Cosmology for Kids. Volume I, No. 1
Cosmology for Kids Volume I, No. 1
I would be happy if my grandchildren and all of the children of the rising generations, would have good access to hearing about ‘another worldview’, ‘another way of understanding’ and ‘another way of carrying oneself in the world dynamic’. The crowd that inhabits the surface of the earth has more staying power than people it is composed of, who rise up into it, stay for a while, then decline and are regathered within nature. This ‘crowd dynamic’ is not something each new generation is the causal producer of. We come in as innocents in the manner that one enters into a skipping rope, if you don’t get your behaviour attuned to what is already going on, you will be ‘run over’ by a truck, not just a rope.
What I understand today is so far away from the ‘stories’ that were used to shape me in my youth, and the evolved versions that are being used to shape those growing up today, that I now look upon anarchists, and political extremists as ‘part of the establishment’ (i.e. as being limited in their ideas in the same way as ‘the establishment’) My eyes glaze over when I read Noam Chomsky (Manufacturing Consent) though not so much for Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the US). While I agree that the media feeds us propaganda, that in turn shapes whether we shall have war or peace or continue to support free-market capitalism, Zinn goes deeper than questions such as ‘Is the US justified in its action, or is Iraq justified in its action?’. Zinn questions the legitimacy of the ‘sovereign state’ as the primary instrument of order in the world, and I too believe that our cosmology must have within it, a perspective on the wisdom of instituting sovereign states and property ownership (the foundation of the sovereign state) as our dominant mode of social organization.
“What struck me as I began to study history was how nationalist fervor—inculcated from childhood on by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, flags waving and rhetoric blowing— permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own. I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always wars against children, indeed our children.” – Howard Zinn, ‘A People’s History of the United States’.
As we do our thing, children around the world are being raised and educated not only without questioning the wisdom of organizing on the basis of ‘sovereign states’, but as Zinn notes, they are being inculcated with nationalistic fervor.
How old should a child be, before one can share with him philosophical awareness? Certainly, the local brand of philosophy is being infused into her by the skipping rope technique. If he doesn’t get in step, he is in trouble, and by getting in step, he is ‘walking the philosophical talk’ of the present day culture he is inextricably, mercilessly situationally included in (his/her situation may be that of a poor family in a rich man’s world, a black race in a white man’s world, a female in a man’s world). He has no choice but to ‘take his place’ or ‘make his place’ in such a situation.
How does one share with a child, as he/she is going to school and ‘pledging allegiance to the flag’, one’s concern for the downside of sovereigntism as noted by Zinn and articulated by Einstein in the terms that ‘Nationalism is an infantile disease; it is the measles of the world.’?
We ‘sign off’ on giving permission to ‘the educational system’ to give our children a high pressure infusion of suspect philosophy, without having equipped him in advance to critically reflect on what he is being ‘fed’.
He knows ‘we love him’ and wouldn’t intentionally do him any harm, so he trusts what we have authorized others to infuse in him and thus to shape who he is, prior to his having developed his own powers of philosophical critique.
We do this because we want him to be able to ‘get along in the world as it is’. Of course this is what is perpetuating ‘the world as it is’, with all its faults, and it does more than this, it sets him on a course that he is later highly likely to question the wisdom of.
Now, Noam Chomsky can argue that ‘an elite concensus has control over the mass media’ so that ‘dissidents are marginalized’ and ‘consent is manufactured by the elite’ to, for example, take the country to war in Vietnam and Iraq’. But such a proposition, however true, passes right over Einstein’s above-cited proposition; i.e. who says it is a good idea to have countries?
We have communities and these communities can span a continent and involve a global web of relations. We have ‘nations’ such as the Iroquois nation which had five different ‘peoples/tribes’ who, together, had developed a ‘constitution’ called ‘The Great Peace’ or ‘The Great Harmony’ and we have nations within nations as in Canada whose Parliament has declared “That this House recognizes that the Québécois form a nation [a group of people who share culture, ethnicity and language] within a united Canada.”
The ‘sovereign state’ is an 16th century ‘secularized theological concept’ that should not be confused with ‘nation’ and ‘community’. Law historians see it as the inevitable device born to facilitate European colonial expansion into Africa, the Americas and the world. (See D’Errico et al at http://www.umass.edu/legal/derrico/nowyouseeit.html )
So, Zinn deepens the inquiry as Einstein does and as John Lennon does in ‘Imagine’ (‘Imagine there’s no countries. / It isn’t hard to do. / … You may say I’m a dreamer / But I’m not the only one/)
In mentally lifting those sovereign state boundaries that were used as a colonizing device to seize and declare ownership of land, the nations and communities don’t go away, but as Zinn suggests, without thinking of the borders and the nationalism, there is more of a tendency to think of the children of the world as ‘our children’ even while we are in dispute with their parents, as may happen within the community/nation. Why should men destroy the children of those adults we are in dispute with by bombing their cities and burning their villages?
