The Ripples of Inevitability and Consequence

Today I would like to speak to another aspect of evidence within our universe of the holographic nature of things: cause and effect. The dance of the physical across the expanse of time. Most people do not think of physics as a manifestation of consciousness, but to me the two are integral to each other. At the end of the day, nothing can be truly be separated from anything else. We see small morsels of the whole here and there and think they are their own things; but really they are but bits of a the pattern that consistently and seamlessly generates reality and our experience with it. The nerds of Silicon Valley are not far off in suggesting that all of this is a “computer program,” but don’t take the metaphor for its semantical value alone. Words are temporary things, arrows pointing to a distance horizon. The trick is to see the big picture beyond the words.

Cause and effect — an idea so basic we take it for granted. You strike a pool ball cross the table, and depending on your speed and angle, you may or may not sink it in a pocket. Every time we take to the city streets in our automobiles we encounter the stop and go rhythm of cause and effect affecting our commute through the virtues of a traffic jam or a chance fender bender. Run a red light, and watch your insurance increase. Tip over a cup coffee and a hot mess spills across the table. Drop a glass and it shatters. This fundamental aspect of physical existence that is cause and effect provides consciousness with a never-ending scientific inquest of trial and error for the simple fact that it endlessly generates data — “What happens if…?”

Now, let’s extend beyond inanimate objects colliding in space/time to breach the cause and effect of actions and words from sentient beings. Termites gnaw at the fibers of your house for long enough and it will fall down. Kill all the wolves in a given region and watch everything about that ecosystem change. Whether it is the polar dance of predator and prey, or subtle social, cultural, emotional encounters between humans: experiences and communications within and between species have lasting impacts not just on the world around us, but within us — informing our attitudes, beliefs, and subsequent actions. Why does anybody do anything? Because of whatever happened previously. And so each moment is a pearl giving birth to the next pearl on the strand, the next ring on the tree, as consciousness skips from one morsel of spacetime to the next gathering data on its sojourn through the cosmos of itself.

...time is one spreading ring wrapped around another, outward and outward until the thinnest skin of Now depends for its being on the enormous mass of everything that has already died.
— Richard Powers, "The Overstory"

Everything happens in sequence, and sequence is integral to existence. Pay attention and you’ll find it’s quite fascinating to watch yourself slide through the monads of moment to moment existence. Of course, there are predictable rhythms to any given day — thumping along in an ebb and flow, pulling you to do, urging you to say. Like the moment you wake up and get moving, for instance. Or your first meal of the day, where the chewing is followed by swallowing and what’s started is inevitably finished. And then there’s the getting dressed, that transformation from naked to clothed. And of course, the inevitable conversations you have with people you encounter, conversations often built on previous encounters, in themselves their own microcosms of consequence…. X followed by Y followed by Z… all of it adding up to relationships and understandings, feeding and furthering your awareness, your future actions; beginnings and endings, conflicts and retreats. Have you ever said something you knew in advance that you didn’t want to say? Only have it drawn out of you as you watch in horror as its impact ripples over the other person and bounces back to into your chest like a Volkswagen of regret? Success and regret: powerful teachers, and beholden to cause and effect the same way everything is. This is how consciousness grows/explores/expands. We need to get the feedback from a source outside ourselves. Everything in nature is looking for this kind of contact. Butting heads is just another exercise in polarity.

We have moments of conflict, and we have moments of serendipitous success; and both serve the purpose.

Take for instance the chance encounter I had one afternoon in Beverly Hills when I used to live next to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I was in film school and I was editing my thesis film Bark or Bite. I had been struggling with my final cut for some time and decided to walk to CVS to take out my frustrations on some cookies.

As I left my building a woman called out to me from the street and approached. “Do you know what this street sign means? Can I park here?” Parking in Beverly Hills is by permit only and the ticket cops are ruthless. The woman explained she was from out of town and meeting an old friend from high school at the Academy later that day. Feeling generous and sympathetic to her cause, I went back inside and loaned her my guest parking pass and we exchanged phone numbers. I wished her well and went to buy my cookies. When I came back, she told me she had asked her friend if she could invite me to the event, and her friend had said yes. It turns out her friend was Thelma Schoonmaker, the Academy Award winning editor of Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (among others), and she was being celebrated that evening along with a special screening of Raging Bull.

How could I refuse? I cleaned myself up and to my total surprise, spent the evening as a special guest of Ms. Schoonmaker, sitting behind her for the screening. To say I felt inspired doesn’t cut it (no pun intended). I went home that evening and found I had been fundamentally changed as an editor. I effortlessly re-edited my film with clarity of vision, transforming a clunky 13 minute short into a svelte 8 minute zapper. I also edited a trailer for a school contest, which I later ended up winning. Reflecting on the whole experience, I cannot help but give credit to the moments that transported me through it: the urge for cookies, the kindness to a stranger, the unexpected brush with greatness, and the inspiration ignited just by being in this woman’s presence for 3 hours and witnessing her visual poetry on the screen… all of it was a serendipitous sequence of inevitabilities in which I was simply playing my participatory role. If I had ignored the woman (and my urge for cookies) my evening would have gone very differently.

You know what else is a serendipitous sequence of inevitabilities?

The waveform of movement is always, essentially, circular. This may seem overly obvious until you realize (and I mean, really realize) that circles (as well as spherical, cylindrical and toroidal shapes) are literally everywhere — wheels, pullys, the sun, the planet, the shape of flowers, fruits, the trunks of trees, the stems of flowers, seeds, and stones worn smooth by the constant movement of water across their surface…. fuck, twist your hair into a bun and what have you got? A sphere made out of a spiral. I ask myself, why this shape? Why are circles so integral to everything? Why is the best way to mix something to stir it???

Circles are conducive to movement because they are a product of movement, just as our entire solar system is a product of movement. Planets formed into spheres because they were/are in a constant state of motion.

Just like our universe.

I’m saying these things because we get caught up sometimes in the relative illusion that life is static. That our lives are “going nowhere,” and that “time is an illusion.” Time is not an illusion — time is a necessary component of physical reality. There’s a reason why we say “long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” and that’s because its more accurate to think of time as distance travelled. And I’m not just referring to the relative time/distance you travel to the work each day — I’m talking about the movement of the whole; that’s what time is. This movement of the whole of the universe is what makes everything possible, because everything is playing out in sequence, across the span of space time. The history of what came before this moment. The unknowing of what’s coming next, and the curiosity that propels consciousness to experiment, take action, discover and slip into the next inevitable empty moment.

Consciousness witnesses experiences. Consequences are a function of cause and effect. Movement is a function of polarity.