Meditation VII, Homo Sapiens – The Limitations of Man

The Inconclusive Synthesis

This is not the conclusion or an epilogue. It is not the last chapter of a tale written for the sake of justifying ideas, ideologies, and beliefs. I have no drama left in me and I fear that subtlety has at last failed me and bluntness and blunders are all that is left. Unlike the first six chapters of the Meditations, I start this one with a diagram of my own creation instead of some historical painting.

The art of men long dead would be by far a more fitting  abstract art than anything that I can produce in my life. However, the diagram above is a simple representation of my will and idea behind the Meditations. No aspect of humanity is a stand alone complex that is self-reinforcing, self-generating, and self-inducing. Everything in life as I have observed are inter-connected, inter-related, and inter-locked. Indeed, the flapping wings of a butterfly can cause a tornado somewhere else or potentially stop one.

In the last of the seven Meditations, I hope to succeed more than I have failed to piece together the broken pieces of One.

Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon by Caspar David Friedrich

The Bias Theory and The Bias Society

Take a coin and toss it into the air fifty times and you would find that equilibrium never exist like the way we think it exist in reality. If you somehow manage by stroke of luck to get 25 heads and 25 tails, toss that coin another hundred times. Things are never perfectly equal! The world and its happenings are like a pendulum swinging from right to left and never stopping perfectly in the center!

If things were in perfect equilibrium, the government and the opposition  parties of any country would get the same amount of votes and the possibility of elections would disappear. Randomness is a lie. Things are perceived  to happen randomly because one cannot comprehend all things under heaven or judge with precision the consequences of ones own actions. In retrospect, things seem to be fated and can happen in no other seemingly probable way.

Einstein was right when he said the God does not play dice.

The hypothetical ‘if’ is for the future and not the past. The past is set in stone and would never change for anyone or anything, save the will of the Creator and the time machine of H.G. Wells. The bias theory is real and it applies to everything in the world worth observing. Why is time a constant movement from present to future? Why is it that twins have different characters when they come from the same mother (and come to the world almost at the same time)? Why do we choose one apple over the other when both looks similar in size and color?

The truth is that the world is never in constant equilibrium but in constant movement. Take a look at the waters of rivers around the world. Watch how the rivers flow to the sea, the water evaporating, the vapors accumulating and at last coming down as rain just to repeat the cycle all over again. Nothing in the world is really stagnant! Everything seems to move as though the Creator’s will is willing it (this is what I believe)! If this is so, does that mean the bias theory applies to all things?

Swarm Intelligence and Societal Intelligence

If ants had intelligence and could comprehend the works of human beings, they would comment on how similar human beings and ants are. While we ‘modern’ (this is such a misnomer) human beings think that our skyscrapers, overhead bridges and construction machinery are the best ever created in history, be surprised because ants have been building highways, underground nests, and staging epic raids for the last 140 million years.

While we call the ability of ants to solve problems as swarm intelligence, we often forget that human society works by a similar concept of societal intelligence. Like ants, I dare say that no human being could grasp the whole picture (absolute knowledge of everything) yet every individual of the society contributes to humanity’s success as a species.

Take a trip back through time and look at the French Revolution in 1789. Instead of eating cake (Marie Antoinette believed ‘cake’ was available for  the peasant class) and starving to death, the French peasants rebelled and executed their King, Louis XVI. Similar to the revolution in France, the 1917 Revolution in Russia also demonstrated a societal intelligence in changing the ruling political system before it was too late (though Communist Russia did not do a better job).

A more recent example is seen in Seattle when anti-globalization activists used mobile communication devices (ironically, mobile phones were one of the devices that spurred globalization) to spread news quickly about the movement of law enforcers. This turned what an otherwise disorganized and unruly crowd into a ’smart mob’ that was able to disperse and re-group like a school of fish. Similar to this, both Google and Wikipedia taps into swarm intelligence to produce outstanding results!

Individual Intelligence, Rational Expectations and Rational Behavior

Aristotle was right when he said that human beings are rational animals. The only problem is that the bias theory applies similarly to an individual as to a society. What is rationality? The answer differs from one individual to another. There is no absolute answer for rational expectations or rational behavior.

To an Eskimo, leaving his parents to die when they are old seems rational. To most of us, this seems absurd (in thinking so, we prove the bias theory). A human being can never accept every idea, behavior, and culture under the sun. An absolute hypocrite (absolutely tolerant of everything) is an absolute impossibility (though we may pretend to be tolerant of all things). Whether we like it of not, we are subject to our own form of personal bias (I like the color black).