There are some clues here as to the different foundations of the different cultures that the child within our culture never gets to see, or to receive teaching on.
White children kidnapped by the Indians were accorded the full rights of any child within their indian community, while Indian children kidnapped by Whites were often treated as slaves or as second class citizens. By living with the Indians, the kidnapped white children overcame the stereotypes of Indians given to them by their white parents and came to see individual Indians as ‘individuals’ with distinct and complex characters. For those of us who have lived with other cultures, even as adults, the cultural/ethnic/racial stereotypes similarly give way and we see them as richly complex individuals. Since the public is prone to media stereotyping and since many people, including school teachers, have not lived within other cultures, the potential for cultivating (from early childhood on) mass beliefs that ‘we are better than you’ is large.
Amerindians were ‘stateless’ people who believed that ‘man belongs to the earth, the earth does not belong to man’. They believed that we are all strands in the common web-of-life and thus they have the expression ‘Mitakuye oyasin’, meaning ‘we are all related’ or ‘all my relatives’ (including ‘grandfather’ [the whole ball of wax]). If we are all strands in a mutually interdependent web-of-life then the contention that ‘one is better than the other’ doesn’t make a lot of sense. This opens the door to a critical questioning of what ‘morality’ means in our culture and in others.
When should our children be allowed to reflect on the underpinnings of the notion of ‘good’ and ‘evil’? On the scale that ranges from ‘good’ to ‘evil’ where shall we plot those of the ‘civilized’ European races, and where shall we plot ‘the aboriginal savages’?
Does ‘good’ and ‘evil’ apply to people, or does it merely apply to ‘behaviour’. Can ‘good people’ like the white colonizers who treated captured Indian children like slaves score higher on the ‘good-to-evil’ index than those ‘bad-assed Indians’ who treated captured white children as full brothers?
Morality and ethics are a complex topic. The notion of ‘absolute good’ and ‘absolute evil’ were embraced in the western European culture but not in the Amerindian culture. The western child may be taught that ‘stealing’ is always ‘bad’ and that those who steal must be punished, but soon he will be introduced to ‘Robin Hood’ and to ‘Jean Valjean’ who appear to be ‘good men’ in spite of their ‘bad behaviour’, a topic which would naturally lead to reflection on ‘property ownership’ (an unknown concept to Amerindians who had no words for it in their language before the colonizers arrived). Do we open the door for our children to question ‘property ownership’? Someone might then say they have ‘Marxists’ or ‘Communists’ for teachers, forgetting that the Amerindian cultural tradition is another way of understanding how to organize the social dynamic without dependency on ‘property ownership’. Borrowing the land from the ‘not-yet’ (the unfolding living-space dynamic) or from the grandchildren-still waiting in the earth for their turn at life, and committing to return it to them in good shape (by ‘treading lightly upon it’) is radically different from seeing the land as something local that can be exploited as the ‘owner’ pleases.
Returning to ‘good’ and ‘bad’, the Amerindians thought in terms of ‘evil spirits’ while our European culture would scoff at that. But we have all seen our brothers get in a rage where the person-object of their rage is at the point of being injured or killed by them, where we have to intervene and ‘pull them off’ and impose a ‘cooling off period’ on them. The difference between an evil person, one who we let kill another person, and a ‘good person’, the person he normally is, may be ‘us’. Our behaviours are orchestrated by invisible tensions in our living space. Our western culture denies the ‘reality’ of these tensions, saying that it is all ‘in our heads’. Whatever. The point is that these tensions orchestrate our individual and collective behaviour regardless. They are like the spatial-relational tensions that build in a pile of sand where grains are being continually added to its crest. The sand-grain collective will experience spatial ‘tensions’ that can build and they won’t always be able to ‘keep it all together’ and periodically, there will be a tension-relieving ‘avalanche’ or ‘revolution’ that will balance things out that were getting way out of balance. [For a quiz on views on ‘invisible tensions’ see ‘Humility Quiz: How Humble Are You?’.
