Hostility and Identity
Extreme environments are the very nature of life. Life was born and it evolved due to laws of Physics that are about extreme environments.
In a sense, there would be no life without extreme conditions.
Life is about sustaining an extreme condition of non equilibrium.
Evolution is about extreme conditions forging the future of life.
At the cosmological level, our entire universe was and is and will be about extreme conditions.
Historically, the history of human civilization (both in the West and in the East) has been a desperate attempt at denying this essence of reality.
The human condition is about creating stability and simplicity in an
environment of extreme conditions.
Both science and art are products of that state of denial that we call "civilization", of our attempt to remove the "extreme" from the human condition. Newton’s Physics described the world as stable and unchangeable. Painting and sculpture and poetry largely reflected that view
In the 20th century both the arts and the sciences have followed a parallel path towards recognizing the existence and the value of the extreme conditions that the arts and the sciences had been hiding in the previous centuries. There is change and it is pervasive. As the USA physicist Lee Smolin argued, "the universe is made of processes, not of things". Not only Thermodynamics, but also General Relativity (which is basically a theory of causality) and Quantum Theory (which is basically a theory of global interdependence) imply continuous process.
From expressionism to astronomy, the culture of the 20th century can be said to consist in accepting the fundamental, unstable nature of the universe, and the fundamental role that extreme conditions have in our lives.
As the arts and the sciences eviscerated the nature of extreme conditions, reaching ever more extreme conclusions (such as the relativity of spacetime, or the role of the observer in the observation, or the postmodern puzzle of existence, or the desperate loneliness of the post-industrial race), the theme of language and identity has emerged as crucial.
We may never restore the illusion of stability, except by creating an identity for ourselves. That identity is largely coming from the "language" that we speak, a language made of actions, thoughts and words, a language that expresses who we are.
The digital age is allowing people to express that self by allowing them to speak a more and more sophisticated (multimedia) language.
Our brains are machines to simulate the environment. As they come to grasp the extreme complexity and hostility of the environment, they have two strategies of survival: create an artificial illusion of stability in the environment, or create a real form of stability within the self. For centuries only the former was possible. The digital age has made the latter also possible.