The Great Leap Forward
Why Are We Special?
Astronomy, physics, and evolutionary biology may explain how everything around us got here, but they have yet to adequately explain how it is that we came to be. Sure, we have all seen the charts or animations of a lemur morphing into a nudist but what about the rest of our tale? Where did our Great Causes come from? How did they take us from the savannah to the mall? Bison children don’t have to go to school to learn how to be bison. No one expects them to live up to a bison morality. Why are we special? Why do we have to do our homework?
Darwinism seems to provide a solid explanation for how the guy in the chart got here but Uncle Charles has offered an answer to only the first of two humanity-defining questions. That is, either we descended from animals or we were created separately after the earth had developed an environment that could support us. Both positions seem incredible and from our humble primate perspective, equally beyond our ability or grasp. Darwinism clearly implies that our distant grandfathers included apes, fish, germs and pond-scum who all lived without any moral restraint. To accept it seems to diminish us and not make us at all special. Sure, there are alternatives to Chuck’s explanation. The earth and the rest of the universe could have grown and unfolded gradually over billions of years which would suddenly be just in the nick of time to accommodate some pre-intended installation of humans on Earth. Or, the universe could have been created to look like it already had a way huge past just days before the first people were cracked out of the box. It would depend on how much of a hurry the universe was in to get us started. Either way, it is undeniable that we are at least modeled after other earthly life forms. Considering how our insides work biologically and how similar our genetics are to all other animals—especially those that look a lot like us if you squint—we may as well be at least their genetic relatives. For almost everyone, that’s a given, even if, for some, we were only spontaneously created that way. Yet anyone would insist there’s still a big difference… a special quality… no matter how science may categorize us within the Animal Kingdom that still distinguishes us from the Animal Kingdom …and them from us. Therein lies the second question. Why are we special?
Why do we feel a need to make a distinction between us and everyone else that lives here? Every culture does, and always has. A quick look around downtown would show that we are somehow special, like how we are the only creatures here that carry a picture ID or prepare for an afterlife. There are, of course, only two possible ways to account for our specialness. If humans were created as is, then we were created special. If humans evolved gradually from other animals, then there must have been a point somewhere in the process where specialness was added on. The science of evolution cannot claim to know the whole story of the origin of man without accounting for our specialness and when and how it arrived.
Arriving in our current form all at once, specialness and all, raises some serious questions as well. Why would some Cosmic Creator put together a universe billions of light-years across for little old us? What are we supposed to do with it? What are our duties and responsibilities that go along with being special and why should we live up to them? Having bothered to make us special, couldn’t God have made us more special than this? Is this as special as we’ll ever get? What would more special look like? And why is God holding it back?
Darwin’s scenario isn’t much of an answer to the second question. If we thought we were simply smarter or more perceptive than any other creatures here, that would make the explanation easy. But we know enough about the other animals to know that they know better than we used to think. We know that they think and can make tools and communicate with language and have complex interpersonal relationships. In that respect and many others, we are very much like our fellow animals. Still, a quick comparison between a meadow habitat and a shopping mall should amply demonstrate that some special quality needs to be accounted for. But is it just a random development of evolutionary processes that, like stereoscopic vision, seems a marvelous invention but has simply been refined over unimaginable eons?
Being special means that we are something more than an updated lemur but what is being special for? Was there an intention to make us somehow different? Aren’t we somehow more important and to whom? Are we somehow more decisive to the future of the universe than a cat? Some might think that we’re special because we make tough moral choices with a free will that carry high stakes in the eternal destiny of our soul. An eternal soul makes our specialness easy to explain for some but others take a more ephemeral view and find the afterlife too impossible to explain. It leaves a strange hole in the cosmos for the hard-core atheist to account for. Why does this heightened human awareness seem to keep showing us causes and moral landscapes? Other animals don’t seem to have or need explanations, yet we kill each other over them. That must be a part of our specialness.
How long have we had our specialness? How far back can we account for it? Our entire history goes on at length about how special we are, like our rank in the Great Chain of Being one notch down from angels. That’s pretty special. Even when our various cultural histories say we’re tainted in some way or intrinsically evil, it’s always because of our specialness that we got that way. That means what we do matters to The Cosmos more than what a cat does. We all like to describe ourselves as having some kind of moral responsibility to The Cosmos. We describe ourselves as having had one since the very beginning of history many thousands of years ago. Some histories tell of a more distant past than others, but what about before that? …now that we know there was a before that?
By before that, I mean the big dark gap in our past that few like to talk about. Civilization, and all of our problems, started well after the whole monkey-to-man progression that we like to talk and argue about. Whatever twists and turns the course of evolution may or may not have taken in developing the human form, it was long since finished by the time anyone’s history starts. We were here in our current physical form long before any books, legends, religions or civilizations we know of. The current scientific consensus is that humans exactly like us have been around for at least 150,000 years and maybe as long as 500,000. In less than 10,000 years we have gone from agriculture to electric light and to spaceships in a century more. Is that when specialness kicked in? Did it ever kick in before that? Human beings just like us have been around long enough to repeat the whole history of civilization dozens of times. All of western history could have played out between 137,000 and 131,000 years ago. From what we can surmise of the lives of our ancient ancestors, they were like everyone else in the animal kingdom--completely at the mercy of nature and whim of destiny. Weren’t there any Great Causes? Where was our free will then and on what moral landscape did it choose? Did we not matter to The Cosmos back then? Why not? Were we not special yet?
No one here is suggesting that the first humans didn’t possess all the same talents of external perception, reasoning and memory that we are born with or suggesting that anything of much significance physically changed inside the brain over this time. Earlier humans were born just as smart as us. So it can’t be only about brains unless being special is something we learn to do after we’re born.
50,000 years or so ago, anthropologists tell us, some sort of anthropological time bomb went off. Evidence of our ancestors’ lifestyles from that time shows a Great Leap in their abilities over their predecessors. Very quickly (eonically speaking), we developed tool-making skills of far greater complexity than before, and mass migrations spread us densly all over the world. Civilization’s forbearers came out of Africa after some great change in human kind that historians call The Great Leap Forward. Perhaps this is when we became special. Our DNA shows that all current ex-Africans are separated by only two thousand generations from a common ancestor who lived since the Great Leap. That would make everyone today equally special.
This sudden forward momentum has been attributed to climate, farming, aliens and all sorts of things, but all agree on one thing; whatever happened happened to our minds. We had always relied on the mentality that we were born with for our basic survival just like our animal friends. Apparently and somehow, we had found a new way of using the mind we already had, after we were born with it. It may have been a mere stress reaction to living a life that required more and more problem solving as we spread out into radically new environments. We faced new problems like surviving climate changes that would have wiped us out faster than we could biologically adapt, and lean times would force innovative tool use out of desperation. So, maybe it wasn’t like a bolt of lightning that suddenly enlightened us but more like a developing trend that hit a not-so-sudden critical mass.
