small creatures

small creatures live on a flat land. the creature itself is flat, all its cells are connected as if they are drawings on a piece of paper. this however has not prevented them evolving into conscious, living beings. they can see what is in front, behind, left and right, and this is their view of the world. they can move about in this world and can do all the things necessary to live… travel on this surface to visit friends and family. they have transport, computers (certainly as powerful as our computers), television… their television would look to us like a series of colours, red, green, yellow dots in sequences… they can only see a row of colours, but they have figured out ways to fool the brain into seeing multiple rows of colours at the same time, so that they can see what the world looks like from above, even though this is not really the real view, it is just an abstraction, because they cannot perceive or even rationalise the concepts of above and below, apart from in their mathematics, which predicts that the reality in which they live is potentially part of something bigger, that exists outside of view, in equations and abstract concepts…

the surface on which these creatures live is large enough to mean that even if over many generations (as many generations that have existed since these creatures first evolved) they travelled in a single direction, they would still not reach the edge. but the edge exists, because we could pick up this world as if it were just a piece of paper. we could fold it, scrunch it up into a tight ball, and the creatures would not feel or sense a thing, because they are so small, easily as small as we are compared to the curvature of the orbit the Earth revolves around the sun, as small as the curvature of the universe… so to them their world is always, by definition, flat.

I

…whilst this is an established idea in physics, we have so much trouble relating its message to our own sense of life and environment… how can this truth of untruths be described, visualised? it is perhaps impossible. whilst in mathematics reality is explained in 4, 5, … 11 dimensions, this idea remains intrinsically abstract as far as our day to day lives are concerned. we have no real perception of dimensions beyond the world in which we live. so for us, as for these hypothetical small creatures, our world remains essentially flat, and by extension we can only assume that everything is this way. and so we wonder what purpose our physics and pure mathematics have in our lives, when what they describe is beyond our perception. surely the purpose is to show that we do not absolutely rule this space in which we live, we do not absolutely understand, and therefore some humility is necessary. from humility in the face of a reality in which we live but by some intuited definition we cannot understand, so might come empathy and then the understanding that we need to act towards others and our environment in ways in which we are not currently doing.

II

the problem is that the explanation for our situation, our location in the world, is most purely described by 2 theories which are equally intractable. on the one hand there is Buddhism, which is basically a system of ethics (be a generally good person) and on the other hand there is mathematics, which in the form of quantum mechanics describes the world in terms of probabilities and uncertainty. both these systems can be reduced into simple (flat) terms, but underneath each is a huge system of logic and concepts that goes way beyond what all but a very small number of people can really understand and comprehend

[perhaps i mean ‘belief’ – because i understand these things but only in an indirect way, a language of belief rather than statements of empirical knowledge. it is this that i often condense into a simple description, a feeling of ‘intuition’. we can have unshakeable belief in something that is not experienced directly]

there is more to Buddhism than the simplification of ‘just be a nice person’ and more to mathematics than 1+1=2. perhaps the simplified meanings are all we really need to understand, because from them everything is always only partially explained, no matter how far you go, and so the real truth is always back there, in the simplifications and approximations.

III

it is a question of will; where does this will come from? perhaps the purpose of all this thinking is to reach a point where the equations are resolved, a peaceful space defined by the negative: where there is an absence of ideas and abstractions.