Je pense, donc je suis. 1600-ish to Now.
When Descartes initially published those words, he was thinking about proof of existence – but he was also echoing the direction of civilization: from myth to reason.
500 years of thinking ourselves into being.
That has been the pump driving civilization: the linear, categorical, mechanical, reasonable world-view (including the derangement of the instruments of reason: holocausts, wars, national debts, mind-numbing factory jobs, libido-depleting consumer economies).
It’s a world that you can mostly conceive of a priori: scientific inquiries, democratic governments, railways, electric grids, computers.
It’s a world that helps us to overcome the ravages of nature and superstition. It’s also a world that misplaces creation with replication, and weakens our emotional immune system.
It’s a world where our being derives out of thinking.
Je part, donc je suis. Now.
I share, therefore I am. This is the world into which we are moving into everyday: I share with you, you share with me. All of us sharing tiny sumulacrum – tweets, status updates, hyperlinks. Maybe you share with me something I shared to someone else three days ago.
In fact, it’s sharing of sharing of sharing ad infinitum. Taken to its logical conclusion: a world of shells forms, like some strange cloud of simulacra.
It’s not curation – it’s just sharing.
And although these sharing acts can have value, what’s happening in the larger scheme of things is that we are becoming the sharing.
Not 500 years of thinking into being, but 5 years of sharing into being.
Ours is a world where our being derives out of our sharing.
It’s not a world that’s easily imagined. What does it look like? What do virtual nations look like? What do our brains do all day? What of democracy and reason and meditation?
We move from Pense to Part – from contemplators to particles.
But this second step in our societal evolution – it’s not where we aught to go, is it?
Just because we can, it doesn’t mean we aught.
So, what to do to avoid this opiate sleep of being that piles around us like alluring falling snow, tweet by tweet?
What wakes us into the fullness of being?
For that matter, what conveys us beyond mere being into presence?
Je crée, donc je suis.
Our being – if it is to have meaning – must derive from creation.
I create, therefore I am.
The more you share, and the less you create, the less you truly are.
This is the danger facing us if we do not bring forth the effort to create ourselves into being: We may vanish into electronic simulacra that give us the seductive illusion of social exchange.
You can think. You can share. You can create.
Do all three, and you might find yourself awake to a better world.
And if it’s not a better world – if it’s a destroyed world – the being you create becomes a presence onto itself. It’s yours and nobody else’s.
Nous créons, donc nous sommes!
- Phil Baumann