Becoming special was and is a sudden development for an individual person but this alone is probably not the sudden development that begat the Great Leap Forward. What if Specialness, whatever that is, occurred routinely to this or that human for as long as humans have been around? What if the Great Leap was a sudden development of a new ability to preserve and build on our inventiveness, and a new use for language that would change the way we live? That would be a change in software, and not something to be found in our DNA. If there is a mental evolution since the appearance of humans, it’s about what we could learn to do with our minds in one lifetime and our progress depended on one generation successfully downloading the software and passing on its acquired skills to the next. Each new generation begins its life in a world it could never dream of building in its own lifetime… and builds upon it further. Along the way, we learned to create contemplative mentalities of such complexity that they were entire departures from any form or purpose that evolutionary biology ever needed or perhaps ever intended the brain to do. Our mere survival did not depend on the degree of complexity we had developed and would instead routinely threaten it with complex yet lousy choices. Specialness appeared and quickly caught on everywhere man was successful enough to relax. Amidst all this inner exploration, we pushed our minds beyond the mentality we are born with.
How did this happen, and why didn’t it happen sooner? We certainly had the time… eons of it. It would mostly appear that before the Great Leap, we were too busy struggling as small groups to bother to think about history, the future, or leaving anything behind for either. On the whole, it was probably because we didn’t have the time to think about it. If we needed time to think about something other than staying alive, our down-time was probably not as plentiful way back then as it is today. We take our ability to think for granted. Imagine learning a new card game. In order for your mind to learn a simple trick like a card game, you will first want to be:
1) Safe from predators
3) Sufficiently physically sated.
4) In general, in no immediate fear for your life or your potential to have offspring
In Darwinian terms, successful. Evolution had the reward of leisure time for those who developed a really successful life strategy. We, and many other animals, had already developed lifestyles with regular periods of being rested and physically satisfied, so one can really dwell in the experience of the mind. If one is not too busy surviving, the brain can organize a perceptual experience far beyond the needs of survival. Our finely honed perceptual abilities were a fantastic experience when they were completely coalesced into a single mental organization. It only took an extra fraction of a second to do and our off-duty attention found it was worth the wait. Our minds went on holiday and there began a process that led to the creation of the world as we know it, which might have looked like this...
While we struggled to develop tribal societies, language, and agriculture, we were leading lives close to nature and still relied heavily on our instincts to stay alive, and that included our inherited primate social skills. Living in groups was a proven survival strategy. With luck, our shared experience would create tightly bonded organic communities. When we worked and lived together we would develop a sort of group mind that manifested in the physical interchange between individuals- eye contact, facial expressions, and posture. Like many other animals, humans communicate with their entire physical being, but we mostly express ourselves through the face and the gaze. Eye contact is mind contact. Catching and holding someone’s gaze creates a sub-channel where every facial signal is now an exclusive mental message that could decide someone’s physical fate.
For primates, receiving a steady gaze from the alpha male requires the appropriate expression of submission to his rank as he polls the community. Contests can be won or lost by gaze alone. These were like the spells we try to cast on each other as two minds try to control the way the other is organized. They were delivered by the face and received by the eyes and ears. Humans inherited a complex assortment of signals and reactions from apes and distant pre-human ancestors that make up the foundations of our personal reactions.
We are designed with a refined capacity to perceive others, especially of our own kind, in tremendous detail. Social life has been a priority for perception since the beginning of eyes and ears. Our brains are primed to perceive every nuance of facial expression as fast as they occur. The face was one more way for animals to communicate by modulating their reflected photons. We all use such signals and messages for protection, procreation or even deception. We can bluff and judge the credibility of another’s bluff. That capability grew from a long dependence on the eyes, starting when our very distant ancestors learned to seek food and be alert for predators and other hazards. For animals with a second floor of cinematic experience (more on that later), those sensory messages could bypass our physical systems and speak directly to our mind, and leave lasting impressions.
Personal encounters that involved strong emotions like fear or anger, and relationships that provided feelings of serenity and security would have been our primary focus of attention and strongest memories. Over many generations of our primate ancestors, tribes became complex organizations of relationships that were personality driven. That means much of everyone’s personal identity was impressed upon them by others. Assuming these roles allowed us to experience a broader existence than a life of solitude could offer. From our own perceptual platform, other people’s personalities were more real to us than our own because we could see them more clearly than our own. As social animals, our strongest sense of identity is when others accept us. We depended on our peers who have a better perspective of our nature and characteristics by observation. Each member would accumulate experiences of other members into a mental impression that could anticipate their behavior and expressions. This would create a role for each member, who could perceive how others were prepared to accept him or her. Our roles were what others would accept us as today, and what we were expected to be tomorrow. Everyone in the group would largely create each other.
As primates went, our evolutionary ancestors’ abilities were very competitive with other animals that also had highly developed languages. We could communicate sophisticated messages with words long before words had developed any verbal meaning. Our early vocal communication was heavy on tone and inflection, with less emphasis on verbal content. Speech was impulsive and blunt. No one worried about syntax or paragraph structure. We were genetically attuned to vocal sounds from either animals or each other, but not to the symbolism of words. Like many other creatures in nature who communicate with sound, we have a basic vocabulary of vocal sounds that we’re born with and mean the same thing to everyone, even if from different species. Happy sounds or angry sounds were our first words, and still are. We know an angry or fearful voice and a child’s cry. There were basic sounds we made that were much the same as had been around for at least a hundred million years.
It’s hard to imagine what sort of mental experience our ancestors woke up with every day. Anyone likely to be reading this has already finished for themselves the long process that led to the modern civilized mind, so it might be hard to imagine the experience of the mind being any different from what it is for us today. Our own experience of this process that creates the modern mind was compressed into the first few years of our lives with an efficiency and effectiveness that is probably unparalleled in history. We would not have the minds or the lives we have today if not for this strictly enforced social technique. Our parents could not do it alone, and it’s not in our genes. That’s a good place to start. Imagine if that never happened to you… that you never learned a common language that everyone spoke the same way… never learned any formal math or thought with any of its symbolism… never heard even the suggestion that there was a Code of Justice or rules that all should live by… or knew anything about solar systems or galaxies or anything beyond the range of your eyeballs.
Now, instead of thinking about what a country bumpkin you would be, imagine if the whole world of non-bumpkins wasn’t there either and there actually was no Code of Anything protecting you from anyone. And no way to use any of the knowledge you no longer have. Without civilization, a civilized mind is pretty useless… like having the world’s nicest, fastest car in a world without any roads to drive it on. So, forget about forgetting about it and focus on the imaginary present. Picture yourself standing on the savanna watching the sun go down as it slowly sinks in that no safari jeep is coming to take you back to the hotel and you have no supersonic projectiles with which to trump the food chain. Now, before the sun disappears completely, can I interest you in a new card game?
No? Then let’s further imagine that there was no memory of civilization or sense of loss of it. You have adapted to your environment by growing up in it and have achieved, through hard work, the best standard of living life had to offer any human anywhere on earth prior to 150,000 BC. What’s going on in your mind? What would all that untrained mental machinery be like? What exactly is a human starter-mind like? We can only be presumptuous in describing it. It could well be impossible. I’m going to try anyway.
