A Brief History of Mindby Nick Wistreich
AdBusters, November/December 2004
Once there was nothing. But sooner or later something had to happen, so it did. The something had no idea what it was. Large or small? There or not there? Positive or not positive? Out or in? The something had no idea but expanded to satisfy all possible answers.
And from this sea of chaos, our universe was born.
In all things stand all things. All is one, all is many. The universe is singular - a sole unit, yet composed of endless singular units, in turn built up from sprawling communities and infinite networks of singular units. In each of these stands understanding of the whole, just as one drop of blood contains the blueprint for a human.
As generation after generation of subatomic particles built elements and chemicals of ever increasing complexity, and as generation after generation of chemicals spawned self-replicating networks that gave birth to amino acids, chromosomes, unicellular bacteria, micro-organisms, algae and plants, each singular autonomous system progressed to a more complex form. A form with higher sensitivity, the ability to express and define, the will to remember and record, With each new generation of autonomous systems, some ended in positions where their design inhibited them in their habitat, resulting in failure and extinction; others ended in positions where they were getting as much from the environment as they could hope to, resulting in stasis and equilibrium; while others still were offered a cushion of receptiveness, a position of advantage and security that allowed for growth far beyond competitor species.
The brain, vital organ of the hunter and the hunted, began to grow considerably in size among the primates who spent their days, in sex, leaping through forests, eating fruit, using tools, grooming each other, battling for food and competing for mates. As the brain grew in size, so too did the infant need to be born earlier in development period of the infant created a greater need for a social system to protect the child during its most vulnerable period. Early communities formed from little more impetus than the need to pool resources during the 10 to 123 years of supervision a child in a competitive environment would need.
During this period of protected growth where the harsh realities of fighting, hunting, defense, and mating are subdued, the child develops both intuition and sensitivity. In combination, these tools allow for applied wisdom to better protect, feed, heat, clothe, heal and shelter the community. And with each new soul born forth, the inevitable question that started our history returns: What am I?
The alpha male, protected for so long as communal leader by force and size alone must now contend with doubt among its thinking followers. (What am I, and am I equal to this leader?). In early Mediterranean civilizations, the male turns in two directions - one to the answer of faith, that of religion; and the other, later, to science, to geometry and the stars. And invariably religion is chosen, for it is more easily corrupted and used to justify the position of the leader.
But between 400 and 600 BC Lao Tzu and Buddha in the East and Socrates in the West concluded massive and almost comprehensive explanations of the nature of the universe and successful living. Yet while these explanations from the two foundation stones of global philosophy share remarkable similarities and agree on all but that which differs because of the author's respective backgrounds, it was not until the twentieth century that Carl Jung began to bridge the two banks. For the 2,6000 years in between, humans expended a painfully large amount of thought, time and blood following ideas categorically, startlingly out of tune with reality.
History is only beginning to reveal the size of the thought revolution begun in mid=-nineteenth century and concluded toward the start of the Cold War. Perhaps ignited by the Industrial Revolution which had brought great change to imperial Britain's social makeup, an avalanche of revolution and re-evaluation was about to begin. Darwin produced The Origin of Species, introducing a meme that thrashed the bedrock of the Semitic religions and told us that we all come from the same source. Marx, who dedicated Das Kapital to Darwin, followed with the instructions that we are all equal and should be treated as such. Pankhurst and followers planted the seeds of equality of the sexes, while 'flappers' like Dorothy Parker in the US championed a rare new breed to of independent woman. Nietzsche, also affected by Darwin, declared that religion, politics and science are largely meaningless in comparison to the purpose of living fully and nobly. Einstein, by his 20s, had taught us that space and time were interdependent and non-constant. Helped by Einstein, European scientists from Planck to Bohr begin to study the nature of the highly irrational subatomic world where experiments are affected by intent, and discrete objects can affect each other instantaneously across space-time. Freud, admirer of Nietzche, began to bring together a new science of the mind, and through rebel disciples Melanie Klien and Carl Jung, illustrated the 'self' and its pitfalls.
So before the blue touch paper was lit on the First world War, the fundamentals of science, religion and politics had been question on a scale never before seen. First we learned man is not descendant of God, second that some parts of this universe are impossible to see with certainty. We were told that time is as fluid as space, and to prepare for revolution and justice for the worker. If not confused enough, we learned that we can't even be sure of our own mind because it could be nursing traumas and deceits from our childhood. finally, famously, we were told that God is dead.
In the midst of this thick soup of confused and contradictory ideas, a cultural revolution set forth. Dostoevsky took the novel to dizzying heights, followed with literary revolutions from Joyce, Kafka, TS Elliot and Beckett. Eisenstein, Griffith and Lang jumpstarted cinema, showing people worlds they had never seen or dreamed or, Ellington and Basie began to ignite interracial enjoyment of music in US cities with the explosion of jazz, which in turn gave birth to pop, rock and hip hop. Picasso and cohorts kicked the art world from learned expressionism to unbridled expression Unfettered, the cultural palette burst wide open - the range of potential expression rapidly expanded far wider than ever before.
Then came the rise of fascism and Stalinism, the death of tens of millions, the suffering of hundreds of millions, the Holocaust, the H-bomb McCarthyism, the Cold War. Humanity has never caused so much destruction in so short a period,. Science, morality and politics take a headfirst dive.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs