Have you ever walked along a beach collecting shells? In my home, this is one of our favourite activities. My sons, little buckets in hand, run down to where the water meets the sand, then, with the beautiful precision-in-chaos so endearing to children, carefully scour the sand for the shells that capture their attention. There are rules to this enterprise. We know the shells that are important to the local ecology need be left alone to replenish. However, those shells that are in abundance (in our place the pipi shell) are fair game. Oh yes, and any rubbish found must always go in the bin. Every now and then one of my sons will come across a colourful piece of glass, brilliantly distinguished, nestled against the white sand. ‘Look Dad! Look!’ How long the glass has been in the ocean, exposed to the gritty saltwater and the coarse sands of the seabed, will determine the shape it takes at the shoreline. Glass that has only recently found its way to the sea is still translucent, fine and sharp at the edges. Glass that has been in the sea longer is smooth to the touch, rounded and opaque; almost like a stone, but not quite a stone. Time, quite literally, shapes the glass. ‘That’s a funny looking shell.’ The first time a piece of glass was uncovered we talked about it: ‘It’s not a shell, it’s a piece of glass.’ Glass that has been manufactured in a factory somewhere, by someone, used, then thrown away. ‘So, is it rubbish?’ Well, it is rubbish.  ‘Then it should be put in the bin.’ Well, it may have already been thrown in the bin by someone, somewhere, but it still ended up back here on our beach. ‘It is beautiful.’ The colour and the way the sun light reflects against the irregular contours of the surface. ‘What is glass made of?’ Glass is made from sand, sand that is heated at incredibly high temperatures and then as it cools it is shaped into objects that we can use, like bottles, windows or mobile phones. ‘So, we should leave the glass here on the beach then?’ Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it.

To be artificial is to be not of nature, to be made by humans. More specifically, artificiality is to be manufactured by humanity as a means to replicate that which occurs in nature. Here, I seek to explore the epistemological and ontological artificialities that currently govern the human condition; the pieces of glass that have washed up onto the beach of our consciousness. In particular, I look at Modernity’s constructions of subjectivity and objectivity and how ubiquitous technologies are not only inadvertently undermining the long-held mythologies of Modernity but exposing the fragility of a society devoid of sanctity at the hands of secularism; what are we to make of all these objects that surround us? My endeavour is not to add to the profound bodies of work that already exist in arenas of epistemology and ontology. Rather, my interest is change, and contemporary innovations in Western thought that make problematic the providences that govern our contemporary condition. My agenda is to pull on the threads of these interventions as a means to explore potentialities for a universalistic approach to studying the future. Indeed, this endeavour is couched in the very notion that humanity is undergoing significant transformative change – the very nature of change is changing. However, it is my hope that by corralling some of the epistemological and ontological assumptions that predicate our view of change, we may be better equipped to navigate this time of flux. I concede, and will leave you with, the ethical and moral implications of such a project; a simple question, with an understanding of the artificiality of our world, from where do we source the fundamental foundations to compel humanity through change?

Because the way in which time is experienced is a sensory matter, it is epistemologically conditioned. Time is relational and transcendent; we ebb and flow with the tides of change, we sense it, anticipate it and respond to it. These changes are rhythmic and have discernible patterns that hold powerful mythic narratives. With these patterns we may trace the manner with which reality is constructed from one epoch to the next. Modern time is framed by technology. 

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.


Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: