The Endless Reality Of The Imperfect Now

“If we can stop thinking about what the future might bring and embrace the present for what it is, we would be a lot better off,” reasons John Gray in his Christmas Day editorial posted on the Internet by the BBC News Magazine, A Point of View: The endless obsession with what might be.* Gray is an English political philosopher who compares the ideas of Francis Fukuyama and Arthur Koestler to develop his argument, and justify his conclusion:

“The task that faces us is no different from the one that has always faced human beings — renewing our lives in the face of recurring evils. Happily, the end never comes. Looking to an end-time is a way of failing to cherish the present — the only time that is truly our own.”

This is pure Zen. Also, it is exactly the perspective Raymond Aron gave in both The Opium of the Intellectuals (1955) and Politics and History (1978, especially the essay “Machiavelli and Marx”). Aron criticized the Christian-like historicism of Marxists, and said that “politics” not “revolution” would always be the order of the day, since people would perennially have to address the problems of the present rather than hoping for “salvation,” or waiting for a presumed historical inevitability to deliver “a revolution” that would produce Nirvana: an ideal society in perpetual stasis, the end of history, “heaven.”

The Machiavelli view (we avoid the pejorative “Machiavellian”) is that so long as human psychology remains unchanged (which seems true for the last 200,000 years of Homo sapiens) there will be human conflicts regardless of the specifics of the forms of government and relationships of power, economics, and social structures. Thus, compromises and consensus of any kind are always provisional and will always have to be revised, or even totally changed, “later.” In a nominally peaceful and well-managed society, this would be the day-to-day norm of managing collective life on every scale: local, state, regional, global.

From Carl G. Jung’s theory of personality types, “P” style people, who naturally deal with uncertainty, ambiguity, “sloppiness” and improvisation more easily than “J” type people, who like certainty, finality, “forms” and hierarchy, will more readily adapt to living in a situation of “managed fluidity” necessary for the continuing operation of a collective enterprise that involves groups with competing interests. The obsession with “the future” is very much a J characteristic (“getting things settled,” “getting things organized,” “nailing it down”). Jung made the point that the successful achievement of psychological maturity (physical development plus experience, by age 37 he estimated) led one to possess a balanced personality, one that incorporated both J and P styles of decision-making rather than being lopsided by remaining with one’s default strong suit from birth (“infantile behavior”).

Life — individual and collective — is a process, its only finality is death, the end of the conscious processes considered here. The Zen Buddhists say the past and future are illusions, you only actually breathe and can have awareness (the two indicators of life) in the present. To not be “in the moment” (which we interpret for practical political purposes as: in the social situations of current times) is to waste some of your limited time of aliveness to delusions, by distracting yourself with the unrecoverable (the past) or the unattainable (the distant “perfect” future).

Delusions of the future include the Christian heaven and the Marxist end-of-history with the triumph of historically inevitable socialism, a determinism set by the presumed inevitable collapse of capitalism due to its internal contradictions, and society’s rebirth by the ascendancy of the proletariat. Both of these cults of the future instill a passivity in their believers. For Christians, to not seek rewards “on Earth” but to accept temporal authority, keep the faith, and reap rewards in the afterlife. Marxists can be filled with smugness, from their belief that they know history’s script for the delivery of their heaven, and they need only await for history’s train to pull events past them till their boarding call is sounded and they can take their seating in the vanguard coach; no point wasting time in the here and now with “reformism” for a capitalist system that will only be swept away, and “soon.”

The managed fluidity I mentioned earlier is entirely the practice of karma yoga: the merging with (yoga) the consequences of our acts (karma). Once this is an established practice, we are simultaneously solving our legacy problems while preventing many new ones from arising, by anticipatory awareness. We accept that we will never have no problems, or that we can ever solve them all “for good.” We do what is possible at the moment to prevent creating lingering difficulties, and to minimize those we still have. This is the daily reality that will always be true. This reality can always be made worse by our collective obtuseness; but even if we manage the flow of our collective reality with collective elegance, we can be assured that so long as Earth harbors human life, the conflicts of maintaining our collectivity will never be eliminated.

Obsessing about the future, as discussed by John Gray, is simply an evasion from dealing with reality. The static Nirvana of political imagination is a delusion; the only possibly achievable Nirvana is an unending dynamic reformism.   <><><>

Gilles d’Aymery (30 June 1950 – 9 May 2015) pointed me to John Gray’s article, a thoughtful suggestion for which I thank him.   <><><>

A Point of View: The endless obsession with what might be
by JOHN GRAY
26 December 2011
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16245250

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The above was originally published as:

The Endless Reality Of The Imperfect Now
2 January 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci37.html

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For a closely related ramble see:

Renewal
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2016/03/27/renewal/

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Humanity’s Timescale Forward

Guy McPherson says humans will be extinct in 10 years, while Stephen Hawking puts it at 1000 years (they each have PhD’s, but…). What’s your guess? Civilization is likely to collapse before human extinction, when would that be likely? McPherson cites the exponential rise of global average temperature (locked in by intertwined natural processes, and continuously fed by humanity’s obsessive industrialized capitalism), which we can visualize causing crop failures and oxygen depletion (mass starvation) and extreme weather catastrophes (mass displacement), which in turn would cause mass migrations with inevitable conflict (as with 5th century Rome and the Germans, and today with African and Middle Eastern diasporas aiming for Europe, and Central American and Caribbean diasporas aiming for the USA). Hawking cites climate change and the possibilities of nuclear wars and the dispersal of genetically engineered viruses. Hawking believes humanity should prepare to colonize other planets within 1000 years, while McPherson believes people should calmly pursue excellence in what they like doing, and to be loving to all the people near and dear to them, to make the best use of the remaining time before exiting with grace (not a bad plan regardless). What’s your guess about humanity’s prospects and the state of the planet over next 100 years?

