29 September 2015

Don QuiScottie de l'Écosse: Puzzled

I became extremely puzzled rather early on in life, at about the age of two, for I learned of kings and princes and noblemen and felt there must have been some mistake in placing me among the plebian masses instead of in some fine palace where I clearly belonged. Only very recently have I finally realised why I was set down among such a lowly crowd. What clever creator might have ordained such an act of genius as to place my nobility where it could best learn, and serve and teach? For me to live and walk amongst the dull deluded folk, while being myself so free of self-delusion? Clearly, if there is such a god then she must be almost as noble and wise as myself.

But my formative years were spent forever feeling that I had been wrongly placed, although gradually learning to nobly cope with this great error and do the best I could to live alongside other people's clear inadequacies.

There were many further puzzles awaiting me, but I will jump nimbly over them all, for a while, to arrive at the evening when I found myself in a tavern and rather burdened by the effect of imbibing too much of what it had to offer. I ended up gazing at a mirror so full of jumbled faces that it looked like a foaming sea, and focusing on the one pair of eyes whose head contained the thoughts I knew, because inside that head was me. But then I began thinking... drunkenly... are they all me? In the reflected images it was very easy to imagine my thoughts in any head, or in all of them. This was the first inkling perhaps, of the thought that we are all just parts of one and the same great conscious sea. And so the concept of self-identity began to puzzle me, until I had another drink. The puzzles soon evaporated after that, for a while.

But puzzles, many puzzles, all is puzzles. The where did we come from, why are we here, what are we really and what is really going on puzzles that fill my noble head while all around is vanity, vanity, all is vanity (as I recall that someone long ago did say), to which I would add: inanity, inanity, all is inanity. It is all very puzzling indeed. But one puzzle, my first puzzle, was resolved when I realised I must surely be something much greater that a mere Earthly nobleman, and had clearly been placed among you for a purpose that now becomes more evident to me each day. And so poor people of Earth, let us begin with an appraisal of your situation.

You are creatures composed of interacting particles of matter, yet, none of you knows what matter is, and when you analyse it in depth its seeming solidity vanishes into a world of mysterious quantum forces and fields. You are awed by convincing tales of all the matter of the universe emerging from a cataclysm you call the big bang, but at the point of the big bang your descriptions fail, become meaningless, and return you to a state of incomprehension in face of the 'where did we come from' question. You present stories of the origins of life that are, in truth, sketchy and untested possibilities. You don't know how, or even where in the universe, life began. Your brains are considered to sustain the thoughts that let you ponder these things, and you have uncovered wondrous mechanisms that let nerve cells communicate, but you know essentially nothing about what 'thinking' really is, or how consciousness can arise from mere matter. You live out your lives in the belief that you have freewill and responsibility, yet nowhere in your physics, chemistry or biology can you find any mechanism that would actually allow you to be truly free. But, you can communicate wirelessly, walk on the moon, fly round the world and cure or prevent so many diseases; and what you have discovered about what’s going on is admittedly fascinating, and useful, but it still leaves you with no clue about the meaning of it all, really. So here you all are, as I walk among you, all stumbling around in a vast multi-dimensional puzzle and trying to make some sense of it.