Friday, November 4, 2011

Music: Body and Soul

I am listening to Bach’s Cello Sonata #3 in C Major played by Pablo Casals.  The music is streaming on my computer.  In its journey, this music has been notes on paper, vibrations in air (a few times), magnetic trace on tape, grooves in vinyl, the 0s and 1s of digital code, and is now being transformed into some kind of neurological code in my head.

Throughout its journey, it has always been attached to a material media of some kind; yet the music is obviously something other than any particular material media -- paper, vinyl, plastic, silicon or air.  The music is not in the material, but in the particular way that the material is organized – e.g. of the endless ways that 0s and 1s could be organized in the digital media, there is only one way that is Pablo Casal's recording.  The material is passive to this arrangement – the vinyl takes whatever arrangement of grooves is impressed on it – but the arrangement cannot exist without the material. 

Music is thus dependent on material, but is something more than any particular material.  It is a form of information; I could have used as my example any written work in the same way I have used music.  Indeed, I could use any aspect of culture, for all culture has this characteristic of always requiring some material media as storage, yet being independent of any particular form of media.  Original paintings, of course, are different.  They cannot be copied and still be original.  But photos of such paintings can move easily from media to media.

The problem of the relationship of mind to body has been a long and interesting topic of discussion in our culture.  The positions range from the complete separation of the two -- dualism -- to the complete reduction of one into the other: materialism and idealism.  I would like to suggest that the relationship is somewhat analogous to the relationship of music to a medium.  Like music, the mind can only exist as part of a material media, yet it is something more than that media.  It is primarily a thing made of information, and information is something that can move about from media to media.

Unfortunately, unlike music, we cannot readily make copies or our self and enjoy the kind of timeless existence of Bach’s Cello Sonatas.  In this we are more analogous to paintings.  We are stuck to this one medium.  When the medium goes, so goes the great art work that each individual is.  All that’s left are the photos.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Big History meets Pantheist Theology

God is the fact of space and time, matter and energy.

God is the fact of entropy.

God is the fact that this entropic universe somehow wound up with enormous energy and thus an enormous amount of time for things to happen.

God is the fact of the discrete parameters of matter/energy that determine a self-organizing universe.

God is the fact that this self organizing universe has indeed organized itself intricately and with endless novelty. 

God is the fact of the electromagnetic force, of gravity, and the awesome conflict by which their wrestling gives rise to a star. 

God is the fact of the photon, field and quanta, that carries news of the star throughout the universe. 

God is the fact of the strong force, so powerful yet so constrained, that allows the star, in its enormous heat, to bring forth a panoply of elements.

God is fact of the elements, which can be likened to an alphabet; the fact of their properties and combinations, which can be likened to syntax and sentence, which give rise to a creation, which can be likened to a great book.

God is the fact that elements and their combinations can evolve, and evolve, and evolve.

God is the fact of information, which is what evolves.

God is the fact of sentience, which is aware of information, responds to information. 

God is the fact of consciousness, which emerges out of sentience and its ability to respond to information.

God is the fact of the scientist who has created a mirror in which the universe can take a look at itself.

God is the fact that conscious beings can consciously create, that they can imagine, strategize, and actualize.

God is the fact of the self-governed life and the life in equilibrium.

God is the possibility of an at-one-ment of the knower and known, the one and the many, of world and idea.  Is this the end of big history?