“Qualia” – Tullio – 2013
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Our future as a species will not depend on our ability to process data or transform material at an increasingly rapid rate so much as it will depend on developing our ability to feel compassion for ourselves and for the entire living world. The exclusively materialist views of our existence, intelligence, technology, and conceptions of the universe maintain – and even worsen – a situation in which the vast majority continues to suffer while a tiny minority prospers.
As the evidence of millennia of human history demonstrates, it may well turn out that it is not our massive forebrain that will save us or give our lives meaning. For without strong feelings of connectedness binding us one to another and to the entire ecosystem which sustains us, we remain forever bound to the dysfunctional pursuit of individual prosperity at the expense of the suffering of others and the destruction of our fragile environment.
Discoveries in neuroscience are uncovering aspects of the human being which underscore the evolutionary significance of our capacity to experience bonds of empathy. Living connections between individuals are the neurological bridge upon which interpersonal and inter-species bonds essential to socialization, understanding, and empathy are formed. Because our actions have instantaneous effects that can be felt around the world at the speed of electronic communication, developing empathy and compassion for other human beings and for the whole of life is necessary to our continued survival.
To that end, it is fitting to remind ourselves that, as we attend to the material details of living our daily lives, we can accomplish our highest goals and fulfill our destinies by the simple method of listening to ourselves and each other closely enough to hear our heartbeats – by remembering, practicing, and envisioning what it means to be fully human.
“Compassion and the Meaning of Life” – Tullio – 2013
We are connected. Our logic, mathematics, science, and engineering are communal tools we use to build a virtual world, which we all inhabit. It contains us, sustains us, it directs our action. It feeds our minds.
We view our cultural experience as a part of the real world, yet it is something we have created with our technology and which is suffused with the dissonant contents of our troubled psyches.
We are one species – a biological super-organism, connected by mirror neurons and a vast species-specific theory of mind. We sense one another’s awareness, emotional states, behavior, and we react to each other’s mental states.
We contribute to the collective state of mind. This affects us all. The weakest among us bear the heaviest burden. We maintain the fiction that there is a separation between what we call the real world and the world of our media – the virtual worlds of our creation, even though they are coterminous, nested. Our virtual realities reside entirely within the larger environment we all inhabit.
There is no boundary between our minds and the world. This is the nature of the mind and it is the nature of the world. It is the meaning of evolution, and co-evolution. The environment and the organism co-evolve. Our culture is the habitat which our species creates.
Our perception and experience are channeled through learned linguistic structures. In this sense, there is no individual experience. What we experience is a culturally conditioned co-evolutionary awareness. To the extent that we brutalize aspects of our experience, we brutalize the shared environment.
The collective violence spread by war, crime, cruelty, anger, and mean-spiritedness is magnified and echoed by media, for profit and for our entertainment. It serves to anesthetize us, to dull our perception and disrupt the natural empathy we have developed over millennia of neural co-evolution
In this way, we share in the collective responsibility for what occurs in our
midst. Unfettered expression is a corrosive commodity if it is not harnessed by a sense of social responsibility. Creative freedom carries with it the responsibilities incumbent upon those who create experience for others to consume.
To create violent aesthetic experience is to add to the sum total of violence experienced. How could it be otherwise? To have deluded ourselves, to have given ourselves permission to participate in a mass virtual sensorium of voyeuristic hyper-violence does not alter psychological
reality. This has always been the message. It remains so today. We can change the world only if we are willing to change ourselves.
“Culture of Violence” – Tullio – 2013