The turn of the year has always provided the context for an inventory the past year’s endeavors and an intention-setting for the year ahead. For the majority of 2010, I was profoundly perplexed by the schizophrenic behaviors manifesting in common and extraordinary situations. Where were the No Big Government Tea Party lunatics applauding New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pronouncement that “snow happens” when the streets of New York remained impassable? After all, we don’t need anachronistic snowplows 360 days of the year! Where were the picket lines from Labor-backed liberals when the U.S. government (under a Democratic President) became “The Man” by owning the automotive industry (with the notable exception of Ford)? How do you even have a labor movement when you are “The Man”? Hypocrisy fully metastasized throughout the world as the cancer of ignorance was fed by modified corn starch-laden talking heads on what used to be called the media – now appropriately derided into “entertainment”.
In my reflection (inspired by BBC’s brilliant re-make of Sherlock – a modern rendition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s master works co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss) I found my thoughts coalescing around the work of one of modernity’s greatest influencers who few know and even fewer understand - Sir Karl Raimund Popper. This London School of Economics professor is credited with popularizing empirical falsification in 1934 with the publication of his book, Logik der Forschung in which he both defined scientific method of repudiation of the null hypothesis as well as his more philosophical critique of historical materialism. Few scientists today fully apprehend the ontological dependency their method has on the post-Marxist thinking of Popper who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. Popper’s later work on Absolute Tolerance earns him a role in my pantheon of celebrated philosophers (along with Cyrus the Great) but it’s his scientific method that drew my thoughts at the turning of the year.
In the 21st century, we’ve come to accept a simplistic dualistic world view. Things are “good” or “bad”. Countries are “willingly coalitioned” or are “harboring terrorists”. We want “no government spending” but insist on government bailouts, unemployment insurance and gargantuan defense and security employment. The tragedy of our dualism is the fact that we don’t consider its consequences at all. Popper, in his rejection of empiricism, was trying to distinguish what was or was not scientific. To be “scientific”, a thing had to be falsifiable. This means that there must be a method by which sufficient observation can be reproducibly made such that the disproving of a thing would be possible. Truth, was not established by empiricism or science but rather was approximated by conditions which appeared to correspond with an accumulated, experiential knowledge.
Which take me back to 1687 – the year that started this blog. I would argue that the humanity that stands on the precipice of 2011 is far more Newtonian – predisposed to Laws of Nature and dualism – than it is Popperian. The irony of this observation is that we’ve actually regressed in our capacity to think, engage, and transform to a period of time when we were still debating what calendar best measured the occurrence of Easter! Poppers 1936 publication of The Poverty of Historicism was dedicated “In memory of the countless men and women of all creeds or nations or races who fell victim to the fascist and communist belief in Inexorable Laws of Historical Destiny.” If he were writing today – rather than in the throes of the conflict riddled first third of the 20th century – he would add the modern victims of Reaganomic-inspired nationalists beside the fascists and communists. Why? Because the application of Historicism – popularized to refuel anti-Japanese and anti-Russian American nationalism in the early 1980s put us on the tracks that dead-ended in 2008 in the collapse of our Wal-Mart inspired consumerism at all costs.
Laws are the bureaucratic projections of consensual languor (and remember that one of the deadly sins is sloth, along with its cousins, avarice and greed). Newton’s Laws and Popper’s scientific method were ontological evolutionary steps in the march of the collective consciousness towards greater understanding of the world in which we live – not immutable Truth. Werner Heisenberg’s 1927 uncertainty principle – one of the boldest confrontations to reductionism – comes the closest to the recognition that it is matter and energy in dynamism, not in opposition, that best describes the essence of all. Should we wish to pursue a more enlivened engagement with our planet, a more rewarding relationship with our cohabitants on this Earth, and a more fruitful experience of individual actualization and awakening, we are well served to liberate ourselves from our unconsidered cognitive shackles.
Act in moral transparent resonance. You may not be “right” or “wrong” but you will be approachable and fit for engagement.
Speak in total candor. You may miscommunicate and even offend but your practice will refine both yourself and those with whom you interact.
Favor multi-sensory observation over acoustic listening (bring your holistic sensory capacity to every interaction). Most misunderstanding arises from a misapplied literalism without a sentient apprehension of intent.
Free from the tyranny of judgment and dualism, celebrate the joy of considered living in Absolute Tolerance.