Unification of Science and Spirit -- Copyright Ben Goertzel © 1996
THOUGHTS ON THE WING
THOUGHTS ON THE WING
The feeling of understanding everything is neither correct nor incorrect. There is no external standard of "truth" that one might compare it to.
We can sympathize with another person's momentary pain; but chronic pain is another story. When their pain lasts much longer than our emotional reaction, what we feel is frustration rather than compassion. We even hold the pain against the person, as if it were an offense against us committed by them.
This is a proof, as if any were necessary, that we are all really solipsists.
Moral codes are a vain attempt to surmount universal solipsism. They are like the state legislature which passed a law stating pi = 3.14.
What holds an idea together is its relationship to other ideas. If one dissolves this "glue" one finds -- an empty mind.
In every statement there is a deeper meaning, to be found by viewing each idea as a network of other ideas. But then these other ideas may be viewed as networks of yet other ideas -- and so forth. Searching through the network of ideas changes the network, for it brings to mind new connections that the network must incorporate -- so this is a process which, by rights, should never be completed.
It is for this reason that a definite statement is never an accurate portrayal of itself. Concreteness is always dishonest.
The physicists, with their weak and strong nuclear forces, are not quite on the right track. The fundamental force which holds the world together is -- dishonesty.
A: Putting deep spiritual insight into words is like climbing an infinite vertical wall. No matter how much partial progress one might make, it counts for nothing.
B: You make a good point. But if this is true, my friend, then the only rational thing to do is to give up the quest to express one's deep insights in language. Why even bother? Just let a tacit understanding be all. And use language exclusively for the purpose for which it evolved: the communication of information about the physical world.
A: Do you really want to be the sort of person who always does does the rational thing?
Language is hungry; it always consumes part of your thought.
A: A poor thinker is one who is adept at destroying poor ideas.
A good thinker is one who is adept at destroying good ideas.
A great thinker is one who is adept at destroying great ideas.
B:Yes -- but the best thinker of all is the one who is destroyed by his ideas....
A: What's so great about being destroyed?
B: [ceases to exist]
To be is not all that it is made out to be.
Not to be is not all that it is made out not to be.
A: Look at you -- you produce more scientific work in a year than others do in three. How do you do it?
B: I spend at least two days a week composing music, drawing pictures or writing poetry.
A: This keeps your mind limber?
B: It keeps my mind mine.
Music does not exactly "represent" emotion. It is a purer form of emotion than emotion itself.
Music is a crucial educational tool: it teaches one how to feel.
A: What is it about a melody that makes it sound good?
B: What is it about the world that makes it appear solid and substantial?
A: Why should I bother to produce works of art? The physical world itself is a far greater work of art than any of my own creations could possibly be!
B: Are your body and mind, and your work of art, not part of the physical world?
A: The paradox of love is that two can be together and separate at the same time.
B: No, it is rather that two can move closer together and move further apart at the same time.
According to Dostoevsky, the atheist is just one small step away from devout belief. In the same way, the solipsist is just one small step away from a truly universal compassion.
For a moment he thought to himself that he was going crazy. But then he understood, in a moment of infinite intuition, that thephrase 'going crazy' was an error of semantics. He saw into the concept 'crazy' in a way he never had before, in an almost visual sense. Crazy was a place, not a permanent condition. It was a vacation spot. You could go to crazy, and then come back, and then go there again, and so on indefinitely. It was certainly possible to come to feel so at home there that you never wanted to leave. But 'go crazy,' he realized, was just as much a non sequitur as 'go Tasmania.'
A work of art that is at once absolutely obscure and perfectly clear: this is the ultimate creative achievement. Simultaneous acceptance and transcendence of the everyday.
The purpose of fiction, even so-called "realist" fiction, is never to reproduce reality.
All fiction is the attempt of some author to create a world in which his intuitions would match reality. Thus the goal is a surreal, twisted fictional world with a convincing aura of reality.
This is as true of Balzac and Dickens as it is of Miller, Dostoevsky and Philip K. Dick.
Is the secret knowing how to live -- or knowing how to die? Inbetween two moments of awareness, we die for an undefined period of time. Then this infinity seems to vanish as our mind reconstructs itself.
Dying pervades our living on every time scale; the stream of consciousness is a fractal formed of life and death.
If we could understand this at each moment, the death of our bodies would not be something unusual.
The realist mind could never survive without the regular dose of hyperreality provided by sleep.
The refuge of the inner self of the realist? The transition from sleep to wakefulness and back again.
In this way, our philosophies are tied to our planet, to the cycle of night and day.
A: I know this friendly little dragonfly; she lives in a field next to my house. She flutters around my head, settling on my shoulder for a while, then zips away again. When I try to catch her, I cannot, but if I sit a while in the middle of the field she usually comes to me. But yet I am never entirely sure if it is her or one of her relatives.
B: You want me to tell you that what you need is a flyswatter. But it doesn't really matter to me anyway. If you want advice, ask a mosquito.