“You—in your fundamental existence—are the total energy that constitutes this universe, playing that it’s you… Playing that it’s this particular organism… And even playing that it’s this particular person… Because the fundamental game of the world is a game of hide and seek. That is to say that the colossal reality—the energy that is everything… that is a unitary energy… that is ONE—plays at being many.” ~ Alan Watts
If, as Carl Sagan famously intuited, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself,” then it stands to reason that we get to know ourselves better through a personalized unfolding of the cosmos –that is to say, interdependently.
Understanding that we are the tip of the spear of the universe interdependently shooting through space will get us further than getting hung-up on being a divisive counter-force independently moving against space.
It’s absolutely mind-boggling that everything is connected. And yet it must be the case. Perceptually, it defies logic and reasoning. And yet, actually, despite our perception of things, it is perfectly logical and reasonable. It’s like squaring a circle in our heads, using the power of imagination, and somehow succeeding despite the limits of knowledge.
As Frank Herbert said, “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.” So it goes.
Truly grasping the fact that we are the universe looking back at itself is a powerful tool in our ontological arsenal. It brings more wonder and astonishment to our curiosity knowing that the stars we see “out there” are the same atomically as the stars inside us.
It comes around full-circle. Self-as-cosmos and Cosmos-as-self, interdependently looking back at ourselves looking forward through us. Wow! What a ride!
Let’s break it down by comparing and contrasting the difference between cosmic insignificance and cosmic significance, while keeping in mind that “we are all just scientists, trying to make sense of the stars inside us” (Christopher Poindexter).
“To conceive of ourselves as fragmentary matter cohering for a millisecond between two eternities of darkness is very difficult.” ~ Sebastian Faulks
Perceptually, everything is separate and finite, differentiated and indifferent. Things seemingly have a beginning and an end. After all, things are “things” precisely because we perceive them being (in space-time) right “there” as opposed to being over “there” or “everywhere.”
Perceptually, we were born. Perceptually, we will one day die. One infinity is greater than another, but we don’t know how or why. Inside the box of conscious observation, after the infinite universe has collapsed out of its infinite wavefunction and into its finite wavefunctions, there is the perturbed observer, precariously perceiving an infinite reality using finite faculties.
Our finite significance is crushed under the mighty Infinite. Our meager musings are but a flash-in-the-pan on the greater fire of Eternity. The eternal darkness that came before us is dwarfed only by the eternal darkness that will come after us.
The infinite inter-connectedness of all things seems illusory at best when we’re faced with the inevitable slap-in-the-face of death. Mortality is a crushing defeat, an ever looming specter. Even as we stand proud and strong in our human skin, daring the gods and taming the fates; we understand on some level that it’s all for naught.
Our bodies will decay. Our minds will forget. Our soul’s fire will someday be unlit. Our time is Now, but what is Now compared to the fixed past and the unfixed future? Our significance is crushed by Time. And yet, it is also revived by turning the tables on Time and using imagination to transcend our knowledge.
As Andre Malraux surmised, “The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within this prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.”
“You are immortal; you exist for billions of years in different manifestations, because you are Life, and Life cannot die. You are in the trees, the butterflies, the fish, the air, the moon, the sun. Wherever you go, you are there, waiting for yourself.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
Within the infinite sets of reality (Cantor’s Set Theory), there is a null set: a set void of all things, where existence somehow doesn’t exist. It is infinite nothingness. It is pure unreality.
Within this set is all the infinite realities (governing Everett’s Many-worlds interpretation) where you have never existed, or where you died at birth, or died when you were five, or ten, or twenty. Thus it is a null set. For as Epicurus stated, “Death is nothing to us, since when we exist, death is not present to us, and when death is present, we have no existence.”
But, as living, breathing aspects of a cosmos perceiving itself, these infinite null sets are irrelevant. What is relevant are the infinite sets where we do exist (at least perceptually).
We are the walking, talking, meditating personification of life unfolding into life, despite both entropy and the infinite null set. Within these infinite sets of life, it doesn’t matter how many times we die, or what happens after death, because that’s all just irrelevant null-set entropy that doesn’t concern life itself.
What matters is this life, this eternal life unfolding within this infinite moment. Sure it’s counterintuitive. Sure it defies perception. But, then again, life defies entropy. And so too should our imaginations defy reality.
As Nietzsche wittily opined, “No artist tolerates reality.” And we are artists all. We do this so as to smooth out the ontological cul-de-sac. To make it less rough around the edges, with less existential angst. As Ralph Waldo Emerson poetically surmised, “As the traveler who has lost his way, throws his reins on his horse’s neck, and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so must we do with the divine animal who carries us through this world.”
Our cosmic significance is discovered through an imaginative intuition that reveals how all things are connected, and how we are connected to all things, unfolding through time and space, and through infinite realities (sets) and infinite multiverses (greater infinities).
We are the universe looking back at itself, a way for the cosmos to know itself, despite the cosmic insignificance of the seemingly finite amount of time we have. In fact, it is precisely because of the finite amount of “time” we have (perceptually) that makes things beautiful, astonishing, and full of meaning.
Without it, without the power of imagination, and our intuitive connection with all things, everything would be merely everything without any significance. And there’s the rub, the catch 22, the perpetual paradox –meaning exists because of our cosmic insignificance, and yet meaning is our cosmic significance.
And so we struggle with our mortal coils. And so we wrestle with the demons created from our own anxiety with death. So be it. There is gold in the brambles. There is meaning within the meaninglessness. There is medicine in the thorns. As Meister Eckhart profoundly stated, “We are all Mothers of God, for God is always needing to be reborn.”