Friday, March 12, 2004

A longing for paradise regained


Many cultures share a similar myth of a time when humans lived in pristine communion with their surroundings, each their own visions of Eden. But then, the stories go, humans transgressed against the laws of nature (or God) through attainment of knowledge. For this crime, humans were forever cast out of paradise.

The memory of what life was like before this evolutionary fluke of “knowledge” plagued mankind has survived within us only as a vague longing for Eden.

In the autumn of 2003, I found my Eden at the edge of the North American continent on a rough patch of coast called Big Sur. My favorite photograph from that trip was of beams of sunlight tossing foggy spears through the redwoods and onto our cabin, the rocks and the Big Sur River. Considering where I had been a few days before, Big Sur seemed to be sending me an obvious message.

The previous few days spent near San Francisco with nanotech theorists invited by the Foresight Institute seemed almost sacrilegious when I sat on my river rock, wondering how these scientists, in their arrogance, could think they could take the water from this river and “improve” on it. It was one of those “Eden” moments that was destined to be short-lived.

Hitting myself with a “60-Minutes”-style ambush interview, I made short work of my sentiment: Not all water is “pure,” whether from natural sea salt or manmade pollution. So, to “arrogantly” manipulate matter on the molecular level can also be to bring it back to an ideal state.

You can read the rest of my column at Small Times.