So many beliefs in our culture are beginning to shift; I believe that is at the heart of the current protests both in the Middle East and on Wall Street. Here in the U.S. it’s a matter of values—do we worship balance sheets or human needs?
Our predisposition toward one value or another is sometimes called a “meme.” Wikipedia defines a Meme as “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”
One huge meme that was the basis of our democracy was that individuals have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of what a monarch decreed or wanted. People had a right to self determination.
Of course on a more mundane level a meme would be that the iPad is cool but Microsoft’s old tablet PCs, which came out several years earlier, just weren’t. A lot of that meme’s acceptance was the result of the design of the iPad, and the WiFi infrastructure and number of Apps to support it.
In a comparison to computers, a major meme like Democracy might be seen as installing a “new operating system” – one that was first downloaded during our American Revolution and later adopted in Europe and spread to various places around the globe.
That “Age of Enlightenment” operating system also seems to have supported the Industrial Revolution and the growth of technology, which has seen the spread of science and knowledge for its own sake, and for the sake of profit, as an “obvious set of values.” Of course these values weren’t at all obvious to the Native Americans who had no concept of the ownership of land when they signed their rights away.
But now that so many of us use computers it’s worth considering what it really means when the underlying programs can be changed, and things we took for granted can suddenly be revealed as arbitrary concepts everyone just accepted.
Some Native American cultures like the Toltecs, as described by Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements, refer to these as “dreams.”
Many of us who use computers, as Douglas Rushkoff has written in Program or be Programmed, remain obliviously unaware of the conditioning that technology can impose, especially when we don’t really understand how it works.
But if we take a closer look at computer programs we use every day, and how they operate, we can perhaps also shift our own sense of who and what we are, and what life itself is.
Bear in mind that our DNA, literally, operates as computer code. We can copy and paste it to create another species, as biologists are now doing—or to grow new organs.
So in terms of memes, or beliefs, what if we viewed them in terms of computer “Templates”?
If you’ve ever used templates in a program like Word or PowerPoint, you know the powerful way applying or opening a different template—or set of coded instructions—can alter the features of a document or presentation. You can instantly change the font types, sizes, and colors, along with a myriad of other attributes to the text or overall appearance of a file.
In genetic terms, perhaps we can see race as an obvious template for humans in terms of physical characteristics, and memes for mental or intellectual belief systems. Once a meme or cultural belief is widely adopted, it is transmitted genetically from one generation to the next.
But how are memes changed? Essentially like a new template, a cultural belief is adopted first by a small group or a few people, and then more and more.
Unfortunately for the people who suddenly come up with a new template for human beliefs, the cultures have not always been kind. Think of Jesus and Galileo as two prime examples of unconventional thinkers whose ideas caused them persecution.
But if the template or meme resonates and strikes some deeper level, of understanding a shift happens, first in individuals and eventually in entire cultures, and suddenly beliefs change.
The Gods become One God; the Sun becomes the center of the solar system, and more recently in our culture, we “know” that our location is merely that of one planet orbiting a minor star on the periphery of a galaxy among billions.
But what happens when we suddenly begin to understand the very nature of our own belief systems and templates, and realize their arbitrary nature–and the extent to which they sometimes cause us suffering?
A book that is part of a movement in just this direction is A New Earth, which opened many people up to the possibility that many of the memes and beliefs they’ve always taken for granted are misconceived—and a new template was suddenly applied to millions of peoples programming when Tolle’s work was promoted by Oprah Winfrey.
And then we might ask, what happens when we can connect the operation of life itself (DNA and Epigenetics) with the functioning of our own inner and outer worlds and belief systems?
Does the realization suddenly hit us that we are not separate “things” composed of protoplasm but rather energetically connected to a Cosmos that is itself Intelligent on a level way beyond our own—that has manifested life according to a set of intentional instructions (DNA)?
Can we drop the intellectual arrogance imposed by the scientific templates and expand our awareness?
Then looking at the stars which seem to dwarf our existence, and a newly discovered subatomic quantum world that clashes with our common sense notions of cause and effect, can we then begin to completely reconsider what is truly significant and important?
That is the shift that is taking place right now.
Nicely done – except for “… connected to a Cosmos that is itself Intelligent on a level way beyond our own—that has manifested life according to a set of intentional instructions (DNA)?” Why do insist that there is an intelligence beyond our own or a set of intentional instructions (DNA) which are an evolutionary hodgepodge of hits and misses aka mutations.
I suggest that life is part of a higher intelligence because as we’ve evolved, and developed computer software and programming we have discovered that DNA–the genetic code which we’ve sequenced–works according to the principles of our own human-developed programs. To me, this indicates that the code inside us has “meaning”–it is not an evolutionary hodgepodge of hits and misses because like the software we have created, DNA seems to be part of an intention and plan. Instructions and code do not randomly appear. To me, like quantum physics, this takes us to the edge of science where our attempt to discover how reality works comes up against the issues of consciousness and mind–which I believe constitutes the next frontier of science if we don’t exterminate ourselves. Thanks for your comment.
Very interesting Tom, I fear that this concept of “shift” is far more insidious and dangerous than we can imagine. What began as experiments in subliminal messaging decades ago has morphed into full scale mind control. The main stream media controls both sides of the debate and therefore controls the context within any information is seen. I see this everyday in the nuance and subtle spin which is used to deliver information. Our “meme” as it were, is at the mercy of central planners. I feel that their objective is not so much to inhibit free thought as to control the thinkers. I’ve seen this method applied to refute hard scientific fact, as well as arbitrary concepts of values and morals. So how do you suggest we protect the truth? Information control is much more invasive AND instantaneous than either Jesus and Galileo had to contend with.
You make an excellent point–mass media is certainly a major gatekeeper of memes; but my sense is that they are more inclined to maintain the status quo and set the current agenda. The problem is that science is expanding and the “truth” is evolving, in my opinion. To me what is really important on an individual level is to begin to understand and notice how our own conditioning shapes what we see as truth, and hopefully transcend it–that is what I believe allowed thinkers like Jesus and Galileo to go beyond their own current memes. The issue of the extent to which the mass media prevents such self examination and controls thought adds another very significant and as you point out dangerous level of conditioning, which is one reason that there is so much tension and stress in the culture at the moment. There is also a difference between knowledge and what I would call “being”, and so without getting to a deeper level of understanding people think they “know” things, but again these are conditioned beliefs and not real knowledge–and again this is used to the advantage of controlling interests. For example, we know that getting a new car will make us happy, even though a few weeks later we feel the same way we did before, but now we’re conditioned to buy a vacation. Same cycle. Only if we see through the illusion do we grow to the point where we realize our entire concept of happiness was flawed. At the same time the “system” uses its version of science to support the false belief system at every turn. Finally, I believe that where science can really contribute is by ultimately shattering every belief that things on this planet are serious and significant before that belief is shattered by a cosmic event of some kind–we need to disidentify with our own importance and realign with what are lost and higher levels of meaning and intelligence. Thanks for the comment. I hope I addressed it. Take care.