FUTURE FOSSILS #85 – Charles Eisenstein on Living in the Space Between Stories

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This week’s guest is Charles Eisenstein, author of five books that challenge our inherited stories of civilization and progress – but move beyond critique and into an articulation of the new paradigm emerging simultaneously through all fields of human inquiry and practice: new modes of inter-being in a living and intelligent world; humility and celebration of the mysteries that bridges science, art, and spirit; and new perspectives on how we determine value and how we can thrive amidst an age of transformation.

Charles offers us a literate and savvy look at how we got to where we are and what we will require to move past the suicidal, ecocidal myths that got us here. He’s also warm and kind and makes it easy to unfold into this awesome conversation, in which he calls BS on the rhetoric of endless economic growth and scientific conquest, and invites us to co-dream the future that so many of us have become too cynical to hope for. Enjoy this bracing dose of cool, clear wisdom and bright insight:

Our New, Better Life?

https://charleseisenstein.net/essays/7061-2/

Why I Am Afraid of Global Cooling

https://charleseisenstein.net/essays/why-i-am-afraid-of-global-cooling/

Discussed:

  • What inspired Charles’ thorough history and critique of civilization, The Ascent of Humanity, and how it differs from “anti-civilization” texts.
  • The independent convergent evolutions of civilization in Mesopotamia, China, India, and several other places, pointing to the inevitability and directionality of what we call “progress.”
  • What new stories emerge at the intersection of the timeless attractors toward a whole and healthy, thriving biodiverse world of human inter-beings, and a fragmented post-ecocidal VR fully artificial landscape?
  • When is it useful to think of humans as part of nature and when is it useful to think of humans as distinct from nature?

“Participation begins with listening. And that listening is motivated by accepting that there’s something to listen TO. That there’s something that wants to happen. What wants to happen and how can we participate in that? How can we exercise our gifts in service to this larger thing?”

  • What cultural appropriation gets wrong in its attempts to retrieve and revive indigenous rites (“It’s not the content of the rituals; it’s the spirit of the rituals.”)
  • Money as a ritual: “One of the reasons money comes so easily to us is that it’s a kind of ritual. The human mind…ritual is its territory.”

“Law, Medicine, Money, and Technology: those are the most powerful realms of ritual that we have.”

  • Operating on a story that believes the world to be dead leads to a world that is, in fact, dead – whether or not it actually was dead in the first place. Treating nature as a resource rather than as a community of minded cohabitants and potential collaborators is a self-fulfilling prophecy and an act of self-sabotage.
  • Charles’ critique of the New Age technologies of manifestation as oblivious of where the intention or vision comes from in the first place, how we’re enfolded into our environments…
  • …and how paradoxically similar that critique is to the disenchanting philosophies described by people like Yuval Harari and Timothy Morton, who make the case that it’s equally the case that the world is alive, or that humans are basically just machines. Or Erik Davis’ “re-animism,” in which we return to a pre-modern sense of a sentient environment through our encounter with AI-suffused devices.
  • How the scientific quest for control over a purely mechanical cosmos pushed us all the way around into some truly weird revelations about the indeterminate, irreproducible, and contingent workings of our mysterious universe.
  • Why machines don’t provide a sufficient metaphor for understanding consciousness, and certainly not for reproducing it.
  • Is trying to fit the complexity of the world into a linear narrative structure the problem at the root of all this? Is it a form of violence to talk about time and evolution having a direction?

“I’m not a story fundamentalist. If I say the world is built from story, I also recognize that that itself is also a story. I look at the story of inter-being, for example, as really just the ideological layer of an organism that is far deeper than story.”

“There are many ways to know. And we’re conditioned by a story that says only the measurable is real. So we’re conditioned to give priority to ways of knowing that have to do with putting things in categories.”

“Progress as currently formulated is not real progress at all. We’re not getting ANY closer to the fulfillment of human potential. Well, aybe we are getting closer on one very narrow axis of development. But there is so much more to a fully expressed human being…and we’re moving away from it in a lot of ways.”

  • What metaphor for mind/life/nature is set to replace “the computer,” just as “the computer” replaced “the steam engine,” which replaced “the geared watch?”
  • How black box AI solutions restore the mystery and magic to the technosphere, replacing reason with blind faith.
  • Kevin Kelly, Stephen Pinker, William Irwin Thompson, Douglas Rushkoff, Arthur Brock,

“The more empathic our participation, the better off we’ll be.”

  • Can we be TOO empathic?

“I think on some level, we all DO feel what all beings are feeling.”

  • The boundaries we draw between our selves and the world, between one organism and another, also evolve.
  • The healing power of grief.
  • Purge-aholics Anonymous.
  • The evolution of service as a continuously shifting, molting thing that changes, that requires careful listening. No moment is the same.
  • The sacred disquiet that attends our new perspective as we learn to see a bigger (ever-bigger) picture.

“We have to be cognizant of the inevitable reduction that happens when we assign values to things…one way to translate the humble awareness of the limitations of quantified value is to design currencies that do not need to grow in order to survive.”

  • Did money invent science?

“Property is an agreement. It’s not an absolute objective thing…as much as libertarians would like it to be.”

  • Why cryptocurrency (wants to, but) can’t replace human agreement with code.

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