HWPTRA (an author whose article is listed below) responds:

“I’ve read Guy McPherson’s work and he tends toward the catastrophic view of the various indicators. Hawking’s estimate of 1000 years I find vanishingly unlikely. Most of the mainstream climate scientists I’ve been reading are generally pointing to 2040 to 2050 as the time of severe conditions making the continuance of human civilization simply untenable with the accompanying deterioration of how people will treat each other. When a man is hungry, morality is largely irrelevant. However, I agree with McPherson’s advice on how to live with the remaining time we collectively have.”

Guy McPherson – Human Extinction within 10 years
25 November 2016
https://youtu.be/zqIt93dDG1M

How to Avoid Stephen Hawking’s Dark Prediction for Humanity
18 November 2016
http://www.livescience.com/56926-stephen-hawking-humanity-extinct-1000-years.html

How Dangerous is Climate Change?, How Much Time Do We Have?
5 December 2015
(by guest author: HWPTRA)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/12/05/how-dangerous-is-climate-change-how-much-time-do-we-have/

How soil carbon loss could accelerate global warming
29 November 2016
https://youtu.be/IrKOpPJIbXA

Global Warming Research in Danger as Trump Appoints Climate Skeptic to NASA Team
1 December 2016
https://theintercept.com/2016/12/01/global-warming-research-in-danger-as-trump-appoints-climate-skeptic-to-nasa-team/

Manuel Garcia, Jr. comment to the above news story:

“It doesn’t really matter. There will always be an excuse, regardless of what faceless suit is momentarily “in charge.” And the people overwhelmingly agree with those excuses because they prefer instant power, individually, to social responsibility. That’s why we are where we are: a runaway warming is all locked in now. It will be crazy in 2040-2050.”

The physics of, and history of human awareness about, Anthropogenic Global Warming:

Closing the Cycle: Energy and Climate Change
MG,Jr.
25 January 2014
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/01/25/closing-the-cycle-energy-and-climate-change/

AGW and Malthusian End Times
(by Daniel P. Wirt, M.D., and Manuel García, Jr.)
13 January 2014
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/01/13/agw-and-malthusian-end-times/

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Black Gold, Maximum Entropy

Peak Oil is dead, long live fracking, my climate change is gonna’ come, Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant. A meditative rant on our scheduled progression from black gold delirium to becalmed oblivion is cited. Oil shale, tar sands, and unconventional fossil fuels are linked to climate change by anthropogenic global warming, which is undamped by human restraint in the forms of energy efficiency, energy conservation and relinquishing the combustion of hydrocarbons for civilization’s heat energy. Death is preferable to change, adaptation is unthinkable, and the inevitable consequences are anticipated as tolerable by denial. All our elaborations will melt into a rising tide of entropy.

Black Gold, Maximum Entropy
21 October 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci73.html

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Attacking Iran Will Save The World

Will the world run out of oil, ending eco-tourism because of a lack of jet fuel, before the Maldives are inundated by a rising ocean of globally warmed and expanded seawater, or will 200-seat passenger jet liners be able to streak across the skies using 20 metric tons of fuel every 3400 km with a total expulsion of 63 tonnes of carbon dioxide, to deliver First World sun worshippers to resort hotels still on dry land by idyllic Indian Ocean beaches, until the oil wells run dry? We may never address this important question if we allow the development of nuclear technology by Iran to proceed. It is imperative that nations unite to dispel the real threat to global well being, and to realize that

Attacking Iran Will Save The World
26 March 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci44.html

Data for the numerical estimate of aviation fuel efficiency quoted here were taken from

GreenAirOnLine Glossary
http://www.greenaironline.com/news.php?viewStory=217

The Righteous And The Heathens Of Climate And Capitalism

Climate change is industrialized karma prompting humanity to evolve uniformly equitable social behavior to survive. Can humanity unite to stop climate change?

I answer that question in the following article.

The Righteous And The Heathens Of Climate And Capitalism
12 March 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci43.html

The Economic Function Of Energy

Consciousness and personality can be seen as individualized expressions of energy coursing through metabolic forms we call human life. Similarly, civilization and culture and economics can be seen as social expressions of energy coursing through the web of interpersonal relationships we call humanity.

The nature of the forms of energy used by a society (a nation, a region, an economic class) are an integral part of its identity. So, to answer “what is the right kind of energy to power society X?” requires first determining what kind of society X is intended to be.

This means that all discussions about “energy policy” are disguised arguments about the structure (or restructuring) of one’s society; politics at its deepest. Nature itself voices an opinion in this argument in the form of climate change, its response to humanity’s century-long ringing endorsement of fossil fuels, expressed as global warming.

Using technical results I arrived at some years ago (https://manuelgarciajr.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/energy-for-human-development/), I explore this theme in some detail in the following article.

The Economic Function Of Energy
27 February 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci41.html

The best economic function of energy is to improve living conditions in harmony with nature.

I try to show the types of futures we could have, both desirable and undesirable, based on the choices we make as a society about energy technologies to power our industrialized way of life. You will not find another article like this. Enjoy.

Bayesian Bargains

We are often caught in dilemmas, uncertain about choosing between two courses of action, and sometimes suspicious that “the game is rigged” so that whatever choice we make will benefit a behind-the-scenes controller. One interesting way of exploring this question is to formulate simple idealized situations, which can be taken as analogies to some of the real-world complexities in our lives, and analyze them with the Bayesian model of deliberation. Here is my article about “not missing out.”

Bayesian Bargains: Jail, Shopping, Debt, And Voting
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci39.html