Skip to comments.From Man Alive! - "A survival manual for the human mind."
Posted on 04/11/2012 9:40:58 AM PDT by Greg Swann
by Greg Swann
That chapter heading is really just a tease. Whats the most important invention ever devised by the mind of man?
Fathertongue, of course. All other inventions flow from it. Without it, we are badly-adapted hairless apes, ultimately doomed to an ignominious extinction. With it, human beings danced on the Moon.
In the last chapter, I raised the idea of your being stranded on a desert island. Thats a hugely unlikely scenario, but its interesting to think about because everything that is true of you, as a type of entity, is true of you in isolation. Youre in this all alone, recall, and there is no factual statement that we can make about your nature as a human being that is not true of you even – especially! – when you are isolated from all other people.
In later chapters, we will take up the implications of your fundamental ontological solitude. For now I want to focus on the existential solitude of being stranded. Is there anyone for you to talk to? To cuddle up to? To fight against or to make love with? No. You possess everything you were able to recover from your plane crash or your shipwreck, but there is no one else with you, and anything else you might want you will have to provide for yourself – if you can – or else do without.
But cheer up, Bunkie! You dont have a knife, but you know that knives exist, and you can apply yourself to making one. It may turn out to be a crude thing compared to the knives you can buy in a store, but close enough is good enough. You dont have a calendar to keep track of time, but you can easily make one with stones or sticks. With but a few exceptions, you dont have any of the artifacts we take for granted in Western Civilization, but you have owned a great many of those tools and toys in your time, and you can recreate some of them as you wait to be rescued. You are poor in practical technology, but you are infinitely rich in technological knowledge.
Why is that so? Because of Fathertongue. We stand on the shoulders of giants. To say the truth, mostly we lounge on the shoulders of giants, but even the least and the laziest of us carries within his mind vast stores of accumulated human knowledge. You may not know how to make everything you have ever owned or used or seen or heard about, but you know that those things exist, and you know what purposes they are intended to serve. Even if you are an electrical engineer by trade, you will not be able to make a computer, but you can craft a make-shift abacus with hand-spun twine and dried berries. Lo-tech dont mean no-tech.
Thats a wondrous thing, that you know so much, at least in a general way, that you did not have to discover on your own. You may not need it every day of your isolation, but you know a ton of math, enough to keep yourself busy – and enough to triangulate on the stars, perhaps, to determine your approximate location. You know dozens of songs and poems to keep yourself amused as you pass the time, and, if you are very clever, you may be able to craft the tools needed to keep a journal. You know how to build a shelter for yourself, and how to plant a garden. You may not lead a prosperous life, stuck there all alone, but you know a lot about how to provide for yourself.
Are you gloating now at all those philosophers, theologians, academics, artists, journalists and other so-called thought leaders who have told you all your life how insignificant your mind is, how incompetent it is to solve the problem of survival? Gloat away, but do recall that virtually everything you know about the world outside your mind was discovered by someone else, and you know all of these amazing things not because you abstracted them yourself but because you were lucky enough to absorb them in the concentrated form of Fathertongue.
So lets complicate the scenario just a little bit. Suppose you incurred a head injury in the catastrophe that led to your being stranded. You are alive, hale and healthy, but you have suffered a complete amnesia of everything you ever learned in Fathertongue. You know how to walk and how to eliminate bodily wastes without soiling yourself, because you mastered those skills while you were still a toddler, before you had learned to think in Fathertongue. You know how to babble in vocal signals that usually produce results – but there is no one to babble to. You know how to sit and play until you get hungry, and you know how to feed yourself – once someone has put a plate of food in front of you.
Actual amnesia does not work this way, of course, but how do you think you would you fare, as an over-sized toddler on a desert island? Would you be able to provide yourself with food and shelter and amusements? Would you be able to document your experience, either to share with others when you are rescued, or at least to leave behind you as a record if rescue should come too late? Would you be phlegmatic about your fate, meeting each new challenge with grit and determination? Or would you just bawl yourself into a state of lathered exhaustion and then perish in a few hours or a few days from dehydration or starvation?
Now take a moment to consider the life of the man who may have been the greatest genius who ever lived, the man who invented Fathertongue – and managed to hang onto it for the rest of us.
We are ascended from brachiators, from tree-swinging apes who fed themselves on leaves. For some reason – drought or disease or wildfires – the leaf supply of our genetic forebears dried up, and they were thrust out onto the savannah with no in-born means of survival. Any other species would have gone extinct, but somehow the hominids who ultimately became Homo sapiens managed to survive. Was their salvation Fathertongue or simply better and better mammalian pattern-matching – or did the one lead to the other?
It is plausible to me that Fathertongue was invented again and again when our species was young. At first, it might have just been one nascent human being at a time, recognizing a commonality among the patterns he and his companions relied on for their survival. Those brief flickerings of the flame of reason could have been blown out again and again. Fathertongue is thinking first, and these brilliant individuals might not have figured out how to communicate the concepts they had discovered.
