Loss of Relevancy
"What is man that he should be mindful of
himself and how has he come to be? Perplexed he ponders, but can he
ever know the same?"
Excerpt from the Limits of
by Donald Sagar
it is not immediately obvious to the untrained eye, everything
in the Universe is in a constant state of change. Even less evident,
the effect of this change upon each and everyone of us is all
pervasive. To understand what this means, we need only to take a closer look
at life itself.
If we are lucky we may live to be a hundred years old; but, on average,
the life expectancy of mankind is considerably less. Comprised of
flesh and bone that is joined to an intangible called the mind, we are
vulnerable to any number of things that can prematurely compromise the
quality of our life... or end it altogether.
Complex in nature, the body depends upon a delicate synergy between its
many parts. Obstruct this balance, knowingly or unknowingly, and the
result is always the same -- infirmities -- each of which exacts their toll,
the final cost of which is death. In addition to our physical
vulnerability, there are also significant liabilities endemic to
The mind is a two sided anomaly that is comprised of an emotional and a
rational component. The emotional side is driven by a need to sustain the
security we experienced when we felt as if were one with our
parents. As we mature, we attempt to do this by selectively forging dependencies
outside of ourselves. When these relationships are threatened,
reduced, or lost, the result can seriously affect one’s emotional
stability... even to the point of becoming life threatening. Anyone
who has experienced these wounds of the mind /heart knows that only time
can heal them, and then it never does so completely.
The rational side of mind is dependency driven also. But, unlike
the emotional side, it is driven by a need to retain coherency within
thought as it relates to the singularity of one's identity. This causes us to try and order everything to which we are
able to assign difference. Since self realization is dependent upon
process, and process involves change, it is inherently difficult to
predictably apply thought to the world of perception. When we are
unable to do so, we feel insecure. Unfortunately, this occurs a majority of the time.
As a result, the changing face of human knowledge has resulted in a roller coaster
ride for mankind, constantly threatening the security he has found in
prior beliefs. Take for example man’s initial perception of his
place within the Universe.
Initially, he believed that everything revolved around the earth and
thus himself -- an extrapolation of his own ego. Today however, we
believe we know different. Instead of having the security which came with
believing in our singular importance, we are instead faced with the
realization of an "unknowability" that inevitably surrounds
us. For a relative understanding of this term let us turn to
Astrophysics tells us, that depending upon how quickly one reads, as
many as 20,000 miles could separate the point in space where you begin and
end your consideration of this sentence. This is because the Earth
is moving through space at a speed of 500 to 1500 miles a second. We
can’t be more exact than that, because there are factors involved here
that are inherently **unknowable for us. To gain a sense of what they are,
let us consider what we do know about the earth’s movement.
The Earth spins on its axis.
The axis precesses in space.
The Earth orbits the barycenter of the
It also orbits the Sun.
The Sun moves inside the Milky Way.
The Milky Way moves inside the Local Group.
The Local Group moves towards the Virgo
- The Virgo Cluster moves within the Local Super Cluster.
** The Local Super Cluster MAY have a peculiar motion towards
what can best be termed the "Great Attractor," but, nobody really knows for sure. The reason is
because the specifics involved here exceed our capability to comprehend
them, thereby making them ‘unknowable’ for us. All we really know
is that everything is moving towards something at an ever
increasing rate. Hence the term 'Great Attractor.'
So, how does the movement that we can calculate
translate into 500 to 1500 miles per second? Here is what astronomers
think they know:
• The Earth has an equatorial rotation
velocity of 1669
kilometers or 1037 miles per hour.
• It travels around the Sun at a mean
orbital velocity of
107,208 kilometers or 66,620 miles per hour.
The Sun orbits the center of the Milky
towards the constellation Sagittarius, at a speed of
900,000 kilometers or 559,200 miles per hour.
The Milky Way, along with the other
members of the
Local Group of galaxies, moves at a speed of roughly
1,600,000 kilometers or 994,200 miles per hour
towards the great Virgo Supercluster of galaxies.
** Regarding the final (?) movement(s) of the earth
through space: Scientists have no way to determine the
rate of motion of the Local
Super Cluster toward the 'Great Attractor,' because they have no idea what
it even is, let alone where it might be. Nonetheless, it is still a safe
bet that this final rate of movement toward the 'Great Attractor' is many
times greater than the rate of movement of the Milky Way toward the
great Virgo Supercluster.
