The curtain gilded by hidden source
everything is wrestling in a futile battle for birth
it is underground miasma where my eyes
fall upon like castles of music;
barely a cusp from the fountain of indifferent distribution
the memory of existing essentially empty of existence
colorless fraction of silence
floating in the stream that roams
through the anfractuosity of the event;
my toy car
the fuel of phenomena
distant but within sight
the constellation of the hunt
blue impermanent struggle
words as the indeterminate quarks of reason
my folded heart
in the plenitude of the unknown.
the icicle of reason
leaving a small puddle
at my feet
and we will build
assemble great systems
to the outer edge of the milky way
the civilizations, the civilizations
with its civilians hooraying
their democracies pushing
the sciences inventing
the artworks embellishing
the museums and the highways accelerating
the capital erecting
of the great laughter of achievement
while the black smoke of reality
into nothingness dreamt.
I had to give up the futile attempt of telling the story of alienation; of describing an uncharted state of confusion – newly born since today is new and has never before been lived. Only recently I had begun to understand the system into which I was born, spontaneously thrown into a configuration which is perceived as bizarre shortly after one is capable of analysis. And I am baffled to discover that the very faculty that has allowed me to unveil the absurdity of these circumstances is the cause of the environment I find myself in. The sharp razor of analysis, calculation, planning, prediction… the distinctiveness of our species, the pride of our ancestors: Reason itself, master and artist of modern civilization, creator and ruler of this world of laws and symbols. So powerful, yet so deadly. I had thrust myself into the arms of such deceitful guru, only to become prisoner of a disease… caged in thought, lost in chatter. With the torch of reasoning I explored the corridors of the modern world, I studied the interior of today’s machinery, and I probed the shallowness of our desires. Horrified by what I found, I stood still…. a sun slithered down the gilded sky, cars followed a steady line… waves of intangible information flowed by.
The world is changing. It is evolving before our very own eyes. We are carrying out a plan that we inherited – a plan that has no foreseen outcome but is continued only because of an illusion, perhaps the hope of progress, or some euphoric moment of fulfillment awaiting us in some distant corner of the future. Or is it comfort and laziness, fear of challenging what was given to us? Inertia compels us to accept the system, a system that is clearly cruel, indifferent and disheartening but at least it gives us survival, a chance to carry on with our lives without suffering too much. Nonetheless, this system is expanding beyond our control, we cannot see an end to our technological societies, feeding endlessly from our endless desires. We submit to a system we don’t understand but is presented as trustworthy, worthy of the highest respect… the ultimate goal of collective existence: civilization. And why? Why should I accept this intricate system of highways transporting money-seeking creatures, why should organization be preferred over chaos and spontaneity?
I’ve learned that any set of beliefs is relative to tradition, an environment endowed with the authority of time (or feigned timelessness), a community of believers that reinforce the belief with repetition, indoctrination, in short, education… and based on what, the authority of their opinions, their convictions based on the solemnity of their forefathers’ expressions, and so on, until the very necessity of proof is vanished because tradition has been instituted and a full circle has been completed. Tradition contains the “truth” and that truth was begotten by the unchallenged belief of generations which granted tradition the authority of timeless revelation. I’m not only thinking of religion which is of minor concern nowadays. Tradition in the form of greed, individuality, progress, happiness; any principle by which we can govern our lives. Doesn’t it make sense that our calculating minds, striving for one fulfillment after another, have adopted this behavior after years upon years of learning the same old ways of our immediate forefathers? And can we continue using the moral imperative of “ought to”, we ought to be happy, we ought to be successful, we ought to be reasonable; in modern terms, we ought to be well off. How can we again insinuate some sort of collective ethics, when every purposeful ideal is always biased, wrought by individual preference and thus, completely inadequate for generalization?
In universal terms, in the metaphysical urgency triggered by poetic insight, in silent contemplation that destroys the metanarrative of cosmic history painted by science and rationalism, when the grand picture of the universe is captured in one unified indescribable awareness… in that state which is short-lived but long-lasting… and to view a queue of cars, the sidewalk wet by rain, the sun tainted by clouds, the air still, all these and yet none of these. When nothing seems like a necessity, anything can be challenged, overturned, changed — beauty that has no structure, no rationale
…. a sun slithered down the gilded sky, cars followed a steady line… waves of intangible information flowed by.
