There is a higher wisdom that our species will probably never attain. It is that we are the universe, not something separate from it. We are the proof that the universe is a living conscious thing. We can never escape from the universe, just like we can never lift ourselves up by our bootstraps, because the universe cannot escape from itself.
The universe is one and it is evolving toward a higher and higher level of organization, some entropy but mostly syntropy.
The purpose of this essay is not to persuade us to abandon our freedoms to be couch potatoes in front of The Price is Right, to ignore the needy, to park in handicapped spaces, to hurt people’s feelings, to poison our environment, to wage war, or to make a buck by taking away someone else’s buck, but to provide a glimpse of what will be considered obviously true by beings not born yet, at least on our small planet.
Just like our atoms, cells, legs and arms, eyes, ears, and mouth don’t have free will, neither do we, because we are not free of the universe and we are not free of each other. Only the universe is free to follow its own will, if it thinks in those terms at all. Maybe it does what it has to do. Freedom is never free of the consequences of its behavior. If it is aware of those consequences, then it is probably not free.
I remember my bayonet training back in 1970 when I was at Fort Campbell Kentucky. This was during the Vietnam war. We were told to yell “What is the spirit of the bayonet fighter? To kill, to kill, with cold cold steel!” and taught the purpose of the runnel on bayonet blades. I couldn’t imagine plunging a bayonet into another living being, human or animal. Of course, US Army indoctrination represented “Charlie”, as we called the Viet Cong, as less than human. They were the enemy. Don’t think twice. Don’t think at all. He who hesitates is lost. Incidentally, the purpose of the runnel is to allow the blood displaced by the bayonet to escape, allowing the blade to plunge deeper. I understood the rationale but I still couldn’t imagine the aesthetics of killing. Never could. Probably never will. Fortunately for me, I was sent to Oberammergau to study military law instead of to Vietnam to fight.
If we are not separate from the universe then we are not separate from each other. There is no duality, no I as opposed to you, no we as opposed to them. There are no winners or losers in wars; there is only loss or entropy. In any future enterprise no one will be left behind because, if someone or something is left behind, he or it will spearhead the entropy that will eventually correct that faulty course of action. That is true for governments, religions, economics, politics, and any social contract.
I am neither the only nor the first to work out the broad outlines of this wisdom. The last lines of W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939” say the same thing, though more elegantly and with greater impact. See my previous post on The Power of Poetry for an analysis of his and other impactful poems. Often our poets are the early warning radar that warn us of our incoming follies and provide us with our necessary course corrections.
Think universally but act individually because that is all you can do.