You're a particle of some kind, or at least you think you are. You might be something less, but you're not quite sure. Whatever you are, you feel strange. It feels like being a squiggle of some kind, a mirrored Mobius strip that reflects itself. You're inside out, and outside in. There is a contradiction and you feel like you are many things all at once. It is as if something had grabbed the fabric of the universe between finger and thumb and made the slightest twist, but in fact you twisted yourself. You are an inflection in infinite dimensional space.
You are a water molecule, and you behave. If it were cold you would arrange yourself against your siblings and through a choreographic miracle form a snowflake, but it's warm. You are vibrating very quickly, and you are being pushed and pulled around by other things. Your extremities feel drawn towards some of these things, and you don't know why. You feel the pressure to align yourself with something. You align. You are the result of uncountable knots untie-ing themselves in infinite dimensional space.
You are a nucleotide, and your life is a wonder. Giant teeth grind above your head, knitting you into an incredible majestical weave. You are symbolic. There is language here and the knitter is writing your novel. You are an indescribably complex harmonious chord made up of infinite notes.
You are a protein and you stand steadfast like a sentry at the gates of your domain. The flag goes up and you swing open your doors letting wave upon wave of ionic metal hurry through to bounce their way inside. You are an imensely small fraction of an immeasurably large fractal.
You are a mitochondria and the echoes of your ancient past cement your position. You pursue your goal relentlessly, struggling against entropy to produce sustenance for others. You are an equation and after an infinite number of derivations, you simply fall through yourself and become your own inverse. Subsequent derivations become integrations.
You are a neuron. You receive a barrage of musical notes from thousands of others. Your life is a game show and your job is to spot the harmonies. When the notes coincide and create just the music you are looking for, you shout as loud as you can and throw your heart along your axon. You are an irreducible, incalculable, logical paradox, and you laugh at your own impossibility.
You are a brain. You are multitude and manifold, you are many things, and yet a single thing. You are folds within folds within folds, and your language is curves. You are both the operating system and the user. You are a self-writing program of indescribable parallel complexity. You are a hand made up of infinite hands all holding themselves.
You are a human. You have complete freedom and you are filled with boundless joy. You can do and achieve anything. Your existence is a miracle and your nature is divine. You are an infinitesimally small section of an infinitely long, infinitely dimensioned thread, upon which an infinite number of mathematical orchestras are each playing an infinite number of symphonies in concert.
The rest of the thread is the rest of the universe, and your every vibration moves the entire thread.
You look up and you see the sun hovering above the snow capped mountains, bathing you in a golden light which illuminates the green and fertile landscape before you. The warmth nourishes your body as you breathe in, closing your eyes at the same time. You take a couple of slow breaths feeling the air flow through you, feeling completely at peace. You open your eyes again and survey the scene.
At the foot of the mountains you see vast swathes of trees, and you can just about make out birds cutting through the gentle haze that nestles itself among the tops. You imagine the life in the forest, the amimals the plants, the fungi, the insects, the water, the fish. You imagine the breath of the forest, its daily respiration and it's yearly cycle of regrowth. The breath of the forest reflects your own breath, and you cast your eyes further down.
You see a river on the near side of the forest, crossing from the extent of the vista on the left, where you can see it enter the base of the mountain range. You imagine the river is drawn from thousands of streams in those peaks, and you imagine gullies running fast over rocks and crashing waterfalls. You imagine jumping Salmon among the mist and the spray. You imagine life.
The river glints and glistens in the bright sunshine, and the specks of reflected light are enough sometimes to make you squint a little. You take a drink from your water bottle. The now warm water runs down your throat and settles in your stomach.
You cast your eyes further down and you see Elephants roaming among the trees on the near side of the river. A baby elephant is holding the tail of its mother and the herd seem to be meandering along without a care in the world. At that moment you imagine you hear the sound of trumpeting, but you're not really sure. You concentrate on the scene and your mind notices something, one of the baby elephants is chasing another. They're playing you realise, the elephants are playing! A smile cracks across your face and for a brief moment you are overwhelmed with joy and you can't help but let out a little laugh.
