Ghost in the Machine

My earworm is Ghost in the Machine by The Police, (especially ‘Spirits in the Material World’), based on The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler (1967) that describes ‘the Cartesian dualist account of the mind/body relationship. Koestler [says] the mind of a person [the ghost] is not an independent non-material entity, temporarily inhabiting and governing the body [the machine].’ If mind and body are one, does consciousness come from evolution? Are we spirits in the material world in a physical phase?

Paul Chefurka observes that ‘when I recently began to understand [physical problems such as rising CO2] as consequences of a rupture in the human spirit they finally began to make sense to me. Yes, they are compounded by political and economic forces, but in my view even politics and economics are simply consequences of the same qualities of the human psyche….  The change in perspective involves not looking forward from our current situation into the decline.  Rather, step forward a couple of hundred years and look back.’

From that perspective he asks, ‘How will we ensure that our descendants will  eventually inherit a sustainable world, even though our current situation is not sustainable by any stretch of the imagination? I’ve become convinced over the last couple of months that the seeds for such a transformation have already been planted,…. [like] antibodies in Gaia’s bloodstream.’

He elaborates: ‘The values required are already embodied in a resilient organization, enough of whose elements will survive to transmit a sustainable value set into the ecologically damaged, resource-depleted world we will bequeath to the future.’

I suspect that technology in general and smartphones in particular are making us act dumber. At a crucial time when we need to communicate more effectively we instead use technology–like CallAnswer and texting–to communicate less, either to hide behind or to pontificate–to not listen, to others, or even ourselves.

Many of us don’t like silence either. There’s gotta be music or radio or TV in the background. I lived in the country. I now live in the suburbs. I lived for two years in rehab. Many people don’t like quiet, like nature is unnatural. When it’s quiet, you can hear your heartbeat. Too bad if the TV’s too noisy, cuz we really gotta hear our hearts, for it’s a crisis of the spirit, of the heart. Technology won’t help us, may get in the way, may in fact be a trap, a very tempting trap. Which is ironic in that I use technology–email and the web–to communicate. But I also hang out at a local fair trade coffee shop, where I can meet real people and have real conversations.

Last night many people in our community put on Our Town. Although written nearly a century ago, it too offers a change in perspective: ‘people a thousand years from now [will know] this is the way we were in the provinces north of New York at the beginning of the twentieth century.—This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying…. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.’

Elsewhere, playwright Thornton Wilder says, ‘But soon we shall die…, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.’

He says, ‘Hope, like faith, is nothing if it is not courageous; it is nothing if it is not ridiculous.’

Great stuff.

Saturday, I meditated with a gymful of people. Intermittently we studied the Lord’s Prayer in its original Aramaic. The version I know, the King James’ Version, supports the authority (the king) and time (1611). Although the language has been updated, the meaning hasn’t. But the KJV is an English translation based on a Greek translation, both languages of precision, whereas Jesus spoke Aramaic, a more metaphorical language–you can’t have just one translation, one meaning, one truth. But all my life I’ve known only one gospel truth. What other truths can be re-interpreted?

Something may be lost, but something’s gained, too–a community of fellow seekers and meditators–different people–short, tall, thin, fat, discrete, helpful, curious.

According to Thomas Berry (another famous white guy, and dead, too) we need to ‘recover our sense of wonder and our sense of the sacred [… and] experience the universe beyond ourselves as a revelatory experience’ [quoted in Exploring Wild Law, 3]. Charles Eisenstein (The Ascent of Humanity) notes that ‘in exchange for freedom, we must give up predictability and control.’

Easier said than done. Aren’t predictability and control what we as a species have sought for millennia? Maybe our path, our reunification with the rest of nature, and our journey, is one of trust and letting go.

Chefurka’s recent post, ‘A Postcard From the Path, charts his spiritual development. He’s still an atheist, but he’s discovered that the universe, the earth, you, me, the annoying mosquito–all are sacred. He thinks that ‘consciousness is a supreme sacred manifestation, identical to what others call “God”.’ Rather than look for some god in the sky, why not turn off the TV, listen to your heart, and look within (Luke 17:20-21)? Yes, Virginia, there’s a ghost in the machine.

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