Saturday, June 6, 2009

It's a funny old world

If humanity has one weakness, it's this: a short memory. It's not our fault, of course. As a species, we're only a few short million years old. Our hind-brain carries a few instinctive memories from the time we shambled about, barely erect, on the broad grasslands of Africa - but we cannot imagine the astonishing amount of time life has existed on this swiftly spinning rock we call home.

And when I say we can't imagine it, I mean it, literally. And that's our weakness. That's why we can't really anticipate, with any sense of reality, the end of oil. It's been there all our lives, and our physical brains are not capable of truly imagining its absence.

That it will run out is a given. We know it. but we can't imagine it. We need to actually experience it - and I trust that its ending will be slow enough to allow us to adapt with technology that will be an adequate replacement. Knowing, in the abstract, that we only have three week's reserve of food is fine: but we will all be surprised when that three weeks starts.
the average Joe Blow, John Doe,and Mary Smith cannot comprehend a million dollars. We hear our politicians blither on about a billion here and a billion there, to the point that a millions stops being a huge amount of cash. The US government offers a trillion or two to American banks that are led by people whose greed and lack of imagination caused the crisis - and, suddenly, a billion isn't much at all.

We need to start understanding the big numbers. We need to make an emotional connections with the fact that a billion years is a hell of a long time, and that humanity has been around for a small fraction of that time - a tiny fraction. We need to get a good gut feeling for the fact that a million dollars is a shit-load of dosh, and start kicking people who dismiss it as chump-change.

Without imagination, we are going to die. it was the stirring of imagination that got us up onto two legs in the first place. it was imagination that gave us the ability to use fire, to forge metal, to be the first truly sentient creature capable of choosing to eat a raw oyster. Imagination has led to poetry. Lack of imagination has led us to war, and the extinction of societies.

There are too many things now that distract us from actually using our fore-brains for creative thought. Let's do a little waking up.

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