Individuation and the meaning of stories

From The Portable Jung by Carl Jung, pages 122-123:

Self-alienation in favour of the collective corresponds to a social-ideal; it even passes for social duty and virtue, although it can be misused for egotistical purposes.  Egoists are called “selfish,” but this, naturally, has nothing to do with the concept of “self” as I am using it here.  On the other hand, self-realization seems to stand in opposition to self-alienation.  This misunderstanding is quite general, because we do not sufficiently distinguish between individualism and individuation.  Individualism means deliberately stressing and giving prominence to some supposed peculiarity rather than to collective considerations and obligations.  But individuation means precisely the better and more complete fulfilment of the collective qualities of the human being, since adequate consideration of the peculiarity of the individual is more conducive to a better social performance than when the peculiarity is neglected or suppressed.  The idiosyncrasy of an individual is not to be understood as any strangeness in his unique combination, or gradual differentiation, of functions and faculties which in themselves are universal.  Every human face has a nose, two eyes, etc., but these universal factors are variable, and it is this variability which makes individual peculiarities possible.  Individuation, therefore, can only mean a process of psychological development that fulfils the individual qualities given; in other words, it is a process by which a man becomes the definite, unique being he in fact is.  In so doing he does not become “selfish” in the ordinary sense of the word, but is merely fulfilling the peculiarity of his nature, and this, as we have said, is vastly different from egotism or individualism.

Now in so far as the human individual, as a living unit, is composed of purely universal factors, he is wholly collective and therefore in no sense opposed to collectivity.  Hence the individualistic emphasis on one’s own peculiarity is a contradiction of this basic fact of the living being.  Individuation, on the other hand, aims at a living co-operation of all factors.  But since the universal factors always appear only in individual form, a full consideration of them will also produce an individual effect, and one which cannot be surpassed by anything else, least of all by individualism.

The aim of individuation is nothing less than to divest the self of the false wrappings of the persona on the one hand, and of the suggestive power of primordial images on the other.

From Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor by Joseph Campbell, page 91:

That mythological motif of the atonement with the father, which has come down through the Christian tradition and has been read chiefly in historical terms, is given the sense of an actual experience that anyone of us may have and must have if we are to break past ourselves.  It comes, however, in and through a personal relationship, for only in relationship to another can this experience, with its human costs, occur.

It is in human relationships that the operation takes place—the relationship of me to you, of you to another, of you to your job, of you to Earth—relationship is the field where the individual is in process.  In marriage, for example, when one sacrifices, one is not sacrificing to the other, one sacrifices rather to the relationship.  In the relationship both participate, so you are sacrificing an aspect of yourself in relation to another, and there is no psychological development outside the relationship.  That is what we have in the center.  It is the form of a cross.  Relationship and yielding.  Dark and light together.

Now from a book on screenwriting, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by Jeffrey Alan Schechter, page 44:

Your hero starts the film as an Orphan.  A crisis arises, throwing your hero’s world out of whack, and he or she leaves or is forced out of Orphan status and begins to wander in order to learn what is needed to answer the central question [of the story].  Around the midpoint of the story, your hero becomes a Warrior and fights with all of his or her might and cunning in order to answer the central question, even to the point of his or her near-death or the near-death of someone close.  And still it isn’t enough.  The central question remains unanswered.  What action is missing for your hero to take?  What more could he or she possibly do?

Sacrifice his or her own life, that’s what!

Your hero must be willing to die and not be reborn in order to answer the central question.  He or she must be willing to be a Martyr, to give up everything for a greater good.  Only by willingness to lose it all can your hero win it all.  Only by giving up what your hero thought he or she wanted can your hero be rewarded with what he or she needs.  Remember in Chapter 3 where we discussed what your hero is wrong about at the start of the story?  It is at this point where your hero must confront and overcome that wrongheadedness.

