I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time sorting through ideas for the first chapter of my fifth Terry Rankin novel. But today I find myself at a loss. So, I’ve given up stumbling through the dark, dim and somewhat crowded corridors of my hind brain and invested a few hours in actually getting out of the house (it’s really bright out there) and spent some time walking around the horse paddocks and dodging the odd (he’s really quite odd – he thinks he’s a dog) goat. The horses are pure Arabians, so that goes some way towards making up for the goat.
He’s a nice guy, for a goat, but he is a bit of a pest sometimes.
But about that philosophical thingy I started out with; two things, really; first, I want to go over the more or less universal limitations on the human ability to perceive the universe. Electronic aides aside, we face some very serious limitations; we can survive only within a very narrow range of temperatures, our eyes can only ‘see’ only a very narrow slice of the spectrum, our ears can only pick up a very limited slice of the sound spectrum, and our very survival depends on having a very specific combination of gasses for us to breath. And such things as the limits placed upon us by barometric pressure and gravitation I need not mention. We can expand our perceptions through electronics, as I mentioned earlier, and we can make use of vacuum suits to survive in space; but our ability to perceive (never mind understand) our universe is still incredibly limited.
Our ability to extrapolate from what little we can perceive is absolutely crippled by our prejudices and assumptions, which are, of course, based on what we have learned from our previous experiences.
We exist in a Catch-22 existence; as observers and students of life, we have to base our understanding of life and the universe on our previous experiences and what we learned from them. And in all truth, we learn so very, very little.
We know little of our universe; and our ability to perceive it is so very, very limited, even with electronics, and the science, mathematics and philosophies that make it possible. Those limitations will not ever go away. We are in effect stuck in a very small corner of a very large and awesome universe, and no matter how far we may travel in both space and time, we will only ever know a very small bit about it, and therefore, ourselves.
Believe it or not, I find that to be downright awesome.
Speaking of limitations, my second point is even more bizarre; it’s in the form a list. You can accept it as written or you can verify its truth for yourself. Very few people alive in the world today wear shoes; very few people alive in the world today have ever made a phone call; very few people alive in the world today have ever ridden in a car, or on a bus or a train, and very few people alive in the world today have ever flown in an aircraft; very few people alive in the world today have ever opened a bank account, or logged onto the Internet, or read a book or even know how to read in any language; very few people alive in the world today can speak more than one language. Of the thousands who graduate from high school in America each year, almost none of them will ever attend college; very few of them will ever open another book as long as they live; very few of them will ever be able to write a readable (meaning, no errors in spelling or punctuation) business letter.
We, born into animal bodies, have a set of limitations placed upon our ability to perceive and to manipulate our universe. I can accept that, however much I might find it frustrating. That sums up the first part. As for the second part, we do that to ourselves.