So, given what we can approximate, we know that we are traveling at
least 2,608,877 kilometers per hour. That translates to 1,620,113 miles
per hour or 27,102 miles per minute or 450 miles every second. When you
factor in the missing motion (or that which we are unable to
calculate) it's fair to say that we are actually traveling many times
faster than that -- perhaps as much as several thousand miles every
Another way to envision the ‘unknowablility’ that encompasses us is to consider our
relative size in the Universal equation. The earth is approximately 7,500
miles in diameter. To us, this seems very large. In fact, many people have
yet to come to grips with the fact that the Earth’s resources are
actually finite. In comparison, the biggest star known to man is the super
giant Mu Cephi (Erakis) -- about 1800 light years from earth. Based upon
current computations, it is believed that Mu Cephi has a surface that
would extend beyond the orbit of Saturn if its center were placed at the
center of our Sun. This makes Mu Cephi approximately 2,853,880 kilometers
or 1,773,319 miles in diameter. In
regard to Mu Cephi there is little doubt that the earth is definitely
Now that we have some sense of how fast we are moving and how small the
earth actually is in comparison with one of the larger stars, let us take a look at
our relative place in the greater scheme of things. When we do this, the
idea of the ’unknowable’ again assumes to form.
The human eye can see about 5000 to 6000 stars in the northern and
southern hemispheres combined, but the entire Milky Way has perhaps 200 to
300 billion stars in it. Within the part of the universe we can observe,
there seems to be at least 100 billion galaxies; so, that means there could
be as many as 300 billion x 100 billion = 3000 billion billion stars in
the part of the universe we can see. For those that have difficulty
comprehending that number, it’s 3 followed by 22 zeros or 30 sextillion
stars. But, all this is a gross underestimate when you include dwarf
galaxies that are too far away to even calculate -- either in number or
This inability to know what’s really out there causes conjecture to
fracture into two possibilities. If the universe is closed, then perhaps
there may not be more than a few trillion galaxies in it... but again,
nobody knows. On the other hand, if the universe is infinite as it now
appears to be, given that its rate of expansion is actually increasing --
then, taking our portion as typical, there are an infinite number of
galaxies and hence an infinite number of stars. That thought makes the
earth really small in comparison
to the Universe... infinitesimally small to be exact.
information on the Universe courtesy of:
Dr. Sten Odenwald
Goddard Space Flight Center
It is our inability to use numbers to depict relevant magnitude, as in
the case of the universe, that undeniably confirms the ‘unknowable.’ And, as our prior consideration of it has shown, the ‘unknowable’
breaks down into three distinct areas of "general" relevance
for us, known as the beginning, the middle, and the end. In terms of
"specific" relevance however, we refer to these distinctions as
the past, present and future. Here is how each breaks down:
Beginning or Past -- We know we can’t understand what preceded
the Universe, since its current form obscures all evidence that might
otherwise allow us to know.
Middle or Present -- We also know we can’t comprehend its current
form, because several of its aspects exceed our ability
to quantify them.
End or Future -- Finally, we know we can’t understand the final
form the Universe will take, since that insight requires us to have access
to a temporality (time) that is incompatible with the mortality that
Since we can’t say anything intelligent about what might have
preceded the Universe, or what its current form actually is, or
what its final form will be, we are left with an uncertainty regarding
who and what we are and how we’ve come to be. Existing but a single
instant from the inability to know anything (or death) doesn’t help us feel any more secure
In the beginning of man’s quest to try and make sense out of
everything, he confused the idea of the ‘unknowable’ with that of the
unknown. This subtle switch in potential resulted in a number of efforts
aimed at trying to quantify the ‘unknowable.’ Initially, astrology,
numerology, alchemy and myth based religions arose to meet this challenge. Later it was the more heady approaches of philosophy, theology and
metaphysics. Today, it is the many sciences.
In addition to the advantages gleaned from this quest, it has
simultaneously confirmed that all things are not possible for
mankind. Quantifying the Universe is but one example. Quantifying
consciousness is a far more enigmatic problem. This is because it denies
us a constant by which to thereafter qualify everything else. In doing so,
it denies us access to objectivity. When you factor in the bias inherent
to the function of our physical senses, everything becomes that much more
murky. In the end, we are left with a process attempting to define the
conclusion of which it is incapable. A closer look at how our senses
function should help to clarify their shortcomings.
In the simplest of terms, we experience the world by way of 5
senses -- sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Their function is dependent upon
the brain to decipher aspects of the potential of which they are capable. When doing
so, only non-contradictory information is allowed into the construction
of one's current composite. The rest is held in suspension awaiting
resolution. In this way, the brain is able to maintain the
unity (singularity) of itself while encountering the multiplicity of
possibility as it finds temporal form in experience. However, this process is anything but
In the case of sight; stimulus emanating from an external source causes
changes within the eye that result in electrical impulses being sent down
the optic nerve to the brain. There they are fielded, deciphered, merged
into a composite, and projected into a relative form of space called
place. Similarities between the results of separated inquiry are then
predicated into convention and mistakenly characterized as space
further masking fundamental inadequacy. The function of all our other
senses are similarly complex and misleading.