From another book on screenwriting, Save the Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder, pages 62-63:

And that Dig-Deep-Down point, that “Use the Force, Luke!” beat, is what we’re all looking for whether we are writers of the story or the audience for it.  Yes, this way of looking at the ending of any story also works when the hero or heroes are “Defending the Castle” as seen in the finales of Saving Private Ryan, Shaun of the Dead, and Blazing Saddles—or in “Escaping the Castle” as seen in Alien, Free Willy, and Defiance.  Whether your team is on the offense or defense, the lessons of friendship, teamwork, selflessness, and nobility are the same, and the Dig-Deep-Down moment is key.  No matter what the permutation of your tale, it’s the dynamic we seek, for the need of any story boils down to being touched by powers unseen.

Special effects are fine, great set pieces are wonderful, funny jokes and unique characters are vital.  But if you take me to the divine in your story, I will tell all my friends about it.

That’s what storytelling is really about.

Finally, maybe even a Bible verse, eh?  Jesus speaking, from Matthew 10:39 (New American Bible):

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Go forth and meditate on all this!

By S P Hannifin, ago

Pope says shocking things about science!

I thought it was funny to see the Pope in the news for talking about science. (Google it and read a few articles if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

The notion of God-creation has always transcended any explanation of how it physically happened. That is, how it physically happened doesn’t matter. Looking to physical explanations misses the point of the belief; after all, without a conscious entity that intends for certain things to happen, nothing ever happens for a “reason to be fulfilled.” Creation is an inherently metaphysical thing.

This is an imperfect comparison, but let us say that there is a child playing with LEGOs. He builds a small house with the LEGO bricks. Where did the house come from? Did it come from the child’s mind, or from the LEGO bricks?

To answer that the house came from the child’s mind is not to deny that the house is made of LEGO bricks.

Of course, what’s really ridiculous is how the media likes to portray the Pope’s words as being anything special in the first place, as if there is some gap to fill between science and Catholicism in the first place, or as if the ideas of the big bang and evolution ever conflicted with anything in Catholic teaching at all, or as if previous popes haven’t said similar things.

I may have blogged about this before, but I think some of it stems from a misunderstanding of science especially. Science is often used as an excuse to reject anything religious (because them Christians is weird and them organized religins is the devil!) with the assumption that if something is “science”, it can be “proven” with some sort of materialistic evidence, which could be found in some science journal somewhere. Of course, this really isn’t “science” in the traditional sense; this is the Science! of the modern man, the Science! that saves us from being obligated to defend or argue for any sort of morality. Disagree with a religious person about anything, and never fear, because Science! is on your side!

But the physical sciences never actually prove anything to be completely correct, nor do they somehow auto-generate any explanations for anything. Rather, we humans come up with explanations based on observations and predictions, and science gives us a means by which to disprove the explanation, so that we can form a more accurate explanation. That’s what science mainly is: a method by which to disprove explanations.

So firstly, science depends on the metaphysical; it makes no sense trying use it to reject the metaphysical. And secondly, there’s no “gap” between science and theology. Theology doesn’t make “scientific” claims in the first place, anymore than someone saying “I love you” to someone else is ever meant as a scientific hypothesis.

By S P Hannifin, ago

On hoping for changes in church teachings

Perhaps I will begin a blog dedicated entirely to religion and religion-related material. I obviously have an interest in it.

From this blog post (from a sci-fi writer whose work I admire):

[In regards to the LDS Church:]

I can remember being very happy when, in 1978, President Kimball received revelation from God that that time had come to extend the priesthood to all worthy males regardless of race.

This is the main thing I reject; the notion that God would change His mind about something. “This is what’s appropriate. OK, now this is appropriate instead. OK, now this is allowed.” If God is Truth, and if Truth by it’s very nature is eternal (objective beyond even time and space), then the appropriateness of certain behavior, the morality of behavior (or at least the intentions behind those behaviors), cannot change. Our human understanding of it can grow or diminish (we can be wrong about it), but Truth itself doesn’t change. And we do our best to understand Truth as it truly is; we strive to know Truth; we strive to know God.

