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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 04/04/2005
Vol. 2, #162

Maybe it's Spring. But at this time of year, I usually get more letters and email queries from readers who want to discuss the problem of "the self." Of course some of it comes out of the comics culture itself, especially Superman, where we're always dealing with the problem of identity. Which is the real superhero, the powerful, magical self or, the ordinary everyday guy? I mean, which of these versions is the particular superhero's real self? Indeed, is there a real self at all? The Buddhists say no. And no single school of philosophy seems to do much more than drag one into an infinite regress involving reality, meaning, truth and all the other great insoluble questions.

I have a sneaking preference for the position of the Australian aborigines who believe that the real world is the dream world, and the everyday material world is just a projection which we've mostly been hanging around in too long. Why do I feel that way? I've abandoned what you might call a philosophical approach to the problem. Maybe because, as the old sage I quoted in a column some years ago put it: "What? You say you have a problem? You can't find yourself? Then, where's the problem?"

Actually, it's very much of a problem. I've discovered that in the mysteries of the creative process. I still don't understand where my best ideas come from. Oh, there's a certain amount of skill and experience involved in putting the material together, but the Eureka experience, the dazzling leaps one manages to take in the course of developing a story, or a new idea, or an invention. Or experiencing remote signaling, or intuitive and psychic leaps, or making life-saving decisions faster than the material brain can process them? Not a mystery? Well, yes and no.

About this last, I recently was driving on a main highway and approaching an intersection in a small town when out of a side road, a vehicle ignored a STOP sign and burst fully onto my path making a serious collision at highway speed apparently unavoidable. Almost at once, I knew that if I tried to use my brakes at this point, I could not stop in time to avoid smashing into the side of the errant driver. Also, I was on a two lane highway and had no idea what might be coming at me from the opposite direction because the intrusive vehicle was blocking my view down the road, yet, instead of braking I hit the gas and shot around the other car now slowing idiotically to a stop in the middle of my lane, and, lo and behold, I was around and past him safely. But none of this was because I had processed any of these thoughts. I acted, you might say, with a kind of foreknowledge that required no time at all, seeming, as well, to know that on this well traveled road there was no car coming from the opposite direction. The experience is the best example I can give of what's known as non-locality. In other words, apart from the phenomenal world of space and time, there is an instantaneous non-local connection among all things. The universe is a gigantic now.

Some years ago, Einstein and two other scientists, Podolsky and Rosen, posited such an hypothetical possibility and came to no conclusion because there was then no way of testing it back then. So the EPR thought experiment sat unresolved until, somewhat recently, a French team led by Alain Aspect resolved the problem and demonstrated that there was indeed instantaneous signaling between photons at vast distances from each other, so that the speed of light was no longer a boundary of the real universe. And suddenly, remote viewing has an explanation, so do other pychic phenomena, and so indeed does my fortunate traffic experience in which I was able to act out of a kind of instantaneous knowing beyond what my brain could process. Readers of this column will know that I have often had similar experiences anyway. But Aspect and his crew put them into the realm of scientific possibility.

And now that I know, I've discovered that if I do the preliminary stuff on a plot, starting with a basic idea (actually even the basic idea sometimes comes when I'm looking for something else), the answer is out there somewhere and it will burst in on me sooner or later if I stick it out. In any case, I know that great plots come from there in the same way that the universe, constantly in touch with itself, is in a state of constant creation, bringing from anywhere and out of nothing a particular solution that had always to have been there or I wouldn't have tried to find it.

Now, getting back to this thing about having a self, I would have to say of course. Why, otherwise would we even think of it?

--Alvin

<< 03/28/2005 | 04/04/2005 | 04/18/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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