Pushing the Envelope

Consider that even the most primitive physical functions rely on detection to define themselves and each other. In a universe where biology has yet to evolve, it may be that those functions which we understand as elemental particles and forces were once more like we are, but through the progress of physics and sense, they became automated in comparison.

Imagine that the degree to which an experience is mechanical is a relative value – like a knob that can be turned toward more or less awareness. Substituting the word sense for God, I would re-interpret this Arthur Young quote to read

Sense sleeps in the minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals, and thinks in man.’

That’s the way it seems to us, now. At one time, when there were no plants or animals or humans, the speed of geology had no faster frame of reference to make it seem slow. Thousands of years could pass in minutes, and the whirling, gyroscopic Matroyshka shells of mantle, core, and molten rock could have been nodes of vast interstellar awareness – maybe at once more fantastic and more simplistic than we can imagine. Maybe they still are, but the gap between our scale of awareness and that scale turns up the automation knob so that we are kept in our own perceptual-ontological envelopes.

When we look at our body and its world, we find a living museum that stretches back billions of our years. We would not suspect that these forms and patterns are in a sense ghosts. It is not controversial anymore to say that we live in an inner world rather than reality, or that everything we experience is delayed to a greater and greater extent as we measure further and further out from our bodies and our planet. Is it too far to suggest that consciousness is embedded in its own past in this more concrete way, so that the event horizon of progressing consciousness leaves in its wake a fading image – a kind of statistically averaged likeness of a now distant version of itself.

When we think of time nested in this way, the story of the universe becomes one of multiple simultaneous layers of varying temporal resolution. Each layer is increasingly polarazied, or meta-polarized, so that the middle of the envelope is one of ‘this or that’ reality becoming irreversible, but the trailing edge is frozen in recursive displays of computation. The leading edge of the envelope is what we are perpetually pushing into – a superposition of ‘this and that’. Unlike the mechanical semaphores inside the nest, the outside of the nest is mythic metaphors of fictional maybes. Sense thinks in man, but it dreams in gods and monsters.

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