It seems to be I am locked inside this excessive silence. That while I look up into the hazy azure of the sky or into the windy skies of night I discover an impenetrable void, a silence that cannot be breached, a solitude that is here to stay. My arms plead with desperation for a sign, my ears are on a pilgrimage in search of a sacred word – a confirmation that life can be trusted. A revelation or miracle that can transform these wild gyrations of nonsense into a lively and trustworthy universe. Long tunnels of agony and atrophy seem to be the destiny of those that aspire to awaken and revive human life from its muddled lethargy. But being trapped inside an inescapable chasm, I have only the ignoble expanse of space to address and all of creation turns its back on me and answers back in SILENCE. I am not insightful enough to interpret my own frustrations, I cannot tell if it is a general trend in this new age or if I stand alone in this inexplicable confusion. Furthermore, the only remedy comes in strings of lyrical eruptions that at first sight seem vague and meaningless, but are in fact projections of the real ambiguity and hollowness that resides deep within. It is unnecessary to find coherence when one is no longer servant to the tyrant of reason, it is superfluous to propound theories when the intellect is too weak to grasp reality. So, the image is inevitable: floating in cold nothingness, silent solitude. A journey through emptiness, a constant motion through space finding every now and then a naked planet, an aura of beauty and patiently collecting the dust of time in expectation of a glorious sun – surrendering to the all-powerful ground of being.
Science is based on an unscientific judgment of value. Science and its followers claim that knowledge and truth about the world are only possible through the scrutiny of the scientific method. Therefore, all other sources of knowledge are doubtful, if not, downright mistaken. It eradicated subjectivity from its grand representation of the universe and claims to speak as matter-of-fact and objective as possible. However, the scientific enterprise has still to prove why we should deal with the cosmos as a problem to be solved; it has yet to answer why knowing is much more important than any other human activity. The great technological benefits we enjoy today are not at all essential; we clearly see the animal world enduring without vehicles or television, or notions such as gravity and entropy, such ‘animals’ even have very complex societies or innate flying abilities. Therefore science cannot claim to be the ultimate route to a better and wiser life, it is a historical phenomenon existing only for the past few centuries and not necessary to life on this planet. In this sense science is morally unscientific; it cannot provide evidence for why a scientific attitude is more preferable than, for example, an aesthetic or nihilistic one. This is simply because science has not been able to predict human emotions or chart our future decisions, it has nothing to say about what we should do; it merely states what is not what should be.
Scientific-minded people believe themselves to be the most rational minds today. They have associated rationality with one method of inquiry (i.e. scientific method) and have abolished all other sources of data and knowledge. This seems to me more like a limitation than an advantage, precisely because science cannot deal with the whole spectrum of our experience. It works simply on the observable external phenomena and has yet to contribute to an understanding of human consciousness. It pretended for many centuries to get rid of this uncomfortable fact but the shadow of consciousness has crept into modern physics and it is now clear that even basic physical concepts such as mass, distance, velocity, time, are dependent on an observer. In a broader sense, rationality should encompass more than just science and its mother logic, considering that science is narrowly limited by its inability to connect with our whole experience of life. In other words, we are aware of things that the analytic mind cannot formulate. The rational discourse of science is incomplete; it cannot be the entire picture since it lacks insight into our inner life which is as real and undeniable as the external world. For this reason we can learn about life equally as much from a scientific treatise as from a novel, a poem, a kiss or a beautiful landscape.
(This is not an attempt to invalidate science but simply a reminder that the powerful mystery of life cannot be grasped from one perspective. Those that are dedicated to the exploration of existence must remember: there are no official paradigms; we alone bestow authority to whatever we choose to believe. We cannot limit the cosmos to certain aspects of itself, it is beyond our attempts to reduce it to one knowable thing.)
If we must submit to the irrationality of following all logic to its end, conclusions may turn shockingly paradoxical. I once heard that we have chosen our life from the very start and that our experience on this planet is simply the revelation of our original choice. If this were true then the absurdity of our suffering would be justified since we have chosen beforehand to experience it. The question that remains would be: why have we forgotten our original choice? Why does life present itself as an unknown unfolding instead of being the realization of one’s desire? By some obscure mechanism our original choice has been obliterated, life remains a permanent surprise. At first this seems like another form of fatalism except for the fact that we have chosen that predetermination. On the other hand, most people believe that the universe is a spontaneous happening and we must choose our way through the hazards of spontaneity. Our life is the result of all our choices, but how do we ever get to choose anything? I sat down the other day to think this one over and I discovered that my choices are really just reactions to whatever is presented to my mind. From the pettiest choices to the most important decisions I simply obey a feeling, logic or a whim. In all of these cases I am subject to what simply happens inside me. Should I buy a black or blue pen? I wait for a moment, experience a certain sensation of pleasure in black and I buy the black pen. Should I live in Costa Rica or in India, I wait for a moment, a logical-emotional labyrinth emerges in my mind and by the end of this involuntary frenzy, I make my decision. Naively speaking, thoughts are like emotions, they arise involuntarily and by a law of their own. Most people are identified with their thoughts, but if you ask them how they fabricate a thought they must inevitably answer: it simply happens. So, if my decisions are nothing but reactions to what is presented to my mind, what is allowing these perceptions? If we submit to modern scientific thinking, to explain a perception in the human mind we must pursue a long path through Psychology, Sociology, Biology, Evolution, Neurology, Chemistry, Physics, and we will end up with an ultimate theory for the universe as seen by man. In very simple terms, what we experience is the result of the whole arrangement of the cosmos, and if we knew every bit of information about this arrangement, we could predict ourselves. Again, we fall into an unremitting fatalism.
