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WAKING UP TO THE DARK: ANCIENT WISDOM FOR A SLEEPLESS AGE
AN EXCERPT (Page 43)
Call it birth of human ambition, if you will, or the birth of human culture, but with fine and increased fertility came the idea that a human being ought to be more. And with these came the idea that a human being was more. Humans were the big picture. Nature was only the backdrop for their story, because humans were the point.
Today it is the introduction of agriculture that is most often credited as the spark that ignited human culture. But agriculture was only the expression of a feeling we had been cultivating in ourselves for a very long time already. Agriculture was the fulfillment of an ambition that had first flickered into existence almost a million years before. And yet how surprised we are to find ourselves faced today with widespread pollution, overpopulation, and global warming. The only surprise is that we find this surprising. Still, until very recently, we could probably have avoided that worst of it. Because it the last nineteenth century something happened that greatly accelerated our decline.
Conservative social critics have sometimes lamented the loss of a religious conscious in the age of TV, Twitter, and the Internet. But they are coming into argument far too late in the game. That loss was already inevitable once the incandescent light bulb can into common use. That was the real tipping point that would eventually guarantee the excesses of the twentieth century – from world wars to climate change to the widespread pollution of rivers, lakes and streams. For all these spring directly from the overflow of human consciousness, for which the flood of light is both the metaphor and the means.
Advances in science, industry, medicine, and nearly every other area of human life and human enterprise resulted from the influx of good, cheap light like nothing the world had ever seen – a brightness never rivaled by oil and gas. ‘the only casualty in the ongoing conquest of night was darkness, a thing of seemingly little value, an absence really, a blank space on the canvas of eternity we could fill up at will. Or we thought. The time has come to rethink our relationship with darkness and all that it portends.
That is the starting point – to know that our current way of life has no future.
We are like the addict who can’t recover before he hits bottom. Only when he has fallen as far down as he can go does he find the wherewithal to stand on his own two feet again and begin to look around.