This presumed human would have no specialness. This human would have, as mentioned earlier, a perceptual system anchored in the body, which gave us a sense of where we are and a sense of being somewhere… and a second loftier and slightly later perceptual system anchored in our brain at the apparent twin tips of our eyeballs’ incoming light cones which gives us a sense of what we are looking at, and a sense of looking at something. We modern and special humans still perceive from these internal points of perspective or “floors” of our organizational infrastructure. The second floor hosts the colorful and stereoscopic cinematic perspective and that gets the bulk of our attention either by “seeing” when we’re awake or visualizing when we’re not. From the perspective of the first floor, vision is more rudimentary and compartmentalized. Our basic brain does not see the cinematic view and has no use for it. At the speed at which it needs to “see” the world, the processed and coalesced cinema view is always too late. That’s why a whole second level of perspective was established that could use the new visual systems by creating a separate focus of attention that was just as late as the cinema system. This decorrelates the two perspectives by a small amount of time. We know these as physical experience or “first floor experience” as I’m calling it here, and mental or “second floor” experience. However, neither of these are particularly special or unique to humans. Any animal with two eyes probably perceives from first and second floor perspectives. Having two floors does not make us special.
What about three? That probably would be special. What would a third floor look like and how would it affect the way we think? What if it is the way we think? What if our ancient ancestors were bumpkining around the forest with a third floor of perspective slowly growing in their heads? What would it do to them? What would it do to their children after thousands of generations? I should be asking you.
I can start by describing how things work on the second floor, which should, for the reader, leave a big hole in the way they would describe their own mind. Then, I’ll fill it with this third floor idea. By the time human-ish primates came along, the second floor had become quite an expanse. Not only was the second floor home to the cinema perception system, it also hosted all the visual memories it produced, being the only system that could recall them or play them back. The first floor had its own memories and recall system. In the absence of new visual input arriving from the eyeballs, the second floor cinema system could visualize from its memory pool and make new memories from visualizing. This made for a feedback loop that could recycle and re-perceive visual memories until they slowly departed from their original form as visions and became better described as thoughts.
From the focal point of the cinema system, more can be seen than just the incoming panorama itself. From one mental perch, we can see what we’re looking at plus three other things we have looked at before. If we close our eyes, we can see up to four things we have seen before, as four is the maximum number of “items” that the second floor attention span can perceive at once. It is as big a chunk of our memory pool that we can put on the cinema system at one time, and we can see them together but not in any particular order or sequence. Once we’ve seen them this way, a new memory of seeing them together is created as a single summary of the four and is added to the pool. We can perceive a single point of focus or a single memory, or we can see two or three but no more than four for that is the chunk limit.
The chunk limit also applies to how many events we can keep track of at a time. An event kept track of is a visualization of sorts and the second floor cinema system is where we “see” them kept track of. Hence we can keep track of up to four events. That means from the second floor, you can see up to four steps ahead. We can retrace up to four steps behind us. If trouble is coming, we can see its approach once it is within four steps or perceivable events away. Trouble spotting was the very function mandated by our environment and produced by our natural development- the second floor of perception was to be a lookout tower that protected the life the first floor felt it was having. Somewhere along the way, our physicality- the experience of the first floor –began to lose out to the second floor lookout post and its “mental experience”. Soon, what had been our primary inner focal point of attention- our immediate tactile physical presence – was sublimated to the more appealing focal point of the cinema view and our bodies became mere caddies for our eyeballs and the guardian of the life that our new “minds” perceived themselves having. This existential betrayal kicked off a rocky relationship between the second and first floors or, in common terms, the mind and the body.
A modest examination of our primate cousins in the wild should provide an example of the kind of life one can lead with this kind of mentality. It doesn’t sound very special. It’s a life at the chunk limit. It’s the mentality you will likely need to rely a lot on should you find yourself on the distant tundra with no taxi coming. Should that taxi ever come to take you to that waiting hotel, a mind with a chunk limit simply will not do. You may remember your room number just fine but the desk clerk’s directions to it would be overwhelming without any way to record what order the steps are in.
So, having hit the limit of what the perceptual machinery could do, we adapted the same solution as before; we farmed it out to another platform of perspective. Only this time, the new machinery is not looking outside but is instead looking at what the second floor of perspective has already seen a short instant after the cinema system has shown it. This became a third floor of perspective that overlooks the second floor like a balcony or a bridge but does not by itself directly perceive the outside world. Unlike the second floor, it was not a permanent structure. It was temporary and on call for emergencies.
What kind of emergency can our brain have? The worst kind. There are times when we can find no comfortable resolve to our perception and cannot draw any satisfying conclusion that allows us to go on to the next perception. I don’t mean that we fuss and fret when we can’t make it all good news but that even bad news is something that we want to be satisfied that we know. We don’t like confusion. It feels unsafe. The previous solution for many primates was to torture the local trees and scream. Our new strategy was to build a bridge over the second floor. From this third level of perspective, two new things were possible. First, it had no chunk limit. Instead of four or less, it could “hold” a dozen items and more if you worked at it. And second, it could do something really special; the bridge could perceive and create sequences. The bridge perspective could take our confused jumble of thoughts, hold them still and rearrange them into a sequential presentation that would then unfold or playback on the cinema system. As it flowed by the attention of the second floor, chunk limited summary memories were made that benefitted from the intelligent ordering of information the bridge perspective provided. The process was over when the second floor perspective was finally comfortable enough to draw a conclusion about what it perceived. Once the resolution was perceivable within the chunk limit, the bridge would collapse or vanish and normal life would resume until its special ability was needed again.
Unlike the second floor, the bridge perspective had its own flow of time that was independent from the real passage of time. That may at first seem like a spooky idea, but it is rather so mundane an occurrence that we have come to take it for granted. Prior to the bridge’s ability, the pace of our thoughts was always the same as the pace of the world around us. Our first and second floor pace makers were built to respond to the outside world of stimuli and provocation. If the world was calm, the body would idle in digestion or sleep. The mind would idle in dreams and visualizations. The only way it could create a pace for ourselves was to beat out a rhythm on a tree. That is, until the bridge popped up. The bridge had its own independent pace maker and had total control of its own rhythms and cadences. It could take a single thought and hold it still while our second floor abilities analyzed and rationally considered them. It could make its own special time within time.
The bridge allowed us to add a flow of time to our thoughts in which we could manage and arrange them. The second floor perspective, which is where we lived, perceived only that our thoughts, memories and desires could be shepherded or choreographed by a process that was beyond its reach. We could only experience the resulting show. When it was over, it was over and the bridge was gone. The new knowledge was safely in the memory pool and pared down to the chunk limit so normal operations could resume. Not our sort of normal of course, but regular non-special normal.
The new linear thinking was a big departure from our rapid fire and multi-tasking original mind our ancestors were accustomed to. The bridge was a single-focused perspective that could think about linear processes like the past and the future, and create a virtual workspace for giving order to ideas, words, desires and all without a chunk limit.
