All living organisms, including the human race, are creatures of habit. That is to say, we train ourselves, again and again, in order to better ourselves. If not, the skills we have come to rely on will whither away. We keep reading to increase our knowledge, we keep exercising to increase our stamina and we keep practicing music to transform our bodily movements into beautiful symphony. We set limits in order to surpass them, so we can transcend the ordinary and look back from a new height. And so, if you look closely, the differences we see between phenomena are just different dialects of the same language: the language of repetition.
The inanimate repeats itself continually, stars fuse hydrogen and thereby release energy and heavier elements. These elements repeatedly connect chemically and form new substances. The tides of the oceans follow the pull exerted by the moon, constantly being emptied by the sun’s warmth and fueled by the earth’s rain. Evolution itself is nothing more than the repetition of variation, selection and inheritance, and in its tendency towards complexity it forms almost magical structures and incorporates more and more of the different elements.
This repetition of the same theme is also found in humans, according to the german philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. He makes the radical claim that there is no such thing as culture or religion. Instead, he argues, there are only (mostly misunderstood) anthropotechniques, that are repeated over centuries, albeit in a somewhat different form. Anthropos stands for ‘human being’ and anthropotechniques are thus techniques employed by humans.
An example can be found in the all too human technique of reading; where non-literate tribes ‘track’ their surroundings in order to gain knowledge about food and safety and so have conversations with a non-human world, pictogram and ideogram societies start writing and reading in order to employ abstract concepts like quantities and qualities and to reflect back on the relation between the human and the non-human. And modern man is completely immersed in an only human world, where he is the only writer and only reads what he writes. In this light the phonetic alphabet that has traded place with the sensuous biosphere can only claim objective knowledge when disconnected from the senses.
These techniques cultivate certain qualities we deem important and can include everything we humans do. Sports, praying, the scientific method, contraception, plastic surgery, doping and the use of psychotropics are all included. The reason we train in these anthropotechniques is in order to create bubbles. Spaces of comfort zone. Training extends the diameter of these bubbles, as to increase the frontier of our capabilities. If we run, it is in order to run better, further and faster next time. We pick apart the universe and apply the scientific method in order to find out how ‘it’ works, so we can control our fate. And if we practice bodybuilding, the goal is to increase our muscle percentage and so inflate our sense of self and gain a notch on the scale of attractiveness.
History shows us which frontiers are possible, how far we can go. So we can literally stand on the shoulder of giants. They act as authorities that shows us what can be possible, what works and what doesn’t. Einstein is such an authority, an inspiration for many a scientist. And also Schwarzenegger for bodybuilders and Gandhi for political activists.
These bubbles in which we live act as immune systems. They make sure harmful infections stay out so that we can keep on repeating ourselves, that we can keep on living and we can keep on creating. We have personal immune systems like eating healthy food in order to stay healthy, or keeping deadlines in order to keep our jobs. We have group immune systems that consist of nights out to keep the friendship alive, or periodical get togethers like birthday parties. We have species routines that remind us of the passage of time like celebrating the new year.
But now we live in an age where our different immune systems fight each other. We are a species that is at war with itself and everything on which it relies. We don’t include the biosphere in our own bubbles. When we see the devastation on our planet our minds say ‘Stop!’ but our modern world mandates consumption to stay alive. Our bodies say ‘Stress!’ but our minds yell ‘Keep going!’ We continually judge ourselves and others, even though deep down we know we are in this together.
Our planets immune system is broken. We are unbalanced and we know it. We need a revival of lost anthropotechniques to strengthen our immune system, as individuals and the planet as a whole. Our generation is inheriting a lot of apathy and change is difficult. But I think we can do it, as long as we train ourselves to stay healthy, physically and mentally, and incorporate all the vital aspects of the human and non-human world. The internet has given us unprecedented opportunities for learning, globalization has given us access to one of the most powerful anthropotechniques to cure the most widespread madness in history, science is finally looking at what makes us happy and cooperative, Wikipedia makes knowledge free and easy to get your hands on, and so might become a cure for our popular culture that is devoid of meaning.
We must start dreaming again. And we must repeat the message of our dreams. My dream is that the different personal, cultural and global immune systems stop fighting each other and start working together. A global Gaia for the welfare of all. For that to happen we need anthropotechniques that foster understanding, compassion, physical strength and mental resilience. Anthropotechniques that integrate nature and non-human life in our sense-forgotten concrete jungle, that prioritizes on happiness and sustainability.
So ask yourself this: What are you doing with the gifts you have to make the worlds immune system healthy again? Are you ready to increase your comfort bubble for the sake of others?
We need you.