Mediterranean, King Asopus, Major River discussed on On Being with Krista Tippett
Us to think at all. You know, coming back to being in Greece where you live now and where I was when I read this book, I had this sensation there that the mythology is practically like a natural element, right? It almost felt like it's in the air, or the ocean, and it's in the soil. And you tell this amazing story about, and of course, mythologies of somebody said the other day, mythology is what is more than true, or I like the definition of a myth is not something that never happened. It's something that happens over and over and over again. But you have this amazing story about nymphs, the order of the naming of a chain of islands in mythology, so that as we've been talking about language carries truths that science catches up with and or we catch up with and it feels like there's a similar thing to say about mythology in this story. Yeah, absolutely. So that story is told partly in geology, which is that 14,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. The saronic gulf, which is the kind of large body of water which connects Athens to the main Mediterranean. The Mediterranean was much lower and the islands that now poke out of that gulf, one of which I live on formed a kind of land bridge separating the sea into a series of lakes. And then over the subsequently a few thousand years, the levels of the Mediterranean rose, and that land bridge became a series of islands, but as has been pointed out by what some people call geo mythologists, which is just a wonderful stone. Is that if you look at some of the sources in H mythology like HCR in his yoga, which kind of tells the long story of how old the gods came to be, you'll find that these islands are named after nymphs and the order in which they were sire at the order of their birth from, in this case, someone who's known as king asopus, which is the name of the major river that used to flow out near Athens. The order of the birth of those nymphs corresponds to the order with which these islands would have emerged from the ocean. And so it seems like the myth retells a geological history that's 10,000 more years longer than than when the myth was recorded, by hydro. But why not? I mean, people were there. People witnessed this thing happened, or generations of people witnessed this happen. Someone was there at the moment. That bridge became an island, right? Someone some person might have seen there were fewer people around. But some person could have been present to watch the first trickle of water, creep across the kind of coal of a hill in order to form a new sea. And of course, they would have told stories about it. Yeah. And it speaks to how intelligence is carried forward in time. In ways that we don't necessarily or science doesn't necessarily know how to take seriously. But there it is. That's knowledge. That's been carried forth. And lived tradition and practice. There's no magic way of transmuting this into another medium that will survive forever. It will end up getting retold and retold over and over again. And it will get changed in that process. And you just see this thing getting handed on and passed down and passed down over time. Because it can only exist as a living practice. There's no separating it off from the world, as we've described. I want to return to technology, you know, you mentioned before this way in which the Internet actually the creation of the Internet helped us grasp what is happening in the natural world. You said it was a gift from the technological to the ecological. You write about how one of the greatest misunderstandings of the 20th century would persist into the present was that everything was ultimately a decision problem. And when computers came along, there was easy to fall into this idea that the universe is like a computer. The brain is like a computer that we in plants and animals and bugs are. Like computers. And you've also said that our contemporary networked computational technologies might yet be our fullest attempt. Since the development of language to draw ourselves closer to nature, however carelessly and unconsciously. So talk me through that. Well, that's just because of my crazily optimistic belief that we are being constantly brought closer to the world. And in that, I think I'm talking about quite a few things in there, but in one case I'm particularly talking about AI. I think AI is no riding fascinating, but I hope it was quite a few of these technologies, which they go through this amazing process. I've done this before with things like self-driving cars or other new other new bits of tech, where there are things that suddenly in our lifetime are going from this is what the life will be like in the year 3000 to like a boring everyday reality, like just like that. You know, just sort of suddenly and everyone's like, wow, wow, wow, what that exists now. And this is happening with AI, but in this really boring rubbish way where it's just stealing everyone's art and making bad cartoons. But it's here in some form. But my constant hope is that it can't just be that. It's more interesting than that. It has so much cultural weight and it has so much pull on us. The fact that it does this huge disparity between our fascination with it, because you know, we have this deep, deep cultural human fascination with AI. And the incredible banality of its reality has put forward in tech companies. It's reality as opposed to the things that keep getting promised that it will do for us. Exactly. Well, not just promise, but the really imagine, you know? That we imagine something, unfortunately, mostly like ourselves, but that's again just the limits of our own imagination. But we're imagining something that will shake us to our core fundamental, right? Right. And we are capable of imagining something that powerful. But what we're essentially imagining is another intelligence. And that's to me what I think is fundamentally is that we're so bad at imagining non human intelligence, that we have to build this kind of vast mythology because that's kind of what it is of AI of our own creation of some kind of Frankenstein weird science fiction conglomeration of 20th century myths.