This piece is from 23 Sep 2003. Time and matter are the main characters. These days, they are not in my cast. Funny that even then I tied the birth of a separate "I" to pain.
BANG. From nothing, from a black hole in another universe, from God? Being springs forth in triple extension and one-way time. Perhaps among infinite others, lucky universe.
Hot but cooling. Expanding. Clumping - gravity's thing. A star is born. Fusion furnace and factory - building heavier atoms. Supernova sprinkles elemental blocks, compressing energy above iron, to be released in half-lives thereafter. Might not have been - different velocity, uniformity, elementary relations. Lucky universe now celebrating 15 billionth anniversary.
New clumps, sub-critical, circle certain star. Goldilocks-style: not too hot, not too cold, wet enough, abundance of H, N, C, O and other players. Within a cubed infinity, lucky Earth will grow to see at least 4-1/2 billion years.
Shallow pool? Lightning strike? Complexity barrier breached. Local anomaly. Non-equilibrium small print in contract of second law. Order's march makes massive leap forward. Being sprouts life. Lucky life.
No life is an island. Interdependency also drives the train. You scratch my organelle... Partnerships, coalitions, division of labour, division of cells.
Success survives. Reproducers win. Clever molecules, laddered programmes, recipes. DNA, RNAs, proteins dare all. Little errors, random mutations. Quantum cause? Innumerable niches. Countless millennia. Success survives. Reproducers win. Ecology explodes. Life breathes deep. No brains yet for dear old ancestors.
Chinese whispers 'ATCG, pass it on'. Danger out there. Limited resources, unlimited need. Unexpected turns, changing environment. Need some flexibility here. Nerves build a centre. Nested if-thens grow, twist, intertwine. Organic central processor, RAM, I/O. Life's computations evolve.
On this path, subjective perspective emerges - adaptive, or emergent and redundant? Some life now feels like something. Pain, satisfaction, keeping it simple at first?
Pain exists when this body is hit, but not that one. Birth of 'I'. Sentience and feelings bear self-consciousness, emotions, thoughts. The mental takes true flight. This I exalts and thrills to think about a memory of a dream about an idea whose time has now come.
Wheat from chaff thousands of times over. Man expands into and fills the computational niche. The differentiated brain is our trunk.
Whispers now take spoken form. Driven by and driving mutual reliance. Language is born. But how to anticipate, predict, measure, remember, learn from how words and actions relate. Trust? Suspect? Reward? Punish? Language and reciprocity demand more powerful, more subtle synaptic stuff.
Floods rage, diseases strike. Strong seek justification. Weak seek comfort. Where is the agent, where is the guarantor, where is the giver of hope? Gods spawn, proliferate. Owned gods, reflexive 'Thou shalts'. Gods of the insiders - outsiders be damned.
Passing of primary evolutionary baton from biology to technology. Tools enable, reward. Tools improve. Man masters his environment, spreads throughout all environments. Too good for those who didn't co-evolve with him - Australian large beasts exterminated. Others manage to hold on in shaky equilibrium. Tools help and tools harm. War begins its mutation from ritual to extermination.
Culture, social forces. The individual, already ruled by the molecule, increasingly cedes power to the collective. A drop in a stream. Norms, calls to conform. Sweeping forces, powers unnamed drive masses.
The Universe begins to understand itself. Man as agent, vessel. Revolutionary method takes root, proves worth. Science first in support of, then beside, now supplanting other gods. But who can eradicate confusion? Accurate predictions do not escort firmer understanding - quantum weirdness.
Forget not form. Perfection of a different sort - music, image, tale. Man seeks ecstasy and beauty as much as truth. These are the crowning glory and most effective tools of culture.
Particles, information, actions, circumstances swirl in special confluence. This I is born, takes temporary prominence as the one accessible subjective view. Being, life, sentience, self-consciousness surface in this instantiation. I am here, at this time, in this place, with all of you and our shared world to engage.