by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ March 17, 2021
Damn, this is complicated. There were once good times and bad times, and much of the time, it didn’t break either way. We remember the good and the bad and forget the other.
What we have is a new normal that is mixed good and bad with a new dynamic variable. That variable is itself, complex and may be nonlinear. For lack of a better term, I think of it as ‘trending’. This is the constantly sliding scale of greyness that reacts to both large and small factors, location, and personal perspective.
Not only is the historical simplicity of the Dao yin and yang, black and white in dynamic balance, far behind us but we have no definitive shade of grey. Our world is a fast-shifting color trend. No wonder people who still demand that the world be black or white and in its proper place are going crazy but those of us fine with shades of grey are disrupted by the speed of color changes.
Diversity is both cause and result of complexity. It does not lend itself to simple dichotomies. Nor is it the addition of just one shade of grey. The ups are really up, the downs are frightening, and the trending colors are all over the chart. Sorry, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
This future has been lurking around for the last thirty years, with recognizable symptoms going back fifty years, but most people couldn’t see it. Those that did note the symptoms knew it was a monster but couldn’t visualize it well enough to describe its shape so shouted vague warnings.
The COVID-19 pandemic blew the cover off the beast, and we are now trying to figure out how to live with it. A growing popular fascination with fantasy, science fiction, extraterrestrials, and dragons now makes sense. We’ve been imagining living with dragons and related monsters for years. There is a band that works on this full-time.
Our group consciousness often anticipates challenges to our survival that shape our interests and entertainments. We search for ideas that we may need in order to survive before we face the imagined reality. I’ve talked about this before with the dominance of science fiction, apocalyptic tales, and our steadily larger interest in automation and robots.
With the pandemic, we came face to face with a dragon and we had to live with it. This is not an unwanted guest or an itinerant uncle claiming a couch until we chase him away. We’ve moved into the dragon's house, and it is his/her call whether we are allowed to stay and, incidentally, survive. We are no longer in charge of our home but dependent on an increasing grouchy dragon, with many iterations, for our lives.
The covering that was blown away was us thinking that we were still in charge and the dragon was not, really, a problem. But then, a year ago, it huffed at us. Several million people died, and everyone else had to hide for a year. We hustled some science, our only weapon now, and beat back the sickness from that first angry breath, but this is an uphill struggle.
We thought the dragon would be like ET, but it is a created monster taking over our planet and changing it in ways that are not good for us. But we can’t blame it on anyone else because we built this dragon in all its forms. It is also a shapeshifter, another standardized character of fantasy and romance literature. It changes forms in ways we can not understand or imitate.
This metaphor is surprisingly accurate and ties into many human traditions of storytelling and prediction. Our myths are of gods and monsters that we invent, but that describes our struggle to survive and evolve. The source of these powerful beings that threaten and overwhelm us has evolved to alien visitors from another star system and, increasingly, our own creations. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a sentinel evocation two hundred years ago.
In times of great change, we become fascinated with stories of dragons and heroes and disasters. The dangers are analyzed and explored in our apocalyptic tales while finding a path to a new model of well-being and survival.
This is the big one. We cannot hide from the monsters we imagined because we were creating them. The landscape is strange, and too many people are panicking and trying to return to the pre-dragon past that no longer exists.
This is the complexity that shapes our new forms of stress. We have lost control of our home and have not been in this situation since the last ice age. No wonder we don’t know what to do and have no confidence even in good efforts to fix the disasters we have been living with for years.
The surprise of a president from which little was expected actually working to implement more than a superficial pretense of change still seems very tentative. The work required is so far beyond the institutions existing to manage it that positive action seems like an accident.
At the same time, the blatant incompetence and evil of the disgraced previous president and all he represented is hanging like a noxious fog ready to drift in and sicken us all again. Nothing goes away and good doesn’t just replace evil. We must always be prepared to fight for our lives while what appears to be good is maybe a trick.
But that doubt is the paranoia that powers the evil and gives it the power to confuse and cripple positive actions for our future well-being. That is the swirl of trends that replaced the easy dichotomies that we have always preferred. That is why bipolar analogies are so dangerous because they are completely wrong. Our old world was shattered and values based on dyads can’t explain what is now an array of evil but also a growing array of good in our diversity.
This will be a long road to learning to live with the dragons we have created and solving the problem of the people who have been twisted in reaction. There are good signs. The Obama failure was overshadowed by the Trump disaster but there are too many still trying to recover an imaginary America that was a lie. Maybe Biden is facing the dragon of our past and will do what must be done to remove some of the problems.
We are close enough to a totally new life that the balance can be permanently tipped to wellbeing. But it won’t be easy because of the dragons we have to live with.