Whilst researching material for two different-but-connected online projects I'm currently immersed in, I visited - not for the first time - the site of a remarkable online manuscript titled The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein.
"The unsustainability of our present system derives at bottom from its linearity, its assumption of an infinite reservoir of inputs and limitless capacity for waste. A fitting metaphor for such a system is fire, which involves a one-way conversion of matter from one form to another, liberating energy—heat and light—in the process. Just as our economy is burning through all forms of stored cultural and natural wealth to liberate energy in the form of money, so also does our industry burn up stored fossil fuels to liberate the energy that powers our technology. Both generate heat for a while, but also increasing amounts of cold, dead, toxic ash, gunk, and pollution, whether the ash-heap of wasted human lives or the strip-mine pits and toxic waste dumps of industry."
". . . Underlying the future technological economy will be principles of interdependence, cyclicity, abundance, and the gift mentality. Can you think of a better simile for all four of these principles, than that they are like water? Water, upon which all depends. Water, which moves in cycles. Water, abundant to ubiquity. Water, bringing the gift of life.
Our dependence on water—the fact that we are made mostly of water—denies the primary conceit of civilization, that we are separate from nature or even nature's master. No more nature's master are we, than we are the master of water!
Yet for centuries we have tried to persuade ourselves otherwise. In science our pretense of mastery manifests most fundamentally in the supposition that water is a structureless jumble of identical molecules, a generic medium, any two drops the same. To a standard substance we can apply universal equations. That each part of the universe is unique is profoundly troubling to any science based on the general application of standard techniques. The same is true of technology. Only a universe constructed of generic building blocks is amenable to control. Just as the architectural engineer assumes that two steel beams of identical composition will have identical properties, so does the chemist believe the same of two samples of pure H2O.
That any two samples of H2O, or graphite, or ethanol, or any other pure chemical are identical is a dogma with enormous ramifications. It implies that the complexity and uniqueness of objects of our senses is an illusion, that they are mere permutations of the same standard building blocks. Such a view naturally corresponds to the objectification of the world, which makes of it a collection of things, masses.
The opposite view sees every piece of the universe as unique. No two drops of water, no two rocks, no two electrons are identical, but each has a unique individuality. This is essentially the view of animism, which assigned to each animate and inanimate object a spirit. To a Stone Age person, the idea that water from any source had a unique character or spirit would have seemed obvious. Modern chemistry denies it and says any apparent differences are merely due to impurities—the underlying water is the same. Animism says no—to have a spirit is to be unique, irreducibly and intrinsically unique. To have a spirit is to be special. . . "
Eisenstein continues. . .
". . . A primitive hunter-gatherer would not find it difficult to believe that all water had a unique personality, that river water, lake water, rain water, spring water, and water taken from the ground would have differing effects on the body and emotions, and perhaps distinct ceremonial uses as well. I imagine some languages don't even use the same word for these different types of water. Similarly, a hunter-gatherer would find it easy to believe that beloved water would have different properties from despised water. That we believe all water to be a uniform, lifeless "substance" that can be made identical by removing its impurities is a reflection of our ideology of objectivity and mechanism. We once knew better, before we made of the world a thing, before we reduced the infinity of reality to a finitude of generic labels (like "water"). A future technology of water will recover this knowledge, and we will no longer treat water as anything less than sacred. . ."
Continue reading from - and about - this book here.
In his introduction, Charles Eisenstein writes, "I have put the entire text on line because I believe it is important for these ideas to circulate as widely as possible in the present time of crisis. In the book, I write of a coming shift from a profit-taking economy to a gift economy, from an economy of "how can I take the most?" to "how can I best give of my gifts?" This future, in which the anxiety of "making a living" no longer drives us, will arise out of the transformation in the human sense of self that is gathering today. But it is NOT ONLY A FUTURE. We can live it now too. It is in this spirit that I offer you The Ascent of Humanity on line. (You can also purchase the book from Amazon.)
Replenished - pastel on paper - CB
May we each day wake undaunted by the endless possibilities of colour. . .