The Beauty, the Cheerio, the Squirrel, the Possible, the Child

in philosophy •  last month

The present moment is the point where probability collapses into inevitably.

Considered this way, time is not so much a dimension as a transformation of what could be into what is.

Sit in a car and consider the next hour. Your possible future locations in space are nearly infinite, even if they're limited by roads and obstructions.

Stand in the center of a field and consider the same hour. Your potential locations billow into a cloud, even if they're restrained by a tighter radius.

Get on a train and your next hour is more limited than ever, although possibilities still sprout faintly off the sides of the tracks, in the form of derailments and delays.

Only the planets in their orbits are free of this fuzz of potentiality. One can predict with great certainty where they will be at any given time, at least in the short term of millions of years - but then again, can we account for all the perturbations of passing galaxies and meteor strikes?

(God may not play dice, Einstein, but he does play some higher-dimensional chess.)

We could be anywhere tomorrow. But today, we're here. Probability collapsing into inevitability.

Does it indicate a depressive personality that I consider this process a collapse?

Perhaps it should be considered more a sort of kneeling: a prayerful supplication to, and an acceptance of, the inevitable.

And yet, in our role as infinitely complex machines (with brains which in their baroque permutations confound even the mind of God) we do get some small part to play in the settling of possibility into in-alterable existence.

Every boulder you see contains an infinite number of potential sculptures. Which will you put your chisel to? What will you make of it?

The brain, it really does boggle all attempts to quantify and predict. I think this is what Daniel Dennett is getting at, in many more words, when he explains that Consciousness Evolves - and maybe there's something that kinda-sorta resembles free will in there, as well.

People who desire power want to leverage the effects of their hands over a grander radius.

It's humbling, perhaps, to consider we can have no impact beyond the boundary of our atmosphere, and to know that the vast majority of the universe is collapsing into inevitability beyond our reach.

That's why we've learned to pray and to accept. We go mad, if we don't.

Lovecraft's stories of ancient incomprehensible beings from beyond the stars terrify, perhaps, because it's impossible to accept manifestations of conscious will that can work and play at scales that render our own role insignificant.

Which would you rather pray to: a benevolent God, or Cthulu?

There is so much potential condensing into reality around us every given moment. We miss a lot.

We miss more than ever, now that we spend so much time staring into our phones.

The woman sitting next to me on the train yesterday spent 45 minutes transforming her ordinary miraculous face into a work of rosy porcelain perfection. She extended lashes to frame glittering eyes. She primed lips with the deep crimson of sexual readiness. She flushed cheeks with cosmetic excitement. She had all the tools spread out on her lap. Palettes and powders and creams. I've watched an artist paint a face on canvas before, but I've never actually seen a woman paint a face on her face. She finished and put her tools away, ready to march through the world with enough magnetic potential to turn the heads of eunuchs.

It's dangerous to wield that sort of power - but then, is anyone looking?

PhoneFace.jpg

Later:

A soot covered mouse on the tracks of the red line, visible only against the soot covered gravel because of its movement. There was a length of metal grill work mounted behind the third rail with narrow vertical slits. The mouse could have darted away through any of the slits, but every photon of light that followed went through all of them.

In some sense, the mouse did pass through all the slits at once. But being bigger than a photon, it mostly chose that one. It coalesced and scampered and disappeared from my perception forever.

Or maybe not. I might see it again.

Mice have a way of coming back, as do all small things.

When I see that mouse again, will I know if it's the same mouse?

Will it matter?

Sometimes I get the odd feeling that all the matter in the universe is composed of just one atom. A single, solitary hydrogen atom, say. Or more likely something subatomic and more fundamental.

So consider there's only one subatomic particle in the entire universe. And it makes all of this stuff you see by moving back and forth in time (as subatomic particles have been found to do) and popping spontaneously in and out of the cosmic void (as some have been found to do) as if it's just peeking in here and there to check on things.

This one particle is out there shuttling and wefting its way back and forth until it weaves everything that was and everything that ever will be into one single tapestry in a process that takes no time at all, and from another perspective, all the time there is.

The fusing of more complex elements in the hearts of stars would be, for such a particle, an act of self-recognition: the discovery that by this sort of temporal doubling and trebling back and forth across time, it could assume ever more complex behaviors and properties, and watch with fascination as it manifests gases and metals and radioactive isotopes and something as tragically flawed as us.

SquirrelClose.jpg

And this squirrel.

Look at the fat bastard, gorging on his sack of cheerios! Even my approach, with my fumbling attempts to line up my camera, could not deter it from munching cereal rings, each one like the next.

The same cheerio again and again, each made of the same elementary particle, returning to this time and place again and again, until it's built up an entire sack of cereal to feed a mammal made of its same self.

Where then, does that leave us, and our consciousness, and our role in shaping a tiny corner of this solitary particle's location in time and space?

Did it weave us with a purpose? Was it lonely?

Was it all just so the woman with the toddler, on today's train, could ask me to switch seats so her son could sit at the window? And then so she could bounce him around on her lap and clap his hands for him, and make him laugh, and so he could stare in wonder at the trains passing in the opposite direction in a lightning streak of storm and color? And so the little boy could say, "I want to go on that train!" to which is mother did/does/will say, "You will, later, when we come home?"

And so it seems to some that there is more joy there than we are built to carry all at once, so we get older and spread it out across the days, weaving back and forth, back and forth.

SquirrelBike.jpg

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It's not depressive, it's actually called wave function collapse, when a reality falls into place from the infinite potentials. And your writing is beautiful today. :)

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Thank you, @phoenixwren!

Maybe collapse doens't have to be such a negative word. I'll keep that in mind the next time the stock markets take a tumble.

You can see fortunes falling
all over town...
Make sure your umbrella
is upside-down
.

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Ooh I like that image! flips umbrella over

Fascinating piece. The kind of lucubrations we may come up with only when we collapse, in the best senses of the word.
It does have some possitive and even cheerful connotations, I believe.
Collapsing out of exhaustion, as in quitting that which causes the exhaustion and paying attention to our fundamental cravings.
Collapsing as in obliterating distinction or categories; collapsing as a unifying concept.
I loved how you put together all these elements (beauty, squireel, cheerio...). I read the post out of curiosity because I wanted to see how you were going to connect these seemingly disconnected elements.

The collapse from their separate universes into one ruled by our perception of them, our gazing, our witnessing. It is not until we see things as collapsed palimpsestic chronotopes that we feel one with the universe.

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Thank you, @hlezama - I'm so glad you got into the spirit of the piece!

Hi winstonalden,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

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Sweet, thanks!

What a well written and thoughtful post, and yet, despite talking about our insignificance in the grand concepts of time and distance, you manage to write something beautiful and rather uplifting. I really like how you wrapped up this writing, especially the last paragraph <3.
                       
Grats for the curie vote ^_^.

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Thank's so much, @scrawly! It always means so much when someone reads to the end of a post!


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Nice - thanks for your support!

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Interesting observation.

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