Monday, June 25, 2012

Cosmic Evolution: It's Just a Going Through a Face

We left off last Friday discussing the always-increasing complexification of the cosmos, a process which ends -- as far as we can determine -- in the human person. We say this because we cannot imagine something "beyond a person" except for God.

This is an example of one of those things I should think everyone can agree upon, believer and infidel alike.

In other words, if we survey the 14 billion year history of the cosmos, the whole thing is clearly getting more complex with the passage of time, for there is literally nothing as complex as the human brain-and-nervous-system, what with its 10 billion neurons and 10 to the 14th power synaptic connections.

I'm better at myth than math, but if I understand rightly, this means that in this social network, each neuron can apparently friend up to 14 others.

That's a lot of synapses, so many that if you were to attempt to compute their possible combinations, it would take longer than this cosmos is going to last. Which is just another way of saying that we'll never run out of melodies, poems, or jokes.

Now, this cosmoplexification revolves around a center, and that's what makes it so interesting (or any other adjective, for that matter). Think of all that computing power in the human brain, and yet, it all resolves into this simple, unitary experience of an "I" at the center of the neural storm.

This "I" not only manages to resolve all that micro-neural activity, but it also unifies various macro-brain structures such as left and right cerebral hemispheres, limbic system, language area, etc., plus subjective/vertical structures from the primitive unconscious to the transhuman supraconscious -- all spontaneously and without effort. Rather, it "just happens."

You could say that this is similar to other infinitely complex systems, say, the US economy. For example, at the end of the day, you can hear on the news that the stock market gained or lost this or that amount of wealth.

This latter is presented as a unitary quantity, but of course it's just an abstraction, plus it has no actual center. There is no "I" in the middle of all that economic activity saying to itself "I cleaned up today," or "today I really lost my shirt, and it's all Bush's fault!"

As I've mentioned before, one reason I am skeptical of finding "intelligent life" on other planets is because of the extreme unlikelihood that we would ever find persons. A person is the apex of cosmic intelligence, but it turns out -- or so we have heard from the wise -- that the "center" represented by the person actually extends all the way down.

In other words, it is not as if the cosmos evolves to a certain point, and then there appears this inexplicable thing called a person, like the frosting on a cake. Rather, there is a kind of "centration" that is present everywhere and everywhen, only in more or less attenuated forms.

For example, when Jesus says "Before Abraham was, I am," he's expressing our point, albeit more enigmatically. This needs to be understood in the context of other biblical statements such as "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," "I AM WHO I AM," "When He prepared the heavens I was there," and "When He drew a circle on the face of the deep... I was beside him."

Also, in the extra-biblical but orthoparadoxical Gospel of Thomas, Jesus asks, "Have you found the beginning that you look to the end? Where the end is, is where the beginning is. Blessed is the one who stands at the beginning, for the one who stands at the beginning will know the end"; and even more to the point, "Blessed is the one who comes into being before he came into being."

All of these statements go to the idea of the person being anterior to all phenomena.

This may not be something you've ever considered before, but just as there can be no mind in the absence of a person, there can be no person in the absence of the face. Human beings are of course "social animals," but it is possible to be social without being completely interior to, or inside, one another.

For example, bees and ants exchange information with each other and act as a group, but they don't think about it. You might say that the "center" of a bee hive is dispersed throughout the colony, rather than being present in its totality in each bee.

But in the case of humans -- and liberals hate to hear this -- the center is in the individual.

In fact, liberals attempt to subvert this individual centration by forcing people to identify with race, class, ethnicity, gender, and what have you, but this is the very essence of "regressivism," as it recalls a time in human history prior to the emergence of the free and autonomous person.

As we can see, Obama's whole campaign revolves around the attempt to cobble together a plurality by pandering to various groups via the re-definition of marriage, amnesty for illegal Democrats, a war on men, and so on. Conversely, conservatism embodies arguments that can only be made by persons to persons, irrespective of such accidents as race, class, and gender.

