Enigma: Dissolution and Emptiness

There remains a deep enigma at the heart of social and cultural reality.  This is that the individual experience of life, of culture, of society and narrative or communication – this is where the reality of culture and society actually exists.  If you were to remove all people (or at least, minds) from the world through some catastrophic conflict or other accident, everything we comprehend as intelligible and real ceases to exist.  The world itself does not cease to exist as a fact or concrete reality but the human world, our culture and its meanings and values, our entire predicated reality at this point ceases to exist.  There will be empty streets, buildings, towns and cities, drifting ships and innumerable signs, artefacts and other evidence of our having been here but the value and essential meaning of this reality is only what it is where it is held and comprehended in a human mind, or many minds.  The logical consequences of this is that the culture, society and world-at-large of object-relations and value-statements, of ideologies and opinions – this is all actually in itself nothing beyond the individuals who all hold it in their minds.  This is “cloud storagepar excellence – the whole of global culture is stored in some sense “holographically” across the global population of individuals and not contained in total in any one person, or group.

It may also be arguable that the individual that is in such a fundamental way composed of the accumulated thoughts, ideas and concepts available to them through whatever communications channels may exist – the individual actually represents a fundamental non-self.  Buddhist psychology arrived at a similar conclusion a long time ago.  What does exist and is unique to an individual is their capacity for creative and reflexive interaction with the world around them but almost the entire mental contents and psychological subjectivity of the individual is itself always derived from elsewhere.  This leads to the conclusion that the psychological self is itself so deeply intertwined with the world from which it accumulates its ideas and opinions that it is in itself actually profoundly empty and void, not in any emotional sense negative but certainly insubstantial.  The source of the great enigma here is that the collective self and cultural reality is itself nothing beyond the individuals of which it is composed but these individuals are also themselves almost nothing beyond the expression and storage of the collective, cultural self.  Where I say “almost” in the previous sentence I have something very specific in mind: there is a subtle, simple and yet quite sophisticated duality of identity apparent in this systemic symmetry of self and culture.  In the same sense that the individual may make creative choices from the range available to them, there is an emergent complexity of social and cultural or communications systems expressed as a creative drive or tendency in the global systems and culture of which individuals are a part.  This creativity can be destructive, purely generative or anywhere in-between but it is regardless a result of the energy-flows, existential necessities and accelerating complexity of our cultural and technological world.

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