We are stardust, stardust brought to life and empowered by our quest to think the Unthinkable.
On a night of restless sleep.
I wake up and I’m out of breath … I sort of thought something kindled the lightning flash of thought … it’s a kind of feeling … I can’t explain it… I feel like I sort of grazed the Whole for a billionth of a second … I experienced for less than a second an oceanic feeling … an intuition of the unity and the sense of the Whole.
I think to myself … it’s totally idiotic … (or not?) … it’s overwhelming … I don’t know what to think … I’m scared but it’s nice … am I still sleeping or I’m getting crazy? … I don’t know.
It was drowsiness populated by a thousand thoughts … the power of unconscious intellect over our sleeping imagination is terrifying – I mutter … or is it a superconscious intellect? Is it an over self-consciousness reflected in the ego? It may be my age that makes me think of this stuff. I DO NOT KNOW.
But I want to write down everything, the way I remember it … it took me a second in the dream … at least this is how it appeared to me … what is the meaning of time? All I know is that it is difficult to describe a dream … and it has taken much longer to write it … a long ride through what I learned and through darkness … that maybe isn’t darkness.
There’s something about the darkness that is a light … on the path of life and science. It can be both very frightening and beautiful at the same time because it’s about the most profound question in the history of human thought.
Do my words bring help to anyone? Is it worth reading? I don’t know. I have countless limits, I admit it candidly. Forgive my littleness.
Mine is just an invitation for people to reason. It’s not a physics or math class, even though I talk about it here and there … It’s just something I thought (or only imagined?) over a night of restless sleep. Please take it just as a little fancy chat. You can get up and leave if you want, but if you stay, please go down to the end. Thank you.
Mamma mia … a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings in my mind … the pact of Geryon … yeah … that’s right, yes … the necessary evil, an embodiment of the inescapable fraud at the heart of all representation … incommunicability: the inadequacy of language to express the fullness of its meaning… the “fundamental problem of communication”—the gap between the writer and reader, between speaker and listener, between the self and the other, or even between the self and its own memory or perception… I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it already … Geryon … the pact … Whoever would tell an ethical story—one designed not only to make statements about the external world but perhaps even to enact change there—must accept a ride on the wings of a monster: Geryon … Dante’s vibrant visual metaphor that expresses the uncomfortable link between objective thought and the sin of the “necessary” fraud of expressing it.
A necessary transgression typically (but not always) carried out with the best intentions, driven by a desire to say something about what lies beyond subjectivity …
To a truth that bears the face of falsehood a man should seal his lips if he is able, for it might shame him, through no fault of his, but here I can’t be silent. And by the strains of this my Comedy—so may they soon succeed in finding favor—I swear to you, the reader that I saw come swimming up through that dense and murky air a shape to cause amazement in the stoutest heart …
~(Dante Alighieri – Divine Comedy – 6 Inferno: XVI, 124-132)
Like a flash in the mind … it occurs to me that that’s the reason why generally we do not realize the hidden meaning of many things … incommunicability added to today’s synthetic life of “consume and throw” leads us to sacrifice accuracy (the hidden “objective” meaning) in favor of praxis (the form, the monster).
A deceitful manipulation of interpretation of reality for keeping us away from the questions of the bottomless pit inside us. Our subconscious does it on purpose because praxis is closer to us than theory and thought … it’s more within our grasp … and we fall in love with ourselves and all impostors and false prophets who serve cold dishes of stinky lies and nonsense in which we like to bask … We forget to give our lives a deeper sense of our transcendence.
“Where does my brief wandering lead of your immortal course?”
Night-Song Of A Wandering Shepherd of Asia (XXIII) Giacomo Leopardi (Italian poet 1798-1837
I know … at its best, art, whatever your art, even writing is an art … is a bridge between minds, but whatever departs from one mind is never quite the same as what arrives to another. Well … be that as it may, I will do my bit
The picture of the pit.
A photo in my mind. The black hole called M87 that a few months ago has been captured 55 million light-years away … A photo that has hypnotized me. It’s mass, its magnitude is more than 6 billion Suns concentrated in a space equal to our solar system. Something far beyond anything I can ever imagine.
I look at the picture. I’m lost.
