Nightmares and Dream-Machines

Humanity’s Implicate Potential: From Nightmares to Dream Machines

Abstract: Under the predominant model of capital accumulation, ecosystems are broken down and rendered into commodities, alienating humans from natural cycles. In response to extreme ecological instability resulting from this separation, a growing movement focused on shifting human priorities seeks to prevent the annihilation of life-support systems on planet earth. This transformation is characterized by the critical re-mergence of implicate and explicate order, honoring the interconnection of all people, organisms and natural cycles, as well as the technology that humans have come to embrace.   

Form in an Entropic Universe
From the moment of birth, to the instant before death, an effort is required to keep form in relation to the disordered atoms of an entropic universe. Life on Earth must act with reciprocity and not antagonistically in order to balance these forces. Ecologically, even “brutal” predator-prey relationships have meaning in this context. Prey becomes food for predator and their bodies add nutrients into the decomposition cycles. Predators in turn limit prey populations so resources do not become scarce. Otherwise, populations starve. Although this may not be considered utopian at its finest, it emphasizes the point that in each ecosystem on planet Earth, including ones with humans, each species needs to give and take in relation to an interconnected web to maintain form and function in the entropic universe.  

Hunger, disasters, sickness and death are realities of living on planet Earth. The way humans organize themselves and utilize the natural world affects the degree to which this suffering occurs. For much of human history, maintaining life was a challenge. Recognizing interconnection, many of our ancestors diligently performed profound ceremonies to maintain order, respect the natural cycles, and carve their ecological niche for survival.
“Long ago, so far, as they say or used to say at Laguna, there was a world in which people sought dream-visions that would keep the people in harmony with the mystery that surrounded them. It moved through them, as it did through all that is on Earth and in the sky above. It moved them and all that is… Mundane consciousness, also known as “reality” by moderns, has been designated the explicate order by David Bohm and other quantum physicists. This other world, the implicate.” - Paula Gunn Allen.
Paula Gunn Allen uses David Bohm’s terms implicate and explicate order to eloquently describe how humans stay alive and in balance with the natural world. The explicate order is by general agreement the physical, tangible, objective reality of everyday life. The implicate order is existence, the beingness underlying the "what is really real" agreement of what constitutes reality.

The implicate order requires heightened perception, intuition and deep conviction to grasp, yet it is often intangible through conventional language. To some, knowing it borders insanity and bliss simultaneously. Poets recite its beauty, and lovers touch at it with their heart connection. It is found in dream, and in meditation. Shamans quest for it in visions and wide-eyed children laugh along with its pulsing heart beat. It soothes the crying baby, guides people to find purpose in their own lives, and it cradles the dying into light. It has been described in multiple theorems and phenomena by people of diverse discipline, and has been called so many names by people of multiple ancestries and beliefs. While modern people tend to reject it as impractical or impossible, many of our ancestors had reverence for its existence in everything, and placed great importance of it being in an unified relationship with explicate order for their very survival. Understanding the implicate order is treating everything as being fundamentally interconnected.

Implicate Order: Loving and Using
This unity of implicate and explicate order is exemplified in the reef-net fishing of the Coast-Salish people in what is now considered the Vancouver Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. According to Nick Claxton, the Salish people organized their society kin-centrically around salmon, a central part of their diet. Considering salmon implicitly part of their extended families, they used hunting which allowed for the proliferation of salmon over generations, in turn ensuring the continued flourishing of the Salish people.

Not only were nets designed with a hole to let out some of the catch, but once the largest salmon was caught, fishing would cease for three days. Celebrations would ensue and during this time, most salmon would be able to spawn up river instead of being caught. This did not mean catches were any less for the Salish people, but prevented over-harvesting while maintaining their implicate, and vital kin-centric social practice. As Gunn Allen writes, valuing the implicate order in contrast to valuing the explicate order is the difference between loving and using.         
The words economy and ecology are structured similarly to the Greek words oikos (house) because they revolve around "relationships of the house”. In ecology’s case, it pertains to the relationships between living and non-living, i.e., the ecology of a pond, or, alternatively the living and non-living dimensions of the human world, such as language, society or exchange. It is no large step then to say economic systems are functions of social organization, while ecology and economy are embedded in relation to each other. 