In the modern world, where laws of a nation can be changed with votes, people sometimes confuse the teachings of a church (like, say, the Catholic Church) for arbitrary decisions made by leaders based on their personal likes and dislikes. In this way, church teachings are sometimes misunderstood to be like voted-upon laws that can be changed over time.

But if that were the case, the teachings wouldn’t be objective, and couldn’t be understood to be manifestations of Truth. Instead, they’d be arbitrary opinions. Not a problem if we all agree on them, but when we don’t, oh no, what do we do?

If leaders of the Catholic Church decided to strip away certain teachings from the Catechism claiming they now “understood things differently” or had some divine revelations, Catholics everywhere would not say, “Oh, OK, if you say so!” Perhaps some would, but only those who understood such teachings to be arbitrary in the first place. Others would be scratching their head, fearing demonic forces at work, and would abandon the clearly compromised leaders.

It is like if a math professor one day came into class and announced that he had realized that 2 plus 2 actually equals 5. If you actually understood his prior teaching that 2 plus 2 equals 4, wouldn’t you naturally fear that your professor had gone mad? You would not accept the new teaching as a revelation that Math itself had somehow changed in the night. You know it’s wrong because you understand why 2 plus 2 equals 4.

(You could get into the paradox of omnipotence. “If God can do anything, why can’t He change His mind?” You might as well ask: “If God can do anything, can He not be Himself?” or “If God can do anything, can He be illogical?” The answer is: No. The question assumes a misunderstanding of omnipotence in the context of describing God.)

The implication of this sort of mind-changing truth-revelation is that you get church members who actively hope for a change in teaching. And why shouldn’t they? It’s like having a parent who changes his mind about whether or not you can eat ice-cream for dinner. How could it not be valid to hope for something you understand to be at least possible?

But is that at all spiritually healthy for a family of believers?

And if you submit yourself to an authority figure, why the heck would you hope for him to change his mind about something? Isn’t that basically the same thing as, you know, not actually submitting to that authority?

I don’t at all understand how these “revelations” work in the Mormon Church, but any authority that can be understood to change its mind is not objective, and therefore not Truth, and therefore not God.

By S P Hannifin, ago

We must become saints

Author John C. Wright has written a long essay called Restless Heart of Darkness. He writes in the first part:

At the risk of giving away the surprise ending (which, honestly, I suppose is not a surprise to anyone but me) I realized why it is that the current mainstream modern thought, despite its illogical and pointless nature, is so persistent, nay, so desperate.

I realized why they never admit they are wrong no matter how obvious the error, nor can they compromise, nor hold a rational discussion, nor a polite one, nor can they restrain themselves. They can neither win nor surrender.

I realized why their hearts were so restless. It is obvious once one sees it.

The essay has four parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. It is a long read, but should be of interest to anyone who, like me, finds himself constantly growing confused and angry with the direction of the modern world. (And it’s not just a matter of blaming a younger generation; I’m twenty-eight, still a bit too young to do that. But it won’t be long!)

I quote the essay’s conclusion here (with a few typos fixed), which I found to be the best part. (Yes, I’m blatantly giving away the surprise ending.) It was something I needed to read at the exact moment I did, as if it were answering my thoughts:

Despair is the key. It explains nearly everything that is so puzzling about the madness of modern life, the pack of self-contradictory dogmas that make up the default assumptions of the Dark Ages in which we live.

They have nothing else. No wonder they are bitter. No wonder they are irrational. No wonder they lie like dogs. No wonder they boast. No wonder they are full of envy and malice. No wonder they kill babies in the womb and fete socialist dictators and mass murderers. No wonder they love death. No wonder they admire, protect and love Islamic terrorists. No wonder they admire, protect, and love sexual perversion.

It is because they have nothing else. They live in a world of darkness, without hope, with nothing but their seven great friends to sustain them: pride, which they call self esteem; envy, which they call social justice; wrath, which they call activism and protest; sloth, which they call enlightenment; gluttony, which they call health food and legalization of recreational drugs; greed, which they call fairness in taxation; lust, which they call sexual liberation.