Giving order to the experience of our lives meant seeking a perceived order in nature. Some of our sense of order comes from expectations embedded in our biology, like our stomach expects food and our eyes expect sunshine. Order describes things we anticipate to happen because of what we know. As our perception and intelligence advanced, imposing order on every idea and impression available to be considered became an ongoing challenge. The more information we have, the more orderly we expect things to be. Once we got to know a little about the world we had connected together with ideas, we wanted to know a great deal more and fill in the details.
Some of us were drawn to the virtual experience of decoding and understanding ideas that could not be known any other way than as abstract ideas. All we had to do was start making simple connections between things we were thinking about. Those connections could in themselves become concepts of the order of the world. That gave us a whole new catalog of things to analyze and be rational about. But all that was something that happened strictly inside us. To other pod members, it was only a vacuous stare.
On our own, we would never have to know a single vocalized word and we would still be able to think about anything we already knew. A private vocabulary doesn’t have to be vocal, and is never entirely so. A mind can be full of words that are never spoken. As one’s inner vocabulary increases so will their capacity to examine and maybe explain things, if only to themselves. We built up a vast collection of concepts that become a private vocabulary that also became an additional component for assembling bridge delivered sequences. This is how we explained things to ourselves. Our actions, emotions and motivations are usually sorted out by our first or second floor processes either of which may then determine our response. Giving our own feelings and perceptions a mental word, even if we’re the only one who knows it, allows a third opportunity to analyze what’s going on by using the bridge’s sequencing ability and perhaps make a different determination …as long as there is time for the brain to do all the work of generating that kind of special thinking before the original mental processes make a hastier decision.
Our earliest manifestations of bridge enhanced thinking were isolated personal experiences of internal idiosyncratic memory and thought components that yielded some intellectual gain for the individual but it wasn’t something the group could do together. It wasn’t going to replace regular group communication anytime soon.
Without much ability to express things to each other in sequences, humans developed a sophisticated language that was expressed in many physical ways other than encoded information that could only be virtually experienced in the mind. A raised eyebrow, a tightened jaw or a wiggled butt can communicate to others without any vocabulary at all. Much of our communication is deeply rooted in the animal kingdom. There were many ways for our bodies to express the encoded information of our DNA, and many ways to receive it. For some of us, that about covered what we wanted to say.
Our first social words were names for each other and the most significant objects in our lives, and our personal demands. Even without civilization or a thesaurus we still had plenty of ways to describe our sophisticated relationships and suspenseful lifestyles. If the group was small enough, names and commands could be vocal sounds that were unique to each individual and everyone would learn several simple little languages tied to whom they were coming from. Our idiosyncratic vocabularies combined with our built-in first-stage expressive powers to form a message that was as much delivery as content. That would work up to a point of population density and then someone would have to step up and say enough is enough… and not some other word.
Even before a common tongue is established, speaking to each other has become the primary manner of identifying other members of the group and the first way to know if someone doesn’t belong. Conversations between members of the group were shared experiences of a special kind of bridge between minds- an artificial bridge built from shared words. On our own, we experienced mere reality in all its brutality. When we are with others, we experience a heightened reality enhanced by the connections between our minds. Not with cables or tachyons, but by knowing that the one with you knows who you are and is sharing your experience. As such, spoken language becomes a conduit of expression that is exclusive to the mind. The names we give each other say more about a person than their appearance. They try to describe one’s character. A person might agree with the characterization and consider their name as much a part of what they are as their body, at least when others are around to use it.
These tribal relationships are organic organizations that are created when people are in direct social contact with each other. Social relationships create a sort of organic mass-mind that exists only during direct, here-and-now contact between two or more personalities of the group. This is not a New Age reference or an entirely illusory structure. Organic mass-minds are virtual organizations sprung from bio-chemistry and behavioral dynamics. Emotional bonds grow over time, but the day-to-day mood of a group is dynamic and ephemeral. Every day’s inter-personal contact will create a fresh mass mind that may not be like the previous day’s at all. But if the same people keep bringing the same expectations to each other, their group might take on some character and develop a discernible collective personality that would outlive any single member. Not just some clever arrowhead technique or basin profile, but some distinct social mannerisms and voice inflections. Individuals developed internal words, but the more interaction there was between members of tribe, the more likely that many words were shared or collectively invented. Encoding the information as common words allowed learning to be exported to anyone else who knew the code or could learn it. To all who heard and used them, they were more than a social vocabulary. A common language was a vast virtual landscape that one could think they were living in. It could connect our minds in ways that no physical action ever could. As the group developed a recognizable identity to its members, each individual would experience belonging to something greater than the self. When they were together they made a greater organization to which each member would sublimate any sense of self-identity they had, even if it’s only on bowling night. Sublimating identity means becoming a part of a larger organization, maybe as hunting groups or war parties, by becoming what it says you are. For the bumpkins, that was usually more than they were.
As things carried on organically for the group, new things were going on in individuals. Periods of stable sequential thinking yielded discovery and invention, which might have been a tool, a procedure, a medicine or a dinner recipe. Pre-Great Leap humans and hominids created what we consider to be artifacts, which were only modest departures from their original form. In one or two steps, something becomes the next thing it can be. Many species of animals can do this at least as well as we can. However, what had been a mind that could think one or two steps ahead had become capable of dozens of steps. Before, if we needed to create a weapon, we might head to the forest to find an appropriate piece of tree to fashion into a club or spear. But if equipped with a bridge-enhanced attention span, we might invent a bow and arrow. The inventor could probably remember how it was done, and do it again. Even if a sequence of the ideas of an invention were memorized and repeatable, if it is only in one idiosyncratic mind it might as well be on an isolated island in the middle of a distant ocean. There is no explanation of anything that comes from beyond our own direct experience. If it was something we had learned on our own first hand, there was no way to give an explanation or get one to or from anyone else. Even if many members of a group had third-floor bridge abilities, there was no connection between them. They were just a lot of separate islands. No invention could last through generations unless we could re-create them from a formula. That formula could not rely on any third floor mentality to decode it. There may not be any. So, how did we beat the chunk limit and start sharing sequences?
We had no way to express the new information in the same manner as we had received it, yet instructions for its recreation somehow had to be passed on. It needed to happen, and it needed to be in a form accessible to their descendants’ plain second floor mentality. If the invention was simple enough, the actions became the only message. If the invention had any complexity or if the sequence and timing of actions was vital to the result, simply learning to imitate the steps would not suffice. Learning a song is something the second-stage mind can do. A song or chant is not heard all at once. Songs happen. Rhythm propels the sequence. Each moment anticipates the next, as all one has to remember is what happens next after what happens now. So, the sequences of actions were learned by learning a song or chant that effectively stored the information. Each step of the song relates to a step of the invention.
Sequencing of ideas could be achieved through song and dance using rhythmic symmetry to organize the unobservable processes of the mind. “Drilling something into our heads” first referred to the rhythmic repetition used to “speak to” our most innate learning and chunk limited ability. Grooving with a rhythmic phrase would stretch the mind from one beat to the next, and then from beat one through a short sequence of word-beats that resolve to the next beat one. After a lot of repetition, words in a rhythm became a single act of recall, and that meant “a rhythm of words” could be a beat in a larger four beat sequence. Now we could have four-beat lines in a four-line verse. You could know this verse (or at least store and repeat it) without having to know all the words at once. All you have to know to recite it is an ongoing sequence of “the thing now” and “the next thing”. Words in rhyme gave an easy hint to our aural memory and soon, verses could be songs. Now we’re talking.
