A couple of letters to my son regarding free will versus fate.
Disclaimer – great stuff, but only the ideal. I do not portend to emulate this in any way. But I do agree with the philosophy of trying to emulate it.
Ok, so I had to work hard yesterday to finish some house foundation repair before several days of rain. I haven’t listened yet, but your message clicked a switch for me on an idea that’s been hanging around for a while.
As you read, keep your concept that one can hold contradictory views simultaneously. I can’t “know” if these ideas are correct. But after I consider them, I have to make real decisions based on how I understand things. Additionally, the Universe is not obligated to comply with our need to compartmentalize. We live in a “three dimensional” world, but what is the dimension of a lawn? A cloud? Newton is not wrong. He is rather not sufficiently granular. Some very exceptional cases, such as buildings and machines fit Newton nicely. It’s probably also true we can map the downgrading of the current world situation to forcing the energy of complete dimensionality into the world of quantum. Barbed wire, buildings, digital computers as an interesting bow tie. While the ultimate clean dimensional machine (0 or 1), it also can manipulate those 0s and 1s at a sufficient level to create a quantum flock.
Quantum gets much closer. And Chaos says that there is no such thing as “much closer”. Any leak to infinity could, and does start an avalanche of new realities.
Is there free will? (aka, “Is one responsible for one’s decisions/behavior?”)
Let’s use the old mathematical style proof of disproving the opposite.
Let’s assume there is no free will. In order for that to be true, all events must already be known a priori. Otherwise, there is no way to judge whether the outcome actually matches the model of outcomes. The Great Watchmaker it is sometimes called. If I know every particle’s position and acceleration at any one time, I can know the entire future of the universe. Without that complete model, there’s no way to know if you made the preordained decision, or veered off the course. The future must either be completely known or completely unknown.
An immediate problem with that view is that we know through quantum there is no such thing as “a particle”. Rather, there are strong possibilities that an electron exists at a time and place. And by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, we know the bottom is always vibrating just a touch. The Universe is not solid in the material sense, but rather, the possibilities of any particle to be measured at any time and place are never stable. And chaos says tough luck. Which straw will break the camel’s back?
Problem 1 – no such thing as particle, thereby negating any chance of knowing that particle’s future and then of course, the future of the Universe. The Universe is a set of possibilities, not realities. The instantaneous slice of the present becomes less clear in both the forward and backward directions. In other words, both history and the future are not known.
Problem 2 – no Objective Observer, aka G-d. Imagine approaching a stop sign. You can go forward, left or right. Where is the preexisting model to let me know that you did indeed make the correct decision, the one that fate requires? For you, you can choose any of the directions and as you “move forward” in time, you will observe you are correct because you are like a citizen of Flatland, like us relative to the Time dimension. Only someone observing from the fifth dimension or beyond would be able to even declare that there is indeed a right and a wrong decision to be made. Those of us in this fourth dimension are not capable of knowing the future. Ergo, we can only make guesses, not decisions about the correct path. In a sense, this is the multiverse view. No matter what decision I make at each INSTANT (instant being that slice of Reality that is unmeasureable), that Universe will be made whole.
Imagine a three dimensional sphere passing through the two dimensional Flatland. A Flatlander will see a dot suddenly appear that grows to a large circle, then shrinks back to a dot before disappearing. That is the only information the Flatlander can have about that. In the same way, in our Observable universe, it is a very strong theory that we cannot measure, not because of instrumentation, but because at the bottom, our Universe looks like bubbling cheese on a pizza. We know in general, what’s going to happen, but it’s basically impossible to predict the movement of any particular particle. We can see the flock, but not the bird. How far do you have to dissect a bird to see it’s flock? We witness our universe as if we were transparent slices that slide up and down through the bubbling pizza. We see growing and shrinking circles and dots, but an observer from above would be able to predict where each dot would appear and even its history. Magic!
From our dimension, the sphere passing through the plane makes perfect sense. Like pulling a tennis ball through the surface of a bucket of water. But from the Flatlander’s view, decisions must be made based on available evidence. There is no provable right and wrong and therefore no way to determine if decisions are preordained or playing out in real time. In Flatland, the equivalent to quantum would be – We can predict pretty well when we see these growing dots, they will behave a certain way. But we cannot KNOW. We cannot KNOW if the circle is behaving via some universal law, but we can know that every time we observe it, it does XYZ.
