In the science fiction of the 1920s, it was imagined that the humans of the future grow bigger and bigger brains to process more and more information and take more and more complex decisions and problem-solving. What actually happened was quite unforeseen. Instead of growing our brains, we started building a gigantic digital nervous system outside of ourselves. This makes the whole idea of individuality relative and notional: We are individuals like a finger is ‘independent’ in the body. Perhaps it is more appropriate to use the word distinct than independent, in the sense that, an individual is a distinct attribute of the global organism, not a separate entity.
Utilities: A typical Indian middle-class home is connected to a larger grid of electricity, cooking gas, water, drainage, internet, telephone, cable tv and community maintenance. All are subscription-based, to be paid for each month and for normal day to day living, are not optional. It is hard to imagine a life without any or all of these.
Communication: A typical middle-class family, for day to day communication and social networking, on Cell phones, emails and their customized avatars on different social media sites. Life seems impossible without cell phones today.
Work & Compensation: Most of our professional lives are conducted over laptops or cell phones or simply at workplaces where gigantic organisms of steel, concrete and network communications. Our money is digital and resides on the server of some bank, our own identity is digital and resides in the national citizen directory and on an office server.
Economy: We are far from being a just part of our local economy now. Trade and commerce is global. In its annual report on the status of global trade, the World Trade Organization finds that the increasing interconnectedness of the world’s economies is a double-edged sword. While this globalization makes individual countries more vulnerable to short-term shocks, the WTO says, it also allows them to recover far more quickly than they would have in the past.
Relationships: Over the last decade, we have grown farther from our neighbours and our neighbourhood and started mingling with people we have no clue where they live and connect from. Long-distance relationships are normal and we feel and communicate more with a virtual stranger than a real acquaintance. Even our self-identity and our self-esteem depend on how social networks like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn evaluate us in their statistical reports.
From all these illustrations, it is clear that we are no longer the individuals or communities we used to be 50 years ago. We live in an extremely interconnected world; we are just distinct parts of a global organism – subservient to it, where our individuality is merely notional. The dictionary defines an organism as an individual form of life, such as a plant, animal, bacterium, protist, or fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life.
We did not, as was imagined in the 20s, grow larger brains. Instead, we grew a brain, a nervous system, outside of us. This nervous system runs across the towns, states, countries and continents of our planet. And we have become sensitive to the pains and pleasures that are felt thousands are miles away from where we live. Like the bacteria living in our gut, have a distinct identity but not a separate existence, we, humans have become distinct, not separate aspects of this global organism.
Generally, it seems like the whole of humanity is shifting to a new phase in its evolution. We are no longer individual persons, each struggling alone to survive the whims of nature. Increasingly, we’re rather like one global organism, all connected, and collectively developing ever more advanced technologies that enable us to transcend our original nature, becoming instead like we ourselves want us to be. We have become a new kind of creature; at one level we are independent individuals – yet simultaneously humanity behaves as a single system like never before. Increasingly, we share the same fate, we are mutually interdependent and aware of each other, and we are weaving ourselves closer and tighter into this global community of humanity .Peter Hesseldahl in his book ‘Global Organism’
Now where does this understanding leave us? There are two key takeaways. First, that if we think we have become more independent and free because of all the technological progress, it’s not true. We have become more dependent and at the mercy of our global ecosystem. Not complaining but acknowledging this fact. Second takeaway is with respect to spirituality. If all of spirituality is considered a journey of self-discovery, then this discovery of our true self has become harder than it has been over the last centuries. There are too many layers of conditionings and connections that need to be understood, severed, resolved and reintegrated to realize the full glory of our true selves. The conflict between us and our world has grown deeper but is only an apparent one. We have grown seemingly insignificant yet we have the capacity to realize our fullness of being. Spiritual maturity is to realize eventually that what we call the “external world” is as much us as our own body; our skin doesn’t separate us from the world, it’s a bridge through which the external world flows into us and we flow into it and we were not born into this world but rather grew out of it like apples on a tree.
“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”― Alan Wilson Watts.
That’s our journey, voyage rather.