Songs and chants could be taught and passed on simply by their repetitious presence in social life without anyone having to have a moment of the kind of mentality that created it. Even before enough words were around to make rhymes out of, we used movement and vocal sounds to encode information and assist in learning complex organized actions like group hunting and warfare.
That meant it had to be a do thing; something the body could learn to do like singing, chanting or dancing. That way, our primate minds can then remember the way something was said as a preliminary and separate process of grasping the meaning of and learning from what was said, which may come much later, or not at all. As human communities developed, they compiled songs and chants made from many components including names and vocal sounds with maybe a few words that had an abstract meaning. If there were a procedure that went along with the song or chant, each step would have a corresponding action or association. Each phrase leads to the next and each phrase is associated with a smaller and more manageable set of steps as long as you run the song sequence all the way through. The song supervises the procedure.
All the group’s hunting moves and fighting techniques would be demonstrated and drilled with an emphasis on an intended sequence of actions in what probably looked as much like a pep rally as a training seminar. Long sequences of information would be learned by brain processes that weren’t involved in mental awareness, and that would leave the mind free to concentrate on the song, the actions and the words, if any. If there were words, their presentation would be about rhythm and rhyme and not about syntax. While reciting, one has only to remember what happens next. As soon as there were enough words, rhyming couplets were used to make information easier to remember.
Hours or even years of repetition would preserve technology as imbedded knowledge. That way, established artifacts could be encoded and rebuilt without any detailed understanding of how. Teach the body how to do it and never mind how to explain it. This was the only way to insure the survival of invention. Otherwise, generations could pass in relative discontinuity, which is what must have happened for a long time to countless groups with clever inventors. A single tribe’s inventions could die with its inventors or perish in irrelevancy during the blur of adaptation demands of a migratory lifestyle.
The chant itself, aside form encoding a procedure, might have a meaning or be about something. That meaning might be complex and require visualizations and abstract symbolism that was completely invented by the community with no model in nature. The songs and chants were really there and are genuine examples of our physical behavior, but they were manifestations and demonstrations of non-corporeal mental artifacts. They transcended animal sounds and expanded the frontier of what our minds are prepared to hear. While much of it was nonsense, it created a storage medium that could endure beyond a single lifespan. Over time, that could be a lot of information that spread out among many minds. No one in the group had to remember it all on their own as long as they collectively remembered all the details of the songs. It was still a lot to remember, but in a form more suited to our natural mental functions.
This became a format for learning a socially imbedded knowledge of complex sequences of procedures or rituals that could be invisibly installed in the membership simply by learning a chant, a cheer or a song by association and repetition with an emphasis on repetition. We still do this a lot. If something becomes too much to remember, we farm out the sequencing to a catchy phrase or a saying. Information can become incredibly enduring in this form even long after it’s demonstrated to be wrong.
To this day, the chunk limit can be plainly observed in music, poetry and political speeches. Common time in music is four beats. Slogans and catchy phrases have a similar rhythmic structure. The best speeches are built from thought-out rhythms, especially if speaking to a large crowd. Do not provoke the listeners into raising a third floor bridge just to follow and keep up with you. Instead, be the bridge in the listener’s heads. That’s how it all began- for us and for civilization.
There is a curious manner to the interaction between the second and third floors of our minds. On the whole, there are two different ways that it works. In the beginning, it is always just the first way where a third floor bridge makes a sequenced presentation to a second floor chunk-limited attention span. We are aware of a sequence of thoughts being presented to us internally. It may be short or it may be extensive but it will have a beginning, a middle and an end. As such, it must happen, as in “run its course” without interruption in order for it to mean anything or produce the desired chunk-limited summaries of it. For our ancient ancestors, the experience was a departure from normal experience and the flow of time around them. The sequences flowed by themselves. That led us to making a hasty conclusion.
Even the simplest sequencing of ideas means putting together ideas within an axis of time that is available to be experienced independently from the unfolding of the here and now. From the perspective of the second floor mind, mental experience of a third floor presentation was as a spectator of a story. We would experience one thing leading to another and to another and another while retaining inner perception of the first thing. We could see further into before and after. We could see our needs gratified at the end of a long process. That gave us the patience to wait for it. We can retrace our steps to yesterday and beyond. That helps me find my glasses. Taking in the whole story allows us to emotionally react to its cumulative effect or apply reasoning to how it all adds up.
Aside from the learning angle, the story also seems to come from somewhere. To people rooted in the natural world, it was coming from outside or above or in some realm that was beyond the boundaries of self-experience. Identity remains in the second floor mind while third floor activity hovers over it like a second separate entity or a master of ceremonies presiding over a parade of our thoughts. The parade eventually became narration once we had accumulated enough language to make it the most desirable way to put our thoughts together. Language was entirely heard at first, so that meant that in order to think in words there had to be a voice to “speak” ideas into an organized form as if someone is describing your thoughts as you think them, and showing you the relationships between them. Even when writing came along, we read it into an intermediate stage of spoken words heard internally or externally if aloud, and that hearing of written text was necessary for any comprehension. Words did not manifest themselves from symbols but from living presentations of them.
If we could remember what someone said to us, we could also remember them saying it and not just the word-value content of what was said. We would remember them as they said it, along with the face, the eyes, any gestures, props, scenery, lighting and quite possibly the weather. Words were a minor part of the experience of receiving the message. Memories of such messages include and have an emphasis on facial expression, eye contact and tone of voice. Recalling them in this form could trigger the same emotional reactions on playback as with the original experience. More than a message, we were remembering a moment of connection with a persona. The experience is a co-creation between us and a personality from across the self/other border, and so is the memory. We ignored the role of our own perceptual filtering of emotional biases in the process because we had no means of perceiving our involvement in it. We considered the external personality to be entirely the author of our experience even when we were remembering it. Where it came from or how it got in our heads could not be observed.
Another thing we did not observe was how our brains began to use the bridge machinery to enhance the processes of our imagination and creativity. Thinking about things and coming up with ideas would slowly build big sequences or narratives and store them to be “discharged” at a later time of rest or safety. We will need peace and quiet, because sequential thinking takes up some real estate in the brain. If there’s too much going in the brain already, like fleeing in fear, or if the brain is physically impaired or intoxicated, bridge thinking is the first to go. It can’t be done unless the processing power is available. Once convinced that all is well, our brains would see our memories of other personalities as a handy format to play back any accumulated narrative presentations by using the experienced imagery as a means of delivery. That might be right away or much later depending on when our minds had something timely to say that would take some time to say. It would be our own minds that would decide what imagery was the best choice for hosting its next presentation. We had not yet experienced the mental processes that led to that choice, so we had no way to know what was coming.
