Why am I self aware? I ask why, like a child asking why can’t I fly Daddy. And like Daddy I cannot answer the why question but can describe quickly and easily how a bird flies, how a plane flies, and that a human does not have the apparatus to fly.
I can ask why? The oddest question ever, it does not imply cause behind the effect but rather meaning behind the perception. The question is about meaning and difference. Why can’t I fly and the hawk can?
The fact we can conceive of the question why is proof of a self. A separate being. And in this little article I will tell you …Why.
But first we shall meander a little…
The what, how, where.
The universe is made up of matter-energy, time-space, and instruction-information. Three different expressions which combine to make the universe we sense. Einstein tells us that matter and energy are interchangeable E=MC2 and that the planets and atoms play in a field of space-time which is warped and bent by matter-energy to create what we know as gravity. How this matter-energy combines and interacts to create the rocks, people and planets we know as reality is determined by the instructions-information existing with-them. Simple instructions such as an on-off (action-nothing) binary system can create very intricate instructions when combined and communicated in a complex system. I use with-them deliberately for instruction-information is not the product of matter-energy nor is it somehow contained within but is with the matter-energy in a field of space-time. And space-time is with information-instruction as it is with matter-energy. A looping coexistence.
Does the fluid interaction of complex system create “a self”? Physicists, information theorists, and biologists hit a brick wall when using their theories about the universe to explain a sense of self, or as what you know as feeling human, feeling alive, being me. And what scientists simplify to consciousness.
Can information be created from nothing (or destroyed)
The most extreme environment we know of is a black hole. Singularities are what we expect to be at the centre of black holes, the instruction-information does not act as we think it should, it is all scrambled but does that mean it is destroyed?
It makes me think of a crowded bar where the music is loud and everyone is yelling. The din is so all encompassing that you can’t decipher one word from the hum, no separate information but it is still there just smothered in a mess, a static. Pull the people apart or lean into their mouth and the information, the words make sense again.
Imagine all the people in the bar crammed into the toilet like the matter-energy and space-time compressed at the centre of a black hole. The hum may stop as people struggle for breath but the instruction-information is still there just not audible, not transmitted, it lays dormant and possibly still changing within the cramped space as people smile, wince, tickle and squirm. No language but they are still communicating and outsiders cannot hear them. They are changing, their potential when released will be different to when they were compressed.
That’s what I think of a singularity at the centre of a black hole. The message is at first scrambled, then static, then silence but within it the conversation continues. Instruction-information doesn’t disappear but the modus operandi changes invisible to the outside observer. And randomness I assume will be amplified because of the close proximity and space-time concentration. New scientific laws would be the result.
Can something come from nothing? No cause to the effect.
I once posited that God must exist because we can imagine him. We asked why do we exist and then created a creator – logical inference – but non-the-less we created something we could not sense. Once created god proceeded to change the world through us. We have built churches, gone to war, procreated or not, and many other changes of the physical environment because of an imagined thing. A determinist would conclude there is a base cause to the building of a church and thus God must exist. If God didn’t the church couldn’t, and it does, so both effect and cause must be real. And in theory, in your imagination you could reduce a church to the idea of God, after all the purpose of a symbol is to be reduced to the spiritual concept. Not literally of course, but literally there is no reason for the church in the first place for it serves no physical purpose. A house protects from the physical cold, rain or heat. Not with a church. It relies upon the creation of God.
This really just explains the limitations of material determinism nothing more. We cannot just look at the interaction of matter-energy, space-time and information-instruction to understand our self.
The seed of imagination is randomness – error. The base of all creation.
Now lets imagine that our three expressions are not boxed into just being matter-energy, space-time, and information-instruction but are fluid. They are interacting with, and most importantly changing into each other. With-in this world we create our reality, the world we see by boxing the expressions of the universe. They are just three ways for us to understand the world.
The Cappadician Fathers of early Christianity interpreted the holy trinity known to us as The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit not as three divine entities but three expressions of the divine. The Father was The Word (information), the Son humanity or physical being (Matter) and The Holy Spirit that which makes God come about, love or feeling or energy. But God is whole in each of the expressions but each expression is different. At least to us who like to box things.
Daoists have similar expressions of the whole, Qi energy, Li pattern or instruction, and the Dao which is the envelope, the everything. The unknowable everywhere.
I am suggesting our self comes about through the fluid interplay of our three expressions M-E, S-T and I-I and the randomness of this interplay.
But can our self exist without them?
We are back to is the absence of anything possible (nothing)? And can something come from nothing? Thinking of the self in such reductionist material terms is odd. Karen Armstrong the author of The Great Transformation makes a very good argument for just that. She argues that to use science to understand the divine, spirit or God – all products of the self – is not just odd but impossible. It is ridiculous to use science to understand something that is definitely not scientific, for if it were it couldn’t be divine it would be just matter and energy the stuff of this Earth and therefore not God or at all important in a mystical human sense. If we prove God really does exist, that there is a white bearded bloke sitting on a cloud over Sri Lanka and he knows everything and controls all your thoughts and all your actions and the whole world around you we have destroyed God, we have destroyed our self – the power of our own imagination. If He is scientifically proven, and he is known and we can predict all his wishes then we have subsumed him, our creation. Then we know all and there is no chance, no randomness, and no life.
Life is the product of random mutation.
So you can’t prove the existence of the self by empirical experiments on matter and energy in space-time, we must intuit, we must feel, we must know we have it. And I do have “a self” and I’m pretty sure you do too. That is the only thing I am sure of.
I can’t prove I exist. No one can ever hear my internal dialogue or know the way sunsets in the middle of winter make me feel, sometimes I wish they could for it would make it unnecessary to tap these keys. No-one will ever really know me or you but a few will get close and when they do we use another ethereal word … Love.
I do exist. And I through some means I have control over our three expressions of The Self. You may notice I’m hinting that the self is the envelope, the Dao, the God, and that it may not just exist within humans. For why should it be limited to us.
Why is the first question we ask? And we ask it over and over. It is not taught to us by adults for parents rarely ask why, adults in a controlled cosmopolis subsume why with how, where and what for. Children ask because they have not been fully contained in the box of rationality, to them there should be an answer as to why am I trapped in this feeble body with these arms that do so little and my mind so crippled by this tiny brain. Perhaps there is an answer.
David J Campbell
David J Campbell is the author of Fluidity – the way to true Demokratia available here.
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