Thanks Shar – a really great collection of images and thoughts to start with.
Thanks Mendy Lou for the question and your response.
For me, this is one of the deepest questions possible.
For about 7 months I have been in an enquiry with Trick Slattery – author of a book “Breaking the Free Will Illusion”, who denies the existence of freedom. I find it deeply comical in a sense, yet he is serious, and there are many others like him, but with variations.
To me, it seems very probable that this universe we find ourselves in is at every level in a fundamental balance between order and randomness (I want to use the word chaos, but it has an ordinary meaning that is disorder, and a technical meaning that is unpredictable order – which is not quite the same thing).
It seems to me that every level of life is some sort of replicator, with some sort of contextually sensitive balance between order and novelty (disorder) present. That balance seems essential to survival at every level. Too much order, and there is insufficient variation to survive the changes that inevitably happen. Too much chaos and the boundaries required to sustain the levels of complexity present cannot survive.
Life at every level seems to be an exploration of boundary regions, and changes in the nature of the context present can mean huge changes in where survival is optimised within that broader boundary context.
How is this related to purpose?
It seems clear to me, that all levels of biology and culture and self awareness are evolved entities – things that have survived over time, and have been shaped and selected by that process of survival.
It seems clear that we as embodied human beings are very complex entities, with at least 16 levels of complex adaptive systems present in every one of us.
We are vastly more complex than we can ever appreciate in detail, and we can get some useful “broad brush stroke” sketches of what we are.
It seems clear that the conscious bit of us is only the tiny tip of a vast computational system made up of vast numbers of complex molecules, cells, and arrangements of networks of information. Most of what we do, we do without conscious effort, mostly without even conscious knowledge.
Part of what we are is social cooperative primates. We need language and culture, and we do not and cannot create those alone, we get those and most of our knowledge and understanding through our interactions and relationships with others.
All social groups require structure.
Hierarchies of competence occur at all levels of biology, it is a very simple and effective way of organising available resources efficiently. And when hierarchies become more about power and less about competence, then they can become destructive entities. Just one of the many levels of balance within and between all of us.
It does seem to me that we have many levels of freedom, many levels at which the things we do are not entirely determined (though they are necessarily influenced) by the events of the past.
It seems that we have many levels within us of reasons and systems that are oriented to the longer term survival of various sub components of our systems that we share with others of our species.
It seems that at the highest levels, we are capable of choosing purpose for ourselves, though such choices are never entirely free of the influences of our past, and they can achieve substantial degrees of freedom when it seems safe to do so.
So survival of many different levels of things, biological, cultural, intellectual, seem to be deeply embedded in the nature of who and what we each individually are. And to the degree that we create awareness of such things, then to that degree we can attain additional degrees of freedom in the choices of purpose we make. And in the absence of such choices, the defaults given by the implications of our biology and culture will be present.
In this sense, my sense of purpose is to understand what I am, explore the nature of what is possible, and to do what is required to sustain life and liberty (individually and universally). And respect for liberty in this sense demands acceptance of exponentially expanding diversity.