Posts Tagged ‘death’

Quantum Strangeness Structurally Explained The Problem

April 25, 2010

The Problem

Part 1 of 4 posts

Sometimes thoughts and ideas arise out of thin air and that’s what happened the other day when I got the idea to blog about Quantum Strangeness, and how it becomes less strange when viewed through the prism of what I call the structure of existence. So, welcome to my theory of everything (TOE).

Life is lived in terms of a series of events: appointments, muscle aches, down time, paychecks, road trips, shopping, phone calls, work, work, etc., etc. My TOE, however, is suggesting a more meaningful universe. You see, in the same way that the constancy of light’s velocity moved Einstein to think “outside the box,” (actually he imagined the constancy of the velocity of light since in 1905 that phenomenon had not yet been confirmed)leading him to deduce the required relationship between an observer’s reference frame and the predictability of events, so too, in my thinking about quantum phenomena, existential phenomenology, and religion’s aesthetic traditions, I was lead to think “outside the physical event.” What could possibly exist outside a physical event you ask? That something is logic, and, in my case, that something is structured in such a way as to account for our experience of temporality, rationality, and predictable events; furthermore, that structure is a lot easier to understand than Einstein’s theories. Logically speaking, the structure I am suggesting is the simplest possible structure imaginable, and yet it is flexible enough to contain the whole of the space-time continuum (Einstein, 1915). This structure exists on three levels, the two higher levels preserving the integrity of the bottom level. It’s not as if this structured existence will change the way science gets done, but, in the overall scheme of things, the reality explained by science is not as emotionally gratifying (or encompassing) as the reality suggested by this structure.

My theory, as with most structuralism, has two components, a diachronic timeline of events (think evolution here), and the frozen in time structural aspect of experience (think logic and mathematics here). Because the universe, in my theory, takes place in the space that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the “space of logical implication,” the universe is comprehensible. Whoops, I’ve put the cart before the horse, so to speak, so I now digress to a brief discussion of the strangeness of quantum phenomena.

At the quantum level, the universe looks and behaves differently from the way we typically perceive it. At the level of the very small, we loose track of independently existing things. For some physicists, it becomes difficult to think of the universe as a collection of objects because it’s more like a complicated web of relations, a web of relations existing between the various parts of a unified whole. An elementary particle, under certain conditions, is no more than a set of relationships that reach outward to other things. What’s happening in physics today is a far cry from what happened in the past, and its telling us new and exciting things about the universe, and maybe even about ourselves! This new vision of reality is inclusive, as opposed to exclusive. When humanity is brought into the mix with everything else, a whole new ballgame arises. The center of balance shifts, and overtime, possibilities open, even if in the short run, the rules remain the same. Humanity will be in for immense benefits if this new vision catches on. Here’s a little bit of the history behind this strange new science.

It all started with Max Planck’s black body radiation experiments at the turn of the century. He discovered that radiation or light propagates in discrete packets. Those packets are called the quantum of action. The energy in a quantum of action varies, but its discreteness does not, and that discreteness is known as Planck’s constant. Particles in classical physics evolve in a continuous manner, and in three dimensions of space, but in atomic physics that just doesn’t seem to be the case. With the discovery of the quantum of action, there was a merging of the dynamic state of the elements under study with their localization. The particles’ independence dissolved, as it became impossible to simultaneously determine position and momentum, an impossibility for which the uncertainty relations of Heisenberg became the precise expression. After the uncertainty principle, Cartesian space and time co-ordinates ceased to be applicable, and physicists were forced into learning new rules for a new game. In fact, all the conjugate variables of analytical mechanics–energy, time, momentum, position, had to be dealt with as approximations; they had to be dealt with in terms of statistical analysis. Ultimately, with the loss of space and time localization, physicists were forced to abandon their concept of a deterministic physical universe and, because of that, Einstein spent the rest of his life (after publishing his major accomplishments) trying to put “determinism” back into the universe.