[I’m just thinking of this. The “decisions” that the sphere is making cause ripples in Flatland. However, you as a rider on the Flatland waves would be unaware of that because you couldn’t see any horizon. There would be no way for you to recognize that your world was bobbing up and down. However, the sphere would create consequences. The difference between smashing into the surface and moving continuously through the surface are different futures. It is up to the tennis ball to decide at each surface, a big responsibility. If one were to image a string attached the tennis ball, that is pre-destiny, fate. If one images taking on the decision responsibility, that is living within the bounds of knowledge, not necessarily correct, but as correct as is physically available. All other “knowing” is faith. When possible, I imagine that I am consciously deciding to slide as smoothly as possible through each surface.
“If a warrior is to succeed in anything, the success must come gently, with a great deal of effort but with no stress or obsession.“ ]
We know that each time we reach the stop sign, if we turn left we get home and if we turn right, we get to the Wal-Mart.
We pretty much “know” that our Universe is a flat plane in approximately four dimensions. Currently, one big theory has the Universe pegged at eleven dimensions. In other words, the spheres are passing through our view of the Universe all the time and we are sufficiently self aware to know that we can only see the dot, the circle, the dot. We know there is a physical limit imposed by our Universe that prevents us from probing into the other dimensions.
It is essentially impossible for us to know if we are living by fate or decision. And for the inhabitants of any dimensional universe, that will be true. It’s turtles all the way to the bottom. You can spot this in equations that include infinities. Infinities are where Knowledge and Information are leaking out of our Universe (although also reappearing, apparently like the pizza, boiling on the surface, but overall doing what it’s supposed to).
And if that’s the case, I would suggest that selected behaviors (what we each choose to do at each infinitesimally small and complex stop sign) are best done as if they are purposeful. My ideal choice is to act impeccably.
Don Juan said,
“When one has nothing to lose, one becomes courageous. We are timid only when there is something we can still cling to. A warrior must focus his attention on the link between himself and his death. He must let each of his acts be his last battle on earth. Only under those conditions will his acts have their rightful power. Otherwise they will be, for as long as he lives, the acts of a fool.”
We are all timid… afraid that we are actually responsible for each of our decisions, especially as we realize how many decisions we must make, an infinite number every infinity.
“Warriors compress time. Even an instant counts. In a battle for your life, a second is an eternity, an eternity that may decide the outcome. Warriors aim at succeeding, therefore they compress time. Warriors don’t waste an instant.” (flock versus bird)
Problem 3 – Scale. This is actually the heart of the matter. I have a saying – How far must you dissect a bird to see the flock? It’s the famous question from Benoit Mandelbrot – How long is the coastline of England? To the Space Shuttle, it is a reliable 2500 km. To a person walking a pub tour, that same coastline is 5000km long and to the ant on the shore, walking over each grain of sand, the “coast” is a meaningless concept. In fact, even to the person walking, the “coast” is a bit suspicious as the wave lap in and out. “Coast” is a linguistically imposed dimensionality required because we aren’t telepathic, can’t meld our ideas directly. Language is a currency, and in some ways, language is a flock of ideas. But it is artificial, just as is sight and sound and feeling and everything. Math is a nice language because it starts with one premise “given a point”. Good old chaos makes that shake and Godel’s Incompletness Theorem formally proves that the “given a point” is an infinity leak. Given one point, one could just as easily “given two points” (since points are zero dimensional, they don’t actually exist so easy enough to add and subtract). Given two points, how’s a about adding a one dimensional line between. And of course, given three points, we have a plane and so on. It’s turtles all the way down.
The problem is coming to agreement. Are your points the same as mine? Etc. Where we can start to agree is flocks. Flocks are sufficiently scaled for our view of the Universe. Some flocks are really well formed. The words on this paper. Some, eh… And finally the flocks fade to individuals at our scale and therefore become unpredictable in our Universe.
We cannot ever observe the Observer. If there is an external Observer, each of us can only communicate via his/her own way, making transference to others essentially impossible.
I learned this when I moved from field work to GIS. In the field, I knew I was taking a four inch diameter soil sample, an eight ounce jar. But when I mapped that same point, in order for it to be visible, I had a 20ft diameter dot on the map. By the time I was through, I was committing “symbolic violence”, using structured arguments where none exist. I can say with some high certainty, that the 2ml liquid extract from the 8 ounce sample jar can be repetitively analyzed within a high degree of precision and accuracy. What I cannot say is if that has ANYTHING to do with environmental assessment. Forest for the trees problem.
