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Robert Lanza is a philosopher and medical doctor with an avid interest in biology. He hypothesizes that the perceptions we have of the world are based entirely on our biology. Just like a spider only perceives the world through the limitation of its senses and to the end of its web, so too we humans can only perceive with the limited apparatus of our senses. We too cannot fathom beyond the webs we spin.
Lanza takes things further by stating that the universe does not exist without a perceiver of that universe to create that perception. He uses time as one example to explain what he means. Time moves as it does because humans are biologically, neurologically, philosophically hardwired to experience it in that linear way. Some other part of the universe might be moving future to past, but the moment humans point their attention to time, time conforms to the past-future flow. Lanza goes on to hypothesize the universe does not really exist at all unless it is being observed by a conscious observer; everything we perceive is created by the act of perception.
If there is any truth in what Lanza is proposing, it is interesting to ask how can we create a new story about the state of our environment? It’s a big ask, but harkens back to Joanna Macy’s idea of “The Great Turning” – the idea that we can invent a new story to inspire us, a way that we might be shifting towards a life-sustaining civilization.
Researchers Kate Diebels and Mark Leary created a series of studies where they wanted to examine the implications of the belief that we are all one, that despite the many divisions in the world, that individuals are part of an overarching whole. They found that having a strong belief in oneness is associated with feeling connected to others through a recognition of our common humanity and makes it more likely that one’s care extends to encompass all of humanity, nature and even the cosmos.
This is reminiscent of Jeffrey Martin’s work on cultivating a wider sense of identity that comes with Fundamental Wellbeing. Some call this the “collective self” or for Martin, he speaks of self-transcendence.
Whatever we call it, could it be that cultivating a sense of self as larger than our individual lives, larger than our families, larger than our own countries, is exactly what is called for during the sixth extinction?
I’d like to think that this vision of moving towards a wider identification of ourselves as citizens of the cosmos – is one worth imagining!
“Transcendence gets you beyond ego. If you go beyond ego, you see all of this in a more decent perspective and you can start to put all the pieces together. We haven’t don that yet. Not as a civilization.” … Edgar Mitchell, former astronaut