It’s true that our knowledge, at the quantum level, is limited by statistical analysis, but it works, and it works well. That, according to Niles Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, was pretty important in itself. According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the model attributed to Bohr and Heisenberg, it doesn’t matter what’s going on at the quantum level, what matters is that in all possible experimental situations we can, within certain limits, predict the outcomes. Understanding reality, according to the Copenhagen Interpretation, lies beyond the capabilities of rational thought. The laws governing individual events are, at the quantum level, completely discarded. Only mathematical laws governing aggregations apply. According to quantum mechanics, it is not possible, even in principle, to know enough about the present to make a complete prediction about the future. Even with the best possible measuring devices, it is still not possible. Overcoming all the history that’s still building in quantum mechanics is a daunting task for anyone. Einstein wasn’t the only physicist who disliked the theory. Many have tried to dislodge the Copenhagen interpretation. In every instance, however, the physical world has intervened and said, “Your questions are meaningless.” No physicist likes to hear that! When a wave behaves like a particle and a particle behaves like a wave, the concepts that used to define the physical world no longer apply. Nature now requires a marriage of ideas that in the past were designed to live apart. Neil’s Bohr just got tired of fighting the inevitable. That’s when he started seeing things in a complimentary light. He basically said that there are no waves out there. There are no particles running around, either. That strange animal that interacts with the experiments, the quantum of action, is all there is. Because Bohr believed that, he introduced the idea of complementarity. He considered the particle picture and the wave picture as two complementary descriptions of the same reality, each description being only partly correct and having a limited range of application. For Bohr, the entity “electron,”–just like the other elementary entities of physics—had two irreconcilable aspects, which must be invoked in order to explain, in turn, the properties of the entity. To give a full description of atomic reality, each picture is needed, and both descriptions are to be applied within the limitations given by the uncertainty principle. In fact, when the queen of England knighted Bohr for his work in physics, he was forced to pick a family coat of arms, and so he picked the Chinese symbol of Tai-chi. Because he believed that reality had to be visualized in both its complimentary and contradictory aspects, but not at the same time, he felt that, at least at the level of the quantum of action, the basic idea of Eastern mysticism’s yin/yang reality had been confirmed. But, there is more to quantum strangeness than yin/yang reality! There’s another level to this relationship of mutually exclusive opposites coming together in same reality and it’s called “observer-generated reality.”

The classical notions of space, time, causality,–objective reality, — break down at the quantum level. Remember there are no waves propagating. According to most physicists, the wave function is not quite a thing, it is more like an idea that occupies a strange middle ground between idea and reality, where all things are possible but none are actual. An electron is not a particle either, it is more like a process, always forming, always dissolving. It can’t be detected until it interacts with a measuring device and even if it does interact we don’t know if it interacts with the device per se, or if it interacts with the last link in the chain of events that define the experiment—the consciousness of the human observer. The physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, devised a thought experiment to illustrate that point.

You put a cat in a box with some poison gas. When the gas is released, the cat dies. The release of the gas is triggered by radiation decay that is totally random (cannot be predicted). In classical physics, the cat dies at the time of the decay, but in quantum mechanics the cat dies when the observation is made, when the last link in the chain of events that defines the experiment occurs. At the time of observation when the box is opened the wave function collapses and probability becomes actuality. Of course, common sense tells us that can’t be true, but that’s precisely the point, common sense breaks down at the quantum level, things are “different” at that level. So the question remains: Is it (or when is it) necessary to include human consciousness in our descriptions of the world? Or, put another way: What role does measurement play in an experiment? Does it provide a description of the world under study or does it actually create that world? Quantum Mechanics has a hard time answering questions like these. Maybe one day that situation will be better understood, but until that day comes, talk about “objectivity” is probably best left to the Buddhists. They don’t have a problem with “independent reality” because, for Buddhists, there isn’t any; everything is interdependent. The subjective world and the objective world are, for an enlightened Buddhist, just words referring to mutually conditioned relations woven into one fabric. Keeping the Buddha in mind, along with the strange universe described above, I want to begin my discussion of structured existence by revealing the shape of my TOE—it’s shaped like a V, yes, it looks like the letter v, but that’s just the beginning.

End Of Life Story Redemption Chapter 2

December 26, 2009

My end of life conversation with the devil continues here with more dialogue about consciousness, freedom, God, religion, and intelligibility. At the end of this story post and all subsequent posts, I refer to some of my written work that compliments my conversation with the devil. I will not include, for the most part, the referenced work in this story. Instead, I will skip to my next redemption conversation with the devil. However, a lot of the work referenced (for instance, at the end of this post I am referring to my description of God’s footprint) is posted under a different title. If already posted, I will ID the referenced work.

Redemption—Freedom/Consciousness And Content/Form Interdependence

Future Time Nine Continued

“Stop whining. It doesn’t become you,” replied MV.

