Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Good, your Bad?

Why do we feel the need to invoke exterior help to accomplish something we can (only) do ourselves? Why does faith necessarily come into it?

We are predicting creatures.

We don't just get an urge, and then lunge to satisfy it (unless we're standing right next to the refrigerator).We consider the various possibilities, evaluate them for possible benefits and costs, and once we've narrowed them down, we scheme to attain our goals. The problem we're immediately confronted with is that we can never plan for all eventualities. Not only are we not prescient, even if we were, we couldn't store all the ramifications on the hard-drives of our brains.

That's the scary part. Not knowing.

And we've got a multitude of ways of dealing with the unknown, the imponderables. The all-time most popular way is of course the invention of the all powerful, omniscient Being who oversees everything and guarantees that things will go according to whatever we consider to be the "good" rules governing the universe (which bear an uncanny resemblance to what we feel is good for ourselves.)

(I am not remotely qualified to expound on any of this. But who's to stop me? At the end are a couple of leads to explore if you feel so inclined.)

In a nutshell, we evolve, as human "systems" through interaction with our surroundings (environment, other people) and we "construct" our selves along with our external "reality" as we go along (which in turn affects reality, which affects us etc..). We do it with reference to what is necessary for the perpetuation of the system that we embody. Not necessarily or exclusively for our physical survival, but according to ever changing and shifting criteria from which we generate and update our sets of rules: I'll call that Me/Good as in what I feel is good for me, and Other/Bad as in "this isn't conducive to the purpose of perpetuating my self" (I have a theory that the more "evolved" we become, the more flexible we can be about the distinction between the two.)

Obviously we wish for all that is Me/Good to prevail, and try to maintain Other/Bad to a minimum and/or at an acceptable distance. But the world is mostly "other", beyond our control, outside our scope. That is what leads us to the next logical step: to posit a Being that is on our side, a just and benevolent father who will do for us what we can't. (and the Good that Being guarantees is - coincidentally - the same as Me/Good).

The problem is that there are as many different versions of Good as there are of Me, and I don't see - short of massive cloning of Me (me, really, because I like me the best) - how it can ever be otherwise? The most we can do is to find common ground, and that has its limits. Any effort to globally "unify" our conceptions of what is Good (from any perspective, scientific, religious or philosophical) is bound to fail. We are products of our cultures as much of our genes. There will always be diverging points of view, not to mention continuous change.

Better to develop more secure foundations upon which to anchor a greater sense of self-reliance instead of deferring to a Being to insure our Goods, the definition of which we can never agree upon and about which there will always be conflict. After all, isn't insecurity – the fear about what tomorrow will or will not bring - the real fuel behind all extremism? Isn't fundamentalism/literalism – the strict adherence to a set of rules and the rituals we perform to uphold them – akin to magical thinking as a way to ward off all that we fear might happen?

For more information re: the Me/Good - Bad/Other theory of auto-poïesis, and in terms of evolution/social interaction:
Auto-poïesis, see: Varela & Maturana, G.A. Kelly, G. Bateson, N. Luhmann
On constructivism, radical or otherwise, see E. von Glasserfeld, P. Watzlawick

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