A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Seven Deadly Sins – Revisited

(Special thanks to Michael Rohner for permission to use his mixed-media image)

The human animal may be, individually, capable of some subtlety, but collective action tends to be pushed along by broad-stroke principles functioning in the weeds of daily detail. Faced with a specific decision, the direction of action can be most often surmised from the general principles upon which the society sees itself as being based. Thus the attachment to lists of such principles: The Ten Commandments, The Bill of Rights, The Seven Deadly Sins, the 12 steps and a number of other shorthand prescriptions for both action and remediation.

If we examine these lists closely, we find internal contradiction, limits of application and other exceptions to strict adherence, but we don’t really understand these devices as absolute anyway, but rather as guides. Even those that have the force of law, like the Bill of Rights, must be adjudicated in specific situations since a few words can do no more than offer direction for a journey, not prescribe its every turn.

It is in this spirit that I offer this list of the Real Seven Deadly Sins. The limits and contradictions may seem especially glaring, but this is only because we are not use to them – and I will deal with some of the exceptions.

The “original” Seven Deadly Sins have a long history, quite a variety of inclusions and have been 5, 7, 10 and more sins at different turns. A society picks its sins; they are adaptive.

We have come to a time when we desperately need a new list. This is not to say that the list that evolved from Dante (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride) has become acceptable, although fashion has certainly changed for several; in fact, if we had been more serious about these, we might not be in such a present pickle. But we need to refocus on those activities and, especially, the principles that have morphed from sin to saw [1].

These are the New Sins:

1) Progress

2) Economic growth

3) Property

4) Excess

5) Censorship

6) Repression

7) Religion

One of the first things that you might note from the new list is that it is easily adaptable to collective action, where as the Dante list is more easily seen as the unfortunate qualities of individuals. For this and other reasons, we might best keep those seven available for personal use. The new list is, in some cases, the “originals” writ large.

It is, today, our institutions that are dominating human action, and human institutions are not just the summing up of individual human behavior, but are, under the Consciousness System of Order, developing into new entities with new properties for which new guidance is needed.

1) Progress:

This is the most insidious sin and one from which some others receive their motive force. We have come to see this greatest source of devastation as the essential positive value – and we rarely question it; taking the assertion, “It is progress,” as a substantive and often final argument.

Progress is change that arises from some previous condition, change that is judged by some humans as an improvement. But it has come to pass that the only guiding principle for the design of change is a previous condition that formed from some even earlier progress. That this seems perfectly normal to you is a measure of just how insidious this sin is.

Living things “progress” by adapting to the biophysical realities of the living space. Of course, they begin with what they have, but the changes occur in a universal context of long scale forces and processes . In humans, progress has come to mean changes that modify some existing condition arising in the human context, a condition that came to exist with the last round of progress. The speed of adaptation and the power to discover and use specific bits of information about how the biophysical world functions has allowed humans to ‘defeat’ certain biophysical rules. By bringing enough energy to bear and using mechanical physics, heavier than air machines can fly. By concentrating specific chemical species a concentrated consequence can be made to happen: poison, acid, lighter than air balloons, metals, etc. There are millions of examples. These things we call progress.

An evolutionary system would have to integrate every consequence that occurs within evolution’s time frame. Consciousness Order system time frames are so much more rapid than biophysical time frames that we have avoided the consequences of our behaviors. This we call progress.

Progress is building dikes to keep the waters out – both literally and figuratively; and then building buildings behind and on the dikes, and then building more and better pumps to remove the water that seeps through, and then, and then… The reality is that the water level is higher that the land level. Think for a moment on this from a position of sanity.

The sin of progress is to act outside of the context of the biophysical time frame, to make changes in response to existing conditions in such a way that the biophysical costs are deferred to other humans, other species and the future. Our societies today are dependent on billions of jobs that are the products of progress and all but a handful are made from the overcoming of the overcoming. We now have to keep trying to overcome the very fabric of universal reality to continue to ‘make progress.’ Such is the depth of our depravity.