You watch for a while, and then carry on with your survey, casting your eyes further down. Across the plains below you that stretch between you and the elephants far in the distance, you see dense trees becoming sparser. The gaps are filled with lush green grass, and other green plants you can't identify. A few hundred yards from yourself there is a large lake, fed from a promontory of the river which snakes its way across the plain toward you. The lake reflects the sky and in it you can make out thin whisps of white clouds set against a deep blue.
You play your attention further toward yourself, reaching the bottom of the hillside you are sitting on. You look down the grassy slope, which is covered in hundreds of small flowers, being serviced by dilligent bees and insects buzzing around peacefully.
You look to your right and there is a bush about a meter away. In it you see many things. You can see a spider winding itself a web, and you watch it crawl carefully around the scaffolding, fixing ropes to spokes. The tree has red thorns on it, small dark berries, and shiny green leaves.
You are sitting on a red and green tartan mat made of wool, it feels warm under your crossed legs.
Your attention comes to yourself and fills your body. You half-close your eyes and breathe. You can hear birds from the trees behind you, and the rustling of leaves compliments the play of the breeze against your skin. You sit like this for a long time just enjoying the experience.
After a while you forget there is a you at all: there is only the breeze, only the warmth, only the sounds.
There is no you, but there is.
I'm asking this question because there are a lot of ideas in the world including my own, and I want to say a little something about the latter.
Ideas are interesting things, and I want to begin by exploring them.
When I say that you or I have an idea, what is it that we have?
I can try and construct language to explain it to you, I can try and use words, and you might accept them. But what does this mean? What does it really mean to accept an explanation for something and consider it true?
What we have is a logical system that is agreeing with itself. To accept an idea as true is self-referential. It is a labeling acknowledgement of a concept that has arisen due to process from within the same system that generated the idea itself.
Why don't you ponder upon another idea, and ask yourself another question, and that is. Is there something that goes below, or beyond the notion of an idea? Is there something within the mind, below ideas, but that is not made from ideas, but that still has substance?
What am I talking about, and what am I looking at inside myself when I ask this?
I will do my best to point you in the right direction but laughably, and unavoidably so, this is all I can ever do. With that said, let me begin.
Thoughts come into us all the time, they come from outside us, and they come from within us. Sounds, smells, tastes, senses, all come from outside us, impinge upon us, and generate within us thoughts, ideas, flows of information, changes in entropy, or whatever label you want to apply to them using language, i.e using other thoughts. If this seems self-referential, this is because it is so. I can only express ideas about thoughts with other thoughts, when my goal is to change thoughts into words and put them here for you to read.
But lets start with these thoughts, that come into the head, these things that bash against us from outside like waves against a shore. They splash around inside us and we might recognise them in the "conscious" and consider them real. Now these things that come outside, they knock themselves about inside us, and trigger all kinds of further thoughts and ideas. Now ask yourself this, do you think there is any material difference between the thought caused by the sound of a squawking bird, and the thought you attribute to having originated from "yourself", such as "I'm hungry", or more detached "I want a new car"?
At the very centre of us, there are thoughts generated by the body, about its needs. I'm thirsty, I'm hungry, I need to sleep, I want to have sex, and so on. Some of these thoughts are incredibly important in that if we don't listen to them, we will die. If we don't eat and drink, then clearly we will die. If we don't breathe we will die. Thankfully the burden of breathing, of pumping your heart, and of regulating everything else, is largely autonomous from the perspective of the "conscious" and we don't have to bother ourselves about it.
Some thoughts require attention because you need to do something about them. You need to find water to drink it, you need to bring it to your lips in order to swallow it. So how does this come about? How does the body's need and it's message to you that it is thirsty, propagate itself upwards into "conscious" and ultimately into action? And furthermore do you really think it needs your attention to achieve the goal, or is it all largely automatic and you are just given a kind of oversight?
So the body tells you it is thirsty, and a huge cascade of thoughts make there way up to you, and you make some kind of decision on how to act, based on what you know works, or if the situation is tricky, you might take all kinds of cues from the environment, and create thoughts which are a kind of simulation about what might happen if other thoughts are carried into action, and then the simulation might show you that you reached water, and "you" decide to carry this action out.