“I’m not whining, you’re the whiner,” I said. “Or if you’re not then you should be! But, hey, I’m willing to give the Devil his do. I can not compete with the enabler of creation, so tell me about God. Obviously, you are in the knowing position. After all we’ve been through, the least you can do is share a little of that knowledge with me. Come on, what do you say?”

“You already know God,” replied MV. “Err let me rephrase that. Because of our metaphysic, you know as much as you need to know about God. But, you’re right, we have been through a lot and I’m feeling a bit generous, so tell you what, I’ll tell you what you already know, but coming from me, any doubt you might be entertaining concerning the One On High, ought to be put to rest.”

“Great! You begin and I’ll follow.”

“As you know, God is all about communication,” said MV, “communication and structure. Remember the ‘affirmative ideal’, the underlying principle of structuralism? Well God is It, and from the ‘affirmative ideal’ communication follows. I’m sure you’ve heard these words before: “(1) In The Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God; (3) all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….” [Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version. Gospel According to John, 1952] Well, we’re all talking about the same thing here!”

“What are you’re telling me, that the God of Christianity is the God On High?”

“Well I am the Devil aren’t I? Oh, forgive me,” said MV, “I’m saying that there are many people, just like you, who have come to know the one true God. Besides, God does not discriminate! I’m the one that discriminates. Through me, religions thrive. God simply makes my job possible. If God plays favorites, it’s not found in icon worship; rather, it’s found in the discovery and application of universals, in the logical structure of all things reasonable,—in language, freedom, goodness, and in all heavenly gifts that rain down upon humanity. Do you remember these words? They are your words not mine: ‘In the negation of God, God becomes immanent and free. God’s immanence is important to us because this immanence is what we call physical reality.’”

“Your right, I don’t remember,” I replied, “but it sounds like something I should or could have said. When things start to go, they really go. Old age– can’t live with it, can’t live without it, but hey, if it gets too bad just stick around because you’ll forget about it eventually.”

“Do you remember your concept of reciprocal movement?

“Of course,” I replied. “As the source of all things physical, biological and divine, reciprocal movement weaves its way up the synchronic ladder producing identity, language, and free thought. Need I say more?”

“Very good,” said MV. “Then you also remember the interdependence between content and form. I believe you first discovered that relationship in the work of Piaget, more specifically; it was the driving concept in his constructionist theory. Am I right?”

“As I recall, yeah, in biological terminology,” I replied, “in addition to natural selection, Piaget believed something more was going on in an organism’s adaptation to its environment. For him, the life process proceeded along two developmental lines. First there was the assimilation of objects to individual activity, and second, the accommodation of organisms to their environment, and these two processes didn’t necessarily operate in equilibrium. It was in this ‘content/form interdependence’ where Piaget located biological development.”

“That’s not exactly what I’m talking about, but it works,” said MV. “Actually it works well because it demonstrates how ‘content/form interdependence’ moves all creation forward. You see, the open ended relationship between content and form not only drives life, it drives knowledge as well. In fact, Piaget described the nature of knowledge as being ‘a spiral the radius of whose turns increases as the spiral rises…This means, in effect, that the idea of structure as a system of transformations becomes continuous with that of construction as continual formation.’ Piaget further elaborates on the idea that knowledge, as a system of transformations, is always undergoing reconstruction when he says:

“Since Godel,…the idea of a formal system of abstract structures is thereby transformed into that of the construction of a never completed whole, the limits of formalization constituting the grounds for incompleteness, or, as we put it earlier, incompleteness being a necessary consequence of the fact that there is no “terminal” or “absolute” form because any content is form relative to some inferior content and any form the content for some higher form.” [Piaget, Structuralism, 1970 p. 140]

“You lost me,” I replied. “Where’s God in all of this?”

“My, my, you have slipped in your old age, haven’t you,” responded MV, “for every time there is a season and yours, perhaps, has come and gone?”

“Stop that! I know all about Piaget,” I replied, “but you’re supposed to be clarifying God, not obscuring the issue, so I repeat myself what does all this have to do with God?

“You’re right, I’ll try and be more clear,” responded MV, “but it had to be this way because from here on out it’s mostly logic; that is, the logic behind the ‘structure of transformations.’ But let me answer your question: God is found in the ‘continuous construction of system transformations.’ Or, to put this idea in your own words, the words that you have so earnestly developed over the course of your life: Freedom is form. Consciousness is content. Freedom expands consciousness. Form restricts freedom. God is free in the continuous construction of system transformations that result in more freedom, more consciousness.

