Charles Bonnet’s 18th century hypothesis that the great Chain of Being intuitively ordered all living beings on a 6000-year-old earth began to topple with Darwin’s biological interpretation of Lyell’s discovery of geologic time.  A static, pyramidal structure with white European males at the top became a horizontal branching of connections over time with white European males as an endpoint in the process.  The West’s idea of progress or societal evolution still prioritizes the societies with the biggest guns and GNPs.  We continue to observe how changing ideas of time influence an understanding of our origins.

Stephen J. Gould heavily emphasized the power of the concept of contingency to suggest that humans, let alone a particular group of humans, should not be elevated as the inevitable peak of any pinnacle of evolution, biological or social.  Predicated on the utility of adaptability as the only real criteria for existence, each serves his/her/its role in the whole.  No one is any better than any other.  We are all the children of chance.

There are other, complementary ways of looking at this.  These other ways have to do with further refining our relationship with time, accompanied by a flattening of hierarchy and a focus on associational relationships, also called horizontal communication.

Paradigm shifts occur on multiple levels and are explainable in many different ways.

At this moment, we are experiencing a radical shift away from an intuitive allegiance to the idea of hierarchy, one-to-many communication and narrative time.  We are shifting to an honoring of horizontal communication, many-to-many communication and associative or present-moment time.  Imagine a hierarchy chart with the leader at the top becoming instead a three-dimensional sphere with the leader in a position of one of may hubs.  With associative connections moving out in all directions, the leader is but part of a larger network of hubs.  Each of us is the hub of our own network of relationships.

Whereas in a primate band there might be a sequential pecking order forming a one-dimensional line, in human society, until now, consider that we’ve been organized in two-dimensional pyramids easily reproduced on paper or a screen.  Shifting to three dimensions, the top of the pyramid loses authority as the pyramid disappears.  We are able to view/experience ourselves as part of a far larger, multifaceted whole.

Not incidentally, there is a shift in our perception of time.  Narrative time, presupposing past and future, gives way to ever-present time, characterized by awareness of the present informed by an experience of the inevitableness of all the other present moments.  After all, all present moments are experienced through the webbing of connections you are in.  The whole is divined from the place you are.  The grounding paradigm of narrative time disappears.

Clearly, the narrative medium of words only goes part way toward describing a nonnarrative shift in our idea of time.  Consider that the revolution underway is not just a shift in political parties or a shift in priorities.  Consider that we are experiencing a shift in perception, not the least of which is our conception of time.


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