You might wonder who exactly I am speaking to when I say "you"? I'm speaking to all of you, but I'm willing to posit that there is some part of you that thinks it is more important than the rest of you, and that thinks I am speaking just to it. Now, we've got ourselves down inside this thing, this mind, but I want to get outside of it and talk about what happens when we take on ideas.
We are going somewhere with this line of thought so keep yourself along with it, and don't take my word for any of it.
So instead of fundamentally important ideas such as "I'm thirsty", we are talking here about much more spacious and indefinite ideas (and comparatively useless) such as "god" or "no-god", or "theism" and "atheism", and what these ideas mean, and what they can do to you.
For that's what they are, they are ideas. Much as the "conscious" thought "I'm hungry", has it's genesis deep in the mind somewhere as a result of messages from the body, these ideas "there is a god" are more or less identical in their material affect on the mind. (We can allow ourselves to concede that perhaps something like "I'm thirsty" is a bit more hard wired into causing certain types of action than "There is a god").
So this is what we are talking about here, how ideas can cause actions, and why that might be important.
So ask yourself what kind of actions might the thoughts "there is a being that has superpowers and can destroy me if he wants if I don't follow his rules" or "there is no god, there is nothing of merit in religion, and there is nothing of merit in the ideas that religion engenders".
I hope you can see with me, that these are both ideas that can be adopted into chains of thought that ultimately generate action. I happen to think that they are both quite childish ideas, but that's immaterial.
How might we choose which ideas to include in our goal-oriented simulations in order to live our lives? Well this *is* belief. Belief is the decision to permit oneself to include an idea into the mind, and give it influence over the processions of thought that lead to action. Disbelief is the suppression of the idea, and the removal of it, based on prior experience or prejudice or whatever, because it is judged as being nonconstructive apriori for being able to help with achieving your goals. And by the way, the noisy part of you, the loud mouthed ego, might not know what these goals are, and they might not pop up as understandable ideas into your "conscious".
So why am I not a theist or an atheist?
It is because I do not believe that these ideas (and many like it) are relevant to me, that is, they are not necessary for me to function. But more importantly, these ideas can be very powerful, and they like to feed back on themselves in the mind, and they like to keep themselves around. Them being around inside myself is contrary to my agenda, and I hope that eventually you'll be able to see why they might be getting in your way too.
Ask the religious person, let us say, a particular type of Buddhist who believes that we are constantly reincarnated and constantly re-experience consciousness. Ask them where they got this idea from? Is this an idea that they saw inside themselves in a meditation (let's assume they have)? If so, where did it come from and what is it's purpose?
Besides the point that there is something foolish in taking what's seen in the depths of a mind and assuming it can be expressed symbolically and still retain any meaning, how does it help to keep this idea around in the mind? How does it help a person be completely free, completely unfettered if they keep such ideas around?
I mean, let's be honest here, this thing is an idea, it is just a construct. How could it be useful to a human, and how can it help that human to achieve its goals?
Now I'm talking of course about a specific goal, which is my spiritual goal, and that is freedom.
What I'm talking about here is complete freedom of the mind and freedom from being held hostage by any ideas at all, and this is a very important thing. You might notice then the absurdity in me having any goal whatsoever, given the massive consequences that holding one has to the very object of being free. But I'm permitting myself to speak of it here, and I'll pretend that it exists, whereas really I'm not going to hold onto it at all.
The reason this is important is that because when you look at the ideas, look at the mind, through meditation, you will see that there is something beyond thought, something literally unbelievable, because it cannot be expressed by ideas or used directly to influence action. It *causes* ideas but cannot come about from ideas. It is thus, unbelievable in itself and it doesn't make any sense whatsoever to talk about it, other than to hint that it might be there.
Now the atheist (or the theist indeed) might argue that I've derailed myself here, that I'm pointing or talking about something. Making claims about something that I can't backup. He or she might argue that I am making definitive claims about the mind saying that there is something "beyond ideas". They might task me to prove that this is somehow materially true, with various physical measuring instruments or something equally absurd.
But do they admit that the sound of a horn, the representation of the sound in the mind, and the description of the sound are all the same thing?
They might, but I think that they know the difference between a description of something and the something itself. And they should know the difference between the measurement of temperature with a mercury thermometer vs the experience of feeling the warmth of sunshine. So why would they ask me to measure this thing?
