PHILOSOPHY: It's All Shifting Patterns

David Musick (
Tue, 28 Jan 97 09:36:19 UT

In my last post, I declared that we *are* that which we are experiencing in
this moment, that there is no division between the one experiencing and the
experience itself. After reading the responses to my last post, and after
considering more deeply my understanding of things, I realize that what I
wrote was much too superficial; there is much more to consider than just the
fact that we *are* our momentary experiences. We certainly are *that*, but
there are aspects of ourselves which are present through many moments, which
last longer than a sensation or a fleeting thought; aspects which are
*influenced* by all the sensations and fleeting thoughts, but which persist in
their own, stable ways.

There are aspects of ourselves which change very quickly, such as the sounds
we hear or the sights we see; colors and tones rise and fall, shifting with
each moment; thoughts come and go, emotions surge and fade. But there are
other aspects which change more slowly; our personalities develop into
somewhat stable habits of thought and action, changing, certainly, but
changing slowly. The basic patterns of human thinking and culture have
persisted through many generations, our language and customs being passed from
parent to child, maintaining their *basic* forms, even as they mutate in
important ways. Other aspects, such as the chemical processes of our cells;
the duplication of DNA, the formation of protiens, the constant metabolism;
these processes change *much* more slowly; the same basic *pattern* has
spanned millions of generations. Even slower to change is the behavior of our
atoms; they've been doing the same familiar dance for billions of years,
altering their pattern of action very little, if any, since they first formed
and settled into their habitual ways. The Deep Regularities of Physics, so
deep and so regular that we call them Laws, seem to change the slowest of all,
if indeed *at* all, the slow background pattern underlying all the other,
dancing patterns we call our universe.

We embody *all* these changing patterns, from the constantly flowing barrage
of momentary sensations, to the steady presence of the universe's underlying
regularity. Such a rich complexity of patterns, each built on a slower,
deeper pattern; each building up, combining to form something new; happening
upon new stabilities, drawing more coherent patterns out of the noise. The
unstable falls away, because of it's very nature, and that which is able to
persist, does. The evolution continues in its characteristically haphazard
way, and all that persists are those processes which are able to sustain

What are we? We are this *process*. All these levels of shifting patterns,
interacting with each other to form the complex and transitory patterens that
we are; some more transitory than others, but all of them changing.

So perhaps it *does* make some sense to say that there is someone *having*
experiences, since our slower changing aspects, like our personalities,
*persist* as the momentary sensations and thoughts flutter around them like
flies around elephants. Is the personality the same pattern as the momentary
experiences? Not really. There is no clear *division* between them, but they
change at different rates; they live on different scales of time. They
interact and shape each other to some degree, and they are part of the same
overall pattern of existence, but they each have their own distinct features.

We are this very moment of experience; we are the fleeting sensations as well
as the more *subtle* patterns of personality, culture, metabolism, chemistry
and physics. All are present in this moment, together, and all have a deep
influence on the *exact qualities* of the moment we are experiencing.

But what about death? What happens to us *then*? Much of the complex pattern
that we are disappears, patterns which rose and fell, like our momentary
sensations and thoughts. To the slower-changing patterns, such as the
personality, the rising and falling of sensations and thoughts is commonplace
and hardly disturbing. To even slower-changing patterns, such as culture and
the basic metabolism of humanity, the rising and falling of personalities and
individual bodies is common-place and rarely disturbing. Our personalities
will continue on, even though our current sensations and thoughts will die
away, and so will the rest of life after our personalities and bodies have
disintegrated. The parts of ourselves that change more slowly, such as the
basic patterns of metabolism and physics, will continue to live on, even after
our personalities and bodies die.

As far as I know, the parts of ourselves which are our personalities are no
longer active after the death of the body. I see no reason why that
particular kind of pattern should persist, when the types of patterns which
are our momentary sensations do not. It *may* be that every pattern which has
ever existed within this universe exists forever, and thus nothing dies, not
even the slightest sensation or vibration of an atom, but if not, I see no
reason why *personalities* would remain active while *other* transient
patterns do not. And even if personalities *do* continue after death, in what
manner do they continue? How do they relate to the patterns which they were
so intimate with, such as their bodily metabolism and the structure of their
brain, when those are gone? The personality was not something *isolated*; it
existed within a complex web of relationships between culture, experience,
body, chemistry and physics. How can it exist outside of this complex web?
The personality was so embedded in these relationships; these relationships
shaped it and defined it; without them, it has no existence.

Our personalities, of course, want to persist as long as possible. They do
not want to die. Of course, they will inevitably change over time, and given
enough time to change, they may become transformed into something quite
*different*. This type of steady changing is not really all that troubling to
the personalities; it's the sudden *stop* in the flow that worries us.

How to avoid that sudden *stop* is our problem. It's an old problem, and it's
been worked on by many personalities, and many personalities are still working
on it. Living healthily and safely is a solution for living *longer*, but not
long enough to avoid stopping. So more radical approaches are being explored,
ideas like continual cell repair through nanotechnology, uploading the
personality into a more robust system, and replacing body parts with
longer-lasting and upgradable machines. But *whatever* approaches prove
themselves to be successful in allowing the personality to live on and change
at its own pace, the personality must *always* exist within a complex web of
shifting patterns and relationships between those patterns.

There are only patterns, shifting. Some change faster than others, dancing
upon the underlying slowness. The patterns relate to each other, forming new
patterns, often growing in complexity, often shifting suddenly into other
patterns. We, ourselves, are shifting patterns, a part of the whole,
elaborate, interconnected pattern. Certain aspects of ourselves are transient
and ephemeral, while the deeper aspects are more lasting. The constant flow
of patterns; existence

- David Musick

-- watchfulness is the way to understanding. --