On The Creating And Sharing Of Awe

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Timothy Leary and Buckminster Fuller called themselves “performing philosophers,” using the power of media communication to spread galactic-sized ideas about the state of the species in relation to the wider universe. Leary used to say, “In the information age, you don’t teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today, he’d have a talk show.” Carl Sagan is another example of the philosopher-as-media-personality, effectively hacking pop culture with his iconic Cosmos TV series and sending our collective minds reeling.

Today we need philosophy with the same existential urgency that we always have—and to effectively connect with eager audiences, I believe philosophical ideas will benefit from being “packaged” in the most compulsively watchable and infectiously shareable forms of our time. In fact, I would update what Leary said. If Aristotle were alive today, he’d be a digital nomad, spitting heady dialogue into his Flip cam or iPhone, and sharing it on YouTube, all while globetrotting the world to feed his wanderlust.

Taking advantage of the proliferation of short-form media, I’m working to put out bite-sized bursts of inspired thinking meant to “epiphanize” (or at the very least, engage and inspire). I’m interested in the audio/visual mashup as the re-organization of media bits to reveal something new.

A work of art evokes transcendence when its constituents, in dizzying congruence, somehow reveal something new and greater than the sum of its parts. This is crucial. Each part has intrinsic value of course, (and it too is a mashup of even smaller entities), but I suppose I’m most interested in the ethereal nature of what can emerge when different pieces coalesce together and birth a new, larger, all-encompassing-dot-connecting pattern/paradigm/vision/entity. For me, it’s about the bigger picture, its about the Whole.

My friend, author Sebastien Marincolo, explains how the techniques used in the film Koyaanisqatsi served a key function in expanding our awareness:

“The groundbreaking film utilized time lapse to reveal the repetitive and recurring patterns of daily life… You see for instance a bird’s eye view of a long street in Manhattan with cars going through synchronized traffic lights. What we see is a dance to some mechanized rhythm. We come to understand we are all dancing to this and other rhythms without noticing it anymore.”

He follows this explanation with perhaps the most important statement of all: “These patterns are omnipresent, but only when we see these patterns in a more compressed mode of presentation do we start to attend to them as such.”

For this reason, the tools of editing and the juxtaposition of images, sounds and scales can serve as lenses through which we may discover a pattern we’d otherwise have missed. This is pertinent today as we face radical transformation and exponential technological progress. Information technologies have become instruments of mind expansion and now, more than ever, we need to philosophize, to imaginatively interpret the implications of our co-evolution with technology. We need new ways of digesting these ideas. We must write the script for the next chapter of the Homo Sapiens Story as we transition to what Leary called Homo-Universalis and Homo-Cyberneticus.

Jason Silva is a filmmaker, producer, host, and gonzo journalist.

19 Responses

  1. Could this be the script for the next chapter in the “Homo Sapiens Story”?

    http://www.Homo-Immortalis-Omnipotent.org

    Homo Immortalis Omnipotent

    Living in “Infinite Space-Time”! No more “human created secondhand God’s”!

    The function assigned to GOD is now available through understanding the Universe we are part of.
    We will be the Engineers of our own body chemistry, in the Infinity of Space-Time we can live
    forever.

    Biotechnology will control the “aging process” (we don’t wear out, but are DNA programmed to
    age), and “involuntary death” will not exist any more.

    Science, Gene Engineering, Nano Technology, Epigenesis, Astrophysics
    etc. and Extra Terrestrial Migration will allow for “Goal Oriented Evolution”, leading to
    HOMO IMMORTALIS OMNIPOTENT.

    The fact that you are reading this is a good sign.

    Many people know that we all have to die, so anything that may undermine that belief will be
    avoided.

    If this would be information confirming that there is life after death, which is something many of us
    deem possible, we would be more inclined to believe it. The reason is, that once we have formed a
    belief and have been influenced accordingly, we are more reluctant to reevaluate our acceptance of
    it.

    Since I grew up in a katholik environment I was sure that by following the rules, I would go to
    heaven and presumable not be dead.

    I am now over seventy years old and have lived and loved on five Continents. With the information
    and experiences I have been exposed to, I have come to the conclusion, that science will make it
    possible that we can keep on living here, instead of dying and going to heaven.

    You may be inclined to believe in some form of life in heaven, because that is the opinion of
    confirmed authorities. I can assure you, that looking for information based on up to date science,
    leading to youthfulness and the avoidance of death, will not do any harm, but may give you more
    time to do so.

    You probably ask, what is this about?

    It is like a quantum leap. A move to a new state of being. In the material world it would be like the
    jump from the atom to a mineral. Or from a multicellular organism to a cerebral animal. Or from a
    culture that depends on an “idealized self projected image (God)”, to provide protection and escape
    from annihilation , to a society that uses science and technology to solve the problems of sickness
    and death.

    The tools that propelled us from primates to “Homo sapiens sapiens”, will now be developed, so we
    will evolve to Homo Immortalis Omnipotent.

    Of course there will be opposition from institutions that now have the monopoly on “Life after
    death”. They should not worry, because our need for entertainment will always exist. Even sincere
    moral and religious disapproval should not divert us from taking this next step in evolution.

    Just like the hydrogen atom did not know that it would become the planet we now live on, even
    though it already contained the basic code leading to the status quo. We will realize that the abilities
    that we have assigned to our God’s, are now for us to acquire.

    The only limit is our imagination! Freedom from death now!

