Process

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

I enjoy creative writing, the very first ideas and original sparks that rise from a swirl of images, experiences, and thoughts. Owing to their ability to discriminate what is,  scientists can effectively express their thoughts and convey to a larger audience their gained wisdom with an intuitive choice of words that resonate with truth, as Arthur Eddington and Herman Wyel did. The two quotes below describe the human experience of the Universe :

It is in the external world that the four dimensions are united - not in the relations of the external world to the individual which constitute his direct acquaintance with space and time. Just in that process of relation to an individual, the order falls apart into the distinct manifestations of space and time. An individual is a four-dimensional object of greatly elongated form; in ordinary language we say that he has considerable extension in time and insignificant extension in space. Practically he is represented by a line - his track through the world. When the world is related to such an individual, his own asymmetry is introduced into the relation; and that order of events which is parallel with his track, that is to say with himself, appears in his experience to be differentiated from all other orders of events.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, University Press, 1921, p.57

However deep the chasm may be that separates the intuitive nature of space from that of time in our experience, nothing of this qualitative difference enters into the objective world which physics endeavours to crystallise out of direct experience. It is a four-dimensional continuum, which is neither “time” nor “space. Only the consciousness that passes on in one portion of this world experiences the detached piece which comes to meet it and passes behind it, as history, that is, as a process that is going forward in time and takes place in space.

Hermann Weyl, Dover, 1922, p.217

Why does consciousness inhabit my so-called body, the physical process I experience? I had that weird feeling the other day looking at my little finger. I broke my pinkie when I was five, a palpable memory of my autobiographical self but so alien to the adult I am today. Lost in the past is the memory of that event. “Oh, that’s right,” I recalled, “I did break my finger”. The “greatly elongated” human form that I am “with considerable extension in time and insignificant extension in space” is going through a process since birth at the physiological, mental and spiritual level. Marked with an expiration stamp, whoever we were as children or even ten years ago has moved on one brief ontological stage after another in a process whose result is forever becoming. Thomas Laycock said:

 

The most general vital energies are those by which the continued existence of the organism in time and space is maintained. They are the instincts of life common to all organisms, whether plants or animals. I shall designate them the primordial instincts; not only because they are the most universal and fundamental, but also because they are the instincts out of which all the others must be evolved.

Mind and Brain, Sutherland & Knox, 1860, vol. II, p.190

We owe our perception of time and space to our primordial instincts. They are tools for our mind to cope with reality. Amidst unstoppable processes, we know that we are not the endgame but an interlude,  an episode in a biological process, a brief event in the Universe. Life is an infinite game that started on Earth billions of years ago and neither you nor I will be here to see the future of this process whose rules evolve unceasingly. Caught amidst those processes, we might ask ourselves whether time and consciousness are two faces of one mystery (Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research| July 2010 | Vol. 1 | Issue 5 | pp. 482-639). William A. Adams answers as follows :

The short answer is “No”. Time is mysterious. Consciousness is mysterious. But that is not a sufficient basis to link them. However, there seems to be a deep connection between time and consciousness, even though they are clearly discriminable entities.

William A. Adams

Life unfolds in an endless replication process constantly guided by the repeated nudge of evolution. There is existence only in time.The stars are processes too. In their life cycle, massive stars become supernovas, some transform into black holes, others into neutron stars. From the infinitely large to the infinitely small, sound and visual patterns are universal signs of a process that is happening when moons affect tides, oceans regulate climates, planets tilt on their axis and asteroids collide with other celestial bodies.

 

Stellar occultation during lunar eclipse

Stellar occultation during lunar eclipse

Life in every form and at every level is a process of regulation and organization from cells to ecosystems. “In the elementary grammar of the world," wrote Carlo Rovelli, "there is neither space nor time  -only processes that transform physical quantities from one to another, from which it is possible to calculate probabilities and relations “(The order of time, Riverhead books, 2018, p.195). Time is not absolute. It is a conventionally designed tool. The only thing that we objectively know of time is the present because that is the only thing that we can say we are experiencing in the now. However, since we know that when we gaze at the stars, we are looking back in time, we can reasonably say as well that the past does exist.

Sometimes we want to talk about events that occurred before humans existed, and then it seems particularly absurd to assume that facts only become definite when observed.

Roderich Tumulka

Messier 89

Messier 89

At the same time, we know that the present is a vanishing entity that we are helplessly chasing. As soon as we stand in the now, it has already gone in the past. What is now anyway? A brief second? A day? A year? We are uncertain of its limit and scope, for we are in a state of becoming. In reality, every second that passes is part of the past and the next is part of the future. When some say that time does not exist, that is because the present time is indeed an illusion. Still, “there is a universal conscious now which hosts the passage of time”.  Bergson talked about our ability to perceive simultaneous flows - be an instant, a lifetime or the life cycle of a star - because “we have learned to spatialize time. For the reason that we are these“greatly elongated” human forms “with considerable extension in time and insignificant extension in space”, we are all the more conscious of this being our known Universe in which we, animals, plants, humans, live side by side carrying on with our daily activities in parallel, for time runs through “multiple flows within one flow. If we dare to say that consciousness lives in each one of us simultaneously, I remain ambivalent about my own intuitive impression that those billions of flows run through a single universal Consciousness. Is consciousness “coextensive with the universe” or, compared to the duration of the Universe, just an “infinitesimal consciousness” “coextensive with our conscious life”? We can only say that those billions of flows, meticulously regulated by time and deeply felt by our consciousness, are processes occurring in the phenomenological realm.

Tail emerging from a spiral galaxy nicknamed D100

Tail emerging from a spiral galaxy nicknamed D100

 

My own consciousness, seemingly unaware, wonders whether electromagnetic fields are coextensive with the Universe and whether we have to believe that anything else is simply random manifestations in the process.

 

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