At first, a stable bridge sequence was observed as a visitation and experienced as a personality, not a self-identity. Experienced from the second floor perceptual platform, third floor bridge activity was a visit from something on the other side of our self/other border. It didn’t seem like something we did. It was something that happened to us. It’s one of those things our brain does that we’re not aware of, like regulating our heartbeat. We’re aware of our heartbeat as a spectator, and only after it has beaten. That could be anyone’s heart beating in there. We can experience thought the same way. I do mean like someone visiting inside your head. Imagine the reading voice in your head as an intruder. As if reading these words were something someone else was doing while you listened.
The guest was typically a familiar face and voice who was someone in our life from whom we have heard these kinds of words before, and from whom we expect to hear more tomorrow. If the memories are strong enough, it could be someone from the past. Any personal encounters and relationships that involved strong emotional reactions like fear or anger, or feelings of serenity and security, can become the face and voice of that feeling. It may seem to come from many phantoms, like a chain of momentary people coming and going in and out of existence. Without a lot of memories, words and other building blocks, bridge mentalities are a lot of short, discontinuous trance states. With time and experience, there are more building blocks with which to build. Should any one of these presenters ever achieve enough coherence, or enough consistent character to be noticed as the same visitor over and over again, an internal storyteller who itself has a beginning, middle and end will emerge as a repeating presence in our minds. Personality emerges in the storytelling as one’s bridge ability improves, but there is nothing about the experience itself that reveals one’s own mind doing it. What is actually a process of self-creation is seen as going to or connecting to some outside force… or being, or even many voices and beings in chaos.
The presentation would be full of memories of experiences that left strong impressions on us. That could be a moment of awe or terror, or a feeling of intimacy with our surroundings, or just a fondly remembered good time. During the presentation, our recollections of such experiences consist of what we saw and what we heard at the time even if the original experience involved our other senses. Sequenced organizations were built from images and sounds used as static or repeating building blocks, which meant it was all made from something we had perceived before even if we could barely recognize it. Imagery could emerge from dreams, inspiration or randomizing. We would experience their presentation on the same mental equipment we use to perceive the world. It would start with things we had thought of before including our personal metaphor collection. We would see how something led to something else that led to more things that were too much to see all at once. Things we were already familiar with were seen in new ways that were not familiar. The presentation itself provides an opportunity for further analysis upon reflection. Our minds were holding all these things in an orderly row while we experience them one frame or second-stage flash at a time. Without all the flashes, it may not add up to much, which made it vital that we make the time to have them all the way through.
Triggering the playback was a matter of convincing the mind that it was at rest and in no immediate danger. Looking at the sights of nature could trigger them. If something in nature looked like some other form in nature, like apparent faces and forms in trees and rocks, it would stand out from its surroundings as unnatural and induce a narration as though someone visiting your head caused you to experience complex thoughts. It can be one of those moments of perception for perception’s sake like watching a sunset full of awe and wonder or a starry sky. Or, it could be set off in a more isolated setting by quietly staring at objects.
With their help, we became aware of whatever our reasoning had come up with aided by a third floor bridge-enhanced mentality that sorted and organized thoughts. This is how the mind would present new things it hadn’t arrived at before. For those with a mind steeped in words, new stuff meant new words for things we’ve noticed that now meant something to us. This would include new internal abstractions or connections between things and concerns in our lives. That might even involve some duplication. A quality or relationship newly discovered by the mind might be something already known in a different region of the brain. Our bodies know how to brace themselves in a cold wind but wind as a mental concept built from accumulated perception and experience is learned separately. If given a “file name”, the concept can then have a bearing on other subjects we’re thinking about, like considering wind in a hunting strategy and how it can hinder or improve aim and carry a scent.
I’m not suggesting some supernatural or spiritual ability. No one actually comes visiting. We are revisiting memories of someone, or maybe half-remembered and merged memories have created someone unique. What visits us are our own third floor mental organizations that we create for ourselves based on the influence of strong personalities in our lives. Our minds are riffing on the memories of other people’s creative output using a process that works without us being aware of it. Third floor organizations gave us our ability to perceive structure and re-create it as order. External perception could share the stage with internal recollection allowing us to analyze and compare parameters that we aren’t instinctually wired to look for. As a result, we could learn more from the same raw perception we had always taken in.
An individual’s ability to create this inner workspace would define the scope of his or her analytical ability. To analyze anything at length involves making a narrative out of perceptions and thoughts about it. That means raising a bridge and engaging in a process that is a combination of third floor serial sequencing and second floor parallel reasoning and contemplation. Most of the work is handled on the second floor and within the chunk limit. Our well-developed primate intelligence was built on the second floor right along with the cinema perception system- the same machinery is used for visuals and thoughts. To our brains, the difference between knowing what we are looking at and knowing what we are thinking about is zilch. My point is, on its own, the second floor’s capacity for an extensive or extended analysis is also zilch. Our thoughts flow on the second floor at a rate that is greatly influenced by the outside world. That’s because the whole machinery of the upper perceptual platform had evolved to follow the events of the outside by constantly updating the cinema view by a continuous flow of “frames”. Some balance had to achieved between how many things we can perceive and how fast we can perceive them. At the speed we like to see things, the maximum number is four. The flow never stops even in our sleep. If it did, then so would our minds.
From the higher perceptual platform of the bridge, there was no flow. Second floor thoughts and visions flow past under the bridge and are “seen” as they emerge. The bridge can pick out a passing thought or visual, lift it out of the flow and hold it still. Then, it can lift out another while still holding the first. And then another, and another… as many as you can stand. Six or seven easily, a dozen with some effort and, if you have a particular talent for it, well, lots. Once in the third floor work space, the items can be arranged in an order, and that arranged order can be perceived from the bridge perspective. The arrangement plays back into the cinema system and draws memories and associations from the second floor memory pool just as any incoming visual would. They too can be added and ordered.
Rather than building up into a vast train of thoughts, the job of the bridge is take the order that only it can perceive and winnow it down to the chunk limit. That becomes a process of the third floor presenting issues and the second floor drawing conclusions in a back and forth of short narrations and flowing intellectual “thinking”. As in, “If this is so, then that would mean… (eureka moment) Aha! And that would mean for so and such…” We make little conclusions within the chunk limit as the narrative goes by.
Even if we are engaged in a lengthy analysis, there will be a point sooner or later when we say we’re done with our lengthy analysis. How do we know we’re done? When it is all summarized down to the size of the chunk limit and we do not need to narrate or raise a bridge to feel comfortable that we know what we know. The whole chain of reasoning we went through can no longer be seen of course, unless we want to go through the whole narrative sequence again. But we are comfortable that it is there. We worked it out. We know what we know and that’s comfortable. We don’t want someone to make us walk them through it because that’s not comfortable. That’s work. It’s like bracing your back for heavy lifting, only it’s your brain. Like lifting, there’s only so much one can do before it becomes stressful and eventually impossible. After so long, we have to put the big ideas down, and let the bridge that put them together collapse. Like the muscles, exercising it builds up stamina.
