Sunday, April 15, 2018

A tale of three paradigms [last edited 5-21-18]

It seems potentially helpful to distinguish among three major psycho-social paradigms, and to assign a familiar mathematical symbol as a label for each.

1. >

Let's try to imagine a relatively simple form of self-reflecting consciousness - a very basic awareness of self and others as such. We might associate this with animals, who generally don't seem to invent, memorize, and deploy elaborate symbolic ontologies the way we do, and from/with whom we've been posited to have evolved. But for present purposes it seems immaterial whether you think we evolved from slightly less sophisticated beings, devolved from slightly more sophisticated beings, are molded by an omnipotent being, are running on the computers of aliens in their parents' basements, etc. We've all probably had the experience of feeling "half awake." Groggy. In a rudimentary sort of state of mind. Operating largely "on autopilot."

Our priorities under these circumstances are necessarily fairly simple, straightforward, and have often tended strongly toward matters of immediate personal comfort, self-preservation, finding safety, security. As we learn and change more about ourselves, we can improve the instincts that guide us when we're groggy. But over the years and centuries, in various types of stupors, we've often perceived others as possible threats or impediments to our own comfort, security, etc., or merely as exploitable means to our own ends. In our relatively single-minded drive to escape danger and reach our immediate goals, we've sometimes stepped on others. The impulse to get out-from-under, to climb up to safety, to success, has entailed a lot of what we've come to label inconsiderateness, predation, aggression, violence, victimization, domination, subjugation, etc.

And these sorts of behaviors have comprised a significant part of our story on this planet. We speak of the war of all against all. The dog-eat-dog world. Might makes right. And so on.

The '>' sign, resembling to an arrow pointing to the right (the direction we go when we read and write) can represent a simple movement in a definite direction motivated by any felt imperative or goal. It can also represent the impulse to come out on top in a struggle for survival and/or resources, to be "more than" or "greater than."

2. =

Unsatisfied with the prevailing levels of sin and strife, we've attempted over the centuries to find a better way. We've noticed the impulse to be "greater than," and we've identified it as a major problem to be remedied. Sometimes there's been the impulse to go in the opposite direction, to try to achieve righteousness by being "less than," through self-sacrifice, submission, self-denial or asceticism, etc. But the attempt to achieve various types of equality, as a solution for our psycho-social ills, has been adopted in very large-scale, systemic ways.

Love thy neighbor as thyself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We speak of being created equal, equal rights, equal representation, equality before the law, equality of opportunity, etc. By considering both ourselves and others, in equal measure (of various sorts), we found a strategy that worked more nicely and more effectively on large scales, compared to raw, vicious power struggles. We still compete for resources, and are expected to be principally concerned with securing our own personal wealth, but we temper the competition by practicing empathy (engendered by putting ourselves in others' proverbial shoes), and by implementing game rules aimed at giving everyone a fair shot.

One of our most widespread economic customs is the exchange of value for value, the two parties of a transaction giving each other items of roughly equal worth. (Let's make a deal!) This way, neither side seems to be taking undue advantage of the other. Things balance out. Even-steven. Fair and square. The centrality of equality in our transactional economics is reflected in the two parallel lines, of equal length, that appear within the symbols of some currencies (₴, ₦, ₽, ₮, ₩, ¥, etc.).

The '=' sign has been a key tool for making precise expressions in mathematics and coding. And in terms of the paradigms this essay describes, moving from half-awake, tunnel-vision-like, and paranoid '>' orientations to '=' orientations has helped us get along and work together much more effectively, and has helped great masses of people to flourish much more fully.


As mentioned above, there's disagreement about the origins of our species. But we can agree that it's possible for us to learn and grow in very significant ways. Many practices, religions, and philosophies over the centuries have aimed toward astronomically higher consciousness and better behavior.

In his 1901 book, Richard Maurice Bucke profiled people who had manifested what he called Cosmic Consciousness. Richard anticipated that this type of consciousness would continue to become more common, and eventually would thoroughly "occupy and possess the earth." Alfred Korzybski's Science and Sanity (1933) gives techniques for cultivating a kind of optimal flexibility - in Alfred's terms, a "full conditionality of our semantic responses," an "∞-valued orientation." These books make many interesting points and observations, though they also reflect in some glaring ways the limited consciousness of the times in which they were produced.

The Zherg project (2017-18) gives a prescription for a paradigm based on indefinite expansion of awareness and on the value of all beings.

When we've sufficiently opened our hearts and minds, we'll no longer treat each other as adversaries in a contest for survival or resources. We'll be able to leave behind our equality-based political-economic customs and institutions: If we're no longer playing games for resources, then obviously there will be no reason to be concerned with making the games fair. We'll treat everyone well, not just as a result of relating the treatment of others to the treatment of oneself, but as a result of considering others worthy of love in their own right. We'll coexist and cooperate harmoniously and synergetically. All beings will always be equal, in a very real, very fundamental sense, but infinity seems to be a better emblem for this emerging paradigm of universal consciousness and universal love.


Although many of us have, in various ways, become associated with, or even, in effect, become spokespeople for, one or another of these paradigms, it seems very helpful to look at them as three categories of tendencies, all of which are present in each of us. I do think that the more aware we become of these tendencies, the more we'll sublimate the > and = tendencies into the ∞ tendencies. Just by definition, when we frame the issues this way, the ∞ paradigm seems to be an optimal goal to aim for, a state of affairs which, if things go well, will increasingly subsume and transcend the others.

There've been bitter struggles and tensions between the > and = paradigms, continuing to this day. These struggles have done a lot to distract our attention from the beckoning promises of ∞ tendencies and possibilities. We've sometimes felt that there's much remedial education or maturation, and/or remedial equality or fairness, to be achieved before we can realistically consider trying to implement such utopian, idealistic aspirations. But we've been implementing them all along, in many different ways, big and small, reflecting the infinity within each of us, as beings whose eternal, perfect nature has been sometimes occluded and forgotten. And each such implementation has prefigured a possible planetary future where ∞ paradigms have thoroughly prevailed on macro scales.

"Utopian" ideas and proposals have often been dismissed as unproven or unrealistic. But when we consider the instances in which we've manifested ∞ tendencies, we find that "utopian" programs have in fact been implemented successfully in multitudes of times and places. Systems connected to less utopian paradigms have ignored, or even actively undermined or destroyed many of these ∞ manifestations. The more we consciously amplify our ∞ tendencies, the closer we can come to a true planetary utopia.

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