I am ataxic. I lack balance. I lack order. Seeking order in the legal world, Herman Greene writes (ewl, 126-135) that 2600 years ago Pythagoras sought to balance the world, order (taxis) it, make sense of it. Do I lack sense? To order the world Pythagoras developed a cosmology, a story that explained how things came to be, how they should be–a united divine-natural-human ethics. He influenced Plato. This hierarchical order and story persist to this day. But what if Pythagoras’ order is no longer right? Wouldn’t that make the story wrong? What if in trying to mend things, we instead end things, and things get it even wronger? Might that explain some of today’s problems?
Like a lack of freedom and a plethora of torture in places like West Papua. But it’ll take a while for politics to catch up to science. Especially when politicians muzzle scientists.
Meanwhile, our problems are arithmetic, geometric, and Barry Manilow. Arithmetic is gradual change–1+1+1+1+etc, problems we get used to, like climate change where the temperature will gradually rise, or peak oil where the fossil fuels will gradually run out. Geometric is sudden change, problems that catch us unawares–1+4+9+16+etc, like where the Gulf Stream suddenly stops working or the population ‘suddenly’ grows (aka ‘the hockey stick‘).
Then there’s Barry Manilow. Barry Manilow denies there is any problem at all–0+0+0+0+etc, like time stopped in 1978. ‘I am stuck in the Seventies, cuz the biggest worry is how do I drive my Pacer?’
The problems are real, though. Some of us might be able to adjust to gradual, arithmetic change–which is like the water in the bird bath warming in the sun–it’s the new normal, right?. But it’s much harder to mentally and physically prepare for sudden, geometric change–which is more like a teeter-totter–it seems too drastic and overwhelming. And you can’t prepare at all for what you deny–Crisis? What crisis?
I went to Barrie the other day, a city full of denial. They’re paving, they’re building. Lights in the bright of day. I had a fair trade coffee and a muffin while back in Midland Jeremy prepared to tell a dozen or so of torture in West Papua. In Barrie they’re paving, they’re building. Change denial strives for business as usual, despite evidence to the contrary. ‘A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.’ And what you see depends on the stories you hear.
Greene writes that a cosmology contains an ethics. But the Scientific Revolution changed that, removing ethics (the rules of how we pursue the Good) from science and replacing cosmology (explanation via story) with mere cosmography (description). No ethics, no story. But remember, in our now-fractured world where science no longer makes sense, the Pythagorean order and story still persist to this day. Our law derives from our story, now obsolete.
Greene cites Thomas Berry, who in telling the story seeks to return the Good wholly, seeks to restore order and balance between humanity and the rest of nature–our great work. Human law, Greene contends, is derived from natural law and says, ‘to the extent humans learn ecology, “listen” to animals and plants and Earth, develop empathy and compassion for animals and plants and Earth, and come to understand and sense Earth from a Gaian perspective as having organic and living qualities, humans are more able to represent the Earth community in law’ [ewl, 134].
We are starting to understand everything as related by networks rather than ordered by hierarchies. Maybe I don’t lack sense of balance so much as have a different sense of balance.