Oceans are rising. Shorelines are crumbling. Trees are burning. Bridges are buckling. Bees are collapsing. All while human beings are still building commercial and data empires. Electrons are spinning. Gluons and Muons are emerging more quickly than the blink of an eye and disappearing again. Protons are continuously jumping from atom to atom.
It is not so hard to see, wherever you look, that so many different kinds of things are happening. Some of them happen very quickly like the blinking of your eye. Some of them take much longer like the orbiting of the earth around the sun. Some of them seem to go on and on forever, while some are over in a flash.
Somewhere in between there is you. Here now and soon to be gone. In the meantime you are always doing things, fidgeting with things, adjusting the world. Pushing a little here, pulling a little there. Organism exchanging with environment. Citizen participating in society.
Of course, some of it you can’t help. Circumstance, or your nature, demands it. You can’t go too long without drinking, eating, sleeping. Yet you don’t always drink the same thing, eat the same thing, sleep in your own bed. You are always making choices.
Some of these choices are automatic. They come from your autonomic nervous system. Some of them are made reluctantly. You don’t really want to do it, but you know you must. Most of the ones you know about are probably voluntary. You consider your options and their implications and you choose. Then the consequences start to flow in. Not always what you planned and hoped for.
What is it that differentiates a human being, or a tiger or even a grasshopper from a mountain or a tree or the wind. A scientist or philosopher might say that the difference is ‘agency’. Animals can take action, move about, even learn and communicate. The rest of the natural world can not move and learn new behaviour even if some of them can communicate: trees for example.
If you look around, you see ‘agents’ everywhere. A cat is an agent by that definition. You know that if you leave some chicken cooking on the stove the cat’s gonna go for it. This is agency. The stove is not gonna start trying to lick the chicken, the stove has no agency.
So if we look around us, we see the world is changing. There are more people, there are more cars. There are other deeper, more structural changes going on too. Weather is becoming less stable: hurricanes and earthquakes, tsunamis and droughts are on the rise. These changes are not direct expressions of agency, although they may well be the consequence of it.
I think it’s not hard for anyone, not only a scientist, philosopher, barrister or judge, to know that everything is not always as it appears. What is apparently happening is not necessarily what is actually happening.
What is apparently happening is that independent objects are interacting through discrete actions. Discrete actions means particular actions, specific action. This action not that action. Human beings talk to each other, make love, kill each other, build empires, destroy continents, change the balance of the planet. So this is what is apparently happening. Independent objects includes cats, bees, amoeba, wolves. It also means mountains, clouds, rivers, oceans.
Sometimes the cat jumps onto the stove when you are cooking chicken and steals your dinner. Now this isn’t what is actually happening. The cat is jumping towards a smell and a sound, it doesn’t know anything about dinner, nor who that chicken is for. For you what is actually happening is that your mind is intepreting neurological stimuli. In this case it is interpreting physical phenomena, mainly the flow of photons against your retina.
When you’re in the kitchen cooking chicken, and you see the cat you need to be aware of that cat. If not the cat will get the chicken. It is usual to think that that cat is inhabiting the same reality as you, but it isn’t exactly. I imagine that it it it has no interest in the fine colours on you shirt and the contrast between the badge and the rest of the pocket. Those kinds of subtleties may not even exist for the cat, in the cat’s reality.
There is a couple walking down the Champs-Élysées. They are looking at those incredible shops full of those incredible clothes and shoes. Whereas Jose Luis is tired, and hungry, he is rejecting McDonald’s, and Häagan-Dazs looking for a little nice bistro. He doesn’t even notice the shoe shops while Juliette didn’t notice Häagan-Dazs. She is looking at those heels and buckles.
What is apparently happening is not quite the same thing as what is actually happening. While one street is actually being walked down, two different streets are being experienced. When it comes to human experience, what is apparently happening is an interpretation in and of the nervous system. What is actually happening is that minds, nervous systems, connective tissue systems are interpreting.
So what is apparently happening is that independent objects are interacting through discrete actions by way of the very simple dynamic, of cause and effect, If a boulder has a mass above a certain amount and lands on a human being it’s gonna crush that human being. That’s a matter of cause and effect. Even the boulder coming down the mountain is a matter of cause and effect. The human being asleep on the beach is a matter of cause and effect.
There seems to be no escape from cause and effect, and certainly there isn’t within what is apparently happening. But what about within what is actually happening, if what is actually happening is the interpretation of neurological stimuli by what we call mind. You can still see cause and effect there, the effect being the interpretation, is caused by the nature and experience of the nervous system.
We live in a world of interpretation. It is a real world, but reality is an interpretation generated and determined in its perameters and possibilities by the nature and constraints of the perceiving instrument. In our case the human nervous system. Generated as it is by our DNA our nervous systems are more or less identical, although each one is unique.
So it is that we can function together as we experience gravity, time and wind in similar ways. Yet at the same time we experience the same things in subtly different ways because of our different genetics, history and experience. These subtle differences are where the game is. It is the differences between us that make life challenging, interesting. If we were all exactly the same it would get very boring.
There is a deeper level. Underneath our individualised, collective interpretations is what is being interpreted. Just as beneath what is apparently happening is what is actually happening, beneath what is actually happening is what actually is. What is apparently happening is one thing: a butterfly is passing by. What is actually happening is that your nervous system is interpreting the contact of refracted photons with your retina. But, what are these photons. What is it that is being interpreted through all of our many senses?
You may know that some very smart people have worked out that statistically speaking it is more likely than anything else that we are just part of a computer programme. It is very easy to be intimidated by statistics. For example, everyone knows that human life expectancy is higher now than it was in the past. How is this known? Through statistics. What is not so commonly known is that this does not mean that we live much longer than our great grandparents, or theirs. It just means that less babies and children die. The expected life span for humans in Biblical times was not forty five. It was “three score and ten”. That’s seventy for those of you who can’t speak Olde English. So don’t be intimidated by statistics
Nevertheless, maybe we are a hologram. So what. You still want to be happy. You still don’t want to destroy the planet. You still want to learn to be nice to your neighbours, even if you are a hologram. So if what is actually happening is that we are generating synchronous interpretations of something unidentified, we are all trying to be happy within those interpretations.
However, maybe that something can be identified. They reckoned they identified it in India long ago. I reckon that i have identified it too. Please don’t take my word for it though. Nor anyone else’s. Find out for yourself. Become as intimate as possible with your own presence.
Within that intimacy a few very significant things will become clear. First is you will start to experience the interpretative dynamics of cognitive intelligence at work. You will see all the nested layers of interpretation underlying your concrete experience. Eventually you will arrive at the intelligence of consciousness upon which it all depends.
Then you will have hit the source, the juice that drives it all. Not only your interpretations, but also what it is you are interpreting. All you need to do is go down deep often enough for the uncertainty to reveal its inherent luminosity. Within that luminosity all will become clear. Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Check it out for yourself.