In the past, house-holding had nothing to do with either the motive of gain or institutional markets. Rather, the motive was producing for the satisfaction of a group. In some cultures, redistribution and reciprocity were primary social behaviors to achieve this aim. Each of these depended on localized production to meet needs. The significance of this is localized labor is that it is freely associated; each person can produce what they need as they need it, and within capacity of what the natural environment can provide. In this way the emphasized value of items produced is therefore on use, as outlined by what is required for biological and social survival. Needs related to use values can be fulfilled upon consumption.

The capitalist method of economic organization is the current and predominant social paradigm. It differs from other methods of production because it places value emphasis on exchange. Exchange requires markets, so people organize market institutions to bring in goods and barter them. However, the use value of these goods has become abstracted into an exchange value -- a quantifiable, monetized price to standardize exchange.

For example, rather than learn to fish, a person can buy the fish for a price instead. This price can rise or fall depending on demand and supply. Prices violate natural laws of exchange because nature never includes monetization. The abstraction of exchange into money distorts the true, natural exchange currency -- energy

Money in itself is not the sole cause of ecological destruction. Rather, this destruction is from fragmentation of natural exchange relationships through the commoditization of nature. This fragmentation ultimately separates humans from nature, and replaces the use value of relationship to our resources with a cash nexus.

The capitalist model creates commodities to be sold on a market in order to accumulate money. To maximize profit, violations of human rights and environmental integrity litter the decisions of corporations, governments and individuals. However, profit acquisition is a need never fulfilled; exchange value can be expanded limitlessly, because it is a quantity abstracted from the energy it represents. In this way, financial growth as a quantity does not maintain the quality of the relationships it depends on to exist, thus contributing to instability in human systems and natural ecosystems.

Monetization and growth violate the “loving” give-take relationships found in natural systems, breaking them down into commodities, and degrading them as they are “used” in the quest for profit. The leftovers of this process are unprofitable waste, displaced people in forms of poverty, altered communities and ecosystems, and a still insatiable want for more profit. For this reason, capitalism can most likely never be improved because monetization and growth are fundamental to its logic.

Here Lays the Ecological Crisis
The storyline of global fisheries provides a colorful example to demonstrate the immense environmental degradation ensuing from the process of profit acquisition, specifically when exchange values are greater than use values.

Humans have been fishing since time immemorial. Fishing practices intertwining both ceremony and technique have resulted in non-invasive continuation of fisheries; reef-net fishing by the Coast Salish being one example. However, when humans catch fish for world markets in quest of profits, an invasive free for all in the ocean-commons decimates global fisheries.

Humans have thus far not fully explored the depths of the sea. We do not understand the complexities of its ecosystems, yet technology has granted us an ability to harvest anywhere, at any depth, and for any species. There is immense waste that has accumulated too, because so many techniques do not take the valuable time to distinguish between catch and by-catch. Over one-quarter of all catch is by-catch and most of it is discarded. Subtle oceanic relationships become severely disrupted with such non-discriminatory practices, and should be cause for our drastic concern.

Prey Exploitation by Predators (Stiling)
Ecologically speaking, single predator ecosystems rarely capture more than 15% of total prey biomass. Multiple predator ecosystems harvest even less, at 2-5% per predator. Commercial fishing today takes around 40-50% of total predicted fish biomass, but this is only the legal reported catch. Considering instances of poaching, this number may be much higher. As a result, most stocks of wild fish today are classified as fully exploited, and an increasing number are overexploited or in decline.

The primary reason for this over exploitation is not only to feed human mouths -- a lot is for the motive of profit gain. If food was the only reason to fish, gross excesses of catch would not be wasted and management of fisheries, including the social organization around fishing communities, would have a different appearance.

