21 June 2008

Preliminary scenario 1

Each individual finds himself involved in a strange and complicated story. He cannot remember exactly how it began. If he believes what the other people in the story tell him, he is going to die, which means perhaps that he will cease being conscious of anything again. The environment in which he finds himself is one of staggering complexity. The universe of astronomy surrounds his planet, leading to no edge, but to abysses of unimaginable mathematical paradox. The earth under his feet is supposedly made of particles, the studies of which lead to no final definition of their ultimate types and characteristics, but to abysses of unimaginable mathematical paradox.

Probably there is in his home a box with a flat front which shows moving coloured pictures of his world, impressing upon him the intolerable multifariousness of all the forms of life that have ever crawled or swum or flown in the darkest and deepest, hottest and coldest, wettest and driest crevices of his planet. Again, no precise limit can be set upon their numbers, though vague estimates can be made of the number of unclassified insects of a certain type that probably remain to be found and labelled in the basin of the Amazon.

There seem to be other people in this story with him, but there is a great difference between himself and them. He is conscious of his own feelings, but only by implication and inference of theirs. Are they conscious of themselves as he is conscious of himself? If he talks to them about this they usually discourage him from thinking of such an absurd idea (but he may have read about dreams in which figures in the dream argue vigorously and mockingly with the dreamer about whether they are real). Is his the only consciousness? What is the point of all this, and does the point of it have anything at all to do with him? Is the whole universe a casual uncaused appearance, a sudden shocking bauble emerging from unbeing?

Why should it? Why should it not? What could cause such a thing? Of course his ideas of caused and uncaused break down; as usual at the edge of things his thought is mocked by the unimaginable.

Perhaps the universe is just a material thing and his consciousness only an accidental byproduct. That is to say the universe is nothing but this turbulence of forces, ultimately based upon unimaginable mathematical relationships. The turbulence has happened to produce living forms — that is, patterns of matter that are able to generate further similar patterns — and those which are of some complexity seem to themselves to be conscious. But the semblance of consciousness has no more reality than the electromagnetic field of a machine; it will stop being there when the machine stops, and the mechanical mathematical universe will go on indifferently.

Is all this his dream and will he ever awaken? Are all the people and perhaps the animals dreaming too, and is this a communal hallucination in which they are all caught? Or is he the dream, as some have suggested, of a magician or a god? If so, what are the intentions of the dreamer?

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)