Imagining Toroidal Life as a Sustainable Alternative
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 9 Sep 2019
From Globalization to Toroidization or Back to Flatland?
9 Sep 2019 – Much is made of the fundamental shift in historical perspective from living on a Flat Earth to dwelling on a rotating sphere — a globe revolving around the Sun. Much has since been made of the socio-economic and political significance of the globalization process. However, it is indeed difficult to live on a globe as such, since at any moment one necessarily experiences oneself as dwelling on a Flat Earth, whether or not one travels extensively over it. But the sense of the obviously global geopolitics, and the possibility of being a global citizen in some way, have reinforced the assumption that people can indeed dwell variously on that globe.
Are we misleading ourselves — are people being misled? The daily lived reality is of course of a Flat Earth, an impression variously qualified by images and explanations regarding the movement of the Sun and the changing seasons. Is the “movement” of the Sun to be recognized as an illusion, since it is purportedly stationary in a heliocentric system itself moving otherwise? And yet language, even of astronomers, still refers to sunrise and sunset. The illusion is knowingly cultivated as a convenience in the light of the reality of perception.
There is something reassuring about the implications of living on a globe in conformity with the insight of astronomers and of those with exposure to images of the curvature of the Earth. There is coherence to explanation for perception of night and day, for the seasons, and for the movement of the stars at night — for those who seek it.
Arguably however, the shift in perspective from Flat Earth to Globe is quite subtle — however it is now variously justified. Few who dwell comfortably within a Flat Earth framework would have the capacity to prove its nature as a sphere revolving around the Sun, as was so recently done (in historical terms) by astronomers — despite considerable opposition from the most eminent authorities of the time.
Given the now unquestionable revolution of the Earth around the Sun, there is subtlety of a different nature to be recognized. By that revolution the rotating Earth traces out a torus around the Sun — annually — effectively travelling through it. There are of course qualifiers to oversimplistic descriptions. The Earth is not a sphere, rather it is a slightly oblate spheroid. The torus is not circular, rather it is slightly elliptical. The Earth and Sun are together — as elements of the solar system — understood to be moving variously through the galaxy. The toroidal motion can therefore be understood to be of spiral form. However these qualifiers are of less significance to the following argument.
The question is why it is assumed that humanity dwells on a globe rather than on a torus? Why do the assumptions regarding dwelling on a globe override any sense that humanity could be just as readily understood to be dwelling on a torus?
Arguably it is the indications relating to daily rotation of the Earth which are given precedence as being of more obvious relevance in the short-term — even though they depend on the cultivated illusion regarding the “movement” of the Sun. And yet there is considerable reference to the annual changes in the seasons as a consequence of the toroidal movement of the Earth around the Sun — dependent to a different degree on a cultivated illusion regarding the position of the Sun in summer and winter. For many the two “illusions” could be considered to have equal weight — as being equally natural.
It could be argued that it is the physical reality of the sense of groundedness in dwelling on a globe which justifies the distinction and validates the assumption. However, as suggested above, people do not have the sense of dwelling on a globe — as a sphere — rather the lived reality is of a Flat Earth, irrespective of the strange experiences of travelling around it. The Sun is most readily assumed to rise and set from that perspective. There is therefore just as much reason to consider that one is living on a torus — it could be assumed.
Missing from any focus on geometry — “flat”, “sphere”, or “torus” — is the role of time and the dynamics which are so fundamental to daily life and the cycle of the seasons. Perception in each case is however governed by a space-time framework. Dwelling within a Flat Earth framework is clearly governed by the daily cycle of the “movement” of the Sun. The Earth as a globe is clearly not static, as confirmed by science — but as might be too readily assumed (as history has shown). In addition to its rotation, the Earth is revolving around the Sun. Determining any fixed position on the globe involves ignoring such movements. The supposedly fixed position effectively traces out a path within the toroidal framework.
Any planning of future commitments, dependent to a degree on Flat Earth assumptions, raises interesting issues concerning a meeting scheduled some time in the future at a particular location. Clearly, both with the rotation of the Earth, and its revolution around the Sun, that meeting is effectively “elsewhere” in space-time — on the surface of the torus. Holding a meeting at the “same place” — even at the “same time” of year — reinforces the illusion ignoring the toroidal movement, however conveniently. The challenge recalls the insight of Heraclitus regarding the inability to step twice into the same river.
Given the cultivation of this pattern of illusions in practice, is there benefit to shifting from a Flat Earth perspective, through a global perspective, to one of dwelling on a torus? The global orientation has of course become politically charged through arguments regarding the problematic dynamics of globalization. How might globalization be reframed by recognition of the possibility of toroidization — and its neglected reality?
Why is it assumed that humanity lives on a ball — if not a flat surface — and not on a torus, given annual revolution around the Sun? Why is that understanding never discussed?
It should be strongly emphasized that this argument is quite distinct from that envisaging the physical Earth as a torus, as criticized by Beckett Mufson (Apparently, Some People Believe the Earth Is Shaped Like a Donut, Motherboard, 13 November 2018) and to a related question and comments (Is the earth a torus? Quora, 2018; Toroidal Earth Society (Reddit, 2016; Anders Sandberg, What would the Earth be like if it was the shape of a donut?, Gizmodo, 2014). A 3D model of that possibility has however been produced (Henry Segerman, Torus Earth: Peirce quincuncial projection, 2016). The following argument does however clarify the confusion favouring such imagination.
In a period of global crisis, there is considerable irony to the topological association of the world with a doughnut in strategic terms, given the use of the metaphor by Kate Raworth (A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: can we live within the doughnut? Oxfam Discussion Papers, 2017; Introducing ‘The Doughnut’ of social and planetary boundaries for development, Oxfam International, 10 February 2012). This has evoked a preoccupation with doughnut economics in relation to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The irony is all the greater given a widely noted proposal in the same period to use the pizza as a more appropriate metaphor for the principal driver of psychosocial dynamics — namely sex.
The argument here endeavours to clarify the manner in which the toroidal form can be used in support of imaginative insight of strategic relevance — for the individual, if not for the collective.
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