by Daniel Rourke
The Huge Entity
The machinery concerned with human experience is a bundle of cells so intricate in its complexity that it took over 13 billion years for evolutionary processes to manifest its structure. We each maintain that the actions performed in the perceived moment are ushered in by a consciousness born of this bundle of cells - but we'd all be very very wrong in this regard. 'You' are metaphorical snowflakes my friends, the fragile nature of your being melts effortlessly to nothing. Thus:
Take a normal everyday mirror and cast its photon rebellion onto your rarely understood face. Stare into those eyes, regard that absence of being beyond. Keeping your eyes fixed on the reflection move your head from side to side. See how your eyes stay resolutely focused at one position? Your head is in motion, yet perpetual blur does not arise. Your brain issued a series of magnificent commands so distantly removed from your conscious experience as to be utterly distinct. How does that work? It was not 'you' who kept those eyes so absolute. 'You' had no idea of the complexity involved in every muscle spasm, every minute motion, every perspective shift and reflected instance. 'You' are the nothing in the equation of your soul. The eyes tell no lies.
Science too alludes to the unnerving quality of mankind to place itself in dominions we are barely aware of. Rene Descartes would have us believe that the human mind is anything but irreducible:
"There is a vast difference between the mind and the body, in that the body...is always divisible, while the mind is completely indivisible." - Descartes' MeditationsHere we find not only one of the most famous (attempted) scientific analyses in the history of philosophy, but a reflection of the state of Western scientific enquiry ever since: that the human mind somehow transcends the world of nature, gaining access to the objective realities beyond its boundaries. True, today this distinction has been displaced almost in its entirety, but its seductive power still lingers in our social consciousness. V.S. Ramachandran, in his captivating book Phantoms in the Brain, sums up the problem succinctly:
"Philosophers have argued for centuries that if there is any one thing about existence that is completely beyond question, it is the simple fact that 'I' exist as a single human being who endures in space and time. But even this basic axiomatic foundation of human existence is called into question by the Capgras sufferer." - linkA Capgras sufferer maintains the delusion that family members or close loved ones are impostors. Thought to be caused by damage to the emotional response centres of the brain, the instinctive identity the sufferer ascribes to these acquaintances is lost, usually forever. In extreme cases Capgras patients have been known to believe themselves to be an imposter. Their emotional conception of their very being has so been shifted by mere damage to the brain that identity itself is rationalised out of existence.
In this, albeit extreme case of reality disruption the fragile snowflake of selfhood begins to boil away before us. How is one to persist - confident in the knowledge that your very being is so weakly maintained? You shouldn't be so surprised:
"Consciousness is often not only unnecessary; it can be quite undesirable... Right at this moment, you are not conscious of how you are sitting, of where your hands are placed, of how fast you are reading, though even as I mentioned these items, you were. And as you read you are not conscious of the letters or even of the words of the syntax or the sentences and punctuation but only of their meaning..." - Julian Jaynes, The origin of consciousness...Such a vastness of your world is built in ways beyond your reckoning that it appears that your 'you' is not yours at all! There is no doubt that the machinery of the brain uses its 13 billion years of evolution to devastating effect, but 'you' have nothing but a window seat on the reality that machinery suggests. In every waking moment more information bypasses your perception than a lifetime worth of conscious awareness. And yet nothing can have its advantages. In Mu we trust:
"A good painting is one that makes us sense the cosmos, even if it shows only a single persimmon." - Kobayashi KokeiIf consciousness lives in the shadows of reality surely in nothing we can find the greatest darkness; a breadth of absence far more dazzling than any matter of existence. As the quote above suggests that minutely focused pinprick of conscious awareness is capable of attaining universes packed full of infinite beauty in a merest detail.
"...the world which stands over against us as something thoroughly objective is transformed into a world of signs within us, is grasped by us as a significative world...The simulacrum of selfhood, of identity, is so much greater in its non-existence than in its perceived 'absoluteness'. The concept of nothingness, or 'Mu' in the Eastern conception, stands for the impossibility of reality and its absolutely self-contradictory identity (zettai mujunteki jikodoitsu). 'You' lack identity because the mere assumption of identity warrants a 'Mu' response. There simply is. A mass seething eternal everything which bears no greater purpose than your imagined self, yet signifies the many multifaceted intricacies that simulacrum of self has the ability to interrelate with. The sooner you lose that illusion of identity the sooner the ultimate reality will make itself known:
...The true absolute does not merely transcend the relative. If it did, it could not avoid being a mere negation of it and, on the contrary, would become relative, too. Hence I have argued that the true absolute must face its own absolute negation within itself." - Nishida Kitaro
"The Zen exercise of learning archery is extremely explicit on this, advising the archer not to think of himself as drawing the bow and releasing the arrow, but releasing himself from the consciousness of what he is doing by letting the bow stretch itself and the arrow release itself from the fingers at the proper time..." - Julian Jaynes, The origin of consciousness...The mirror reflects not you my friend, the mirror is you - and you, as in the all eternal omniscient self-contradictory you, are Mu....
"I remember as I walked back from the monastery to my quarters in the Kigen' in temple, seeing the trees in moonlight. They looked transparent... and I was transparent too." - Nishida Kitaro
The Huge Entity
Labels: Reasons Why 'You' Don't Exist