And so Progress is a sin. Rather than seek it, we must make appeal to attempt it; must be able to demonstrate that the proposed changes enhance integration into biophysical reality, not attempt to defeat reality with some slight of hand. We would continue to change, to learn and to use the living and physical worlds, but at a pace to which all living and physical process on earth could adapt; a pace that will not create the dramatic synergies of a convulsive rejection of living things as the consequence of our progress.

2) Economic Growth:

The sinfulness of growth is more obvious than the sin of progress. One need only think for a moment of the concept of the exponent. And it needs to be clear that human capacity has created a new model for growth; it is not the same process as growth of biological systems – just the same word. Biological growth is replenishment with the capacity to exceed its bounds, but fully inhibited by homeostatic feedback so that ecosystems are no-growth, sustaining systems.

Economic growth means an increase in the volume and speed of transactions of exchange. Transactions of exchange are the trading of one thing for another. Since there are basically three kinds of things (material/energy, behaviors and abstract tokens of exchange) there are a variety of forms that exchange can take, but ultimately increasing amounts of real stuff must be extracted, moved, modified and consumed as an economy grows. To some extent the need to actually raise crops, dig in mines and cut forests brings perspective to our economic growth, but…

economic growth can occur, so long as participants believe that tokens of exchange represent real things, as a result of trading those tokens – really betting on how many of a particular token will be required to trade for a particular real thing at a particular moment. This allows ‘not real things’ to increase in amount without limit. If the tokens are in a demand relationship with real things, then it is possible for there to be more ‘real stuff’ represented by tokens than there is or ever can be. The result is that demands are made of the earth’s capacities that cannot be met; the reality of the effort and limits of extraction is overcome in the perception. This is a sin.

A component of economic growth is investment: I loan you a hatchet to cut firewood and you return the hatchet plus a bit of cut wood, or I could loan you tokens to trade for a hatchet and you give me back the tokens plus a few extra. Either way you have to cut more wood than you require. The amount of material or behavior traded becomes more and more dependent on the obligation and less and less on the actual state of need. Economic growth mutates into increasing states of obligation.

If there is not a constantly increasing need or obligation, then there can be no more than momentary or situational occasions for investment. And so – placing the cart squarely in front of the horse – our economic system sustains the investment model without regard to the relationship of human economics to the natural biophysical economy. This is a sin.

3) Property:

Property once seemed so simple; I learned it at my father’s knee: It is mine, you may not use it or touch it without my permission. I hold it by a force as close to a divine right as such things get. And yet, my ball (hat, toy or _____ ) could be taken and tossed around and eventually tossed onto a roof in the age old game of ‘humble the property owner’, AKA ‘keep away.’

I have discovered that humans come with a great variety of respect for property. Some have arm’s length rules and others will take even useless things. Different groups of people define property in different ways – what can be property, degrees of holding property, what must be done to identify property.

“Keep away” offered this instruction: property and force are intimately related. Property is mine so long as I am willing and capable to use sufficient force to keep it. A powerful man in my town lived at the end of a long road; the sign at his gate, “If you trespass, you will be shot.” This was not at his front door – his house could not be seen – but was at the most easily approached edge of the 30 or 40 acre mountain valley to which he lay claim. Records show that his family drove out the previous inhabitants with legal trickery and one punctuating dynamite explosion.

There are 3 ways that we can view property: 1) that which is, 2) that which is ours (or theirs) and 3) that which is mine (or his or hers).

“That which is” belongs to all and to no one. You may use it only as long as you don’t change it or deny its use to any other organism or process. “That which is ours” belongs to the commons, the community decides potential uses and what compensations and ablutions are required. “That which is mine” belongs to me; again, however, the community decides what can be personal property and often the limits of control and use – this should tell us something. The attempt to turn ‘that which is mine’ into absolute domination without regard to the rest of existence is a sin.

