In my view, the two most extreme forms of language on Planet Earth are code and icaros, which are the songs of the ayahuasca shamans in the Upper Amazon Basin.

These two linguistic processes are like the opposing goal posts of human language; all language falls somewhere in between these two extremes.

Code, in all of its various operating systems, is the language that effectively runs the global technological apparatus. Code is ultimately based on a utilitarian capitalist-mathematic logic that seeks to eventually incorporate the entirety of the human experience into its operative logic. Code is a language that “draws in,” that is to say, the goal of code is to take everything and anything into itself and its own linguistic horizon.

Icaros, at the other extreme end of language, are not simply “songs,” but rather some kind of linguistic switch-key that opens the human brain and human spirt to a radically different dimension of time and space, where spiritual visions and new terrains of experience are disclosed. But whereas code is a language that “draws in,” icaros are a language that “push out,” that is to say, icaros push us over the very limit of language and into Otherness.

Even though code and icaros could not be more different, they do have one thing in common at the moment: they are both calling human beings and even planetary society at-large to look beyond itself. Code calls human beings to look beyond themselves and to become one with the computational-capitalist planetary system, a reality that will become more and more evident in the coming years. Icaros, on the far other hand, call human beings to look beyond themselves as well, but this time it is towards the reality of a living biosphere and universe that is permeated with language.

I think that you could say, without much exaggeration, that the future of the world is many ways a choice between “code” or “icaros”: will planetary society further and further submit itself to the suicide march of global capitalism and its accompanying language of code, creating ecological catastrophe and a dystopian global surveillance state in the process, or will it somehow choose to “listen to a new song” that points to a reality beyond our current linguistic capabilities?

*Mural of the great ayahuasca shaman Ricardo Amaringo; Llanchama, Peru*

writer, filmmaker, cultural theorist / author of 15 books and writer/director of 3 films.

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