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War of the Worldviews

In comparing popular worldviews and philosophies of mind, a distinct polarizing pattern arises which I call ACME (Anything Can Mean Everything) and OMMM (Only Material Mechanisms Matter). While each side has compelling reasoning, best intentions, and powerful claims to authority, it is the symmetry and ferocity of their opposition to each other that I think proves enlightening.

What I am attempting to show here is how extremism in either camp stereotypes the other camp, making itself an unreasonable caricature of reason in the process. To begin with, the two camps disagree on basic definitions:

ACME                                                       OMMM
universe = absolutely spiritual                     universe = absolutely material

subjective imagination rules                        objective empiricism rules

Tarot, I Ching, Prayer                                 Quantum Mechanics, Economics

charismatic love                                        cause and effect

‘top down’ meaning and order                    ‘bottom up’ probability

superstition, mania, pareidolia, woo            cynicism, depression, reactionary

naive, simplistic                                         jaded, dismissive

identification with the divine will                   identification with inanimate logic

life=spirit-ghosts, matter=illusion                 life=zombie-robots, matter=fact

objective world is a dream, maya                subjective world irrelevant

time = synchronicity, zeitgeist                      time = uniform duration; t

I AM THAT I AM                                           i = square root of negative one

How OMMM sees ACME:

Like the ubiquitous manufacturer of cartoon products, ACME is Cargo Cult optimism. A naive belief, rooted in pareidolia/apophenia that the cosmos exists to provide one with whatever one wants, (so long as the recipient is worthy of said blessings).

This is Santa Claus, pure and simple. The universe is your vending machine, with all the universe’s comforts and satisfactions available to you simply for the asking. A prayer, a sacrificial offering, some mumbo jumbo, and a bit of humble narcissism is the only coin required to nudge the supreme creator of existence into doing your bidding. God is your parent, partner, confessor, forgiver, and servant. He loves you even though you mainly talk to him when you think you might want something from him. He’s omniscient, but really he can’t see through your transparent pretense of needy, fear-based petty egotism. He really favors you only because you’re more deserving – you’re special, you’re saved. Your accidents happen for a reason. There are no coincidences. ACME provides everything for free in a universe devoid of respect for real world circumstance.

How ACME views OMMM.

Like a mantra of determinism, OMMM is so Western that it has become Eastern without knowing it. Meaningless and repetitive, the worldview of physical facts and figures literally leaves nothing to the imagination. We are the universe’s powerless prisoner. Rooted in the strong teleology that the universe is devoid of strong teleology, OMMM is blind faith in the power of transcending blind faith.

The human subject is conceived of as a solipsistic blob of deluded protoplasm that nonetheless is the sole source of rich perception in an unconscious universal machine. Human consciousness is seen as an impressive but unexceptional function of a machine; a statistically inevitable consequence of complexity and simple physical-arithmetic laws.

OMMM takes the role of a voyeur, detached from the cosmos as a medium of pure skeptical logic, yet its fundamental terms are a rich tongue-in-cheek mythology of dark matter, black holes, anti-particles (that are also anti-waves?), indivisible quark trinities, etc.  What we don’t find is any sign of ourselves or our lives.

Instead the pinnacle of human development seems to be to function as an empty vessel of observation, a pristine and empirical anti-guru who has shed all human identity and mortality to bestow upon the foolish masses the crystal clarity and unflinchingly defiant message of enlightenment. Its Anti-Cogito: ‘There is no proof of consciousness – you just think that you think, therefore you aren’t.’ You have ‘become none’ with the epistemological supremacy of the Youniverse. Dissolved into the bliss of science. OMMM.

Having experienced being a supporter of each side of ACME-OMMM battlefield, I now see them as natural extremes that human consciousness is prone to. That the theme of subjectivity and objectivity is embodied directly in these extremes should be a clue to us that they are only at war on one level but are essentially the same impulse on a deeper level. I feel like I have benefited over the years from exploring both sides, but that ultimately I find the extremes to be crutches to help us lean on one side of reality or the other without having to embrace full spectrum realism. We get comfortable in our familiar psychological territory and we reinforce that tunnel reality, selectively ignoring, distorting, and denying those aspects of the continuum outside of our comfort zone.