It is circumstance and excess that moves the sustaining to the sinful. Human progress and economic growth have driven property from balanced patterns of use, compensation and replenishment to the assumption of more and more private ownership; so that today we claim we can not only own the contents of our pockets and immediate living space, but we can own the land, the water, the air, living things, DNA, chemical processes and ideas. And we have even added a specialized instrument of private ownership called the corporate collective to own in even greater amounts and with greater force. This is sin.

4) Excess and Wealth:

Excess has almost always been a sin in almost every culture. Yet, in our present condition the application of Sins 5 and 6 (censorship and repression) have led the way in justifying excess, usually claiming envy as the reason of objecting to wealth. This is quite simply sin supporting sin.

Excess is a sin because it perpetuates the sins of property, is the product of growth and can only be justified by dishonest and coercive means. But, primarily it is a sin because it damages the human relationship to the planet and to each other.

Ultimately the excess of wealth (both private and societal) can only be extracted from the universal commons and it can only be extracted by the coercion of one human entity by another. It is difficult to say who is harmed more in the existential sense, the miner who must dig or starve, yet retains some vestige of specieshood or the owner who believes in the madness of his right of power to steal the life and labor of the miner and the product of the land. It is, of course, not difficult to see who lives in the greatest distress of the moment.

5) Censorship:

It is obvious to many that we must not speak of dangerous, harmful and distressing things. To do so would bring upset and disruption to our settled lives: speak the Devil’s words and call the Devil.

There is, as there always is, a major difficulty: How are we, or who is, to decide? We are ultimately faced with this simple choice: freedom of speech with only the most limited restrictions or speech controlled by whoever can wrest power over its methods and topics.

Control of speech is control of idea, is control of possibility. And yet we cannot live in a world without design, a world that limits and organizes possibility. The probability of glucose moving through a cell membrane is controlled by insulin, which is controlled by a dozen other conditions of the organism. We can expect nothing less for a super-organism collective like human societies. But there the analogy fails; the process by which biological evolution designs physiological function leaves out nothing. Every force and movement of the natural world gets its say without inhibition because it is exists in the total reality. Again, we can have nothing less for our collective social order.

Lying is a special form of censorship that denies access to a factual basis for action, but lying should be no more reviled than demanding that the truth of another’s understanding not be spoken.

This is an especially dangerous sin as new and powerful forms of human super-organism are demanding and receiving the power to censor speech that challenges their domination by controlling the means of speech and using that means to control the topics of speech.

6) Repression:

The rejection of one identifiable racial, ethnic, language, cultural or behavioral group by another is one of the oldest human actions. When there was space and available niches, this was less sin and more signal to spread the species around. It even served certain other useful functions by reducing the spread of disease and supplying gene pools from which vigorous crosses could test the genetic waters [2].

But today and for some many hundreds of years the repression of one group by another as been in the service of quite other forces: economic and political power. Billions of human lives have been lived out in the greatest of distress – truly painful, brutal and short because of the sin of repression.

Life has never had a guarantee – or so is my belief – but to assign beforehand that billions of lives will be lived in horror and pain is a sin. And this is a sin that is likely to continue to increase dramatically as it has over the last few thousand years. Never have so many lived such deprived and devastated lives as in today’s moment.

Two hundred years ago there were one billion people on the earth, nearly half of whom lived in deep poverty at the advancing edge of European expansion and industrialization and in islands of industrial servitude. One hundred years ago there where two billion people on the earth, nearly half of whom lived in the deepest poverty as the first world nations were converting the rest of the world into their larder. Today there are almost 7 billion, nearly half of whom live at the edge of survival. Local sustaining practices have been so damaged and demonized that even those who are not in immediate peril today are but one global economic decision away from dust.

7) Religious Piety:

Religion is one of the least understood of human behaviors. Its supporting structures and designs are deep in our origins, but it has become a chimera, a crossing with politics, economics and the institutional super-organism. Religion is a developmentally dysfunctional entity demanding the privilege of an infant while having the strength of a powerful adult.

