As I reflect on this year, since my last birthday, it is far too easy to focus on what is heavy or dark. I could, instead, focus on the positive. There is danger in that, however, of utter retreat. I've been a poet since age sixteen, and in that sense an artist. I've made pacts with passion and truth, both costly. A focus on exposing injustice and deception has long been my calling. And I've seen the damage that denial and quiescence can reap, especially when unchallenged..
I will, then, start with something hard, and that is the rise of Trump. More to the point, it is about white nationalism. People on both sides have apologized for him since he first started. He's naive. He'll learn. He respects our founding values. Ages ago, so it seems, he was considered a mere clown. Inconsistent. Boorish. Foolish. Misogynist. Racist. Unelectable.
Many refused to see what was happening. I consider this to be a matter of psychology, not rationality. For Trump has always been consistent. The white nationalism has always been there, bold even, for those who dared to see. What I've learned from his rise, sadly, is that human nature (or maybe I should say the human condition in our time) is worse than I thought. I knew fascism could rise in countries where things were dismal, such as Germany after WWI. Massive inflation, great poverty, no escape. But the USA was ranked a great place to live when Trump rose. He climbed with no military or government experience, and with the blatant pedigree of a charlatan, to become president.
Hate does not need material desperation to grow. Or to win. In my own plodding way, I've learned this in the past year.
Have you heard of Fermi's Paradox? Trillions of planets in our beyond-gigantic universe; and yet no sign of sentient life anywhere. Why?
Fermi's answer: sentient life destroys itself. Everywhere. Surely he meant it destroys itself with technology it cannot properly handle or control. Warfare would be one obvious vehicle of utter demise, once nuclear weapons are present. Fermi saw a pattern in xeno-development across the entire span of the cosmos
In my novel, the characters bring up what I call the "Fermian Veil." What must a civilization do, anywhere in the universe, to pass through it, not destroy itself, and survive? The answer, surely, must be the opposite of hate. The opposite of a worldview whose lens is a fear that lays the kindling of war.
So, yes, love is the answer. It is the greatest answer. This is also something I've learned.
As a philosopher, with a PhD, here is where I am at now:
I've studied everything from quarks to cosmos. Natural selection to morality. Sentient life, anywhere in this universe, given the basic parameters of physics--the laws, the particle/waves, how it all sets up after the Big Bang--is going to get led into war. This is assuming it makes it past the hunter/gatherer stage and spreads. Homo sapiens, in fact, almost didn't make it. That is why we all have a common ancestor, an original Eve. But that is a different tale.
Life from bacteria to humans involves struggle against death. Hunger, for example, is a terrible pain and progressive cruelty. Nature made us this way. We suffer if we don't act to survive. At a minimum, eat and protect ourselves. But the sex drive is also vastly strong. On the other side, nature gave us the ability to feel incredible pleasure from all kinds of sensations, food, and sex. The carrot and stick are built into us. You can take various perspectives. We are prisoners of our own bodies. We are blessed. The right view, I think, in general, is that life is a miracle and we should ride the wonderment of it all. Live balanced, but enjoy as much as possible within that balance.
In any case, we live in a fragile state of equilibrium and struggle.
Through evolution, species adapt to adversity. That is how life creates, changes, grows. In early phases of human--or sentient--civilization, the fight for food leads to war, and war is waged most effectively through an 'us versus them' mentality. A fanatic mentality seems optimal (not so rigid, though, as to reject invention). Soldiers must be willing to sacrifice their lives for their god. This makes them better fighters. So it is, even today.
It is easy to stop here, and say we are all doomed. That life is nasty, brutish, and short, as Hobbes does. But that would be very wrong. That is the most tragic of all mistakes--
because it is possible to pass beyond war. I'm utterly convinced of this. War is just stage in sentient progression. It may be very hard to make the leap to the next stage; but it is doable. The sentient mind is keenly adaptive. Adaptive to hot or cold environments, to crowds or isolation. Humans feel comfortable around combustion vehicles, those bizarre new additions to the Earth. The malleability is extreme--as long as the dendrites don't harden into denial. As I've written before, ignorance is very smart. Ignorance can use intelligence to reinforce itself, batten the hatches and lock all the doors.
Adaptability, then, can even counteract adaptability. But this great power, this vast flexibility, is also what makes it possible for a sentient species to break through the Fermian Veil.
The scientific method, and the discipline of critical thinking, a subfield of philosophy, can help our adaptability to keep in touch with reality. They are like sextant and compass. With their guidance, we steer wisely.
I believe this is what the universe is 'searching' for: a species that can break through the Fermian Veil, accept Love not Hate. All the universe needs is one species. Just one, among the billions of attempts.
This whole universe could be seen as a grand experiment. A chance for Love to blossom beyond our wildest thoughts and hopes. Such Love must motivate beings capable of managing vast technologies. It is a necessary condition.
Here is my basic point:
Intelligence evolves, in an individual, yes; but just as importantly, it evolves in a civilization over stretches of time. At a crucial turning point, the intelligence evolves the civilization.
Evolution, in other words, can go beyond evolution. At some point, the collective consciousness steers society, instead of being steered by it.
Imagine making a wish and having it come true. What becomes critical, then, is what you wish for. And why. How your wish plays out. Technology in the hands of sociopaths and narcissists, who were raised in a violent culture and who expect life to be cruel and merciless, will manifest one way. That same technology in the hands of psychologically honest people who embrace compassion, not hate, will produce a very different path.
Frankly, at this point, I don't think humanity is going to break through the Fermian Veil. We are going to destroy ourselves. Trump was my tipping point. It's too late in the game for the leader of the mightiest army on the planet to be a hate-filled fascist (and I might also add, someone ill-prepared to deal with the real possibility of environmental collapse).
But--in a big way--that doesn't matter. I can keep hoping. And something in me just wants to chase after Love. After the moral Good. Meditation helped me to find this state. I can shout out to this universe: "I feel what you are trying to do. You want some sentient species to break through the Fermin Veil with Love."
It is such a beautiful, noble task that the universe has given us, albeit tremendously hard. My view, ultimately, is optimistic: if we, as individuals, seek Love and strive for Good, however flawed our attempts (and they will be flawed, for we are mere mortals), the universe smiles on us for trying. Maybe spirits and angels do as well. Maybe our ancestors. I really don't know.