time and humility

The simplicity of the world is more complex than any human or mechanical representation of it, and the complexity of the world passes all possible understanding. This is because the world evolves in time, and our horizon of time is miniscule and so we are forced to project patterns that we identify as linear or non-linear but in either case without any unpredictable alteration into the most distant future. Yet we have never identified any patterns in the world outside our own imaginations that exist beyond the reach of time – and thus, might not themselves be altered by it. We do not know what time is in essence; we do not even have an approach, a “law of time.” We have physicists waving it away with a scribble of blackboard chalk, and technologists collapsing it into an airless immediacy which no living thing can experience. We have fear-laced religions and creepier scientists hallucinating about infinite durations of it available to self-selected elites after the body’s death. We have only one philosopher who embraced it as possibly the most fundamental aspect of reality, a creative principle of change, the invisible engine of all life, all movement, the sole enabler of novelty and complexity – and he was dismissed by scientistic arrogance and consigned to a dusty shelf called “vitalism” like a quaint Victorian hobbyist.

But we have since reached a stage where many of our theories and equations give us garbled answers and our tools are beginning to stare back at us with baleful looks that say: you are not in charge of what you have created. How much of a machine do you desire to be? And what will be the cost, and who will pay?

Do those who are dragging you down this road have any idea where they are really going – and why?

So will there be some humbling? Will there be sufficient limits ultimately re-imposed by the forces of the unhinging biosphere or the wild cosmos not wholly cataclysmically (cataclysm is the triumph of waste, and we have fed upon it like carrion-eaters) but over the spans of time in which the rest of the living world has evolved its elegant and quintessential complexity? Will they forge the bright pathways in sapient brains that enable the species to re-enter that world as respectful acolyte? To grow up? Or will we continue surfing our self-created chaos and braying about ourselves till nothing but uncanny machines and waste are left when we have done?

Or what?

There is no freedom only responsibility – John Trudell


Books that help:

The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, by Roberto Unger Mangabeira and Lee Smolin

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

Thinking in Time, an Introduction to Henri Bergson, by Suzanne Guerlac

The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abrams