Because our physical processes insulate us from the external world, we cannot
claim direct contact with it. Furthermore, whatever we do conclude about the external world is
always latent to whatever provokes our response -- due to the 'time' it
takes for us to react. In everyday experience this time difference is
admittedly small and thus its importance tends to be deceiving. However,
this is anything but the case. A look at the universal implications of
latency confirm this.
Take for example a star a hundred and fifty light years from earth that
suddenly explodes into nonexistence. Because of its distance from
earth, light from this explosion will not reach us for another hundred and
fifty years. During that time, we will be totally unaware that anything
has happened. In this case, the latency factor involved actually exceeds
human life expectancy. This in turn prevents everyone currently living
from ever knowing that this explosion has occurred. This example clearly
demonstrates the problem that we have with laying claim to certainty as it
is perceived by way of our senses.
In addition to the latency issue, there is yet another problem which
confuses our ability to determine reality. We know that if any aspect in
our complex physiological process varies, even slightly, it directly
affects what we see accordingly. Take for example two people who see color
or arrangement differently. Since both differences are natural variations
within the same genus, it raises an issue over what constitutes normalcy.
In most cases this issue is easily resolved by consensus and convention prevails. However, in the case of
higher brain functions, there can be no resolution. Take intuition for example. Since it begs measurement a determination
relative to its credibility is not possible.
Based upon a consideration of the limitations that attend
consciousness, additional conclusions about the ‘unknowable’ are
possible. Since awareness of the universe is by way of consciousness, it
should come as no surprise that these limitations parallel those that apply
to the universe itself.
- Just as we lack the capability to understand what preceded the
Universe, we also lack the ability to understand what preceded
consciousness, prior to its first realization of itself. The reason is
because consciousness is absent from its own birthing; and hence,
necessarily blind to the specifics of its own beginning.
Just as we lack the ability to understand
the current form of the Universe -- being forever latent to it -- so too
do we lack the capability to understand the current form of
consciousness. This is because reflection subsequently alters
comprehension, thereby destroying any constant by which it might
otherwise objectively characterize the present.
Just as we cannot understand the final
form of the Universe, we likewise lack the ability to understand the
final form of consciousness..., since it requires an act of
reflection that is not implicit in the idea of its temporal completion
The bottom line here is that consciousness is a process which is necessarily restricted to considering
only that which lends itself to being
characterized as a process -- or the direct result thereof.
Anything that doesn’t lend itself to our relative space /time framework
('place') is by necessity inherently ‘unknowable’
for us. Since we cannot determine the true nature of either
ourselves or the World in which we live, we are clearly left to wonder
what we can talk about with certainty. Let us consider that next.
For one thing, we know that communication, whether it is internal in
the form of contemplation or external in the form of language, always
employs ideas. We also know that ideas are comprised of words which, when
used in conjunction with one another, fix the limits of some possibility. The act of fixing conscious limitations may seen abstruse, but it actually
comes quite natural to us..., because our physical body is constrained by
limits. Denied sufficient food, water, oxygen or any other necessity, it will die.
However, just as our fragility qualifies us for talking about limits,
it excludes us from understanding anything which is unlimited. This
inherent constraint, endemic to consciousness, reduces us to admitting the
viability of differing observations based upon variations in natural
perception. The result is a huge compilation of conflictual data that is
lumped into the category of subjectivity -- which to the dismay of many,
includes the highly respected scientific field of relativity.
I have elected to include two final examples of the limited nature of
consciousness. They are taken from the work of Bertrand Russell in his
book The ABC’s of Relativity. The first demonstrates a temporal
limitation of consciousness, the second a spatial limitation. Both prevent
consciousness from ascertaining truth relative to situation.
Temporal lapse: An observer takes note of a building he/she
regularly passes. During their absence, a work crew totally dismantles the
building and then, using the original material and architectural plans,
reconstructs it to specification. To the observer, who is unaware that
anything has happened, it appears that nothing has changed; since the
building looks identical in every way to the one he/she knows.
Spatial lapse: Two explosive devices are set off in sequence at sea
level. One is 1,090 feet further away from the observer than the second.
The more distant devise is set off one second earlier than the other. To
the observer there only appears to be one explosion, since the sound waves
from both explosions reach him at the same exact time.
As these examples clearly demonstrate; if you restrict the data
necessary for consciousness to link difference by way of process,
consciousness is incapable of determining what, if anything, has occurred. When you add up all the limitations that afflict man’s attempt to
characterize the real world, it causes one to wonder if there is anything
that we can talk about with certainty.
Fortunately there is, and it can be found on that portion of this
website following the consideration of the dynamics that constitute the
Eden project. I would only ask that you consider Eden project
first; because, it has far greater temporal immediacy than the theoretical
aspect of this offering. In the end however, they both remain indelibly linked.