The Universal Bindings
In trying to understand myself, I've looked both inside and outside for answers. What follows is just the beginning of my quest to understand not just life, society or Nature's secrets, but Reality itself. In other words, the answer I seek is what binds the Universe itself together at the most fundamental level. The following links to some of my previous writings. It is recommended that you follow those hyperlinks for elaboration of these points.
This journey will take you through several facets of life, from social issues, to religion, spirituality and science, and explore the commonality threads that my philosophy of life is built upon. To illustrate and symbolise the complexities and subtleties of this philosophy, I've chosen the Mandelbrot Set, which is the plotting of a deceptively simple mathematical formula, which yields incredibly complex structure when applied recursively. It also appeals to someone with my tendency to think in pictures
The window below contains an interactive demonstration of the Mandelbrot set. By manipulating the controls, you will be able to shift focus and zoom in and out on the picture. Please take note of the complexity of the structures, the range of "magnification" (you should see discernible structure from 4 (showing the whole set in its entirety) to 10-10 (finest detail this demo can produce). Notice how different the part of the set you're viewing changes dramatically, which reflects how different life (both in the physical and spiritual realms) can vary when viewed from different perspectives. Note that you will need to enable Java in your web browser for the demo to work.
Demonstration of the Mandelbrot Set.
When viewing this demo, use the keypad at the bottom to adjust your view.
It is recommended to use the small window until you find an area of interest, as this demo is computationally intensive, and runs much slower in a large window.
My search for Truth began with biology, specifically, I have a mild form of autism, called Aspergers Syndrome. In addition, I am also gay. This combination, as well as a traditional Protestant upbringing in a small country town puts me at an intersection of several segments of society, which often have conflicting views on social and spiritual issues. Against this background, I had to resolve many inner conflicts, but at the same time, simply "justifying" my position by creating double standards and bogus moral arguments wasn't a satisfactory conclusion for me. My spiritual journey started from the established traditional Christian perspective that I grew up with and, from there took me to New Age philosophies and ideas, and beyond to a more Universal model.
Onward Christian Soldier:
If this journey had a start date, it was somewhere in 1990, a year which was to mark a major change of direction (the second such change) for me. At the time, I was commuting to university from my parents' home 70 km out of Melbourne, a trip which takes over an hour by train. Being autistic, I am often a creature of habit, and always sat in much the same place each trip, and during 1990, this brought me into contact with the same group of young people who were unusually friendly. For months, we just said hello, and all the usual trivial stuff, until one dreary winter's afternoon, I was talking to one of the guys, and the topic drifted towards Church, God and the Bible. I have always had a belief in God, despite leaving my childhood church at the age of 8, and this conversation, amidst a period of turmoil rekindled my beliefs. That conversation lasted the entire journey and ended with an invitation to attend the youth group that most of the other people I traveled with attended.
While in the youth group, I took to studying the Bible and discovered that I could understand it beyond the superficial, to see the deeper meanings of the parables, At the same time, I found solace in prayer and fellowship in the group. However, my biological "time bomb" was ticking, and the revelations of a dual coming out would set me off in a new direction.
Love, Sin and Misguided Prejudice:
The following year (1991) was when I discovered my sexuality Deep down, I knew that this would cause some conflicts with my previously established religious beliefs. However, my intuition, which I have grown to trust, also told me that God wasn't disappointed that I was gay. Synchronicity would provide me with confirmation of this early in 1992. By then, I had discovered computer bulletin boards, the precursor to today's public Internet access, and was active in the international gay message areas. One day, while contemplating my relationship with God, I noticed several message relating to the Bible and Homosexuality, which confirmed my intuition and altered my course away from the mainstream towards "non denominental Christianity", my way of saying that "The Bible is right, but the Churches got the message garbled". :-) I have since seen endless variants of the same original articles I saw on the BBS (of which, I still have copies). I learnt at this time to apply my moral principles in context, which in turn had profound effects on my belief system. Previously, I had followed the established doctrine of the Church. Now, I was looking at each situation and asking myself deep questions in the same context, and was separating the principle of an action (was the sex out of love or lust?) from the situation (man and woman, man and man, woman and man). This level of abstraction was the start of my developing Universal belief system. It would be years before I discovered the complex visual processing behind this abstraction.
We can't all be wrong, but perhaps we can all be right!
If there's one thing I love about the Internet, it's the ability to share ideas and viewpoints with many people of diverse backgrounds. I'll admit, I'm an email, newsgroup and IRC junkie ( :-) ), but that's because of the interesting people on the other end of these connections. Among the different people I've conversed with, many were brought up with different belief systems than what I was. And Not being satisfied that only one system could be right, I read up a little on other religions, such as Buddhism and Judaism . What struck me was that when the outer shell of tradition and doctrine were peeled away to reveal the core beliefs, all these different religions were grappling with the same issues and had similar basic principles (i.e. love and respect)! Disassembling the Bible in the same manner gave the same result! In fact, the core message I got from the Bible could be written in less than 100 words. What about the rest? Well, it _is_ important, if you need parable to illustrate the implications of this simple, but at the same time difficult (like calculating the Mandelbrot Set) philosophy. I now suspect the parable is an attempt to create a picture in peoples' minds of the core message. However, most people can't process information this complex, so the meaning gets distorted.
