Reclaiming Our Human Potential in the Age of Technological “Progress”

“Individuals now use lower than half their potential forces as a result of ‘Progress’ has disadvantaged them of the inducement to stay absolutely.”

Reclaiming Our Human Potential in the Age of Technological “Progress”

A technology after the trailblazing cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict insisted that “there isn’t any purpose to suppose that anyone tradition has seized upon an everlasting sanity and can stand in historical past as a solitary answer of the human drawback,” heralding as a substitute “the good variety of social options” that completely different cultures have devised for a similar frequent human issues — love and dying, magnificence and terror, the every day puzzle of being — Dervla Murphy (November 28, 1931–Could 22, 2022) got down to see them for herself by going midway around the globe on a bicycle, with little greater than a passport, map, two pens, and Blake’s poems in her sole saddlebag. (If you happen to don’t but know of this exceptional girl — that’s, when you haven’t but fallen hopelessly in love together with her — learn this primary.)

Dervla Murphy

Alongside the journey, the report of which endures in her nearly unbearably fantastic e book Full Tilt: Eire to India with a Bicycle (public library), she fell in love with Afghanistan — “it’s a pity brainwashing techniques 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 folks. Fascinated by the extraordinarily low degree of technological improvement in a society so able to pleasure, she marveled on the native customized of sporting watches as ornaments with out truly 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, as we speak 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 elegant poem “Sojourns within the Parallel World,” she writes:

The extra I see of unmechanised locations and folks the extra satisfied I grow to be that machines have carried out incalculable injury by unbalancing the connection between Man and Nature. The mere incontrovertible fact that we expect and discuss as we do about Nature is symptomatic. For us to discuss with Nature as a separate entity — one thing we admire or keep away from or research 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. (Accessible as a print and as a backpack.)

With an eye fixed to the tragic hijacking of pure science — that wonder-smitten human impulse to befriend probably 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 spite of everything, solely a handful of individuals 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 stay absolutely. All this has been delivered to the floor of my thoughts by the overall 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 includes a specific amount of what’s now thought to be hardship however was to all our ancestors a function of on a regular basis life — utilizing bodily vitality to get from level A to level B. I don’t know what the top results of all this “progress” will probably be — one thing fairly dire, I ought to suppose. 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 might be happy with being males*.

Dervla Murphy

Complement with Dylan Thomas’s quick, gorgeous 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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