Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Little Bang Theory

This morning I was contemplating Ortega y Gasset's observation that a person who retains faith in the past has no fear of the future. My mind then turned to my resistance to studying history -- of any kind, political or otherwise -- in my school years. I then visualized history's all-encompassing ball of fact and supposition ... an expanding universe of true and misleading detail whose Little Bang must have come at the moment when the concept of "the past" sparked to life in the collective consciousness.

I can see the physical universe as having started in a similar way. A "universe" of some particular configuration existed -- a configuration that would seem the very essence of nothingness to us, who are products of the successor configuration. In that prior configuration, some event caused a statistically nearly impossible change at some speck-point in the vast field. Once that change, that Little Bang, occurred, it ramified. It did so because, almost impossibly, it offered a new pattern that caused transformation of the older configuration into itself. I find the notion expressed by the verb "to convince" attractive. The elementary particle of the new configuration "convinced" nearby particles of the old configuration to shift over; they then shifted over, and communicated likewise to their neighbors; and a wave of altered convictions moved through whatever it was that the old configuration might have been.

We tend to think in terms of an expanding ball of change -- an outward explosion. That is our configuration thinking for us.

This offers a notion of why change is possible. The thoughts above have made me think of Time in terms of particles. Imagine a "particle-moment" that exists within a field of particle moments. The character of a particle-moment is such that it decides it is "done" -- that its current state is "over" -- at which point it shares its decision with its neighbors. In a static configuration, across the entire field, all particle moments are "done" or "over" simultaneously. The "sharing of decision" would be go unfelt, since all particle-moments act in perfect agreement.

Should one particle-moment suffer a minuscule flaw in making its decision, however, it would fall slightly "behind" or "ahead" of this field of agreement. It would feel for the first time the sharing-of-decision directed its way by its nearby fellow particle-moments; or else its neighboring particle-moments would feel for the first time the influence of the solo particle-moment that was sharing its decision.

I suppose we might call the minuscule flaw in the particle-moment "consciousness," since the flaw would find expression in awareness of influence -- awareness of the "sharing," by itself or by its neighbors.

Change would subsequently become necessity, for the sharings-of-decisions and the influence of these sharings would rise into existence -- into awareness, if you wish -- out of the prior field of perfect agreement.

The Little Bang event of consciousness inflicts change as inevitability upon the field. The new configuration of change -- of disagreement and sharing and being convinced -- then moves "outward" from the first disagreement.

I rather like this altered version of my first thought: for rather than envisioning a new conviction spreading, this second thought envisions the spread, instead, of disagreement. Agreement cannot spread, at least perfectly: for once one particle-moment shares it decision with its neighbors, that completes its state of being; it then becomes aware of the sharing-of-decision from its neighbors. That first particle-moment's environment, its field, has changed -- which affects its next "decision" -- a decision now necessarily out of synch with its neighbors' decisions.

In both static and changing configurations, Movement is the constant. I can only visualize the static field as changing with a "timing" of perfect agreement. The particle-moments in unison would decide to be "over" -- creating the new state of being "done moments" or "over-with moments" -- which state they then would all in unison decide to be done with; creating a new "over-with" state of being ... and so on. Imagine a binary equivalent -- for instance a field of light switches in perfect agreement: off, on, off, on, etc. On the other hand, in the changing configuration -- the historical configuration -- movement would follow the same course, but without the universal "timing."

The disagreement between particle-moments would open the field to what we might call Progress: for the field's overall state of agreement would become worse and worse -- or its state of disagreement would become better and better.

In this scenario, once consciousness arises, change is not only possible but almost necessary -- "almost" because of that very nearly statistically impossible chance that all the field's particle-moments would arrive abruptly at the same decision in perfect agreement -- or perhaps perfect disagreement. Such an accident would reinstate the static configuration.

Why in the world did that bit of Ortega y Gasset send my mind in this direction? I was making espresso on the stove while dipping into my book of essays; and when I stood up from reading at the kitchen table to turn off the burner, or somesuch thing, I was thinking about that notion of "faith in the past" -- which I believe would require some degree of understanding the past; and one of my great regrets about my youth has to do with my inadequate learning of history, and inadequate understanding of history. As I stood at the stove it occurred to me that the attitude so easy to take on in youth, the attitude that the past is "dead and gone," creates a barrier to understanding not the past but the present. A much better phrase to adopt -- maybe this is a decision I hereby share, so that you will feel my decision's influence -- is this: "the past is dead but still going," or "the past is dead but doing." Each "moment" in the past influenced the next "moment," which then influenced the next, etc. The present "moment" is all of the past. We are where we were put by being where we were. The present moment will always have been.

I am speaking not of determinism but of the fact of the continuing presence of those things we think are "past."

I was entertaining a sheerly practical thought, there at the stove: that had I better appreciated the spreading-outward nature of historical events I might have embraced historical study more readily, earlier. If only that phrase about the past being "dead and done with" or "dead and gone" had not come my way -- shared with me by someone who had adopted that point of view!

My day, today, was to have been one of physical labors. We have a van full of Baraboo Sunday Market items to unpack, and a car full of items from yesterday's local auction -- as well as a yard of leaves I hoped to rake up for garden mulch. When I went outside before making breakfast to move some wooden pieces to shelter before the promised morning rains arrived, I felt my lower spine and muscles in ways I would rather not feel them, however. Wednesday at the auction -- nine hours of steadily standing on cement -- was doing in my lower back -- not the lifting of these lightweight wooden things.

Since my back was hurting I decided to start my day with some writing or editing -- and I went to the kitchen to make some self-indulgent espresso ... and read a bit, and considered ... then sat here with paper and pencil, where my thoughts suddenly took so abstract a turn ...

Cheers ...

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