Redemption—The Story Continues

Future Time Nine Continued

“The story of God,” said MV, “is the story of the rise and fall of freedom and consciousness. Does that help?”

“I think so, but I think also that I will better understand if we stay with my vocabulary when we talk about God.”

“No problem,” replied MV. “How’s this: Where consciousness is most restricted, where the form of freedom is reduced to the condition of ‘neither this, nor that,’ you find all the ‘strangeness of the quasi-real world of quantum mechanics.’ But, after a sufficient complexity arises in the universe, after freedom and consciousness go through a sufficient number of transformations, consciousness breaks out of the condition of ‘neither this nor that,’ and becomes more free in an environment that both sustains and propagates life, albeit an environment which limits longevity and the possibilities of adaptation. This process continues, though, and once again, upon achieving a level of sufficient complexity, consciousness becomes conscious of identity and reason. At this level of transformation, consciousness becomes free to confront obstacles and ask why! Of course, it is still limited by its environment and mortality, but, in terms of liberation, consciousness experiences an exponential rise in possibilities! There; are we on familiar ground yet?”

“You bet!” I replied. “But how about slowing down so I can get a better handle on form, content, and the God connection.”

“As you wish,” said MV. “We’ll start over. It all begins with the diachronic movement of physical events through time. These events—the charged particles, masses, forces, fields, etc. of nature, are embedded in the laws of nature. However, these events are also embedded in synchronic structure–the reciprocal movement of form and content, which also is bound by law, the law of intelligibility. Transformation is the medium of synchronic movement and transformation need not be a temporal process: 1+1=2; 6 divided by 2=3; clearly, the ‘following and making’ here meant, are not temporal processes. The law of intelligibility is the foundation of all ‘laws.’ As you already know, the whole of synchronic movement is framed by the double negative, ~(~b), and, as is the logical case with double negatives, affirmation is implied. This double negative encapsulates all diachronic movement. In other words, all phenomena takes place between the negative poles of the ‘affirmative ideal’ and, you and I call this ‘affirmative ideal’ God.” God’s freedom expands through synchronic transformations, and within this process, the horizon of consciousness expands also.”

“How come I never learned about the law of intelligibility in logic class?” I interrupted.

“You did,” MV replied. “In order to know anything at all you start with what’s given and whatever that is, it is not compatible with its negation. We’re talking about the principle of non-contradiction my friend, but in this particular case, I’m talking about the negation of an already negative condition, thus an implied affirmation is the result.

“If this wasn’t already my religion, I’m not to sure I could follow what you are saying,” I said. “But what about content and form movement, does it have to be that difficult to comprehend?”

“Well, here it is in a nutshell,” responded MV. “Try to remember it, okay. “Content is form relative to some inferior content and any form the content for some higher form.” Take, for instance, the form we’ve been discussing, the ~~b form. Content encapsulated in this form is all there is; that is, no other content can be identified outside ~~b. Diachronically speaking, this content evolved into the universe that we experience today. But, synchronically speaking, our knowledge of that universe is more about the liberating transformations of freedom and consciousness; the transformations that occur when ~~b becomes ~bb, and when ~bb becomes b~b~bb. And, in terms of the “contents of these forms,” mass/energy evolves into living energy that exists far from equilibrium, which, in turn, evolves into the electrical synapseing that produces human intelligence. In the “affirmative ideal of human intelligence,” form and content merge to create an environment of physical events (facts). You know this experience as the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self embedded in a physical event, but everybody else knows this experience as the beginning of the culture produced by the species Homo sapiens. In the end, this experience is the effect of the ongoing evolution of how “content is form relative to some inferior content and form the content for some higher form.” Death is important here for not only does it conserve the law of intelligibility that allows for the comprehensibility of the universe, it also moves life forward into expanded realms of freedom and consciousness.

“And that’s where we are at right now,” I replied, “here, where the bell tolls and it tolls for me and, as the great equalizer, for all others eventually.”

“Yes,” replied MV, “I’m glad you worked through those cobwebs, but there’s still a bit more to say on this subject. Things get more complicated at the next level of transformation. Perhaps you’d like to move this conversation in that direction?

“Now you’re talking,” I replied, “why don’t we take a closer look at freedom and consciousness; we can’t really go too far without that exploration. God knows, I spent a lot of time struggling with those two topics.”