In saying so, almost everyone in the world acts out of self-interest (this is distinctively different from selfishness). Even if my parents love me unconditionally, it is in their self-interest to do so (of which I am very very VERY grateful). This is because my parents feel happy to love me as they do (this should apply universally to all parents). Human beings choose to do things that give them the most utility or happiness and thus, they act in accordance with their self-interest. To deny this is akin to denying one’s own existence.

Arthur Schopenhauer was right when he claimed that the world was his idea. The external world is indeed known only through sensations and ideas, hence subject to personal bias (which is why he said his idea). Indeed, how can we, mortal humans, explain the mind as matter when we know matter through the mind? Furthermore, Schopenhauer described it better than I when he said that we do not want a thing because we have found reasons for it, we  find reasons for it because we want it!

The Stages of Life by Caspar David Friedrich

Why is Choice and Free-will Subject to The Bias Theory

Contrary to popular believe that everything in our lives starts with choice, everything in our lives actually starts out of necessity. Rousseau was only partially correct when he said that man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. If all choices were ours to make, and an absolute free-will is ours to use, human beings would be the Creator! Utterly absurd!

Furthermore, if we can choose all choices, there would not be such thing as ‘choice’ because we can obtain everything. Choice would be non-existent. When Rousseau said that man is born free, he was not entirely right. We cannot choose who our parents are, just as our parents cannot choose who their parents were. The choice to come into this world itself is not ours  alone to make, but an accumulation of choices of people long dead.

It is therefore inevitable that humanity’s grasp is forever lower than its reach. We make choices because we can choose but because we must choose! And in choosing one choice over another, we forsake the second best choice (known as opportunity cost in economics). Scarcity is mankind’s immortal enemy. The limitations of resources causes scarcity that forces us to choose what we think is best for ourselves (or others).

In saying so, resources does not only mean land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship but also time which is the ultimate resource among the rest. Peter Drucker was right when he said that time was completely inelastic. No matter how much you are willing to pay for ‘time,’ you can never really ‘buy’ time. Thus the famous saying that time and tide waits for no man.

Remember however, that as long as we live, we still have a  limited degree of choice in certain things in our lives. It is still possible as my friend reminded me to take an umbrella out even though we do not know when it is going to rain. It is possible to achieve something that your heart desires as long as it is achievable and within reach. One should not lose hope even when one knows that he will eventually die. Instead, one lives on in hope that death would come another day.

Perfection is therefore an impossibility unless one defines mortal boundaries within a mortal scope of activity (this is only a ‘perfection’ in human definition). When asked by Alexander the Great of how man can become a God, the Indian philosophers replied that Alexander had to do something that man cannot do. Alexander did not become God and neither can other human beings.

But lo and behold, in this text of pessimistic limits lies an optimistic hope. For surely as an individual is a part of the society and a society is a part of a nation, the nation is a part of the Earth and the Earth a part of the Universe , the Universe is a part of something bigger, greater and beyond human understanding. This is what I believe as the Creator that encompasses all things, omnipotent and omnipresent. Our imperfection is the only prove we need to justify the existence of a Creator. And in the Creator, all the hopes of humanity lies.

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich

The End of the Beginning

This ends the seventh part of One and represents the final piece in the Meditations. The Meditations represent not an ending but a new beginning and new journey. The Meditations should therefore not be perceived as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony but Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony that gains beauty in its imperfection. Although the establishment of a priori in saying that man is imperfect and thus his understanding is imperfect, it is the will of the human heart to continue to climb the endless flight of stairs.

Many of the mysteries of mankind and our world are now being unraveled by the accumulation of human understanding of knowledge. Although perfect knowledge and understanding is beyond our reach, if gives the heart of man joy to continue to pursue it! Even as Voltaire has said that we shall leave the world as foolish and as wicked as we found it, we still can strive to be happy and jovial as Voltaire himself was.

Encourage therefore the practicality of Voltarian wit, tolerance, and spirit and put to rest the impracticality and impossibility of Rousseau noble savage!



The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost


Please Proceed to the Next Meditation: Meditation VIII, Philosophos – The Inescapable Philosophy of Philosophy

Or Go Back to the Meditations Page

6 Responses to “Meditation VII, Homo Sapiens – The Limitations of Man”
  1. lizii says:

    Haha, Frost.

    I’ve studied this poem a number of times, and I can’t say that I like it all that much.

    You make many valid points in your discussion, but in all honesty, the human race doesn’t need to think about these things. For the sake of their sanity and for meaning in their lives, they should just continue living. Not everything has to make sense :)

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