What is real?
14 July 2003
The two of us are in a restaurant.
Think of all the things that go to make this meal: all the food, the work, the industries. The factories that produce the detergent that is used to clean the floor -- the slow accretion of scientific discoveries that made cleaning the floor a priority in the first place: microbes, the causes of disease, the fact that life is everywhere. The legal systems that make cleaning the floor an obligation.
And then the inferences that surround us. The salt on the table mirroring the salinity of the oceans and of our blood, the blood that itself is mimicking the chemical composition of Earth's proto-ocean in which, two billion years ago, life emerged. So we are inside-out creatures, containing the whole history of the biosphere in our veins. Starships, rising out of the Earth and going on life-long voyages with untold generations of enormous populations of yet more life inside us, then in the end landing on the Earth again, returning them to it.
What is a restaurant anyway? The space, the social expectation? The walls that surround me could be conceived as surrounding the outside, you and me and the table sitting outside infinity. These walls that striate the city: enclosing and honeycombing, a filing cabinet of property. Outside, the road is a conductor on the urban integrated circuit, doing who-knows-what calculations, performing unknown and unknowable operations for an even more unknowable purpose: here we are, sitting in a memory register perhaps, with each tick of the city's clock we bump through the flip-flops until eventually (at the end of dinner) we'll be out of the shift register and back into the calculator.
Or maybe the city is just extelligence made solid, expectations made flesh and calcified, and that which would have disappeared if we lived further apart has self-resonated and created itself. The city as interference pattern. The city isn't a computer because the computer is more like a combination of water-wheels: push the water in on one side, and it gushes through channels, spinning wheels and turning levers, driving from every contact point the tiny machine which is interconnected with axles and ropes, turning tiny shutters to present different colours, which synchronise and so the minute rivulets - being really forced through, imagine pushing it hard with your hands - cause a pattern which looks like the Mona Lisa, say, or Microsoft Word.
In the old days we'd share meat on the savannah, if caught, but not vegetables, because meat is a rare good. Politeness as the solution to the game theory equations (outside time in the eternity of mathematics), iteratively and numerically solved by evolution in hardware (I think, as I pour the wine), hard-wired cooperation in the hunter-gatherer Prisoners' Dilemma in order to provide a suitable diet to the tribe. Diet, or is this weather and geology to the hordes of replicators each of us really comprises?
The restaurant as abstracted hunter-gathering. The chair to abstract kneeling on the ground around the campfire. The chair is paid for now so my knees last longer so I can live and work longer and in my old age, finally pay for the chair of my youth. Effort never disappears, it is only transformed and redistributed: I didn't catch, kill or cook this chicken, but I'll pay for it somehow.
Embedded, caught up in the geography of the city, the flows of relationships, the transactional nature of the distribution of effort. Is there any progress, or has it always been this nuanced, this subtle? Is it more complex, or just differently complex? We are humans of the Holocene, but maybe the Holocene has been changing around us as we litter the artifacts of humanity: buildings, laws, time itself is differentiated by our creations. Does a restaurant mean to me the same as it meant to one in ancient Egypt? How about physics, the way a stone falls?
My point of view, my consciousness is inseparable from the very universe I attempt to describe, so I can only describe the triumvirate intertwined, together: there are no edges, there are no objects. What is the restaurant I am in? Where does it end? What history has gone to create it, what will it cause? Is it entirely a local effect, or is it relevant to the central black hole of the Milky Way? And if that black hole doesn't exist, is that important: to the galaxy, to the restaurant, to the previous sentence? The word 'in' is wrong, the label 'word' is wrong, wrongness is relative, I wish I could speak in the Adamic language and let you understand what I mean. There's too much to say so I'm bursting with silence, I've so far, still, said nothing; the minimum way of expressing what I want to say is to live this life from this point of view.
There is no structure. I drown in narrative. Am engulfed.
What there is, is boundary conditions. To all of the above: Etc. To all of the above: Whatever. To all of the above: Fuck you. The boundary condition is: Here we are, here we are!, here we are.
The two of us are together; we're in a restaurant; we're eating dinner; we're in love.