So what was on the cosmic radio this afternoon? As I walked to and from Safeway I was bombarded by an ongoing philosophical discourse inside my head. This first post concerns the most esoteric part of this broadcast. Another post on russellpop.wordpress.com will take up the cultural and misleadingly superficial aspects of that broadcast. I get so bored with my own soap opera at times that I have to disconnect from my fragile ego and listen in on something far more interesting and engaging than my own tedious neuroses. Today was such a time. I posed the question to myself, ‘what is actually going on?’ as opposed to what I think is going on. Our perception of reality is determined by our internal dialogue. But we miss out on a lot, some of which is trivial and some of which could change our lives. It is up to us which channels we attend to. There is the practical channel which prevents our running into lampposts and reminds us of why we are out here on the sidewalk walking. We do in fact have a destination, and unlike the gentleman to my left who is talking out loud, I actually know where I am going and why. But this utilitarian shopping channel doesn’t take up much space in my hard drive and I am free to tune into more interesting material without fear I will have an accident of some kind. So once again, ‘what, in fact is going on?’ I reiterate. Well, if we look to science, to the most precise measures of actual nuts and bolts physical stuff, we get an interesting conclusion. Nothing actually exists, and conversely nothing can be said to not exist either. Both are wrong. Our tools are insufficient to describe what is actually going on. Our language necessitates a subject and object, a duality which does not actually exist but works wonderfully as a descriptive device enabling us to investigate in our limited fashion this something/nothing within which we lead our daily lives. But whatever we manage to come up with, that ain’t it. Scientists aren’t bothered by this. They are routinely satisfied with approximations of reality. It is the best we can do given our limitations.
But for us regular folks it is frustrating, aggravating, take your pick. The truth will set you free but at first it will piss you off. Truth? Reality? What’s the difference? Is there a difference? My older brother has been hammering away at this philosophical conundrum for some time now. I agree with his conclusions as I understand them, knowing that whatever I write about it, it isn’t precisely what he is saying. I’ll do my best to do justice to his masterwork. Reality is what we perceive, which is colored by what we feel, think, what we have learned, been told, and whether we are coming down with a cold, in short, reality is our shared experience. The more something is shared the more real it becomes. Reality appears obvious to us, it differs from belief in that reality is what we know to be true. When someone says ‘Duh!’ in regard to something we have said, they are referring to reality. It is what everybody knows, and therefore, for most of us it is indistinguishable from the truth. But is it? What we know to be true is subject to a high level of distortion. It is conditioned by our own perception, our life experience, and the propaganda barrage we are subjected to daily. So what is true? Good question. The truth lies beyond our ability to communicate at this time in our evolution. All we can really do is say, ‘nope. that ain’t it. that isn’t it either. Close, but no cigar.’ The truth is elusive. So close, yet so far from paradise. We can approach it, but even to say that is misleading because how can you know that you are approaching the truth when you don’t know the truth? Duh! The answer I like, is that we are the truth. There are only two accurate statements, ‘all of it is true’ and ‘none of it is true’. Back to the existence/nonexistence conundrum. It is in the nature of language that nothing makes sense taken out of context. So we cannot talk intelligently about a context which contains all other contexts. It becomes unintelligible. You have to define what you are talking about, or in other words, put it in context, before it can make sense. But this necessarily distorts the information, causing it to become false. All reality is contextual, and therefore false to a degree. This is the principle behind the concept of maya. Maya is the phenomenal universe, or reality. (although even the nonphenomenal or noumenal universe is also reality, albeit much more subtle). If you can talk about it, strictly speaking, it isn’t it. You are inevitably off the mark, if only by a tiny tiny bit. Scientists are comfortable with this, and although they wouldn’t like to call it this, they take it on faith basically. Faith is what you have when you can’t verify your data, but nevertheless are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that what you suspect is true, is in fact true. Once again I am attracted to the notion that the truth is where all of this is headed and it is where all of this came from. This idea of time, of something happening in a linear fashion is nothing more than a philosophical and also a scientific convenience. It is so hard to talk about any of this without that convenience. Time is a measurement of change in the data. That’s all. It doesn’t exist, in the same way that numbers don’t actually exist but are philosophical tools to enable us to communicate about something we don’t fully understand. Allow me to indulge in a brief analogy to help unclog all this stuff I just wrote. A bit of philosophical Drano if you will. Languages of all sorts, mathematical and linguistic serve as the software, a translation of the machine code which God only knows who can read that stuff (literally!!). You could say that the machine code is like the quantum foam at the very heart of physicality. Binary. On/Off Exist/Not Exist This duality allows a pattern to emerge, and this pattern is reality, if you will (or even if you won’t, the foam doesn’t ask for our opinion, or then again, does it?) Who are we? Who am I? Do I reside within the quantum foam, or am I somewhere else? I think most would agree that our bodies are definitely a product, ultimately, of this quantum funkiness, but are we something other than our bodies? Sorry, no dependable data on this question. I prefer to think that we are intangible. We lie outside the either/or universe of quantum indeterminism. We both exist and do not exist, or neither, or I don’t know, feets don’t fail me now! We are not the data, we are collecting the data. We lie outside the experiment. Or do we?
So, clearly this radio could continue it’s program for as long as I, or you, or anyone would care to tune in. But you can see that the lines of communication are corroded. I was getting a bad translation. There was a lot of static on the line. It can’t be helped. Inevitably, as I grappled with this philosophical problem of what is actually going on, it become more and more unintelligible. I found myself seeking refuge in analogies and elegant solutions which may or may not have anything to do with the price of eggs in China. What is actually going on? Nothing. A program is running, and so something appears to be happening. At various moments, the device breaks down, or the program attempts to execute a bad block of code, and we discover that what we thought was happening was just an enticing puppet show of sorts, and we glimpse something else. Something that isn’t properly anything at all, just this indefinable suchness which can only be pointed at, but not intelligently discussed. Perhaps we can approach such things with poetry. Perhaps we know, but cannot tell, struck mute by our linguistic and mathematical limitations. That is how it feels to me, at any rate. So, there it is, the rough approximation of this afternoon’s broadcast of the cosmic radio. As always it leaves me unsatisfied. What was that all about? Nothing. and yet and yet, I can’t help feeling that I am on the verge of a great discovery, which would change everything forever, and for the better.
Can’t you see?
It isn’t like that at all!
It is so much better!
If only I had the words to tell you,
you would be so happy.
But I don’t.
It is just a cosmic radio,
for whatever it is worth.