"we too are stardust"


The Phenomenon of Existence (part5)

By Will Baker


A Universal Collective: the door is not closed

I would argue that as human beings we exhibit certain attributes, including but not limited to those needs as expressed by Maslow. And as I previously stated, along the same lines as the need he described relating to a sense of belonging, I have observed what seems to me to be a need for human beings to organize themselves into greater and greater sized units. And it seems to me, therefore, that since these societal units are comprised of human beings, these groups represent an expression of the commingling of the above referenced human attributes, with the result being an expression of distinctive societal attributes that are temporally/spatially relative. In addition, I believe that these societies/cultures are then compelled to strive to organize themselves into a Global Collective, which in turn is an expression of the commingling of the attributes of the constituent societies/cultures. And it seems to me that the mechanism for this phenomenon is the transference and synthesis of human attributes from the individual to each greater sized unit. As an interesting aside, it seems to me somewhat paradoxical that the above referenced temporal/spatial relativity (resulting in perceived self-interests) might sometimes be an obstacle to the individual societies/culture’s transcendence towards a greater Collective.

It seems to me that since the Human Element- the human attributes, are not removed from the equation when individuals collectivize into greater and greater units, to some degree Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should apply to the Collective as well. Now we know that human beings are sentient, in fact, humans are the only sentient beings which, we are aware of. However, there is some probability that we humans are not alone in the universe. And this begs the question: does life exist beyond our little planet, and if so does sentient life exist? Now we know that human beings exhibit the needs as articulated by Maslow, and we know that humans are sentient beings, therefore we know that at least some sentient beings possess those needs. And this flows towards the possibility that some human needs might also be sentient needs. Yes, it seems to me that it is possible that Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs could apply to other sentient beings, if in fact they exist, therefore, the door is not closed to that possibility.

It occurs to me that the Vietnamese Buddhist monks who practiced self-immolation during the Vietnam War were able to transcend what Maslow referred to as their Deficiency Needs. Here were these monks, well fed and not thirsting, secure in their self esteem and sense of belonging, who through their acts of self destruction, that any reasonable person could argue were undertaken to provoke a reaction in the observer, demonstrated a clear disregard for their lower level needs--their acts tossed out the door needs such as sustenance, shelter, belonging etc. And in doing so, I would argue that they were transcending their individuality for the sake of the whole. Why else but in order to provoke Existential Empathy for the sake of societal transformation would they undertake such actions? It seems to me that Maslow might say that, at the moment prior to the act the monks were in a state of Self-Actualization and in performing the act they Transcended their previous realities. Now these monks were human beings, therefore the attribute of transcendence is an attribute of some sentient beings (at least the ones we know about residing on a little planet called Earth). I indicated above my belief that individual human attributes are transferable to greater and greater sized Collective Units. Therefore I am led to the possible conclusion that the Collective might also exhibit this attribute of transcendence. I believe the individual transcends towards a Societal Collective, which in turn transcends towards a Global Collective, but is it possible that the Global Collective in turn transcends towards a Super Collective (Universal Collective)? Again, it seems to me that the door is not closed to that possibility.

I agree with Sartre: "Man develops his own essence." I would further state that this act of development (another human/sentient attribute which I believe is transferable to the Collective) constitutes a form of creation. Now some say, "God is creation." And that may or may not be true--of course some say God does not exist at all. But based on the notion above, that we create and the Collective creates as well, and the idea that I previously articulated in Part 2: that we develop our essences within the context of Collective Existentialism, this above referenced Super Collective might very well be the context within which our realities take place, including sundry corporate notions such as G_d.

I would argue that another human/sentient attribute is curiosity. We are creatures of cause and effect who have a need to ask the question "why." And as this relates to why we are here, and why the stars are in the sky we look for a cause. It is hard for us to imagine something arising out of nothing, for such an occurrence is outside of our experience. Yet the above referenced need compels us to attempt to develop an understanding of how things work. By the way, I would argue that curiosity is a Collective Attribute as well (e.g. the collective motivation resulting in the International Space Station currently being constructed). It is a fact that we are here and the stars are in the sky. And outside of a magic show we have never seen something arise out of nothing, therefore we seek to assign a cause to the reality of our existence (including the universe)-most often a G_d, a grand flipper of the switch, as it were. But that begs the question, where did G_d come from? Now a commonly held religious belief in response to this question is that G_d always existed. Therefore I must ask, if so many of us will stipulate that G_d always existed, what about other things, such as time?

I believe that time, and space (and the act of creation) are contextual in nature. And it seems to me that it is no coincidence that many of the physicists of our day are busy working on developing a so-called Unified Theory that they hope will explain the workings of our universe. Based upon the progress that has been made in the past half century, it seems to me that it is quite likely that they will someday succeed in this endeavor. But for the time being we must be content with what we know to be true. For example, I am penning these lines, therefore I know that I exist, and you are reading them, therefore you can be certain you exist as well. And we have observed that since we began to walk upright we have organized ourselves into greater and greater units. And we are now reaching for the stars, walking on the moon, building space stations and sending robots to mars and beyond.

And as our race has developed its essence and transformed itself we have been motivated by Existential Empathy. The philosopher Sartre had a very important person in his life, a woman by the name of Simone De Beauvoir. And she once said, "One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, indignation, and compassion." It seems to me that her words ring true. Perhaps she has defined a recipe for actualization and transcendence.


Part 6: Back to the Paradox



 (Essay Collection)