Thursday, July 27, 2017


Some vignettes:

My seminary cohort, the mighty class of 1982 which numbered six (except that not everyone graduated in ’82) was contemplating (with the guidance of Professor John Godbey) Einstein’s statement that “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”  Everyone seemed agreed that God, if He existed, would not gamble with our fates.  But I had a thought.  It was that if a person playing dice threw the same dice the same way his/her muscles worked each time, then if enough of the throws were recorded and overlaid, there would be a pattern that was the same.  

This was my major theological insight.  (This is irony, in case you need to be told.)  Godbey was delighted — he’s a Christian.  He believed in control and paternalism.  (It didn’t work for his family.)  He was also a historian, but the New History or Deep History had not been conceived yet.  My classmates curled their lips.


Bob Scriver’s second wife’s father was a French-Canadian who ran a pool hall with a barbershop connected.  He was a jovial fellow and loved to demand from Bob,  “Robaire!  What’s in the empty box?”  Bob soon learned to say he didn’t know.  

“Nothing!” DeVicq would roar.  “The box, she is empty !!”  If it was intended to be a pun, it was a little smutty.  But it seemed to be a statement about redundancy.


Then there’s that cat in the box, the illustration of relativity, which is either dead or alive but unknowable until seeing it, which somehow determines which one it is.  But somewhere on the other side of a galaxy far away is another cat which is converted by your seeing this one.

So here’s the deal:  the pattern of the universe is always latent in the chaos until it is perceived.  And when it is no longer in a consciousness somewhere, it disappears.  Astonishment emerges from the quotidian, then shifts like a kaleidoscope, then explodes into whatever stars you can name..    Some scientists say we hallucinate our reality.  So?

I’m not a big fan of TED, but Anil Seth’s clear and demonstrated explanation is truly amazing (a-maze), particularly his created “hallucination” vid in which all “predictions” are presented as images of dogs.  It’s included in this TED talk.

Interoception” is the feedback that maintains homeostasis.  It is the force that keeps us alive.  We predict ourselves into existence.  “When the end of consciousness comes, there is nothing to be afraid of.  Nothing at all.”

This is not a concept of identity that’s based on a box, a social role, the pressure of outside forces against one’s skin, behavior and persona, but rather a way to think about the artesian center of the body/brain pushing out, making space for itself in the world, whatever “a world” is.  It is the force that keeps us alive by monitoring the homeostasis of the body and fighting to keep it balanced.  It's immanental.

No one really knows what “reality” is, so that’s why Anil Seth calls it a controlled hallucination, created from our own premises.  One must reconcile that vision by matching it against what has gone before in one’s own experience.  But also by insisting on its unique reality in a world of other people who see something different.  In the end, everything is code.  The operation of the body is code, sensation is code, the planet and the cosmos and all the mysterious forces that hold it together and make it twirl are all code.

Today there was an article about what evolution suppressed in terms of neanderthal versions of reality, which were evidently much more about the solid objects of daily life and less about social interaction.  We spend so much time projecting the future and not enough reflecting on where we came from, which is what is subconscious, still functioning potently in our dreams and waking impulses.  It’s the deep well-spring that fills our aquifers with ideas, whether the larger society agrees or not.  The scientists called it “residual echo.”

Western society has clung almost desperately to the idea of rationality, codes that are universal, technological, useful, and controlled by rational people with degrees.  This is considered the peak of thought and virtue, though it is linked to hierarchies and binary oppositional justice that now begin to do harm.  It is one of the amusing developments of the last decades that physics, that solid science of forces, has become the source of knowledge about the swirling variousness of the tiny bits that make up our furniture and our bodies so we can sit in chairs.  And that much of our knowledge about sub-atomic quantum mechanics has come from our determination to “own” means of destruction beyond anything known to humans before.

It is a hollow assumption that one person can control another, that humans can make themselves the control center of the planet.  It is a loss of homeostasis, which is belonging to oneself in the deepest way.  Rational code-shaping creates swords, which are penetrations, the most personal of which are rape.  The opposite is “empathy” which is not sympathy (Oh, I’m so sorry or glad!) nor “theory of mind” (I know what you’re going to do next.), but rather the ability to feel what another person feels by being open to them.  This is what some people think is the new growing edge of evolution.  It is not explored through science so much as humanities: not hard code, but suggestiveness and metaphors that arouse free association, subconscious to subconscious.  Maybe full of grief or yearning or even joy.  Impatience, fury.  The neanderthal force of the subconscious, thought embodied in flesh.

It takes time, like an old-fashioned photo developing at the bottom of the acidic pan and then needing to be dried on a turning drum.  Years, decades, centuries later (there haven’t been photos that long but evidence in the molecular magnetic orientation of stones still abides) someone will break the code and the world will fall open.  Again.

What’s in the empty box?  Nothing.  All order is really chance.

No comments: