WHY ARE WE WHERE WE ARE?

Linked with Manfred Max-Neef – Chile, with the Centre for Development Alternatives CEPAUR, Chile, and with Statements at the World Future Council.

From the pdf text ‘What Next?, Draft thematic paper, From Knowledge to Understanding‘, by Manfred A. Max-Neef, published on Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, not dated.

Some excerpts: … Life is an unending sequence of bifurcations. The decision I make implies all the decisions I did not make. The route I choose is part of all the routes I did not choose …

… Sometime during the 12th century, in Italy, a young man named Giovanni Bernardone, while still very young and very rich, decided to radically change his life. As a result of his transformation, we remember him today under a different name: Francis of Assisi …

… Some years later, a fervent believer in absolute truth and in the possibilities of certainty, Francis Bacon invites us to ‘torture Nature’ to force her to reveal her secrets, so that we can extract the truth. Again, two worlds: one representing the route we took, and the other the route we did not take. We did not follow the way suggested by Pico della Mirandola. Instead, we accepted Bacon’s invitation, and we continue to apply his recipe with efficiency and enthusiasm. We continue torturing Nature in order to extract from her what we believe to be the truth …

… In the year 1600, Giordano Bruno burns at the stake, victim of his pantheism, since he believed that the Earth is life and has a soul. All things, for him, are manifestations of life. Everything is life. Three decades later, Descartes whispers in his Metaphysical Reflections: ‘Through my window, what I see are hats and coats covering automatic machines.’ We did not take the route of Giordano Bruno. We chose Descartes’ route, and for that reason we have witnessed the triumph of mechanisation and reductionism …

… Goethe, whose scientific contributions have been overshadowed – unjustly – by his colossal achievements in literature and the arts, felt upset with what he believed to be the limitations of Newtonian physics. For Goethe, Jeremy Naydler explains: ‘…science is as much an inner path of spiritual development as it is a discipline aimed at accumulating knowledge of the physical world. It involves not only a rigorous training of our faculties of observation and thinking, but also of other human faculties which can attune us to the spiritual dimension that underlies and interpenetrates the physical: faculties such as feeling, imagination and intuition. Science, as Goethe conceived and practiced it, has as its highest goal the arousal of the feeling of wonder through contemplative looking (Anschauung), in which the scientist would come to see God in nature and nature in God. Two worlds once more. Another bifurcation …

… No sustainability (which obviously requires understanding) will or can be achieved without a profound language shift. We need a new language that opens the door of understanding: not a language of power and domination, but a language that emerges from the depth of discovery ourselves as an inseparable part of a whole that is the miracle of life. If we manage to provoke such a shift, we may still experience the satisfaction of having (belatedly) brought about a new century worth living in. Let us hope for a safe voyage and a fulfilling navigation towards the land where we may become integrated beings capable of understanding the completeness of life.
(full text of the 7 pdf pages).

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