The modern age is suffering from spiritual and philosophical starvation in the midst of what should be the greatest feast of mind and spirit imaginable. Someone has told them offal was food and food was poison, and so they gnaw on foul things which cannot satisfy them, which make their hungers grow. They are dying of thirst, and someone offers them seawater to drink.

Let us now and forever eschew anger and indignation at these creatures. They are like blind kittens who cling and claw and scratch the hands that come to feed and comfort. No man should be angered at a blind scratch.

Neither should we do them the honor of assuming theirs is a philosophy, political or otherwise, or a coherent worldview, or anything that can be discussed or debated. It is a dream, a delirium, a vision, a nightmare.

Surely was can answer, or at least fend off, any questions they might have concerning our vision, which is brighter and better and sane and whole and true, because more often than not, it is a frivolous reason, a matter of mere emotion, which prevents them from seeing this light. Their eyes are closed, their reason is dark. Reason is of limited use to them, who have no faith in reason.

Beauty is the key to lure them into opening their eyes. I mean not merely the physical beauty in song and architecture and story telling where Christendom has no lack and has no peers; I mean also the beauty of virtue, of charity, of sympathy, of humanity, of heroism, of martyrdom.

Did not the sheer mind-boggling beauty of Mother Teresa of Calcutta attract more skeptics to our banners than did the sneering sarcastic ugliness of Christopher Hitchens attract to his?

They are lost in the dark. That is the truth that stabbed my soul like lightning. They wander in their jerky motions from one idle fashion and meaningless fancy to the next not because they are bored, but because they are desperate, because they are starving.

To cure them we must love them. That is what I saw.

To cure them, we must be a light to them.

We must actually live up to the difficult, nay, the impossible task of becoming saints, as humble and glorious as stars in the host of heaven.

We must first cure ourselves.

By S P Hannifin, ago

Catholicism and homosexuality

And now a more serious post. The religious blog Deus Nobiscum recently finished posting a series of short articles worth reading. They do a nice job of explaining my beliefs on this subject. (They’re short. It doesn’t take long.)

Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 1: Equal Persons
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 2: Unequal Acts Part 1
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 3: Unequal Acts Part 2
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 4: The Call to Chastity
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 5: The Rugged Cross
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 6: Love, Not Hate Part 1
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 7: Love, Not Hate Part 2

They are written more concisely and with more grace than I would’ve ever been able to manage. This subject continues to be a touchy one among some of my good friends. It can be a very difficult thing to discuss. I know it is often sentimentalized by TV and Hollywood to be a struggle to be oneself and find love in the midst of oppressive institutions, outdated ideologies, and naive or downright prejudiced individuals. I can only hope my friends can give my understanding of this subject a little more credit than all that.

At the very least, even if you don’t agree with it, you owe it to yourself to not be afraid of or offended by people who understand and speak about sexual morality (and the spirituality behind it) and its related issues in this way. When I, or a Catholic priest for that matter, mentions these things, it is not an effort to shame dissenters. It is an honest (and, in my opinion, very beautiful) understanding of sexual nature. There is nothing to fear about it.

God bless!

By S P Hannifin, ago

Following your selfish dreams

From this interesting article:

For all the chatter about the formulaic sameness of Hollywood movies, no genre in recent years has been more thematically rigid than the computer-animated children’s movie. These films have been infected with what might be called the magic-feather syndrome. As with the titular character in Walt Disney’s 1943 animated feature Dumbo, these movies revolve around anthropomorphized outcasts who must overcome the restrictions of their societies or even species to realize their impossible dreams.

