Wednesday, 12 January 2011

That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie, And With Strange Aeons Even Death May Die

I've always been terribly fascinated with the unfathomable. Anything that can potentially be unfathomable, such as comprehending infinity or something darker, like peering into a pit of endless sorrow, has never failed to captivate me.

This is why H. P. Lovecraft's work, particularly the Cthulhu mythos franchise, continues to grip my mind. From Wikipedia: "Lovecraft's guiding literary principle was what he termed "cosmicism" or "cosmic horror", the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. ... Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the antithesis of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality and the abyss."

I think one aspect of my fixation with the unfathomable is that perhaps unfathomable things are not meant to be clearly understood by humans. So this raises curious questions, like what if a person did catch a glimpse of something unfathomable? Is it rosy, like what some people will consider to be divine, such as Truth? Or will it be that because we are not meant to fathom the unfathomable, its sheer power will destroy those who come within its range? Is the unfathomable the indication of the existence of a realm that we might come to describe as Infinite, Perfect, Ideal, Omnipotent, Pure or Godly?

Absolute power also falls into this train of consideration, as does notions of eternity and infinite regress.

I felt that Inception explored this notion to an extent when it broached the issue of death during a dream. The story asserts that people wake up when they die in a dream because it is a means of escape back to 'reality' (in inverted commas here because the movie deliberately leaves us questioning reality itself). But if the dreamer is unable to wake up and dies in the dream, he will remain in limbo and lose his mind.

To me, that sounds like what it possibly means to experience infinite torment and anguish in a short span of time. Is that what it does - derail the mind?

Is insanity also likenable to a computer hanging up? A computer (or program) can hang because it encounters a programming paradox. In one kind of paradox which is relevant to what I'm talking about, the computer encounters a circular (or catch-22) instruction in which the question and answer loops infinitely. For a silly example, I execute a function which asks the computer to create a list of emails if the executable file A.exe is open. However, what if there is a catch, or programming flaw, such that A.exe can open only if the email list is already created and thus needs to create the list of emails prior to the execution of the function? But, as can be logically seen, the creation of the email list requires file A.exe to be open. It's a silly example and I'm not sure if this is really a programming problem, but it's one I've thought of off the top of my head to illustrate the point.

The computer thus gets trapped in an endless loop of contingent requests that can never be fulfilled within the programming instruction.

What happens when a person's mind gets trapped in a loop like that? Given that there are many important things in life that are inherently paradoxical because humans are unable to reconcile them, does the attempt to genuinely reason and reconcile lead to Lovecraft's belief that sanity will be compromised? Does this suggest that perhaps sanity is a specific human trait that is meant (or simply happens) to keep us from actually perceiving what is absolutely and objectively true? Is God the ultimate paradox, which is why we can only reconcile it via faith and not science and reason?

Also, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object? Is the question really moot, as many people often like to dismiss it since it is simply inconceivable? That precisely brings me back to the fact that this is an unfathomable idea, and I'm all the more fascinated by it.

As long as I feel like I'm not compromising on my sanity pursuing these mental obsessions, I guess I'll keep at it for a long while. And maybe only in death will I know the answer.


JMdaMunk said...

Your computer paradox took me a while to figure out, but i finally understood what you were trying to say. I am not sure this would qualify as a paradox. Assuming one wants to get a thousand bucks. In order to get a thousand bucks one can only buy a shop, and start a cookie business. But the total expense of acquiring a shop and starting the biz would amount to a thousand bucks. A program or robot would encounter a never ending loop with this scenario, but surprisingly a human would be quick enough to realise that the above scenario is impossible to attain, and he would quickly break the question-answer loop by doing a mental 'ctrl-alt-del'. I am thinking we dont get bothered by too many paradoxes or get caught up in them.

Jose said...

Hey thanks for the note! Yes it is certainly not the same (i.e. does not qualify as a 'paradox' in what I think you've come to define as a 'human paradox'), but I was hoping to create an analogy that may best capture what I think insanity could be. The idea that a human gets trapped in an endless mental loop he/she cannot escape intrigues me and is that what it is? If that's what it is, how does that feel?

I guess it is precisely because humans are quick enough to realise the futility of most paradoxical scenarios, such that "we dont get bothered by too many paradoxes or get caught up in them", because we/most humans are sane enough to avoid the pitfalls. When I'm functioning fine mentally, stuff works.

But what if there was just one loop that catches me off? Could, for instance, trauma be an instance of an emotional loop people cannot get out of and therefore become depressed? Can I (or do I) experience so much endless sorrow (which brings me back to the eternity of looping) that I go crazy?

MonktheMongtheMing said...

I have always wondered if getting locked up in a room for an endless period of time, with only 4 walls for company, could drive a person down the rabbit hole. I was close to experiencing that once: locked up in a house that was almost too big for 1 person to stay in for close to 3 months, coupled with a failing relationship with my family and gf. I ended up having depression and anxiety. Talked to the walls, talked to myself, wasn't pretty lol.

The 'reality check' switch that I talked about earlier, is similar to what you call 'sanity', and in my opinion, is what hinders people from realising their true potential.

Jose said...

We should meet up to talk about that man haha. You're seeing better days these days huh?

Yes, I'm actually inclined towards thinking that way - that the 'reality check', or 'safety catch' of life is the failsafe switch that prevents us from getting caught in loops and destroying ourselves, and that 'potential' is thus hindered.

There are many ways to consider this. The reality check mechanism may be a way for God to prevent us from humanly realizing him. That can be one way of construing this hindered potential (inability to become divine). Or maybe because we are designed by a system that grants us only mental faculties based on five senses, we will typically be quite limited in perceiving a higher order above reality.

At any rate, it brings me back to the original question of interest.

BoboMing said...

Can can, but soccer first? Lol brawns first brains later. Let me know when's the next slugfest.