We frequently use maps that show 20% of the site was sampled for a decision. In reality, the 8 oz jars represented less than one billionth of the site. Based on that info, we spend billions of dollars.
This is much like our individual lives. There is a massive, infinite fabric of decisions and outcomes. But each of us can only decide what we will do at any instant. Keep in mind, each of our independently viable cells is also making it’s own decisions, (think overhead view of a crowd versus an individual’s behavior in that crowd). And each of the individual electrons as well. We know that via Maxwell’s Gold Foil experiments, the two slit experiment. And then of course, the quarks, and… it’s turtles all the way down.
Without an Objective Observer, there is no way to a priori know what decisions are “correct”. So believing in Time is a bit like saying one believes in G-d. The Yang of that is believing only in the moment. My take is – the Universe is emergent. The more “we” think (every quark and every possibility woven together into a Universe), the more the Universe becomes.
If one believes in an Objective Observer, that’s good. But one cannot transfer that knowledge to anyone else. And I believe that if one chooses to use that as an excuse for any decision, ask forgiveness on your death bed so to speak, it is because of the fear of the responsibility of every breath one takes.
When I get up from a table, I put the chair back because that is the place of the chair. Because of chaos/emergence theory, I cannot know if the chair remaining out will affect anything. So I purposefully decide to return it each time. I consider, then act.
“Impeccability begins with a single act that has to be deliberate, precise and sustained. If that act is repeated long enough, one acquires a sense of unbending intent which can be applied to anything else. If that is accomplished the road is clear. One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes
his full potential.
For the average man, the world is weird because if he’s not bored with it, he’s at odds with it. For a warrior, the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable. A warrior must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous time.”
No one can know the Universe. Therefore, living impeccably seems like the correct path to me – my religion. And within that, I try to consider my decisions and then act. I think you’ve heard me say that our big trip would likely have been more effective if we’d focused on one area. My indecisiveness was based on my fear of making the “wrong” decision, which could really only have been judged by you guys. Had I made that impeccably, I would have decided and acted and never reconsidered it.
And now I decide to send this your way. Hope it’s fun to read.
A warm hug in my mind.
I thought of something that’s too long for text.
A truth is that w/o the objective observer, no One can ever know if the decision was fate or novel, unique, in the moment.
There is at least one different take on how to view this, although in the long run it comes out at the same place. Unless there’s an observer beyond our All That Is, the following wouldn’t be possible, bringing me back to the notion that each person’s behavior (at least to the extent that the “person” controls the cells and atoms and quarks that contribute to that “person” at any one instant (another fake word. There’s no such thing as an “instant”. Within an instant is either nothingness or forever, or both.) is within their own domain. I think of each person, actually any “physical” object we interact with, as a swashing whirlpool that becomes sufficiently well formed for a while to “exist”.
There are always two views or a continuum of views – the All That Is view, requiring the objective observer and the Inside the Whirlpool view, requiring (or not) personal responsibility, being aware of how your whirlpool interacts with the other whirlpools, people for sure, but all other whirlpools. I have a bit of an OCD about picking up stuff on the floor. If I see a piece of paper, I pick it up so no one will slip on it. Really just kosher in the sense that to live kosher, or to reach toward nirvana, or in the words of don Juan, to stop the world, is to be aware of each act.
from a practical, day-to-day standpoint, my model, my vision is to live like a warrior (so far away from that, but it’s the ideal for me).
“For the average man, the world is weird because if he’s not bored with it, he’s at odds with it. For a warrior, the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable. A warrior must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous time.”
Each “person” can move his/her “assemblage point”. For the really skilled nagual, this point can move through both space and time. The nagual can insert his being into any place and time, for instance taking over some other person’s body in some other time or place. Can this really happen? My opinion is two fold. One quantum doesn’t really restrict this and two, becoming a nagual is more about letting go of self-imposed restrictions that gaining power. In other words, per emergent terms, becoming more powerful is more about settling in to what is already available rather than gathering anything new.
