As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are also zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.
“We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do” Einstein (in relation to wave-particle duality)
Quantum mechanics has repeatedly proved that energy and matter is contradictory – it is both a wave and a particle at the same time. In addition, it is observation that crystallises out our particular reality from the infinity of possibilities.
“When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove” John Donne
There is almost incontrivertible evidence that there is meaning within the universe. The physical constants are incredibly finely tuned to allow even atoms to form, never mind reflective consciousness. There are those who fervently wish to deny this meaning. (Why?). Their only defence is what is called the multiple universe proposition – that there are infinity universes and we happen to live in the one that has these constants aligned. Their problems are these. Firstly, there is not a shred of evidence for the proposition. Secondly it fails the test of simplicity (this is certainly not the simplest solution). Thirdly, even were it true – what then is the origin of the multiverses? Indeed, by definition Universe is all that is, and so multiverses are subsets of that. I personally dismiss this concept for what it is, materialist desperation. The Universe is significant and not simply material.
Material is but one aspect of reality, there is another a dual aspect. John Donne would call that “soul” as distinct from “body”…
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds…human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships” Ich und Du, Martin Buber
Martin Buber expresses this duality in his wonderful verse-philosophy “Ich und Du”. Not only is there duality in all-that-is, but it is in the dance – the relationships between the Within-Without, the wave-particle, the Ich-Du – that meaning exists.
People have called that meaning by all sorts of names. Who cares about semantics – a rose is still a rose by any name. If you’ve felt the connectedness of the Universe, then you’ve known joy in all its emphemerality, within the life of this body at least.
Dual, we certainly are, and inexplicably so. Although maybe…
“And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one” TS Elliot
* There is a tradition of theft within evolutionary science. Dawkins stole the concept of evolution in the noosphere and clothed in the language of the “meme”. He did not credit Teilhard de Chardin. Charles Darwin stole the concept of evolution by natural selection from James Hutton, who in 1794 wrote “in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be most liable to perish, while on the other hand, those organized bodies, which most approach to the best consitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race”.
Profuse connection and abundant writhing change. The two things we truly know.
There is a collection of molecules called “I”. They change completely every three years or so, but the “I” continues. Isn’t there a clue here? There will come a moment when a particular set of atoms that is known as “me” finally disperses amongst billions of other creatures. Bound by covalent bonds to the molecules that are in new generations of you and me and billion of others. New realities emerging. Physically we are a constantly exchanging bubbling molecular soup. We’re not separate at all – either from each other or the rest of the physical world.
Metamorphosis. Water becoming ice. Caterpillars pupating, emerging into butterflies. We journey together into wondrous new states. Society has a reality separate from the individuals that it is made from. And we as individuals in turn have emerged as something new, from the molecules that constitute us now. I am a co-evolving emergence from one state to quite another.
Yet; mostly we think of the material world as static and secure. How strange. We manage that by focussing on short time segments. Thus we ignore the riverine flow of rocks, the evolution from raw plasma to chemicals to biology to ideas; and we are also blind to “now”, the window to eternity.
Why? Fear, I suspect, is to blame. The terror, the existential angst that is located in our ego – which of course is definitely an ephemera. This is just a trick of light. Look past the surface of the pool with its (reversed) image where we see our “self” reflected. There, within the water, is the flow of life which is our home. We let our egos rule over us, when – just here, just now (always here, now), in the flow of the universe is our real deathless self. As Rupert Brookes puts it “.. a pulse in the eternal mind, no less”. Like Narcissus, we are transfixed by inner absorption rather than an awareness of all-that-is.
Humanity has been at the leading edge of the evolution of consciousness. But consciousness is a wave, a process. Yes we are (now) at the crest of that wave, but we are not, some fixed centre of existence. We are not the wave – but something different and far bigger – we are the ocean. Together, we carry all the tides and tsunamis. Constantly flowing and emerging into new realities.
Profuse connection and abundant writhing change. The two things we truly know.
Where to? Where from? Why? God only knows.
We define by creating boundaries; where we place them. (That is you, this is me); what kind they are (a kissing gate or a prison wall). Most important, though. is what they are made out of. The foundations of Nationalism are laid on enmity. Yes, there can be other building materials – ideals, even love. How often though does aspiration end in vitriol?
A friend put to me on Saturday that it is possible for nationalism to be a force for good. He cited the British resistance to Nazis. He won me over, but to the possibility,, not the reality.
Boundaries are existential; or at least to our experience of “being”. We have to feel an “other” in order to sense our “self”, this is because all experience is relative. We live inside the uni-verse (the one thing), and so have no absolute external measure, no yardstick or objectivity. It is only by differentiating and re-integrating that we create reality.
Boundaries make things real; but they also separate. Each from each. Technically a form of good nationalism could come about through a specific kind of boundary. If nationals could stay open and inclusive, by having semi permeable social cell-walls, then well and good. But…
The problem is that “nation” is so often a short-hand for racial grouping. Indeed why else call a community a “nation”? And race memories are there in our unconscious lurking as Archetypes. Irrational and enormously, darkly, potent. The perfidious English to the French, the Lord Snooty English to the Scots, the chippy Scots to the English. In our collective unconscious our neighbour is the enemy who raided in the night, raped and stole our livelihood.
