I’m sitting on the sofa, my “office,” listening to a warm winter rain fall as the clock winds down on the year 2022. It’s quiet. My better half is out with friends, though I got my New Year’s kiss before he left. I spent much of the day in my flannel PJs making a batch of chicken noodle soup with the root veggies that survived our week away. Over the holiday we escaped the biting cold that gripped the east coast and headed to southeastern Utah.
Jason introduced me to the region’s many wonders last spring after our field work in Salt Lake City and at the Mormon Transhumanist Association’s annual conference on blockchain. The massive, towering rock faces were an antidote then and now – both to the machinations of zealous, esoteric logicians and to the wounds not-yet-healed among family and loved ones. The calendar pages keep flipping by, but the angst of 2020 still holds sway in our family, and many others I’m guessing. Many have blithely moved on, not realizing there are other shoes to drop – Web3, human augmentation, collective consciousness (including non-human agents), swarm intelligence, and automated AI portfolios placing bets on where each of us (and our digital twins) will fit (or not) into the new normal.
My young adult child remains estranged from me. I’ve been cancelled with no foreseeable path to redemption, restoration, wholeness. The latest I’ve heard is that I’m supposed to think about what I have done wrong in “choosing” this path over them. The only offer is one of conditional love, conditioned on me becoming someone else. I cannot live a lie. I hold out hope that one day we may forge a new path built on mutual respect, knowing deep connections of care can never be severed between mother and child. Until then, I wait, though not always gracefully. I’ve never been a patient person; perhaps this is part of the learning I need to do.
Before heading south to Moab, I stopped by the Cathedral of the Madeleine and lit a candle with a prayer for fortitude and healed relational ruptures. This is not the only loss I carry from this year. If anything, 2022 has been a season of falling away. As I came to understand how the cybernetic steering techniques were being deployed to shape narratives and in doing so continue the polarization that is so vital to accomplishing their post-human goals, I chose to leave social media. I still have this blog and my channel but learning to “be” outside digital information ebbs and flows is unsettling – especially when in the real world doesn’t know what to do with you either. I continue to be grateful for my ever-tighter circle of friends who continue to take my calls and buoy my spirits even as they face imposing challenges of their own.
Instead of moping around a quiet house at the holidays – this is the first year we haven’t put up a tree since we moved here in 1998 – I lobbied for a sojourn to a land of red rocks, ancient cedars, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and uranium. We were in Natural Bridges National Monument on Christmas day and had the place almost to ourselves. The opportunity to stand on the edge, not too close, of the canyons cut from Cedar Mesa’s Permian sandstone was a gift, helping re-situate my soul within the grand dance of the cosmos. It was a blessing to drink in the immensity of nature’s creation, god’s hand transforming giant boulders to smaller and smaller stones until they became sand once again. Depressions in the stone gradually collect soil knitted together through complex relationships among fungi, lichen, algae, and the cyano-bacteria that gave us our atmosphere.
Across acres of slickrock we saw living terrariums in various stages of development: smears of dark lichen at the bottom of a puddle; decades-old soil crusts, tiny, fractal kingdoms echoing in miniature their butte, fin, and escarpment counterparts; and circular gardens where cacti and Mormon tea cozied up to extravagantly shaggy, twisted Utah cedars. These beauties took centuries to manifest and mature, a timeframe that is almost incomprehensible to us in an age where our attentions are yanked from one direction to another on an hourly basis. Once again, I lay on the rocks soaking up the sun, nibbling Honeycrisp apples and a Spanish cheese, sinking into the blue skies.
Terrariums, and the potholes that hold them are circular, a point that was hit home on our trip to the Needles division of Canyonlands. It had rained the night before, showing off rounded patterns to great effect with the ripples of drops from intermittent showers enhancing the circles within circles within circles – life renewed in the desert. Circles on petroglyphs, in the architecture of kivas, the shape juniper berries, and water smoothed pebbles, each embodying the energetic force that flows through living systems. That was my gift this Christmas, to experience the interconnectedness, knowing that the machine logic’s attempts to steal the circle for a cybernetic feedback loop is bound to fail.
After exploring the cliff dwellings at Hovenweep I picked up Harold Courlander’s “The Fourth World of the Hopis.” I’ve already read most of the stories that tell how the Hopi came into this world and the nature of their migrations over many generations. The first chapter describes their move from a Third World that had become overrun by evil from powakas, or sorcerers. After bird messengers were sent to explore the Fourth World and ask permission for re-settlement, the good Hopi who were following the old ways climbed, with assistance from Grandmother Spider, through the sipapuni into a new world where the mockingbird named the clans and gave each a special kind of corn to grow that shaped their destiny.
It turns out that one sorceress managed to climb up the stalk. The Bahanas, the white tribe, agreed to take her because they felt her knowledge would be valuable. The rest of the tribes were wary of this, but there was a prophecy that one day an unknown person would come from the east and bring harmony among the Hopi. A member of the Fire Clan carved a stone tablet with figures, broke it in two pieces and gave one half to the Bahanas as they left, saying that when that person arrived, they should present their half of the slab to prove their good intentions.