What is it like to feel the warmth of sunshine and can it be enjoyed without explaining it?
At the root of some religious beliefs are things which are not beliefs, things which are not ideas. Sometimes a person will have an amazing experience, something they cannot explain but that feels amazing. They try to put this into words and get themselves all caught up in trying to understand it. We find convenient descriptions all over the place that seem to click with what we feel, that seem to make sense, and that the mind thinks might be be useful in staving something unpleasant thing off or in achieving something desirable thing, so we hang onto the idea and forget the experience. Sometimes we get taught, sometimes under duress or threat, that the thing we feel is attributed only to some specific idea, and that we'd better not think otherwise.
More superficially, some believers don't even have this spiritual dimension at the root of themselves, they instead get caught immediately by an idea that resonates with their goals, and they come to believe the idea without it having any root in experience. It just "makes sense" and seems amenable to the particular goal-oriented behavior they have in mind (again not-necessarily conscious).
Now I'm going to tell you that the only thing that really matters in all of this is the experience that causes the ideas, and not the ideas themselves. But I'm knotting myself by doing this because I am of course using and expressing ideas myself right now, and I'm giving them an importance that they do not deserve.
I'm telling you to devalue ideas, but I want you to convince you to do this using ideas and by telling you that my ideas have value. Pretty absurd, I hope you'll agree. This is why you mustn't believe me, but instead find out for yourself.
Some atheists are so caught up in the power of language and logic, that they cannot understand something that is right under their noses. Namely that at the root of everything they do and say is a stream of experience that is beyond language and logic.
The logician is angered by this statement, because he wants me to believe that I must answer to him using logic. He believes so vehemently in the truth of language and logic, and ironically not the feelings that his expressions engender, that he ends up running fullspeed away from the truth. This is also absurd.
What he fails to grasp, is that I don't want to engage him in logic, because I've already ascertained that it is useless in achieving understanding about the thing I am looking at. Thought doesn't allow me to see the thing, thought gets in the way of me looking at it without judgement and seeing it for what it is.
But can I explain this to the logician without him getting redder and redder in the face as he gets more exasperated with my inability to engage him? In my stupidity for rejecting logic.
What I'm trying to tell the logician is that there is a different way to play the game, and instead of trying out this different way, he keeps playing his game, as if my answer is going to come from there. Or as if my experience of this other way is going to evaporate by the heat of his red face.
So instead of arguing with him I'd like him to just suspend his prejudice for a second and imagine that maybe, just maybe, I've not being completely stupid, and that there might be something in (or rather outside of) what I'm saying. And I would suggest that he try a very simple exercise.
I am suggesting only that he sit down, breathe, and observe.
Then he can ask himself "what is thought" without trying to answer it. And I'm suggesting, that he will get an answer to this question that satisfies him, and yet neither has a logical explanation, nor demands one. Then, let him consider the power of his logic again.
Believe it or not, the theist is also a logician, and is also caught up in his ideas. But the theist is probably in a much more difficult position since he binds his ideas strongly to the morality within himself, making them all mixed up. Thus his reluctance to look at new ideas derives from a reluctance to challenge his morality. But he shouldn't be afraid of me because I'm not asking him to change his ideas, only to look within himself honestly and openly. If he can do this, perhaps he will ultimately see the damage that divisory ideas can wreck, and discard them.
Why do I care about this?
It is very difficult to write anything without coming across as judgmental, and it is even more difficult to personally not hold judgments against others. In that sense you should know that I am in no-way excluded from the problems with ideas outlined in this post, nor am I free from conflict myself. In fact I'm the most important person in the post as I can only control myself and nobody else.
But if we are to assume that the goal is peace and prosperity for all, and that our theist and our atheist both aspire to this, then I hope, and this applies especially to anyone with strong divisory or exclusionary beliefs, that they might sit and ponder for a while about all the conflict in the world and where it comes from. Perhaps then they will see that there is only one place it can possibly come from: within each of us.
Life itself, in as much sense as it makes to refer to it in the third person and ascribe an objective to it, has no objective other than to propagate itself and continue to act accordingly to the will of physics and biology.