This was a new way of perceiving the world. Instead of living reactively in a chunk limit perception of events, we could see and track an unfolding story. We could create and tell stories of our own. It opened our eyes to logic. Sure, we are logical in our thinking by nature but the short sequence of the syllogism allowed us to see our logic. It gave the capacity and the attention to engage in sequencing a long series of observations and as a result, seeing processes in nature that are impercievable at the chunk limit. Just the knack we needed for scientific experiments and finding resources in nature and predicting the damn weather. Our new creative abilities yielded complex tools that increased the efficiency of our survival skills and habits. We acquired the power of creation, which was the ability to organize our environment and ourselves to expanding degrees of complexity.
At the same time, it opened our minds to morality, ethics and justice and allowed us to see past meeting our immediate needs and into a whole world of world-sized Morality and world-sized Justice. These were seen in the sequences we created but were nowhere to be seen in the original perceptions themselves.
There was something else we began to see in those sequences that would impact us most of all. Ourselves. We were what all the stories were about… what they were happening to. We could build the story of our past and our plans for the future. We could see ourselves as products of a past that face a future that will either please or disappoint us based on its alignment with our personal story. Death was uncomfortable to consider but could clearly be seen within the scope of the narrative and led some to extend their narratives into an afterlife. All of this would lead us to a whole new principle of operation.
As I mentioned, there is a second and special manner of operation to the bridge system that is altogether different from the visitation experience and which became the modern mind. It was the same internal upheaval as when the second floor perceptual platform became dominant over the body’s first floor perceptual platform. Visitations became possessions as identity rose to the bridge when the third floor became our highest level of organization. While the bridge was “up” and narration was running, our immediate perception rises to the bridge as if one is standing on it and seeing their own thoughts flow by while having a sort of thought about their thoughts. The experience of awareness that the perceptual platform of the bridge provided was intense and powerful if rather slow and narrow in focus. Third floor experience quickly became regarded as being “fully awake”. Second floor experience was “not being entirely with it”. In the new world of narrations, the second floor had to settle for its new role as the “sub-conscious mind”.
The first ones to possess their bridge became the first people who could speak their narrations in their own voice to others and become, for them, a living visitation. They were the first to be described as having a “countenance” and the first to tell the Big Stories that would become the Big Narratives that we all live in. They were the first occupants of the Holy City and the first founding fathers. Their occupation was “author of the narrative” and their “authority” was a protected treasure. But even these folks would not be considered fully awake by modern standards. They would strike us as actors consumed by a role. In their day, those roles could consume a community.
This second and special manner of operation had to wait until certain milestones were passed. First, when a group of humans becomes well enough established to grow a significant social vocabulary and a reliable narrative ability, there is a point somewhere in that growth where the memory of the actual sound and the image of someone’s expression is exceeded in importance by the content of what they say. It’s not just the growl and the grimace anymore. Now, the organic vocal component might be incomplete or even meaningless without the attachment of a word. If all the information was in the words and none was in the delivery, then only their sequence would determine their meaning and the content would be the same no matter who said it when or how dramatically. In a third-stage organization, the words can exist by themselves to be considered and correlated. Being able to consider multiple ideas in new combinations gave a strictly verbal language the capacity to contain vast amounts of information. We could think about and organize what we wanted to say before we said it. Responses could be anticipated and prepared for. No longer just vocally expressing ourselves, we were heralding the artifacts of our minds. The words could speak without any physical expression at all. We spoke when we used our artifacts whether they be utterances or symbols on a tablet or even spoken by a surrogate. Language became a vital resource that, as it grows in complexity, those who speak it quickly begin to lead lives they couldn’t lead without it. Its survival becomes our own.
The other milestone is harder to explain. It is the arrival of the post-cinema view. The new and exciting perspective from the third floor bridge was not of the outside world. Visually, all the bridge view can “see” is the second floor cinema view with no awareness at all of the first floor sub-cinema view. As mentioned above, seeing your vision second-hand from the bridge view is now considered to be “fully awake”. The effect of the sequencing abilities of the third floor when applied to vision is to give us the means of idealizing what we see. The best example is our ability to create visual models in some unworldly space that achieve a perspective completely beyond the reach of our eyeballs.
That should sound like some crazy jive but only because it is so normal for you or me. Picture your town. Imagine you have three errands in town and you don’t want to park more than twice. Ponder the layout and make a choice for an imaginary flight plan. Set the plan aside, and drive to town. While stopped at lights and such, take notice of something all around you… vanishing points. Things recede into the distance. Now return home, sit down and picture your town again. No vanishing points. Sure, you can recall straight-up visual memories of seeing town, but you don’t use those to plan your junket. The internalized three-dimensional visual model is a product of the post-cinema view that is unavailable to regular chunk-limited second floor perception. It is created by the same process of stepping out of the flow and resequencing things we have already seen just like words we have already heard.
We perceive our idealized visuals on the cinema system once the post cinema process has achieved a summary that is within the chunk limit. To our second floor perceptual platform, they look idealized… hyper-real… perfected even. So too become our words and messages when they are a product of the narrative process. The words became as real as the world they described. Even real-er. And, once we had a personal role in the narration, we became hyper-real, too.
The Idealized Self is what we saw when we were “fully awake”. It’s what we assumed we were dealing with when other people were “fully awake”. When we planned what our community would do, these are the selves that we imagined would do it. Or if we simply thought about the world we lived in, or the one we wish we did, it would be populated by narratively-generated idealized people like ourselves. A special world with special people.
These post-narrative people would lead idealized lives. Not the lives of our fellow animals which are at the whim of nature and who are obviously not “fully awake”, but lives with a beginning, a middle and an end. These lives were led by idealized rules and principles that could only be known within the narrative by those who are “fully awake”.
This special kind of awake did more than create a post-cinema hyper-real self. It created a hyper-real world that surrounded the hyper-real self. Granted, both are mere sensations of brain activity and are equally removed from our actual perceptions but there is still a vital difference in how we use them or what we think they are. We presume the self is us and the world it lives in is not. I mean, we create an artificial self-other border in our hyper-real mind and completely disown half of it. We give the other or outside world part over to an external narrative… as in, somebody else’s narrative of what the world is. That creates a special relationship between the idealized self and the idealized world that led to the modern world we know today.
Most of us are raised in an all-encompassing narrative that unifies the people around us in ways that are beyond the obvious and observable organic community that is easy for us to see as children. We gradually learn about the Big Narrative as our own narrative abilities develop. We learn that everyone around us thinks that there is a big story going on… unfolding in a foretold fashion and completely understood by those in charge. There is a recognized authority about the big narrative which came from the social status of the author… which was likely quite lofty if not entirely diefied. As children, we start learning stories about our world as soon as we are able. Where it came from… big things that happened… lessons that our forefathers learned. As we matured, it became obvious that part of becoming an adult meant being accepted by other adults as a full participant in the story. That meant proving or demonstrating in some way that we accept the authority of Big Narrative and the loftiness of its author and any authorized representatives. It is usually easy. If there is enough emotional bonding, pleasant memories and feeling of camaraderie, than accepting the story that everyone shares could only be more emotionally rewarding, right?
More than right, it was more than a little emotionally rewarding. As an enticement, the story would always include a potential future that put you in some kind of advanced status in a world where perfection had finally arrived after a long, protracted struggle. Imagining yourself in such a world generated a highly addictive form of reward imagery.