An immeasurable eye with a black pupil, blacker than any other black thing I can imagine. Even light can’t escape because of its immense force of gravity. A pupil surrounded by a flaming iris constituted by matter and energy that before being devoured launch a final and vibrant cry of flaming light signaling the edge of the abyss. Physics defines it as “horizon of event”, an area of space-time in which it is impossible to observe what’s happening. A cyclopic, dark, voracious Gargantua that attracts and seduces me …
It’s looking at me.
I feel I’m learning something from the lure of the black void … but it eludes me … an oceanic feeling … the abyss outside me awakens the abyss inside me … Abyss … I know … I feel it … there’s in me the pitch-black darkness of the origin and the end, that indefinite space that precedes my birth and follows to my death.
The vertigo of this abyss scares me … and at the same time, it fascinates me. The foundation of my existence is a mystery … man builds the architraves of culture to lighten up a little bit the darkness of the mystery … and he mistakes the darkness with the void … because his light is insufficient.
Like a spider suspended over the abyss, man tries to weave his marvelous, geometric, but also fragile canvas and, sometimes, falls in love with it so much as to convince himself that those threads he builds are the life all, but there, under those filaments, the abyss continues to challenge existence and reason.
I’m alone with myself, like everyone else … the individualistic solitude of man … Ungaretti said (Italian poet 1888-1970) “Man believes in earthly goods. His good hands have nothing but limits. He, suspended on nothing, only entices himself. To heal from self-deception he builds graves and to think of the Eternal he has only blasphemies.”
The sense of human limit.
Einstein, through the equations of his theory of General Relativity, acknowledged the existence of black holes, but he, like Hawking, never hoped to see one in “flesh and bones”. Darkness … darker and darker … an inviolable line … Yet, other people proved that physical reality can never be known with absolute accuracy and certainty (Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle) … as well as another one (Göedel’s Incompleteness Theorem) who, in short, proved that truth cannot be equated with provability in any effective theory made by a system of axioms, which means that we are barred, in a way, from ultimate knowledge, from ultimate explanation, by the very rules of reasoning that prompt us to seek such an explanation in the first place.
What an odd thought … the ancient knights come to mind … behind the firmament of their conviction … man is only a thread of the inexorable plot of destiny … is he? But if suddenly a mysterious tear were produced in that firmament, then they would begin to stare at it and from there they would be assailed by doubts … they would no longer have “firmament”, they would become “in-firm” (from Latin in-firmus: unfounded, unstable) and they would turn into the modern man, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the one who hesitates in acting and struggles between being and not being.
The hole in the sky is the pitch black that surrounds existence … the darkness that man tries to illuminate with that little light that is his “feeling” life, his dizzying awareness of being alive.
Something comes to mind … in the sub-conscious mind … multicolored lights … what is this? I don’t know … there’s a figure … a hominid who discovers a bone and throws the bone up in the air and it cuts to a spacecraft … I can’t figure it out … I see someone else who slips through a wormhole (or so it seemed) to reach other worlds … but he finds himself home again, in front of his own life …
Now I see … it was about 2001 A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and Interstellar by Christopher Nolan … where the black hole becomes the corridor towards the possible liberation from time and space: the dream of man’s immortality.
There’s a cause to everything in the flow of the illusion we call “time” … I know … Special Relativity has proven it mathematically … law of cause and effect … but … why it is really hard to wrap my mind around the concept that there’s no aim? Maybe that’s transcendence … the very fact of thinking … looking for something else and defying human logic tells me something I can’t quite put my finger on …
I do not know … I think of the aim … I think of the irrepressible characteristics of every body in Physics … gravity and radiation … the first is a subdued appeal addressed by everybody to everybody, a constant appeal that knows no obstacles and barriers nor changes in mood, the second is like a living offer, an incessant and changeable emission (as temperature changes) for which the emitting object looks for its partners and provides them with energy, and if it does not receive it in return, it would not cease to donate.
The universe is not a bunch of indivisible entities, each closed in itself, as it was in the nineteenth-century conception of matter, but a whole, living whole, with an uninterrupted history full of surprises … I glimpse a deeper “symmetrical” unity that still seems to escape my mind … In the physical world, a piece of matter, or an entire planet, or even a single atom could not exist if they were alone, if only for the thermal radiation that would quickly reduce them to a temperature of absolute zero, to which, by the third principle of thermodynamics, they would vanish into thin air …
Symmetry … like a necessary and useful togetherness … humans are reflected in this symmetry … if a collectivity is not conceivable without the individuals who compose it, so there cannot be an individual if it is not part of a specific collectivity.
