THE LAST GASP OF PATRIARCHY AND CARTESIAN THOUGHT
(Don’t miss the four great video clips below. They’re the heart of this post).
“Mindwalk is a 1990 film set at Mont Saint Michel, France. It’s directed by Bernt Amadeus Capra and is based on the book The Turning Point by his brother Fritjof Capra (the author of the book The Tao of Physics)”.
The film features a presidential candidate, a poet and a scientist exploring Mont Saint Michel (and human history) surveying the current crises, how we got here and how we can turn the situation around. What’s fascinating is seeing our essential issues played out before us. We, along with the presidential candidate (played by Sam Waterston) discover that ours is fundamentally a crisis of perception. And that failure of perception is what’s causing the surface political, economic and social issues we are dealing with.
The scientist (played by Liv Ullmann) and the poet (played by John Heard) school the presidential candidate (and us) during their stroll through Mont Saint Michel. We realize that trying to fix the individual surface problems by themselves won’t work. We need to fix the underlying cause, a problem of perception, that leads us to behave in ways that actually create the economic, political and social problems in the first place.
We’re like a fireman by day and a sleepwalking arsonist by night. We genuinely want to fix these problems. We keep trying to put the fires out. We don’t realize that it is us that’s setting these fires in the first place.
Our mindset and assumptions obviously inform our policies. Our reductionist Cartesian mindset treats every problem as isolated unto itself and fails to understand the relationships between the parts. Being blind to that web of relationships causes us to make very bad policy decisions.
Fighting fires (pushing political, economic and social solutions) is good and important and moral. But remember. We’re also the sleepwalking arsonist. Wouldn’t it be better (and even more moral) to stop setting those fires to begin with? Wouldn’t that be better than just continuing to race around putting the fires out? Ours truly is a crisis of perception. And the real revolution is the revolution of consciousness.
We think we’re free, making our own choices. But in this film we realize that we have been unwittingly acting on a set of assumptions produced by Descartes, Francis Bacon and others, assumptions that have outgrown their usefulness and are actually causing real damage. They’re a dead end road for us.
We humans need to examine our underlying assumptions that are driving us. We need to realize that it is sometimes the case that we are not as free as we thing, that it is a myth that controls and blasts our lives. Whether it’s the slave owner in the 1800’s exploiting people or the Goldman Sachs banker taking actions that destroy lives and the environment, that step to examine what’s really driving us could change the lives of real people on this planet. So it really is a crisis of perception. Once the perception shifts, so too do the political, economic and social situations.
Here Henry James pleads for us to examine our own assumptions that drive us:
Taking the new road described by the female lead in the brilliant film “Mindwalk” may be the solution to many of the problems we face today. Descartes led us down the dead end street of “reductionism” 300 years ago. We see the results. Isn’t it time we turn back?
We’ve followed the Cartesian masculine approach, assuming one can understand something simply by breaking it into parts. Look where that shortsighted viewpoint has gotten us. As a society, we’ve behaved as though our children and grandchildren (and their children) don’t matter. Their well being doesn’t even enter the decision-making process in our corporate and political halls of power. (Native Americans, on the other hand, looked seven generations ahead. Who are the real savages?).
Isn’t it time we take an approach more consistent with systems theory as described in “Clip 3 of 4” below? That approach recognizes the truth of interconnectedness and that real understanding and actionable wisdom come from discovering the RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE PARTS.
Dostoevsky said it best in the Brothers Karamazov: “The security of the individual cannot be achieved by his isolated efforts but only by mankind as a whole.”
Albert Einstein put it this way: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said it like this: “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. We are, all of us, inextricably linked.”
Leaders are frantically trying to fix this or that piece of the economic and political puzzle, but that won’t work because we are stuck in a reductionist mindset. We can’t see the connections between the parts. Everything is viewed in isolation. It’s a false view of the world. Any solutions that don’t take into account connections between the parts quickly fall apart.
Our economic, political and social crises, then, are at root a crisis of vision and perception. We keep getting the results we are getting because we are looking through the myopic lens of Descartes’s reductionism.
Our solutions will become more clear when we embrace the more feminine approach consistent with systems theory. *** Right now, our society is all out of balance. Correcting that balance will change our entire value system. (If you don’t believe me, watch the startling admission made here in this 30 second clip by the CEO of the largest carpet manufacturer in the world: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5pi7MedPUgE ).
4 KEY CLIPS FROM THE FILM MINDWALK (set at Mont Saint Michel in France) that lay out our problems and solutions beautifully. These may surprise you:
Clip 1 of 4 – Fascinating. The female lead character, a scientist, describes patriarchy and the current imbalance that is causing many of our problems. FAST FORWARD TO 3 minutes in and watch from there. The key moment comes at 6 minutes in.
Clip 2 of 4 – This clip discusses ditching Descartes’s dead end view of the world for something that lets us see what’s really going on. (The key point is made at 4:15 but the whole clip is valuable to watch from the beginning):
Clip 3 of 4 is a 3 minute clip that beautifully describes systems theory using the example of a tree.
Clip 4 of 4 describes the mechanistic thinking we are stuck in today. FAST FORWARD TO 3:40
The full film “Mindwalk” is well worth watching.
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