It’s probably no coincidence that the supremacy of the magic-feather syndrome in children’s movies overlaps with the so-called “cult of self-esteem.” The restless protagonists of these films never have to wake up to the reality that crop-dusters simply can’t fly faster than sleek racing aircraft. Instead, it’s the naysaying authority figures who need to be enlightened about the importance of never giving up on your dreams, no matter how irrational, improbable, or disruptive to the larger community. As Jean Twenge, the controversial cultural critic of America’s supposed narcissism epidemic, argues in her bestselling book Generation Me, younger generations “simply take it for granted that we should all feel good about ourselves, we are all special, and we all deserve to follow our dreams.”

First, I will diverge into the idea of “comparative success”. That is, success as defined by comparing oneself to others.

I get annoyed with the Disney channel and some of Nickelodeon’s teen-oriented shows, in which being a famous pop-singer and/or trendy-dressing dancer is something that is idolized. I know they may seem like harmless frivolous silly entertainment on the surface, but I think they actually actively harm our culture (like much of television, for that matter) by glorifying, subtly or unsubtly, performance art talent and popularity. That is, the more talented and popular you are, the more you are worth as a person, so it is a good and worthy thing to dream of that sort of success, to dream of being not just a pop singer or a fashion designer, but of becoming a famous one.

The most famous antithesis to this teen-idol market is a cartoon show targeted at a younger crowd, but shares a large number of older fans as well. It is Spongebob Squarepants, an ever-ready nerdy optimist who takes insane amounts of pride in flipping burgers, blowing bubbles, and catching jellyfish, remaining blissfully oblivious to the ways in which he could never gain fame in his own society by just doing what he loves. And while his burger-flipping pride is something we have an easier time laughing at than relating to, it is not presented as something to be ridiculed in and of itself, but celebrated. That’s not only what makes it funny, that’s what makes it inviting to audiences. That is, if a viewer can even slightly relate to a bit of Spongebob’s over-passionate nerdiness for something ridiculous, he is welcomed to it in good company, not made to feel a clownish outcast. (Compare this to the nerdiness presented in The Big Bang Theory, in which audiences are called to laugh at references to nerdy things, but these nerdy things are never celebrated in their own right; audiences still need their trendy dirty humor.) I daresay grown men who go into cartoon production for a living have a much different outlook on their art than producers looking to profit from teenagers idolizing each other’s voices and looks and fame.

It equally annoys me when contestants on talent competition shows like American Idol or The Voice claim that they want to win so that they can be an inspiration for others. Oh, how noble of you! Oh, wait. You want to encourage other people to desire fame and money? Oh, thanks, that’s great, just what the world needs!

Of course, it’s not just pop culture in which this sort of comparative definition of success reigns. It’s just perhaps the most visible and the most obviously vain in pop culture. But it thrives in businesses, academics, politics, the arts, etc. It’s all over the place. You don’t know how well you’re doing what you’re doing, or how you should feel about it, until you compare yourself with others.

Anyway, the reason I diverge into comparative success is because that’s the sort of success these animated film characters dream about. The “Follow your dreams!” message isn’t bad in and of itself, it’s just vague, and allows for a variety of narcissistic interpretations, dreaming of being somehow quantifiably better than others, as in winning a race, and not allowing for the mere following of the dream to bring any joy.

That’s what equally bothers me about the Charlie Brown example given in the article. (I’ve never seen the Charlie Brown film mentioned, so I speak here only based on what I read about it in the article.) The entire point of Charlie Brown wanting to succeed at something is just as narcissistic as the modern-day dreaming characters. His tragic results provide a nice contrast to the modern characters’ easy success, but why couldn’t he learn to do something just for the sake of itself? His tragedy wasn’t that his success rate was more realistic, but that he took no pride or gratification in what he was capable of to begin with. The entire point of “trying again” is not to force yourself with gritted teeth through the frustration of the trial so that you can one day achieve your goal. Trying again is (at least ideally) a natural consequence of your love for something. It should be FUN to try again. And when it is, failure is only a minor disappointment.

