One thing that appears as something of a universal property of human behaviour is that we define ourselves much more by negative experiences than by or through positive ones; regardless of the extent to which we might prefer to maintain positive affirmations and self-perceptions – the darkness looms large in our imaginations. Most shared (national) histories feature prominent memorials and narrative artefacts regarding the collective trauma of conflict and war and as a consequence, the awareness of threat or danger is encoded deeply into our consciousness and lived, cultural experience. It is probably also as something of a consequence of the endemic ubiquity of entropy and diffusion into disorder or chaos and confusion that we are intimately predisposed towards a negativity and suffering that is something we all seem to spend a good part of our lives attempting to resolve.
Given that thermodynamic (as much as logical or information system) diffusion through entropy into disorder is intractable and forms a necessary substrate of all cognitive, cultural and (other) communications systems, we should perhaps not be at all surprised that we reflexively build and self-define constructively and generatively around and as leverage upon this material orientation towards structural disassembly.
What is interesting here is the various (and diverse) ways in which a second-order abstraction and symbolic or narrative representation of failure and destruction quite naturally and autonomously acquires its own self-propagating momentum and cultural rationale. We recreate in abstraction the material facts and experiences of dissolution and decay and through this quite inadvertently cultivate a normative expectation of their presence.
This tends to indirectly, non-linearly warp and shape the arcs of all possible futures back into and through our experience and bootstrapped narrative self-representation in ways which endlessly reproduce cognitive and cultural predisposition towards adversarialism. For this reason, disasters – or at least human ones – become recursively self-replicating and almost entirely inevitable.
I think that there is a plausible freedom from this orientation towards negativity and all the darkness that it brings but I also think that we are each and all – as individuals as much as cultures, nations and a Global civilisation – far too immature to effectively step beyond. The self that we bear as crosses is not the solution – it is the problem and to disentangle ourselves from this enigma we should have to entirely restructure our (human) planet, our economies, our social systems and our ideological belief systems. It is pretty obvious that almost no one is secure enough in themselves to accept that there is, or might be, a plausibly “better” world beyond self and selfish goals and ends.
Freedom is still possible, and for all of us – not that this is a message which will likely gain very much traction in a world so pathologically obsessed with superficiality and selfish acquisition of property and wealth. If we are serious about freedom and the enduring peace that this can bring both within and between minds, it is critically important that we acknowledge that it is not a freedom of self, it is the freedom from self.