The Youniverse

The Part of Nature that Thinks

Instead of believing we live in a hostile world out to kill us, we will come to realize that the world is supportive of us as it is supportive of all of its species.

We will realize we are the part of nature that thinks and dreams, and that nature naturally and effortlessly supports the complete experience of those thoughts and dreams just as it supports the complete experience of a lion or a gazelle.

We will realize nature supports WiFi, computers and other advanced technology. We will realize nature supports books, reading, language and music. We will realize nature supports curiosity, desire and knowledge.

Just as a lion doesn’t think for a second that it doesn’t belong with all of its “lionness”, we also won’t think we don’t belong with all of our humanity. We won’t diminish our ability to think, dream or create by believing that we must compete with the rest of Life in order to experience what we wish to think, dream or create. Neither will we aggrandize these abilities by exploiting the parts of nature that don’t have these abilities. We will rather think of these abilities as parts of nature, as natural as a leopard’s ability to climb trees.

Just as any animal doesn’t use its abilities to quell insecurities, but instead uses them to simply live its life and fulfill its desires, securely in balance with all of nature, we will do the same. And just as any animal doesn’t lie around worrying about how it isn’t supported by Life, but instead plays out its obvious support with grace, so will we. But where a lion is fulfilled with gazelles to eat, water to drink, a pride to procreate and ample territory, we will be fulfilled with the needs of our bodies as well as our advanced intellects.

As each of us declares who we are, through our thoughts, words and actions, the world naturally and automatically seeks to support that declaration. It will provide us with whatever is needed to be that person we have declared ourselves to be. Indeed, it has done so all along. 

Our intellect is not separate from the natural world and Life itself. It is a natural and tangible part of it; as natural and as tangible as our own bodies. 

What Happened to the 15-Hour Week?

LONDON—As people in the developed world wonder how their countries will return to full employment after the Great Recession, it might benefit us to take a look at a visionary essay that John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1930, called “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.”

Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, published in 1936, equipped governments with the intellectual tools to counter the unemployment caused by slumps. In this earlier essay, however, Keynes distinguished between unemployment caused by temporary economic breakdowns and what he called “technological unemployment” — that is, “unemployment due to the discovery of means of economizing the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.”

Keynes reckoned that we would hear much more about this kind of unemployment in the future. But its emergence, he thought, was a cause for hope, rather than despair. For it showed that the developed world, at least, was on track to solving the “economic problem” — the problem of scarcity that kept mankind tethered to a burdensome life of toil.

Machines were rapidly replacing human labour, holding out the prospect of vastly increased production at a fraction of the existing human effort. In fact, Keynes thought that by about now (the early twenty-first century) most people would have to work only 15 hours a week to produce all that they needed for subsistence and comfort.

Developed countries are now about as rich as Keynes thought they would be, but most of us work much longer than 15 hours a week, though we do take longer holidays, and work has become less physically demanding, so we also live longer. But, in broad terms, the prophecy of vastly increased leisure for all has not been fulfilled. Automation has been proceeding apace, but most of us who work still put in an average of 40 hours a week. In fact, working hours have not fallen since the early 1980s.

At the same time, “technological unemployment” has been on the rise. Since the 1980s, we have never regained the full employment levels of the 1950s and 1960s. If most people still work a 40-hour week, a substantial and growing minority have had unwanted leisure thrust upon them in the form of unemployment, underemployment, and forced withdrawal from the labour market. And, as we recover from the current recession, most experts expect this group to grow even larger.

What this means is that we have largely failed to convert growing technological unemployment into increased voluntary leisure. The main reason for this is that the lion’s share of the productivity gains achieved over the last 30 years has been seized by the well-off.

Particularly in the United States and Britain since the 1980s, we have witnessed a return to the capitalism “red in tooth and claw” depicted by Karl Marx. The rich and very rich have gotten very much richer, while everyone else’s incomes have stagnated. So most people are not, in fact, four or five times better off than they were in 1930. It is not surprising that they are working longer than Keynes thought they would.

