David White Discusses the New Age at the Bertrand Russell Society Meeting

I stopped by at Verb Café at Writers and Books (740 University Ave.) for the meeting of The Bertrand Russell Society. David White was there to talk about Joseph Butler and Ken Wilber. White brought faith in the possibility of a "New Age" — where humans would work together toward common goals using a far more fluid communication method than the chunks of individual works produced today.

His evidence is the proliferation of conversational communication across vast distances. Essentially things like text messaging and blogging where the works are specifically brief. He teaches a course which exploits this: rather than asking students to summarize a work in an elaborate essay, they are invited to explore it then to respond to a small part of it that they found particularly interesting or inspiring. The aggregate of these responses is a new cumulative learning.

I feel that the development of a global consciousness is likely, but the form it will take will be much more subtle. I disagree with the notion that it will be guided by any person claiming to be a guide although some will migrate in that direction. Rather, I feel it will form organically and naturally only through careful nurturing.

One of the concepts that's poison to this idea is one of failure. We seem to have this collective notion that there are people who fail — and with at least a subtle negative connotation — and others who succeed — the pinnacle of existence. This dichotomy is entirely wrong.

The nature of a rewarding life is to constantly try. And that means — at least in this parlance — failing. As such, this "failure" is not "failure" at all, but evidence of actually trying. Not failing is not trying which is a much worse fate.

White cited Plato's Allegory of the Cave as an analogy to the difference between thinking like today and thinking like the "New Age". People who think like today — like individuals competing to survive — are like Plato's prisoners in the cave, resigned to seeing the world as simply shadows on the cave wall. Those who think in a "New Age" manner are analogous to those who escape and return to describe the world outside, explaining the shadows. Unfortunately, the prisoners are certain their form of reality is correct and reject the new information.

I think White was trying to act as a guide: that by taking the prisoners through the steps to the outside that he could teach them the more complete truth. However, I believe more in human behavior based on Plato's cave: that people will nearly-unanimously reject the notion of a "New Age" and of thinking in a different way.

As such, I think a better way is to reject the concept of failure as it applies to a person's life. In this way, the prisoners are released and free to go. Admittedly, convincing people that failure is false is nearly as difficult a task, but I'll argue that it is already ingrained in the culture of the U.S. West Coast with their "it's all good" kind of philosophy.