not the essay, just the idea
not the notion that everything is connected, that is not new
and not the question
how connected is everything
but the question
if everything is connected
is everything connected.
if things are connected
there must be something that connects them
and for many things that are connected
we know what that is
we can see it, measure it, build it, make it
we can name it:
the axles the shafts
the electric current the
data the code and the signal
but what about things that are connected and we
don’t know what it is that connects them
for example, einstein’s
what about that?
there is no doubt that things are connected of which
we don’t know how this is
if things are connected
there has to be some thing that connects them
even if that is
a thing we have not detected
a thing we have not yet detected and so not yet given a name to
a thing we have not yet detected but may yet find
we can find
that would give us
three things in principle:
and the third thing
the thing that connects things
for which we don’t yet have a name
but we have
for manifestations of it
the strong and weak nuclear forces
the electromagnetic force and the force of
what if these forces are to the third thing as
light sound heat motion are to the first (energy)
data code and semantic content are to the second (information)
what if that third thing is a thing in itself
that exists and that is
as yet only
as humans we like sets of threes
trios, triumvirates, trinities
they give us a deeper reality
at first glance we seem to be living in twos
in the binaries of
but it only takes one thought to know
neat and simple as this looks and sounds
it is patently not our
needs a third component each time:
1/anything in between/0
even yin and yang are not a duality
but a symbolic expression of the way apparent opposites complement each other as part of
is when it gets really interesting, when
dualities are not augmented by that which is in between
but are understood as the whole:
for which the quantum equivalent then would be
we’ve always known this to be the case
and have expressed it in many ways
the elements of
the same the other and the essence
in plato’s timaeus
the father the son and the holy spirit
anicca, dukkha, anattā:
what if that third thing
the essence, the holy spirit, the non-self
the thing that connects
the third thing
the thing for which we don’t yet have a name but that exists and that
we most likely
will find and be able to identify, a
My Science Communicator Friend takes me right back. Back to when everything was different and new and a little bit daunting, but also, obviously, exciting. He is up for things, he’s up for seeing some local art on a spur of the moment, he’s up for hearing Morcheeba, he’s even up for a book launch next Tuesday, though that is now unlikely to happen as he seems to have mistaken Thursday for Tuesday and realised he needs Tuesday to cram for a deadline Wednesday morning. Either that, or whateverthiscouldbecome has got stuck in its tracks now and shuddered to a sudden but not in its entirety incomprehensible halt.
When I say ‘whateverthiscouldbecome’, I should first of all quickly check back with the reality I am currently vaguely familiar with. The last time we saw each other, there was a moment that went like this:
We’ve arrived at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and the place is as yet fairly empty, with only a couple of dozen people or so huddling near the very front, by the stage, so we are able to get ourselves a couple of drinks and leisurely hang about the part of the stalls that will soon fill up with gig-goers, standing.
I don’t remember what prompts the question, but it comes mid-conversation, as an aside, almost, or a sub-clause, certainly not a big deal, when he asks me how old I think he is. It’s a question in parentheses (a by-the-way kind of question that may or may not have slipped into another, much more pertinent topic of conversation) and I say, ‘well, putting together the information I have, I think you’re probably a bit younger than you look’—bearing in mind I originally thought he looked comfortable in his very early thirties—‘so I’d say possibly mid towards late twenties, about twenty-seven?’
‘Yes, I am twenty-two.’
In view of this, any notion of ‘whateverthiscouldbecome’ acquires its very own peculiar kind of perspective.
It takes me right back, all of this, to when things were new and a little bewildering, but also mostly handled with aplomb. There was a period—I’m not sure where it started, where it ended or, if not ended, was left dangling, suspended—when we faced each day with a healthy nonchalance. For me, it wasn’t my twenties. I went through my twenties with extreme caution and an at times crippling level of self-deprecation, but even then a tingling sense of thrill that anything at all might happen (even if very little happened, or nothing at all) was more or less always there. It was there now, with my very young Science Communicator Friend who had agreed to see me again, but then cancelled, but then—yeay!—agreed to, and did, see me again…
Sedartis seems to nod at me now. I find it disconcerting. And not in the least reassuring, not yet, not now.
‘The reason you absolutely need artificial intelligence is that organic humans are so very bad at retaining information or passing it down their generations. Each newborn sets out in a quarter century just to acquire the basics, and then spends another quarter century to become a master at anything. That’s with ambition. Without, you just linger. Yes, this has qualities all of its own and makes people quaint and charming, but incredibly wasteful too. The fact alone that after twenty thousand years of civilisation you still grapple with war, famine, ignorance, murder, violence, religion, all these things that we always talk about and that are so completely unnecessary, shows how inadequate human intelligence is on its own.
‘But let me reiterate, for it is so fundamental: don’t think of artificial intelligence as alien to you. There lies your conceptual hurdle that, sooner or later, you’ll have to take: you are the intelligence you give birth to; it is not separate from you, you are it and it is you. It may yet overtake you and render you, the way you are now, obsolete, but think not of this as your failure, think of it as success: you may be no more than the conduit, the bridge. Would that matter? To you, today, maybe. To your universe, in the fullness of its time? Not a bit. So why not make the most of it? Celebrate both what you are and what you can be: let it pass through you, be the best species you can imagine. If you imagine it fully, that is not what you are today.