But then by an effort of emphatic demonstration, one of them might have worked out how to share his knowledge with his mate or his child or his friend. But even then, life might have been so hard that the light of the mind might have been extinguished with the deaths of those few individuals – perhaps dozens of times. At some point, though, some of our hominid ancestors got to be so good at transmitting Fathertongue to one another that it was able to survive from one generation to the next, to be spread to other people and to other lands. But who can know how many times Fathertongue had to be invented before human beings could survive and thrive on the Earth?
I am writing a survival manual for the human mind for two reasons:
First, I want for you to learn how to live up to all those astounding geniuses who strode the Earth before you, starting with the unknown giant of a man who passed Fathertongue down to you, by concatenation, one mind at a time, all the way from the misty depths of antiquity. I want for you to learn to love your mind as he did his, and I want for you to learn how to defend the gift of mind from all of its many determined enemies.
And second, I want to make sure that the flame of reason is never blown out again. We have been fools, and we have entrusted our minds to villains. This was a grievous error, and we will suffer, for a while, for our sins and our mistakes. But we were born not to swing from trees and not to grub around on the veldt, not to bawl away our lives until we starve in Squalor, not to grovel, not to beg and not to perish. We were born to thrive as no creature before us has ever managed to thrive – in comfort, in style and in Splendor. Fathertongue is how we do that, and if it is not worth fighting for, then nothing is.
That headline is my favorite advertising joke, a send-up of all those hokey old matchbook covers. I dont know if anyone still advertises on matchbook covers. I dont even know if anyone still makes matchbooks. Presumably, by now, smokers can light their cigarettes with the fire of indignation in other peoples eyes.
But I have always believed that ordinary people should be able to save the world from going to hell on a hand-truck. Our problem is not the tyrant-of-the-moment. The only real problem humanity has ever had is thoughtlessness – the mindless acquiescence to the absurd demands of demagogues.
Thats the subject of this little book: The high cost of thoughtlessness – and how to stop paying it. It weighs in at around 75 pages. Im nobodys matchbook copywriter, and I would have made it even shorter if I could have. But it covers everything I know about the nature of human life on Earth – what weve gotten wrong, until now, and how we can do better going forward.
Why did I bother? Because the world we grew up in is crashing down around our ears. Nothing has collapsed yet, and there is no blood in the streets – so far. But as the economists say, If something cant go on forever, it wont. My bet is that you have been watching the news and wondering what you will do, if things get ugly.
Doesnt that seem like a fate worth avoiding? And yet: What can one person do? My answer: Read – and propagate – these ideas. The book itself is offered at no cost – and it always will be. Even so, the price I ask is very high: You have to pay attention.
If you find that you like this book, I encourage you to share it freely, far and wide, in any form, with anyone you choose. Print it, photo-copy it, email it – shout it from the rooftops if you like. You can read it at SelfAdoration.com (back-up), or you can download an easy-to-share PDF version (back-up). If you post to public forums or you have your own web site or weblog, download the propagation kit (back-up).
Why should you bother? Because if anything is going to save civilization from tyranny, it will be ordinary people like us. And there are at least 2.5 billion of us on the internet. Think what a big difference some new ideas could make in that many human lives.
How do you save the world from home in your spare time? One mind at a time...
"The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its components are beautiful, as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order...."
-Justice Joseph Story
"Shortly before the 100th year of the Constitution, in his History of the United States of America, written in 1886, George Bancroft said:
'The Constitution is to the American people a possession for the ages."
"He went on to say:
'In America, a new people had risen up without king, or princes, or nobles. . . . By calm meditation and friendly councils they had prepared a constitution which, in the union of freedom with strength and order, excelled every one known before; and which secured itself against violence and revolution by providing a peaceful method for every needed reform. In the happy morning of their existence as one of the powers of the world, they had chosen justice as their guide.'
"And two hundred years after the adoption of this singularly important document, praised by Justice Story in one century and Historian Bancroft in the next and said by Sir William Gladstone to be 'the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given moment by the brain and purpose of man,' the Constitution of 1787 - with its Bill of Rights - remains, yet another century later, a bulwark for liberty, an ageless formula for the government of a free people." (Source: Our Ageless Constitution, p. 176)
"Justice Joseph Story was quoted in the caption of this essay as attesting to the skill and fidelity of the architects of the Constitution, its solid foundations, the practical aspects of its features, and its wisdom and order. The closing words of his statement, however, were reserved for use here; for in his 1789 remarks, he recognized the "ageless" quality of the magnificent document, and at the same time, issued a grave warning for Americans of all centuries. He concluded his statement with these words:
'...and its defenses are impregnable from without. It has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, THE PEOPLE. Republics are created by virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens."
Thanks for posting!
The other night I had a nightmare that Obama had won a very suspicious victory in November. Rome and Israel had joined forces and convinced the US Military to break off from the current White House which ignored the very constitution that they were supposed to protect. We lived under Israeli/Italian rule until the US Constitution had been restored and the criminals charged. Newt Gingrich and Alan Keyes had become acting President/Vice-President just before I woke up and Obama was on his way to be placed in a Kadaffi stronghold city in southern Libya.