Beaten by Death and Gravity
My seventh cycle ended in 1981 and I realised sadly that my nervous system might now be too old to trigger the innate release mechanism for levitation that I suspected was waiting to be activated in the human brain. I had no other explanation for the universal human dreams of flying and the desire found in all human cultures to imagine the most perfect human beings would ascend to some sort of higher place like heaven. If caterpillars could dream, would they dream of butterflies? Is each human culture a form of chrysalis from which we can never emerge because of our fear of death? I assume that both acceptance and rejection of death and non-being has been the core value round which the symbolic threads of all previous cultures have been spun. We must cease to believe in all forms of immortality including fame after death and having children to pass on ones genes, property and family name. We are the arrow head of evolution. Leave the question open so that we don’t lock the door and imprison mankind in a death trap.
In the past the universe as a process has undergone amazing and unpredictable transformations in form and complexity. From a burst of radiating energy to matter; then to living ecosystems of self-replicating cells; then to behaving organisms with nervous systems; then to social role systems. It is still evolving and accelerating rapidly in the direction of human symbolic expressions of meaning.
Only dogmatic dyed-in-the-wool reductionists still insist that the universe is essentially a material “thing” observed by god-like scientists. My experiment depended on using mass media to produce a collective illusion briefly converging intentionality, extensionality and eventuality; or to put it more directly, identity (Me), space (Here) and time (Now). Nowadays the Internet would be a more practical means of achieving such a cultural symbolic convergence.
I still wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had been able to carry out my imagination experiment. It was even cleverer than those brilliantly designed but materialistic thought experiments of Kepler, Galileo and Einstein but required more than just sitting down and thinking.
To appreciate the strange parallels that I have recorded between my great adventure, the end of the scientific “Great Work” and Lewis Carroll’s poem, I thoroughly recommend The Annotated Snark, where Martin Gardner reveals the subtlety and complexity of this fine example of the penetrating power of a synthesis of logic, love and levity. In the late 1990s Alice and I hosted a performance of the poem with tiny puppets in our drawing room. This was given by the odd but talented Warwick Broadhead and sponsored by Creative New Zealand. That was really weird!