Experiencing the Alchemy of Presence
Presence, that invisible spark, spirit, or energy that permeates all living things, is like the broadcast frequency that delivers Game of Thrones to your device. Without presence, there is no show, no life. The full spectrum of human development might be viewed as the act of enlarging our capacity to decipher the hidden meaning in presence. Only a tiny fraction of our neural activity, five-percent, is invested in what is imagined; knowledge, cultural beliefs, all the things taught in school, and information. Some experiences, swimming in the natural world, for example, overflows with meaning, with presence. Others, relating to the digital and virtual world, or technology in general, is devoid of presence. The virtual-digital experience is a counterfeit. What’s missing is presence.
While the political force called COVID touches us all, it has crushed shared presence. Look at the performing arts. No audience, no performance, no lived experience, which is, after all, one definition of beauty, the quality or aggregate of experiences that elevate the mind or spirit. Imagine growing up colorblind to beauty. No model of a capacity experienced – no development of that capacity. That is the law.
Humanity is being herded into the waiting-web of technology, not realizing that digitized and virtual experiences appear to be alive but are, in fact, dead. Try as they may, machines aren’t alive. Machines don’t play, they don’t wonder, feel empathy, joy, sorrow, remorse, love, grief, or, for that matter, feel anything at all, even if they pretend they do. The more we interact with dead technologies the less alive we become.
Let’s use presence to distinguish something that is alive; the presence of a sunset, of the sea dancing with the shore, holding hands, sensing the emotions or thoughts of another, the shared experience of love or grief. Presence is telepathic, a shared experience that radiates meaning from the inside out. We cultivate and expand our capacity to understand the meaning of presence through direct experience of presence. While artistic mastery is the form that shapes the performing arts, presence is its soul.
Machines implicitly screen and filter out living presence. George Lucas, in his original Star Wars epic, was explicit; machines, computers and droids are not touched by The Force. The Force is presence.
A true prophet of filtered, machine experiences is Jerry Mander, advertising wiz turned activist and the author of The Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, 1978.
People's patterns of discernment, discrimination, and understanding were taking a dive. They didn't seem able to make distinctions between information which was preprocessed and filtered through a machine, and that which came to them whole, by actual experience...
If people believe that an image of nature was equal to or even similar to the experience of nature, and were therefore satisfied with the image, that they didn't seek out the real experience, then nature (and the performing arts) was in a lot bigger trouble than anyone realized.
America had become the first culture to substitute secondary mediated versions of experience for direct experience of the world. Interpretations and representations of the world were being accepted as experience, and the difference between the two were obscure for most.
The COVID reset has forced on humanity this substituted, second-hand, sensory-deprived version of experience with devastating, yet invisible to most, consequences. Before Mander, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, described how “the weaver becomes the web.” Ashley Montagu, the author of over fifty books on being human, defined The Dehumanization of Man, in his book by that title, as mechanical, reflexive behavior, whereas, in Growing Young, true genius emanates from neoteny, the retention of juvenile features into adulthood, or more simply, authentic creative play. Today, epigenetics explores how the environment shapes gene expression and therefore human development. Change the environment and what we call human changes with it.
And we are changing the environment. Faster than a speeding bullet sensory deprivation in the form of images, void of presence, are replacing lived experiences, which is looping back and changing the ground of human perception. Long-term studies, which began after World War II by the Max Plank Institute in Germany, demonstrate how sensory overstimulation clamps down the thresholds of perception, negating the recognition of subtle sensations. The ability to distinguish shades of color, for example, was diminishing by 1% per year, a whopping 28% in a generation, and no one would know or be able to recognize what has been lost. The same is true of the performing arts when digitized.
The pattern is not new. What is new are the unprecedented restrictions being imposed, with zero verifiable evidence that said policies are effective. Tragically, there is no proof that COVID restrictions are saving lives.*
Equally unprecedented is the acceleration of what Jerry Mander predicated over forty-years ago, ‘patterns of discernment, discrimination and understanding were taking a dive,’ how sensory deprivation in the form of lost-lived experience, human touch and presence, and near-zero time with undomesticated nature, is dehumanizing humanity, something Joseph Chilton Pearce called a time bomb in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Children ages 8-12 in the United States spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours (3,285 hours, approximately 137, 24 hour days, per year.)
- Most mobile phone users check-in up to 63 times daily.
- Americans spend an average screen time of 5.4 hours on their mobile phones daily.
- Currently, there are 272.6 million smartphone users in America.
- Social media is responsible for 2 hours and 24 minutes by an average user daily.
- 13% of millennials spend over 12 hours on their phones daily.
- Boomers spend 5 hours using their phones.
- Millennials spend 48 minutes texting every day.
The more we interact with dead technologies the less alive we become. Every moment spent with technology is sensory deprivation when compared to the full spectrum sensory experience of walking in the park, building sandcastles on the beach, swimming in the river, planting tomatoes, or more importantly, experiencing with empathy the joys or sorrow of another.
Remember the Native American confiding to McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975, how he watched the upturned liquor bottle suck the life out of his father? Screens do the same, especially to the developing brain. A compelling case can be made that our ecological crisis emanates from an ideology and identity that is deficient of presence, which is the prerequisite experience for the development, perception and expression of empathy, altruism, compassion, and true ecological intelligence.
