Sometimes it seems that to abandon a given idea is like to abandon your very being. One of the ideas most commonly taken this way is Truth — and this is why some people still want truth in some form even if they agree to all the arguments against truth itself. This is why a commenter some time ago quipped me that “giving up truth is giving up”. But exactly that we are so reluctant to give up a given idea shows that it is a blind spot, something we can’t really analyse, something we (somewhat literally) can’t take in a distanced perspective.
To illustrate this thought, i’ve chosen to use the idea that the human being is the top of all creation, that humans are better than anything else anywhere. And i am choosing this idea exactly because i think it is very completely bogus, so much so that i believe it will be hard to find someone who still believes in this. If i’m wrong, and you are really positive Human-Being is the Ultimate, rest assured the exact same point could be made with any idea you previously held very dearly but ended up discovering it was simply bogus.
So. As the mind is an instrument of the being, as it is a protecting tool of the human, it must root its importance-tree at the human itself. That is to say, the most important thing for the mind has to be the human being that includes this mind. «HUMAN» must be set with PRIO=0. Otherwise, the mind is useless and probably ditched.
Darn it, it just happens that the cougar is faster than the human and the elephant stronger. And those fskcing birds fly. If you stop to think about it, even ants are better than humans in some dimensions, say their smell or walking on walls. And please let’s not talk about Bacteria. Human-Being as the Ultimate being is an assumption that just conflicts with experience.
The first impulse is to search for some given dimension where human beings are beyond competition. Through the Middle Ages in Europe Scholastics spent a lot of work mapping out something called Scala Naturalis or The Great Chain of Being, a hierarchy beginning with Spirit (in the form of God and Angels) and then had Human Being and then everything else. Spirit in this case was the criteria whereby the Human Being should be vindicated against the faster cougar and the stronger elephant. That no one really knew what “Spirit” was probably made it a lot harder to understand the fatal flaw behind the whole idea. Now we have absolutely no reason to believe that Bonobos or Dolphins have any less vivid internal lives than we do, so for absolutely any definition of Spirit we are not at the summit of this chain.
Of course “the whole of being” or experience or the world is so complex you can find almost believable “chains of being” around, if you don’t really check your data too strictly. If you are not careful you could easily end up with an endless sequence of abstruse ontologies. When i was a kid, i went over all the reasons why human being was the ultimate again and again, and even though no explanation was really good i just kept trying to search for better ones, of trying to fix the ones i had, instead of taking the easier (but completely non-obvious) step and question the assumption itself, that humans were better than say ants. Creating those ontologies is an activity that can take your life away, it indeed took generations of European scholars.
Now this is the dangerous step: To question the assumption. If we give up «Human Being’s Ultimateness», don’t we also give up the Zeroth Law of mind, that it is a tool of the human? Maybe we really can’t rewrite our PRIO-0 slot. Maybe we are hardware-blocked against it. But there is a hack available.
We can make a mirror of our priority-tree. Something almost exactly like the priority-tree, instead not the real one, a spare, and then we fiddle with the spare and work with the main one. Now we can say Dolphins are the ultimate being, and see where this leaves us, or maybe elephants are the ultimate, or atoms, or galaxies. Those are all possibilities we are free to explore now. And we still keep «Human->PRIO:0» as operational guideline.
And we can leave this “Humans are better” dumbassery behind.
Of course, to do that one trick we have to learn about priority-trees, or however you like calling the internal mechanism that determines the importance of stuff. And we must learn them enough to use them as tools. And that just might be the most difficult thing to learn whatsoever (not because it is complex, or mysterious, but because we are too close to it). Then again, when you do take this step, when you walk through the door (the one Morpheus was referring to when he told Neo that “I can only show you the door, you are the one who has to go through it”), you find out that, instead of giving up yourself, you actually become free to be yourself. At last.