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On “evolving”
as the world turns

gary e. davis
November 1, 2004

Long ago, I became enchanted by the notion of telesis (when the phone company in my region took on the name Pacific Telesis, but that ended some years ago, as biz goes). ‘Telesis’ means “progress intelligently planned and directed”; or “the attainment of desired ends by the application of intelligent human effort to the means.” Its etymology is New Latin, from Greek: event, fulfillment, from telein: to complete, fulfill (from telos end) + -sis.

We should want as much telesis in the human condition as we can create, foster, or support. From the efforts of local organizations through the global reach of such entities as UNESCO, the progressivity ongoing among us can be impressive, if only more persons and organizations would, as they say, "get with the program."

Vaguely speaking (but maybe usefully), Theory is about furthering the definition of “the program,” and Practice is about getting more of humanity with it. But I hope you’re averse to a sense of singularity here, as if the idiom (“the program”) names something like the workings of a progressive world government. I would not advocate such a singularity.

But some singularity of the world can be sought in discursive inquiry. The Fact of each day is that the Earth is one globality, one hugely manifold pluralism of emergent governance, a singularly worldwide event (a “news cycle”). We can apply our capability for conceptualization to that, inasmuch as any interdisciplinary field can take the entirety of the world as its focus, as if that entirety can be captured—or at least in the belief that something constructive is accomplished in the venture.

The entirety of the world can’t be captured, of course, but in the pretense of seeking to understand the entirety, we learn a lot about the manifold pluralism. More importantly, inasmuch as we seek to act in light of a local sense of entirety, we may better advance the causes that we can design to fulfill—that old adage, you know, of thinking globally, acting locally.

To think of human evolution relative to our global reality is not about capturing our presence in some singularity of discourse (let alone a simply biological discourse), but it is (tacitly, at least) to grant our essentially human interest in comprehending as best we can “the entirety” of the world in Time, so to speak, including our lives, our globality, and our humanity in a feeling of Time that tells us that our lives are somehow embedded, invested in a lifespan of time that somehow proceeds from (and may contribute to) a lifetime’s history, if not the history of Time, that somehow really belongs to the world, to Earth, and invests Us (shepherds of our children’s chances for a good humanity), embeds us in the future of life itself.

So, we do—we should do—what we can to turn inevitable changes to our holistic advantage, even to make time show telesis, if only for the sake of living better, the sooner the better, but also because investment is good (debt turns to cancer).

Some people say that some of humanity is growing to act as if “evolution” may be governed (and this is found frightening). Others say that planetary management is necessary, if we are to survive beyond a few more centuries—though, of course, that’s a very different “evolutionary” matter from the eugenic overtones of “enhancement culture” (cf. Redesigning Humans, Gregory Stock, 2003). In all events, some of humanity is coming to live in a “Place” where the notion of governing evolution is no longer science fiction, rather a matter of how, where, and whether.

For some, our quests Of evolution are replacing questions of Being.

Also: This discussion is associated with the “being in Time” area of