Looking back on it, I must have first been alerted to the centrality of the Face after reading a book called Vision and Separation Between Mother and Baby. This would have been back down in the early '90s, way before I would have been able to draw out the metaphysical and theological implications. Nor have I picked up the book since then.

Just look at the cover photo, and notice the vibrant, joyous, and resonant space between mother and baby:

And when I say "notice the space," think about what that implies. Only another person is capable of noticing this space. Anything less than a person will see only two, three, or four dimensions in such an exchange, but the interior dimension will be inaccessible -- like a person who can hear the notes but not the melody of which they are a part.

I'm just flipping through the book to see what sorts of things I highlighted: "This book is the seen form of that which was previously felt but not clearly formed. Seeing is forming, and the idea that the self, as a conceivable entity, is formed -- or de-formed, or re-formed -- at that place where the Other's view meets with the felt substance of the person is an important part of my thesis."

"The central structure around which the book coheres is thus the space or gap that develops between subject and object through their separation. It is this gap that, according to my thesis, becomes the gap or 'space' of consciousness."

Yes, space is the place. Reminds me of Bowie's Moonage Daydream:

Press your space face close to mine, love / Freak out in a moonage daydream

To be continued...

15 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

As we can see, Obama's whole campaign revolves around the attempt to cobble together a plurality by pandering to various groups via the re-definition of marriage, amnesty for illegal Democrats, a war on men, and so on. Conversely, conservatism embodies arguments that can only be made by persons to persons, irrespective of such accidents as race, class, and gender.

Yes. You and Van must have been surfing the same wavelength this morning. Quoting Sallust, he writes:

"Whilst he was giving Money to many, or paying their Debts; becoming Security for some, and even assisting and rescuing others by downright Violence; whilst he was continually proposing popular Schemes, popular Projects, and popular Largesses; it never entered into their credulous Heads, that a Benefactor, so infinitely liberal and zealous, could possibly intend them any Harm, much less Misery and Chains. Yet it was obvious to common Sense, that either Manlius, or the Government, must fall..."

As to the pluralization of individuals, to the point of the post the effect is indeed a defacement.

6/25/2012 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

As to the centrality of the face, I was thinking of that space between mother and child this morning, and how important it is to feed that developing personhood specifically with eye contact and expression. Some of the boy's favorite games right now revolve around covering and revealing faces.

Interesting, too, is watching him try to interact with other kids; at this age, all he knows to do is try to make eye contact to instigate play, which works great with older kids, but I've noticed the majority of small kids are too lost in their own entertainment to reply in kind. They literally don't see his face, and so don't see him.

6/25/2012 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

More like 86 billion neurons per brain?

http://www.mendeley.com/research/equal-numbers-of-neuronal-and-nonneuronal-cells-make-the-human-brain-an-isometrically-scaledup-primate-brain/#

At any rate, without coffee, none of this synaptic computational power would amount to a hill of beans.

6/25/2012 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Face is also the place of the 'heinous facade' - as I think, one Orthodox monastic put it. It is at once a mask because it can be molded, but it is also an instrument of nearly infinite precision for the communication of expression. As a mask it is simply a tool of the ego, of the self made up in or by the world - that noisy narrative - but as an instrument it can be where we meet God face to face, even if not as directly as did twelve men from the province of Palestine in Rome some twenty centuries ago.

It would seem the expressability - the infinity in a finite space - is an aspect of the Imago Dei, but its usage not for egoic projection but for the communication of the center of our being - the heart in our tradition - makes it an aspect of the Likeness of God. But to peel away the masks from one's own self! It is the question which plagues nearly every young person I know (save a few more down-to-earth folks) and they are busy often trying on a bunch of world-suggested masks or fashioning their own after that likeness.

The nature of scientific discourse in our day doesn't help them, telling them that for instance the world is absurd and meaningless, which drives them into their own heads (not hearts, mind you) to fashion things that have meaning to them.