An individual alone cannot exist, cannot be generated, cannot live … it’s a property that involves the unity of the entire universe, the inseparable individual-collectivity connection is found at all levels and in all fields, thus revealing itself as a founding characteristic of every reality. With an interesting corollary: the community is not founded by replicants all identical to a single individual, but always shows a variety in single values, a dispersion within an interval, that is, a statistical distribution which is also specific … like the universe.
I think therefore I am.
I, the post-modern man, a Pirandellian character in search of an author, dives into the pierced sky and hopes to find himself face to face with the Answer but he finds himself simply face to face with himself and his life. The answer is not given, but postponed, and therefore it is shrouded in greater anguish: after so much traveling outside himself the man finds himself always closed in himself, in an unbreakable circle …
I, a human, spend my life trying to break this closed circle of existence, to free myself from the box of the world and the days, in experiences that project my self out of the inexorable natural laws. I do it by thinking. I try … betting against myself … in contact with nature in its wildest and most sublime forms: the desert, the peaks, the forests, the ocean. I try … with the travels of the imagination in the lives of others. I try … with the ecstasies of love, pleasure, money, power … But I always come back face to face with myself and with my limit.
Yet the thirst for freedom and the aspiration of going beyond … and hoping beyond … is at the center of myself and it exerts an infinite attraction. And my life turns on, becomes sharp and glowing just when I respond to this attraction.
Finally, I realize … I am awake, I am so awake now … I am a universe in miniature, I have all the components: mineral, vegetable, animal, but I do not result in any of them except in the spiritual one. It is up to my greatest and most mysterious gift, intellect, to choose whether to realize the symphony of these elements or to destroy it. But at the center of the human microcosm, there is an open abyss, and I am no exception … a place in which space and time fade away which, due to an excess of attraction, like a black hole, shows itself as darkness but it is the opposite of darkness.
Here man leans over his own foundations, interacts with his origin and his end, whose extremes touch. Here the man seeks the salvation of a finite I, who cannot get out of himself with his own strength. Here man perceives his transcendence but does not know how to achieve it, because he cannot, except in the creative forms of desire … for Infinite.
There’s something that makes us similar to … something we cannot comprehend … there is in the human unconscious an archetype of Wholeness.
In the passage from the immense darkness to inner awareness, infinity, in its entirety, becomes intimate, like the things that we hold dear, it is not outside, but it is here and now, inside our souls. Our yearning for the infinite is our restless heart that is wide-open over something that surpasses us, an abyss that seeks another one. The finiteness of life … our timed life … is not a death sentence, but an infinite still unfinished. Which is the opposite of what happens when, despising our limits, we seek solace in a traitorous infinity, which exhausts us … makes us unfulfilled and saps our energy, because it is external: the infinity of perfection, appearance, performance, hatred, idolatry, security … and all the boorish false prophets for which of “greatness” there is only the price to pay.
By claiming the infinite from the finite, which cannot give us anything, we end up hating even the finite … our everyday life and everything that comes with it.
Infinity, on the contrary, is inside us, it dwells inside all of us, and transcends us. This is what makes man noble. It is not simply quantitative, but above all it is qualitative, it is eternal that unexpectedly “occurs to us”, making us realize that our life is not an insignificant fragment of chaos, but a piece of a beautiful mosaic.
I feel small … very small … insignificant … where are my life accomplishments? Where is my pride? Where are these things in comparison with my transcendence? Do my Values matter? Are they worth anything? Yes, they are worth something … because they are there regardless of what happens … it’s a matter of coherence … and without them, I would get back to the jungle … but I’m being backed by something way more powerful and profound than my life in flesh and bones: my transcendence.
Everyone has one … but everyone’s scared of it … and fear provokes strange acts in people … they will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine just because it suits their “external” worldview … not because it comes from their transcendence … because people prefer easy reassurance of trivial things to thought. But there comes a time at the end … where we are alone with ourselves and there is no more time for lies.
The universe inside.
