Posted on December 16, 2009, under general, meta.

I’m sitting on a train, the Enterprise, moving along at about 140 kilometers per hour between Drogheda and Dublin. Something is causing practically every particle in my body to spark into a new life at a different position in space one instant to the next.

Dancing and spinning

For each one of those particles, there’s some chance it could just pop into life on the far side of the moon, or even the universe. But something, I guess “motion” is averaging everything out and look, there the sum of me pops, every tiny instant getting slightly closer to Dublin.

If the train was in the vaccuum of space – or somehow free from the effects of friction – it wouldn’t even take anything to keep this atomic leap-frogging going. Each small micro-part of me would just keep on dancing. And somehow at the same time, it’s exactly as if I were staying still all along – there’s no real difference. This has been tested.

But if for any reason a change of tempo was required, to move from a waltz to a samba, something intangible and ephemeral – mysteriously lumped into the word “energy” – is required. It’s weird and mystical and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it can be measured and described – and relied upon.

And as I sit here and write, using the word “I” like that, it feels like there’s a “me”. It seems as if there’s a real sense of ownership over my thinking, I can’t tell where my thoughts come from, but they are mine.

I feel like I’m free to choose things, when I get off of the train I could get straight into a taxi or walk to a tram. I don’t know which I’ll do yet, there are a lot of factors to consider, but neither choice seems pre-ordained, and once it happens it will feel like “I” owned that choice.

“Free will” seems as real to me as the forward motion of this train, it’s an inexplicable dance, but it’s my tune. And that makes less sense. Reality is describable by all of these symbols and equations, and we can make predictions with them. This has been tested.

There are even divisions between what is predictable in detail, and what is predictable only in the aggregate, random and unknowable at the finer grain.

Here in my head, it doesn’t seem like my thoughts are predictable, or could be. If they are just an inevitable cadence, then that “I” is merely an illusion. It also doesn’t seem like thoughts are random or unknowable, to me anyway. I have patterns of thinking, recurring themes, and a detectable personality. It can’t be the same dance.

How many miracles are there on this train? Motion is miraculous enough, that “I” can think, that the universe even exists seems miraculous too. But most astonishing, is that these simple realities are seemingly contradictory.

I’m still on that train, I haven’t gone anywhere, there haven’t been any angels visiting me, or deitious interventions. These thoughts haven’t led anyone to complicated dogmas, wars or ceremonies. Some say science is cold. Maybe the dance is a myth.

And if this mental dance should one day just end, where are the real love-songs? Songs that speak to the real meaning, the genuine warmth, of spending a fleeting, passing, bittersweet whirl around the floor with someone. Not an infinitesimal slice of eternity living in hope of a better dance; that’s cold. This has been tested.

4 Replies to "Con-science"


kae  on December 17, 2009

isn’t the universe just amazing!

right when we think we know everything (it was reported at the end of the 19th century that no more science would ever be learned), it turns out the whole framework of reality is sitting on something more fundamental and more awesome.


MikeD  on December 17, 2009

Just make sure to live life in ‘this’ life. Shouldn’t matter if you think there is something else after this one.

If truly living is making an adventure out of this world/planet/backyard/one’s dreams, then live that life. For others, this brings happiness.

If truly living is going through the same routine, day after day, then live that life. For some that brings happiness. I don’t mean the comfort & safety elements of routine, I mean happiness.

What is cold is not not utilizing that free will you mention to truly make those choices.

What is cold is knowing you have the choice, wanting to make the choice and then not making the choice.

Science is a playground.


Paul Jakma  on December 18, 2009

A very common problem we have is a tendency to anthropomorphise things. E.g. such as in a huge bunch of highly complicated chemical reactions between a massive number of molecules…


Squander Time With These Links at Zoomtard  on December 19, 2009

[...] Finally, Colmmac has an excellent meditation on movement, freedom and miracle. Not bad for an atheis… [...]

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