“Certainly we will get to freedom and consciousness,” responded MV, “but first we should refresh your memory concerning the physical consequences that make possible the expansion of freedom and consciousness. We can refer to work already done, your work. That will make it easy for both of us.”

“Of course,” I replied, “let’s do it!”

End Of Life Story Chapter 1

December 19, 2009

Here’s another short story—a story of redemption (four, five….chapters probably). The content of this story covers some material already posted but from a different angle—the angle of my personal life. In my journal writing, in order to spice it up and add perspective, I couched my story in a plot where I made a wager with the devil (the Faust story was/is a favorite of mine). In the wager, if I found God the devil would take my soul (a pretty safe bet I thought). The devil, in the beginning, I knew to be the onset of my insanity (a voice in my head that had a life of its own). The upside of the wager, however, was that I could tell the voice to go away. In other words, I got control of my mind back. The devil still popped up occasionally—to teach me how to find God—but he would also leave at my command. Throughout my journal writing I would have conversations with this voice, but in this story I am having my end of life conversation with the devil.

Redemption—The Indictment

Future Time Nine

“So it’s finally come to this,” said MV.

“Come to what?” I replied.

“Look at yourself; alone again,” said MV. “Most people, in the end, are consoled by real accomplishments, services they have performed, treasures they have accumulated, and extended families they have produced. They can say, ‘Hey, I’ve lived a good life and here’s the proof.’ But you, you sit in that hard rocker, listening to ancient and sad music. Perhaps you’ve missed something, eh?”

“My kids are grown now. Some things don’t work out as planned,” I said. “Their mother, after a long battle with Lupus, has passed over. My memories, if not too impressive, are still consoling. Regrets? Sure, why not, who can go through life without them, but, if it’s my time, I’m ready, bring it on. In fact, I look forward to it, it will be like going home.”

“But, don’t you think that ‘home’ would be a bit more hospitable if you hadn’t left so many opportunities unanswered?” MV responded.

“I’m not sure I like these questions,” I said. “Certainly there would be less suffering if people only knew they were on a ‘chance of a lifetime’ journey. But what’s that got to do with me? Everybody is on that journey. I found God, but it took me half a lifetime to do it. It can’t be forced. What are you saying, that my time was wasted?”

“No, not at all,” replied MV. “I’m just saying, in terms of squandering resources, which you chronically badger about, your education could have been put to better use. I mean education doesn’t grow on trees you know. It’s a dream unrealized for most people. To bad it’s not like popcorn, plentiful enough to give away. But it isn’t, so the lucky ones have to give back. At least that’s the way it used to be. It’s all about accountability you know!”

“A death bed indictment; is this what I’m hearing? I didn’t rob, commit adultery, or murder anybody,” I said. “I found God. I’m not guilty of anything. Besides, as you know, my education came late, and that’s not very helpful. I mean, Jesus, I spent mouths trying to do volunteer work for the criminal justice system. They didn’t want me. I guess I was just too honest, but I kept trying; that is, until I broke my leg. It was my custodian job that paid the bills. Being thankful for small favors is one of life’s difficult lessons, but I’d say I learned that one pretty well. Why should I feel guilty?”

“It sounds like somebody wrote that old blues song just for you,” replied MV. “You know, the one: ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.’”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” I said, “employment, for me, has always been difficult to find, but otherwise I’ve been pretty lucky.”

“You can say that again,” responded MV, but it wasn’t luck.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Turn on your radio,” said MV, “turn to public broadcasting.”


“Do it, said MV. “There’s a ‘dedication song’ playing right now. Eric Clapton is singing it, and it’s dedicated to you!”

“If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all…”

“Wow, how did you know that song would be on the radio?” I exclaimed.

“Because your time is up. You are my property now,” responded MV.

“I’m nobody’s property.”

“Come on,” said MV. “Don’t be obstinate. I hate to break it to you like this, but remember back in ’75, in Deadwood, when you tried to put your lights out in that cocoon full of lethal gas? Well your luck wasn’t all that bad back then. You succeeded, but then again, so did I. You didn’t die because I wouldn’t let you die. You are alive today because of me, and further, because of me you found God, you found God in a place where others would never dare even look. Now I’m here to collect my due!”

“I didn’t die in Deadwood. You’re crazy. Go away. I command you to go away.”

