By Brian George
Nagel makes a great deal out of the idea of absurdity—as something created by the disjunction of objective and subjective modes of perception. Is this sense of the absurd not more of an emotional than a philosophical issue? Perhaps Nagel is rationalizing his innate emotional response to the world with an elaborate conceptual apparatus.
Let us imagine that we are grains of sand, and that chance has stuck us to a beach-ball, which revolves. We do what the law of gravity directs. If in motion, we tend to stay in motion, unless acted on by some external force. We see what is put in front of us—or as much of it as our mostly unconscious program does not censor. We are small, and for some strange reason see our smallness as unnatural. We want to be much bigger than we are.
If chance has placed us in that one spot, and no other, then why would we be bothered to do more than fill our niche? We would have no interest in the mystery of scale.
Again, let us imagine that we are grains of sand, and that chance has stuck us to a beach-ball, which revolves. Two alien children are playing catch with the Earth, whose orbit stretches, threatening to break. A throw goes wide, and the Earth is swept off on the currents of an inconceivable sea. Habits are subverted. The marriage—once happy—of the vertical to the horizontal is over. Space is big. We are very small, or so it would appear. Is there any objective reason that this disproportion should bother us? The macrocosmos watches.
Is life absurd, and would death make any difference? Intellect is a doctor without hands. Ego is a shaman without power. Imagination is a fish without a boat.
If we had not already been where we were going, then how could we ever tell if we had we had reached our destination? If, in fact, we were as stupid as we think, then we would have no urge to interrogate each law, or to test the world against our memory of its archetype. A would lead to B, and we would eat and fight and reproduce, without caring that our consciousness was once as vast as space.
If we had not forgotten how to breathe without our lungs, then our bodies would not dare to disappoint us. Our breath would fuel the lamps of an interdimensional city.
Let us suppose that intellect, ego, and imagination are colored areas on the surface of a turning torus—a kind of donut—whose circumference turns through its center, and whose center then turns into the circumference. The motion of these areas is continuous; their separate locations on the surface do not appear to change, anymore than we must leave home for the Earth to orbit around the sun. At all times, we are standing on the outside of a hypersphere, looking in, as well as on the inside looking out.
Is it possible that our consciousness is neither here nor there, that up is down, and that the inner and the outer worlds continuously change places? Is the one self many? To whom should the inhabitants of the torus turn—if they desire to deconstruct the movement of the 10-dimensional kaleidoscope?
We come and go over inconceivable spans. One of our days is 432,000 years long. As beings, our mode of movement is the convoluted curve, thus our sense of movement is—and must be—circular. It is not—and cannot be—linear. It cannot be imposed by fiat from without. It must start where all projected systems end.
(Illustration: Pierre Roy, Cafe de la Marine)