online: 16 august 2002

15 august 2002 before people and beyond

Waiting in a station with several others...

after being confronted with a long train of Ford cars in thirty or forty smooth grey wagons, some with graffiti, then a train of large containers, and then train of stone for road building or other large constructions...

they passed with loud mechanical noises and a sense of irresistible power... and with that total disregard for nearby humans, or organic life, that is shared by the sun, the winds, the rain, and earthquakes, and the distant stars or whatever they are...

yet these trains are still perhaps the strongest and most immediate confrontation between 'our' makings and 'us'... they are so dangerous and yet so close to people waiting on the platform. great is this contrast between us and them that I wonder if we people are indeed the authors of these our largest works - they seem of a scale quite different from ourselves. Yes, those who finance and design and operate trains, and all such constructions, do so for money and for the life and comfort that it makes possible - but are they (these heavy goods trains and all other industrial 'goods') also the product of an evolution that originates before, and will continue beyond, the presence of people?

I don't think I've ever asked, or admitted, so great a question, having previously held to the (mistaken?) idea of we humans as the authors of all our actions, and of their consequences. But, now that I've written of and admitted the possibility of a greater process, I think it is as plausible as is the conventional view... Probably the two views are complements.

But now I'm remembering the Jubilee Line extension (in London) in which passing trains are insulated from people by a wall of sliding doors which open only when the train has stopped like a sideways travelling lift with its own doors synchronised to the platform doors...

What does this mean, this late-in-the-day acknowledgement that to mix moving trains and people was a barbarity? To me it is one of the first signs of a serious intention to use the flexibility and precision of new technology not to further such barbarities but to at last prevent them - to recompose the industrial world to fit people rather than to exploit them (or rather us).

So what now of the great question of 'artificial' evolution - is it human or is it cosmic?

I guess that it began in a cosmic 'inhumanity' but that it can develop, if we will it, as a new humanism that is not so much the arrogance of 'man in supposed control' (and in so doing destroying much that is human and much that is 'natural') but is, like those shielded platforms on the Jubilee Line, an evolution that is sensitive both to previous evolution and to its unpredictable yet thought-about consequences.

So can this be the way in which evolution becomes tamed and made safe for people - or is it a braver and yet more thoughtful evolution 'of the whole', towards consequences unknown but not 'bad'? I am sure that the answer is yes - but there is little evidence, as yet, that we are ready to do it.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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