Domed City and Closeted Minds
The fantasy of futuristic domed cities is, along with the body as perpetual motion machine, the wet-dream of every technophile, and these are, in that sense also, the fantasy of the mortal self in time (Mr. McGilchrist’s “Emissary”) — its aspirations for permanence and immortality reflecting the ego-nature’s fear of Time, Death, and Dark Night. These fantasies have their roots, not in the rational portions of the psyche, but in older and more non-rational and “irrational” portions of the psyche — in magic and myth. The rational mind merely rationalises them.
The domed city is not only a return to the sanctuary of cave and grotto and even the womb, but an image of “paradise” in technological disguise, for the very word “paradise” means “a walled enclosure”. The walled enclosure, like the contemporary gated community, is an ideal of wild and unpredictable Nature totally tamed, domesticted, and regulated, barricaded and isolated from real, living Nature by substitute technical processes — but completely insulated against “the law of the Earth”. And in some ways the “Anthropocene” is already an image of this self-enclosure of the rational upon itself in tautology.
It’s a delusion of the mind that it can barricade and insulate itself against the law of the earth, or against the terrors of time and dark night. Technology does not, and cannot, rewrite the laws of nature. It can only imitate them and exploit them. But in no way can it alter them. As Gebser puts it, this “law of the earth” is inexorable and will be fulfilled regardless. If it is not fulfilled “naturally”, it will be fulfilled “unnaturally” — in and through technology itself.
Technical processes, which proceed by substituting natural, organic processes with artificial or man-made ones, do not in any way provide security or safety against the fulfillment of the law of the earth. It’s a false logic — a dualistic logic — that holds that it can isolate and enhance the “good” aspects of nature from the “bad” or undesirable aspects of nature. Nature has no obligation to conform to man’s logic or expectations, or to act as if it were only a mechanism. Technology, by the very fact that it is mimicry, must necessarily incorporate the laws of nature itself in its construction and operations. It simply focusses, concentrates, and amplifies them. In that sense, technology is also a “trojan horse”, also fulfilling the law of the earth.
Rational man seems completely blind to this, even though the evidence is rather incontrovertible. The so-called “peaceful atom” is also attended by the destructive one. The “virus”, contagion and epidemic, and their vectors, are also merely replicated in technical and human form. The fear of the Zika virus, and the Aedes species of mosquito that carries it, because of its implication in serious birth defects somehow seems to eclipse in urgency and alarm those synthetic chemicals present in the environment that result in the same thing. The (from man’s point of view) destructive powers of earthquake, flood, storm, volcano become replicated in mankind’s destructive weaponry and weapons of mass destruction. Genetic engineering has succeeded in creating “superweeds” that have become ineradicable (GMO, Round-up Ready canola, engineered to defeat weeds, is now classified as a superweed itself. Voluntary canola is now the 4th most prevalent “weed” in Saskatchewan, beating out Canada Thistle in fifth place). The “wild and uncontrollable” aspects of the law of the earth are always necessarily implicated in the tamed and domesticated aspects. Technology, it should be clear, does not insulate or isolate the human from the law of the earth or the terrors of the wild, of time, decay and of darkness. Both the wonder and the terror are mimicked and replicated in the technical process. That’s the irony of technology and the technological system and process.
But, it is often objected, human consciousness can prevent the law of the earth from being fulfilled in and through technology and the technological process. So far, however, it has not proven very adept at doing so. Wars like Desert Storm, or Shock and Awe, invoked nature’s own law of “creative destruction”, which might be said to be one aspect of the meaning of “the law of the earth”, as justification and rationale. Man’s so-called “consciousness”, then and still, does not prevent the potentialities implicit in the technology from carrying out the law of the earth, and in fact amplifies it dramatically. Even climate change is, in some circles, being rationalised as “creative destruction”, or its development and application the workings of “the Invisible Hand”, and not as the testimony to, and evidence of, man’s irresponsibility and lack of conscientiousness. To claim that “technology is morally neutral”, and it is man’s use of that technology that is the issue, is rather blithe. The laws of nature are also “morally neutral” in that sense, and yet they can’t help but be carried out in and through technology itself.
For that reason technology is a “trojan horse” in its ambiguity. The old saw related to that, “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, applies also to all technology. So does the old saying “be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it” — in unpredictable and unexpected ways, exemplified by the ambiguous prophecies of the Delphic Oracle. This “Man” isn’t even conscious of what he or she truly wishes for because this “Man” lacks insight into himself and his own psychic constitution.
Is the domed city, then, a paradise or a tomb? It’s certainly ironically suggestive, in its structure, of the Iron Age burial mounds of tribal Europe, even if it’s imagined rather as a “Camelot”. And it’s certainly symbolic of the contemporary closeted mind, resembling now Blake’s remark that “man has clos’d himself up, til he sees all thing thro’ the narrow chinks of his cavern.” Is not, then, the domed city only the fantasy construction of the ego-nature’s own narcissism? It’s really the image of the Cartesian mind’s total isolation from its greater reality, just as much as the gated-community seeks to isolate itself from the greater society in which it is, nonetheless, embedded.
The little paradises or little “ends of history” of suburb, gated-community, and domed city eventually become tombs of the mentality that occupies them. So too will the spectre of the Anthropocene unless it is dispelled. I’m reminded (and I’ve mentioned it once or twice before) of a little known cult movie classic starring Sean Connery called Zardoz (a play on “the Wizard of Oz”) in which this very reversal occurs. The immortal’s paradise, isolated from the barbarian world around it, becomes their own tomb. So is the Anthropocene, which has become pretty much synonymous with garbage, and with deterioration, degeneration, and decay. Certainly not with Camelot.
But then, even Camelot, it seems, succumbed to “the law of the earth” finally.
And one can certainly put the question in the ironic sense. Is the domed city (and even the Anthropocene) really Man insulating and isolating himself against “nature”, or is it the Earth imposing a quarantine — isolating, and insulating, itself against “Man”?