Welcome to the Modern Institute of Ancient Paradox! This digital island in the endless infostructure of Cyberspace tries to provide documentation on approaching the recurring ancient paradox, and to help you find ways on minimizing it's destructive nature.
Contradiction is at the heart of 'being', and as a result, confusion lurks around every corner. There are quite a lot of human beings 'out there' who are absolutely convinced of their own skill, knowledge and wisdom, while most of those who 'really' know what it's all about are either locked away, banished or simply driven insane... at the same time these aspects are both part of the human experience; the unknown drives us, for only the unknown can surprise us. Without novelties every now and then, life would be quite dull...
I think therefore I am? Yeah, that's what you think... In this age of chaos and confusion, one has to be extremely carefull and lighthearted if one is to withstand all the maddening hype around, and stay true to one's self. The most usefull tool in this respect is logic, derived from the Greek word 'logos', which is said to contain everything that really matters. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to break the first few barriers of initial fear and confusion, for often one doesn't know where to start.
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? This is probably one of the most ancient paradoxes man thought up. And probably the easiest. The answer is neither and both. Confused? Well, imagine a chicken inside an egg. And image another egg inside that chicken. Now you can repeat this process into infinity. If you were to draw this on a piece of paper however, you would reach a certain point where the 'resolution' of your pen and paper would become insufficient; in other words, you couldn't draw this infinity beyond a certain point, where the point is the smallest point your pen can draw.
At this point you could do the same little trick they do on navigational maps: you could SCALE that point so that it's visual appearance becomes large enough to start drawing chickens in eggs in chickens again, within that point. If you were to scale constantly, you would get a bit of a psychedelic 'zooming' effect, where you could infinitely 'zoom in' on the egg inside the chicken inside the egg inside the chicken and so on...
Wether you would be infinitely zooming in, or infinitely zooming out doesn't really matter... both ways the answer remains the same. Neither and both. From this point of view, the most logical conclusion would be that the chicken was put on this world, not only so that we can steal it's eggs and eat them, but also to remind us of the paradox-nature of existence; the infinite loop-hole of reality. It's not at all a coincidence that a humanoid's aura happens to be the same shape as an egg ;-)
The Paradox of existence is a little bit more complex however. At first, at least. Existence IS. It's everywhere at once, and a mere humanoid can only experience a little fragment of the entire existence at one moment. So if existence IS, then how comes that we can perceive changes taking place all the time? This is because of time. We are trapped in a little moment of what we perceive to be existence; this little moment is what we call 'the present'.
The present is a divine gift; it makes it possible for us to conceive such concepts as future and past. They make is possible for us to keep track of a 'history'. Existence however, is always there. It is 'self-contained'. This means that existence is a 'constant'. Think of it like this: the more things change, the more they remain the same.
This leads to the conclusion that existence can be summarized as 'constant change'. It's always there, it's always been there, and the only thing that keeps it going is 'change'.
As Stephen Hawking already described in 'Black Holes and Baby Universes', finding a formula that would encompass the mechanics of existence would lead to a bit of a paradox. If one were to calculate one's fate, one would be able to alter it. The action of calculating one's fate would have to be predictable using the same equation, or otherwise the formula would not encompass everything in existence. Would the formula still be correct if one could use it to alter the mechanics of existence? I suppose not.
If the universe is undergoing constant change, then the formulas that could describe the entire existence would be undergoing the same constant change; this would lead to the conclusion that by finding a unifying formula to describe everything in existence, one would change existence in such a way that the formula would instantly be nullified as a valid one. Take your time to let this sink in. At first it seems complex, but it's actually simpler than you probably imagine.
Consider for a moment that it would be able to travel back in time. As there are nowadays most movies are about time-travel, this shouldn't be too hard, I suppose. If you'd travel back in time to a point before you were conceived, and you'd kill your mother... would you still exist? After all, your mother wouldn't give birth to you, and you wouldn't be able to travel back in time to kill her in the first place. Would she still have died then, you might wonder...
Personally, I think it's all a lot simpler than it appears in the first place. If one were to be able to alter the state of the physical reality at a certain point in time, by adding your body and soul to that reality, it would mean that all your molecules would be in transferred there. Thus you would no longer exist in the present, and your current state of being is 'shifted' to the past, where you would then 're-appear'. This re-appearance would be like a re-initialisation; a rebirth, with the benefit of maintaining your state of being.
If such technology were to be invented (and God knows, it wouldn't surprise me one single bit if this technology has been invented quite some time ago already), it probably wouldn't make much of a difference wether you'd kill your ancestors or not. It's not ethical of course, and that's why interfering in the past is usually considered to be strictly forbidden in most science-fiction. On the other hand, the vision displayed in the 'Back to the Future'-trilogy might be just as true, so you might just vanish on the spot. That makes it not only unethical, but also highly risky business.
I myself truly believe that, though we're all connected and originating from the same 'tree of life', it should be possible to transfer bits and pieces from that tree to different parts of it much in the same way a gardner would transfer branches from a plant to a new pot. Thus I believe that interfering with your own past shouldn't pose any threat to your 'present' condition. However, I hope you'll agree with me that it wouldn't be a very wise thing to check wether I'm correct or not ;-)
"I think, therefore I am", is one of those phrases mankind more than a bit fond of, and is therefore often heard. The fact that most people don't give this short 'sentence' a second glance, and mainly use it to appear more intellectual (ego-boost) is not as sad as it might seem. The whole concept of perceiving such a thing as 'thine own self' is in fact quite paradoxal. One might wonder, how one is capable of perceiving one's self.
