Infinite Material Gratitude

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Infinite Material Gratitude
is “infinite” in the sense
that it is practically limitless.

Isaac Newton, in his “Calculus,”
developed the mathematical notion of a “limit“:
the value a function or sequence “approaches”
as the index (or input) approaches some value.
In practice, in appropriate circumstances,
limits “round up” the impractically large to infinity
and “round down” the impractically tiny to zero.
Contemporary physicists borrow this
Newtonian conceptual slang
when discussing the mass of blackholes:
“Infinite mass, zero size.”

The Infinite Material Gratitude of Being Human, then,
begins by recognizing that each of us
is born onto a fully-developed,
inter-connected social, cultural, and communal stage.
We didn’t “work” for Michaelangelo’s “David,”
or Einstein’s relativity,
or Rumi’s verse.
We simply inherit it.
For free.

Without this free, common, cultural heritage,
we’re the biological equivalent of great apes.
Our human cultural heritage makes us who we are.
And we are freely given this birthright in bright,
diverse, continually-evolving overabundance.

In their book “Multitude,” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
talk about how even the “non-working poor”
contribute to our humanity
through their existence and actions,
their thrift, their aspirations,
their ingenuity, their family and community lives,
their resistance to oppression.

In any population,
there will be a group of people
who break social norms,
whether by necessity or choice.
French sociologist Émile Durkheim called this group “deviants,”
and argued that while deviance in society is,
by definition, a deviation from “normal,”
it is utterly normal for populations to evolve
outliers, fringes, and deviant groups.

The poor in the USA today
are treated by the system
as deviants,
often criminals.

Especially the poor who,
for whatever reason,
are currently “non-working.”

But anyone who has ever done any “work”
(on the “forces” model of Newtonian physics,
not just a post-industrial, capitalist “jobs” model)
feels our visceral interconnection:
that culturally speaking,
we not only “stand on the shoulders of giants,”
but that we also are knit
into local and global communities.

Chefs, plumbers, electricians, artists,
grocery store clerks, city workers,
preschool teachers…
Challengers of fathers, helpers of siblings, comforters of loved ones…
Smilers at strangers…
Speakers of English, Mandarin, Farsi, Ancient Greek…
Archaeologists, botanists…
Lovers…

None of us does exactly what any Other does.

And yet, we all depend on each Other.

Materially.

Aristotle said that we
owe our parents a debt of
“infinite gratitude” –
they gave us LIFE itself,
and no market can put a price
on that precious gift.

We owe each Other this infinite gratitude.

We owe it to
our families,
our lovers,
our cultural forbears,
our fellow-laborers,
our employers,
even our (sometimes broken) governments.

That doesn’t mean we sink into
reactionary politics or
reformism or
apathy.

It means we don’t undermine
our own projects
by kicking the giant footstool
from beneath our own feet.

Let’s bury ingratitude
in the Imperial,
colonial past.

Better:  let the dead bury their dead.

Politics require tactics.
The best revolutions do too.

If there’s something within
post-industrial capitalism
that IS the problem,
it’s this:

blinding ourselves to the Other
(and to the infinite gratitude toward them
it is our birthright to foster)
behind the isolationist curtains
of privacy and individualism,
summed up in the
institutional history of the practice
of private property
(Specifically, the history of private property on the Imperial, colonial, “rape-murder-privatize” model. Yes.  That was us.  Both on the giving and the receiving end. No one gets a free pass here.)

The gratitude we each owe each other is infinite (practically limitless).
The gratitude we each owe each other is material (as in actual money, raw materials, material preconditions of the good life).
And the “Others” to whom we owe this gratitude are standing right next to us in real life.

Let’s get busy.

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The Singularity is Social

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What is experience?  What is first person subjectivity?  Well, in a way, it’s that evanescent flux of sensation and perception that is, in a way, all we have and all we are.  It’s the multi-dimensional matrix of first person experience unfolding moment by moment.  It’s the voice in our head that lets us know that we exist.
       – Jason Silva

Where’s the social?
Where’s the sociopolitical in our thinking today?

Most of us have a modicum
of success
in our jobs, in our schools, in our families.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a goat farmer in Mozambique
or a corporate executive in Silicon Valley,
what makes our lives meaningful
is the people around us.

It’s their stories
that help us tell our own,
their values that we shape and serve.

It’s in this dialogue
with the people we love
about the values we cherish
that we create a shared world.

To experience a rich social life
is to experience the meaning of life,
what philosophers since Plato and Aristotle
have called “The Good Life,”
what French philosopher Michel Foucault called
“The Art of Existence.”

These philosophers were talking about
so much more
than what contemporary self-help gurus
& technicians of individuality
have to offer.

Life without other people
isn’t life.
You can see this in the way
dogs socialize at a dog park,
in the tragic stories of feral children
who end up being unable to receive & transmit
the rich social & cultural heritage
our species has accumulated over millennia,
and whose lives then amount
to little more than the life
of any other great ape.

And I think people are understanding this
more and more
as we move past a Cartesian solipsism,
a self-obsessed consumer culture
that has led to cults of personality
and an ever-widening income disparity
and an ever-shrinking fraction of 1% holding
the golden ticket to Elysium.

What’s so exciting to me
is that we’re all coming together.

This is the age of Occupy,
Wikileaks,
and Arab Spring.

This is an age where a single
contract employee of the NSA
can call to accountability an entire
global apparatus.

This is the age of a digital democracy
spawned by the invention of the internet
and a smartphone in the pocket
of every global citizen —
which means that,
increasingly, every human being
has the power to
create audiovisual and text content,
charged with their social, political, and communal values,
and instantly communicate those messages,
that voice,
over the technology-mediated,
mass-telepathy experiment
we call the “internet.”

As the Singularity draws near,
we’re democratizing its abundance,
its longevity,
its health,
its power,
and spreading it to
all the people.

And that’s exciting.