Saturday, March 7, 2009

Adopting Form, Creating Structure

It's a recurring theme in my writing: form, structure, meaning.

The universe has been, since its inception, engaged in an endless act of adopting form and creating structure.

What does it mean to adopt form? That which is unmanifested manifests. Within this moment, a nearly infinite set of possibilities -- beginning at the quantum level, where everything is probable, and possible, but not yet defined -- actualize themselves as they emerge from the probable into the actual. So the emergent nature of the universe is not just really the emergent properties of matter. Reality itself is an emergent property -- it manifests within every instant from a set of probabilities, from a non-rational, non-local simultaneity, into what I call a rationally local manifestation.

All of this sounds quite technical and philosophical, but what it means is simple.

Within this organism, as the impressions of what I call life arrive, the unmanifested is continually expressed through manifestation, in a process of discovering itself.

This receptacle I call the body is, so to speak, a measuring tool for that which adopts form. In the adoption of form, matter engages in creation. Every instant of living and perceiving becomes an act of measuring creation through participation.

For matter, the adoption of form is materialization. For consciousness, to adopt form is to recognize manifestation within this moment, that is, cognition (= apprehension, or perception.)

Adopted form creates structure. This is the way the universe functions. For example, when the universe was extremely young, a superheated plasma of undifferentiated energy adopted form and began to create what is now call matter. The moment that matter began to exist, the emergent property of created structure appeared as subatomic particles combined to form structures called atoms, which then combined to form structures called molecules.

Once again, this sounds like a lesson in physics or philosophy, but it is really the story of what I am. Within my adoption of form -- my immediate perception of manifestation as it arrives -- I create structure. This structure of how I experience my life is an emergent property of all the impressions I gather. Without an intellect, the structure would be quite different, but with the emergence of intelligence, the structure obtains a flexibility that transcends the stimulus response mechanisms of Skinnerian biology.

Put in plainer language, to create structure is to form relationship, to contextualize. This can happen in one of two obvious ways: mechanically, that is, the way that atoms and molecules do it, without any conscious intelligence, or consciously, that is, under the supervision of an agent that makes choices. Stuart Kaufmann speaks about the question of agency at some length in "Reinventing The Sacred." Readers are encouraged to refer to his arguments about the implications.

The creation of structure is what forms my life. Once the impressions of life adopt form, that is, once the unmanifested becomes manifest on the doorstep of my perception, the creation of structure is inevitable. Both the biology and psychology of man are designed to create structure. The adoption of form is cause; the creation of structure is effect.

So within the act of living, I constantly adopt form and create structure. This always takes place within the context of mystery, because I don't know how form will manifest as it arrives.

Within the midst of constantly adopting form, and constantly creating structure, man's intelligence searches for meaning.

The search for the meaning of the structure is an attempt within us to demystify this process. If I can identify a context for why form is adopted--a reason that things are the way they are-- I think I can explain the mystery.

Science believes that it can explain why form is originally adopted based on a reductionist, cause-and-effect process arising in strict accordance with the laws of nature. Religion believes that it can explain why form is originally adopted based on a supernatural agency, that is, an agency which transcends the obvious laws of nature.

Since some laws of nature are clearly violated by the nature of the quantum level, it appears that science is further out on what is already thin ice these days. Nonetheless, neither discipline appears to be able to demystify the adoption of form.

What I am left with is one indisputable fact: within every living creature, the sensory apparatus, including the brain, creates a record of adopted form, and a structure arises in response to that.

I can call the structure neural if I wish to, because it clearly has a physical component. I can call the structure conceptual if I want to, because the neural component clearly generates a process based on what man would call ideas.

The only certainty is that there is a structure. The adoption of form informs; it creates a structure within receptive material locations. So all conscious beings find themselves within an eternal and continuous process of adopting form and creating structure. The process of assigning meaning comes afterwards.

Forms keep being adopted. It's in the nature of the universe to act that way. But all created structures are temporary. Every created structure metamorphoses; we usually call this process "destruction," but there is no such thing as destruction. The only thing that exists is transformation. Every so-called destructive process creates something new.

The assignment of specific meaning to the adoption of form and the creation of structure is a slippery thing. Meanings are built on created structures, and all created structures are temporary. So anything I believe, any structure I create and then assign meaning to, inevitably arises from a static situation which will live out its life and change into something else.

It's okay to live this way, but in order to do so, I ought to understand that meaning itself has transformational properties. That is, meanings themselves change along with everything else. The universe is in constant motion, and I need to retain an actively flexible stance in response to it.

Perhaps the irony of the way that I live within myself is that I discover a particular form and a particular structure and then cling to it, as though it could be lost.

I forget that I live forever within the midst of form and structure, and it is impossible to lose either one.

What is needed is a new understanding: the freedom to let go of the specifics and expand my understanding by embracing the inherently unknown condition of life.

May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.

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