People are like this. We experience tensions and there are many expressions such as ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ that suggest the tensions are real and that behaviour isn’t all ‘born within us’ as in our biological science model of the human organism as a ‘local system with its own locally originating, intellect-and-purpose driven behaviour that interacts with other such local systems within an absolute fixed and otherwise empty operating space.’ This view ignores our real-life experience wherein the dynamics of space we are included in orchestrate our individual and collective behaviours. If the spring and fall began to shift, everyone would follow them as they shifted, no intellect and purpose drives are needed. When the reindeer shift in search of the exposed lichen which the climate and the season have shifted, the Nenet people shift with the reindeer, no intellect and purpose drives are needed.
There is evidently quite an inventory of philosophical concepts that it would be wise to reflect critically on prior to embracing them, yet we authorize our children’s teachers to infuse into our childrens minds, those which have been RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY (i.e. WiSELY OR FOOLISHLY) woven into our present day culture (e.g. nationalism/sovereigntism, the relative superiority of different races and cultures [civilized and savage], the judgement of people as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on their ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour’, the notion that the local organism has its own locally originating behaviour, and so on).
Everything I have spoken about thus far could be brought together in the question; ‘Do invisible spirits really exist?’ (is ‘field’ in a natural precedence over material objects?)
As a ‘scientist’ (science-oriented person) myself, I fully accept that ‘invisible tensions really exist’ and that they really do influence form, behaviour and organization in physical phenomena. We can call them ‘fields’ rather than ‘spirits’ but in any case, they are invisible and nonlocal and they really do exist and they are upstream from ‘local material systems’ in the sourcing of the dynamics that are visible to us. We can ‘feel them’; e.g. we can feel the acceleration of gravity, particularly when the trap-door opens beneath our feet, or we are at the highest point of swing on a playground swing or seesaw. At the moment that our experiencing of acceleration is most intense, we are not even moving, but are only about to move (movement follows acceleration with a phase lag).
That is, what is ‘visible’ to us are material bodies and their movement and interactions. When little Johnnie gets up and kicks the teacher in the testicles, and the school authorities pronounce him to be an ‘evil child’, as a ‘scientist’, I understand that this fits the simplest model of the human organism as a ‘local system with its own locally originating, intellect-and purpose-directed behaviour’. If we make note that little Johnnie was repeatedly humiliated by the teacher, we have the problem that ‘humiliation’ is not directly visible. It is something invisible that we nevertheless ‘experience.’
But is it ‘real’ or ‘just in little Johnnie’s head’?
As a science-oriented person, I have learned the difference between thinking in terms of logic that governs logical objects, and understanding that our experience only ACTUALLY occurs within the spatial-relational dynamics of our living space. We have all seen or heard of cases where men will take control of the food and money and use the power that this gives them, to extract sexual favours from starving women with starving babies. This picture goes beyond the logical model that we teach to our children, wherein we understand people to be;
‘local systems with their own locally originating, intellect-and-purpose driven behaviour that interact with other such local systems within an absolute fixed and otherwise empty operating space.’
What is the difference?
In the logical model, the behaviour of each person derives entirely from the interior of each person, from their intellection [rational thinking] and from their ‘intention’.
In their REAL EXPERIENCE, the space is no longer ‘absolute, fixed and empty’. The space of our real-life experience is nothing like the abstract space of this logical model.
We are back to the Amerindian belief system wherein there is this opposite way of viewing the same thing; ‘man belongs to the land’, ‘the land belongs to man’.
That is, man’s behaviour, IN ACTUALITY (in reality), is orchestrated by the dynamics of his living space, the diurnal cycles, the seasons, the season for planting and the season for harvesting. It is insane to believe that these behaviours are ‘locally originating within man’. They originate within the dynamics of space, the same dynamics that ‘originated man’. As Emerson says in ‘The Method of Nature’, ‘nature not only inhabits the organism, it creates it’.
The sidewinder rattlesnake will die in about ten minutes if it stays in the hot sun. Shall we stick with our model of the organism as a local system and say that it is the snake’s intellect and purpose that directs its behaviour so that this almost never happens? Or would it be more realistic to assume that the snake is included in the dynamic living space of nature as the Amerindians would have it, … in the manner that the hurricane is included in the flow of the atmosphere?
Who split the snake apart from the dynamic nature-space it emerged into and re-rendered it in the notional, logical terms of a ‘local system with its own locally originating, internal process-directed behaviour?’
We did. It is just a model, it is not ‘reality’. That is Nietzsche’s point and Schroedinger’s and Emerson’s and Poincaré’s. Nietzsche calls this simple logico-scientific ‘local system’ view ‘a useful fiction’.
Are our children’s teachers teaching our children that this model of the organism is ‘reality’? Yes (in many cases) they are. If the teachers are Darwinist (Dawkins, Crick etc.) then they are teaching our children that organisms are ‘machines’ (‘local systems etc. as discussed above).
