This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Sunday, 25 November 2012
Why we don't exist
Today was one of those days.
Everyone has once of those days sometimes; one when you suddenly have an attack of the jamais vu; those times when you suddenly feel that something familiar and well-known was completely different from what it had ever been.
In my case, I was looking at my right hand, at the veins and the little hairs on the back, when I suddenly realised something:
My hand does not exist. Not in the way I see it. My hand is, and by extension I am, basically empty space.
Imagine the shock of this realisation. Not that I didn’t, intellectually, know it already, what with my chemistry teachers’ ceaseless efforts to hammer atomic structure into my thick head all through my formative years. Yes, I knew it. But did I know it? Did I actually say, “Here I am, a collection of a few billion infinitesimally tiny elemental particles and mostly empty space, through which cosmic rays are sleeting every moment of every day”? Did I look down at my body and think of it, not as skin and connective tissue, bone and blood and nerves, but as empty space?
But today, I had that kind of epiphany.
I don’t exist. You don’t exist. Nothing really exists…except quantum-level particles doing their thing. My brain, which thinks this, is empty space, thereby proving my old teacher Kevin D’Castro right. My hands, which type this statement, are empty space. This computer is empty space.
How can I prove I exist?
I can tell myself, normally, that I occupy space, and no other material object can occupy the same space at the same time. I can say this to myself, but clearly this is rubbish, since I am empty space occupying empty space, and this space isn’t in any case really empty, but full of radiations which zoom through me as though I’m not even there. Which, in a very real sense, I am not.
What exists, then? Neutron stars? Degenerate matter? Black holes? Is the only real existence when things are squeezed into conditions which the normal universe doesn’t tolerate? Then what is normal, what’s abnormal? Is everything we see abnormal, then, and “normal” means something we can never experience directly? If I stood on the surface of a neutron star, the tidal forces would rip me into an infinity of salami slices and then smoosh me into a film wrapped over the surface of the body…but then my material would probably be more “real” than what I am now. No?
You see where this thing is taking me?
The problem is I can’t unsee it now. I have stared into the abyss, and the abyss didn’t deign to stare back.