In its origin religion was the combined effect of the Stories that integrated human action within the environment and the instinctual emotional connections to environment and community. It gave strength to the adaptations that formed the basis of human success. It did not create the behaviors, but responded to them as the collected Stories that organized the behavior of a group, carrying them through space and time.

Devotion to religious story has become the central madness of our time and one of the greatest inhibitions to our survival. There were in the past many thousands of religions because there were thousands of situations in which people lived. Since religion’s function is to define a way of life, then it must be completely connected to immediate and sustaining reality – it used to be! Now religions are devoted to the remains of Stories that once had some relational meaning, but are no longer connected to reality. This makes the Stories of religion easy prey for any entity to use as devices of censorship and repression.


These are the sins that we need to “hold in our hearts” as unacceptable. These are the sins that are devastating our world. 30 years ago drunk driving was a laughing matter (even as people were killed), but became a matter of scorn and rejection as people incorporated into their habits of thought, into their lists of sins, driving drunk. We need to see these seven sins in the same way. Just as with the original seven deadly sins a small number of people are empowered by them if allowed, but if enough people reject those behaviors, actively reject them, they will be weakened and more of us may begin to see them for what they are.

[1] It is an irony of our time that those who claim to champion individual freedom are really speaking for the institutional collective and the individual’s subservience to it, while those who are accused of socialist “collectivism” see the collective in service of the individual.

[2] Cultural habits combining with instinctual behaviors associated with incest created complex rules that often involved either males or females moving from one group to another.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chris Hedges’ “The Man in the Mirror”

This is a brilliantly written piece drawing analogy and metaphor out of Michael Jackson’s life, death and international wake; analogy with our economy, our politics and the mealy tastelessness of our daily lives. I am left with a feeling that ‘now I understand,’ until I try to find the substance of that understanding, the elements that I can find and apply to some large perspective.

Ultimately, I find the Hedges’ model not believable. The corporate collective takes advantage of frightened and fleeing birds to cover their own noisy crashing through the undergrowth, but did not create them. Corporate CEOs are more like crocodiles – cruising under the scummy waters and bursting to the surface for a moment, returning well feed to the subsurface, the charmed and utterly inaccessible world in which they are comfortable. Flying in multimillion dollar private jets to a congressional hearing on waste, mismanagement and excess is exactly how a crocodile would arrive to explain its hunting style – it simply would not realize the incongruity.

Reading Hedges’ work I get the feeling that he thinks we are in pretty deep shit. But after describing – in enviable prose – the color and texture of our depravity I have no better sense of how to proceed than before; I just know that I am part of “another tawdry and tasteless spectacle,” that “The wild pursuit of status, wealth and fame has destroyed our souls.”

Jackson’s Memorial Service, TV spectacle, had 31.1 million viewers I am told. People from all over the world watched. Am I to conclude that 31 million out of 7 billion were sufficiently enchanted with or curious enough about Michael Jackson to watch about 3 hours of TV devoted to his life and passing? Whatever could those other 6,968.9 million people have been doing?

But to the main point of the essay: “The moral nihilism of our culture licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Education, building community, honesty, transparency and sharing are qualities that will see you, in a gross perversion of democracy and morality, ridiculed and voted off any reality show.” And I would suggest that, more than just being denied participation on a “reality (sic) show,” Hedges is suggesting that the list of ‘positive’ qualities also denies participation in the more socially valued movements and moments in American life.

I in no way disagree with detail of the analysis, but it only scratches the surface. We are royally fucked up, for sure, but do we wallow in our madness taking beautifully composed images of our accidental depravity? That is, do we only do Diane Arbus images of our world because the Ansel Adams pictures are so phony. Well, Arbus’ images are just as contrived. And I find Hedges just as contrived, in a similar way.

Less than ½ of one percent of the world’s people watched the Michael Jackson Memorial. I didn’t. I attended an accidental memorial for two dogs and a man that died 20 years ago. And meet the daughter of the man who died at about the same time as the dogs, a man who had been like a grandfather to me. She lived on the land where the dogs were buried, where someone unknown to me had put up stone and well made wooden markers for the dogs. My dogs, saved and raised by me, until I had to leave the land. The dogs and land belonged together: this was accepted by at least 3 different collections of people who took the dogs as part of place, who cared for them, loved them and buried them on the little hill where they could always lie in the winter sun, buried them with the names I had given them as puppies all those many years ago.