In life, the fittest individuals prevail against the weaker, and it is that both the fit and the weak are necessary to the process. Against this observation, the only personal objective to bare nature's rubber stamp is for a person to be and behave exactly as nature intended them to. So rest assured, nature loves you for whom you are. At the very least we all share this purpose, and life should always have meaning in this sense.
Humans however, are singularly privileged in the animal kingdom in having the capacity to reflect on themselves and the process within which they prosper or flounder. We can ascribe our own meanings to life and invent our own point to it. Thus I have invented my own point to life by rationalizing what I want out of it, and so without further ado, I declare that:
The point of life is to make yourself happy and to make others happy.
Isn't it funny how political parties are either classified as left, right, or somewhere in the middle?
As if it is totally natural to have "left" and "right" politics without there existing anything else.
Surely policitics isn't some stupid one dimensional linear scale. I think rather that each political policy; money, justice, resources, work ethic and so on is a dimension, and how the party acts on that dimension determines their place in some space with a dimension much higher than one.
Why is it, that people try and pretend that left and right are the only possible politics. As if there cannot be something which is totally different from either?
This is the inherently biased way people think. People are told: there is left politics, and right politics, only. And this bias is propagated in the media all the time. As if they never stop to think, hangon a minute, maybe this classification is a bit dumb, a bit one dimensional.
Science and religion offer explanations for the workings of the universe. People have no doubt argued for or against the superiority of one or the other approach for a long time. Here I present my take on the matter.
Scientific method cannot be used to argue the validity of scientific method without circularly appealing apriori to its own validity.
And in any case most religions are apriori unmovable by the force of reason as a consequence of their own construction.
Either of these statements can be used to argue that the debate is dead in the water before it begins, yet more fundamentally:
Without using a consistent axiomatic mathematical framework within which to argue, the game is nothing but rhetoric: since there exist no axioms of ultimate truth ``written into the stars by God'' the statements of the arguers are not axiomatically reducable and are therefore ultimately empty.
Learning occurs all the time. Opinions change because the brain changes as the result of learning from experience. Reasoning is an experience, so opinions can change by the same reasoning processes which establish them. Thus opinions are transient and ergo I accept no attachment to them. Posts on this website are therefore a history of isolated incidents of reasoning with certain priors at particular points in time and therefore should not be used to define me because their very formulation changed me.
Interestingly, the transiency of opinion is one reason why people might wonder or regret why they made a certain choice; the choice itself changes their perspective and the change of perspective is exactly what enables them to retrospectively see that the choice was "wrong". Naturally one could argue that in some sense the choice was "right" since it enabled the perspective and enabled a potentially positive change in future behavior. Of course, although I'm unsure, it is possible that the same effective perspective could be obtained via another choice that did not lead to regret, so its not necessarily necessary to do bad things to make ones future self better.
I figure the more noise I make on this site, the more rubbish gets on it. The more rubbish that gets on it, the heavier it becomes in my mind. And the more I have to worry about what I've said, and whether I still believe it. The rubbish I talk of, the clutter, comes from setting down these very words. Or rather, the problem comes from how I handle it.
The problem is attachment.
It is the attachment to ideas, and the associated sense of accountability that admits the burden.
Opinions are dangerous to hold. Opinions can cause a lot of trouble.
But the most lamentable property of opinion to me, are their resistence to analysis.
Constructing an argument to show something is like trying to construct something out of wind.
There is nothing really tangible to work with in the first place, so nothing really tangible comes out.
At this point, I am expected to make the mistake of trying to claim that mathematical argument is somehow different. But this would be obviously contradictory to my above claim, that arguments are essentially vaporous.
However, I simply cannot admit to irrefutability.
All I can say is that mathematical argument, for me, (sometimes) obtains a greater sense of clarity, a feeling of completeness, and a feeling of consistency, of euphoria, and beauty than other kinds of argument. I see a pleasure in the complete and the absolutely describable.
But even maths can so easily fall apart and become a nightmare when the nihlist inside me gets agitated. What seem like concrete concepts suddenly vanish, doors open and paths appear, details previously considered irrelevant to the argument become so, like a word repeated too often and deliberately eventually losing all meaning. The complexity multiplies, the clutter increases, and the beauty ceases.