I have concerns that as we move forward with “regenerative finance” and ESG (environmental, social, governance) portfolios, and outcomes-based “social impact” deals tied to addressing past injustice and trauma inflicted on the original people that pretenders to this prophecy will come west with promises of blockchain “sovereignty” for tribes and pandering pretensions to incorporate indigenous customs and “sacred economics” into emerging systems of stakeholder capitalism. Years of identity politics and performative (but often shallow and insincere) reconciliation attempts have primed the pump.
For decades indigenous people of the world sought justice from the United Nations when the entities governing their original lands were wreaking havoc. Over the past two or three decades the UN has increasingly paid lip service to tribal groups, knowing all the while that the cybernetic enclosures governed from space would be coming online shortly, and that they could afford to give legal rights to nature. Blockchain smart contracts with drone surveillance and digital penalties would be a perfect way to dispossess people under the pretense of protection.
During our college search we ended up touring Dickinson College. Dickinson is located in Carlisle, PA, and just outside the town is the home of the US Army War College on the grounds of Carlisle Indian School, the model for the residential school program in the United States and Canada. It is there that Captain Richard Pratt declared the need to kill the Indian to save the man. As it was many of children who were sent to these schools and in fact helped build them died. They never made it home, though some remains are gradually being identified and returned. The hundreds of white gravestones that line North Street are a reminder of this grim past.
I took my family to see the campus and pay our respects to the spirits of the children and their families. You can only access the site after going through a background check across the road. That done, we drove across the street and as we pulled over to park, I noticed a display sign flashing notices for upcoming events, including a program on George Armstrong Custer. The focus of today’s army is on insurgent, asymmetrical warfare. The lessons of the frontier are still very much on the forefront of military planners on the eve of the roll out of this new digital empire. It is my opinion that the greatest threat to implementation of blockchain, smart-contract, tech-no-logic governance is Indigenous practice, connection to the sacred energy flow of the universe. That is something that cannot be factored into their physics equations.
I sense a full court press is about to be launched to convince Indigenous peoples, not just of North America but of the world, to accept offers of digital currency and digital governance. I think a pitch will be made to bridge the Eisenstein-inspired Celo “sacred economics,” the tokenized “commons,” with a more collectivist and “regenerative” worldview. This is the “Game B” that is being promoted by Jim Rutt, the Santa Fe Institute, and members of the intellectual dark web. The foundations have been laid with Hanne Strong, founder of Crestone and wife of oil baron / sustainability promoter Maurice Strong, and the Hopi prophecy.
I did a search for “indigenous” “circles” and “cybernetics” and up came a July 2021 paper presented at IEEE, “Circle of All Nations Digital Global Village – William Commanda’s Indigenous Cybernetic Navigation into the Age of Information Technology.” William Commanda, Algonquin elder (1913-2011) and keeper of sacred wampum belts, embraced social media to promote “A Circle of All Nations” in partnership with the UN. He was portrayed as a master crafter of canoes, which he linked to cybernetics, and a pioneer in cyber-cartography. A battle is being set up between Grandmother Spider and a non-living system that aims to tangle us in a web not of silk, but of data and logic circuits. Commanda, whose Algonquin name is Ojshigkwanang (morning star) seems to have had a prominent role carved out for himself, paving the way for a new form of capitalism that would help build the digital empire by financializing and parasitizing nature and traditional cultural practice and social relations. That is what the digital global eco-village paradigm actually is.
In many of the Hopi stories, Grandmother Spider sits on the ear of the protagonist, a person who had treated her with respect and honored sacred practices. She offers guidance through perilous journeys. They move forward together in relationship. In today’s tech-no-logic world we have handed over our sacred guidance system to slick machines created by defense interests. Like the Hopi left behind in the trek to the Fourth World, we risk forgetting who we are, what life means, becoming entranced by dead devices that have no soul, no imagination, no artistry.
Be in nature. Look for her circles. See interrelated living communities not as ecological niches to be measured, counted, and sampled for unique genetic re-mixing and investing potential, but as a gracious symphony, delicate and expansive. One memorable parts of this trip was seeing again a spectacular orange-red lichen upon a boulder at the top of the trail through Hovenweep Canyon. I saw it in March and again last week.
It’s probably as old as I am and aging better, too! It was a good reminder to reset our expectations of time. Dial it back towards the geological setting. Maybe then the loss of connection to a child for a year won’t feel so sharp. I know eventually the edges will soften, just like that Permian Sandstone wearing down to create soil for new life and maybe one day become a stone again.
Happy New Year folks. Let’s enjoy the show!
PS: You might get a kick out the list of books I spied on the shelves of the off-the-grid cabin we rented for a few days on a ranch in Montezuma Canyon south of Monticello. Not your typical fare and many synchronicites with my lines of research:
Erich Fromm’s 1973 “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness” with chapter on B.F. Skinner’s neo-behaviorism
Arin Greenwood’s 2018 “Your Robot Dog Must Die”
Ray Kurzweil’s 2005 “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology”
John Cottingham’s 1992 “The Cambridge Companion to Descartes”
James Gleik’s 1987 “Chaos: Making a New Science”
Mort Rosenblum’s 1986 “Mission to Civilize: The French Way”
Sasthi Brata’s 1985 “India: Labyrinths in the Lotus Land”
Heshmat Moayyad’s 1991 “Stories from Iran: Chicago Anthology 1921-1991”
John Mansley Robinson’s 1968 “An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy”
I think there was at least one Mary Higgins Clark paperback, too…
A few more pics if you’re interested in seeing this amazing part of the world.