Homo sapiens sapiens has been gifted with the capacity to pattern the reality around him. This skill has reached its apogee through the pursuit of science, and the application of respectful rational inquiry to the ordering of our social affairs.
This process has progressed in ages that have washed over history, each characterized by a fundamental shift in perspective that transformed the human condition, and laid the groundwork for changes to come. Religion, agriculture, writing, construction, philosophy, jurisprudence. The list marches on and on, and has built momentum. Our own time has seen psychology, democracy, corporations, quantum mechanics, and telecommunications, and we anticipate the benefits of biotechnology, nanotechnology and globalization.
In each of these transitions, a chosen few have had charge of focusing innovation to transfer its benefits to society as a whole. Examples, from various eras, are Queen Elizabeth I, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Clara Barton, and Thomas Edison. We look to these individuals to provide us the means we require to pattern reality. They become the focus of our dreams. Through that focus, they and those around them acquire power. The anticipated consequences of their work, to the degree that they are beneficial, surrounds them with the aura of the allies. Consequentially, they are able to manifest their will through means that violate physics as we currently understand it.
The movie series The Matrix popularizes this understanding. Computer technology pervades and structures our reality. Those who understand it deeply couple into the energy of that transformation. The manifestations of will that are enabled by that coupling may lead them to believe that their perspective on reality is fundamental. I have had spiritually aware practitioners in the field suggest to me that The Matrix is an imaginative elaboration of reality.
But it would be foolhardy to believe that information technologists are any more powerful, in their way, than Ghengis Khan, Madame Curie, or Pericles of Athens and his lover Aspasia. These people lived in a different time, patterned their thoughts in different ways, but were still no less influential in shaping our history. They all captured the spirit of their times in thought and deed, and used the resulting power to imprint their personalities on the future. In a sense, they called others to emulate them, and join their journey.
They were the exemplars of their age.
If humanity has its exemplars, I believe that the animal kingdom does as well. I have looked deep into the eyes of a German shepherd and felt an awakening different in degree, but not in kind, to the awakening I feel when I connect with a friend. Our personalities are in part hidden from us through the veil of time. Our physical patterning is outlined in our chromosomes and biochemistry, but the exemplars of each species define its elaboration. The physical similarity between youth and adult (in the common usage) couples the social animals to their exemplars, and guides and stimulates their growth.
Without the exemplars, I wonder what our form would be, if our personality took its own head in determining our growth. Something inside me dies when I read of a 300-pound tuna caught in a depleted fishery. I fear that the loss of the exemplars is the death knell of their kingdoms.