Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ursula Le Guin's New Year

Image Source: South Willard.

The new year celebrates new beginnings as one casts the past aside. It is a difficult to judge how to do this. With every passing year, Millennial conditions diverge more radically from the past. Perceptions must expand to deal with the global exchange of knowledge and technological and scientific advancements. We must find new ways to understand the world, to interpret the cloud of data.

Reality and the larger reality: courtesy of Graham Hancock's Daily Alternative News Desk, recent headlines herald one discovery after another. Every day, new boundaries are breached. Scientists explore the mysteries of matter to the point where matter disappears. Look again at something mundane, and it reveals a trove of secrets, while past certainties crumble in confusion:
  • Russia Today: 'Noah's Ark': Russia to build world first DNA databank of all living things (26 December 2014)
  • Hurriyet Daily News: Massive ancient underground city discovered in Turkey's Nevşehir (28 December 2014): "With 2014 soon coming to an end, potentially the year’s biggest archeological discovery of an underground city has come from Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation. The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOKİ) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started. TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved. 'It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,' said Turan. The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city."
  • Newsweek: The campaign to prove Shakespeare didn't exist (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Scientists race to save 'books' in the burning 'library of life' (29 December 2014)
  • Wired: Machine intelligence cracks genetic controls 29 December 2014): "Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome—the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published Dec. 18 in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. 'It’s one thing to have the book—the big question is how you read the book,' said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research."
  • The Independent: Large Hadron Collider ready to delve even deeper than 'God particle' as it switches back on at double power (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Study reveals new half-light half-matter quantum particles (29 December 2014): "In a pioneering study, Professor Menon and his team were able to discover half-light, half-matter particles in atomically thin semiconductors (thickness ~ a millionth of a single sheet of paper) consisting of two-dimensional (2D) layer of molybdenum and sulfur atoms arranged similar to graphene. They sandwiched this 2D material in a light trapping structure to realize these composite quantum particles. 'Besides being a fundamental breakthrough, this opens up the possibility of making devices which take the benefits of both light and matter,' said Professor Menon."
Technocrats and scientists are blindly confident as they manipulate and extend our knowledge of reality. But they often lack the training, intuition or perspective to assess the human consequences of their protean experiments.

The tools we use to understand the expanding world are out of date. The best of the past departs in the blink of an eye. Yet the worst of the past lives on, zombified, in political ideologies, pop philosophies, corporate strategies and contemporary world views. How did this mismatch between reality and perception happen? In the latter half of the 20th century, reality became a commodity, subject to the demands of corporate profit and organization, of advertising and of disaster capitalism. Marketing agendas restrict reality's accepted boundaries and punish activity which defines reality beyond those agendas.

On 19 November 2013, science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula Le Guin won the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Wired reported that Le Guin criticized the post-World-War-II commodification of realism. This idea came out of her comments against the commercial celebration of writers whose narratives deify social realism. She insisted that we now need for artists who contemplate larger realities:
"I rejoice in accepting ... [this award] for and sharing it with all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long. My fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction. Writers of the imagination, who, for the last 50 years watched the rewards go to the so-called realists. I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom, poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing and authorship. ... Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant and tell us what to publish and what to write? Books they're not just commodities. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. ... Resistance and change often begin in art."
Video Source: Youtube.

Le Guin's defense of science fiction raised two issues. The first is the style of artistic sell-outs. In the late 20th century, certain corners of high culture indulged in a cult of realism. Social realist novels focused on the everyday reality of everyday people in a pseudo-radical attempt to raise the mundane to the level of exotic mystery. They wrote fly-on-the-wall commentaries which seemed democratic, but really weren't, because under the auspices of defending new equalities, they established new hierarchies and hegemonies. Daily life fiction, written relentlessly in the present tense, upheld unchallenged orthodoxies about what is right and virtuous about secularism, rationalism, politics, and economics. While some great works came of this endeavour, at its worst, this was the consumerist hagiography of the superficial. It was a culture of the ego, not of the id. This kind of fiction left huge lacunae around life's mysteries, other realms of consciousness and reality's unanswered questions. These are the very questions which Millennial scientists and researchers now turn inside out.

Le Guin's comments raised a second issue about to how writers and publishers sold out. The problem is that publishing became an industry, with marketers deciding what was marketable based on a fake democracy of the Self. To abandon a position of visionary sacred trust in order to wheel and deal is to commit artistic suicide. Le Guin's words could easily apply to practitioners in other arts, humanities, social sciences and white collar liberal professions, who, one by one, have sold out and commodified their realities. In so doing, they pulled the temple down upon their heads. To put a dollar sign and stamp an ego on every area of research and every creative action and thought is to force the creative capacity of society to conform to the fatal flaws of an inflationary consumerist system.

Le Guin argued that promoting social realism as a higher culture over imaginative genres which contemplate larger realities has left freedom imperiled. Nowhere is this clearer than on the Internet, the seat of the technological revolution. In Game of Thrones, the master spy Varys remarks, "I soon learned that the contents of a man's letters are more valuable than the contents of his wallet." The moghuls of Silicon Valley and other new technocratic power centres recognized this fact years ago. Time is no longer money. Life is money. And at the moment when life became money, life became worthless. The consumer culture that exalts the mundane Self is a culture of enslavement. Only the contemplation of larger realities can lead one out of the hall of mirrors. It is a sign of the times that the only place you'll find this truth spoken so clearly is in a fantasy novel, and other, non-serious places.

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