselves, are barely adult-like in the sense of competent practitioners of the human way. The strangeness settling over them leaves them angry and frightened; uncertain and grasping for the hand-up offered by religion, militancy or materialism, or by almost anything that will seem to let them see a bit of acceptable future through the strangeness.
The world has grasped for Obama to clear away the uncertainty, the lies, the terrible incomprehensibility; yet this only adds to the strangeness. We want our leaders to make sensible decisions; we want them to make our world safe and understandable. But leaders haven’t done that since we lived in small nomadic communities. Leaders have for thousands of years struggled against the grounding reality; their power only comes from the illusions of their followers. It is this that has finally resulted in whole populations living in ungrounded strangeness. It is left to us to find our way through the strangeness, to find the grounding structures in our lives.
I seem always to find my way back to this place. Either I have little imagination or this is, like the bottom of one of those spiraling coin funnels used for charity donations, the final destination for our efforts. We are turned back on our own resources, and they have to be enough. Ultimately, we must accept that the strangeness is not a condition that we can make sense of and thereby overcome or correct. It is the product of billions of individual actions disconnected from reality coming more and more each day into collision with each other and reality. The consequences seem strange and overwhelming because they are; and they are not to be made sense of. Sense is to be made of our own lives and our daily contact with The Real. The trick is to discover what that is. It is a first step, at least, to know what not to consider.