- Thomas Lisankie
I’ve been delaying writing and publishing a blog post for some time now. So I figure I should just write something and put it out there even if it doesn’t live up to what I think a blog post “should be” in my head.
Today I was watching an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience featuring John Anthony West. Around the 20 minute mark, West was speaking about how the Ancient Egyptians constructed many of their “myths” as a means of explaining esoteric concepts about cosmology that their early mathematicians and astronomers had come to understand. They were meant to convey the very nature of the world and all that was understood about the universe at the time through stories and the symbolism within those stories. This, he believes, is one of the reasons Ancient Egyptian civilization was able to last so long. The majority of individuals were able to appreciate and understand the structure of the known universe at the time even if they didn’t understand the mathematics behind it. An appreciation and understanding of all of this was embedded within the culture itself. And it became embedded in the culture because these stories that explained “how everything works” had an emotional impact.
“This is an infinitely superior way of communicating knowledge because you don’t have to be an expert,” West says. “It soaks into your bones in such a way that it directs, personally and collectively, people’s behaviors.” And I find myself agreeing with this in a way. It doesn’t take any sort of genius to understand that if you affect people’s emotions on a deep level on a mass scale, they’ll direct their energies towards the things that they see as important. Plus, if everyone is on the same page, you get de facto unification amongst the people and that sure as hell helps in maintaining a civilization. And if the bodies of knowledge that these people are directing their energy at are fairly complex in nature, you’re going to get a civilization that values advancement in these areas. They will want to further understand these ideas that they are deeply emotionally excited about. It helps explain why the Ancient Egyptians were so incredibly advanced technologically.
Now, let’s fast forward to modern civilization, particularly that in the United States. Do we have these sorts of stories dedicated to conveying complex concepts and making sure that they affect people on an emotional level? No, not really. There are attempts to explain these very complex concepts in ways that anyone, even without any scientific knowledge, would understand. But none of these methods have a conventional deep emotional impact that something like religion has. So in return we get a populace that is anything but unified, doesn’t understand much about anything, and most importantly has no real reason to be (exist). Our passions are too scattered and sometimes too trivial to push forward deep scientific advancement on a massive scale. Sure, technological advancement of the contemporary era is unparalleled in many respects when compared to past civilization. But imagine what it could be if the people had a unifying force that was based in a deep seated emotional place in the majority of individuals.
There are downsides to having a civilization based around stories though. Whenever a new advancement is made or some sort of change happens, you have to either add on to the overarching story which can sometimes be problematic since other aspects of the story may become nonsense once the new information is added. Or you just keep in mind that these are all stories meant to represent an understanding of raw information and structure. This of course then has the problem of not being able to grab in as many people because they don’t get to emotionally dedicate themselves to a particular story or set of ideas. Thus, I believe that the only real way to get around this is to have the emotionality connected to the learning and advancement in understanding of nature.
Of course, there’s so many other factors at play and to say that this is the sole reason for modern problems lacks nuance. Just some thoughts though. I woke up a bit cloudy headed today and am thus a little bit scatterbrained.