Friday, January 29, 2010

Piece of work

Humanity has an exalted opinion of itself, and why not? It looks around, sees that it dominates all the animals, and to a certain extent the environment (although global warming may decide that contest rather decisively in favor of the home team). At the same time, one is distressingly aware of the shortcomings of this species. Shakespeare in Hamlet expressed exhaustion with the idealized Renaissance view of human potentiality: "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?" Obviously, Hamlet was disenchanted. And who, living in this benighted day and age, can not be also? Still, that ideal contains the seed potentiality for the evolution of consciousness in the species. It resonates across the ages as a reminder that we are greater than we know. Even now, not in some distant future when mankind has purified itself and refined out its greed and violence, but now, we have the voices of our better angels deep inside our ears, quietly reminding us of who we already are.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The time before time

What was the time before time? That is, before time existed (presumably before the Big Bang, because there could be "by definition" no time before matter and energy existed). And so the question renders itself meaningless....but wait a minute, by whose definition? I think we're being subjected to a bit of philosophically naive materialistic reductionism run amuck here. Answer the question!

The time before time is a different level of existence. It simply defines itself as that reality upon which so-called "3-D," or three-dimensional sensory reality is based. It is independent of 3-D and in fact totally permeates and suffuses the temporal aspect that can be measured in terms of moving objects, even quantum particles. Quantum time does begin to approach it, being nonlinear and acausal, but the time before time partakes of a reality that transcends the quantum layer of virtual fluctuations in which relative existence finds its temporal grounding.

Dali's "Persistence of Memory" gives a flavor of this pure existence aspect of time. Just as his melting watches are found on a spaceless plane (one with no fixed spatial reference points), the sense of momentousness, of being poised on the edge of a moment, create a sense of timeless time. This is still time, but we hear no ticking, we see no digital readout that uniquely identifies this moment from any other. It is a kind of knowing time, that knows us very well indeed, that is conscious, and that wants us to listen to it. A different kind of time, in other words, from the reductionist version, the passive slave to materiality. We'll listen now, old man. Look at my life. I'm a lot like you were.