.. And so – enter mass manipulation by politicians and other self interested parties ( corporations for instance). We have our psychic buttons, all they have to do is to to push them; and they can’t help it. The end (their end) soon justifies their means. Where community is defined by nation, then you have the cybernats’ outrageous vilification of the “English”, and the Daily Mail whipping up a response (which helped the Tories back to power last month). Roll up the Bosch, the Hun and the Frogs. Come on in to the EU debate. How much pent up grievance does it then take to move us to internment camps and war. No, this really isn’t hysteria. In the early 1930’s Germany was an pluralistic and active democracy. It only took ten years…
Mass and energy are different aspects of the same thing. We know that since e(nergy) = m(ass) x the speed of light squared (a constant). We also know that Conservation of Energy is one of the other fundamental laws of physics. Energy is never lost, but just changes wavelength (light to heat etc). This does NOT though apply to mass. Mass is NOT conserved.
How can this be? What does it mean in our struggle to understand meaning and existence? We can lose weight, but not energy. What happens to the weightless energy?
Certainly I think materialism isn’t the way forward. Should we focus on being – energistic. I’m told that Hindus think in terms of vibrations, auras and energy flows within their cycles of transformations. Is this where angels live – energy dissociated from mass. Any thoughts?
“All manner of thing shall be well/When the tongues of flame are in-folded/Into the crowned knot of fire/And the fire and the rose are one” TS Elliot
I think that Elliot was pointing to a fundamental symmetry between the material (fire) and spiritual (rose) world. We have to think outside physics to find the answer to the apparent material asymmetry introduced by the dimension of time.
Time is the only thing that we know that is not symmetrical. We can travel backward and forward through space, but only forward in time. This flows from the second law of thermodynamics, where disorder (entropy, chaos), always increases. That in turn flows from the initial conditions of the Universe, which was highly organised.
There must, I believe, actually be a symmetrical partner to time. If you like – something that is running backward, creating order from disorder, which matches and balances the movement toward chaos that we observe in the material Universe.
Everything in the world is dual. Without boundary we could not know existence. Boundary defines by breaking one into two. Forces balance, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When singular differentiates into dual (when one becomes two) it creates symmetry. Everything is symmetrical, and in a state either of differentiation or integration, separation or unification. This appears to me to be a fundamental truth – equally so in psychology (see all the writings of Carl Jung) and physics. Except for time. Time is different. It’s asymmetrical. It flows only forward. There is an arrow of time.
Why is that? After all – ever since Einstein’s special and general relativity was proved, we know that time is only the fourth dimension of space-time. We should in theory be able to travel forward and back in time, just as we can in space. But we can’t and don’t. We are all travelling forward at the speed of light through space-time. (Which is why there is time-dilation. If we travel rapidly through space, we use up some of the time component of that speed and therefore we travel more slowly through time). Since we’re in motion in space-time and with a direction – forward– we have momentum. Our momentum in time is simply mass multiplied by the speed of light. mc (massxspeed of light). We also know that E=mc2 (energy is mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light). That means that “we can consider energy to be momentum in the time direction” (Andrew Thomas). In turn that implies that it is the existence of time (and a time direction) that creates energy – and therefore mass and the material world.
Haven’t we heard this all before, but in a different language – long before the discoveries of physics. “Let there be light” – spoken by “God, the word existing beyond time” . Doesn’t this translate into – let there be a universal speed of light (168,000 miles/second) and time. From this energy and mass flows, and therefore the material Universe.
I believe that the flow of time in the material world – creating disorder from order, is matched by a flow in the spiritual world, where order is being created from disorder. I also believe that this creation of order can be observed in the evolution of consciousness. Ideas are not material. I believe, with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, that at some point (his Omega point) we will evolve to a Universal consciousness of God. I believe that God, existing beyond time, is made manifest in this material Universe by Christ; and that manifestation is perfect Love.
That, I believe, is the answer to the apparent time asymmetry. Spirit is the symmetrical partner of Energy (=matter). This makes sense for me of that great Christian poet – TS Elliot’s final lines from The Four Quartets. The fire is the material world (energy) and the rose the spiritual (love) and it is in their integration through the loving unifying sacrifice of Christ through (the crowned knot of fire), that all manner of things shall be well.
Or perhaps more simply – as Derek Walcott puts it:
“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than the love that took its symmetry for granted when it was whole”.
Our existence is like a wave. Simile or metaphor? Our existence is a wave. Statement or illustrative analogy?
Whatever… associative thinking is useful in building understanding. It can lead to a radical shift in perspective. Take the statement “our existence is like a wave”. We typically ground our sense of self in the material. And yet.. the cells in our bodies are constantly changing. There are very few molecules in you now which were in your body at birth. You, we, are not material. What then? Certainly existence seems to me to be validated in relation to other. Without – other – there is no existence. Indeed existence as relativity (see AN Whitehead) seems logical to me. In that case – is there not a wave of influence that we have on other and it has on us? And does that wave of influence (on our children, our friends etc) not continue after our material body seizes up and degrades? In fact, isn’t the influence and therefore real existence of Michelangelo more apparent now than when he was “alive”?
Existence is like a wave. Metaphor has utility. But, limitations too.
There are many ways that existence is not wavelike, but granular. Influence stems from individual tiny acts, which stem from individual thoughts.
Anyway, there you have it. Metaphor appears, to me anyway, to have immense utility. However we need to be ready to abandon a particular metaphor or association by recognising when its limits have been reached. Perhaps this is immediately when it has achieved the objective of fracturing and shift our set thought patterns?