We have been convincing ourselves throughout history that Homo sapiens is a pinnacle of evolution, a goal of natural development, or even watchman descended from Gods to look after all creation. This spoiled us and armed us with arrogance which blinded generations. What if this foolish belief has stopped us from developing, from recognizing the role and place we are given in this Greatest Show on Earth and now we are just monuments to possible glory? What if we missed our chance of becoming something more because we were too self-centred? Life is probably much bigger than we have ever thought and we may be just its side effect, a far cry of possibilities. Our dreams of greatness are merely shades of chances we have squandered.
“Humankind is constantly marching forward but human being remains the same” J.W.Goethe
We recreate the past in our memory, recycle the present and mix it with dreams and thoughts. It is never clean and objective, resting in safety deposit until we reach for it. We always filter memory through our personality – this constantly changing lens to dissect reality. We construct our past according to the current state of emotions, intellectual abilities and associated knowledge, like Midas, condemned to turn everything we see and touch into our own interpretation of it.
Every man’s memory is his own literature. Aldous Huxley
“Le silence eternel des ces espaces infinis m’effraie – The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.”
What if these infinite spaces are not silent at all? What if we are just looking in the wrong direction, blinded by our arrogance and narrow senses? Real stars may be just in front of us, waiting to be discovered and understood but we can’t see them in our haughtiness of obsessed conquerors looking for Eldorado. We turn to stars for answers to our naive questions, limited to only known language and earth-based perceptions but we may be just asking the wrong questions and not understanding the answers we are already getting. We are like children of the universe created by exploding stars who forgot their past and are now lost and helpless. Like Santayana said: “Those who don’t know where they come from and who they owe themselves to will never discover where they should go”.
Immortality is a paradox – we can’t outsmart biology and the limitations of our physical constitution but we become immortal only when we die. We can be immortalized in the memory of people that knew us, the achievements and legacy of deeds that left footprints among our successors. Immortality is not an extension of life; it’s more like an antidote to a silent and ultimate death.
Homo Faber (Latin for “Man the Creator” in reference to homo sapiens meaning “wise man”) is a philosophical concept articulated by Hannah Arendt and Max Scheler that refers to humans as controlling the environment through tools. Henri Bergson also referred to the concept in The Creative Evolution (1907), defining intelligence, in its original sense, as the “faculty to create artificial objects, in particular tools to make tools, and to indefinitely variate its makings.”
We are blended with technology and amalgamated in a junkyard of items we create for our own benefit. They become part of our existence and invade our bodies – advances of medicine make us almost cyborgs, biotech creatures. Do we still control our tools or do we slowly become so dependent on technology that we can’t distinguish ourselves from them?
The famous Polish aphorist S. J. Lec said that one day technology became so perfect, that man goes without himself.
Christianity was one of the most powerful ideologies in human history. Its symbol – compassionate and forgiving Jesus crucified to redeem the sins of the humankind, has changed an ancient mentality believing in fate and destiny to an individualistic approach where one was responsible for his own deeds.
This symbol is still broadly present in modern civilization as a cultural icon, without religious connotations, over-used and stretched to fit every possible context, analysed from various angels; a simulacrum washed out from sacral meaning. Its role of Biblia Pauperum, a reminder of human fragility and embedded evil, fades away being diluted by laic, post-modern culture which recycles all symbols in the scrap yard of history. What does it mean nowadays? Is it just a reminder of our imperfect nature, a contingency of life on Earth and a promise of afterlife redemption for chosen souls, or just another inherited burden of a long forgotten mentality in the evolutionary path to the super human fiasco?
Icarus in Greek mythology was the one who tried to break free from human limitations and fly to the Sun. Brave and romantic but vain and naive from our modern perspective. We prefer comfortable quasi-freedom to futile effort. We are like caricatures, empty shells of the former Icarus who have fallen into the ocean, protected by rationalism and pragmatism from the unknown and secured in the armour of culture. We just look at the distorted world through broken windows dreaming about the meaning of life from a safe distance.
But most things end by concealing us.
Look: trees are!
Our shelters endure.
But we, like mingled winds,
claim no single habitat.
All things conspire to
keep us secret-half,
it seems, from shame
and half in token of
some unspoken hope.
R.M.Rilke, II Duino Elegy
Creating is like removing the veil which hides reality, overcoming the limitations of our biased perception to see what’s behind. Creating is revealing, opening new dimensions to see the same thing from different angles.
On a subliminal level our brain collects everything we experience. Like CCTV we unconsciously but inexorably process all information, recycling and reshaping data we incorporate. Like alchemists we mix various elixirs of reality and run it through the machine of our characters to create a genuine simulation of ourselves. Our ideas float until they burst when confronted with reality, like bubbles – for us though, our thoughts are as real as we are. We are unwilling translators, collectors of debris, epistemological archaeologists forever only reaching the truth we have previously created.
Civilization is steadily and constantly strutting forward, cruel and deadly to its lovers like a mantis. We are being swallowed and recycled by its inevitable march, used as batteries to power and fertilize it. Our lives are only vessels, expressions of her will just like selfish memes in Dawkins’ Selfish Genes theory, only in a technological dimension.