mind-blown

(The following is a letter that I wrote in 2011 to Rodney Mullen, skateboarding pioneer, and all-around genius. I was fortunate enough to have him recommend several books to me once upon a time. Those books were How Is Quantum Field Theory Possible? by Sunny Y. Auyang, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John D. Barrow and Frank D. Tippler, and A Mind Awake by C.S. Lewis.

WARNING! What you are about to read is verbose to say the least. The two scientific books are highly technical and had many words in them that I had to look up. I have used some of those big words in my writing below. Perhaps as you read this you will have fun learning some new words yourself. This letter started off simply as a book report but became a detailed description of my philosophy of personal spirituality.)

As you know…

There are a number of remarkably unlikely structural coincidences, large dimensionless ratios in combinations of micro/macrophysical parameters, curious tokens of divine artifice, and/or accidents of physics and astronomy, upon which our own existence crucially hangs.

This serendipitous unity and regularity of nature, is a conspiration of innumerable causes equilibrating the planetary environment. Nature’s manifold harmonies are in perfect mutual concordance with a spontaneous ordering principle. There is an evident contrivance and fittedness of things for one another, and to me this fortuitous concourse; this copresent composition of optimal arrangements in our universe is a clear sign of beneficent and purposeful preprogramming.

Some call it Deity, some call it mechanism for normalizing selection, either way the mutual consistency of Creation’s design appears to have our own continued existence in mind, and the question is weather a disposition of parts like this should be the work of chance, or are these coincidences actually consequences of a sublime and wise cause, a divine providence whose multivarious outworkings range from elegant mathematical laws of a general and invariant nature, to a chaos as confused and perplexed as the poets could describe.

Somewhere between ‘the guidedness of things’ and ‘a monstrous series of accidents’ global symmetries coherently articulate a tacit relational structure in order to create a common state space, a primitive conceptual nexus of hidden variables that gives rise to infinities wherein the extent and abundance of creation is as great as the possibility of existence itself.

As mind intervenes to eradicate this primeval chaos, matter enters our experience by becoming sensation, and through conception we partake firsthand in the evolution of cognition. Thus and not otherwise, the creation of matter and the creation of mind meet one another and the circuit is closed. Clearly, the properties of mind and matter compliment each other. They are bound together in a unitary system. Rationalists intellectualize its appearance and empiricists sensualize its conceptual scheme, but ultimately the essence of any object of experience lies not in its intrinsic nature but rather in its relation to the whole.

We can no longer speak of the behavior of particles apart from the process of observation. Both humans and particles are entities in an interacting field system. We share connections associated with quality, quantity, modality, and reciprocity. Even the basic relations of our similarity and difference have important presuppositions that are tied to concepts of enduring things, causality, and recollection.

It is important to remember that the word ‘particle’ does not represent a microscopic system; it merely represents our knowledge of it, just as no enumeration of the physical attributes of a beautiful object could ever include its beauty. The primary qualities of universe are mathematical in nature, and yet there is no unified theory that allows for all levels of complexity. There are certain gaps in our knowledge. (Not to mention The Measurement Problem). We are limited by our sensual capability and intellectual representations. No matter how high we climb and how sweeping the vista is, the view is always bounded by a horizon. Science alone does not and cannot put us in the position of God.

Nevertheless, the intellects of carbonaceous astronomers such as ourselves are able to look into a microscope and decide what is happening on another planet. Yet sadly, while we give laws to distant worlds, we trifle with and destroy our own. Collectively, humanity is like a creature revolting against its creator. Ours is the rebellion of branches against a tree, but the good news is the doors of hell are locked on the inside.

The bad news is the dreaded Heat Death, the escapist eschatology of the Maxwellian Equilibrium State that tells us everything (including everything itself) will run out of energy eventually. I however choose to believe that in the end when all life becomes extinct, the meaning of Life does not disappear. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, you and I and our blessed essences, our portions of potential will never die. It is on the firm foundation of this inevitable and unyielding truth that the spirit’s habitation must henceforth be safely built, lest our modern philosophy or even our very souls be shipwrecked on the shores of the second law of thermodynamics.

The terror of our own nothingness and the bewilderment at the impossibility of complete self-reference, without such sensations there is no spirituality. The greatest pitfall of western secular intellectual life is that the more the universe seems comprehensible the more it seems pointless. Without reason there is no purpose for our precise causal explanations. Without purpose there is no reason for our ontological ratiocinations.

The fact is, the meaning of life is not given to us. Rather, it is set upon us as a task, in the form of a riddle, but the punch line is that it’s no use trying to see through first principles, because a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through all things is the same as to see nothing at all.

My own vision is a melioristic mixture of the Copernican Principle and the Copenhagen Interpretation, in that I believe humanity must have humility. Yet I also I believe that we (the people) have a very important roll to play in the story of life. It is we who are the allegory. We are the means by which the universe becomes aware of itself, and in a deeper sense we bring Deity into being. We are the nerve cells of God, and thus God is not a being, God is being.

Every human experience has behind it the whole previous history of the universe. We are the totality of all relations unified by the imagination. The mind is not an intelligent object. It is the intelligibility of objects. The eternal mystery of the cosmos is its mind-blowing comprehensibility. The most profound astonishment lies in the fact that anything is experienced at all! And so in our exploration of the universe we seem to arrive where we started.

In the final analysis, science itself is a miracle; spacetime is by definition exactly as big as it is old, and as old as it is big; and God is not somewhere in the universe, rather we are somewhere in God.

Personally, I believe ethical goals provide the only ultimate meaning for intelligent life. Compassion’s consequent morality is the final end of nature. Love is at once the accomplishment and the ultimate proof that we are a part of the mystery we are trying to solve. Love is the end for which we exist.

Maybe it’s just a representation of raw hope gussied-up as rationalized reality. Maybe final causes really are just a fiction of the imagination. Maybe as Douglas Adams said: “the question and the answer are mutually exclusive”, (but I doubt it), or perhaps the totality of everything ever, from end to end and from beginning to end, is all just the dream of a child.

All I can say with certainty (i.e. probability equal to unity) is that somehow, somewhere between First Cause and Final Effect there exists a stable self-perpetuating form, and I thank God everyday for the permanency of our ellipse, for the love in my heart, for the friends in my life, for the joy of skating, and for you.

Your friend,

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