Archive for October, 2014

What do you know?

Friday, October 31st, 2014

This summer when I made my friendship rounds, looking into people’s faces talking about ‘first principles’ and discovering in a whole new way (at fifty-six) the rest of you simply never assimilated some God-sized motive for being or action, I found I really was different. And not in a flattering way. I discovered in a rush the whole painful meaning of ‘not thinking for myself.’

There’s really nothing to rescue me from that. I think most of us, perhaps in less traditional ways, just cling to the hard-learned rules of our coming-to-being, and manage to cram whole worlds of complexity and nuance into a handful of blind beliefs. Perhaps we can even pass for ‘sophisticated’ in certain circles where our gymnastics are misinterpreted as odd wisdom.

It surprised me. It was new. I lost my ground. I got some textbooks to find out how the leading rationalists thought. Like all new impressions I’ve had, I briefly made the mistake of thinking the impression was new all around – this absence of a Big Truth; this inaccessibility of a God. But quick, I learned, you were all taught this way from infancy; sat around in colleges thrilled by the implications of language and the vast im-probe-ability of it all.

So I’m like a toddler. I’m embarrassed, rescued only a little by the fact we – none of us – ever knew what we were talking about anyway. So I can just modify a few phrases here and there, and suddenly today I appear as ‘with it’ as ever. But I’ve done what’s known as ‘losing my religion.’ And it’s affecting. I still weep. And I know nothing.

Just the beginning, that – or part of something larger. I find what crumbled away was my assurance I knew what to do. I thought God told me, I guess, or there were at least some ponderable rules which were just as solid for everybody. But I can’t find them. I want to rush into something that fits. I feel I’ve been unsettled forever.

This thing I am – it moved and commanded and obeyed according to laws forgotten. I am solely responsible for it, and I can’t believe myself. I want someone to reach out and take my hand, but there is no-one there. I try to cling to what I have, but it can feel so achingly wrong.

I can see why people worship within the structures. I understand the language of country, church, and family, because after all we will soften under the straps. And I know why I want to believe someone might truly understand me – because it’s just supposed to be that way. But nothing is true. I’m creaky and stiff, but I am the only one who will do anything. Because I am the only one who does for me.

Disembodied origin

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

So, the way science now thinks about consciousness is: it’s a ‘model’ of the mechanical attention our brains pay to stimuli of varying importance. Our impressions of ‘consciousness’ are mental images of the currently most-emphasized neuronal responses, the same way our impressions of the color ‘green’ are mental images of neuronal pattern responses to particular wavelengths of light.

Our self-impressions are fictitious, because our mental images don’t really embody anything – they’re simply oscillating electronic sequences. Our impression of existence is the sensory experience of interpreting messages no longer attached to the real world. ‘We’ are an interpretation of data from sources no longer operating. We can’t see beyond the data. We can’t tell how we came to exist.

But we are efficacious. We can do. That is, even though ‘we’ are only imaginary, we’re quite able to manipulate the real after the fashion of our ‘intentions.’ That is, the software (if we are software) assumes an existence all ‘our’ own. And  that existence supercedes, in both power and capability, its disembodied origin.

Perhaps we originated in God. Science believes we originate in our own flesh. But we ourselves can’t know. While our bodies sustain the flashing display which ignites into our perception of being, and science can determine those physics as precisely as it can define how much food a body needs to eat, Science disappears into the same sourceless inaccessibility that God does – when we contemplate what we ourselves might be.

The morality of science

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

I mentioned to a few people some time back I was interested in discovering the ‘moral imperative of rational science.’ This generally drew confused looks and some reiteration of our cultural belief that ‘science is neutral.’

Of course, it’s not. Science isn’t just a method. At any particular time, it’s also the coherent body of ‘facts’ and ‘theories’ the majority of ‘responsible’ scientists believe. Science is biology, artificial intelligence, and evolution. Science is a description of currently accepted facts and a faith those facts are true.

So, of course, it has a morality. And, in fact, its morality has professors.

Lately, it’s been scientifically decided we have no free will, no permanent identity, and no consciousness. What we do have decidedly operates according to the common drive of all living things – we want to reproduce. For us, scientifically, that means teaming up and getting along.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the morality of that remains what it always has been. I wonder if this new deity is more or less benign.

Babes for sale

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

I wish I were a beautiful woman. I could browse a web catalog of rich old men quite eager to own me. It’s a great life. Better yet, I wish I were rich (I’m already old). I could select from lists of graphically displayed and thoroughly vetted females, each enthusiastic to be at my pleasure.

This isn’t prostitution. This is ‘match-making’ in class society. As every non-working, liberally educated wife of a high-earning male knows, you can love anybody you can live with. As every hard-working, dead-ended single female understands, a little compromise is worth it for a buck or two.

As we all recognize at odd moments, we believe whatever we tell ourselves.

I’m surprised at the new nakedness of our cultural truth: we’re a mass of struggling, working people, uncertain of tomorrow. Dwelling among us with ease and impunity are our certified superiors, living in castles set back off the street; who comb through our ranks for our brightest children and most desirable women, to pluck them away from us for ever more – with our consent.