Human history can be analyzed by a single, constant trend: human progress is the expansion of possibilities. Revolutions in politics, technology, the sciences, philosophy, culture, have done nothing if not expand the possibilities of individuals and societies. Begin at any point in human history, and move forward: the possibilities of people grow with time.
This is the point of existing: to expand possibilities.
This expansion, this uniquely human condition, has always been carried on the backs of pioneers, pushed through wildernesses beyond the burned edges of maps. The more terrain humanity inhabits, the more materials and resources in the hands of people, the more possibilities we may nurture to blossom.
Population centers operate with varying degrees of unity, cohesion; to co-exist requires forms of cooperation, and cooperation requires degrees of like-mindedness: communities maintain specific branches of possibilities; facilitate these possibilities by limiting these other possibilities.
When individuals within a community cannot access the possibilities to which their hearts are aligned, and after the avenues of politics, technology, philosophy, etc. have been exhausted without fruition, these individuals strike out on their own, to forge their own paths, to create their own, unique sets of possibilities: wooden ships and covered wagons, caravans and curraghs.
Humanity in the 21st century, then, quite obviously finds itself in a predicament, a set of circumstances heretofore never encountered: we drill oil in deserts and frozen wastelands, harvest unnavigable forests and jungles; there are freeways between mesas, highways through mountains, Burger Kings in the Moab and parking lots in the Badlands. The frontier of last year is home to a Walmart; the parking lots cover the globe: the daily death of a dozen languages, the assimilation of indigenous cultures and the unencumbered spread of consumerism.
Not to bitch and moan: there is nothing wrong with buying an Iphone. But to facilitate one set of possibilities means to limit other sets of possibilities; globalization is a like-minded community: mass-consumption consumerism is the goal. A specific set of possibilities is being pushed at the expense of other sets of possibilities.
And there is nowhere to go: subdivisions across the plains, suburban sprawl on the mountainsides; corporate parks in the swamps, shopping centers in the deserts.
We are waiting for the clouds to part, for the skies to open, for the stars to make themselves clear. We are waiting for progress to thrust us from this terrestrial womb. We are awaiting the inevitable Great Expansion.
Until then, there is stagnation…
You will go to college, you will get a degree, you will get a 9-5; you will commute, you will take orders, you will buy a house in a sub-division; you will have a mortgage and car payments, go grocery shopping and browse aisles to upgrade your appliances, your entertainment, your furniture; you will buy health insurance and one week a year you will vacation at the beach. If you are one of the increasingly lucky few, you find it in yourself to start your own business, or even to homestead.
You may be an inventor, an innovator, the pioneer of a field, but your existence has been defined: your set of possibilities is increasingly specific. Yes, technology will continue to develop – solar energy, electric cars, and 3d-printing can revolutionize – but those who prosper from the current, predominant set of possibilities will keep the branches of this set ever trim: applications of technology can be limited to the 9-5, consumer world.
Our possibilities must expand.
There may be no more land for the pioneer, but there is always a frontier. Whatever exists beyond the predominant set of possibilities, where the culture of a community as a whole comes to an end, there lies the frontier – there are more dimensions than geographical location.
These dimensions are cultural; they are of economics and politics and lifestyle.
To expand possibilities is exert will: it is to suffer and it is to work. It is no easy-going to settle a frontier, to pioneer a lifestyle choice. But it must be done: it is our purpose for existing.
This is a call to explore what lies beyond consumerism, capitalism, college degrees and 9-5’s; to start collectives, co-ops, to drop-out and hit your own textbooks; for the autodidacts and the fearless, the brave, and the pioneers of minimalism: gypsies, vagabonds, homesteaders; a call for those who own their own labor, and expend it wisely; to those who are their own bosses, and trade with neighbors for local goods; to those who can grow their own food, and teach others how to manage their green-houses; to those who have ideas the rest of us cannot fathom.
This is a call to disregard the narrow set of possibilities held out by society, to step outside and to pioneer the lifestyle that calls you. This is a call to the discontent, the anxious, the misfits desirous of owning their own lives, the underdogs unwilling to climb the hoops of corporate bureaucracy, the simple and unassuming who cringe in the aisles of big-box stores and can’t understand the allure of a Porsche minivan – it is time to forge ourselves new lifestyles, new economies, new politics: new cultures.
This is the point of our existing. This is not for ourselves, it is for humankind.
May love and liberty keep us free.