On a side note, I like how the article points out the trope of having some supporting character be nonsupporting of the hero’s desires. I can understand the dramatic need for the hero’s desires to be rebuked at the beginning of a story, but I wish writers would come up with more creative ways of having characters do it, instead of just, “Oh, I just hate dreamers! Your desires are arbitrarily wrong! I pointlessly have no faith in you!” I’d love to see a supporting character offer a real argument, perhaps pointing out the hero’s selfishness.

By S P Hannifin, ago

It’s so hard to be us

A famous man says, “There are very few African-American men in this country [the USA] who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me. There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often.”

What’s his point? What is he trying to say?

There are different experiences between all sorts of people. Men and women, rich men and poor men, black men and white men, old men and young men, men of this religion and that religion, men of this ancestry and that ancestry, men of this country and that country, men with medical conditions and men without, men who had this sort of childhood and that sort, etc.

But of what value is it to define yourself by those differences? Of what value is it to set yourself apart from others? Of what value is it to say only certain people can relate to your experiences or your suffering? Do you think they entitle you to something special?

We cannot end racism, sexism, classism, ageism, whatever, by looking for the differences we experience and clinging to them as if they define us and set us apart from others. This will only divide us and perpetuate the problems. (This is the problem with things like affirmative action and feminism and dedicating months to celebrating the history of some special group. They perpetuate the divisions they claim to want to close by putting differences on a pedestal as if they’re something to be celebrated for their own sake.)

This isn’t to say that differences don’t exist, that we don’t experience difference sorts of hardships. Of course we do. But these differences are completely meaningless. (For that matter, it is self-righteous snobbery, and self-torture, to believe it’s any easier to be someone else.)

We all love, we all laugh, we all cry, blah blah blah, cue heartfelt piano music. When you truly care about your neighbor, you don’t look for your differences.

By S P Hannifin, ago

The Nature of God

Here are some of my thoughts on the nature of God. Nothing new here in the Christian sense, certainly. The subject was on my mind due to a project I’m working on, but I thought I’d record my thoughts here. That said, I don’t claim these thoughts necessarily represent the “Christian view” of God in some sort of scholarly totality or summation, but they certainly don’t oppose it. These thoughts are short and quite basic. (And rather sloppily written. If one is interested in the subject, I’m sure plenty of philosophers have done a better job of writing about the subject than me, and certainly in more depth.)

Firstly, the nature of God is supreme goodness. As in, they are equal, they are the same thing. One does not exist independently of the other. God does not “decide” what is “good” as if God exists first, and then creates or decides what is good, or as if He defines what is good by doing arbitrary things that are then considered good just because He did them. Rather, they are the same thing. To believe that there is an absolute goodness against which anything else may be judged is to believe in God. Notice that you cannot judge goodness to be good or bad in and of itself. It is good by definition. You can’t say, “Ah, good is actually bad!” In this way, you cannot logically say that God is bad or does wrong things. Otherwise you are judging Him to a higher standard, and that higher standard would then be God, not the entity you’re blaming for doing wrong things.

God is also absolute truth. Again, the same thing. Not “God defines truth” or “creates truth” or something. They’re inherent in each other. To accept one is to accept the other.

God is also love. Once again, the same thing. Not “God loves” or “God decides what love is”. God and love are the same thing. When one experiences love (though its incomplete in this life), one experiences the actual God (or at least part of God, because our experience is currently imperfect).

In this way, we see these things — supreme goodness, absolute truth, and love — are all inherent in each other, and that is what we call God.

From this, one can see that the nature of God transcends human consciousness (and is “invisible” and “mysterious” in His totality in this way). That is, God is not a human-like consciousness with just a bunch of power, as a god like Zeus might be understood. He is not inherently separate from the physical world or a human consciousness in the manner that our minds are separate from each other’s minds and our physical bodies are separate from other objects in our environment. (I think this is usually the sort of God atheists reject, which I do too. The misunderstanding comes from thinking of God and absolute truth as separate sorts of things that can be compared to one another.)