But what’s the use of all this reasoning and the contemporary compulsive adoration to logic and reason?
The problem of Free Will is inextricably linked with a scientific belief. This belief is in itself perhaps older than formal science but nonetheless it acquired great force with the birth and development of the scientific enterprise. It can be stated thus:
Everything in the present is the direct result of the configuration of the past.
Nothing is without a cause. Thus, whatever we encounter in a present state can be explained or understood by its former state and the natural laws involved. If this belief is to be adopted thoroughly, if nothing can escape causality, then anything we experience has a direct cause in the past.
When we bring this kind of reasoning to the debate of Free Will, we can conclude in the following manner:
Psychic phenomena all have a cause regulated and governed by natural biological laws that at present we cannot name them all. Whatever we experience in the present is inextricably linked to a past state of affairs.
We understand Free Will as the ability to make an act or decision independently of any necessity compelling us to choose one thing over another. Stated this way it seems that the act of choosing has escaped the law of causality. But if this is to be rejected by our common scientific understanding of the world, we arrive at a different conclusion. Any decision-making process is only possible when the individual is in a particular situation where (s)he reacts to the evidence or stimuli presented for making a decision or act. This stimulus is the psychic content, patent or latent, that takes part of the decision-making moment. To pick an apple over a banana is the result of the apparition in the individual’s consciousness of past experience with these fruits, past reactions to these that make one fruit preferable over the other. A decision cannot be achieved without the pre-existent conditions for making a decision; that is to say: desire in the individual for eating (something that is quite involuntary), the past experience with the objects and objectives of the decision or act. Bound to memory, expectation, desire, and many other, the decision-making process is dependent on psychic phenomena that arises in the mind without a conscious or voluntary action. When an act of “Free Will” has taken place we remember the act, and the possibility of choosing otherwise, but we forget the requirements for us to arrive at the chosen action. The action was conditioned by involuntary psychic phenomena, something which we do not control and therefore acted out of a necessity towards this stimuli that was presented to us: Desire, Aversion, Memory, Imagination, Etc.
In such a way the problem of Free Will can be reconciled with the idea of causality. And with this knowledge now in mind the upcoming decisions will be influenced by this new awareness. We may doubt at the moment of decision-making in order to prove our putative freedom, but we are still only reactions to involuntary psychic phenomena that permit the processes we call free and voluntary.
However, to understand the laws of the human psyche at the present seems unlikely because of the complexity involved; the apparent arbitrariness or spontaneity of the stimuli that allow our decisions to take place is sufficient to permit our current morality – based on the supposition that we are free agents making responsible decisions – to remain established.
::::::::::::: APPENDIX ::::::::::::::::
The main idea behind this short inquiry is to reconcile two basic assumptions we have about the world.
1. Everything is the effect of a cause. Therefore all effects can potentially be explained or understood by their causes. (A general accepted supposition in our contemporary scientific culture)
2. We are free agents, making decisions independently of any external necessity obligating us to make a certain choice.
These two assumptions we all have in the back of our minds are in stark contradiction. How can we be free if everything in the world is determined by natural laws and follow an unchangeable course? We then would be part of the immutable course of things and all our actions are predetermined since the beginning of time.
If we follow the suggestions of logic, we will conclude that we are nothing but puppets manipulated by the general course of nature’s laws. However, we don’t feel this to be the case. We feel we ARE free and independent.
The above paragraphs attempt to show that we maybe deceived by our belief in Free Will. Simply stated, our decisions are not made by an omnipotent-omniscient ego that at each moment can decide what it wills. Our decisions are based and chained to mental phenomena that arise involuntarily into our consciousness (that is to say it appears quite without our consent, as a cloud would appear suddenly in an open sky). This involuntary phenomena (desire, aversion, fear, tribulation, excitement, anxiety, and countless others) determine the choices we make. Our choices have natural causes that do not depend on us. With this explanation we can find causes for our decision-making lives and discover that we are not as commonly believed: free creators of our destinies.
However, if we can find reason to doubt the first assumption: everything has a cause by which we can know the effect, then Free Will may be conceived without logical contradiction. And it is wise to reassess our dogmatic belief in science and the principles of causality, which may be in the end altogether mistaken.