- Science would analyze this image as shapes, or possibly emanations of platonic mathematical interactions. Hidden forces, nucleonic stress, covalent bonding, wave interaction, and hidden bits sleeting through mostly empty space. That is reality, science claims, if only poor human senses were better attuned. Pleasure, beauty and all the rest cannot be measured by a machine, are transient and incomprehensible, cannot be detected by a supercollider.
- I see water, trees, autumn; I feel my body my breath; I experience memories and fantasies; I am joyful tired; meanwhile an old tune floats unbidden through my mind. And much else, simultaneous. I do not see mostly empty space and forces. I claim all that _ and more _ including all I am each moment _ is what is real in my universe. We need to push back against a technologic age that measures all truth with electrons and pretends intelligence is the same as conscious being.
We’re each a universe unique
I can’t know yours, nor you know me.
Existing fully human,
Sole mystery worth knowing,
Entire the purpose of our day.
You’re just a bag of water, salts
A walking, talking, thinking sea.
Unbidden hormone magic
Keys ancient fears, joy, hope
Bids you rest, or run away.
No quark holds hope, no hidden force
Casts joy or hope or fear or glee.
No meter measures joy nor fear
No container safe stores dreams
No switch turns on love’s ray.
“A kind of farthing dip”? Oh no
Much more the lord of all I see.
Turn water blue, ride liquid wave
Paint sunrise gloried expectation
Singing on my way.
- Warm days have everyone thinking summer again, but that will shortly change as another cold front moves in. And then, will these days have existed at all, or are they figments of memory? Everyone knows they live only in the moment, but few comprehend what that actually means.
- Time and the other dimensions of space are the big elephants in the room for our logical mathematical models of the universe. There are no time particles, no width leptons, no depth atoms. These things _ just are. Isn’t that obvious? Well, no it’s not, and although faith that time is somehow real colors all we learn, we are fools indeed to think we have any true grasp of its nature.
“I see they think they found another elusive particle,” says Bill, looking up from his paper.
“And that will solve all the world’s problems,” I answer sarcastically. “A lot of money for something nobody can see nor use. And the proof is pretty flaky, as far as I can tell.”
“Oh, you’re one of those anti-science people, like my various fruitcake relatives? They never met a spiritual idea they didn’t like and take for absolute truth, even though each vision contradicts the other and is demonstrably useless in real life.”
“Not anti-science, not anti-spiritual either. Not sure a crazy particle is much more valuable than a yoga session, is all. After all, what’s more real _ your happiness or the hormones and electric currents that presumably cause it?”
“At least the equipment and techniques use
d for science eventually yield something tangible and useful.”
d for science eventually yield something tangible and useful.”
“But Bill, you could say the same about philosophical insights gained from various spiritual disciplines.”
- Are clouds real? Science would say yes, as areas of condensed water vapor capable of blocking or reflecting sunlight slightly more than surrounding atmosphere. Human characterizations of clouds as white, fluffy, floating, soft or threatening are purely subjective. Only imagination can project faces, animals, and other objects into such random shapes. Meanwhile, clouds form part of an experienced moment, a casual scene, and may alter mood by portending future or recalling past events.
- All these characteristics are unities complete which do not sum to a greater whole. A cloud is never 10% soft, 2% threatening, 12% water vapor, and 30% looking like a puppy. Casual mathematics fails to enter this reality. For me at any time a cloud can be all these things and more, or may slip by completely unnoticed. Yet each perception is a reality in itself while part of the reality of the whole, and it’s little use to try to constrain all that with logic and mathematical models.
- Theoretical scientists continue to search for the “Theory of Everything” which will tie together all their mathematical models of the universe. Religious scholars seek to divine the meaning and purpose of life, which will explain who we are and what we should do. These are natural quests of a human mind focused on discovering patterns in its environment.
- Renaissance humanists resisted the scholastic Christianity of their time, which sought to understand God through deep perusal of ancient documents and dense logic constructed on fragile intuitive foundations. I think we need some of that same refocusing now. Science is wonderful in giving us a better understanding of how to be comfortable in our physical world. Religion is useful in defining ideal personal values and social interactions. Both, however, are tools.
- Each of us is an embodied Theory of Everything as well as the central meaning and purpose of our own consciousness. We each know that. It does not seem enough. Surely, we believe, we must be part of a greater pageant, something more eternal and grand than our flickering and insubstantial moments of brief existence. Besides, to fully embrace that we are nothing more important than our own being can easily lead to monstrous conclusions, from solipsistic isolation to truly horrible behavior in the pursuit of our selfish needs.
- The sane path, and the one most of us eventually accept, is that on all the most important issues, not only do we not know but we cannot know. Whatever the deepest scientific construction of the cosmos, whatever the spiritual dimensions of the universe, we are middle players, incapable of knowing beyond our inherent limits. I accept science as it affects my life; I conform to philosophy (religious or otherwise) as it helps me feel and act better in society, which is a massive part of my experience.
- We are individuals, and alone in our minds. You wake up yourself each morning. But in just as real a sense, you are part of your society, and without its mirror you also do not exist. My language, my behavior, my goals and triumphs are defined within that construct. Nothing is easy, except that possibly the most obvious fact of all is that each of us is absolute reality.
- “Whence cometh Jack Frost?” Dylan Thomas asked. He knew better than anyone that Jack came from stories, from people. For children and those with memories or imagination, Jack Frost is as real as white ice on grass or sparkling crystals lining leaves in mockingly brilliant dawn sun.
- Our practical society exhorts us to use our imagination only to conjure technological improvements or to focus on distant monetary goals. Daydreaming is an idle waste of time, an abomination deeply etched in our puritanical book of sins. Yet I enjoy imagining impossibilities, fantasizing with no purpose at all, entertaining myself far more effectively than can most media extravaganzas. Fabled anthropomorphic characterizations are one of our most powerful tools to achieve enchantment with the world. Even though I know whence Jack Frost, I’m glad he has stopped by for a few visits.