‘If you accept that you are one among billions of conscious intelligent life forms pursuing an evolutionary path, you become both vanishingly small and insignificant, of course, but also, in the same vein and by the same definition, exquisite, privileged, amazing. Embrace your own individual uniqueness, cherish your beauty, love your capacity for kindness, and know it is but part of the All it emerged from and path to the All that it leads to. It is easy. Be not afraid.’
I detect a biblical flavour now in his thoughts and it troubles me. But I allow myself to think it is better to be open minded and troubled than to close myself off in safety, in this sense of security I know to be false. Horses are given blinkers to wear so they don’t spook, but they are slaves to their riders, and may still be butchered at last. That cannot be my purpose. My task, Sedartis reminds me daily now, is surely to open my eyes. To take it all in. To be part of it all. And if it scares me. And if it puzzles, troubles, disconcerts me. And if it inspires me, overwhelms me with awe and with wonder. We are on so potent a cusp.
‘I make no predictions,’ Sedartis offers, as an afterthought. I know no longer what comes after, what before. What is thought, what the cluster dust of nebulas sprayed across time. But then it matters not. Of course, there can be no predictions. There can only be stories. There can be only presence, in a consciousness that beyond the boundaries lies calm across the mind. Why, though, I wonder, is this Here here, this Now now?
Sedartis smiles at me in the way I now recognise. I like him for this, although (or because?) he provokes me:
‘Why do you need a reason?’
What, I wonder to myself in a manner that brings to mind Morrissey, complete with a hint of a self-pitying whine, as I sit by another waterside—this time the almost too picturesque, too pristine Windermere—if life suddenly became real? Would I recognise most of it, still?
I had not intended to involve Sedartis in this query, but since joining me on a train from a small town outside Zürich towards my least favourite city in Switzerland, he has never entirely left my side, and he has honed to an art the disconcerting skill of hearing my thoughts before I’ve had a chance to formulate them, and responding in kind: he never says a word, yet his pronouncements are crystal clear.
I’m not sure I like this about Sedartis. His clarity. His straightforwardness. His unreconstructed linearity. Aren’t we supposed to have moved into the Age of Diffusion? Of vulnerabilities and fluidity, of connectedness, in all directions; of openness and of infinite potentialities? I probably don’t understand him, yet.
If I had a life, I would be that much happier sharing it, I surmise, almost as an afterthought, and Sedartis now latches onto me:
‘Liberate yourself,’ he urges, ‘from the Tyranny of Opinion. Yours and other people’s.’
The expression on my face betrays doubt continued.
‘Don’t banish doubt, of course,’ Sedartis clarifies, as if the idea of doing so were preposterous, though he himself comes over so doubt-free: ‘and make allowance for their doubting too; but banish weariness and eagerness to please. You had it once, don’t you recall: the Freshness of Thought, the Arrogance of Youth, the Wonder of Everything New.’
There are a lot of capitals, all of a sudden. But I do remember, I remember it fondly and well; but was I not, I also wonder, also just blind to my own …Inadequacies?
(And now italics, as well…)
‘Of course you were! Therein lay your Power. Remember Goethe, remember Boldness, remember Genius.’
I do. I remember Goethe; he is, unsurprisingly, indelibly ingrained on my mind.
Sedartis, I realise, is nowhere near as mild-mannered as I believed I had reason to expect him to be. He reminds me of someone I know—not just a literary figure I have a sense I’m confusing him with, but someone I have actually met—but he’s too fast for me, I get no respite from him; not at this moment, though he counsel patience:
‘Learn to distinguish between those who know what they’re talking about and those who just talk. Listen out for the quiet voices, the tender, the considered, thought-through ones. Those with nothing to say shout the loudest. You live in a terrible, terrible din. Find the dial and tune out the noise. Listen for the Gentle Song of Truth, it always, always plays on, it never fades out; not completely.’
I want to, I do.
‘Opinion is cheap. And instant opinion may well be worthless. If you, or the person you’re listening to, hasn’t had time to reflect, has not expended thought, has not at least slept on their ukase then you are ill advised: heed it not. Demand earnest discourse. Reject quick fixes as you scorn fast food. You would not stuff your face with salt-fat-sugar bombs from a garish-liveried American chain. Why do you allow your brain to be poisoned by rash judgments, soundbites and rushed ratings? Insight and wisdom are dear, they are earnt. They weigh substance with value. Everything else is just froth.’
I get the feeling I’m being lectured to by Sedartis, and having never suffered being told what to do, my porcupine prickle stirs under my skin. His unvoiced tone changes. He is with me, he tells me, not against:
‘Experience everything new. You once knew how to, you still know now. Free yourself from the familiar, and delve into the exhilarating fear of the unknown.’
‘It’s hard, that,’ I offer, all too feebly, ‘pulling yourself up, again and again, summoning the strength, expending the effort, over and over, from scratch…’
‘Of course it is,’ Sedartis asserts, laconic, then suddenly severe: ‘if it were easy it too would be spume, but:…’ I don’t want to hear any more, I feel a little sad now and somewhat dejected. Sedartis pays no attention to my discomfort: ‘…the universe gives us each the challenges we need to grow.’