Mystery of Life

23 Aug ’14 ~Question of the Day~ Mystery of Life

what is the great mystery of life, to you, as you see it ?
describe fully, in loving detail..
is this a source of hope, or frustration for you ?

It’s all mysterious.
The more I know, the more I know I don’t know, and the more limited becomes the knowledge that I once held as absolute.

I am left with only one certainty – cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am. That says only that something self aware exists in some sort of matrix, without making any detailed claims about the nature of the thing making the claim or the nature of the matrix within which it exists.

And of course, being me, I have a lot of theories (with supporting experiential evidence) about both the nature of self and the matrix within which we find ourselves, and those are probabilistic in nature.
Heisenberg demonstrated that the matrix within which we find ourselves does not allow us to know it in precise detail, it puts probability limits on how much we can know about individual things.
Goedel demonstrated that even logic and mathematics are incomplete descriptions of even those abstract realms.

And acknowledging all of the uncertainties in our knowledge, it seems clear that we are the result of a process of evolution by natural selection playing out on this planet over the last few billion years.
That process of evolution is full of layers of profound subtlety and beauty.

And when we look at the physicality of ourselves, we are so mind-bendingly complex.
Our bodies consist of roughly 10,000 times as many cells as there are people on the planet. If we were to look at 3 cells per second, it would take a million years just to glance at each of them.
Inside every cell is as many molecules as there are cells in our bodies.
Our brain is only about 2% of our body mass, but uses about 25% of our total energy production. Each of the trillions of brain cells as thousands of interconnections to other cells. Each of those interconnections has about 60 different sorts of signalling pathways to the next cell – and some of those have very complex behaviours over time and space. So every connection is capable of complex behaviour in and of itself (each has its own sort of processing capacity, it’s own intelligence in a sense).

It seems clear that our conscious awareness is a very limited thing compared to the subconscious systems that it sits atop of. Those subconscious systems possess powers roughly equal to the total computing power available in the planet today.
There do in fact seem to be real limits to human nature, and those limits are so far beyond what most people imagine, that we are for all practical purposes – unlimited entities.
It seems clear that what limits most of us is our beliefs about what we are, and what we exist in.
It seems clear that most of those limits are are subconsciously imposed by the cultural milieux into which we are born.

It seems that science, which is essentially sceptical inquiry – a process of constant questioning and testing and evaluation; with whatever tools we have available to us (at both the hardware {technological} and software {conceptual} levels), is the most powerful tool we have to explore the mystery.
And it seems clear from all that science has thus far discovered that should we live for the rest of eternity, there will still be fundamental mystery and novelty to be discovered; such seems to be the probable nature of both the physical and intellectual realms available to us.

So it seems clear to me that it is all mystery.
It seems clear to me that we have no direct access to reality, all we have is the model of reality that our brains construct for us, and in normal day-to-day circumstances (the sorts of things that have been with us throughout our evolutionary history) that model is extremely accurate and very useful; but beyond that, the model and the modelling mechanisms of brain are subject to a vast array of errors and biases that make our models unreliable in many truly novel situations.

So yes, as Bhatta says, the vastness of our consciousness, and the even vaster vastness of what lies beyond it – its all mystery in many very fundamental senses.

And to me, it is all a cause for optimism and hope.
However unpleasant and unjust the current reality may be, there is always the possibility of creating something more pleasant, more interesting, more just.
Justice may not exist in reality, and we can each do our best to create it, and to the extent that we make such efforts, we do in fact bring justice into being.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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