“Those days are over,” said MV. “Besides, telling me what to do only worked before you found God, not after. From the moment you drew your last breath in Deadwood, I’ve been the consummate puppet master. I lead you down the path that you desperately wanted to find. Go ahead, ask yourself, was it worth dying for?”

“I thought I was finished with you. I thought I was rid of you.”

“You might want to rephrase that—‘Breaking news story, the king is dead. Long live the king’–you’re dead,” said MV. “Death by affixation the coroner said. Congratulations! On that cold February afternoon in 1975 you succeeded in killing yourself. It was just another suicide, didn’t even hit the paper, but that was expected. Deadwood had an image to uphold.”

“What is this! I might be dying, but you’ve got nothing to do with it. I have lived a good life–family, God, and the memories.”

“Arrogant to the end, I see,” said MV. “You have been living in a kind of limbo since your death, living at my behest. But it all stops now. What matters is that you have lived your dream. You should thank me. It hasn’t been easy, though; you’ve been a challenge, even for me.”

“I am not dead.”

“You wanted to discover God and you did,” said MV. “What more can I say? At first, you were slow, but, with a little help from me, you did it. Think of it this way: it’s our mutual success. You got what you want and I, well, one might say, for me, its all in a job well done. We can both be proud! Who knows, if you hadn’t murdered yourself, you might even have discovered God without my help. But we will never know, will we. Why don’t you just think of yourself as a little voice in my head, that shouldn’t be to hard should it! Hey, nothing goes as planned you know. How does it feel? Call it your just desserts. Ah, how sweet it is; that song I mean, ‘if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all.’ Don’t you agree?”

“I’m not dead. The joys, sorrows, love of family, love of life, love of God, all of that was real. It is real. You’re a phony. You don’t exist.”

Redemption—My Refuge Lies In Your Nothingness

Future Time Nine Continued

“If I don’t exist, if I’m not real then who am I then?” said MV.

“You are something that has gone radically wrong. You are an unhinged piece of my brain. You are insanity–my insanity,” I said.

“Don’t flatter yourself. You’re not insane, never have been. That’s a lame excuse, a rationalization,” exclaimed MV, “and you know it. Wake up. I’m real. This is not a dream. God is real and, at least from your point of view, the rest was also real.”

“I know it’s all real. That’s what I’ve been saying all along,” I replied.

“Only the part about God,” said MV. “Your metaphysic—our metaphysic–turned out to be pretty accurate, but it is far from the whole story. I’m not just an unhinged piece of your mind, a figment of your imagination. I’m a hell of a lot more substantial then that—in due time you will see for yourself.”

“You are an empty voice in my head, caused by the firing of to many or to few synapses in my brain,” I replied, “or maybe your just some unconscious, out of control demon haunting me from the past. I don’t know what you are. I just know that you are not who you say you are! Without the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self you wouldn’t even exist–nor would I.”

“Very good,” responded MV. “Now you’re beginning to talk sense. But I’m more than that. Think about it. It’s all there in your metaphysic. Am I just a product of the for-itself, or am I something else? Let me give you a hint. Without me there wouldn’t be a for-itself.”

“You are the force that keeps opposites apart,” I said. “You are fragmentation. You are the enabler of life, and self-consciousness, but you also subvert freedom, subvert that which seeks liberation.”

“Now you’re starting to get it,” MV replied, “but you can do better. Remember, as you pointed out many times before, you have to take the bad–with the good. Go deeper.”

“You are the reason I am here. You liberated me so I can be here, so we can both be here,” I said.

“You’re on a roll. And who are you?” responded MV.

“I am consciousness that is free because of you. I am the divine incarnate, the discriminator of right and wrong in the here and now. I am in partnership with God in the ongoing process of creation.”

“That’s right,” said MV, “and what does that make me then? Take your time. I want to hear this. Go for it!”

“That makes you the source of my consciousness, the source of my free will, the source of purpose. You truly are the fallen angle of God, God’s compliment in every way. Without you there would be no awareness, no sacredness, no wholeness, no God! ”

“Great, I thought we’d never get there,” replied MV. “I am the enabling force of creation. Wouldn’t you say that makes me a little more than a run amuck voice in someone’s head?”

“Yes, I suspect it does. I see now,” I said.

“It follows from everything I know, but you don’t know everything. You can’t! You are the negative side of the universe.”

