Ritual Sacrifice for the God of Progress
Painting by Wassily Kandinsky, “Untitled,” 1922. Featured by The Lonely Palette podcast episode 38.
The Triadic Ballet by Oscar Schlemmer embodied the ideas of the elementary forms in the physicality of human life.
The strangeness of the forms and movements are arresting, evoking a sense of unfamiliarity and alienation from the human form to which we are accustomed. Industrialization has had a dehumanizing effect on culture. The profit motive has deformed us to behave like the machines that we have created. We have made ourselves into the likeness of the robots.
The ideals of efficiency, productivity, and growth are qualities that humans are not able to attain. Our bodies face limitations that robots do not. We get tired, our bodies age, and we die. Our parts are not easily manufactured or replaced.
In a world that values capital above all else, humans are a resource, work is a commodity, and our time has become units of production that are expendable and replaceable. Our data is quantified and our attention monetized.
We dance because we are human. It is a rebellion against the conformity of our age to a belief that we exist to feed the machine. We are a target market, a demographic of consumers and users, an audience for advertising messages, a statistic for economists, a polling metric for politicians.
Emotions are the unique quality of human beings. Self-consciousness and awareness help us to understand our limits, our finitude. Death raises the alarm that there is an urgency to our decisions. Before time runs out on the clockwork of our lives, we face the opportunity cost of choosing our humanity over returns on investment.
The pearl, the price is to recognize the value of human life. It has taken billions of years to form the raw materials of life, to fashion molecules complex enough to form DNA, to develop vocalizations, to speak languages, to give birth to cultures, to invent alphabets, to print books, to broadcast radio signals, to connect networks of television channels, to bring consciousness to a global network of digital devices.
Yet we still ask questions in a sea of uncertainty and ambiguity:
- Who are we?
- Why are we here?
- Where can we go?
- What should we do?
- When will we be changed?
- How can we make a difference?
Robots cannot question their existence. They cannot comprehend the silence of their creators.
The rocks cry out. The silicon declares the glory of the divine. The clouds burst forth with rain, and the rushing winds announce the fragility of human endeavours. The earth rages with fire, the woods burn, spewing smoke to signal the birth pains of our mother. In the darkness of the womb, we feel only the pressure to leave the warmth and comfort of a space that has grown too small to contain us. A world of sensations, experiences, and imagination awaits beyond these momentary struggles to reach for the first glimpse of daylight, the first rush of air into lungs, the first cry as the exhaust of carbon dioxide strains vocal chords to vibrate and declare to the world the birth of a new life that never before has witnessed the starlight streaming from light years away, from the beginnings of the universe.
The heavens declare, behold the divine incarnate, the word become flesh, an idea in the mind of god in physical form.
When we look into the eyes of another, we discover the image of the divine reflecting back.
Who are we becoming? One cell joined to another, each individual an organism that together forms a body, able to work together in unison for the life of all.
The physical is a metaphor for the metaphysical.
The momentary is a glimpse of the eternal.
The divine dance.