22 August 2007

The Great Conversation

I've said on my gnoxplorations page that my work, including posts like this one, represent an attempt to hold up my end of the Great Conversation. But i can't see that contribution in its whole context, and neither can you. Can anyOne? Is there a being for whom the Great Conversation is an internal dialogue?

You and i can only comprehend this (or any question) at the scale of the human body; at this basic level, all the buzzing business inside your brain serves the purpose of your understanding, and none of your neurons has any idea of that, even though they constitute it with their interaction. But what if all the human dialog, the crosstalk of the Internet and all the global media, is just the inner working of a global brain, working as a guidance system within the global body? What if the human collective, or Gaia perhaps, is doing the real meaning, even though we constitute it by interacting?

This may be an appealing idea, since we long to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to serve a higher purpose—this is part of our heritage as social animals. But we can at best imagine such ‘higher purpose’—as we are now doing—within the limitations of a human organism. As St. Thomas Aquinas put it, ‘Things known are in the knower according to the mode of the knower’ (Swidler 1999, 9). Drawing upon the repertoire of human-scale experience, we might imagine Humanity or Gaia like a wise and nurturing parent—or we might imagine that this higher-level being cares about us no more than an anthill cares about the feelings of its ants. Let us imagine wisely, and humbly—and in the meantime, let our dialog probe and push the envelope of imagination and of knowledge.

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