We need to reflect on earlier times when the human community was experienced within a universe of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Humans were intimate members of this single community of life. Everything, from the stars in the heavens to the flowers, insects, animals, and humans of Earth, consisted of a comprehensive sacred community. Into this community we were born, nourished, educated, guided, healed, and fulfilled. The surrounding powers brought us into being, sustained us, and led us to our destiny.
Consciousness of such a rapport with the universe began to fade in the post-medieval period, as the world flattened into a vision of René Descartes… We withdrew from any feeling of identity with the natural world. The world around us became a natural resource to be used, not a vital reality to be communed with. As we diminished other modes of being, we exalted ourselves. We were superior beings, masters of the world, destined to redesign the planet for human benefit. In the seventeenth century, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) suggested that we put nature “on the rack,” to force her to yield up her secrets so that we could control the entire natural world…
The magnitude of our devastation demands more than a series of reforms… It calls for a change of mind, for universal acknowledgment that the human is a subdivision of Earth, and as such bears responsibility for Earth’s health… Our human presence on Earth must now make the transition from being a destructive force on the planet to being a pervasive life-giving presence.
Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe, 1998
Presence. We cultivate and expand our capacity to understand the hidden meaning of presence through direct experience of presence, something screens and dead technology can never provide. Historically, this experience came in the form of human touch, the experience of empathy, story, ritual, and ceremony, planted in the natural living world.
Today, global restrictions offer dead counteracts of these lived experiences. What remains of the performing arts, for example, where artists use their voices, bodies, or objects to convey artistic expression, represents an endangered sanctuary of presence. Endangered, indeed, as so are we. In a very real sense, experiencing presence directly, what lays hidden from the mind of image and concept, is the open door to the universe and our survival. As renown physicist David Bohm observed;
We are faced with a breakdown of general social order and human values that threatens stability throughout the world. Existing knowledge, cannot meet this challenge. Something much deeper is needed, a completely new approach.
That something much deeper is awakened and developed by experiencing presence directly. Humanity is being divided into two species, those who understand the alchemy of presence, and those who experience life filtered through machines, authentic humans, and the cyborg. The battle lines have been drawn.
One of the primary gifts of the performing arts is to awaken and develop this alchemy of presence. While artistic mastery and technique is the form that shapes the performing arts, presence is its soul. The same is true of authentic human beings. We are up against the wall. Existing knowledge, including intellect, machines, artificial intelligence, and more screen time, contrary to technologies’ propaganda, can’t save us but soul can.
*Twenty-two scientific papers on the lack of effectiveness of lockdowns, masks, etc., plus numerous studies demonstrating the harm these policies inflict on humanity. Not one proving the effectiveness of lockdowns.
- LANCET NO EFFECT ON MORTALITY Paper
- Was Lockdown in Germany Necessary? – Homburg
- KOCH Institute Germany Analysis
- BRISTOL UNIVERSITY Paper
- NATURE Submission Flaxman et al Response
- PROFESSOR BEN ISRAEL ANALYSIS
- NIH Paper
- WOODS HOLE INSTITUTE Paper
- EDINBURGH STRATCLYDE UNIVERSITY Paper
- BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL BMJ Paper
- ISRAEL MASSIVE COST OF LOCKDOWN Paper
- EPIDEMIOLOGY Too Little of a Good Thing Paper
- THE TEMPEROL ASSOCIATION Paper
- SCOTLAND Life Expectancy Paper
- LOCKDOWN COSTS MORE LIVES Paper Federico
- DID LOCKDOWN WORK? Paper
- FOUR STYLIZED FACTS ABOUT COVID-19
- HOW DOES BELARUS…
- LIVING WITH CHILDREN IN UK
- PANDATA COUNTRY ANALYSIS
- NEJM MARINE STUDY QUARANTINE
- A MATTER OF VULNERABILITY STUDY
LOCKDOWN HUGE HARMS PAPERS & ANALYSES:
Note: also go to https://collateralglobal.org/
- MILLION DOLLAR SOCIAL DISTANCING
- COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF LOCKDOWN
- BMJ IOANNIDIS DEBATE
- NIH NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF LOCKDOWN
- BMJ: HERD IMMUNITY POLICY COULD SAVE LIVES
- IMPACT OF LOCKDOWN DISORDERS
- BMJ DELAYED ACCESS TO CARE
- CAMBRIDGE: LIVING WITH COVID – BALANCING
- PSYCHIATRY RESEARCH – LIVING WITH COVID
- JAMA HOSPITALIZATIONS FOR CHRONIC DISEASE
- IRISH CANCER SOCIETY SUBMISSION
- ECLINICAL DEATHS OF DESPAIR
- ONS EXCESS DEATH MESS
- DEATH BY LOCKDOWN
- LOCKDOWN – A FOCUS ON THE POOR AND CHILDREN
- MENTAL HEALTH AND LOCKDOWN
- PROJECTED DEATHS OF DESPAIR FROM LOCKDOWN
- THE PRICE OF PANIC