By David Stone
I paced the estuary, walking with meditation, abundance… abundance… abundance. I found that the world I looked at every day became more beautiful and varied with each exposure.
Watery curls developing on the irregular surface as huge volumes of energy passed on the tides resembled the illustrations of wave functions I’d read about in physics. It taught me that action in isolation enhances knowledge, but not understanding.
Reality itself, the interactions of energy governed by physical laws, is so complexly immense that our brains can barely capture a minority of the details.
If a physicist focuses on how the world works, it must so engage him or her that all else is lost. Even the mechanics of a handshake breaks down into the chaotic soup of quantum underpinnings. After learning certain things, we can never see our worlds in the same way again.
The water curled as propulsive energy interacted with resistant or contrary forces. It seemed muscular, power against resistance. White foam escaped from the peak of a curl. Wind whipped it into sprays.
On a blue-skied day when the interactions were maxed, blue, gray and white riding the current, a constant churning, a push-pull, nature conducting a boundless symphony of sound and sight, always reliable, playing this part of the physical environment.
Becoming the World’s Happiest Man, Meditation #10
Most days, the sun washed the waterfront and skyline buildings with light. Much was reflected down and across the water. Photons smacked against dense materials, rebounding into the estuary. Some were absorbed, some bounced again, upward at a slant.
My eyes took in the scattering of light as some of the particles from each interaction bounced into them. Riding my occipital nerve, the information rushed to my brain. In less than a second, that incredible spongy chunk of equipment gave me enough information to integrate that part of my world.
At the same time, countless other events happened. My ears gathered sound waves and dumped them into the repository that constructs my reality.
It collects and correlates with the lights.
Receptors on my skin remind me about hot and cold, the wind and its directions. My nose picks up information from smells, a City flooded with them. Some are natural and some manufactured aftereffects of industry.
My mouth, crammed with sensors, was less busy, closed and numbed by the overwhelming tastes of toothpaste and mouthwash still lingering on its surfaces.
Moment by moment, my brain took all this and far more, scrambled it together with history, anticipation, acquired knowledge and innate skills to make a reality that’s instantly replaced by the next and the next and the next.
That, for me, is the most stunning thing my brain does.
It creates a universe out of a ceaseless flow and lets me walk in my created world without hitting trees or being overwhelmed. My brain condenses and shortens the world. I go through it, happy in the illusion.
What humans “see,” what we accept as reality, is an interesting set point at which we’ve agreed that this condition or level in the seamlessness of matter is the one on which we stake our claim.
We agree on the material compositions our brains evolved to translate into what we call “the world.” What’s actually “out there” is both too small and too large to see.
We talk about light years, but no one puts that into any mental space. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, and the distance traveled in 365 days is a light year. Where can you fit that in?
The universe we believe ourselves part of is many light years wide. Impossibly large, but curious creatures, we want to understand it. We want to write it down. That’s our unique inspiration.
Take this incomprehensible structure down to the human level of trees and water and living rooms, and then, keep going.
There is a universe of tiny things we stand on and/or are built from.
Some are so small and uncertain, we will never see them. Only experiments and mathematics tell us they’re there. Neutrinos are so small they race across the universe, passing planets without running into anything or changing directions.
Politics of the Small
Things are too small they aren’t matter at all, but they dissolve into energy. String theory predicts some have only a single dimension. Try imagining one of those. Then, get used to such bizarre items underlying every physical thing, and that includes you and me.
Knowing something about quantum physics is less important that realizing we will know some things only through experiments and math. We may large or small, but we are clumps of the something that makes up our universe. It depends on whether you look up or down.
Don’t accept that there is nothing else, nothing more, because there’s so much left find. Scientists aren’t close to exhausting the search. No one has every answer, and even the words and terms for some things wait to be invented.
Any mystic claiming understanding that surpasses knowledge is guessing. Mystics guide science with inspired insights, but they can also misinterpret what contemplation shows them.
You could write volumes about bad ideas that fascinated and earned the trust of millions. Our brains are still personalized filters, and they adjust for our beliefs and directions.
Truth is universal and personal, all at once.
That’s the point I am getting at in The World’s Happiest Man Mediation #10. With all that information and knowledge entering our minds in massive quantities, moment by moment, walking along any estuary alive with action, what or who decides critical issues about the reality we see and how we think about it?
That’s the question of our time, and it’s a really big one.
Is what’s going on in my brain while I walk by the water or write this book an accident in material space or a directed activity? Am I an illusion created to facilitate evolution or some other process? Is there a me at the wheel?
Mainstream science tells us that free will is an illusion. It’s an invention of the material laws that make our universe hum. Consciousness is a happy accident, a fool’s paradise, where we are in charge and steering our ship.
So, what’s the diff?
If we think we are real and making choices, does it matter in any practical way if we are or are not?
After a while, I took a position in favor of free will and conscious awareness. I did it to kick off an experiment.
If I consciously make choices or believe I do, what happens next? Who is this “I” anyway, and what makes him tick? How effective is he? If I decide on one thing and experience takes me somewhere else, does that prove I’m not in charge or that I’m simply participating in the human experiment?
It seemed like a fun approach capable of occupying me for years. I even found laughing at my tangles and puzzles easy.
Am I deluding myself about free will and consciousness? Gradually, I’ve come to understand that such self-deception is impossible. In the end, I’d have to delude myself about deluding myself, and evolution would never waste its energy designing me for that.
Evolution has better things to do.
No, I think science takes an unjustified shortcut.
We can’t explain free will without resorting to something ineffable, like the dreaded God or other divinity, and so, the whole idea must go.
Conclusion: The World’s Happiest Man Meditation #10
Speculation quickly whirls into infinite regress as we look inward to ask what the “I” each of us always contends with is. Each penetration steps down to one more me beneath the other, without end. We discover no bottom.
It’s a condition of science that if we can’t touch, measure or define something, it can’t be real, and if not real, it can’t stand.
My belief is that anything taking such a hold on our imaginations as free will must be entangled in reality, and even if it seems beyond our full comprehension, we still should lasso it and hold it in our corral until discovering everything knowable about it.
Choices are what we do. So, let’s get into choices.
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