In one of the collapse groups this morning, someone was lamenting the loss of human culture. They speculated that literature, music, painting, and architecture would all be lost in the climate apocalypse. They recommended appreciating our “creative endeavor” as long as we are still here.
But it’s worse than that, if you accept the premise. Not only high-level cultural expressions will be lost, but fundamental aspects of human existence in the Universe, like speech, language, and art. The concept of love. Cognition, ideas – the very concept of “ideas.” “Thinking” as a phenomenon or process. All the products of the human mind will vanish with the ending of the biological and physical systems that support them.
If you believe in a complete extinction event, even “sensation” – the translation of energy into perception – will vanish with the last living organism.
This doesn’t make any sense. Intuitively, it’s just wrong. The entire fabric of our being is made up of sensation and thought and the more complex processes of what we call “intelligence.” What could the Universe be without intelligence? A bunch of dead stuff floating around in space? Why would such a place exist? How can we even conceive of such a place, given that all concepts arise within intelligence? It’s nonsense!
Instead, let us conceive that intelligence comes first. This is not an unprecedented idea; cf. “In the beginning was the Word.” The Universe is alive and awake from the beginning, made of meaning. Creativity, art, culture – these are the originators of the Universe, not products of it. Human artifacts like novels, songs, paintings, buildings, the Internet – these are manifestations of an underlying ground of being. When they end, they do not vanish; they recede back into the fertile mystery from which they arose.
So, as the writer in the group suggested, we should, indeed, appreciate the creative endeavor that we see in the world, but with the understanding that when we examine human culture, we are seeing fundamental features of the Universe being expressed. From what we see, we can learn about the nature of the underlying ground of being, just as a physicist with a telescope can infer “natural law” from the motion of the stars. ⭐️