Stephen Bahl (nedu) wrote,
Stephen Bahl
nedu

Re-post from the new blog (November 24th, 2009)

Trading mysticism for futurism

I'm critical of a certain type of labeling. When a person's entire set of political perspectives or methodological frameworks or notions about the nature of reality or even identity as a whole is reduced to a single word, I tend to think the people framing things this way are, at best, very lazy. Simple labels are demonstrably useful for a great many things, but do they accurately describe humans and all their confused inclinations? I think not. However, I am talking in terms of labels now because this is a topic I was thinking of in such terms recently. Hence the title. I think I may have traded mysticism for futurism.

Mysticism is a tricky concept. Maybe there is a better word for what I'm thinking of, but none come to mind. So I'll define mysticism as I am using it here...

Mysticism is a belief that there is some underlying level of reality that, due to its nature, cannot be explained by conventional techniques but that is experienced to some extent by humans.

Of course, what counts as "conventional techniques" I'm not sure. I think of science foremost, but would also include technology, mainstream philosophy (and possibly all philosophy), and so-called "common sense." I've thought about it, and I would not include reason. But that's a topic for another post. "Futurism" might be odd word choice on my part because it can mean several things, but I know exactly what I mean when I use it...

Futurism is a belief that the advancement of scientific knowledge, and with it technology, will accelerate in the near future in a manner that is profoundly beneficial to the human race.

That seems accurate. I thought of some questions one might have about the details while typing that, but again, that's not the topic of this post, and most of it has to deal with perspective, which would obviously be the individual "futurist" (so what counts as beneficial to the human race depends on what sorts of things the individual would consider beneficial).

Now, one thing I notice about these concepts as I have defined them is that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. That is intentional. From the moment I started thinking of this, I thought of these concepts and my shifts with respect to them not as a movement from one pole to another, but as differing emphasis on concepts (certainly including several others, but these were the two I thought of) over time. Also, there has not been any point in my memory at which I was not, under these definitions, both a mystic and a futurist. And that goes for now as well. I fully believe that there is an underlying level of reality that, do to its nature, cannot be explained by conventional techniques but that people can and do experience. I fully believe that technological progress is and will continue to be awesome.

While I might say now that I fall into both of those schools of thought and have done so for as long as I can remember, I have perhaps not always behaved or spoken as though this is the case. When I was in high school and for some time after that, I thought of things in terms of mysticism quite a lot. But I don't think I usually acknowledged this. I could be remembering things badly, but I think what I did was pretend that I was not thinking this way. Essentially, I was a mystic, but I was pretending that I was not a mystic. As the years went by, I think I might have become less of a mystic, to the point that, as I was finishing up college early last year, I would probably have denied, vehemently, being a mystic (but I still think, under the definition I've presented, that I was one. But by this point, I had become, more than ever before, a futurist. It happened gradually.

Now here's where we come to my point. Well, not now, but shortly. Having thought about this, I conclude that over this decade, I have shifted from mentally placing much emphasis on mysticism to placing very little on it. In that same time period, I have shifted from mentally placing little emphasis on futurism to placing much emphasis on it. I traded one for the other. It may be that there is no relationship between them and that it just so happens that as one fell, the other rose. It may be that my cognitive resources can only accommodate so much of anything and that my decrease in mysticism made room for an increase in futurism. It may be that these seemingly unrelated ideas both fill the same role, that I need or seem to need something to occupy the part of my mind mysticism and futurism have occupied, although they might not be the only things that do or could serve in this regard. I don't know, but I suspect that it's mostly a coincidence.

And here it is. The point. Despite all of this and the fact that everything I have thought of has convinced me that the view I have just described is reasonably accurate, it would not be readily apparent from reading my writing. And that is a startling revelation. No really, it is. I have maintained the Livejournal that this blog is replacing from 2004 to the present. There might be some hints, but nothing overt. And that is crazy. These things have been huge for me. My mysticism used to be perhaps the biggest thing occupying my thoughts and my views about the world. And it was that way for pretty much the first half of this decade (and before that, actually). Likewise, my futurism has been of extreme importance in shaping my perspective for the latter half of the decade. And that whole time, I have presented myself in a way that minimizes or trivializes the things that make me who I am. Not only have I built a facade: it was only yesterday that it dawned on me that I have done this. Why? Why would I do it? What is wrong with me?
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