“People in distress will sometimes prefer a problem that is familiar to a solution that is not.” – Neil Postman
I was in the woods. The light from the campfire glowed in the corner of my vision – a distant beacon in the late afternoon light filtering down to the forest floor.
Earlier that day we had set up camp, and with an axe I had sharpened the tip of dead sapling. It was a straight piece of maple, and it was my companion.
I walked, listening. Taking in the sounds, breathing in the smells, seeing the chaos and the patterns of leaves and trunks. My footsteps rustling in the leaves coating the forest floor. All the trees and green leaves swaying in the breeze. Rocks beneath my feet. Roots rising up from the ground. The world was full of perceptions, all coming at once.
I had shed my reality filter. I had lost the symbols, and I was gliding through the forest, spear in hand, ready for the hunt.
There in the woods, I felt a freedom I could not feel in a city or a town or a suburb. It was a freedom from symbols.
Think about yourself: everyday, from the moment you wake, you are bombarded with symbols; The label on your toothpaste. The sound of your alarm clock; The time readout on your cell phone; Your shampoo; The hot and cold handles of the sink and shower; Your steering wheel; The gas pedal and the brake; Your license plate; Emergency sirens; Blue and red lights; The name of your street; The contents of your wallet; A dollar bill; Law; Your keyboard; The Internet; Television. Right; Wrong; Left; Goodness and Evil; Reading Writing Talking Mathematics Photographs Newspapers Magazines Blogs Poetry Literature Music Pictures A Kiss. A Name. A Word.
In the forest, the symbols were gone. I was facing an unfiltered reality. There were no words to describe it. The words were gone. Everything flowed together. The trees were watching over me. The wind and the fire and the trees were in harmony. It was peaceful without being at peace. There was no such thing as peace. There was only the moment. When I was in the woods, I was free from the symbols that define the everyday of civilization and reality.
“[…]imagine an infant lying in its cradle, and the window is open, and into the room comes something, marvelous, mysterious, glittering, shedding light of many colors, movement, sound, a transformative hierophany of integrated perception and the child is enthralled and then the mother comes into the room and she says to the child, “that’s a bird, baby, that’s a bird,” instantly the complex wave of the angel peacock iridescent transformative mystery is collapsed, into the word. All mystery is gone, the child learns this is a bird, this is a bird, and by the time we’re five or six years old all the mystery of reality has been carefully tiled over with words. This is a bird, this is a house, this is the sky, and we seal ourselves in within a linguistic shell of disempowered perception […]” (Terence McKenna, Ordinary Language, Visible Language, & Virtual Reality)
“[…]As the Firesign Theater used to say, ‘Everything you know is wrong.’ But that is a very liberating understanding, because if everything you know is wrong, then all the problems you thought were insoluble can be framed differently. And there’s a way to take the world apart and put it back unrecognizably. […]” – (Terence McKenna, Interview with Carla Sinclair)
I feel that we have an imperative to assess our symbols and reframe our picture of reality. With all the problems we are facing that are both global in scale and mounting severity, we must begin to see solutions to problems differently, and the will to act on those solutions
Reality requires nothing less than a cultural shift on a fundamental level. A redefining of symbols and reclamation of language so that individuals can solve problems on an individual, bottom-up basis. Right now we lack a foundation, and the disparity between those in power and those who lack power is a dangerous mixture to combine with a global recession and a trend of centralizing authorities.
We do not need familiar solutions to problems. These have proven themselves ineffective. Bailouts, social reengineering, and top-down command and control structures are no longer effective tools, and one can make a case that they never were.
Our survival depends on our ability to sensewisdom out of our limited knowledge and perspectives. It’s time to break free of the old ways and embrace the serpent. We need to take another bite from the apple.