Monday, October 15, 2007

Infinity and Impulse Control

Last blog, in an entry titled "Addictive Personality", I talked about the negative patterns that can cause people to make the same mistakes over and over. Developmental psychologists like to talk about impulse control, and how this faculty is different in a child's mind, the adolescent mind, and the adult mind.

So, the child's stolen candy bar, the adolescent's silly risk taken, or the adult who decides they can get away with an Enron scam would all be examples of an impulse control (or rather, the lack thereof!) that allowed an individual to choose a path that might best not have been taken: but in a universe of free will, bad choices have to be just as allowable as good ones. To think of this another way, the child who was sexually abused and grows up to become a sexual abuser is yet another example of negative repeating patterns across time and space, and the person who ultimately overcomes the impulse to repeat that sad tale will have finally found their way to a different part of the multiverse and its "bush-like branching structure" that represents all possible outcomes for our universe.

I'd like to quote a comment posted to my last blog entry by Tom Huston. Regular readers of this blog will recall that Tom wrote an article praising my book which appeared in the spring issue of What Is Enlightenment? magazine. By the way, I'd like to invite you to check out Tom's personal blog at

Humanity's karmic momentum is indeed strong, and I can't see why it wouldn't be dominating about 99.999% of what's happening along humanity's timelines (potential or actual), at least at our current "position" in time and cultural development... But I think there's probably at least a 0.001% interjection of free will, or true creative freedom, at play in the "system" at any given moment that can break the momentum of any trajectory and change things for the better. And it's up to us to choose if we're going to help make that percentage a little larger, through freeing our own consciousness, more and more and more...

Thanks for your insightful comments, Tom. Personally, I hope that your .001% estimate is low, but I agree with you completely about trajectories and how they can be changed or not changed. A few months ago I posted a blog entry called "Your Sixth-Dimensional Self". That entry discusses the idea of choices taken/not taken in the big picture of timelessness. This time around I'd like to run with the idea Tom presents us with of "karmic momentum", while we discuss a more linear image of what could be happening within timelessness.

There has been renewed interest this year in cosmological theories which present a cyclical scenario for our universe: rather than just the single "big bang" physicists have been imagining, perhaps there are endlessly repeating cycles of expansion and contraction that start from/end with something approaching (but never achieving) a singularity, and each time the universe expands back out into another iteration of itself (I should note here that "brane collisions" are often being advanced as a possible explanation for this repeating cycle, but this time around we're going to stay away from thinking about all this "extra dimensions" stuff).

So. What if this cycle has been/will be repeated an infinite number of times? Then we could leave everything about our universe in the fourth dimension of spacetime, and forget about all these crazy notions of needing any further dimensions to express the big picture. We could just lay every possible timeline end-to-end, one after another, in an infinite "line of time".

Here we go again with another of those mind-boggling ways of imagining our already infinite universe in an infinite number of timelines. If our universe were to repeat infinitely (with each repetition representing a different set of throws of the quantum dice, so to speak) then that would have to include the repetition where everything about the universe was the same as now, except for the differences in impulse control that in a different iteration of the universe kept me from taking that candy bar as a child, or driving recklessly as a teenager, or caused me to make an unwise business decision for which I'm now doing time!

Naturally, in an infinitely repeating universe, there would also be a great many scenarios which are completely different from the one we are currently in: you and I were never born, dinosaurs were never wiped out, life never progressed past single-celled organisms, matter never coalesced into stars, and on and on. With the luxury of infinite repetitions, we can get to every single possibility that could have arisen from chance and circumstance eventually.

But the versions of this cycle that interest us the most, obviously, would be the different scenarios that are almost the same as our current one. In terms of karmic momentum, then, we could think of this cycle as being what happens when the endlessly repeating version of ourselves is presented with a set of choices, and yet no matter how often a bad/dishonest choice is presented in this endless wheel of an infinitely repeating universe, there are choices that some of us will never take.

In some cases, this is going to be just a matter of convenience: I never stole money because a big bag of somebody else's money never appeared on my doorstep. But what if it had? Perhaps the real test for sainthood should not be how exemplary a person's life was, but how many opportunities that person was presented with to make bad choices which that person's impulse control and karmic momentum caused them, again and again, through every iteration of the universe, to do good instead.

I'd like to finish off with another of the songs from the end my book, this one presents another way of thinking about the endless iterations that might be possible from the beginning to the end of our universe. First of all, here's how I introduce the idea of this song back in chapter five:

Graham Hancock, in his book “The Mars Mystery”, tells of a system of mirrors that were left behind on the moon by the Apollo astronauts. From 1973 to 1976 researchers used a 107-inch telescope to direct more than 2,000 laser beams at these mirrors. These laser beams allowed extremely precise measurements to be made and revealed a 15-meter oscillation of the lunar surface about its polar axis, with a period of about three years. Astronomer David Levy suggested that the moon is behaving “just like a huge bell after it has been clanged”. Scientists proposed that this must be the result of a relatively recent major impact, and that this ringing will die out after 20,000 years or so. Imagine, now, that you are somehow able to slow down your awareness to the point where you are able to hear the ringing of that bell.

Admittedly this all starts to sound like a Zen koan, and in some ways the goal is the same–we are trying to free ourselves from a limited viewpoint of the universe and the nature of time.

Here's a video of me singing the song:

A link to this video can be found at

And here are the lyrics:

words and music (c) by Rob Bryanton (SOCAN)

I slowed down
Till I heard the moon
I heard the moon ringing
Ringing like a bell

I slowed down
Till I felt the earth
I felt the plates sliding:
Skaters on a pond

And I finally felt the long groove moving underneath
Births and deaths of galaxies pounding out the beat
And I finally heard the whole song at once:
Big Bang to Entropy
Big Bang to Symmetry
Big Bang to Everything

I slowed down
Till I saw the sun
I saw the sun spinning
On a pinwheel’s arm

And I saw the long chain of our DNA
Stretching back to the beginning for so long
And I saw the mighty ocean that surrounds and sustains
Connecting us together in a song

I slowed down
Till I saw the song
Was only one of many
One of many more

And I finally felt the long groove moving underneath
Births and deaths of galaxies pounding out the beat
And I finally heard the whole song at once:
Big Bang to Entropy
Big Bang to Symmetry
Big Bang to Everything

It begins as nothing, silence at the end
Every song’s the same after or before
But the parts in between, there are so very many forms
More than we could ever hope to know

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

No comments:

Tenth Dimension Vlog playlist