Saturday, 10 July 2010
Across the Universe
You're sitting in front of the TV. Is what you see - real? In one sense it may be. The image of a person on the screen is the result of that person actually doing what you're seeing. It may be live or recorded, but that image could only be created with someone doing something "real".
Alternatively you could say that what you see on the TV screen has no reality other than electrical impulses which stimulate the LCD, plasma or cathode ray tube. The image you see is a construct. Only you viewing it creates any sort of "reality". And how you view the world is through information which is processed in your brain.
So is information the only reality? Well no, because information only has meaning if it can be interpreted, given meaning by an intelligence. So is intelligence reality?
This is what is so gob-smackingly wonderful about us. It's also the most mind numbingly difficult idea. Where is reality and why and how do we perceive it? Is reality "out there", separate from us - independently trundling along unconcerned about our existence. Or is the only reality what our minds imagine?
OK, Barry you've lost it. It's not just you that experiences the outside world. We all do. How then could we communicate with each other, read a paper, do complicated stuff like maths and economics: unless we have a shared view of what's "out there"?
It's getting difficult, but how do I know there are others like me "out there" with a separate reality? Couldn't I be imagining it all. At this moment I'm perceiving me sitting in front of the computer typing: but it could be the imaginings of my mind. It might not be "my" mind, but an impersonal mind which creates a sense of individuality which is a fiction.
You can understand why some people go bananas thinking about this.
My money's on the unfortunate accident theory. For some unknown reason we find ourselves self aware - why, what is the benefit of self awareness? OK, now we have it it's useful, but did we need it in the first place? You wouldn't think so.
Here I make a huge assumption; most animals seem to get on OK without being self aware. When was the last time your cat stared at itself in a mirror and deliberately smoothed down its coat? It doesn't, yet as far as I can fathom it gets on fine. It doesn't need to be self reflecting.
Evolution, or whatever else it is has blessed (or cursed) us with this facility. We are aware of our separateness from "out there", the world, the cosmos, God. And it's puzzling.
Persistence of Memory: I had tears in my eyes this evening. Nothing dramatic. I was watching a programme about John Lennon and the celebration of his death (BBC 4 are good on death and 60's pop). And I started to cry when someone played a Beatles tune.
Now what was all that about? Why when hearing a song I first heard 44 years ago did I suddenly feel so sad? Was it all the old faces staring out at me, remembering where they were when Lennon was shot. People who, like me, were young when we read the news today oh boy?
I was in Oxford Street buying a JVC tuner amp to replace my separate Trio tuner and amp. I bought it in Selfridges -it was on special offer. The Evening Standard headline read "John Lennon Shot". You had to buy the paper to learn that he'd died. I think my first thought was I'll remember this for the rest of my life.
Like I remember going home on the bus from school after learning that Kennedy had been shot. Like I remember looking up at the moon in July 1969 and thinking they're up there - unbelievable. Like I remember the first time I was dumped by a girlfriend. Even now, 40 or more years on those sensations, good and bad are conjured up. What is all that about?
We walk around, each of us, with our own separate worlds layered with memories, emotions, responses and instincts. And yet we connect, over and over and over again. What is all that about?