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As humans we share a wide array of characteristics, endowed with the unique property of language, or better understood, a system of thought, which allows us, unlike any other species on the planet, to imagine, manifest and transform the world in ways that were not possible until very recently in our evolution.

But one of our greatest skills, which we’ve had the misfortune of perfecting during our brief history, is the unusual ability to design complicated and impenetrable institutions, and then imprison ourselves within them.  Rigid by design, these hierarchical structures frame our understanding of the world in a manner that is most often imperceptible, incompatible with reality, and in direct opposition to our natural instincts for survival.  One need only think about our folly and conceit of infinite growth on a finite world.  It’s only when we make a jailbreak and gain some well-earned perspective that we can look back and go, ‘What were we thinking?’

As expected, perspective is hard to come by in the modern world, a world embedded in its own myopia, where reason is told to take a number and wait at the back of the line.  I imagine the theoretical Martian, observing our tiny planet from afar, would have much to say about, for instance, our self-made and rapidly escalating environmental crisis.  She would see us systematically destroying our own ecosystem at a pace that we now know will soon lead to our demise.  ‘Is there no intelligent life down there?’ , asks our Martian friend.

And yet we proceed undeterred, with more determination than ever to do what our institutions insist we must do, regardless of consequences.  The Martian, from her lofty perch, would simply conclude that our species has gone mad, with no small measure of justification.

From another perspective, imagine asking a child, whose instincts for common sense have not yet been subverted within the vast labyrinths of modern institutional thinking, the following question:  if this box is as big as we can get, can we get any bigger than this box?  I imagine after some careful thought the obvious and correct response of ‘No’ would effortlessly and instinctively emerge.  ‘Is there no intelligent life in my world?’, the child ponders.

As for the rest of us, we would carry on as usual, weaving very long and complicated narratives to sustain the myth of institutional infallibility, while privately, when no one is looking, concede with an envious smile the wisdom of Martians and children.

And how long do we have, one wonders, before our children, striving for their moment in the sun, look back at us and ask:  ‘What were you thinking?’

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