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Reclaiming Our Human Potential within the Age of Technological “Progress” – The Marginalian


A era after the trailblazing cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict insisted that “there isn’t any motive to suppose that anyone tradition has seized upon an everlasting sanity and can stand in historical past as a solitary resolution of the human downside,” heralding as an alternative “the good variety of social options” that completely different cultures have devised for a similar widespread human issues — love and demise, magnificence and terror, the day by day puzzle of being — Dervla Murphy (November 28, 1931–Might 22, 2022) got down to see them for herself by going midway world wide on a bicycle, with little greater than a passport, map, two pens, and Blake’s poems in her sole saddlebag. (For those who don’t but know of this outstanding girl — that’s, in case you haven’t but fallen hopelessly in love along with her — learn this primary.)

Dervla Murphy

Alongside the journey, the document of which endures in her nearly unbearably fantastic ebook Full Tilt: Eire to India with a Bicycle (public library), she fell in love with Afghanistan — “it’s a pity brainwashing ways have been used to dissuade me” — and with the astounding pure fantastic thing about this land of blue and yellow, and with the unusual bodily magnificence and soul-warmth of its individuals. Fascinated by the extraordinarily low stage of technological improvement in a society so able to pleasure, she marveled on the native customized of carrying watches as ornaments with out really start in a position to inform the time — a peculiar homily on the current as the one crucible of aliveness, animated by a way that “yesterday is over, right now is one thing to be loved with out fuss.”

Conscious {that a} cynic who has not skilled such cultures would readily accuse her of “a tiresome outburst of romanticism,” she considers the deeper paradoxes such contrasts expose. In a passage evocative of Denise Levertov’s chic poem “Sojourns within the Parallel World,” she writes:

The extra I see of unmechanised locations and folks the extra satisfied I develop into that machines have completed incalculable harm by unbalancing the connection between Man and Nature. The mere indisputable fact that we expect and discuss as we do about Nature is symptomatic. For us to consult with Nature as a separate entity — one thing we admire or keep away from or examine or paint — exhibits how far we’ve eliminated ourselves from it.

“View of Nature in Ascending Areas” from Levi Walter Yaggi’s Geographical Portfolio, 1893. (Obtainable as a print and as a backpack.)

With a watch to the tragic hijacking of pure science — that wonder-smitten human impulse to befriend essentially the most elemental strata of actuality — for functions of energy, financial development, and private acquire, she provides:

I suppose all our scientific advances are an exquisite increase for the superior mind of the human race however what these advances are doing to us appears to me fairly actually tragic. In any case, solely a handful of persons are involved within the pleasure and stimulation of discovering and growing, whereas hundreds of thousands lead feebler and extra artificial lives due to the achievements of that handful.

An unlikely antidote to the double-edged sword of what we name “progress” — a sword that goes on razing us of a few of our tenderest humanity and most vibrant capability for aliveness — is to be present in journey, within the willingness for full-bodied engagement with the variousness of the world, which calls for of us each our highest humanity and our animal nature:

Individuals now use lower than half their potential forces as a result of “Progress” has disadvantaged them of the inducement to reside absolutely. All this has been dropped at the floor of my thoughts by the final perspective to my conception of travelling, which I as soon as took without any consideration as regular behaviour however which strikes most individuals as wild eccentricity, merely as a result of it entails a certain quantity of what’s now thought to be hardship however was to all our ancestors a characteristic of on a regular basis life — utilizing bodily power to get from level A to level B. I don’t know what the top results of all this “progress” shall be — one thing fairly dire, I ought to assume. We stay a part of Nature, nevertheless startling our scientific advances, and the extra efficiently we overlook or ignore this reality, the much less we may be pleased with being males*.

Dervla Murphy

Complement with Dylan Thomas’s brief, beautiful poem “Being However Males” and the good nature author Loren Eiseley on reclaiming our sense of the miraculous in a mechanical age, then revisit the beloved Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s fan letter to Rachel Carson about knowledge within the age of expertise and Nick Cave on transcendence within the age of algorithms.

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