AS WE CELEBRATE THE APOLLO 11 MOON LANDING on its 50th anniversary, we are right to laud the many technological advances that have come about thanks to the scientific teams that doubled down on their work once President John F Kennedy made his historic speech, vowing to send a team of astronauts to the Moon before the 1960s were up.
The same phenomenon is now going on in relation to the race for Mars. A worldwide effort is being made by scientific teams right around the globe and the innovation those teams are generating is monumental. They include revolutionary inventions in the various medical fields, which are already serving humanity in ways that not only improve health, but prolong life itself, which is absolutely fantastic.
This is the positive side of scientific innovation.
There is a dark side, as well, as we all know, however, and that has to do with climate change and the armaments industry. It also has to do with the rise of social media where anything that anyone wishes to proclaim as fact can be uploaded and allowed to go viral in a heartbeat.
If the Post-Truth era is an Orwellian nightmare of global proportions, then awakening from this surreal state of affairs is surely an imperative. After all, truth is ultimately the most precious of all insights we humans can possibly hope to have. Truth is what puts the world aright for intelligent, self-aware beings who want to understand the nature of the domain in which they find themselves. Surely no one wants to live a life based on a lie.
Only what is an insight? It’s a conceptualization; a mental construct, which is precisely what every thought is. Thoughts are constructs that shape themselves in neuronal patterns, but those patterns are in a constant state of fluctuation, their shapes altered with a novel connection here or a rerouted connection there.
Virtually millions of different networks are at play at any given moment in every brain on the planet. In fact, thoughts are so fluid that they are, like sites on the Internet, a biological streaming service that is continually altering the life of every human being virtually twenty-four hours a day.
Time, too, is in a constant state of fluidity. It is ever-changing; going from one moment to the next, nonstop, into the future and leaving a past in its wake; a past that neuroscientists have proven is remembered fairly inexactly.
In stark contrast, we imagine “truth” to be a constant. We think of it as something that never changes.
If a thing is true, we tell ourselves, it is ever and always true.
Einstein disputed this and said that space-time is relative to the motion of a perceiver. In terms of time alone, he graphically suggested that one need only consider the difference between five minutes in a pleasant romantic situation versus five minutes sitting on a hot stove.
If all is relative and ever-changing, how are we supposed to arrive at truth in a collective sense? How do we awaken from our Post-Truth nightmare when virtually every person on the planet has his or her own unique perspective on what constitutes “truth” itself?
The answer is: “This is already the first truth.”
By that I mean this: since no two human beings see or experience anything in exactly the same way, then it is with this fact from which we must set out on our quest to comprehend the reality in which we live out our lives. If we do not acknowledge something so basic, then we have little hope of finding our way to higher levels of insight and truth.
The reason perceptions are unique is simple enough to understand. We all grow up in circumstances that are totally singular. We are born into a situation in which we find ourselves surrounded by parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors, teachers, religious and political leaders who influence us in very direct ways. This is how each of us automatically becomes a part of a community, a city, a nation.
By inhabiting a one-of-a-kind environment and coming under the sway of a myriad of political, cultural and religious viewpoints while we are impressionable young children, each of us ends up believing as we are taught to believe. It cannot be otherwise, for no child can possibly see through the profoundly relative nature of the consensus reality we share.
Fortunately, we can eventually learn to think for ourselves. Yet, how many of us actually choose to think radically different from our parents and community? Most of us do not. This is especially so once young adults begin families of their own. Young parents want to “fit in” and have their children fit in with other members of their communities.
Times change, however, as do people. Theories get overturned and beliefs fall out of favor. New facts emerge that end up superseding or contradicting previous notions and those facts can force one to reassess one’s considered opinion.
That can only happen, however, if we remain open minded!
The problem is that millions of people do not bother to have a “considered opinion”; they do not bother with researching anything, let alone going deeply into the extensive historical and scientific data that is available to us.
