Brace for Impact

Andromeda and Milky Way are on a collision course.  The two galaxies are approaching each other at 110 kilometers per second.  That’s about 66 miles per second.  That is a pretty high speed whether you’re wearing a seatbelt or not.  Andromeda can be seen currently, rising in the NE in the Northern hemisphere around 8am, peaking at around 5:30pm (at 89º), and setting around 2am.  It is a beautiful sight, when it is dark enough outside to be seen, but the inevitable collision is going to do quite a lot of damage.  I lack the sophistication to say with any specificity how much damage, but it suffices for our purposes to say…it will change everything.  Fortunately for us, this wont happen for another 3.75 billion years.  Whew!  We just missed that one.

Another collision happened in our galaxy roughly 3.75 billion years before that one.  In astronomical time, it is happening right about now.  Worse yet, it is happening not only in our galaxy, but in our solar system.  Still worse, it is happening on our planet.  This collision is slow moving, like a galaxy covering a great distance, but the force of the impact is immense.  It is doing a lot of damage.  This collision involves the evolution of human systems from a group oriented identity, like ant colonies, to individual based concepts of civilization.  

The old view had its beauty, like one of the galaxies.  When humanity began to settle, from a nomadic lifestyle into an agricultural lifestyle, humans began to build dwellings, and grouped together for safety and efficiency.  The walls of one dwelling connected to the walls of the next, and the first city looked more like a hive for bees or termites than what we are familiar with today.  The dwellings had doors at the top, and the inhabitants walked along what would essentially be the roofs of the city until they found their particular home, and entered and left through that opening.  

I read recently how ants have a sort of collective intelligence that increases as their numbers increase.  They transmit their intelligence through their physical groupings, which functions as one large brain.  It has even been estimated that 40,000 ants makes the rough equivalent in intelligence to one human.  In the time of humans living in hive like dwellings, as agriculture was just beginning, I imagine our intelligence worked in much the same way.  We glean from archeological evidence that our concepts of individuality was not quite as developed then as it is now.  Where we are now, roughly 10,000 years later, and how we see our ‘selves’ differs significantly, and has many factors which have contributed to the evolution of the concept.  We make conjecture about the factors based upon the observed changes, like hunting and gathering to farming, from a nomadic lifestyle to land ownership and settlement.  

One massive change that we can observe, not merely guess about, and about which we have actual records is the invention of Gutenberg’s machine, the movable press.  As we look backward to the moveable press machine, we see an early form of a Xerox machine, or maybe a typewriter, but it was far more than that.  Gutenberg’s machine was the seed kernel of individuality.  This allowed literacy to spread among the population.  And while this did take some time, the development of individual thought was accelerated by this process.  Like most other aspects of a human hive, thinking was more collective prior to the time that literacy, and private thought became common.  Thought, and the development of the self was more about the group, where thoughts were developed and disseminated.  Private reading helped to advance private thought and the concept of the self.

Much of what we do as human populations are vestigial relics of our early civilization.  Individuality is a powerful force, but it is quite recent in our development.  The evolution from our previous form into our current one is that cataclysm occurring in our solar system, on our planet, that for all intents and purposes might as well be the collision of the two beautiful celestial bodies Andromeda and the Milky Way.  Eventually the two galaxies will collide and tear one another apart, before creating something new.  Right now, as we speak, in human evolution, we are tearing civilization apart.  If we survive it, we will create something new.  That much remains to be seen.  Christianity barely resembles what it was when it began roughly 2000 years ago.  Individuals were not  a relevant factor in the religion, unless you were a King or a Prince, or some sort of feudal important person.  

And then, right at the end of that feudal period, possibly causing its end was the invention of Gutenberg’s machine, and the individual.  Individuality became a power to rival the power systems created by humans since humans settled onto plots of land and started declaring ownership of it…and the people on it…and women.  The concept of individuality began to challenge all of that.  ‘You know, now that I think of it…’ became a motivation to try things in one’s own way.  All manner of ideas were born of that process, like justice, and objective facts, and reasoning not based on the support of power structures, but rather, objective reality.  

And while all of that is going on, the power of an old-fashioned subjectivity remains.  Power doesn’t concede anything, and often not even to objective reasoning.  If you care to pay attention to it, you may wonder at how power systems can defy facts and logic.  It helps to keep in mind that we are more like that than we are not.  Power is the reason that we are most like most animals.  Objectivity and reasoning is how we are not.  This process is only 10, 000 years old, at most.  We are not yet finished with the collision.  The impact is still happening.  We may survive it.  We shall see.  

Brace for impact.