Here's to a Flat Earth. Beware. Be-Aware.

(I borrowed this appropriate picture from this site.)

Hmmm, I had promised to follow up on the previous post, but that'll be the next post.

The Earth is flat. Bear with me, this isn't what you might think. My house is built on a flat piece of ground, and I'd be watching things roll off the table and caling a lawyer if it wasn't. At which point I hear some of you say "oh sure, it's flat here and there, but as a whole it's round." But then isn't the Earth round and flat? It depends where you look. The (as it turns out largely mythical) Flat-Earthers may have incorrectly extrapolated an experience, but that experience in itself was absolutely correct. The Earth is flat, at certain scales - again it depends where you look.

In the 16th century Copernicus helped to change the way most of us think about space, in the bigger sense of the place of the Earth in space. Before his time the cosmos was thought by many to revolve around the Earth as a centre, so that the movement of the stars and planets in the sky for example were all actual movements - they were the stars and other bodies literally moving around or in relation to a static Earth. Copernicus shifted the centre of the known universe of the time to the sun, so that the movement of the stars, the change from day to night and back again and so on were now down to the Earth revolving about this distant centre. But most profoundly our point of view on the universe itself changed - the ground under our feet had literally shifted, we no longer felt ourselves to be some stable central point of all creation, but instead were on a big lump of rock hurtling through space. Copernicus de-centred our universe, so that for us it was now in some ways at least indifferent, we are tiny beings on a ride through a space that isn't arranged for our benefit.

Later the universe was found to be much bigger again, and the sun to be only a provisional centre within this wider acentred cosmos. It is less common now to think of the universe we live in as having some sort of central, privileged point. This point of view has shaped so much of how people have come to understand life and existence, such as the feeling of being alone in a meaningless, endless cosmos without any privileged location.

It's the people though that are interesting in this story, because over the same period the universe was being actively de-centred, everyone from Descartes to Freud to neuroscience was re-centering everything upon the human being, and in more recent times upon the human brain in particular. So at the same time that our universe was becoming ever more enormous and without a centre, the human living in this universe was taking on all of the centrality that the Earth had, before Copernicus. All of existence increasingly came to be centred upon the individual human being, and again in more recent times within the human's brain, so that all meaning and significance in the world was apparently put there, by the human. Vast amounts of meaningless 'data', which is what the world becomes under this model, pours into the human brain, is processed and thus made meaningful.

This is a type of vanity. We need another Copernican revolution, this time for people.

Being "In" Space

To take the simplest, most everyday experience of being present in space. The space around us, not just space in the 'outer space' sense. Let's start there, in fact - what does it mean to be 'in' space? What would being 'out of' space mean?

In fact your own body has no inside or outside, it's like a giant Mobius strip, a single-sided surface folded upon itself to create a sort of provisional interior and exterior, but with everything 'inside' you still in effective contact with your surroundings. The problem with thinking about inside and outside as absolute terms is that it leaves you wondering why the things that are 'in' space aren't themselves space? When you put a chair in a room, they're both in space. It's all space, there's no in and out.

Similarly as people we often seem to assume that there really is a private, separate space up there in our heads, from which we look out at our surroundings. With our private thoughts in a stream of consciousness we would tend to call 'me'. So that we're in here (between our ears), and the world is out there. And we are therefore in our heads, and this head and the rest of us is then in the world, and there's some additional sort of non-physical separation between these two spaces.

This 'point of view' flows through into the understanding and experience of perception as well, it becomes sights, smells and so on 'out there' entering our ears, eyes and noses and then being processed in our brains, 'in here'. And movement, which becomes a separate body, human or non human, moving 'through' space. These experiences are widely considered to be just as things are, not a point of view in the same way that our experience of the Earth before and after Copernicus is. But it is a point of view, because there is a point from which everything is being viewed. It's that point up in our heads. After Copernicus cast us into orbit around the sun we rushed to re-centre everything up in our heads. The universe has no real centre, each point is as important as any other, but we choose to adopt a point of view that re-centres it all upon us, so that any meaning to it all is an interpretation on raw, bare, meaningless facts.


Practically this is all about our experience of awareness. I'll go into that in the next post or so, but until then here's an experiment to try with awareness (incidentally this little experiement is like a key to another world, once you realise what's going on).

When you're feeling cold, is your awareness of being cold itself cold? Or try the same experiment for feeling tired, hot - whatever. Or check if you can be aware of your own thoughts, and whether the awareness of your thoughts is itself 'thinking'.


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