I should, at this time, try and explain my core understanding of the Bible, and at the same time, explain the complexity of what I call "The Paradox of the Bible".
Basically, the main message I receive out of the Bible is that one should love and respect other people and the environment, and at the same time, to understand them. Also, to let people choose their own belief systems and respect those. It should be mentioned that not only do these principles apply to others, but also to oneself, i.e. You should be true to yourself and give yourself the respect you deserve.
Sounds simple? However, when you add in 6 billion unique people and a living planet, the interactions make this a complex task and an impossibility to live up to (especially when we're all imperfect!). For example, even in the most sacred of Christian relationships, that of marriage, where the Bible seems cut and dried, questions arise, such as: If two people in marriage change in such a way that their life paths drift apart, should they remain together and stifle each other's growth? Or they separate and break each others hearts?
Or is there an even better path than either of the above alternatives? As you can see, this simple example illustrates the complexity of an essentially simple philosophy in a Reality where every living being's actions can simultaneously harm and help those of another and themselves. Clearly, there is something more to the fundamentals of Reality.
History Always Repeats (with a unique twist each time):
As I mentioned at the start of this journey, I have ties to several distinct subgroups of society, some of which were determined by factors beyond my control. This has allowed me to see each community evolve in its own way, which has been quite instructive for me. The two communities I can use as examples are the gay community and the autism community.
The gay community became a social and political force in 1969, after the Stonewall riot. Since then, the gay community has been prominent in effecting a slow change in social attitudes, asking for respect and acceptance. In contrast, the autism community didn't really exist until the mid 1990's, when Internet access became available to the masses. With this community in its early days, its political impact is yet to be felt, but the goals are the same - to be accepted as yet another part of a rich, diverse society. Further study of other communities, such as the Afro-Americans, Australian Kooris and other minority groups finds them struggling for the same ends.
This theme of history repeating in different ways, and the same concepts being "recycled" throughout human history and the Universe as a whole hasn't escaped my attention. Similar phenomenon happens with religions (as mentioned above, the mainstream ones follow the same ideals), and human behavior in general. Isaac Asimov's Foundation series novels which featured the concept of "Psychohistory", or the science of modeling societies might not be too far off the mark! Ever notice how politics always seems to follow the same mundane path? Or that inventions which promise to reduce or eliminate work actually keep making more work? I feel these are the symptoms of humanity not having yet learnt the real meaning of life.
Nature itself has many cycles. From the recent series of Ice Ages and the 26 million year cycle of asteroid impacts, which wipes out many species of the time (and killed the dinosaurs), to the more mundane daily and yearly dance of the Earth around the Sun, which produces days and years which are similar (it's light during the day, and dark during the night, warm in summer, cool in winter), yet each one distinctly different.
View from a different hilltop (or where the New Age philosophies fit in):
Being curious, I have always been intrigued by sciences such as Astrology or Numerology. While they initially didn't make logical sense, my path towards attempting to find the common threads of Reality led me to weave them in. I have had my Astrological chart done on a couple of occasions, which was quite revealing. I've also had someone interpret my numbers, again, this was very telling. It seemed that the New Age sciences also fitted into the picture.
And New Age science need not conflict with more traditional teachings. It's all a matter of perspective. Who's to say that the alignment of the planets isn't God's way of sending of hints to pick up on? Similarly, the mysterious appearance of 11:11 on the bedside clock could be another signal. As long as there's love and the other core values involved, why can't mainstream and New Age philosophies co-exist, and indeed, enhance each other? If God (who created the Universe) leaves little signals around us, and creates a complex natural system whereby we are influenced by the subtle gravitational forces of the planets, why not learn from this? :-)
Why does my clock keep showing 11:11? (Networking in two domains):
It has been established that many people all over the world are seeing odd patterns of numbers in their lives. I, for one, am no stranger to 11:11 and all its friends. Some say it's a sign from afar, a sign to sit up and take notice. Perhaps it's aliens, why not? They could, after all, be messengers from God, among many other possibilities. I always see it when change is around me. It's like a signpost telling me keep my eyes open (both in the physical and spiritual dimensions). Like many spiritual phenomena, I don't fully understand the significance of these numbers. However, the physical and spiritual converge at the point of communication. I have always been fascinated with communication, so much so I chose a career in computer networking. But now, I'm increasingly aware of a similar network that everything in the Universe is connected to. This network uses the mechanism of synchronicity as a medium to pass its messages back into our lives, and has a whole set of codes (analogous to network protocols like TCP/IP), of which, some are visible as numbers like 11:11. Others influence people and events more directly. It is interesting to note that in amateur packet radio's AX.25 protocol, the binary sequence that signifies the start of a data packet is 01111110. Right now, the physical Internet, which I believe is the physical manifestation of our desire to connect spiritually is facilitating the spiritual linking of people all over the world.