In fact, millions of people are given to having emotional “knee jerk” reactions to any new information that comes along, especially if that new information seems to threaten cherished beliefs or (and this can be crucial) threatens one’s livelihood. For example, many leading members of the coal and oil industries simply refuse to accept that their products are contributing to climate change. They outright reject the idea that there is a need for humanity to move to “clean” energy sources such as solar and wind power, despite the voluminous scientific data that tell us we must do precisely that or risk ever-worsening calamities such as storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, deadly heat-waves, droughts and so forth.
Where there is a perceived threat to a group of people with certain beliefs and entrenched interests, such an attitude can sometimes lead to violence and bloodshed, even murder as beliefs are defended. Every skirmish, battle or war is proof of this contention and the daily news reports are so saturated with the “truth” of this unfortunate fact that we humans really ought to hang our heads in shame at our inability to live harmoniously with each other.
Times do change, though, and they will continue to change. Change happens at a physical level in evolutionary terms and it happens at the psychological level.
What we call “thoughts”, as mentioned above, are mental constructs and virtually everything that is a construct will and does change in one way or another. Advertising agencies know this better than anyone, as do governments which put a “spin” on the facts they present to the citizenry of whatever community they seek to influence so that they can pursue their particular agendas with impunity.
While it is easy to blame social media platforms for allowing virtually any statement to be offered up as “fact” nowadays, we need to remember that “fake news” has always been with us. Those in power have ever and always promoted their chosen agenda by talking up specific viewpoints and denigrating contrary ones, as well as purposely spreading “disinformation” (lies) in order to maintain control over people and hold onto power at all costs.
This is the way of world, whether we like it or not, and most of us don’t.
The “Post-Truth Era” today is in many ways a reflection of the polarization that occurred in the 1960s. That, too, was an era fraught with upheaval. Today the polarization is mainly down to a single primary confrontation: those who believe that the scientific community is correct about climate change and those who prefer to ignore this “inconvenient truth” in order to allow the corporate and industrial powers that so dominate the global economy to continue cranking out product for profit, and never mind the pollution that results from the manufacturing process itself.
Back in the Sixties, Bob Dylan famously sang that “The Times They Are A’Changin’”, but that the answers to our woes were inescapably elusive. “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,” he told us.
The wind itself is truth, however.
Some of what is on the wind and in our soil and water is known to be frighteningly toxic. The words that fly back and forth between people is on the wind, as well, and it is often full of alarming invective.
Do we not love ourselves, our children and our neighbors enough to stop attacking each other? Do we not have enough sense to clean up our lives, first and foremost at a personal level, and then at a collective, global level?
I think we do, despite the tumult that is going on in the present era. We need only reach for the higher levels of truth that are to be found in the wisdom traditions of humanity to achieve significant change. We must remember as we go about this, however, that it is thanks to the billions of insights from all around the globe that humanity has reached the current level of political, academic and technological sophistication it now enjoys.
Let us, then, praise the diversity of viewpoints that have contributed to this process over the centuries, no matter which race of people, nor which culture has made any particular contribution. It is the confluence of concepts and ideas that have made the world what it is today.
Therefore, it is the spirit of cooperation, not confrontation that will allow humanity to save itself and the planet.
So, yes, as ever the times are changing. Humanity is now part of a global community and it must collectively submit to the evidence that is before its very eyes. Climate change is real. Catastrophic things are happening and such events are only going to get worse if we don’t step into action and change our ways.
All of humanity must pull together now. We must all change our way of thinking and acting as a species. This is especially so as we prepare to go interplanetary. Mars looms large before us far beyond the Moon on this, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing there.
Do we not owe it to each other and to our children to take many small steps back toward the higher truths of life?
The “truth” is we can easily do that simply by living from the heart and promoting love, charity, empathy, kindness and compassion at every opportunity. By offering these beautiful, deeply spiritual qualities to each other and to the Earth itself in an effort to correct the errors of the past, we can go forward – together as a unified species – into a safe and absolutely stupendous future.