"Don't fear, come here,
Don't cry, standby
There's safety in numbers,
And numbers don't lie."
Safety in Numbers
-Crack the Sky-
There is a flock of birds on the album cover. They're in flight against a purple sky. There's theory at work, because we see them from a distance as a single porous object. The flock moves as if it has a mind. From far enough away, we could deduce its intent. We could watch it modify its behavior according to external stimuli. The importance of the individuals vanishes in light of the motion of the group. It's as if they no longer have minds of their own. Perhaps they're one larger mind. Perhaps they surrender their individuality to the greater good.
There is a word for this being, composed of many smaller atomic beings. The word is: egregor.
There is no more terrifying concept to the western mind.
Yet we live it every day.
We exist in "bubbles" of reality of our own design. Shells of existence of our own creation. Our concept does not extend further than the perimeter. We watch the universe reflected on this shell like fiction on a translucent movie screen. Nothing penetrates. Not even people we love.
Our bubbles are presumption. They allow us to function. If we had to witness the death of each chicken or steer we ate every day, we'd starve. If we had to consider the origin of the electric power that lights our homes, we'd go blind at night. If we had to worry about sewage treatment, we'd be nomadic. If we had to learn to perform double bypass surgery, we'd never eat a slice of pizza.
We presume the sun will rise in the morning, because we are not concerned with the earth's rotation. We presume the roads will exist. That our cars will start. That uncontaminated water will flow from our plumbing. That we will not contract salmonella from our breakfast eggs, and that we will not be captured and killed by warring tribes on our way to work.
What we fear most in our world are concepts which attack the integrity of our presumption.
We choose political parties, candidates, philosophies, and action in order to maximize the security of our individual concepts.
So when you sit across from a friend, with a cup of coffee in your hand--and when you're not thinking of the beans on the tree, the children that had to brave rainstorms and guerilla action to harvest the beans, the paper cut from the adequately replenished forest in the Yukon, the heifer chained in a stall with a milking machine suckling on its distended udder--when everything you've filtered allows you to hear your friend's alternative political position--then know why he has it.
Maybe your friend has been in a war, and has modified his world concept with the belief that any war, however just, is more evil than the alternative. Maybe your friend has seen his relatives die at the hand of an unthinking person, and believes like action is the only way to end that behavior. Maybe your friend has been a victim of crime, or the recipient of a tremendous lottery windfall. Maybe your friend grew up in a different state, or a different country, or a different religion, where the things you were brought up to believe are inviolate--simply do not parse.
Maybe your friend believes in absolutes, or that there aren't any.
Each of you will protect yourself by adopting the posture that assures greatest safety for your current worldview. You may learn from each other and modify your worldview according to those things, which can be proven within the axiomatic structure of your system of thought--but those channels are not infinitely large. There are boundaries you are unwilling to cross because they will breech the shell around you, and you will have to create another. That takes energy you may not be willing to expend.
And because it takes an incredible amount of energy to change religion, philosophy, or political alliance--or to move from apathy to concern--the easier alternative is to follow the illogical presumption it will be simpler for your friend to change. And so you will argue.
If you are lucky, you will remain friends. But you will not change your mind, nor he his.
And you will aggregate in clusters of others who hold a similar worldview, because it requires less energy to keep yourself intact. The force of change, then, becomes the threat of attack. Changing, a matter of supplication to an attacker. Defeat.
When did we stop thinking we could learn from each other?
I first heard the album Safety in Numbers when I was seventeen, or so. Thanks to the magic of on-line music vendors, I now have that album on my computer and I can listen to the songs again. It reminds me of being seventeen, again.
It also reminds me now, in these political times, how in times of turmoil people will flock to like-minded individuals and conspire to find enemies where there may only a neighborhood of friends, or a country of citizens.
There is no correct answer to any question currently on the table of international or domestic concen. There are only people held in the balance. And if we, the constituents of the egregor of the human race were of one mind, we could simply stop killing each other. Then everyone would be safe.
In May of 1999 I saw Joe McMoneagle give some predictions at a seminar. He predicted a bunch of things which could be construed to mean 9/11, the stock market crash, and the war in Iraq. But he said that at any time, any of these predictions could be invalidated by the simple act of people exercising their free will. There didn't have to be a stock market crash. There didn't have to be the threat of the Y2K bug, if people simply agreed to act civil. So simple a concept, given the infinitescimal size of our planet in the big big universe.
That never happens. That idea is discarded by those who wish to be pragmatists, as it has been since the beginning of our species. It would require too much. Too much trust. Trust doesn't exist to that level.
Yet we flock like birds of a single mind. Until something happens, the force of change moves in, and then we divide against ourselves in civil war. Smaller flocks. Smaller flocks that further divide.
Until we stand alone in our shells of concept. Afraid. Protecting our worldview by aligning with others who for the moment, at least, seem to share our concept of what makes for well-being.
Just like now.