Isness

flocking

Happiness is only attainable once you recognize that everything just “is”.

Despite what we humans would like to believe, we are nothing special and nowhere special. Nobody designed us, nobody is looking out for us and we have no purpose or particular meaning.

Which is not to say that we can not create meaning for ourselves. Merely that meaning does not exist in the abstract.

Let me explain. Everything we see around us simply “emerged”. Emergence is a scientific term which means that all we see around us, in all its baffling complexity, emerged from a few basic rules and a few basic properties of “nature”.

In conventional terms, we say that humans and all flora and fauna on planet earth arose from the laws of physics via the laws of chemistry and biology. Humans are an emergence from far, far simpler properties. Our atoms are mostly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen which, left to their own devices, do little. But we are a particular and extremely complex coupling together of these simple chemical elements. Complexity “emerges” from extreme simplicity.

In the beginning there was nothing. And then it seems that something happened. John 1.1 puts it wonderfully:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

If you consider “god” as a few basic rules, rather like those of a computer program or  network, then you are probably really onto something. You probably understand who and what we all are.

Stephen Wolfram puts it wonderfully well in an article entitled What is Spacetime Really?  Time and space could well have emerged from a simple rule based network, whose simple rules fed back on each other in an infinite loop, to provide the baffling complexity we see all around us.

A very simple example of this sort of emergence can be seen in the flocking of birds. I can program my computer to imitate the flocking of birds (all the beauty of those spectacular patterns) using three simple rules:

  1. avoid crowding neighbors (short range repulsion)
  2. steer towards average heading of neighbors
  3. steer towards average position of neighbors (long range attraction)

In a similar fashion, the simple mathematical rules governing fractals and cellular automata  show how trees and insects and coastlines can be drawn with trivial ease on a computer.  Which is doubtless similar to how they emerged in nature.

And this, it is said, is evolution. Blind, unthinking evolution has, by a few simple rules and many eons of applying those rules, given us the universe and everything in it.

So how does all this equate to happiness? How can it?

Acceptance, pure and simple. By accepting that we emerged from a few “knots in the ether” we can perhaps learn to stop striving. To stop competing, to stop fighting. We “are” – and that is all there is to it. We should “be”. We should accept that the world just “is”.

This may be a great disappointment to some who cling to visions of holy purpose, of heavens and pure lands. Of Islamic paradise.

If we need a theory, a creed, then Eastern philosophy provides it for us very neatly. In eastern philosophy there is no beginning, no end, just a continuum, a never ending flow. “Knots in the ether”, forever tying and untying, winding and unwinding. A giant 3 D cellular automaton, working forever and creating the very fabric of time and space.

And to achieve happiness all we need do is to go with that flow. To recognize that all there is just “is”. That we should just stand by and watch, or rather let it all roll over us knowing that we too are simply “knots in the ether”.

There is nowhere to go, nothing to do, no-one to be. Just exist. Create beautiful patterns in your life or ugly patterns (assuming “beauty” and “ugliness” have any meaning) but don’t fight “isness”.

Are you disappointed perhaps that there is no god and that the non-existent god has no purpose for us?

You should not be. You are in the midst of all the wonder you could ever imagine, all the beauty and all the ugliness. You are in a giant playground where knots in the ether writhe and turn and you should bend and twist with them.

Consciousness itself has arisen out of those few simple rules. Incredibly, the simple program which led to all you can see around you, also led to self awareness of that program by that program.

We are a program, a set of instructions. We are the universe and some are lucky enough to feel and witness that directly.

As the vast complexity grows all around us, our consciousness grows with it, part of it. Consciousness is more, becomes more inch by inch, second by second.

And so at the end of the incredible dance perhaps even “god” emerges from this infinite computer program. This infinite network. Perhaps that is what the mystic sees.

So, purpose? Perhaps not. But emergence of something incredible, mighty, complex, magnificent.  Yes, most certainly. We are something from nothing. We will become more and more something and less and less nothing as the recursive, complex system weaves and warps, twirls and twists and turns.

And that, surely, is something to be happy about?

 

 

29 Comments

  1. The philosophical term you refer to is qualia. It’s the origin of the statistical and empirical terms (I think I remember correctly?) as qualitative and quantitative data.

    1. The big question is how qualia are returned as physical experiences from the activity of a physical brain. Tononi has some interesting ideas on the topic as do many others. Unfortunately the science is in its infancy

    2. I looked at your website with interest. Many of your pre-occupations have been things I have looked at in the past. I am fascinated by the nature of consciousness and am always slightly conflicted between the desire to actually experience (for instance through psilocybin) and hard science. As a very solid atheist I’m none to sure about mysticism although I often express myself in rather esoteric terms.

