OK. It's time I bit the bullet and confront a discussion that caused me a good bit of heart break for several months after a particular movie's release a while back (beyond the usual heart break of what is now the daily human event, that is). It involves several items of note within the info-ether. They will seem quite disparate at first, some quite trite while others are profound indeed. They are related, however, and I will take upon myself the task of trying to reveal these relationships. The title of this piece has four of these items. To this list I would add the following: The movie Avatar. Operating systems (think computer for the moment). Liberty. Diversity and a question: Can any operating system continue indefinitely? I'm going to begin this by starting with the movie Avatar. I was unable to watch this movie all the way through initially (getting only to a little past the middle) because of an ache for what is presented in the story (an effect that I'm not alone in). An ache from something we don't have that we sorely need. Avatar is a movie that is both not very sophisticated and yet still quite profound. It is thus for me at least because it speaks as a metaphor for something we lost quite a while ago. And by that I mean connection (as well as the involvement that comes with the right connection); connection that is more than just having nerve bundles of some sort (at the end of our ponytails) that impart a direct neural link. Don't get me wrong. A direct neural link could be quite helpful (in balance with other things), but it would never, by itself, fully encompass what is meant by connection. Connection in the Cosmolosophy context is of and for Loving Structure. Connection is how we approach balance, meaning and each other. Connection is how we understand the whole system of systems, and how everything integrates. But let's get back to the larger aspect of the movie. One of the things you see metaphorically in Avatar, and that stands in stark contrast, is the duality of how the movie was made (the purpose this method of creation serves), and the deep involvement it seeks to depict. So much technology was brought to bear on what is undeniably a wonderfully imaginative other world. Three-D (not to mention computer graphics) has been harnessed in a way that is vastly more fidelity focused than the parlor novelty it started out as. But then, in the story as well, the main character climbs into, both literally and figuratively, a whole new sensory space, provided by a new technology. And for the first time in his life he connects to just how cut off from fully living he has been (it's also telling that he's crippled, which serves as another metaphor in itself). This is certainly not the first depiction of a techno-sensory super extension. The duality is related to what has been something of an internet holy grail for some time now (Brainstorm, Strange Days, The Matrix, Surrogates etc): some sort of head jack, brain cap or body chamber that allows you to jump directly into the fantasy of choice (oh Neo of the neotype, ye hardly knew what machinations such a matrix makes, for truly does it go to this: Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to receive... Our Fictions.. So wired with the impulse and its reflections. And hardly caring of all that gets shorted.). What's interesting in all of this, within our current discussion, is that we apply so much effort to create an involving experience which depicts an involving experience. And that such experience could become a product, manufactured like any other. The question this ought to create is: "What does that say about what is really going on here?" In one sense it's kind of like the guy who, living a life of great pressure and stress, applies tremendous resource into procuring ever better antacids, heart repair technologies, and temporary diversions, so that he can keep up the life of great pressure and stress; all, of course, in order to afford the coping strategy in the first place. In another sense it is simply the pure absurdity of a more direct kind: Abstraction and mechanistic segmentation cuts you off from a fully lived life so you rely on it to engineer a substitute, thinking this will solve the problem. The sad part here is that nether of these is really that much of a revelation. I think we all feel them on one level or another. We ignore them because we just don't want to deal; to a significant degree I think because we just don't see how. Marshall Mcluhan used to talk about how "Cool" media were those that required a great deal of participation, as opposed to "Hot" ones that emphasized a particular sensory channel and thus little participation. One might argue over whether an individual, in partaking of a movie like Avatar, which not only incorporates new visual technology, but very sophisticated audio techniques as well, participates very much or not. One might also argue over whether any new technology mix, in creating an experience space one could either put on, climbed or jacked into, would be more than "cool" in the ordinary sense. I don't think that part matters near as much as recognizing that the native people depicted in the Avatar story have "involvement in depth," as a way of life. What we really should be asking is this: What is it in the lives of a native people that gives them "involvement in