While on the lead-up to the release of Flight of the Vajra, I've talked a lot about the way most of our talk about the future is technological and not social or personal — that we don't feel like the people we'll be in a hundred years will be appreciably different from the people we are right now. Vajra suffers, I think, from much of that as well, but at least I tried to take that awareness with me into the heart of the book and do something with it, instead of just let it overwhelm me or lay traps.
The only way we know what a future humanity can be like is by becoming something else, even if only a little at a time. The people we are now as opposed to a hundred years ago are strikingly different — not just in terms of what we know, but what we're inclined to do, what we want out of our world, and what we're prepared to do to get it. I would like to think we've become incrementally more humane over time, even if there is still violence in our lives, and that we are on the whole less beholden to superstition and compulsive stupidity. How we go about getting to that also makes a lot of difference.
Many of us, I sense, are uneasy about the idea of humanity reshaping itself on a spiritual level. They flinch from the word spiritual, because it brings to mind crystal-fondling wackos wearing wire-frame pyramids on their heads. I mean it in the sense that Lester Bangs did — "not your putrefying gods," as he put it, but just whatever it is within us that feels compelled to seek an answer to Why? until we keel over. No great label needs to be attached to that impulse, because that only makes it all the more vulnerable to becoming a public institution rather than an intimate thing.
But right away, we run into a dichotomy. If we don't attach a label to such a thing, we don't know what to call it, or how to nurture it. If we do attach a label, then we cheapen it and make it into another trophy to bandy about.
Some years ago I ran into a friend I hadn't seen since high school, and he seemed weirdly obliged to babble at me at length about how he had found Jesus. I didn't want to begrudge him his beliefs, but I found his insistence on being publicly recognized for having kindled his spirituality to be rather telling. I didn't think he was an idiot, just tiresome, like someone who can't stop showing you pictures of his kids (and his wife, and his dog). Such an impulse tells me the person is looking for mutual validation more than anything else. While spirituality always has a social component, it's not the be-all, and it shouldn't be.
Now, if people are wary of discussions of spiritual things because this is what comes to mind for such discussions, and if they don't want such annoyances to be a part of any future they would want for the whole of humanity, then I'm not sure I blame them. We're still stuck between the idea of spiritual institutions that gobble up everything in their path and are therefore a bane, or something so personal and ineffable that it might as well not exist and therefore has no real influence on anything.