One of the most fundamental concepts that has been discussed in this column is that people need organic imprints to feel fully alive and to prepare for death. An organic imprint need not be a direct physical impression on a surface in the external world. It can also be a mental impression, an idea or series of ideas that are conveyed sometimes through a physical object – a book, a magazine, a newspaper, and now we have digital books and online magazines and newspapers. It can also be a mental impression conveyed through speeches, discussions and oral and written agreements and contracts. It can also be conveyed by different people to one another in everyday human interactions.
But before a person conveys organic imprints to other people using any of the different methods just discussed, he has to be able to convey imprints to himself. Unless a person can leave organic imprints of all his actions, thoughts and feelings on himself, he can’t experience them and he can’t feel alive. A person has to be able to experience making organic imprints on himself, if he is going to be capable of experiencing making organic imprints on other people. If he can’t experience the effects he has on himself and on other people because he is too numb, then he is merely an automaton or a robot. Automatons and robots are run by bundles of discrete digital stimuli and don’t have coherent consciousness or a coherent sense of self. They are lacking in the capacity to absorb or produce flowing continual blendable stimuli that are a fundamental component both of experiencing organic imprints as well as of producing them.
Once it is established that a person is capable of experiencing the organic imprints he leaves on himself and not simply going through the motions of life like an automaton or robot, then it can be assumed that the person is going to make imprints on other people that he is, in turn, capable of experiencing himself. In most instances, those imprints can be assumed to be imprints that he makes in his everyday encounters with people. Everything from his appearance to other people, casual conversations, formal meetings, ceremonies, classes, embraces, fights, and sex. Some of these imprints like casual conversation, embraces, fights and sometimes sex (when it focuses on pleasure) are not imprints that a person consciously makes with thoughts of their being preserved in the future. Rather, the emphasis is on making imprints on others in such a way that a person can experience himself making imprints on others and thus feel alive. Others of these imprints like formal meetings, ceremonies, classes and sex (when it focuses on pregnancy) are imprints that are made with a conscious desire to preserve them for the future. In truth, more casual encounters can become preserved memories in the minds of people who experience them, even though they do not involve imprints that are made to be preserved. Casual encounters, usually cumulatively, become a preserved memory in the minds of people who experience a series of encounters with a particular person. The series of encounters become a cumulative preserved memory in the minds of people who survive the person here being considered as a maker of imprints.
So there are different kinds of preserved imprints. There are imprints that are preserved inadvertently from a person’s casual encounters with others. Then there are imprints that are preserved as a result of a conscious effort through what should be described as more planned encounters with others. Some preserved imprints last for just a generation until the last person with preserved memories of a deceased person passes away himself. Some preserved imprints last longer, maybe even multiple generations. A pregnancy that leads to an imprint that lasts at least one generation, but that through possible succeeding generations of children can go on more. A planting of a tree. A building of a house. The creation of an enduring business. In particular, a brand name or branded product that lasts a few generations.
Some preserved imprints become a part of history. A famous event such as a general leading his troops into a famous battle. A whole war. A revolution. A peace treaty. A constitution. An expedition of exploration. A scientific discovery. The breaking of a record in a sports competition. A famous book – a narrative or a treatise that leaves an indelible memory on a nation or on mankind. A famous work of art or musical composition. A play.
But all imprints have certain basic requirements in order to exist. They all require a coherent organic sense of self on the part of a human who makes one. And to be properly absorbed, they all require a coherent organic sense of self in a person who receives it and absorbs it. Even though a flag is left on the moon, it only has meaning as an imprint, because there are humans who know that it’s there. An archaeological excavation of a civilization is itself an imprint, because humans have rediscovered what had been a dominant previous imprint and have ascribed significance to it. Without humans being aware of the significance of the excavation, the imprint of the dead civilization has no meaning.
The problem today is not only a lack of physical organic surfaces on which to leave certain kinds of basic organic imprints. Yes, we live primarily in modern technological living environments with a lot of sensory distortion as a result of the vacuum and tension pocket fields of experience that are created in the physical external world. But we also are creating another problem as a result of the increasing robotization of human beings. To the extent that humans are receptive to the mirroring and modeling created by modern technological devices and, in particular, modern consumer technological devices, to that extent they become less and less receptive to the organic imprints that they can leave both on themselves and on others as well as the organic imprints that the people around them are capable of leaving on them. As a result of becoming increasingly less receptive to imprints, both those they create and those that others create, people today are gradually becoming less and less capable of participating in the two broad purposes of life: feeling fully alive and preparing for death. As a result of becoming increasingly numbed and jaded from their technological living environments, humans are participating less and less in what has traditionally been the fundamental human enterprises.
Organic imprints are crucial to all animals, but they are particularly crucial to human beings with their rich variety of life experiences and their capacity to somehow extend their lives over time beyond their death through their surrogate immortalities. Organic imprints are not only a product that emanates from a more organic coherent sense of self, but they, in turn, activate this sense of self to life. The sensory distortion of modern technological devices and modern technological living environments disrupt this loop of stimulation and thus gradually weaken the organic sense of self, turning a modern human into a more fragmented brittle entity mentally. A sense of self that turns into a bundle of overly defined discrete disjointed data. To the extent that excessive involvement with modern technology leads to the weakening of the organic human sense of self, the weakening of the capacity to feel vibrantly alive and to prepare for death, we can say that this excessive involvement is immoral and something that has to be more effectively studied in order to limit human interaction with this technology.
© 2016 Laurence Mesirow