I had the picture of M87 enlarged. The black hole that the Event Horizon Telescope has captured. I stare at it, silently, and then I enter it, I travel back or forward in my life until I reach the edge of the abyss of … before I was born or after my death. I look at my “event horizon” from there: who or what was I? Who and where will I be? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? These questions are not a flight from everyday life … they are not an escape from reality or a stupid journey inside our imagination but the ignition … the spark of a life that you take seriously, because “light” comes from elsewhere, not from the mind of man. The more you lean on the vertigo of the darkness that surrounds you, the more light you will see. But even this is not enough, because our light wants to be eternal and it is indeed the light … the hope … that man seeks before passing away: that inexhaustible thirst for light says and points out that precisely in that darkness, that isn’t darkness, there must be the SOURCE.
PS.: As for what I have written in “The universe lives inside us”, you know, according to Freud, dreams are our desires stored in the unconscious … They are difficult to remember and even harder to decipher … especially when you are trying to “take the rocket out of the science” if you allow me to use this metaphor … and bring complicated matters very much down to earth.
I wrote whatever came to my mind … the writing flowed freely on the keyboard … but the images overlap … you remember cryptic things … the restless dream is shuttered by our desire and our rational mind … you feel the need to explain … and to inspire when reason and transcendence meet … and you feel something in the depths of your consciousness that you can’t explain.
Maybe the act of thinking with a high logical level of abstraction or even going much further than logical thinking is not possibly natural to the human mind. If it were, then our species would not have taken several millennia to figure out the physical reality; but that said, mathematical logic if taken as a self-referential unit, would come dangerously close to the logic of animals where instinct is based on necessity of a primal need. 1 + 1 = 2. Period. It does not take into consideration anything else; but even though we are animals from a biological point of view, we have undeniably something more than them.
We are not just higher animals and nothing more but are possessed of something that the other animals do not possess – a self-consciousness which can be developed until it matures into an abstract thinking power as well as a totally superior kind of awareness – that of the Overself … the need for the transcendence of the absolute. Everyone feels the need of it, consciously or unconsciously. So … math or not … we cannot ignore it, and we cannot ignore our brain.
Besides, if our thought … our belief … our subject is a closed entity that allows for no replication, we need to be careful because we are inside it. We are thinking about it from inside and we can’t see the extent of it, whatever this is about.
In order to understand the underlying concepts of something, we can’t even imagine … we need to get out of this closed entity. We should be able to do it, otherwise, we will never be able to grasp the meaning … We need to look at it from outside. This applies to everything. Math included because math is based on postulates which are taken to be true without proof. Thus, a mathematical definition itself is not the expression of an objective truth, but rather a convention. Now, that the convention is in practice acceptable in a large number of situations in our real world, is a fact that amply justifies its convenience; but in this, there is no transition to the absolute; and the same goes for Philosophy … Faith … and all-important questions and aspirations of humanity.
So, who am I to rule out one thing in favour of another? I am somewhat puzzled by some scholars who wonder … not why the majority of scientists reject the idea of Something Indescribable as the first cause … but why a minority don’t…
Well … I would humbly say … gentlemen would it not perhaps be the case to look at the whole picture, including human inwardness? After all, what was it that led us to explore physical reality and ask ourselves so many questions? Our human inwardness and our quest for the absolute. Maybe we should add an additional term to the equation which is precisely the term we can’t understand or define, and it’s not that simple.
Anyway … I am not amongst those who are sure of everything … lucky them I say. I use my culture quietly. I am not perturbed or obsessed with mysticism or theoretical physics and I don’t write instruction manuals for life. I am just one who asks himself many existential questions and I started asking questions a long time ago … with all my limits, contradictions and vulnerabilities.
It is something that stems from the deep core of myself, and the conclusion that I have come to is this: I like to think that Science and Transcendence (or Supreme Being … whatever you would like to call it) run close to one another … like two parallel lines. It is a thought that gives me an intimate space/time of silence, solitude and consciousness in which to nourish my emotional and rational senses with the beauty of the Whole … and I love to share it with other people.
I know … two parallel lines never meet. Nonetheless, it is possible to imagine the existence of a point so far out of space and time, so far into infinity, that we can admit and acknowledge, that our two lines do in fact meet THERE.