In contrast to industrial fishing, reef-netting used solely as a fishing technique has been adopted by a few modern-day fisheries along the coast of British Columbia. The differences are remarkable: no fossil fuels burned by chasing fish, no unwanted by-catch mortality, little disruption of marine environment, and only targeted species processed. Here, an age-old technique originally developed around implicate kin-centric order has resulted in decreased ecological impact.

Aquatic ecosystems are only one of many ecosystems utilized by humans; related stories of exploitation in other human communities and natural ecosystems exist all over the world. Though, as suggested by this fishery example, exploitation does not just occur in the name of “surviving”, as a lot of production occurs purely for a profit motive.
Motives of Gain = Motives that lead toward Loss
Thermodynamic laws suggest maintaining form in an entropic universe requires overcoming immense energetic challenges. For humans, death and sickness are large ones. Stock-pilling resources, like food, can physically buffer us from threats to our survival. This is the main reason why we and our ancestors have been able to build civilizations with large populations. However, death, sickness, disaster, and ultimately the unknown, are psychological traumas that tend to continually wear on humans. It is the sense of lack, in not being comfortably equipped for survival, that the capitalist system tries to offset through accumulation of money. 

Money, with the spread of globalization, is increasingly being used to acquire and stockpile non-localized products sold on global markets as humans become less dependent on localized production. However, if these same products themselves degrade the systems needed for any survival, let alone a comfortable existence, it strongly suggests a fundamental change in values is going to be required if humanity is to continue thriving as a species on Earth.

Cross Roads: Time to Get Creative 
A far-reaching ecological crisis is imperiling life on planet Earth. Profit maximization at all costs has contributed to adverse changes in climate, diminished natural resource availability, and social instability across the globe. Any failing ecosystem, and economy embedded within it, will profoundly affect human lives. There are strong interconnections between life-forms and natural cycles, and the biosphere can only buffer so much adverse change before breakdown begins to systematically occur.

Many initiatives aimed at solving complex problems decrease humanity’s rate of negative impact, and give us more time for action. However, most initiatives are limited because they do not fully address the illusory separation and lack of meaningful connection between humans and nature, and thus between the explicate and implicate orders. Because our separated world view can not maintain the connections required for survival of our species on Earth as we know it, a tipping point is being reached. 

This tipping point represents a significant cross-road where we must decide which way to go, and it is approaching quickly! The good news is that with this tipping point comes an immense opportunity for creative re-organization within all human systems. It is at the point when things become most unstable that there exists the highest capacity for affecting the direction of change.

Implicate Potential for the Explicate World
The crisis is real, the nightmare is ours. Anyone even vaguely aware of humanity’s impending plight experientially sees it, hears it, feels it, and literally tastes it. War, famine, human and animal rights abuses, toxic pollution, desertification, urban sprawl, diversity loss, dropping water tables, increased birth defects, rising food shortages and the ever-growing concern from potential climate change. Potential disasters are occurring right here before us, and are well documented through both institutional research and colloquial account. However, we humans are the dreamers of these nightmares, and the ability to be lucid and in control of our reality when we’re navigating them is also ours. To go beyond our sense of alienation from the natural world, we as individuals, and together as a species, must organize and face our collective fears of failure, doom and separation. 
“Humans are problem solving species, capable of thinking, learning and manifesting thoughts and dreams. Often dreams are reactions to problems and are thus a problem solving mechanism. We dream and imagine how things can be better. The dream lingers, grows and has the possibility of manifesting in the physical realm” -Jackson and Svensson
Jackson and Svensson hint at how ideals (i.e., dreams or visions) link to human perceptions of reality, and it is in this way that the implicate order affects the explicate order. Ecologist Paul Ehrlich figured that human impact on environment is a product of affluence, technology and population. While well-theorized, this left out a very critical element for this discussion of humanity’s shared direction; that of consciousness, and the implicate order. That is, how we consciously organize ourselves for using what technology we have access to while staying in respectful relation to all other people, organisms, ideas and things.