Am I surprised that some religious people are pissed off by this, the removal of ‘spirit’ from the scientific view that they are infusing into children?
No, I’m not surprised, the removal of ‘spirit’ doesn’t make sense, but this doesn’t mean that the only alternative is to go to ‘Creationism’ or ‘monotheism’, there is also Emerson, Lamarck, Nietzsche, Rolph, all of whom have models in which there is no need to split out the ‘organism’ from the ‘environment’ or in more general terms, the ‘inhabitant’ from the ‘habitat’ (which is ultimately invisible, nonlocal energy-field-flow based). Mach’s principle of space-matter relativity can be stated; “The dynamics of the habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.”
To split the organisms out of the dynamic living space is a logical operation and to present it as ‘reality’ is insanity that is sometimes termed ‘fundamentalism’.
To return to the starving mother with her starving babes who is forced to give sexual favours in exchange for access to the products of the living space (food), shall we do as we did with the rattlesnake and credit her intellect and purpose as being the full and sole driver of her behaviour? Because that is the only place to go to explain it when we accept the logical model of the organism which, being an absolutism in itself, lives in absolute space. That is, should we understand the mother to be;
‘a local system with its own locally originating, intellect-and-purpose driven behaviour that interacts with other such local systems within an absolute fixed and otherwise empty operating space.’
Space is NOT a participant in this logical architecture, rather, the space in this logical architecture is ABSOLUTE, FIXED and EMPTY; i.e. it is a logical space, the most simple of geometric spaces called Euclidian space. But science will also admit that it often ‘chooses not that which is most true but that which is most easy’ (Kepler), and in fact, science provides more comprehensive views as well which make clear that SPACE IS A PARTICIPANT IN PHYSICAL PHENOMENA. For the record;
‘Space is not Euclidian’ … “Space is a participant in physical phenomena” … “Space not only conditions the behaviour of inert masses, but is also conditioned in its state by them.”, … “the recognition of the fact that ‘empty space’ in its physical relation is neither homogeneous nor isotropic, compelling us to describe its state by ten functions (the gravitation potentials g(μ,ν), has, I think finally disposed of the view that space is physically empty.”…”Relativity forces us to analyze the role played by geometry in the description of the physical world.” . . . “A thrown stone is, from this point of view, a changing field, where the states of greatest field intensity travel through space with the velocity of the stone” —Einstein.
“Space is another framework we impose upon the world” . . . ” . . . here the mind may affirm because it lays down its own laws; but let us clearly understand that while these laws are imposed on our science, which otherwise could not exist, they are not imposed on Nature.” . . . “Euclidian geometry is . . . the simplest, . . . just as the polynomial of the first degree is simpler than a polynomial of the second degree.” . . . “the space revealed to us by our senses is absolutely different from the space of geometry.” . . . Henri Poincaré, ’Science and Hypothesis’.”
I am not saying that we should teach our children the theory of relativity in kindergarten, what I am saying is that we should NOT teach our children that people are machines, and that is what Darwinism does, and that is what the biological sciences do, as well, and we can collect lots of quotes from Nobel scientists like Crick et al who declare the human organism is a machine made out of meat.
This not only informs our children that they, as a human organism, are split apart from the world they live in, it tells them to understand that the behaviour of any person derives fully and solely from their internal processes, from their internal intellect and purpose and/or instinct.
If we believe this, then we believe Jean Valjean’s theft of a loaf of bread is fully explained by the processes that go on inside of Jean Valjean. It says that the judge and the prosecutor and inspector Javert are correct in their unspoken contention that they themselves, and the Royalty and the rich have nothing to do with it.
But had the teacher gone with ‘relativity’, she would have had to point out that “the dynamics of the people that inhabit the living space are conditioning the dynamics of the living space at the same time as the dynamics of the living space are conditioning the dynamics of the people that inhabit the living space.” Matter is not split apart from space, space is an energy-charged medium in which ‘matter’ is a relative concentration of energy that happens to reflect light and thus be visible to us. Space is to matter as the flow of the atmosphere is to the storm-cell. They are not two different things. As Carlo Rovelli (and Lee Smolin) say in ‘Quantum Gravity’;
“In Newtonian and special relativistic physics, if we take away the dynamical entities – particles and fields – what remains is space and time. In general relativistic physics, if we take away the dynamical entities, nothing remains. The space and time of Newton and Minkowski are reinterpreted as a configuration of one of the fields, the gravitational field. This implies that physical entities – particles and fields – are not all immersed in space, and moving in time. They do not live on spacetime. They live, so to say, on one another. It is as if we had observed in the ocean many animals living on an island: animals ‘on’ the island. Then we discover that the island itself is in fact a great whale. Not anymore animals on the island, just animals on animals. Similarly, the universe is not made by fields on spacetime; it is made by fields on fields.” — Carlo Rovelli, in ‘Quantum Gravity’
All organisms, we say, ‘go looking for food’. But it would be more accurate to say that the organism/inhabitant and environment/habitat are in ‘conjugate relation’; i.e. they are not two mutually exclusive things as the abstract logic we choose (for reasons of simplicity and convenience) to model with would imply. As Wittgenstein says, logical absoluteness (the crystalline purity of logic) is not the result of our inquiry into nature, it is the requirement that we impose going in.