depth?" And at least part of the answer must lie in how organic participation is inherent in a mode of life where fully integrated engagement and interaction are part and parcel of deep connection. You need only look at one aspect of modern life and it's contrasted form in native life to get a visceral understanding of this difference. This is in our relationship now with tools and skills, as opposed to how it used to be in times long past. And no better starting point is in the argument that partisans of the current economic system have to answer the conundrum of job loss as technology advances. Old ones are simply replaced by the demand of positions with increased training requirements. And always this is seen as a good thing. What is never fully appreciated in this, however, is that, as change increases in pace with ever more electrified competition, the lowly worker is expected to become ever more like the reprogrammable machine tool; sucking up and then shucking behavioral sets like the tabbed clothes on paper dolls. Contrast that with the life long association of native, tool and the environment that shapes both. In this sense the tool, as well as its expression, are as sacred as the natural world that formed them One might then ask: Are you suggesting that we all strip down to loin cloths and go find the nearest convenient magic forest? Abandon all of our accumulated technique and go back to an older knowledge set? And to this I would answer, no. Partly because nerdy old men look terrible in a loin cloths, of course. Also because with the numbers that we have accumulated there is no way we can go back; at least in any kind of literal sense. Mostly, however, it is because there is no need. The amazing magical forest is already around us. And a part of what makes that forest magic is precisely what we've come to learn about it (I've expressed this from a different angle in Essays at Oldsofty.com, where the info-sphere itself now is a vast new kind of wondrous jungle). Think about the larger aspect of what a magic forest or jungle suggests. The world of Pandora is nothing but an amazing array of informative relationships in a tightly integrated matrix. It is amazing and magical because it is new and undiscovered. It is a frontier in a sense, as much in the mind as anywhere else, that beckons us to participate. And the thing is, we already live there. We don't know this precisely because we are cut off from it. We are cut off from it because we chose to make a mindset of factory, assembly lines, machine parts and commodities our all consuming reality. What is really all about us is an entirety where, not only does the magical globe we started on, but also do a limitless array of new worlds, spin with the offer a continuing vista of frontier. A frontier of never ending exploration. A frontier both figurative and literal. And make no mistake, the human animal needs frontier. What we have to understand in this is how the social organization of a native people differs from our supposedly modern one. And in this I want to introduce the notion of considering social organization as an Operating System. It is a convenient allusion in as much as it conveys how both computers and societies have to have a set of rules (or strategy sets) guiding how the given resource mix is to be approached and what, within that approach, are the guiding principles; how are the interdependent relationships to be expressed, and along what channels do the results of these expressions then flow (in native operating systems, of course, one of those channels is spiritual; recognizing that interplay between us and what we operate in is more than what can be expressed in the terms of commodity and consumer). Humankind has had a number of operating systems over the centuries. Each has had strengths and weaknesses. Each provided at least one thing or another that helped make it successful in its time, as well as tremendous tradeoffs for that success. The one other thing, however, that both social and computer operating system have in common is that no one manifestation remains relevant indefinitely. Certainly they get amended and upgraded as much as possible, but there always comes a time when you finally have to start over. The characteristics of both the interacting agent, and the interactive environment, changes and thus demands a new operating model. If we accept that needing a new model is inevitable then the only remaining question is deciding when. Do we do it now? Should we have done it quite a while ago? Do we have plenty of time in which to worry about this later? But these only serve to beg further questions. What would inform us of the current model's obsolescence? What factors, if any, in the current model's present operation are there to cause concern and a sense of urgency? And to this, from my perspective, the list is both extensive and glaringly obvious. We have already talked about how our entertainment shows the direct absurdity surrounding the attempt to salve a thing that is aching by applying more of what caused the irritation in the first place. We need only cast our gaze about the headlines (for all of us head cases) in the info-ether to see how our very painful disconnect from each other, and the place we dwell in, manifests itself. The usual bloody spectacle of desperate want, greed and hate that