“Indeed, that is true,” replied MV, “but that is enough. It is more than you can imagine or even dream. What you call creativity is little more than a sensing body’s stimulus/response to a space/time event. I, however, exist across time, everywhere, from eternity and back, so don’t tell me who I am. I will tell you who you are. Remember, ‘There are many mansions in God’s house,’ and your arrogance has been duly noted. In God’s house you are barely a spectator, so stop trying to second-guess me!”

“You’re missing something, though. And that something is everything,” I replied. “The potential for beginnings precedes all beginnings, and it is in your nothingness that that potential gets affirmed. You may be a part of it all, but what’s really real is above that, above you! Your job is to keep everything, including me, separate from the creator. By your own admission, I have found God, and you cannot trump that. I am not your property. God is above everything.”

Outside A Persons Protective Cocoon Self-Relevance Evaporates

November 5, 2009

I guess I forgot to post here last week so this is a two for one blog–this one and the one above.
When we come to question our own language games we are constantly thrown back upon our presuppositions, upon prior meanings, and this reflection on self-knowledge expands our self-understanding. But, before the question, before the interrogation agency of self becomes empowered with self-direction, we were/are practicing an even more vital knowledge–the knowledge of “trust” –and securing this knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.

The Perspective-Boundedness Of Acquired Meanings-The Motor That Drives Experience

We Begin To Understand How We Can Live In A World Of Shared Values, Meanings, And Expectations, While, At The Same Time, Live In A World Where Each Person Creates Her/His Own Unique Perceptions, Meanings, And Purpose, When Our Questions Are Reflexively Applied To The Collective Voices Of Generalized Others

In the application of negation it is the negative facet of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self that charges “things” with meaning and ascribes to the “self” self-meaning. L. C. Simpson (1995: 32) illustrates negation’s role in how meaning is generated out of
experience when he describes how prereflective acquired meanings are always thought to be implicitly held to be adequate to their objects when he states:

“But through them [acquired meanings] we are unavoidably tied to a perspective. Experience involves a growing awareness of the perspective-boundedness of those claims. It is the contradiction between the implicit claim to adequacy and the perspective-boundedness of these meanings that is the motor that drives the process of experience. But this means that experience is essentially negative; the meanings that situate us, that, at least in part, define us, are constantly being problematized. Our ordinary language games come to be questioned. Here, in the notion of negativity, we have the idea of freedom thematized. Instead, then, of proceeding with a complacent satisfaction, we are constantly thrown back upon ourselves, upon those prior meanings. Such a reflective return to those presuppositions is what I mean by ‘self-reflection.’ The process of experience, then, leads to self-reflection. This reflection on my own situation furthers my self-knowledge, expanding my self-understanding.”

Negation, in the language of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, takes the form of that which binds an “implicit claim to adequacy” to a “particular boundedness.” When negation is revealed (applied), an awareness of “perspective-boundedness claims to adequacy” becomes more resolute and in this resolute awareness we begin to understand how we can live in a world of shared values, meanings, and expectations, while, at the same time, live in a world where each person creates her/his own unique perceptions, meanings, and purpose. In the human world of self-determination (affirmation), with all of its unique perceptions, meanings and purpose, a person generates meaning unique to the person when the person negates socially shaped values, meanings and expectations. Thus, as an indicator of biographical relevance, negation empowers the salience of our personal experience.

It is negation that allows thinking to be reflexive. It is negation that allows a person to take herself/himself as an object, in Mead’s sense of the term, and to call out to the “self” the meaning of the other’s response. The meaning of the other’s response exists prior to experience of it, in so far as it exists, first, in language, history and culture. But, in so far as this response is affirmed as relevant to the biography of the observing person, the observing person selects for (particularizes) the relevant meaning of the other’s response. When the observing person assigns meaning to the other’s response, a relevant aspect of the observing person’s not-me-self is selected for and affirmed. With the addition of new information (the response of the other) the observer is, potentially, able to synthesize on going experience with relevant biographical information, consequently, an alteration of a person’s assumptions and beliefs may occur.

This communication process is accelerated every time we ask a question. Applied negation is expressed through interrogation. Through interrogation the agency of self becomes empowered with self-direction. When we ask questions we are, essentially, selecting (negating) the way we will relate to (particularize) a situation/object. Asking questions is our most direct route to biographical relevance. When questions are reflexively applied to the collective voices of generalized others we encounter the significance of what it means to add a dialogical perspective to Mead’s social psychology. However, before I begin this discussion I want to say a few words concerning the embodied or biological aspect of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self.