But more importantly for this letter – assuming some amount of truth in that, then one may have a preponderance to “see” the world from an assemblage point near the boundary of the All That Is. He perceives that all is already done. We are merely running the energy down to zero, where there are only hydrogen atoms (in our physical space at least) and they would be spaced in a perfectly uniform cubic frame, the lowest possible entropy. Each point is known because it fulfills a pattern. This is where I think your assemblage point tends to dwell.
I love this don Juan stuff. Really got into it deeply in my teenage years and it fits perfectly with quantum and Buddhism so easy for me. But the view is that of the warrior, singular, being completely responsible for each instant. My assemblage point is inside me.
We can shift our assemblage points and I would say they are more like a blur than a dot. But as I was thinking on this, I realized it’s not that there is or is not Fate. It’s more like, we individually can’t know (by design, so to speak), so my assemblage point says I am responsible and yours says the All That Is is not conquerable. I can’t conquer it either. If I’m fated to die on XY spacetime point, then that may come to pass. However, since “I” can’t know this, my proclivity is to assume responsibility. I want to understand how my whirlpool interacts. And at the same time, in the ideal, I want to become singular, to take no risk of interaction, to travel through the world and leave no mark, like the Kung Fu guy walking across the tissue paper.
So, our differing views on Fate are more a matter of point of view. However, for me, your point of view is unproveable. If there is an objective observer (the Ancient One, per Einstein), then each of our little whirlpools cannot by definition obtain that view (“very near” the boundary of the All That Is, not past it just a little bit).
The quantum view is that the universe is a bubbling pizza (not allegory, the math is identical). We know the pizza will stay inside the crust (the All That Is), but we can’t predict where the next bubble (whirlpool) will occur. Some whirlpools almost form, then collapse. Some grow large (like perhaps, long lived, healthy humans? certainly by size, Jupiter!). But from each bubble’s view (assemblage point), there is only the local universe. No bubble can have a time lapse movie available so that each bubble can be “predicted”. And if that were true, what would happen if the objective observer decided to poke one of the bubbles. Then that requires a new, “larger” objective observer to know that the first OO did that by plan and not by accident.
A predicted Universe is just too complex. My assemblage point says that I believe in the crust but otherwise, I’m only really interested in my local neighborhood. If I’m thinking global warming, I’ve moved my assemblage point to Earth size and if I’m concerned with space debris to about 340 miles sphere above the Earth… etc. But overall, my assemblage point (the centroid of my whirlpool), stays near to home.
Here’s one I actually do fulfill pretty consistently that shows my internal assemblage point. I follow the Buddhist teaching that says every Thing has its place. Therefore, every time I get up from a table, I put the chair back. Like picking up the paper. I don’t try to control or change my Fate. I try to interact with my local universe in what I think of as a productive (good vibrations literally) way.
I put a bunch of quotes cause I figure you got tie to read ’em!
Any movement of the assemblage point means a movement away
from an excessive concern with the individual self. Shamans believe
it is the position of the assemblage point which makes modern man a
homicidal egoist, a being totally involved with his self-image.
Having lost hope of ever returning to the source of everything, the
average man seeks solace in his selfishness.
Warriors compress time; this is the sixth principle of the
art of stalking. Even an instant counts. In a battle for your
life, a second is an eternity, an eternity that may decide the
outcome. Warriors aim at succeeding, therefore they compress time.
Warriors don’t waste an instant. (not the All That Is view because Fate means we don’t have to pay attention at all, but the local assemblage point, we are each responsible for every instant. That’s a heavy burden from the outside, but complete freedom from the inside.)
The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is
that a warrior takes everything as a challenge (no need for challenge with Fate), while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or as a curse. (The ATI view, blessing/curse, nothing I do contributes or takes away. It just is what it is. Everything as a challenge. I can affect my life and perhaps lives around in positive/negative ways, but it is my responsibility to control my Fate.)
Acts have power. Especially when the warrior acting knows that
those acts are his last battle. There is a strange consuming
happiness in acting with the full knowledge that whatever he is
doing may very well be his last act on earth. (Acknowledging that there may be Fate and there’s nothing One can do. But since One can’t know, every act must be considered the last act, Fate is about to catch up with him.)
Everything that warriors do is done as a consequence of a
movement of their assemblage points, and such movements are ruled by
the amount of energy warriors have at their command. (It’s obvious that accumulating power means moving away from Fate. Fate and personal power are the two pans of the scale. Add to one, take away from the other. Gain power, add responsibility)
And so forth…