fills the info-ether serves not only to remind but numb as well. It reminds of how we fail to cooperate in finding solutions to the underlying reasons for the want, greed and hate. And the numbing only serves our dying on the inside; the spiritual demise that pushes ever more extremes of avoidance; the fantasies that will eventually come to rule the plug or climb in worlds that the men and women of commodity will only be too willing to provide. The planet (as a currently constituted integrated system) is also dying and it's not just competitive consumption that is killing it. There too, on a very important level, lies the lack of access to a new physical frontier. Even though it has become a bit of a cliché, and controversial (the arguments surrounding the Gaia Hypothesis are a microcosm of the deterministic and non-deterministic view points of the Cosmos. I strongly urge giving it a review) , I think it is useful to think of the earth as a Gaia organism (Eywa as the Na'vi would say). At least in the sense that, in needing seed pods, and in getting those pods spread out to new frontiers so as to ensure for survival. Because this collective organism has filled the available space it must spread out. The increased competition for energy, water and nutrients (especially when sentience is in the picture) is creating a pressure for change in (as Lynn Margulis pointed out In 1999) "...the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere (which-J.V.) are regulated around "set points" as in homeostasis..." This very foreseeable change presents a very real physical threat. The thing to remember, though, is that this is just one obvious foreseeable threat. Geological change, especially in the form of volcanism, has already been shown to be another. It's not quite as obvious because of the time frames that are most often involved. The solar system we scoot around in shares the same trait. We tend to take a scoot path free of significant collisions for granted. The same goes for a star, whose generally permissive emissions (within our geo-generated overcoat) we take for granted; forgetting that she can be most mercurial in her flare-ups. Most of us understand these facts. And then there is the lack of access to new frontier for the primary social animal on the planet. The competition for space, both physical and intellectual puts pressure on the psyche of this animal. We need very much to interact with out kind, but we also need not only space with which to have pause from, but freedom of action apart from, others; which is to say that there is a very real sociological component to the idea of "in your face." In this context McLuhan's "Global Village" is both a good thing and a bad thing. It serves to remind us that there is always the possibility of too much of a good thing. And in this we should understand that a good part of our problem now is that we bump up against each other in more than just the physical. Now we have different ways of living and different ways of seeing things, pushed into our awareness as it has never been before. How are we to accommodate this? How many more destructive crusades or jihads will it take to get us to realize that there is no changing the fact that there will always be different ways of seeing what is the right way to live? How can we make room for this (figuratively and literally) and still cooperate? And make no mistake. This problem lives within our own borders, as well as within those arbitrary boundaries elsewhere. So. If we accept the fact that no operating system remains indefinitely viable, and we further accept that our current operating system is most likely no longer viable, then the next question becomes: what do we replace it with. A question I'm not going to deal with now save to suggest that everyone needs to be considering it. We need to start considering the broader outlines of what would allow us to live in a way that would balance individual liberty with love for all of the things we interact with. A living strategy that would create a community of communities where people could decide their own living priorities; work their own balance of technique and personal involvement and yet cooperate enough so that the desperation created by want is minimized (as Jim Hightower has said: "Everybody does better when everybody does better."). Strategies that would make "involvement in depth," a natural consequence of the way things were set up. Hopefully these strategies will incorporate the understanding that we adhere to the abstraction of a "factory, assembly lines, machine parts and commodities" kind of reality at our peril. We have one thing left to tie up. And that is "Shared Vision." To express this in terms of the Na'vi you would have to say: How can you share a vision if you cannot see in the first place? And of course seeing, in this context, is a good deal more than just perceiving with the eyes. It is feeling and experiencing with every part of our being. It is living as "Loving Structure," for "Loving Structure." The interesting there here is that we need to start seeing enough so that we can begin building a shared vision of change in order to see that shared vision is necessary for our survival. There are an infinite number of Pandora frontiers waiting for us if we can truly start "seeing" what is possible, as well as what is necessary.