About individuals, I think it is most important to note that no individual is truly autonomous - but rather, I think it is more false unities that create trouble than true ones. Race is a false unity, but humanity is a true one. Granted, the feeling of solidarity is what is at stake and given the average penchant for misanthropy - one is unlikely to actually have love for 'all mankind' - meaning not merely for a concept of mankind but for all possible curios which occupy the set.

Identity politics is truly a modern phenomena, since it preys on the man unmoored from a meaningful understanding of the world, even if he is religious (though much religion these days is modern and thus mostly powerless to moor meaning in experience other than subjectively) he becomes lured with the promise of a false union, having rejected perhaps truer unions. This is just to say that a man is more unified with his house which is inert and senseless than he is with someone who holds the same politics as he in Washington D.C... he cannot hope but to find a new mask for himself while his heart rots.

Which reminds me much of the trope of body-stealers in pop culture - usually they continually die and must steal a new body to keep living, though by doing so they are effectively immortal. This is usually shown by them rotting like a corpse long before they are dead, and when it reaches a certain point they have to seek a new 'host'. I guess you could apply the trope as an idea going both ways - both for the ideology and the persons picking up the ideology.

It's worth noting that these characters are never redeemed/restored to life in any story I've read. Even if they are good characters.

6/25/2012 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Riv said,
"...to fashion things that have meaning to them."

(emphasis added)

Perhaps explains the tattoo craze (injected meaning).

6/25/2012 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

" In other words, it is not as if the cosmos evolves to a certain point, and then there appears this inexplicable thing called a person, like the frosting on a cake. Rather, there is a kind of "centration" that is present everywhere and everywhen, only in more or less attenuated forms."

Yep. I think the center is there, whole, and it is the various stages of complexification that manage to facilitate more and more of its depth.

6/25/2012 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

"As I've mentioned before, one reason I am skeptical of finding "intelligent life" on other planets is because of the extreme unlikelihood that we would ever find persons. A person is the apex of cosmic intelligence, but it turns out -- or so we have heard from the wise -- that the "center" represented by the person actually extends all the way down."

It just seems like a waste of galaxies if people are only going to arise in one of them.

6/25/2012 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

While there is one person it is not a waste.

6/25/2012 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Seems like a lot of liberality to make so many galaxies for just one set of sentiences!

Even so, the multiverse theory would seem... wanton.

There are likely plenty of planets that have already come and gone before any eye could see them and take note of them. So much hidden beauty!

6/26/2012 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

JP said "It just seems like a waste of galaxies if people are only going to arise in one of them."

Ever taken note of the sperm & egg count that goes into getting to one pregnancy?

6/26/2012 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yep - could be that it simply takes an entire universe to get one little planet with the right conditions to support humanness. Or maybe "just" a galaxy, but if the average is one living planet per galaxy, odds are we'll never know unless someone develops genuine faster-than-light travel.

6/26/2012 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

And even with FTL travel we'll never really know for sure, since without time travel much of spacetime will remain forever outside of our grasp or even, sight!

6/26/2012 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

I'm a fan of the multiverse theory.

Of course, I would expect to find God---->Spirit---->Mind---->Life---->Matter in any universe.

This would get us back to the entire Adam Kadmon space-time geometry issue.

Anyhow, I'm going to continue to operate under the man=rare hypothesis rather than the man=only on earth hypothesis if only because it feels intuitively true and because I've got a good "best guess" on where to look first. I can narrow the search down to a specific type of star system in this galaxy. I may get around to it someday.

I'm a cosmology hobbyist.

6/26/2012 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

JP said "I'm going to continue to operate under the man=rare hypothesis rather than the man=only on earth hypothesis..."

I don't want to limit myself with either. I operate under the 'man=only one known' reality.

That way, reality & me can stay on good terms no matter how things develop.

6/26/2012 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"In fact, liberals attempt to subvert this individual centration by forcing people to identify with race, class, ethnicity, gender, and what have you, but this is the very essence of "regressivism," as it recalls a time in human history prior to the emergence of the free and autonomous person."

In a word: ProRegressivism.

6/26/2012 01:59:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home