While getting ready to start a Zoom video call with two friends, one in Mexico and the other in Stockholm, I was once again reminded of the wonders of technology; how it allows instant and interactive communication around the planet with full-color images and sounds from everyone's home. A virtual conversation.
I was just a child when the first televisions arrived. Those first screens where people appeared in a box in my living room, relaying news, acting, talking, and captivating the attention of an audience with whom they could not interact. Now with Zoom and other similar technologies, you can talk to those images as if they were people in front of you.
The marvel of television would be followed in the late 20th century by other information-sharing technologies, personal computers, the Internet, and cell phones. Today, in the first quarter of the 21st century, new generations take this for granted. However, coming from a world of slide rules, radios, libraries, newspapers, and booking long-distance calls I never cease to be amazed by these technologies and wonder, what meaning they have and will have, in terms of the development of civilization and human consciousness.
Much has been written about the impact of the invention of the printing press on human development, as a result of the dispersion of knowledge in space and time, and the greater communication of ideas. Going from books written in calligraphy and controlled access to the production of publications with numerous copies, distributable to different places and produced in much shorter times was revolutionary. Then came photography, cinematography, the recording industry, radio, television, and finally the aviation industry. Together they created a new world, "a truly interconnected world."
Marco Polo's legendary voyages and the "discoveries" of other continents by the Europeans are no longer news or history because potentially everyone can discover the world either by travelling or through images and films. With the launch of satellites and astronauts, a new vision was confirmed and consolidated: we are an island floating in space and we are all in the same planet-boat. At the same time, advances in scientific knowledge about the atmosphere, the ocean and biology, revealed that all these systems are interconnected and that it is not possible to damage some parts without having an impact on others.
After two world wars, it would have seemed that the scattered tribes and the nation-states were beginning to realize that collaboration and interaction were the way to go to ensure a better quality of life, and survival in this village called Earth. And then the Internet and cellular technology came along, further shrinking the world. Billions of people are now connected on social networks, with access to instant information about almost everything, from beautiful poetic verses to the dimensions of a planet or the age of a famous person. People can now buy products, download books, or instantly video or chat with one or many from their cell phones.
In other words, communication has reached unthinkable levels. One would think that human beings would now be more aware than ever, of the reality of a continuum of life, of a planet-ship; that the moment that Desmond Tutu prophesied was getting closer: "One day we are going to wake up and realise that we are all family."
However, what we see is, on the contrary, a revival of the antithesis of Tutu's words, the prevalence of "everyone for himself". We see, in a super interconnected world, threatened by pandemics and global environmental changes, the rise of nationalism, unconsciousness, mistrust, religious bigotry and fanatism, and the surfacing of populist politicians who manipulate fears and abandon international cooperation schemes; and burn the forests of the planet, such as Bolsonaro in Brazil; who delve into religious nationalisms, such as Modi in India; or affirm the US-first philosophy, like Trump in the United States.
Millions of people subscribe to conspiracy theories, based on superstitions or supremacy, entrench themselves in their prejudices, and adopt combative postures, to attack others who they see as the culprits of whatever crisis they are going through. They refuse to see a single family, despite being more interconnected than ever before in the history of humanity.
So, what is communication?
The exchange of information between two or more separate points. This transmission requires a signal or emission of energy and a reception of this energy. Now, the goal is achieved when the emission and reception come together in a field of recognition or response and react or vibrate according to the information transmitted. Communication is successful if both points perceive the transmitted energy and resonate accordingly as a unified field. The rejection of the information by the receiver implies that no communication was established, even though there was a transmission.
Successful communication requires signal emission instruments, reception antennas and suitable interpreting instruments to achieve resonance. For example, in human-to-human verbal communication, if someone speaks in Chinese to someone who only speaks Spanish, there is no communication. Or, in emotional communication, if someone wants to get along with another person, but the other person interposes emotional barriers, there is no communication.
This reminds me of a story I heard in India several years ago. A spiritual master asked his disciples why when two people fight they shout at each other, even though they are very close and face to face. He replied that, although they are physically close, their hearts are distant, whereas when two people love each other, they whisper to each other and in the most sublime moments of love, they do not even have to talk to each other, they just look at each other, because their hearts are very close.
For me, communication is the discovery of the continuum amid dispersion, a kind of attempt to recognize the common essence of existence. In other words, the coalescence of subatomic particles in atom-houses, the attraction of the negative for the positive, and all the subsequent physicochemical and biological interactions responding to a cosmological imperative of the search for oneness, for a resonance of being. As this process of recognizing separate points evolves, a greater sensitivity to the environment is developed through systems and structures, a greater awareness of oneself, until reaching the human form, where points become aware that they are aware.
Paradoxically, from that moment on, the search for the continuum becomes even more complicated, because the points with self-awareness, self-define their identity and create separate worlds, which they instinctively defend. They identify with their immediate congeners in families, groups, tribes, and eventually races and nations. It becomes harder to understand the continuum of being and, although today we exchange information in volumes never seen before, we do not communicate at all. Our hearts remain distant, and we fail to recognize each other as one family; we cling to our fears and the instinct of every man for himself.
As human beings we communicate both intellectually and emotionally, but, although both areas are closely linked, the emotional part, where we harbour beliefs, prejudices, deep feelings, and instinctive fears, tends to control the reception of signals, and can reject them, despite all reasoning. Or, on the other hand, can welcome, for no reason, pertinent information with that impetus to recognize the continuum, the self in the other.
That impetus to belong, to find the continuum in dispersion, to feel the flow of existence in its infinite manifestations in the universe, is what I think has been called love by the most sensitive people. Masters, saints, and mystics alike believe that the resonance with that mysterious existence that we share in being alive, being conscious, or becoming aware of awareness, is the goal of life.
On a tomb I visited once in India, there was a phrase on a little sign that said, "Things that are real are always given and received in silence." I thought then of resonance, of love, as when one surrenders in a deep embrace.
For this reason, the dizzying and superabundant flows of information through social networks, cellular technology, and the Internet do not guarantee communication, because communication is an existential resonance where, to varying degrees, the other is felt as oneself. The acceptance of the continuum in everyone and the fact that we are all family. Information, data, and words are transferred, reverberated, and superficially incorporated into the mind, but in themselves, they are not enough to penetrate, that instinctive barrier that does not allow us to accept the other.
That barrier to communication, between distant hearts, can only be broken when we let our guard down, when we recognize the strength of love, when we exercise the charity of forgiveness, in the inner silence of each one, and embrace the other without reservation, with compassion, with empathy. If two people are face to face, even in person, and they don't open that floodgate, they don't communicate, even if they're married, but if two are thousands of miles away, looking at each other on a cell phone screen and they feel their inner being connected by love, they communicate. That is why today, despite the widespread rational knowledge, that allows us to see more than ever, we are in the same boat, instead of seeing a movement towards collaboration and coming together as one humanity, we see the forces of every man for himself prevailing, because we persist in maintaining those barriers with each other.
However, I still think that hidden in the breaking news and the Internet there is a silent awakening, steadfastly taking place, a realization on an inner level, of the unity of being, that we are all one family - the continuum.