Humans have always functioned by understanding and using patterns. Patterns are defined as regularities containing reliable samples of traits, acts, tendencies, and characteristics of a person, group, or human institution that suggest a recognizable design. In a most basic form, patterns connect us to the environment that provides for us. Nature functions within the infinity of time and space. Within this vastness are predictable cycles that are finite, such as the migration of animals or fish, or monsoons.
But the concept of the infinite is difficult for many people to comprehend. It is too large to enable us to efficiently navigate the material world we live in. We relate better to finite ideas and determinants to make sense of it. So from the very beginning of our species, we have given names to the observable patterns around us and by so doing, the infinite becomes finite and useful. We store these patterns as we realize them. For example, we touch fire and we burn ourselves. We do not regard the fire as the reality of combustible elements that have been here since the beginning of time, caused billions of years ago by the big bang that separated out those elements, which then became the building blocks of all life. We do not ponder that we have just interacted with a natural phenomenon that not only changed the course of human history but has the potential to forever change the environment we rely upon. Instead, we react, yelp in pain, draw back and rush to heal the wound. At that moment, we install a pattern of behavior in our minds that becomes part of our personal selves and informs us every time we get near fire.
In his book Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament, author Michael Singer talks about patterns, how they are stored, and how they give birth to successive impressions that serve to inform our concepts, both personal and cultural. Nomadic people observed the patterns around them and used knowledge of these patterns to survive. They observed the moon’s 28-day cycle, as well as the cycle of the seasons throughout the year. As technology motivated societies to become more knowledgeable, human patterns of thought and action became more varied and complex. Perhaps the most complex patterns relate to evolution; both physical and cultural. (I go into cultural evolution in greater detail in my book, Facing the Moment.) Evolution is a process characterized by constant change. The universe, as we know it, is dynamically evolving. The evolution of human society is no different.
So why is all this important enough to write about at this moment?