My moment was very different from Mr. Hedges’.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Making Sense of Things

There are various ways of ‘making sense of things:’ sometimes a schematic drawing that shows the relationship of parts and their interrelated motions is the answer; other times ‘sense’ is found in a concept like “charge” of an electron; and other times ‘sense’ comes with a metaphor, of an experienced process or event, drawn for processes and events that are too obscure, too intellectually compromised or too vast to bring comfortably into our normal living space.

It is this last that seems the only way to make sense of the human condition from the cacophony of human action in the world; and a ‘sense’ of this we most desperately need! Many of us can see where blind process is leading, and it is not where the going to is safe or even survivable. Some ‘sense’ of what we are about is required.

We have largely accepted, without question, that the way we live is the way it is to be done: more is better, bigger is better – newer, shinier, more powerful… Yet, something essential escapes this formulation. First and foremost, we can blithely admit that such simplicity is not true and then go right on more or less comfortable in and driven by these principles. We ridicule and laugh at these “values” in caricature: the fake fur bedecked pimp in a huge gaudified piece of Detroit iron; the social climber with the right car, the right clothes, but the wrong accent and wrong address. These are trivial as activities and potent as symptoms.

Since output is the consequence of input, product is the result of consumption, I am led to an analogy with food consumption: food is not just about eating. After air, food is the most vital activity of any living thing [1]. From food comes all growth and maintenance, and virtually all structure and behavior is organized around acquiring food [2]. It is the ultimate reinforcer for instrumental learning and the ultimate source for the success or failure of the particular brand of DNA carried by the organism. Ergo, physiology, structure, instinctual behavior and instrumental behavior are primarily formed with food as the central agency in the integration of a species into its own “skin” and into its environment. It is the primary model for consumption and products of that consumption.

A complex living thing requires many tens of thousands of different kinds of molecules, all functioning smoothly together, to remain alive. Most of these parts are made in-house from raw materials consumed, but a few of these vital molecules have been so ubiquitous and abundant in the organism’s food that non-plant organisms have lost the ability to make certain necessary molecules (plants must make them all and are therefore the ultimate biochemical innovators). Heterotrophic organisms (food “eaters”) have only to follow a simple rule: consume sufficient calories to support all living activities and the ubiquitous and abundant chemicals that can’t be made will take care of themselves. The genetically based instinct then, if some essential nutrient is in low supply, is to consume more in general. Under the conditions to which the organism is evolved, this will work almost 100% of the time.

Once the enzymes that mediate a physiological pathway have been lost from the genetic structure of an organism, there is little chance that they can be recovered – imagine losing your copy of Finnegan’s Wake and then needing to reconstruct it from a few of Joyce’s poems! If the food environment begins to change, the capacity to taste the difference between certain vitamins may evolve for certain organisms, but organisms are not very good at targeting more than a few specific nutrients, depending rather on increased consumption.

So, what does this analogy have to do with the price of a Ford Focus in China (or any other alliterative auto)? We humans not only consume food for raw material and metabolic energy, but also consume sensation as raw material from which to construct our designs of action and we consume sensation as a source of order and relationship that create the context for action. And just as there are biological bases for the types and uses of food, there are biological – and more complex – bases for sensation (perception) and how it is used to bring order to the actions of individuals, communities and societies. A person who eats only fish will smell of fish (with less trivial consequences throughout the metabolic system). A person who consumes only nonsense will smell of nonsense – again with many and deep consequences through a whole life. The rule is simple: a bucket will contain only what is put in it.


Our behavioral systems depend on the quality of the information consumed in a directly analogous way to our physiology depending on the quality of our food. But what are the ‘vitamins and essential amino acids’ of our perceptual consumption? The simplistic notion that we just perceive what is there, that we are the sustaining center of action, is not, and never has been, true.