But there is something else. Modern capitalism inflames through every sense and pore the hunger for consumption. Satisfying it has become the great palliative of modern society, our counterfeit reward for working irrational hours. Advertisers proclaim a single message: your soul is to be discovered in your shopping.

Aristotle knew of insatiability only as a personal vice; he had no inkling of the collective, politically orchestrated insatiability that we call economic growth. The civilization of “always more” would have struck him as moral and political madness.

And, beyond a certain point, it is also economic madness. This is not just or mainly because we will soon enough run up against the natural limits to growth. It is because we cannot go on for much longer economizing on labour faster than we can find new uses for it. That road leads to a division of society into a minority of producers, professionals, supervisors, and financial speculators on one side, and a majority of drones and unemployables on the other.

Apart from its moral implications, such a society would face a classic dilemma: how to reconcile the relentless pressure to consume with stagnant earnings. So far, the answer has been to borrow, leading to today’s massive debt overhangs in advanced economies. Obviously, this is unsustainable, and thus is no answer at all, for it implies periodic collapse of the wealth-producing machine.

The truth is that we cannot go on successfully automating our production without rethinking our attitudes toward consumption, work, leisure, and the distribution of income. Without such efforts of social imagination, recovery from the current crisis will simply be a prelude to more shattering calamities in the future.

Robert Skidelsky’s new book, co-authored with Edward Skidelsky, is How Much is Enough?

(Source: http)

The Importance of Ideas

External circumstances don’t completely make up who we are. Rather, it is our idea of who we are that make up external circumstances. I feel this is a huge misunderstanding that causes many people a lot of pain (including me).

We constantly chase the external circumstances that we feel will make us feel whole and complete, but those circumstances can only truly show up when our idea of ourselves is one of completeness. Otherwise even if we attain the circumstance we want, through hard work usually, it inevitably will fade away to reveal the true idea we hold within us.

The external world and all that it contains is actually an expression of our inner ideas. It is simply the physical translation of who we hold ourselves to be. We can learn a lot about ourselves individually and collectively as a society, by viewing the expressions we create. The external world is a feedback mechanism allowing us to constantly refine our ideas and reinvent ourselves. 

We don’t need to look far into our history to see how our ideas have changed the world. It is mainly the idea that each person or a group of people holds about themselves that creates the response from the rest of the world. For example, when black people gave up the idea of their inferiority and realized their equality we got the civil rights movement. When women also did this they created new opportunities for themselves. Our world would not be the same were it not for these ideas and a number of others that I don’t really have the space to get into right now.

Changing ideas do not only occur on a large scale of course; they occur everyday in individual peoples’ lives. As a person changes the idea of themselves they change their life and their experience of the world. The bigger the change in the idea, the bigger the change externally.

One could say we are nothing but an idea. We are who we think we are. Without an idea of ourselves or our world, would we have any experience at all? I don’t mean to say that we are an idea in order to diminish, but to expand. When we see ourselves as an idea, we can be anything we wish to be. It allows for an ever changing life full of possibilities. The importance and the power of the ideas we hold cannot be underestimated. 

Look about the world today and see the changes taking place. The Arab Spring and other uprisings are the result of new ideas beginning to take hold within people’s minds. Our technological innovations, sociological programs, cultural traditions and any other aspect of our society constantly change with our ideas of who we are and of the world we live in.

I always think about how people in the past would react if we were to take our technology like WIFI and the Internet back in time and show it to them. They would probably consider it to be some sort of magic, but this is only because of the idea they hold about themselves and the world and what is possible in life.

I can see this kind of effect when thinking of the future as well. As our past selves would freak out about our technology now, we would certainly freak out just the same if we were to see our world in the future. Many of the ideas that are on the fringes of society today will be mainstream tomorrow. I believe these ideas include the existence of aliens, parallel realities, the spiritual awakening of ourselves as creators of the universe and many others. It is hard to imagine where we will end up by following these ideas, but I know that it will definitely be an exciting journey, for some of us at least.