Towards the Universal Bindings (What makes Reality tick?).
As I said at the start, it is my belief that underlying the grand complexity of the Universe is an elegantly simple, yet hard to comprehend system. If you recall the Mandelbrot Set at the start of the page, remember that it is a simple equation, where the results are calculated over and over again, yielding the extremely detailed and complex image you see in the applet. Even the simple applet above shows structures that vary in size by a factor of at least 10 billion! And all that from a deceptively simple equation. Similarly, the Universe is showing a similar pattern (in a metaphorical sense). Beneath the myriad of galaxies, or the ever changing face of humanity is a simple engine driving it all along in multiple simultaneous cycles of varying length. I haven't found this simple model describing Reality yet, maybe I'm not the one who will make that discovery (if anyone will at all, perhaps that's one of the goals that humanity must achieve to "graduate" to something vastly higher?).
I can hear people saying "But how can something simple describe something so complex"? Maybe the complexities we see are an approximation we use, because of our limited perspective. After all, we occupy a minute part of the Universe, a mere electron on the sea of physical existence, so we are unable to examine the physical world as a while. Similarly, humanity has occupied the Earth for a fleeting instant of time, so we haven't been able to observe for very long as far as cosmic events go. It's like trying to understand the workings of a computer by looking at 100 photographs of the same single transistor inside a chip, taken 1 microsecond apart. You're not going to see the "insert disk in drive A:" prompt that's holding things up! :-) ).
The scientific world is full of approximations. Take the humble pi, which is defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. What is the value of pi? 3.14? 3.14150265354? That million digit number someone worked out on a supercomputer? No, it's none of these, they're only approximations for a concept that cannot be represented by our rational number system. Similarly for Euler's constant, e, or the square root of two. And so it goes with the complex models that represent the weather, the evolution of the human race, or the moral and social codes that we live by. Our understanding is insufficient to derive the fundamental "functions" that describe Reality, so we get by with approximations. Sometimes, we don't want to know the simple truth, for fear it will unhinge our belief system. Go back to the early 17th Century, when Galileo Galilei invented the astronomical telescope and proposed that the theories of Copernicus, with the Sun at the centre of the Solar System, and the elegant simplicity of planets orbiting in simple near circles around it. The powers of the day were so afraid it would upset their entire belief system (that, in itself a poor, distorted approximation of God's teachings), that they clung to their more complex Earth centered Ptolemic model and declared Galileo a heretic. I don't doubt that many people will pass this off as a load of hogwash either, for the disruption that it would cause their belief system.
I did mention religion and that I used a simple, yet deep philosophy as the basis of my morality. Most people are familiar with the complex set of rules of their religion. While not meaning to be disrespectful, I propose that these complex rules are the result of two phenomena. Firstly, there's the paradoxical nature of moral issues as I said before, which makes a simple axiom look complex, when you only see snapshots of it in action. At the basic level, I come to the same conclusions as many deeply religious people on mainstream issues, even though our methods are radically different. However, for very complex (like the war in Iraq), or non mainstream issues (sex outside marriage, gay relationships), I often come to a radically different conclusion, as the rulesets of the traditional teachings fail. The second reason for the complex rules is fear. People (me included) have a tendency to avoid things they're fearful of. Some people fear God so much, they don't believe in a God at all. Add to this thousands of years of distortion as the rules are handed down from generation to generation (Ever played that game where you sit in a circle, passing a message around, and inevitably, it gets hopelessly distorted! :) ).
In this essay, I've explored my spiritual past, and illustrated the influence it has had on my belief in the underlying simplicity of Reality, and the paradoxical complexity that manifests itself, as the simple fundamentals influence the sheer vastness of the Universe. I have also attempted to explain how our limited human perspective and limitations that we currently experience shape our view of Reality, and why we see it as something complex beyond our comprehension, when all we need to be able to do is study from different scales and perspectives (including outside), over a sufficient period of time (something obviously impossible for any individual), so understand the elegant simplicity of God's creation.
Hardware used in this quest:
One 1968 model human, with non standard neurological structure (That's me! :) ).
Several other humans of varying age and origin, with similar views (Hi Lia and John!).
6 billion humans of various types, both as subjects and as colleagues.
One Universe, around 17 billion years old, containing a slightly spoiled, but exquisite blue-green planet revolving with 8 (known) others around an insignificant G class star.
Millions of computers, linking like minds across the globe and bringing this page to you.
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