Today, the function of the artist is to bring imagination to science and science to imagination, where they meet, in the myth. Cyril Connolly
My opposition to Richard Dawkins is not for his passion for science or reason – two passions I share with him; I’m a well-known science groupie. It’s a diatribe against narrowness, illogic and most of all and most importantly, arrogance. His disrespect for his betters rather set me off. And they are better. Satish Kumar is the kind of soul you find in Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. Like them, he is both fierce and loving. He knows that in the end, it is love that is the most practical way of achieving long-term justice. While he has been active over the years with human rights, he is standing with the same spiritual gesture for an honorable relationship to the earth and environment. The picture he holds is of the beauty and complexity of ecosystems and he knows with committed practicality that ecological justice is just another way of ensuring a future for the human race. Unlike the addled-headed thinker Dawkins tries to portray him as, Kumar is clear-eyed and clear-headed, which is why it is so embarrassing to watch Dawkins try, and fail, to keep up. The idiot savant piece, far from being an attack on reason, is a defense of intelligence against someone who isn’t so much. The drive I see in Dawkins is not the drive to know and understand but the drive to dominate – and that drive does not come from reason nor is it reasonable. His pretense otherwise as a defender of the faith is unconvincing and to my ears, the first witness in his own lack of intelligence – and honesty.
But enough about that bore. When you add up all of the facts about human action changing the earth environment, it’s stupefying and worth thinking about why we have done so little to mend our ways. I submit it is because we have not yet touched the mythic imagination, without which it seems very little action is possible. The normal resistance to doing hard things must have something powerful working against it in order to start the turn of the wheel – that first turn or two or three is an agony of effort and the wheel doesn’t even seem to be moving. [Note to Dawkins – Metaphor Alert – beep!]
Without a Nelson Mandela for the earth work, without an understanding of our place in the eco-system that is instinctive, coming from a well-wrought and accurate framing architecture which is created by living pictures and words wrapped in a vivid story, we will not make progress in justice, or survival. This is how the human mind and will actually work, rather than some fantasy of the power of reason. Reasons are not compelling. Reasons come after decisions. Decisions and activity and effort come from the heart knowing and moving. Decisions come from Eros or Mars griping your internal organs and squeezing until you surrender your lassitude and move your fucking ass. And then you do it because your want to do it.
Are these the tools of demagogues and monsters? Yes, they are. Which is why it is so important for those of us who cherish reason, who cherish science and questions not to limit our intelligence, but open it to the realm of the heart’s intelligence, the soul’s intelligence, the body’s intelligence, the mythic imagination. In those realms, reality is not a series of contradictions and refutations of pure (ha!) reason, but an ecosystem where all have their place. Without all working as a system (most ecosystems work at something like 90% cooperation, 10% competition*), we got nothin pretty soon.
Where reason comes in, is in the construction and testing of the architecture of the stories and images. This is why proper myth goes through long periods of testing through time. The information is vetted against phenomenological observation and cultural frames until it is accurate. Accuracy is of the utmost importance to myth-making. (As it is to science, which doesn’t mean that both don’t run off the rails sometimes.)
Are we, the science-lovers, worried about ignorance, co-option, religious fundamentalism, bullshit of every kind smashing down the ivory citadel? Yes, and with good reason. Again, all the more important to join forces with the other forces inside us. Deeper. We need to think more deeply, feel more deeply, understand more deeply. Where they meet. In the myth.
* This is a number I wrote down from a science show I saw on television. I can’t speak to the accuracy, as I haven’t found yet anything else about the competitive-cooperative aspects of ecosystems expressed quantitatively.