Life as a Process

Most recently my head has been buried in matters related to computer programming.

So why this waxing philosophic?

  1. It is time – past time really – to take a new look at the world around us.
  2. Programming languages are based on certain philosophic principles.
  3. When you write programs for the purpose of understanding how to do it, you run into these principles.
  4. If you have prior philosophic training, you may find these principles interesting, rather than just annoying or dogmatic.

In addition, I have just come off reading some Courtney Brown books, and I have also immersed myself in the movement to re-invent life on earth in a more sensible way.

Objects

In programming we have this term “object.” It means “an instance of a class.” If that doesn’t clarify things for you, I don’t blame you. But I’m going to keep this light; I’m not going to resort to my Webster’s. A “class” is a pattern for an object. Like a gene is a pattern for a protein. An “instance” is an actual example of something created from a class. A person is an “instance” of his genetics, in this sense. And the browser window you are reading this in is an instance of the various classes that were specifically designed to make browser windows. The “browser program” defines the process, as a series of steps, for creating and working with a browser window.

Processes

We usually think of an object as a thing that doesn’t “change” unless a process acts upon it. This is a convenient and workable way of thinking, but at its core it is flawed. If the objects all around us – including us – were not in a constant state of change, they would all disappear. In macro terms, we are constantly changing position in every frame of reference except our own. And in micro terms, we now know that atoms and subatomic particles are, in fact, in constant motion.

Thus from the point of view of a human in material existence, it even requires a process of some kind for objects to appear to remain the same. Without some sort of continuing process, an object would vanish as soon as the process creating it finished. This actually happens in programming.

For example, for my systems analysis class I wrote a little program that simulates how a grocery checkout system works. When the clerk holds an item over the scanner, the scanner detects the bar code of the item and sends it to a database. The database responds with data about the item, which the system temporarily stores in an ITEM object. This data is then inspected and processed, if necessary (does the item need to be weighed? etc.), and when that is done, the item data is copied over to the INVOICE object, and the ITEM object is destroyed. The ITEM object does not appear again until a new item is scanned, and the process is repeated.

Physically, a shopping basket is being emptied of items, which are being handled, one-by-one by the cashier, and are then put into a shopping bag. So, the physical items simply get handled and moved to a new location, while the logical ITEMS get created, inspected, and destroyed over and over.

In both cases, we are talking about process. But for me, the life cycle of an ITEM in a checkout program really brought it home for me. The continued existence of ANY OBJECT depends on a continuing process. You could even call an object a process.

This is definitely what LRH tries to get across in his book Fundamentals of Thought.

And similar ideas are expressed by other teachers who lean in the direction of metaphysics. These ideas are now even invading the realm of particle physics.

Spirit

An example of this problem is the attitude of science to the concept of spirit.

Academically trained writers have trouble with spirit. They reason that, since the spirit has no physical properties, it could not rightly be said to “exist.”

I stood in my kitchen one day not long ago, just after reading such a discussion, and watched the wind blowing around the bushes and trees outside. And I thought, “spirit is like the wind.” After all, I realized later, the word comes from a word for “breath.”

And certainly, no one would argue that “wind” doesn’t exist! But “wind” is a name for a process. The process involves the movement of air from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure. We don’t study wind and rain as “things” (I hope). We study them as processes. And that is really the only way to study spirit.

Everything is a process

But according to my earlier discussion, what, in fact, is NOT a process?

Hm.

The postulate of an “unchanging object” is in fact a matter of mere intellectual convenience. Within certain frames of reference, or rules of play if you want to use a game analogy, certain objects can be thought of as non-changing unless acted upon by a process that changes them. But this is simply intellectually convenient. It is not, ultimately, the truth of what is going on.

The truth is that everything is a process. Some processes are relatively insignificant in most games, and can be ignored. Others are more significant. But to overlook this truth is to make a major error.

Particle physics has had two major approaches.

One approach involves creating a very small space in which a lot of energy is added in. This tends to “expose” processes that are normally very private. In this way they have discovered “particles” with very short lifetimes that normally are created and destroyed inside of other particles.

The other approach has been to create a very small space in which a lot of energy is drained out (usually by cooling). The matter inside this space tends to simplify, or act more like it would under “ideal” conditions. You get superconductivity, superfluidity and other phenomena that indicate that the various processes in matter start to cease to interfere with each other, or in fact can be “turned off.”

However, this is nothing, in my mind, compared to the various experiments in what we currently call the “paranormal” during which “solid objects” have been observed to appear and disappear (materialize and dematerialize) according to the will of someone with “psychic powers.”

Scientific study of spiritual phenomena

If science is willing to entertain the possibility – as they have had to do in particle physics – that the subject they are studying is basically a process and not an “object,” then we may have an entrance point to the problem of how to study the spirit.

Particle physicists are now well aware that what they are basically studying is a process, and that what they are perceiving are the effects of this process. When asked to give a name to this process, they usually come up with “nature.” They could have just as easily come up with “god” or “spirit.” Conceptually, there is really very little difference. The main difference is that “nature” is conceived to be a totally unbiased agent of change, whereas “god” is considered to have attitudes about things. I think, though, if we really looked into it, we would find that “nature” also has attitudes about things.

If spirit is best thought of as a process, then the only real question is to what extent “spirit” and “nature” are equivalent concepts. To the extent that they are (surprise!) science has really been studying spirit all along! And spiritualists have also really been studying nature all along.

While the spiritualists are ready to concede this point, the scientists, for the most part, are not. The path to such a concession could be – and I hope it is – shorter than previously thought.

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