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Sa's Dream Essay on Science and the Revolutionary
Again it seemed the drunken dream had passed, and I nearly slept before she spoke once more.
“I am as I seem, living in the Big world, your world, a person diminutive in scale and a human being. I live among you, and I study you and the world you have made.”
Time stretched on before she spoke again.
“To regard a great city, one must ask: Are we humans not a species of master path-makers and habitat-shapers? We are. And yet we dare not take our craft to the social estate, nor to the state of our lives beyond the physical. In this our higher realm, we remain like deer, making a trail through the woods as we find them, no vision of a human garden, but paths made in forage of instinct alone. Generation after generation follows these single-minded trails of scent and happenstance through the tangled woods, until we have worn a whole civilization of paths.
“Why not? One might ask, if the experience of conscious creatures depends on the laws of nature, why not follow the vitality of instinct for our paths? Why allow higher faculties, like Science or the Arts, to show us the way to move through the social domain?”
She paused, gathering silence, then answered her question.
“Because we are not deer. Our faculties can be applied to the most fateful decisions in the navigation of human life. Science transcends bias and self-deception to observe with reason, why then does a Science of moral paths have no standing in the order and economy of human life? Why do the Big require that a Science of Ethos be what no other science is required to be: the Word of God?”
Quiet enveloped her words again before she spoke. [read more...]
“The moral landscape of your world is wretched in its trade-offs and sanctioned evils. Morals, human values, these can be understood when viewed through the lens of Science and of Art, but your political twisting has been made true Science and true Art all but impossible.”
I exhaled out of rhythm at the novel complexity of the thought. I dared not stir.
“The world we share stumbles from technology to technology, the marketplace your god and guide for want of moral knowledge of the kind only Science and Art can offer to you. We cannot learn habitat-shaping of the human estate from the sniffing beast in us. Our instincts take the short view of all matters, grave and slight. Living, laissez-faire deer in the wild are in a game of brinkmanship with extinction, and yet the Big imitate deer in their political economy at much the same brink. Dressed in your law and ingenuity are centuries of sylvan accidents, tree falls and paths around them, a myopia of culture and legal ways.
“Even animals do not share in the worst of your behavior. In extremis animals are known to eat their young and each other, but you have made an economy of cannibalism. As a matter of course, you eat your young and old alike. There is human blood and tears in all you produce and consume. Those who live for tomorrow’s world are eaten by those who live heedless for today. You celebrate this appetite with names like freedom. You even sacrifice yourselves for the sacred cause of other-eating.”
Her voice had grown impassioned, which made the ensuing silence all the emptier.
“I am not a creature of sacrifice nor do I bring visions of utopia,” she began again calmly. “I have with my wealth the means to redress some small symptoms in your current ills, but I am no altruist. I will neither partake of the human meal, consuming others for my gain, nor the hypocrisy of giving alms thus earned. Alleviate the suffering ordained by a system, and leave the system free to ordain and perpetuate the self-same suffering? The altruist has no moral standing. Such benevolence is itself guilty of the wrongs it would address. I would obviate this shameful need of charity, and do so in accord with man’s rational nature and the cultivation of genius, far higher ideals than alms for the poor, the sorry stuff of laissez-faire.”
I heard the faint sound of her movements on the shelf in the silence that ensued. Her strange words had a drug-like effect, muting my fears, which seized me again in the long quiet. This was not happening, I told myself in an attempt to calm the panic rising in me, but when had I ever dreamed this way? A chill ran down my spine.
“There was a time,” she continued, and my ears seemed to reach out, hungry for the bare assurance of her voice. “I lay forlorn and vulnerable on a moonless night alone in the forest. I knew there were snakes about feeding because I’d injured myself killing one. A fortress around me would not have been enough to calm my fears. I had then your selfish, stubborn sense of self-reliance and preservation. Yet there was a selfless side to my selfish fear, and the reverse, selfishness to my common vulnerability. I learned that fearful night, self-ness is not a true pivot of argument but rather an instance of language confounding thought. So much of Big thinking seems wasted at battling straw constructs of language, words made the servant of thoughts made the servant of words in cycles of misgiving.”
The silence was brief.
“The earth is finite, like our lives. Such facts binds us, if nothing else. Common cause and commonweal are for your own selfish sake and for the planet of such alike as well. To see beyond property is hard when you are at the teat of it, but the root of all scarcity is there to be found for the looking. I refuse the ethos of owners, alms and trickle downs. Thus, I am a revolutionary.”
“In time, you will understand me so. There are consequences to knowing me. A point shall come there will be no turning back for either of us. I do not appeal to your concern for others. When I say to you, ‘join me in revolution,’ it is because you are yourself afflicted. You have a bad case of affluenza, the disease of a culture of scarcity. You do not want to be tramping down Hetty and Neil’s path, following their scent, widening the way for the next assenting generation, quite selfishly, because it aggrieves you, and quite as selfishly, because it infects and afflicts everyone.
“Genius lives best for itself living the truth of its commonality with all. This is not obvious to the Big. To restore clarity to the individual and all fair meaning of distinction, our human needs must be met unconditionally. There is no other valid purpose, or moral justification, for governing structures.”
She paused. I strained my ears, but the quiet was absolute. My stomach churned. I swallowed, tasting booze. At last she launched her voice again into the void.
“The job will be yours for your life if you can keep it,” she explained. “You saw last night I can set you free from your money problems. Free for conscience, I’d rather say. That you are capable, I have no doubt, but I must know you are trustworthy. With me, you will in time grow into a more powerful man than your furthest dream. I offer you the best lifetime you could ever live.”
The silence was broken by little sounds, as if she were stretching and yawning.
“Day is dawning, and now we will sleep. Do not fear to wake, Ken.”
I spun, round and round, lying horizontally. The bed and room spun, dizzying, until I knew I would be sick. I awoke sitting upright in a sweat, nauseous and gasping for air, struggling to fix my eyes on something. I swung my feet to the floor and, attempting to stand, stumbled to the carpet in the whirl. I stood up and walked as the way to the bathroom revolved out of sight. I stumbled again. I crawled to the toilet bowl, where I heaved up my sickness until it seemed my own guts were demanding to vacate my body.
Excerpt from Chapter 4, Book One, Conundrum
[Originally published on Google+]