Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sense of direction

Life is movement. And movement is relative. There is no movement without references... That's physics. We move around in search of a way to follow. Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way? What is right or wrong? Well, that depends on who you ask this question to. In a social context, right and wrong usually relates to rules designed to protect order as it emerged in that context... so as to protect its members and, more importantly, the masters of said order.

When you look at the whole diversity of human life on Earth, you have all those different conditions giving rise to all kinds of social organizational patterns. That was the insight that drove greek philosophers to question sacred beliefs and to start thinking about life and the universe using reason as a guide - as opposed to tradition.

The fact that we are here, thinking about life and its meaning, is most unsettling (at least for me). I can't understand why am I here, alive. When we consider the possibilities, the distribution of time and space around us, it makes even less sense. With so many galaxies, their stars and planets, what am I doing right here? The Universe has existed for the equivalent of something around 14 billions turns of Earth around the Sun, and we have entire religions based on the four different aspects of one single turn. Carbon based lifeforms have been around here for as much as 3 billion of those turns, and we talk about History, so proud of our accomplishments, covering a tiny little fraction of these time lapses.

When we are so damn insignificant for the order of things, it seems that the most unexplainable of all mysteries is our sense of dignity. It's dazzling, even mesmerizing, to watch a clear night sky, far away from the lights of the cities. There are so many bright spots, and each and everyone of them might be the sun for some other culture. We're really some pretensious little monkeys, aren't we?

On the other hand, why are we kept here if we are so meaningless? Does this mean something? Is meaning even a valid concept here? I mean (its hard to talk about the relativity of our existence using a language that exists only because of us) if there are more powerful beings, wouldn't they be upon us as slavemasters? If our history is any evidence of a universal pattern, whenever a lifeform is intelligent enough to perceive and manipulate its surroundings, and strong enough to protect itself and to impose its will upon other lifeforms, it will do so.

So, we are either useless to them, or being powerful enough to use us means they have already moved on and just don't give a rat's ass about what we do with our little rocky planet. And that's assuming there is life out there.

Is it sensible to believe there is no life besides human life in the whole universe? Why should we think that life as we know it (and as we haven't detected in any other planet close enough for us to have a good look) is the only way to go? It's difficult enough for life to express itself in this heavy dull matter we have here. Wouldn't be sensible to admit that inside a star, there might be a whole civilization, made of electrified gas or whatever?

Following the line of Maturana and Varela (two neuroscientists as close to Brazil as they are ignored here - they come from Santiago, Chile), the expression of the mind (and selfconsciousness) is nothing but the pattern of living systems arising in a whole new level - that of neural networks. From cells to brains, its just autopoiesis manifesting itself - cycle upon cycle of structures giving rise to structures. It's just a matter of what is stable and what's not stable. That's natural selection, right there. Winners win, so obvious it's almost tautological.

So why should we believe the whole phenomenon revolves around these 92 or so elements we found here? The whole of the universe, including its galaxies, with stars and blackholes, could be regarded as aspects of this very same dynamic.

The enigma of why here, why now? becomes a false dilemma. If we start with a definition of life so narrow as to include life as it is on Earth, the answer to the question 'Is there life anywhere else?' depends on the existence of another planet just like ours. If our definition of life includes self-organization, than there's life everywhere - how could anything organize the universe itself?

Maybe we should be asking: is this universe all there is?


  1. What hurts the most is that these questions won´t fade away after your next birthday...and maybe not even 3, 7, or 10 or even 20 years. Anyway, if it means anything to you, we could just share these sensations together, if that is your desire.

  2. Tem como desfazer o excluir/block do meu contato no seu msn? Se pá não, respect.