Letter 1.2 - Many levels
Benoit - I have some bad news,
You think that adults are free to do whatever they want. Freedom is a dream that we cherish, but it is a dream. The truth is that we are not free at all. We live in a cage. A beautiful cage, but a cage. We created the zoos at our image. We put animals in cages like we are in a cage ourselves.
You have never read Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and chances are that you never will. You prefer to play computer games. I tried to find a way to fill the gap between the Greek philosophers and computer games - a doubtful task.
I found something in You Tube that you may like. It is Plato's allegory of the cave.
Replace the cave by the human body and Plato’s allegory still applies.
Let’s start with ‘Tiger’ - your dog. Some people talk more often to their dog than they talk to their wife or their husband. You don’t expect him to answer and you don’t expect him to understand everything you say. You know that he gets some of it and that’s enough. This is a very limited conversation but worth trying.
Have you noticed that when you talk about Tiger you don’t use ‘it’? You use ‘he’ or ‘him’. You don’t treat your dog as a human being but you treat him as ‘a being’. Let’s say that Tiger is a ‘limited being’. He is capable of some thinking and some feelings.
Let’s go one step further. The plants in your backyard are even more limited than Tiger. Not only they don’t think at all but they cannot move. The lilac that you planted will have to stay at the same place until it dies.
Are you sure - Benoit – that limitations do not apply to you like they apply to Tiger and to the lilac? Are you sure that Benoit is not a ‘limited being’?
You have been told, at school, that the world comes in layers. We are on level 4, above matter, plants, and animals. If you search “angels” or “angelology” on your computer you will discover many more levels above mankind. We gave them names such as Angels, Archangels, Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones and many others. Your teacher did not have to explain the differences between two levels. They are obvious. To go from one level to the level above you have to add something important.
- To go from matter to plants you have to introduce the ability to grow, to take a certain shape, to make seeds and to reproduce.
- To go from plants to animals you must add life and the ability to move. That requires muscles, nerves and a brain to control them.
- To go from animals to humans you have to add thinking.
- To move from humans to the level above you would have to add something better than thinking. What could it be? Something like super-consciousness? We don’t know. We don’t have it. We have our limitations.
That’s not all. To understand what happens to one level, you need access to the level above it.
- How can you explain that water can overcome gravity and raise above the ground and take a certain shape? Ask an engineer if a machine could do it and he will tell you that it is impossible. You need plants to show you what can happen to matter.
- To reproduce, the trees need pollination by the bees. You need to have access to the animals' level to understand the plant’s level.
- The cow does not know what happened before her birth and (fortunately) what will happen after her death. The farmer knows. You need access to the farmer to understand what happens to the cow.
- To understand human's life you would need access to the level above us.
You may not like it but you have to agree that:
To understand the human life, we need access to the level above us.
That requires something better than thinking – something that we don’t have.
This is our glass ceiling. It has been there for as long as historians can remember. To fully understand the meaning of our life on earth, we need access to the level 5 above us. Without it, we are walking in the fog. We are only conscious of what is close to us. Many things are happening around us that we ignore. We only know the minimum needed to survive. We go in all directions until we hit a wall and get hurt. With an expanded consciousness we could concentrate on what makes sense.
Someday, I will take you to The Netherlands. I want to show you a very special zoo. Watching animals will make you change the way you look at humans. Even before we get there, the Netherlands have a surprise for you. We will take the freeway between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Like most of the country, this freeway is below sea level. It is absolutely flat. You will see a bridge above the freeway. So far nothing unusual until you notice that there is a canal going over this bridge and you are driving under the boats. The canal is connected to the ocean on a level above ours. Living below sea level turns everything upside down. That could make you more open minded.
We are prisoner of our senses like the birds are prisoner of the light and the snakes are prisoner of the temperature. If our eyes could only see the ultra-violets instead of seeing between violet and red, we would live a different life in a different world. We are prisoner of our eyesight, our hearing, our temperature, the air that we breathe… We are prisoner of our body. You could say that fish are prisoner of the water and the fish would say: “There is life above sea level. This life is prisoner of the air. It is a zoo for human beings!”
Something interesting happened in another zoo in the US. The time had come to move the monkeys to a much bigger place where they are free to roam around and the visitors have to stay in their cars. To help the transition they moved both the monkeys and their cages together to the new environment and left the doors open. The young monkeys left the cages and started to climb the trees and explore their new domain. The old monkeys went to the door and looked at the new world outside but decided to remain in the safety of their old cage. The older we get, the more we are afraid of freedom. We prefer the safety of our cage.
We also become prisoner of our own creations
- After we create a language we have to think in that language. Our thinking has to follow the logic of the language that we speak.
- Bergson said that our life is littered with all the personalities that we could have been. All along our life we make choices and we become prisoner of those choices. As you get older, changing profession becomes more and more difficult.
- We resist change. We accept innovation when it is adding something new to our life. We resist it, with all our might, when innovation tries to make us change our habits. Americans use the metric system in their currency (Dollars and cents). They also use it in radio (Hertz – kilo Hertz and Mega Hertz) They use it in the memory of their computers (bits – Mega bits – Giga bits). They use the metric system everywhere as long as they don’t have to change their habits. When it comes to the gallon and the inch, you hit a wall. Our habits create a wall. We create ourselves the bars of our cage. one by one. The difficulty is not to learn something new. It is to forget our old habits.
The visitors of our zoo are in a very dark hallway. They can barely see each other. Along the hallway are open windows.
Through one of the windows you can see birds flying around in a well-lighted room. There is nothing to prevent the birds from flying through the open window and come to you in the hallway. Nothing except the light.
The birds stay in the well-lighted room and don't want to explore the darkness they can see outside. The birds are prisoner of the light. Their eyesight that allows them to see the world can also be their jail. This also applies to us - humans. Our senses can become our jail.
Through another window you can see snakes.
There is nothing between you and the snakes..... except some ice.
The snakes don't come through the window looking for lunch because they would have to go over the ice. The snakes don't like the cold. They are prisoner of the temperature.
Those animals don't know that they are kept prisoner. You have to get outside your cage to realize that there is a cage.
We needed a means of exchange. We created money. We became prisoner of the gold that we took from a mine and buried in a cave. That's not very smart - Is it?
Look around you and you will see that we are prisoner of our limited senses. We are prisoner of our limited brain and prisoner of what we created ourselves.
And that - Benoit - includes your computer games!