In Doing Everyday Life All Human Beings Answer The Question Of Self

During Bouts With Intense Emotional Insecurity, The Split Between Biography And Not-Me-Self (now perceptible) Avails Itself To A Person’s Ruminations Of Mixed Feelings And Self-Doubts

The Embodied Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

In the earliest stages of development, according to Piaget (1980), the infant encounters a resistant environment, and, it is through an action-generated vocabulary that the infant is made aware of objects, space, time, and causality.

[Footnote. According to Piaget (1970: 704), “From the most elementary sensorimotor actions (such as pulling and pushing) to the most sophisticated intellectual operations, which are interiorized actions, carried out mentally…knowledge is constantly linked with actions or operations.”]

It is at this stage, the sensorimotor stage, where the infant develops what Piaget calls a “practical intelligence.” Giddens, following Piaget’s lead, states: “A child does not learn that it ‘has’ a body, because self-consciousness emerges through bodily differentiation rather than the other way around” (Giddens, 1991: 56). The discovery of bodily properties, for example, fingers, toes, lips, hunger, thirst, irritation, etc., precedes the infant’s discoveries of objects, others, and self-consciousness. At this stage in the developmental process, according to Giddens, the infant develops a sense of “trust.”

During this crucial period, trust emerges from the relationship of caregiver (the mother) to infant. Trust gives the infant a sense of security during periods when the mother is absent. It is also this trust that allows the infant (and the adult) to orient herself/himself to others and to objects in the world. According to Giddens (1991: 40):

“The trust which the child, in normal circumstances, vests in its caretakers, I want to argue, can be seen as a sort of emotional inoculation against existential anxieties – a protection against future threats and dangers which allows the individual to sustain hope and courage in the face of whatever debilitating circumstances she or he might later confront… It is the main emotional support of a defensive carapace or protective cocoon which all normal individuals carry around with them as the means whereby they are able to get on with the affairs of day-to-day life.”

Acknowledging trust as the starting point and drawing from the perspective of existential phenomenology and Wittgensteinian philosophy, Giddens’ concept of self-identity (reflexive ordering of self-narratives) is premised on the belief that a person knows, virtually all of the time, what she/he is doing and why she/he is doing it. Reflexive awareness, on a day-to-day basis, is oriented around doing what it takes to secure this knowledge. Consequently, reflexive awareness, for the most part, is restricted to guaranteeing that day-to-day routines remain routine.

Out of what Giddens’ calls a “practical consciousness” arises the cognitive and emotive anchor that sustains feelings of ontological security. By remaining focused on the daily routines that keep us “going on,” we secure ourselves from the chaos and anxiety that exists just outside of our acquired routines. In ‘doing’ everyday life, all human beings ‘answer’ the question of self in the behavior that gets carried out. Giddens’ “practical consciousness” focuses on the day-to-dayness of what “needs to be done” and “on what’s going on.” In this way, the individual remains insulated from internal and external anxieties that could threaten ontological security.

During periods of emotional insecurity and crisis a person’s protective cocoon becomes vulnerable.

[Footnote. This cocoon also becomes vulnerable from an analytical point of view, as is testified to by an abundance of existentialist literature. For instance, the problem of self (the absence of I-ness), and its relation to existence, has been scrutinized by Kierkegaard (1855) and found to be synonymous with “the struggle of being against non-being” (Giddens, 1991: 48). Heidegger (1976/1962), in what he refers to as the person’s state of Dasein, describes the self in terms of falling (verfallen) or the deterioration of one’s self as it falls through common everydayness. Sartre (1980/1966) penetrates to the core of the matter by identifying being (self-conscious being) with the nothingness of the for-itself as it strives to complete itself, but, given the nature of its being, must fail. In a more positive light, however, the self, in Jasper’s (1969) description of the Encompassing and Existenz, gets connected with reason. “Existenz only becomes clear through reason; reason only has content through Existenz” (Jaspers, l955: 67)]

Feelings of inadequacy, the sudden loss of a loved one, a close encounter with death, all of these infrequent, but very real events, rattle our sense of ontological security and, at times, call into question our sense of purpose, meaning, and self. During bouts with intense emotional insecurity it is not unusual for a person to turn self-narrative back upon itself and inquire: “Who is the narrator?” It is at this time when the split between biography and not-me-self (now perceptible) avails itself to a person’s ruminations of mixed feelings and self-doubts.