This is a more difficult question than identifying essential nutrients – and that has not been easy. First, we cannot easily look for “perception” deficiency disease and possible cures, but must rather examine our evolutionary history to see what perceptual conditions were once abundant and ubiquitous; wisely speculate on their roles in relating biologically needs to the ecology; recognize the place of the human adaptation, Consciousness System of Order, in superseding instinctual methods of adapting behaviors to environments (the new sensitivities and information flow systems); and, finally, construct testable hypothesis from such a theoretical basis.

But in the meantime – as the science blunders its way along, as social sciences are wont to do – how can such an understanding be put to use?

What a bit of study makes clear is that, just as with nutritional disease, people have been recognizing the symptoms of the deficiencies in perceptual diet for a very long time. The earliest philosophical writings are about how to do living well – such questions only arise by contrast with not doing life well. The Tao Te Ching is a treatise on the Way of Virtue and more especially the perceptual requirements of being of the ‘Way.’ Plato’s Socrates considers many of the same sorts of concerns (it has long been a fantasy of mine to arrange a colloquy between Chuang Tzu and Socrates – they lived only a few years apart in time).

There has been, in certain circles, much talk of ancient and lost wisdom as though peoples of the past had “the answers” and that today we do not. It is pretty clear that the last part of this formulation is correct: we do not have the answers. If we look at the USA: almost half the people show the signs of serious nutritional disorder – obesity primarily, but many other food diet related pathologies. And certainly the majority have a perceptual diet that insanely disconnects them from biophysical reality and knowledge [3].

What is a reasonable food diet? It is quite simply the great ape diet: lots of vegetables and fruits supplemented with sufficient animal fats and protein to make total calories relatively easy to gather [4]. And the analogy continues strong. The most desirable perceptual diet is also closely related to the form of our experience with the environment in which and to which we evolved. Just as nutritional availability formed our metabolic physiology, so environmental order formed our combined behavioral physiology and Consciousness System of Order.

Of first importance to understand is that the Consciousness System of Order formed with total dependence on an abundant, ubiquitous and stable environmental order. The environment supplied the CSO’s powerful tools with the information consumed, but more importantly, created the ordered design of its functioning: like trails laid over a landscape. The CSO was not evolved to supply its own information or its own structure, but to consume both order and detail from the environment; it is in that sense part of the information environment attached to the human biology in an analogous way to the chemical and energy components of the environment being attached to human physiology through food.

The power of the CSO is the combining of elements of environmental reality that are separated in time and space; it has very limited capacity to fact check on its own and depends on collecting information from what is real at base. In the origin of the CSO, biophysical reality was the ubiquitous and abundant perceptual “nutrient” that it did not have to make on its own. It was perfectly safe for the CSO to ‘imagine’ any possibility since it was constantly checked by the immediacy of Reality. Flights of fancy that comported with the biophysical gave humans increasing power. Imaginings that reduced effectiveness were quickly replaced. This led to a rapidly expanding repertoire of effective cultural behaviors that integrated human action into biophysical reality. The behaviors were supported by Stories that carried the designs of the behaviors in ways that did not require scientific understanding or description. What mattered was that the Story was memorable, portable and effective in organizing behavior. Story itself had an adaptive design and almost certainly an interactive relationship with the formation of language: language told Story and Story created designs in language (this is like, in certain evocative ways, the relationship of DNA to protein in the Living System of Order).

To begin to make sense of our present it is vital to recognize that Story as exploded into a malignant “reality” that for a few thousand years has competed with the biophysical reality for our attention – and since Story is our own creation, we have increasingly lived in its domain. Once a large enough part of the environmental order had been described in Story, the CSO began to rely on Story as information source (became self-referencing) and therefore lost its essential and grounding reference – the loss of perceptual “vitamins.” The CSO and Story became so powerful and fast, as designer and device, that they have been successfully dodging the bullets of biophysical reality. Rejecting and defeating Reality can, however, only be a short-term strategy.