Despite this possibility, I feel that maths is ever so less succeptible to the problems of general argument, albeit it more fragile. Mathematical concepts, despite their abstractness, seem ever so more grounded, ever so more concrete and tangible in comparison to those which reside in the land of general ideas. Consider the question "What is truth?" compared to the statement and question "x^2 = 1, what is x?"
I like mathematics because it is the opposite of a mess, to me it is the opposite of confusion.
And mathematics usually has some kind of closure, punctuated for example by QED, unlike general argument.
Mathematics and beauty, with respect to the brain's perception of them, seem to me intricately related.
So I prefer mathematical argument to informal argument, but ultimately, I think I prefer neither.
I think that ultimately, that perhaps the absence of argument, harbors a beauty, a sense of peace, and a sense of clarity, that mathematics and other argument can never by there very nature being agitating pursuits.
I wrote this for some philosopher friends. For sure it is a bit ”out there”, and contains some gaping holes, but I think the general message is interesting and novel.
What is awareness?
The human brain and body, as far as is apparent, form an inseparable system that is however nonetheless a machine. Yet it is generally accepted that humans are aware and, excluding some other animals, that all contemporary machines are not.
Take as example a small circular mobile robot. The robot is equipped with: several infra-red (IR) proximity sensors placed to give rudimentary panoramic coverage; two electric motors placed to enable bi-directional rotation and forward-backward motion; auxiliary wiring, a small computer, and a small deterministic program which arbitrates action according to rules specified on the finite domain of sensory information available to it and its current internal state. Let us assume that the robot has been programmed, successfully, to move forward continuously, and only to deviate from this behavior if necessary to avoid crashing into fixed objects such as walls, when placed in a small manufactured enclosure. Note that this is realizable, relatively simple, and has already been done.
Imagine this robot in action; aimlessly wondering around its world avoiding objects. Does it sound crazy to suggest that this autonomous robot, as it moves around, is aware of the proximity of objects implied by its IR sensors? Is it aware to any extent? Not aware according to some arbitrarily defined philosophical criteria, but really aware, the same kind of awareness one might attribute to a lower animal, a lesser form of our own experience of awareness?
Physical differences aside, there is no evidence to suggest that there is any distinction between the mind of one machine and the mind of the next, other than in the complexity and type of information flow which that mind supports.
Unless we are to believe, unscientifically, the presence of some metaphysical property that endows animals with awareness, it seems undeniable that awareness must arise naturally as an emergent property associated with certain situated patterns of information flow.
But what are information and the flow of it, without our abstraction, to take the brain as an example, other than the movement of chemicals across synapses, the movement of ions through membranes, and so on?
Information is nothing but an abstraction and is attributable to configurations of atoms. Information flow is therefore a change in these configurations. Thus it would appear that there are certain configurations of objects and certain changes of configurations of objects which are in some sense “special'’ and which bring forth awareness?
Perhaps awareness is more fundamental? Can awareness be associated with all information flow? Is configuration change generally equivalent to information flow? Can awareness therefore be associated with all configuration change? Without justification, I am inclined to think not, but I proceed anyway because I like the picture that is painted.
When heat dissipates, are the atoms involved aware? When ions move across through channels in a neuron cell membrane, are the channels and ions aware? Is the neuron which contains the channels aware? Are the neural circuits, composed of the neurons aware? Is the brain, composed of the neural circuits aware? Is the being, composed of the brain and the rest of the cells aware? Is society aware as a consequence of information flow between beings? Is awareness present on the earth, in the configuration change associated with tectonic plate movements, weather change, river flows, growth, birth, death, life, and evolution? Is awareness present in the dissipation of the suns energy to its surroundings? Is awareness present in the changes in the fabric of space associated with the movement of planets? In the growth and expansion of the universe? Is the universe, in its possible infinity of interacting parts, at some level, holistically aware as a consequence?
At what point, and under what conditions, does awareness become manifest?
I do not know the answer and I do not know if the question can ever be scientifically answered.
I do not know how to conclude: thus I end abruptly in awe at the possibilities.
Have you ever heard someone say "oh I want this remedy because it is natural" or whatever. Well its nonsense because everything is natural, that is why we refer to "everything", as "Nature".
Humans are natural, so everything that humans produce is a natural consequence of their existence, and is therefore natural itself etc.