Implicate Technology: Human Dream Machines
The fundamental difference between our modern technological society and societies of our ancestors is that ours today is predominantly economic and materialistic, whereas most ancient societies were founded upon a spiritual reality, around which material life was organized.
“While earlier civilizations never constructed iPods or [MRI machines], they did possess a participatory and holistic relationship to the universe… they reified their wisdom traditions in monumental structures, [relationships with animals and plants]… carefully attuned astronomical instruments and ritual centers”  - Daniel Pinchbeck
It is arguable that our ancestor’s mastery of technology was minimal compared to our modern societies. However, the heralding of technology today that was once unimaginable in the past is a strong indicator of humanity’s implicate potential to again carefully attune our ways with nature. In this light, human potential for reconnecting implicate orders to physical reality become vast. We can direct our technologies into creating and maintaining healthy and integral human communities and natural ecosystems. With our awareness of implicate interconnection between us and all things, soil fertility, biodiversity, water, air quality, and human well-being will begin to define our sense of what true wealth and security are.

Ultimately, it is by what means, and for what ends, our advanced technologies are used that will determine the fate of humanity. Technology has become important for so many functions in human societies today. However, author Paul Hawken argues many humans have become much like “couch potatoes”, because with a little creative substitution and a change in our values, many obsolete technologies would simply not be needed. Furthermore, technologies can further alienate us from nature by enduing us with a false view of our immunity from the effects of natural disasters and disintegrating systems.

Most of our technological initiatives that address massive and time sensitive threats, like climate change, still fit into frameworks of ever growing economies based on capital accumulation. Alone, these initiatives will not make the whole transition necessary. What is additionally required is the re-mergence of our implicate potential with explicate reality. This is already occurring, whether we choose to see it or not, and it grows as more and more people mobilize change beyond our current grim trajectory. By choosing to recognize interconnection, foster healthier relationships with our resources and with each other, we reclaim Earth’s natural abundance and create powerful agents for future problem solving. This re-mergence can and will occur with technologies we already have access to, and developing new technologies with the emphasis on fostering our implicate interconnection to all things will only strengthen our capacity for creating abundance and well-being.

Transformation of the human world within this current generation’s lifetime is imminent. What is required is the shift from an economy of purely quantitative exchange to one based on qualitative values of use. This shift will emphasize implicate and explicate orders merging through a human shift in consciousness in the way we relate to each other.

Author Daniel Pinchbeck suggests while at first it may seem ludicrous and far-fetched to believe that humans could interrupt their planetary suicide march and institute a civilization based on ecological, social and spiritual well-being (and all within an urgent time-frame), it is important to remember that humans have before undergone remarkable changes in ideas and beliefs in “blinks of evolutionary time”. Documented changes characterized by short temporal scales include the great shifts occurring globally which pertained to morality and religion around 500 BCE, the advent of electricity, and of course the introduction of countless other technologies, practices and beliefs adopted over the course of human history. 

Our sense of inadequacy in the ability to maintain survival coupled with common human fears of large changes may indeed resist the shifts in social organization needed to carry humans through the approaching tipping-point without collapse. Our current paradigm is one of fear and individual pride, and so out of fear and out of pride, many people will want to hold on to old beliefs of “using” instead of “loving”, continuing destruction and spurning war. However, many humans are now re-discovering the deeper truth of our interconnection.

There are also instabilities associated with this transformation, because nurturing loving connection  to sustain our physical, social, and emotional wellbeing has been, and will continue to be of great challenge to humanity. Fortunately, there is perspective in maintaining our collective composure, power in solidarity by continuing to resist narrow-minded interests through alternative initiatives, and inspiration in holding onto the dreams and actions needed to actualize a healthy, interconnected world.

Using current scientific, technological and organizational skills together with ecological knowledge and our connection to the implicate traditions of caring for people and land, we reclaim our capacity to foster Earth’s natural wealth and vibrant abundance. In doing so, we will actualize humanity’s implicate potential in the physical world, inside and out.

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