This leads to two conclusions: 1) The “facts” with which we are now living are almost entirely Story fabricated by a process that is almost a complete mystery to us. Our present Stories, which are too big to fail, are coming under increasing pressure from the biophysical reality. And 2), that there are other ways that humans have lived and can live again, to some extent outside our dominant (and mad) Stories, ways that comport more closely with biophysical and species’ reality. Rediscovering how to live in greater communion with reality sidesteps many of the issues that seem so vital in our “normal” view, such as, how do we fix the problems of ________? (fill in the blank with population, consumption, energy, pollution, economic inequity, basic survival, etc.) Because, quite frankly, we will not fix them from the perspective of our present Story – our present Story is based on them – and our present Story is our reality no matter how crazy it might be.

Once we realize that our present Story contains all of our essential presumptions and that these presumptions are almost entirely the product of many cycles of self-referencing, only occasionally tested by biophysical reality, then the choice of ignoring specieshood and submission to Story vs. reinvigorating specieshood along with adaptation, from a human perspective, to Story is a stark choice.

But this is not a new choice. For thousands of years, since the very beginning of mismatch of the perceptual diet to the essential order and detail needs of Consciousness Order, people have been struggling with how to maintain what I am calling specieshood – the essential elements of being a member of the human species.

We have so perverted these ideas that our Story says (taken from a recent David Brooks bloviation): “…human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.” This is about as exactly backwards as an idea can get. Rather, flawed artificial systems have so distorted human behaviors that they live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their complete disconnection from their passions. Humans must be reconnected with their passions and human interests by rediscovering the balance inherent in daily intimacy with biophysical reality.

To make real sense of our present we must reset our ‘instruments’ to their original measures: we must establish and live in a perceptual diet that more closely resembles the sustaining and order-giving diet of our origins. This can only be done by individuals – Story will only adapt in large scale processes – and eventually small groups. And, it can only be done for benefit of their lives, not to save the world.

If the world is to be saved, it will be by those who are only, and effortlessly, trying to live in their own specieshood and not by those who support Story by directly confronting it. Lao Tzu and Socrates would understand perfectly. This is not to say that destructiveness should be ignored, rather, each seeks to not be destructive. If in seeking to not be destructive, there is a constructive result, so be it, but that cannot be the intention. While this may make no sense in the context of our present Story, it’s only because Stories become self-preserving and to fight a Story by its own rules only sustains it.

Living in the specieshood that manifest in the Paleozoic, as useful as understanding that time is, is neither possible or desirable, but living in the distortions of the present madness is destroying both human life and the biosphere. The only sensible thing to do is to discover a perceptual diet that is as supportive of specieshood as possible. By making one life a part of biophysical reality you will be joining the vast community of living things that have for billions of years sustained the improbable design order of life. And you will join the millions of men and women who have over the last 10 thousand years quietly and unceremoniously realized their specieshood and sustained Consciousness Order, not in its mad self-referencing, but as the most rare design of order in the universe and the most remarkable.

It is from such a place that the insensibility of the world makes sense even as the great motions currently in place are recognized as inevitable. But it has always been this way.

[1] Water is also vital, but since water is both consumed as part of most food and since water is also made metabolically as part of food’s use as an energy source, I am thinking of it loosely as included in food. Water has very special properties that mediate life, but for this analogy it is not special.

[2] Sex comes to mind as a potent force in design of both structure and function and this is certainly true. But, these designs are laid over primary designs for food acquisition, storage and use.

[3] Most people from industrial countries have perceptual diets with almost no contact with landscape, weather, soil or other supporting elements of our relationship to environment. Interest in environment is often considered foolish or effete depending on the source. A ‘spiritual’ relationship with the plants, animals, rocks and soil in your immediate surroundings is, in our present madness, considered to be madness.

[4] I like especially the cruciform vegetables and fish from as low on the food chain as possible, and gathering native plant foods when I have the time. Today’s food realities, for all the apparent abundance in the US, are pretty stark.