The principle of ascension
Posted on Sunday, 7 October, 2012 | 4 comments
Columnist: Fred Flynn
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T. S. Eliot. A landmark experiment performed in the nineteen seventies had a simple and profound goal. Researchers wanted to find if the mixture of the gases that existed in the early earth atmosphere would give rise to organic compounds. These gases are part of the geologic record. When stone forms, air is trapped in the pores of rock, and our dated samples all matched in the composition of such gases from the time before life. We have many such good samples.
The scientists secured the mix of noxious gases in a chamber. Chlorine, methane, and traces of other unbreathable vapors were put together.
A bright mind among their bright minds suggested they run an electric current through the chamber, simulating the lightning we know must have existed then.
It was shades of Frankenstein.
Such a mixture of gases would have been poisonous to the varieties that now populate our troposphere, but organic chemistry suggested that life might be a natural occurrence of our little world and emerge from a horrid mix of poisons like those being tested.
They had to stop the experiment.
Complex chain molecules formed, and it is unethical to create a life form, even a single-celled organism. And that does not even address the potential hazards of a germ with no known characteristics. It might not have been deadly, but it would have been absolutely unpredictable in its characteristics. Scientists must take risks, but thankfully most are punctiliously cautious and humane people. It was a real risk none were willing to take.
The result of the experiment was profound. Given the same mixture of gases, the same temperatures and conditions, life will ascend. Of course, maybe not the kind of life like the life reading this, or the life writing this, but life will ascend. And our universe is very big; a walloping, humongous, enormous largeness that has so many zeroes after it in cubic kilometer quantification that Einstein would have had a stroke trying to contemplate it in tangible terms.
A small definition is modified by me here -- to ascend: to animate and transcend non-existence, to evolve afterward and thrive. With no metaphysical trappings, and no theological connotations whatsoever, several thoughts come to mind.
Life can be said to be the universe directly experiencing its own reality. Without life, matter and energy (the same thing in different forms, according to old Albert E.) are all that existence can muster into being, and neither of which is cognizant or alive. We even make such awareness -- not the same thing as intelligence -- we even make awareness, the reaction to stimuli, part of our definition of life -- and which definition gets hazy on close inspection since sperm, eggs and viruses are outside the scope of our definition of life, and all of which can either make or break a human life altogether.
As such, life can be said to be the universe seeking to experience itself, with or without a primary intelligence seeking to accomplish such an end.
To me, such ironies are profound in a secular fashion. It is almost as if the universe had us come into being so it could stick out its tongue at the limitations of our ways of thinking. Logic leads us to become more than we are, but logic is a useless tool to apply to kissing, and would be a case of using a hammer to turn a screw.
Maybe that is why we are here, so the universe coming into being could have an infinitely long chuckle and we could all join in.
I am not offended by such a thought, really. It's not my universe. I just live here.
Unfortunately, in our quest for meaning, a serious and respectable pursuit for each of us, we are always reminded about the limitations of any single approach to thought and existence, and because of that limitation many give up the effort altogether, or attempt to explain all events within a single paradigm, or worst of all join a club of like-minded people so they can feel better about the limitations of human thought by the comfort of a group that agrees with individually and ultimately insecure conclusions. This joining might be with a school of intellectual thought, a religion, or some other form of socialization no matter how it is disguised, but such illusionary security breeds mistrust of dissenting voices and dehumanizes anyone who disagrees with our newfound tribe.
The false security of sneering at others simply cannot be denounced often enough. It is as if we need to create our own myth in order to live in it like a house. But a fortress that is so secure that even the owner has no key has surely become a prison.
This seems to me to be one of the greatest challenges of our human family, to come into being and awareness as individuals and still retain respect for others. Just because we all agree does not mean we are correct in any empirical sense. Four hundred years ago our collective humanity agreed that the world was flat and demonized and persecuted anyone who said differently. Sure, we know the earth is not flat now, but isn't it possible that we still have that kind of thinking in our way of seeing things now? I think it more likely than possible.
Americans are always talking about freedom, but real freedom must include even people that we hate and their right to live their life as they wish to live it, no matter how bizarre or offensive that it seems to us as individuals or as a collective.
That's a tough one.
Add to this thought-destroying clash the social order we see when people gather together and informally appoint a leader, and such informal social leaders are usually brash, brave, a bit callous and selfish, and I wonder who it is we are kidding when we talk about our more noble aspects. Nobility works better in books than parties, and such parties are surely where we should not abandon compassion and understanding for a quick chuckle at someone else's expense. But we do, and usually never think twice about it.
I think this is us humans coming into being, human beings, it is ourselves experiencing the reality we are a part of in a way that is forcing us, reluctant as we are, to ascend. As surely as the Law of Gravity, we are being pushed into becoming more than we are. This push is relentless and external as much as internal.
I call it the Principle of Ascension.
Despite doomsayers, fewer people are at war now than ever in our history as a percentage of population. More people are being fed now; lives are growing longer and are on the cusp of a dramatic surge in length; and we sit here, you and I, with hope and expectations for the betterment of our human family. We hope and work to overcome the stalemates that hold us back from being the best people we can be and being satisfied with our lots in life in a way that does not create poverty and misery in others.
Surely leaving our world a better place than the one we are born into is something worth pursuing with every word we say and everything we touch, and could very well be a nudge toward change that has no connection beyond the natural world, which is so wondrous to me that the natural is supernatural.
More and more, it seems to me that the natural world is supernatural in its scope simply because I cannot imagine something that has a vast awareness, but not necessarily intelligence in any fashion that resembles mine.
The ecosystem is aware, we are quite sure of that. When there are too many rabbits, predators breed more offspring, who bring the system back into balance and then die off when the food supply is gone.
But the implications of this lead down rabbit holes that no brave and precocious Alice has ever explored. If the ecosystem is aware, what about the universe? It is difficult to accept awareness without intelligence behind it, but all I have to do is observe a chicken and I am seeing precisely that. For the universe to be an aware totality does not require a God, gods, or any other divinity we must worship, understand or fear.
We live in an exciting time that I think will be seen as the end of our childhood in the future. Our sired humankind will find some of our actions and inactions to be absolutely insane, but we are thankfully quite some distance from the Spanish Inquisition, and every year that is further from us in every way.
I am proud of my human family simply because we do not give up, we are a stubborn lot, and that is a trait that will help us to ascend, to become, and to become a truly humane race. We argue politics and sport, we argue and fight about God images and beliefs, but most of us are not so quick to grab a spear anymore.
It will come about simply because we must ascend and transcend ourselves to survive.
It is a form of exploration that no political hype, and which no lies of any kind can do more than slow.
Those who are quick to violence will thankfully go the way of all dinosaurs. There is and has been a push for quite some time about a firm peace becoming a fact of human life, and it does mean enforcement, and the manner of determining this outcome is a raging debate rife with greed and opportunism, but it is a humane demand to make of our fellows that: "Do not harm me and mine, and I will not harm you and yours."
This is something to celebrate, and I am having a beer for all of us as I write. It is called inappropriate, and politically incorrect, but this is absolutely the proper thing to do today, for me, here in a land so far from my home and yet my home in a way that where I was born never was.
One way or another we will ascend together, and that is worth celebrating and living for.
The media has it wrong. We should not be living in fear.
We should all be living in careful hope.Article Copyright© Fred Flynn - reproduced with permission.