I know how to fix the world… But it’s complicated. It will work but it’s not a solution you get from a vending machine; or through sitting all Cargo Cult-like waiting for politicians to deliver their solutions. It’s to do with what I call ‘Car-Mind’; and how to get rid of it…
The story starts with the concept of how ‘big’ might an idea be before it makes our brains hurt and retreat back to watching The Simpsons instead. Let’s start with some mind-hurting ideas like ‘the world view of the infinite’ versus the more localised notion of ‘our finite mental backyard’. Finite versus infinite. What’s the tipping point that separates these two dimensions? Presumably, somewhere along the line, the finite breaks apart to become the infinite. Where’s that point? And why should we care?
Now the mathematical boffins out there will be able to provide some ideas on this. But anything they will say on this would side-track us from the argument I want to present. You see, the tipping point from the finite to the infinite is all in our minds. And every person’s mind will have a different take on that particular journey. Because the concept of the infinite is, as much as anything else, what we might all a ‘cultural construction’ (rather than just a technical mathematical construction).
Now all this might sound pretty abstract. But it’s not. This is actually the killer argument that explains everything! So keep reading.
Consider a story through which to illustrate the ideas here. Consider Global Warming (or Climate Change to be more politically correct). Our Globe is a pretty big place. The Earth is bigger than your local neighbourhood. It’s even bigger than your local State. We know this. But do we really know this?
Here’s where I need to define infinite and finite as the cultural notions that they are. In my view, finite is the local reality space our minds can grasp. The infinite is everything outside that zone of localised reality. We appreciate that super-local stuff exists. We can go visit super-local stuff by plane. That’s what tourism is. We might even hop on a rocket and visit the moon, and the moon is hardly in the local zone of most peoples’ mental back yard. The point here is that the border between the locally finite and the otherworldliness of infinity is a changing context thing. It depends on time and place; it’s shaped by the journey of your life.
Returning to Global Warming, I think that this separation between the lived-reality of the locally finite and the abstractions of the infinite explains the mess we are now in. You see, I reckon most people really consider that Global Warming is a notion from the infinities of beyond; beyond our zones of local relevance and lived realities. We know about the idea of Global Warming. But most of us haven’t really adopted the idea as a part of the furniture of the localised-reality of our mental backyard. If it’s outside of the finite, then it’s an idea that sits in the abstractions of the infinite beyond. And that’s always in Someone Else’s Backyard. My sense of responsibility only extends within the white painted picket-fenced boundary of my home mental zone.
Now, let’s extend this argument to cars and bicycles. Let me put it this way. We are told that Global Warming is to do (at least significantly, in part) by the fumes emitted from cars. You might have a car. You might know that your own car is a contributor to Global Warming. But you know that your car is only one of millions (700 million or thereabouts). So the contribution of your car is pretty darn small! So, working the the idea of finite realities and the incomprehensibility of the infinite beyond, you might conclude that your bit is soooooo small as to not be a major concern. It’s all those Chinese motorists out there… Or all those folk in Pakistan. Or pick any other place outside the place you call home. That’s ‘Car-Mind’. Your world is nicely bordered by a reality zone of the finite you can touch, feel and smell. A car is a perfect illustration of a local reality zone contained within a hard, emphatic skin. That tin and glass separates the realities of your space from the spaces of everywhere else. You can touch, see and smell everything within your car. That’s your space. Beyond, is someplace else. Outside is the infinite beyond (unless you crash in which case the infinities of beyond can then become an exercise in instant augmented reality…). Your fumes are, importantly, outside the bubble of that mobile reality zone you might otherwise describe as your car. So, you might not take ownership of the fumes your car emits. Those fumes have become part of the abstraction of the infinite beyond. Just like the idea of Global Warming.
Now, take a bicycle. With a bicycle, there’s no roof. No tin walls. No glass. Your reality is a twisted space. Outside is inside and woven all around. The borderlands of your mobile world are less ‘precise’. Now you can smell, feel, and touch everything around you and, as you are continually moving, you keep on keeping on touching, smelling and feeling places as places merge into other places and then into places beyond. Your mind is relieved of the hard mental comforter of a metallically reinforced skin through which to calm the mental challenges of interfacing with the infinities of beyond. The unsettling metaphysical challenges of opening to the ungrounded infinities of beyond are harder to escape. You can’t air-condition off your mental comfort zones with walls of tin and glass. ‘Cycling-Mind’ is a bigger metaphysical embrace than anything with which the driver of even the largest monster SUV can contend. Cycling-Mind is a more expansively worldly place to be.
Now try this. If we are to really convert the infinite abstraction of Global Warming into the lived-zone of peoples’ finite local reality, you might want to think about this. To insert the reality of their fumes into the backyard of their minds, perhaps you might conduct an experiment. Take a Car-Mind afflicted, constrained reality thinker, sit them in their car, place a tube on the back-end of their car’s exhaust and channel it back inside the cabin. They’d start to notice a few things about the realities of their fumes pretty quick smart. That’s precisely the kind of reality zone twisting that cyclists live with all the time. The borderlands of finite local realities and the un-realities of the infinite beyond would be twisted around pretty profoundly as those fumes pump back inside. The physical barriers of the car would separate from the mental barriers they were once held to be. Consequences would twist back into the actions that gave them cause. Just as is always the case with those blessed with the more expansive possibilities of reality-extending Cycling-Mind.
I bet you this. If we tried this little exhaust re-plumbing twist with the more ‘finitely-bordered’ minds out there (any gas guzzing SUV driver will do), Global Warming would become a more lived reality for those with the most closed-off minds. The tide would then turn pretty fast. As the folk begin to take ownership of the consequences of their environmental actions, progress would make pace at last. Then Car-Mind might open out to the more infinitely-touched realities of Cycling-Mind.