Bubbles of Consciousness Percolating in the Broth of the Universe

I’ve been working on this post for some time (at least in my mind), and today I read this post on waitbutwhy (great site btw) that reminded me of some thoughts. It also brought a few disparate thoughts together, from my summer injury, from recent reading, and even from some distant memories.

When I was in college, there was this girl that had a thing for me. Her name was Joy. Joy seemed nice enough, but I wasn’t physically attracted to her. Oh, and also I thought she was a wacko-bird. A sampling: “Do you ever just look at trees clinging to a cliff face and just think how hard that tree must struggle to survive? How it must find water and nutrients and cling to that cliff face every day?”

Well, today, Joy, I apologize. Several times since the summer when I’ve been able to go for a walk outside, I’ve been fascinated, truly fascinated by looking at trees.

The first time this happened, I saw not just a tree amidst a tangle of other trees, but I saw, and even felt, its trunk and branches and leaves. I noticed how each leaf and branch was an individual that was barely distinguishable from its brothers, cousins and neighbors. But I noticed each tree for itself, not just as a background collage of brown and gray and green.

On another occasion, the sky was particularly blue; the sun was perfectly orange, not just by color, but by the way it warmed my face in the cool autumn air; the dry tall wetland grass was a sea of golden husks that seemed to filter the light to imbue the entire scene with a warmth that perfectly matched the temperature. Even the wind was blowing just enough to provide a cooling breeze and to make distant trees sway just enough to draw one’s attention.

As I marveled at the dark green of the trees contrasted against the deep blue of a cloudless afternoon sky, I felt a strange sense of existence. The tree, the sky, the breeze, the grass and even the sun – in that moment I felt that we were all made of the same stuff. And there we were, all existing, together. I felt, more so than thought of, the miracle that the guts of one dying star had arranged itself in a manner to produce not only that scene, but also the scene’s ability to contemplate itself through me. It reminded me of a quote (Einstein I think) that reads: “There are two ways to live life: one as if nothing is a miracle, and the other as if everything is.”

The mindblowing aspect of the whole scene was not that there “I” was, a unique “me” viewing a scene that was outside of “me”. It was that “I” was the scene and the scene was contemplating itself. At the same time, occurring billions of times across the world (and perhaps trillions of times across the universe), other pieces of the universe were contemplating themselves. It was as if the universe is a giant broth of stuff, just simmering. All across the face of this vast universe, little bubbles of consciousness percolate from the depths of the broth, rise to the surface and pop.

The percolating, the awkward rise as you get banged around, can be disconcerting, but it’s the popping that usually concerns us and constantly weighs on us. But the popping only matters if you think of yourself as the bubble instead of the broth.

There is no spoon.

PS To the extent the purpose of life is to replicate itself (hat tip to waitbutwhy for the pointer), wouldn’t it be the biggest fucking trip if the universe were like that too – it is a thing, with trillions of tiny things inside of it that eventually learn how to reproduce the bigger thing. Heat death of the universe? Fuck that, we (or someone in another galaxy) will eventually figure out how to trigger the next big bang. Otherwise, our universe — we — will not evolve and will become extinct.

The universe – the grandest life form, about which we know nothing.

the Universe, she’s wounded
but she’s still got infinity ahead of her
she’s still got you and me
and everybody says that she’s beautiful

the Universe, she’s dancing now
they got her lit up, lit up on the moon
they got stars doing cartwheels, all the nebulas on the tune
and the Universe, she’s whispering so softly I can hear all
the croaking insects, all the taxicabs, all the bum’s spent change
all the boys playing ball in the alleyways
they’re just folds in her dress

the Universe, she’s wounded
but she’s still got infinity ahead of her
she’s still got you and me
and everybody says that she’s beautiful

Gregory Alan Isakov, The Universe

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