Google [Swarm Savvy: How animals avoid dumb decisions] for insight into the dynamics all social animals share… including humans. I’ve always been in awe by how well people manage the logistics of living in a civilization composed of millions of individuals. Sure, I realize how supply and demand plays a role in this. Still, it deeply mystifies me.
Being less social makes me wonder about chapter 17’s, The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects. Can such a shadowy presence coexist with being a ranking member of the group? If not, how could serving as a ruler be possible in the first place? What does a shadowy presence really mean?
It helps me to think of each of us as the ostensible ruler with regard to our own small-scale individual circumstances. I am the ostensible ruler over myself, my life. From this point of view, shadowy presence doesn’t mean much. How can you be a shadowy presence to yourself?
In truth, it is biology not “me” that determines how “I” react to circumstance. This ‘biology’ has no identity… it is a shadowy presence. Arising from this bio-reality is an illusion that “I” am the ruler deciding how “my” life plays out. We all experience this “free” will, “free” choice illusion. The question is, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “To be a free willed individual or a swarm savvy member of the human swarm… that is the question”.
Recognizing and accepting the close parallel between human decision-making and the swarm savvy of bees, ants and other animals is extremely calming. The reason this is not easily noticeable is that we need to be, to think we know and to think we are in charge of our lives, unlike so-called instinct driven animals. The “illusion of self” and its “free” will blinds us to what is actually happening. This illusion can also be stressful in that your isolated “I” is up against the universe. For me, the answer is not to be by means of embracing chapter 56’s mysterious sameness and the calming swarm savvy of the universe that goes along with that.
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