    Alfred Schickentanz

  2. Ian says:

    Most people would be absolutely shocked at the breadth of the philosophy done by the–admittedly small–philosophical community on YouTube. I know I was.

    ~Ian

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no philosophers online.

      That’s an axiom.

      • Ian says:

        Wow…you’re just fractally wrong on that.

        • Anonymous says:

          Show me at least one, then we’ll have something to talk.

          • Ian says:

            drjasonjcampbell and theoreticalbullshit both come to mind…

            • Anonymous says:

              The correct term for this is “blogger”, not “philosopher”. If posting “smart things” online is philosophy, then we are all philosophers here, and YouTube comments are probably the fricking Academy.

              • Ian says:

                Sure; they’re bloggers, and philosophers as well. I have no objection to the statement that most of us are philosophers; I can’t think of a single person who didn’t have a philosophy.

                In any case, even if we restricted the term “philosopher” to mean “someone formally trained in philosophy,” drjasonjcampbell fits the bill perfectly, since he’s a philosophy scholar.

                • Anonymous says:

                  The difference between “philosophy scholar” and “philosopher” is like difference between “student” and “teacher”, or “student of literature” and “writer”. Did these two (or any other online person) said something new in philosophy? No. So, they aren’t philosophers. They are fans/students/promoters/whatever of philosophy. Reading books doesn’t make you a writer. Studying/discussing/promoting/lecturing philosophy doesn’t make you a philosopher. None of people you mentioned can be compared to Aristotle, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Marx, etc. Such low standarts of perfection is exactly why there’re no philosophers online. Who cares about truth when you have gazillion of fans? That’s not philosophy. That’s entertainment, recreation and self-advertisement.

                  • Ian says:

                    Um…what? Both of the people I mention *have* created new ideas in philosophy. You might want to actually watch their videos before you make such blanket statements. Sure, the philosophers you mention are far greater than the two I mentioned, but that’s like saying that Ayn Rand wasn’t a writer because she wasn’t nearly as good as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, etc.

                    By the way, neither of the people I mention exactly have “gazillions of fans.” They have about 20,000 and 1,000 subscribers, respectively. But that’s close to nothing on YouTube.

                    • Anonymous says:

                      OK, I get your point. Then let’s just say that they don’t make philosophers like they used to (and writers too, for that matter). Around 6 years ago I had philosophy debate club with 50,000+ dayly visits online, plus bi-weekly offline seminars, but I didn’t call myself “philosopher”. And today I look around and see that everybody is “philosopher”, “intellectual”, etc, now. There’s an obvious inflation and de-valuation of such words, which I find sad, since debate level inevitably falls down as result. 10 or even 5 years ago there were some places online worth visiting daily. Now, there is not a single interesting place online, at least in English-speaking part of the Web.

                      So, to rephrase my claim:

                      >There is no philosophers online.

                      Let’s say, there’re no philosophers of decent level online (with “decent level” being subjective category, of course).

                    • Ian says:

                      “I feel that we are all philosophers, and that those who describe themselves as a ‘philosopher’ simply do not have a day job to go to”. –Kevin Warwick

  3. Anonymous says:

    Watched the vid. The guy is a drug addict. Pattern of speech implies LSD, DMT, or other “softcore” psychodelic-type hallucinogens. I can bet my money on that.

    physchodelia != philosophy

    Everything is “awesome”, when you’re drunk. But that experience of “awe” cannot be “shared”, not unless you’re drunk too. That’s No.1 problem of T.Leary’s philosophy and all his modern transhumanist followers. Hallucinating about Singularity isn’t transhumanism. It’s recreation.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >If Aristotle were alive today, he’d be a digital nomad, spitting heady dialogue into his Flip cam or iPhone, and sharing it on YouTube, all while globetrotting the world to feed his wanderlust.

    *gulp*
    That’s probably the most self-deluded and wrong statement I’ve read in months. And it’s just plain sick. If Aristotle were alive today, he wouldn’t even own a cellphone. Look up the definition of philosophy, or at least an etymology of the term. I think you confuse it with mass culture.

    • Robert says:

      I don’t want to be contentious; I’m genuinely curious as to why you think the statement is wrong. (And I’m not even saying the statement is right either: I’m dubious of any statement along the the lines of “If Aristotle were alive today, he’d [etc.].”)

      That said, my dictionary defines philosophy as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline”. And the etymology is “love of wisdom” from philo “loving” and sophis “wise”. So why should we assume that it’s more likely that Aristotle would not own a cellphone than that he would?

  5. Oyun says:

    Video really rocks. Science is only the way out.

  6. Awe is *amazing*, done my bit of awe quite a lot, do quite some these days. Did some this morning, had truly awesome yoghurt.

    But in this day and age let the few who can afford to be awed not fly so high as to lose track of the many who mostly are stuck with their face in the dirt.

    There are things wrong, really really wrong, and they need fixing. Don’t get too far ahead of the curve lest you find when you return New York burned to the ground and the Morlocks took over.

    • Anonymous says:

      World is perfect. And you can’t change it. You can’t change laws of physics, mathematics, principles of biology, social dynamics, etc. You aren’t smarter than Mother Nature. If you think that Mother Nature deserves fixing, it is you who is broken. And Mother Nature hates broken things.

    • Anonymous says:

      “who can afford to be awed”

      Yep, drugs are expensive these days.

      Too bad.

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