Friday, August 20, 2010

Give it Your Best Shot

Discussing with Anthony on Eschaton:

That there are limits to our understanding of the universe that, even in theory, can't be overcome is no excuse for limiting our attempt to understand it, or, in fact, our responsibility to do so, the better to do the right thing for it and ourselves within it.

I'd argue, in fact, that those limits actually lend hope to a future human experience which yields a possibility of endless advancement, rather than an a priori limit based on exhaustion of possibilities. First and foremost should always be our view of the universe as providing a possibility for surprise and delight, as well as utility, that we can never entirely exhaust.

You give it your best shot. The necessity for doing so, I suggest, remains despite a proper humility before a universe whose entirety we cannot grasp. I feel, deeply, that it's not only necessary in spite of, but because of, those limitations, and that one can, in that context, view those limitations as a challenge always beckoning not in spite of, but because of, the impossibility of overcoming it completely, adding joy and possibility to the enterprise rather than damning it a priori as further mindless denial of the ultimate reality of human uselessness. Note, too, that human conduct with a view towards mastery of the universe, rather than knowledge and mindfulness of it, places human need, as perceived by humans at a given point in space-time, at the center of the enterprise, thereby distorting and endangering it by introducing both egotism and self-reference. (I draw here a line more clearly than is rigorously acceptable, I know. But you're only as good as your dreams...)

Sisyphus can be hero as well as victim. It's up to him, in large measure, and not the gods who put him on the mountain with the boulder, to define himself as one or the other on a given day. And grasping that, while perhaps the best a human being can do, is a step towards being larger than we are, rather than towards retreat into mindless disengagement devoid of hope or purpose.


BlakNo1 said...

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

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ProfWombat said...

Turtles, young man. Turtles all the way down...