      1. I am a philosophical atheist and therefore argue the definition of god. And I recently discovered the topic name onomastics because I am a deep sea diver (searching for my own point of origin) in the sea of the words. So that is how I come to the conclusions and decisions in which I do. And how I discovered the essence of god, the divine, the devil and sublime. There is nothing and no meaning to life except what we choose to do with it. I told cris mihai gods name and I made it pretty fucking obvious how I came to that conclusion. He ran with it and used it without so much as saying “thanks k” because I’m all about giving credit and thanking people where you got the idea from.
        At uni I learned you don’t need to reference common knowledge, and you don’t need to reference yourself when it’s an original idea. So. Yeah.
        I like mysticism because science is done. It’s established. And I have found that science and conscience are the same fucking thing. Sorry for swearing. I feel quite strongly about my passions.
        Metaphors are real. They help to explain the unexplainable. The give form to the unseen forces that we feel.

        1. “There is nothing and no meaning to life except what we choose to do with it.” I wholly agree with you

          1. In terms of philosophical thought I am an absurdist. I may be nihilistic and fatalistic, but I love and don’t want to fucking hate myself all the time. So I choose to pursue happiness. And that has been with the mystic arts. Sort of. Kind of. Like.. I am a teacher and that is my vocation. But mysticism is a hobby for fun. Because it’s real and not real. It’s just a helpful tool

              1. Yeah. Skim reading this I know. It’s simple. I am the moon. It is appropriating these symbols and personifying avatars to represent relationships and entities and their ongoing dynamic.

            1. One never quite knows who one is dealing with in the blogosphere or why. Cris Mihai seems to have a very commercial side to his blogging. While I have no objection to making money, somehow the topics I talk about don’t seem to be things I should try and make money out of. To do that would make me into one of those truly, truly awful self help gurus who are only interested in the book sales!

              1. Thus what pisses me the fuck off. I’m just me. I don’t have any secret identities, although dealing with Cris made me privatise my blog and my content. They’re shunted off to a private blog elsewhere.
                I want to make money but not through telling people the obvious. I’m a teacher, I don’t mind telling people stuff, talking to people. Conversation is free. The discourse is where knowledge and wisdom is able to be exchanged and both parties are the better off.
                I want to make money though, and I figured that would be through doing tarot and oracle card readings. It’s a payable service. My particular style though comes from my background of my university studies in English, education and art history. Semiotics and semantics, basically.

                1. I am very puzzled and conflicted these days about how I want to make money. Too tired, old and fed up to take the risks in the financial markets anymore. Certainly don’t want to sell moonshine to the desperate. Zero creativity so I can’t write. So…er……perhaps I could become the village postman.

      2. I realise I wrote my understanding / interpretation of psilocybin on cris mihai’s blog post, so I don’t know if It will be posted or not. Shit. Oh well. Live and let live

        1. Shit! as you say. As far as I am concerned the jury is still out as to whether psilocybin has any positive or lasting effect. Most say its a short cut to seeing the face of god. Some report less pleasant experiences – perhaps god’s rear end? Chortle

          1. Ok. Let me repeat what I wrote on the other thingy but it’s not the same because the other time was the first time, so… I’m repeating myself. I asked on the comment what psilocybin meant, because I want to know what it means to you? Based solely on the name of the thing I can tell you what it means to me.
            It is the psychological repositioning of oneself, attempting psychonautical thought experiments to entertain and observe if there is but an influence upon the world around them. It is about taking a scientific approach to digging around and whatever the supposed something.. whatever.. the thing that is felt but unseen. it is about finding the correct parameters and attempting to reproduce something resembling consistently reliable results. Ready, set, go, reflect, rinse, repeat.

            1. To me it represents two things. One: a potential cure for often crippling depression which has dogged me all my life and Two: an exploration into the nature of consciousness. Is there such a thing as “self”? Probably not. Do we have free will? Probably not but complexity makes it appear as though we do. Is there another realm we are missing out on because our senses are too limited? Possibly!

              1. In response to your definition. It is all of those things and also none of those things. It is how you choose to perceive the reality of the world around you. What is within your power and accepting what you have. It is not trying to fuck other people over, but being true to your inherent nature and self. Addressing all the multifaceted aspects of your own inner soul and light.
                Do what makes you happy, try not to be a dick to others in the mean time. Rah rah rah. Same shit different smell. The kind of stuff I am running with in my cult.

                1. All very laudable. Yes. I also have a strong desire not to shaft anyone these days. Although 30 years ago I may have been less benign…

                  1. My guess it is to do with your age. For young men seek to prove their worth and virulence by fucking or wrestling anything and everything. It’s really annoying. Get up and grow up. Or just take it somewhere else. Know the time and the place

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