Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Gray Goo Catastrophe Already Happened

The Gray Goo Catastrophe is a futuristic runaway scenario where, either by intention or by accident, molecular nanotechnology machines consume all the matter in the world turning it into a gray goo. This is not an article about molecular nanotechnology. I simply pose that, symbolically, we seem to be already there. This idea entered my mind when I was discussing the popularity of mindfulness last week. In fact that discussion was about how such a generic word and obscure eastern practice became commonly known and hyped. One thing in particular got me thinking. It was one single sentence:

"I have tired of mindfulness because I don't feel like carefully smelling a box of fish sticks in the super market before I buy them. It's silly!"

Apart from the literal meaning of this sentence there is a lot of other information here. Lets investigate that a bit. "I have tired of mindfulness" is a weird thing too say if you consider that it basically means "I rather want to go through life with numbed sensory perception and being oblivious of my presence in the now". I do understand why somebody says something like that because what is tiresome is having to actively do it. Mindfulness is an action. Apparently the person who said this has not understood that mindfulness is a training for becoming more aware. The person has not taken in that the aim is to change towards living more deliberately and keeps seeing it as a tiresome action that stands in the way of the normal behavior. "... because I don't feel like carefully smelling a box of fish sticks in the super market before I buy them." OK, it is just an example but it does contain a judgement of the value and quality of the food and the circumstances under which it is bought. It can be interpreted as: "I'm buying some processed food and I can't be bothered to think about it and I certainly don't want to be mindful about it". What it really meant is that, to the person, it seemed over the top to spend so much time on such a mundane activity and fish sticks. It conveys the feeling that it would be more fitting for buying lobsters at a local fish market. I have to say I agree! If the person was living more deliberately chances are that fish sticks were not on the menu. Finally: "It's silly!". This addition tells us that not only is mindfulness a time wasting and cumbersome intrusion in everyday humdrum life, it is also embarrassing. The only perception of the now this person accentuates is the self consciousness of being judged by others!

My first reaction to this was: "Wow, the teacher or mentor of this person has completely failed." But I had to check myself there as I have no experience at all of mindfulness teaching in this modern and hyped context. I simply do not know what, if anything, is taught.

We talked on a bit. We observed that contrary to Awareness, mindfulness is 'simple' in that it is an action instead of a state of being. So,  just as with going to the gym to become healthy, practicing mindfulness gives you the promise of life changing transformation without a clear idea of the effort, sacrifice and actual change required to reach that promise (which is in fact Awareness). It basically is seen as a stress reliever, a trendy after work activity and not so much as a tool on the path to become more deliberately alive. I am sure that is why it has become quite popular. If it was more truthfully marketed it would have probably been rejected by the masses.

This brings us to my opening statement. We are somewhat conscious of the fact that we have turned into compulsively consuming wage slaves. We all feel that life should have more to offer and we want to expand our horizons and discover our inner and spiritual selves. But only, it seems, if it does not take too much time and effort and does not in any way means having to change anything that deviates from the contemporary norm.

In the end we seem to prefer taking a few training sessions at the gym and a few yoga and mindfulness classes we can talk about at work instead of truly becoming aware. For crying out loud, you would stick out like a sore thumb if you did!

To me, not desiring to live deliberately, not wanting to feel the connection with The Earth, not wanting to be mindful of even the smallest miracles and not wanting to experience through constant questioning and awareness is being nothing more than gray goo!

Peter Friebel

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