Finally, and this is the most profound part and difficult to express, God and humans are part of each other. Not metaphorically, like in a story when some character says “I’ll be in your heart!” Literally. A human soul is made of God. God made you out of Himself, and you remain in Himself (whether or not you experience it). You and God are more intimately connected than you can understand in this world; seeing God allows you to know yourself completely. This is why God “knows you” better than you know yourself and why you can keep no secrets from Him. He is not “spying” on you from outside your consciousness with magical powers; you are part of His nature. This is also why He can hear all your prayers. This is not to say that you are God. Obviously you’re not. God is the totality of which you are a part; you are a part of God and God is present in your being. To do good deeds is to act in accordance with your nature, which is in accordance with God.

Furthermore, to “see” this connection, to see God through the self, or the self through God, is to experience the most comfort and joy and purity you can ever know. Of course, we are clouded from this connection in this current life, save for an intellectual or spiritual understanding, but it can be experienced before death. (I don’t know how. Wish I did! Certainly an honest prayer is probably where to begin.)

OK, I’m tired, so I’m not sure I’ve expressed my thoughts as well as I might have otherwise, but there it is. God bless!

By S P Hannifin, ago

For playtime

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play,” said Arthur C. Clarke.

Seems a reasonable guess, considering the promises of technological innovations.

But I’d say the technology is already here, today. We have it. We have the technology to allow us to play the days away, living life enjoying each other’s company rather than laboring and stressing over work done for money. There are still some things we must do, such as maintain our electric and water maintenance facilities, our farming and food distribution, our public safety and emergency services. What else? These services don’t need to cost anything but time, in the same way our household chores cost nothing but time. We just train an entire community to do these things, and then someone will only have to volunteer a couple hours every week or month at most.

A lot of the work most people do nowadays is, in the big scheme of things, unnecessary. We sell things and provide services to each other that we really don’t need. We want to protect ownership and private property so we won’t bother each other. Get off my property! We just like giving someone else the privelege of our working hours in exchange for the money so that we can turn around and make the same trade with someone else for whatever services or goods we want. Want, because other people have them. Want, but don’t need. (Plus, having grown up in such an environment, we feel safe with it, for the most part. There’s some strange fear that the world might collapse if we change things too drastically. Nevermind how drastically things have already changed in just the last century. Who wants to go live in 1913?)

Ultimately, most of our economics are based on vanity, and that may be the hardest thing to give up. We like to protect the possibility of getting that new gadget, bragging about our next achievement, buying a big house. Can we share? No, it’s mine! Socialist!

But, if we did give it up, we’d all be far wealthier than we could imagine, because life would be one big playtime. Isn’t that the sort of life people desire to gain through wealth? And all this time, the cost isn’t actually monetary.

By S P Hannifin, ago

The universality of superior intelligence

I’ve heard it theorized that if we ever contact sentient intelligent aliens from other planets, we may have no way to relate to them because their methods of thinking will be too outlandish for us. They will think in fundamentally different ways.

Nonsense, I say! While there may be some variations on thought processing speed, memory, and perceptions (being able to hear different sound frequencies, for instance, or having a stronger sense of smell, or perhaps being able to sense infrared light, though I’m not sure what good that would do), I theorize the foundations of intelligence are like the laws of physics or mathematics; they are universal. Nature always hones in on the same principles.

In this way, I believe humans are the most intelligent possible beings in the universe. If something cannot be understood by a human, then it cannot be understood by any physical being at all. There may be aliens just as intelligent as humans, but there can be no aliens with “superior” intelligence (of the “I understand things you cannot even fathom!” sort, not the “I can do math in my head faster than you!” sort), because there exist no different systems of logic that are just as valid as the system humans use, because our system is based on immutable principles ingrained in the nature of nature of itself. (I do not mean the system of logic as defined by mathematical laws in a text book; these systems are incomplete. We do not yet fully recognize the logic we use, yet we use it naturally. Its subtle simpleness and ease of use is what makes so hard to find, but we’re getting there.)

By S P Hannifin, ago