Cosmos is a word for order, and that’s what the cosmos is and that’s what it does. It makes sense, it builds private pockets of significance through experience and it kicks out entropy in the form of dissolving forms across public space. Some order is subjective, pulling us toward meaning and the self, some is objective, falling meaninglessly into habit and evanescence. When we contemplate a universe in which either the objective and subjective sense monopolizes the other completely, I think that what we get is a monosense unrealism. What I suggest, is that we incorporate even those extreme specializations in the opposite ontology: A Multisense Realism, in which every nonsense makes a kind of sense from some perspective, and every sense is nonsense from some perspective.

In between the two ACME/OMMM poles, we may find a spectrum of worldview that honors the empirical realities without sacrificing the enchantment of the Cosmos and the Self. No Santa Claus, no Frankenstein, but fully real people, real worlds, real characters and destinies, with all their dream filled, deluded dramas and scientific revolutions.

Ultimately the neurological processes that support our human conscious experience are no different from those of the rest of the Cosmos. If there is meaning in here, there is at least the capacity to support meaning out there. The idea of a Cosmos that manages to evolve a hundred trillion cell organism with an experience that is positively dripping with layers of meaning, order, and purpose without getting even a speck of it on itself is a little far fetched. By the same token, the existence of those hundred trillion cells, their molecules and atoms, seems a little elaborate for a universe that could get by on abracadabra if it wanted to. I suggest that it is the symmetry of fact and fiction, knowledge and mystery that is closer to the primordial firmament. If I had to build a universe from scratch, that is how I would begin the recipe.

  1. Krishna Sharma
    April 20, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    On an average, how many in the world would be caught or worried about these two views ? Never it is more than a handful in any time of the history and in any part of the world. And never it would be zero. Out of fifteen Darshanas of Indic Civilization that developed more than 2000 years ago, half are ACME, half are OMMM ! The ruling party for more than 4 decades in the state of Tamil Nadu in India is born out of OMMM movement, but it is a state with strongest and largest scale sentiments of ACME. How is it possible? Because most people do not care about this debate !

    So, in stead of making this a debate about a ‘war’ and taking it up the cause on ourselves to find ways for ‘peace’, we should take the debate about this polarization and everything in between as a fun, stimulating, intellectual exercise ! And thank this mysterious universe for making the two views possible and reasonably interesting.

    We can’t write a book and change the world, even if we find something that answers this intrigue. If we can, again not many people would like to read it or change themselves because of it. If a book can change the world, it would have changed entirely with Bible, then with origin of species and then with ‘Grand Design’.

    Life is intriguing, mysterious, dazzling and puzzling ! Some can see all of it without their eyes going dizzy. For some it is honestly dizzying and so they walk with some blinders on, and there is nothing we can or should do about it. Those are our neighbors, children, family members, friends and someone giving a nice smile at the table in a restaurant!

    There is nothing that says elephants and squirrels cannot live together. So can intellectual giants and lay people. Elephants can play their own games and enjoy life, and squirrels can have their own and enjoy life too. Nature just watches both pass by.

    Pass it by, with full appreciation. Seeing it with the “eyes” you are given, opening them as wide as you can ! If there is another birth, you will pass it by again, with a different set of “eyes”. It will be beautiful then, too !

    • April 21, 2012 at 12:29 am

      Yes, it’s true that most people don’t care about the ‘war’. Those who do are not causing many problems, just some ruffled feathers once in a while. What I see though is that in the symmetry of the ACME-OMMM can point us to a deeper truth about consciousness. I think in individuals and in societies it has been useful to be committed to one direction or another, but that we happen to be living in a time where we are ready to confront a reality that reconciles both extremes. Maybe even the scope of civilization and the fragility of its future demands that we now get beyond our previous limitations.

  1. March 11, 2016 at 8:18 pm
  2. March 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm
  3. October 9, 2022 at 9:19 pm

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