The Bottom of Everything: This Life Has No Soul

“And then we’ll get down there. Way down to the very bottom of everything. And then we’ll see it. Oh we’ll see it! WE’LL SEE IT!!!!” – Bright Eyes

Well Pal. We have been pretty artsy so far. How ’bout being a little farsty? By fartsy I mean sciency. By sciency I mean a surficial knowledge of complex concepts. So as not to be too fartsy, how ’bout I shoehorn lyrics from a great song that always pops into my brain when I think of this fartsy topic. It is a great song off a great album. Maybe in my top 5 albums of all time.

i'm wide awake, it's morning cover

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes. I still remember the first time I played it. I was on my back deck. I didn’t even get through the first track before calling you to let you know that you gotta check this album out. A real watershed moment in music appreciation for me, and I think you as well. Anyways, back to the topic at hand.

I had a fairly deep conversation with someone the other day about whether there was anything beyond the reality that we know. Was there some force or energy that we can’t perceive that controls the universe?

We had differing views.

He believes that there is such an energy. He believes we are all connected through this mystical energy and if one could enter a trance like state or alter our consciousness we could see this force that binds and guides us.

I can’t definitively say there is no mystical energy, but I am very doubtful. I am also very doubtful that altering your consciousness does anything other than altering your state if mind. This could be good or bad. Theoretical physics touches on things that might exist that we can’t perceive like multiverses. I don’t think that our brain can physically transport us there.

I find it more comforting to know that there is nothing beyond the world we live in. The realities we know through scientific discovery are mind bending and awesome enough. I don’t need another world beyond this one.

Our reality is 13.7 billion years in the making. We are it. We are the end result. That is cool enough. What more do you want. I mean come on. Really. Give it up for Time man. The fourth dimension, yo!

CMB_Timeline300_no_WMAP

“We must stare into a crystal ball and only see the past”

The mystical stuff, in my opinion, is a combo of our human need to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know and our mind tricking ourselves to pattern coincidental experiences as something purposeful. Way back, if people’s crops failed they would think that the gods were punishing them. We know different now so we don’t think that way anymore. Superstition and belief in the supernatural goes away when we figure stuff out through reason and the scientific method.

“Oh my morning’s coming back. The whole world’s waking up”

Lets be clear. I certainly don’t think that I have figured it all out. As I am writing this I am unsure that I even know what I am talking about. Likely I don’t. That said, I am not going to make the leap that strange things we can’t understand are a reflection of something supernatural.

I have a Skeptical viewpoint. Skepticism uses critical and rational reasoning to understand the world we live in. I have trust in the scientific method as the best way we have to figure out the world we live in.

Skepticism also focuses on psychology and the human condition. The ways in which we can self deceive ourselves and how we can not always trust our minds to observe the world objectively. I certainly don’t separate myself from this self deception. I do it all the time. It is part of the who we are.

Back to my mystical friend.

Criticism aside, I thought it was a great conversation. The interesting thing I found in our conversation was that we were framing our arguments in similar ways but ending on very different points. We both talked of finding truth and the only way to know truth was to experience it, test it and to see proof that it exists.

I agree with my friend that we are all connected, but not through any force that directs our fate but through the evolution of the universe. The life and death of stars seeding planets with all the elements needed for life. Add onto that the connected system involved in the evolution of life on earth and viola! You have a connection. Ultimately, we both believe we are all connected.

Crab_Nebula

Further, he would believe that meditation or getting into a trance like state puts him in touch with these forces beyond our perception. He believes this is part of perfecting his mind and body to reach its full potential and take him to a state if bliss. I think that meditation is good for your material mind only. Relaxing thoughts calm stress which translates into chemical reactions in the brain that are beneficial to our physiology and health. Nothing more than that. Ultimately, we agree that meditation can be good for you.

So what is the difference between us? The difference is the starting point. The premise of a soul. Do we have a soul? I say no. He says yes. Belief in a soul requires belief in a place for that soul to go once the body dies.

“We must memorize 9 numbers and deny we have a Soul”

The other big discussion we had was around the idea of coincidence. My friend would argue that too many strange things have happened to him in his life for all of them to be coincidences. He told a story of how he was driving with a buddy and had a strange feeling that he was going to be in a car crash and during that drive he got into a close call with another car. He felt that this was some kind of premonition. Aside from the obvious counter point that he actually did not crash, I argued that this was merely coincidence. I should not say merely. Coincidence is amazing to me. The fact that the shape of my character is the result of a series of coincidental events is pretty cool. That and genetics. Our universe is full of random occurrences bound within the rules described by physics. What an unbelievable universe that has created.

“And then we splashed into the deep blue sea. It was a wonderful splash.”

The odds of you winning the lottery are something like a trillion to one. But, the odds of someone in Canada winning the lottery are pretty good. Zillions of strange things happen daily across the world. They seem unbelievable when they happen to you, but odds are good that they are going to happen to somebody. To assume that you were somehow chosen to have this strange occurrence is irrational and narcissistic. Humans are narcissistic. I don’t think the universe is.

I think we are driven to find patterns in this chaos. I think we also feel the need to understand these patterns as a way to feel special. Like we have figured it all out. Well. We haven’t figured it out. We aren’t special. We are just meat sacks floating on a rock in space so just suck it up!

I am kidding of course.

I am humbled by how insignificant I am. But I am also empowered by how big the universe is, how close we are tied to it, how it created us and how complex of a process that is. The latter is the unimaginable part that I remain in awe of. All of the plants, animals, and landforms. Our circulatory system. Our brains. Jellyfish. Dinosaurs. Snow. Music. Airplanes.

No God created this. There is no energy that controls us. All there is is Time and physics. That is real. That is all I need.

“I am happy just because, I found out I am really no one”

Really it doesn’t matter whether he convinced me or I convinced him. We are both just trying to make sense of the world we live in. We have our own set of biases. We find comfort in framing our own place in the universe in different ways. Neither of us was offended by what the other was saying. Why should we be. We are both good people.

Our conversation was just a couple of guys taking a step off the train of life to discuss what kind of train we were on and whether there was an engineer or not. We are all on the same journey headed to the same place regardless of how we think we should get there.

“and in the caverns of tomorrow with just our flashlights and our love. We must plunge. We must plunge. We must plunge”

So. While he is ascending toward Nirvana and while my decomposing organic matter is nourishing the earth, we will take solace in the fact that we were good fathers, good husbands, good sons, and of course good pals. And we gave a damn about what it all meant.

Well pal. That’s it. I promise my next post will be more artsy than fartsy. And by artsy I mean some kind of year end round up of the arts.

binkley

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