In this way of understanding our relationship with the world, space becomes the primary medium from whence things gather and into which things are regathered. Just because this energy-charged field-flow called ‘space’ is invisible and nonlocal doesn’t mean that it is not ‘real’. Just because the satellite photo of a hurricane shows this white-cloud pinwheel thing in a clear (invisible) atmospheric flow doesn’t meant the invisible, nonlocal flow of the atmosphere is not the ‘greater reality’.
That space is a full player in physical phenomena was the reason that I included the above comments on ‘space’ by Einstein and Poincaré (Poincaré stating that Euclidian space, the space upon which our machine model of the organism depends, is NOT real; i.e. it is nothing like the ‘space of our experience’).
If our justice system were to acknowledge that space is a participant in physical phenomena then the door would be opened to discussing what we already know, that some people manipulate the spatial-dynamics so that they can manipulate the behaviour of others such as the starving mother. So long as the justice system stays founded on the notion that organisms are separate local machines, disconnected from the living space, whose behaviour is fully and solely driven from their local internal processes (intellect and purpose), then the starving mother is going to be judged the criminal (prostitute) and the men whom she ‘offers her services to’ are going to be judged ‘innocent’ because there is no acknowledging in the law, that ‘space is a participant in physical phenomena’ and thus there is no way for the justice system to bring out the reality that men are manipulating the dynamics of our common living space in order to manipulate the dynamics of their sisters who share inclusion in that common living space. As far as the justice system is concerned, space is absolute, fixed and empty and inhabited by local systems that are fully and solely responsible for their own local behaviours.
So, this has been a rather long ‘Introduction’ to ‘Cosmology for Kids’ but I hope it has been able to bring out into the clear view of day, the general proposition, that we are infusing some dangerous and damaging philosophical concepts into the minds of our children when their minds and understanding are in their most malleable and impressionable phase. We are, in effect, using our parental love (our kids trust their teachers because they love us and we ask them to listen to their teachers) for ‘imprinting’ our children with social dysfunction-breeding ‘understandings’.
All of the foundational philosophical issues discussed here tie back to this very basic notion of how we relate to the evolving universe. Are we included in it in the manner that the storm-cell is included in the flow of the atmosphere, or are we separated from the universe because we are ‘local systems with our own locally originating behaviour that act/interact in an absolute fixed and empty operating theatre’ (Euclidian space)?
The problem is that we are confusing our logical models that split apart the habitat from the inhabitant, the subject from the object, FOR REALITY. Our logical models are confused for reality in the case of ‘sovereigntism’, in the case of our justice system, in the case of our fundamentalist judging of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ as originating in the individual etc.
Talk of the ‘spirit world’ and ‘evil spirits’ is not superstition but signals a more realistic understanding of the world than one in the logical terms of local material systems bumper-carring along in absolute fixed and empty (Euclidian) space. (for ‘spirit world’ substitute ‘field’)
An ‘adult’ discussion of these philosophical concepts can be accessed at ‘Nietzsche vs. Darwin: Becoming vs. Being’
But what about the kids?
The first step would appear to be to back off on the psychological imprinting that they are getting. While they can’t all be sent to live with Amerindian traditionalists (which has decreased down to less than 5% of the Amerindian population according to some Amerindian traditionalists), they could be given parallel exposure to the sorts of things the Amerindian traditionalists expose their children to.
Meanwhile, this issue (Vol I, No. 1) of Cosmology for Kids is pretty long, already, so it will be for the later issues to explore how to give children access to parallel understanding on the topic of the world and self; i.e. to liberate them from our current practice that, for the most part, gives them access only to that worldview in which man is one of the ‘local systems’ amongst the diverse multitude that inhabit an absolute fixed and empty operating space, and allow them to sample also, the philosophy in which the universe is a dynamic Unity wherein man is a blossoming of creative potentiality in conjugate relation with an opening of spatial possibility.
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