Those of you who think this is a dead give-away, think again. Your senses may give you the indication that there is a correlation between the actions you intend to execute, and the actions that take place within your perceived environment, and of course, there is. However, there is more to sentience than being able to monitor and control 'your' body; there is a certain 'awareness'. And it's this 'awareness' that makes self-consciousness risky business, for this 'awareness of being' is mostly too vague to pinpoint, and thus an uncertain factor... some call it 'spirit', others call it 'soul', but suffice it to say, it is quite hard to describe who you are without refering to events, facts or accomplishments within your physical life. You can give me your name and e-mail address, send me pictures of your physical presence, but who you really are is something I might not even find out after a lengthy relationship. After all, you can manipulate the physical world around you to pretend that you are something you are not: the wolf in sheep's clothes.
Matters become even more complicated once you'd be subjected to a group of people where everyone is pretending to be that which they are not (for example, the good guys are pretending to be the bad guys, and vice versa). I doubt wether you will still be certain about your own identity after a couple of months. And this is only the first step on the twisted road of lies, fraud, deception and conspiracy. Before you know it, you're encountering Men In Black telling you that "Everything you know is wrong". You wouldn't be the first to go running around, screaming that they're hiding in your brain.
Now there's the problem with deriving identity from one's physical presence: physical reality can be altered to trick you into thinking that you are something which you are not. I can imagine that this might scare the hell out of you, for you'd be left with the feeling that you've been living a lie for your entire life; you'd be left with no certainty whatsoever as to what is actually real and what is not. Or worse even, you might be taken over by paranoia, for you'd 'know' that you're constantly being watched.
As you can see, this is probably the most lethal mechanism within human beings, for it only takes some nifty special effects to fake a close encounter, and a few spoken words to make someone belief that he or she truly is possessed, cursed and/or damned, and the cascade of self annihilation is set in motion. Carefully executed events or a few perfectly timed subtle remarks can even lure you into this trap without realizing the setup until it's too late.
The solution is, in fact, quite simple, though truly paranoid characters may find it difficult to implement. Don't worry, though, for practice makes perfect. The only things you have to know to avoid getting entangled in your own paranoia (or in the question wether you really exist or not) is that existence is infinitely complex... this means that there is always 'something' or 'someone' that will be smarter, meaner, and faster than you could ever get. Entities capable of time-travel, obfuscation or mind control would always outsmart you... if wouldn't take them more than a split second to implant memories of a whole different life, and you'd never know. For the possabilities are infinite, it is beyond any beings scope to detect every stalker, Big Brother or Alien Abductor that may be hiding behind the billions of particles within your perceived environment. Therefore, the only conclusion can be that, if one decides to try and outrun those tricks of the mind, one would run forever without the slightest chance of victory.
So, somewhere, somehow, someone or something is probably watching you. Big deal. You've been alive for over quite a lot of nanoseconds, and if this lurker would have wanted to destroy you, it's already had billions and billions of really great opportunities. They wanna watch? Well, let them watch. Still not comfortable? Come on, you're not ashamed of your own private little perversions, are you? Just think of the amount of people on this planet, and you'll realize that there's such an incredible diversity of thoughts, ideas and beliefs around, that there'll always be those who think of others as perverted, and vice versa. An infinity of possible concepts always leads to a certain friction here and there, but this also makes life a whole lot more interesting.
Well, the universe is constantly changing, and we're inside the universe. That means that we're constantly changing as well. One can try to avoid this, but one can also try to accept this. Change can be either for better or for worse. If there's no dark, one would not be able to distinguish the light, and vice versa. Whatever action one might take, will most certainly lead to the annihilation of something else. If one is to drink from a paper cup, there's probably an angry indian out there, being quite upset about his rainforest. If you sit down, there's always a chance that you accidently squash an ant. If you engage in bizarre scientific experiments for the betterment of mankind, you might just ignite a chain reaction that leads to the annihilation of entire solar systems in parallel dimensions.
In short, it's impossible to act without causing some sort of damage SOMEWHERE. However, choosing not to act will eventually lead to self-annihilation, as others will continue acting, and if you don't even take the action of defending yourself, you'll fade away. If you would choose to act, you risk burning out, but at least you can try to act in the best possible manner you can think of. There is, indeed, quite a lot of acting out there ;-)
So what can one possibly do? Acting upon a thought leads to increased chaos and annihilation within existence around you, and NOT acting upon a thought leads to increased chaos and annihilation within existence inside you. Nobody said freedom of choice was an easy thing, and indeed it is not. Again one has to take a leap of faith. Since the answer is once again neither and both, one simply cannot anticipate all possible consequences of one's actions. One can, however, try to keep destructive results as much to a minimum as one can.
In ordinary words: live and let live, and ALWAYS remember that you are also the result of the constant changing of the universe, and that you too were spawned by it's highly erratic, chaotic, illogical behaviour. Whatever you do within the existence you inhibit, will somehow find it's way back to you like a boomerang. It might take a lifetime, but you can be sure of the fact that it WILL find it's way back to you... by then the result of your actions may have been amplified and distorted a billion times over, and you might not even recognize them for what they are.