This is a good example of how Prof. Darwin’s basic scheme reveals a subtle vulnerability in our otherwise vaulted and special third floor abilities. Many functions of our perception were established… nay, locked in… long before our ancestors experienced dry land. Some date back to the founding of the cinema view or even precede it. One such example is memorized reward imagery. A successful strategy that led to a positive experience would be recorded or memorized and then recalled as a potential (NEXT) reward when the perceptual center saw the same circumstance (NOW) or opportunity that led to the previous success. We have an ancient ability to anticipate that which we perceive as a possible and desirable next event or future. It’s just a flash of internal imagery and an emotional feeling of desire but it primes us to choose a certain course when we perceive a potential reward that we believe it leads to.
These sort of natural predilections happen in an instant when triggered. So fast, that, to the wide awake hyper-self, the triggered feeling is already being felt by the time it “sees” the visual trigger from the bridge. So, if a Big Story told of a future where you were in some highly desirable circumstance, our brains are wired to choose the strategy that leads to it. Not out of logic, or a reasoned choice but by an ancient process of perception, emotion and motivation that happens in the blink of an eye. Of course, all big narratives have happy futures and a sequence of steps that gets us there. Desiring a happy future is not something you have to think about.
Any logic or reasoning we might use to affirm the narrative will occur after we have already emotionally responded to its components. Those components may have triggered some irresistible priming of our desires. What author wouldn’t include a promise that their story will lead to all the things we naturally desire like food, shelter from the elements, personal safety and an unthreatened ability to procreate and raise our next generation? Families protected, resources harvested, enemies defeated and citizens harmonized in a promised future of contentment and leisure time.
Favorable climate, defend-able geography, good leadership and luck produced stable growing communities whose organizational abilities, as in warfare, hunting, or agriculture, were precise indicators of the extent to which they had organized their minds, since there had been no biological changes or appreciable growth in our cortex for a quarter million years. The emergence of third-floor mentalities had been happening for many generations. All that changes is the networking between them.
The networking would start apace once the old process of random and idiosyncratic third-stage mentalities that cropped up here and there gave way to a new managed approach to creating the minds of the community. We could share our intelligence more efficiently with others who could take in a big load of information all at once, like a sentence, and still know the beginning of it by the time they hear the end.
Here’s how these natural brain functions come together to create the world we know…
If we were to examine something in detail, we would build a narration about it and we would be done examining when we had a conclusion and summation that we could perceive within the chunk limit. But we don’t always have the time to think everything through for ourselves. Now, if someone else came along and offered pre-examined conclusions that were already at the chunk limit, or required only a tiny narrative effort of our own, we might be tempted to choose an established narrative over one of own. Especially if we are impressed with the author and feel that their narrative abilities exceed our own or that they have access to information that we do not. And it’s less work for us. We externalize the whole narrative to an external narrator. It’s like hiring a stock broker to winnow down the complex trades to a few simple choices, only this advice is for your perceptions of your environment.
The perceived post-cinema hyper-self cannot exist in a vacuum any more than we can exist in space. It comes with a hyper-world that completes the picture of an environment with somebody (you) in it. When one accepts the rigid authority of an external narrative, it becomes the template in which the hyper-self’s internal self-narrative is constructed. For the human mind, that means the bridge to civilization requires giving up ownership of a chunk of our own brain activity. We may think about ourselves and build our own self-narrative that we can change with life-experiences but we won’t do any such re-processing or examination of the Big Narrative because we will believe that we cannot. We are not the authors and hence do not have the authority or authorization to change the narrative. Even though it is your brain activity in your brain.
These factors come together to create an artificial hyper-world that must be accepted as actually existing if the hyper-self within it is to be believed. And since we tangibly experience the hyper-self as a sensation, a consciousness, it is natural to assume the hyper-world and the narration it is based on is equally real. After all, it is the same sensation being generated the same way.
A Personal Narrative emerges as a presumption about every narration we do. We organize today to build off our past and prepare for our anticipated or even planned future. A Narrative Self or ego-self is the inevitable result of having a narrative. It’s the bit in the center that the narrative of your life is “about”. A Big Narrative is the same presumption on a social scale. America is a Big Narrative. Nascar is a sub-big narrative. Together, they form the artificial world of our post-cinema conscious minds. The self and the world it lives in are not real in the strictest sense, but the power it gives us to reshape the physical world is undeniable. We could see the Promised Land.
Over many generations, the power would grow until it could present a world that was vivid and complete—one that could encompass an entire (apparent) universe with a comfortable place to fit into it. It had its own border between self and other and presented both for mental experience. We were attracted to the familiar perspective of the self side and lured from the natural mind and world we were born into. In time, we would ascend to a new self that was what every part of us including our original minds was sublimating its own existence to.
The post cinema view turned the world the cinema system saw into a doll house of idealized components for which moralities and governing systems could be styled. Such systems could give people or peoples or places or even things an idealized loftiness and make them super-hyper-real. We could see eternity in our narrative worlds and we imagined an eternal perfection to match it. If the world could be perfect, than so could we. The presumption exists that we should be, so we can sanction those who fail to live up to it. Community enforcement needent be physical brute force and intimidation anymore. The same job can be done with mental brute force and intimidation.
Once our social roles are established, our common priorities begin to shape our perception by becoming the mental world where the mental self thinks it is. In a tribe, these perceptions and expectations are standardized and would have to be learned by anyone who wanted to fit in. Even in a well-established society, the world is largely the same from mind to mind. We call it being on the same page. For us moderns with all our differences, we are disagreeing about things that are composed of lots of little details that we agree about. Everyone here, for example, thinks that those wide flat swatches of flattened earth that cut through town are the domain of cars. Lots of ideas were shared by Karl Marx and George Washington. Think of all the little building blocks that are parts of how we interpret our perceptions of the world. This includes the expectation that the same world will greet us tomorrow. That world we wake up expecting is built in our minds from perception and memory. To the extent that world is common to everyone, we create and sustain a mass mentality.
Potent as this process is, its coffers are empty until information is created. Someone had to dream up the stuff that became the songs and verses. And someone had to have at least a gut feeling about what they meant and could recognize when the group had been drilled enough to achieve their purpose. That meant someone had to be able to sequentially organize the stuff in their minds for at least long enough to make something out of it. Who ever did must have been special and it must have been hit and miss. It would be a long process and a long political struggle to decide who can claim ownership of it.
But first there was the struggle to claim ownership of ourselves. The road to civilization leads to the discovery of a self that’s able and willing to live within it. The journey starts with a difficult transition of authority that leads to a departure from previous human experience. We went because we were told to. The first great minds that led the rest of us to civilization were phantoms. We followed them right out of nature and leapt into a special world of our own making.
It wasn’t a Great Leap Out of Nowhere. There is a connection between Our Specialness and our ancient ancestral past. The emergence of our narrative ability and not our intelligence explains how we got here. We can see the world from a special third point of perspective that frees us from the natural flow of our perception. From here, we can tell stories that reshape both the world we live in and the world we think we live in.