The Big Whimper

8:44:00 PM



Almost any aspiring computer programmer begins the study of the subject by being asked either in code primers or by their professors to construct an executable program called "The Game of Life." The qualities of this program—its final product or end result after this junior programmer has pulled his hair out and burned a permanent image of the computer screen into his screen-saver-less retina—is as follows:  


Upon the blank, empty playing field of the screen, a dot appears upon it. This singular dot proceeds to engender other dots in its immediate vicinity, and these new dots, by their mere presence, likewise engender more dots. Lest the whole screen be soon filled by this rabbit-like frenzy of genesis, it is proclaimed by the computer programmer beforehand that these dots, along with their power of birth, also claim title to the power of death. That is, though the stringent computer rules that these dots follow give rise to the presence of other dots, they also, by their presence, eliminate dots from the playing field.


The net effect of this is that a frenzy erupts on the computer screen. The dots now form clusters, and as if they behave in unison, these clusters seem to move about as is if with a life of their own, no longer individual dots, but groups of them that have their own internal politics of becoming and dissolution, but are nonetheless working in tandem as their population increases, decreases, crawls as if with a destination in mind, or in that tragic circumstance, disappears completely.


Also, their travails occasionally leave behind stragglers that, though ostracized from the general movement of their original group, are also empowered to give rise or destroy more dots. They then form their own little globules that conform to the same community that outcast them, and so, as the program runs, there may be several factions of dots upon the screen each trying in their own way to be fruitful and multiply.


Finally, there are two very interesting occurrences that seem to defy the general spontaneity of this feast of clustered movement. In one instance, two thriving clusters cross paths, and much commotion occurs as these two groups jockey to resolve their conflicting movements across the screen, and in the other instance a group of dots as finally exhausted all their possibilities, and resolve to remain stationary, executing a repetitive pattern that remains undisturbed either eternally, or until some other group of invading dots decides to disrupt their territory. In that meeting the spell that held those stationary dots together, is at once, forever disrupted.


No more need be said about this peculiar computer algorithm other than, as mankind finds itself in the process of creating a new "universe" of virtual reality, this computer machinery of infinite possibilities, he has, remarkably, entertained himself by producing through it such a "pointless" program. He devised an instrument, a tool, and then this instrument obeys him like the perfect archangel, and through it, he says, let there be dots, and behold, there they are!


Then with the computer and the language it understands, he lays down his rubric, his law, his Boolean commandments, and in his well constructed and orderly creation, is allowed to watch with dispassion as the life he breathed into these dots runs its course until, finally, the screen is either filled with void once again, or has patches here and there of stationary clusters. He then turns off the screen, satisfied with his ingenuity, and proceeds to go to the convenience store for a bag of potato chips, confident that in the whole exercise, he has come one step closer towards engineering such things as ominous operating systems, a computer language of his very own, or, at the very least, a sizable salary.


Astrophysicists have long been bent on insisting that the universe came into being through a large, rather cataclysmic explosion that, like a grenade, hurled its shrapnel with such force that there has been the enduring perspective in them that universal history, and the object of their inquiry into this, is merely the record or explanation of how that primordial dust settled. This is their "First Cause," and in an almost deterministic fashion the laws of physics have had the "dots" of particles assembling, disassembling, ambling here and there, clustering, moving through space, colliding with other objects, and, in short unraveling the commandment, "Let there be light!" with all of its immutable implications under the original programming that the Big Bang set in motion.


Likewise the Gnostic Christians have their own rendition of the Genesis. At the outset of one of their scriptures, The Apocryphon of John, there begins a description of the grand creator as "the all," or "the ineffable." It states, "He did not lack anything, that he might be completed by it; rather he is always completely perfect in light. He is illimitable, since there is no one prior to him to set limits to him. He is unsearchable, since there exists no one prior to him to examine him," and so on.


Then, it turns out that this undifferentiated-ness did something remarkable and unprecedented. It had a "thought."  That, in itself, seems like a benign occurrence, but to an undifferentiated, omnipresent, and unconditioned thing, if we can call it that, a thought is a rather cataclysmic event. At once it is forced to regard itself, and, whereas before there was nothing to put this "all" into relief and thereby observe it as such, now there was a thought, and therefore self-consciousness. We are obliged to recall Rousseau's argument that, in his last reduction, in his proof, since he thinks, he is (cogito ergo sum; I think therefore I am).


Well, it was all downhill from there. That thought gave birth to what is called by the Gnostics, "The Pleroma," or the pantheon of angels, deities and entities that arose subsequent to this thought, and we find that it was initially populated, after some haggling over omniscience and eternal life, by thought-forms such as one might call "The Virtues" (as in the Platonic forms) of understanding, grace, perception, prudence, perfection, peace, and wisdom. Soon this divine realm was a veritable fiesta of entities called Aeons that went about their business of creating the cosmos until there was yet another catastrophe that gave rise to the genesis of human beings. And, we are told in another scripture, The Gospel of Truth, that this whole downward spiral was "[. . .] brought about terror and fear. And terror became dense like a fog, that no one was able to see. Because of this, error became strong."


It stands to reason, if we may be so bold, as to liken the thought of "the all" to a dot, or a mere blip in the undifferentiated screen of our virtual universe of ones and zeros. That is to say, after this autogenic occurrence called The Big Bang, our experts have dutifully described the gaseous, almost intangible and, dare I regard it in this way, "virtuous" primordial dust. This dust formed clusters and soon became galaxies, and without a doubt, they behaved in unison, moving about with a life of their own. There were also instances where pieces broke off into other clusters, or cases where they crashed into each other, and all this hoo-ha occurred based upon the initial conditions of the First Cause (perhaps a mere thought), working as if it had an immutable set of Boolean commandments such as the laws of physics as it is currently understood.


Anyway, I suppose that to our imagination the initial conditions of genesis must have been tremendous and incredibly explosive. So we say it was a Big Bang. However, it might just be that it was just a thought; just one ripple, a waver in the undifferentiated all. And it might just very well be that to this "thing," "The All," a thought is just a thought, and all that we know or all that we try to understand about our cosmos began as a whimper to it.


Or, perhaps, for one's computer, the "First Cause" or Big Bang has already occurred in each keystroke. With choices and free will measured in Gigahertz, eons pass for a universe of electrons guided by the archangels and platonic forms embedded in an operating system that has those charged particles act and choose their course through the circuitry at a level of intelligence that even Heisenberg could not understand.


And, like we make our valiant guesses as to who or what orchestrated this grand production and who presumably is sitting back, enjoying the show over our existance, perhaps within our motherboards, they - our creation of intelligence - wonder, too, what happened prior to their universe's boot cycle.


The reality of it, though, is that between our realm and the realm of what's happening either in our machines or beyond the great beyond of our cosmos - on the level of choice, that is - there are such vast differences in the order of magnitude of the intelligence at play that it's likely that, if we have in fact authored an intelligence in our computers, it would neither have a chance to communicate with us nor we with it. Likewise, while we're saying, "Why, God! Why, God! Why, God did my computer crash!" ... it's not that our creator isn't listening, it's just that he's too busy watching his program - the whole of it - to notice what one little dot at one corner of the screen is moaning about in that milliseconds before it appears, gives the screen the appearence of movement and disappears without a trace.


Our creator, like we with our creation, pressed the button marked, "run," and behold, a dot appeared ready to dance before a grand architect. Perhaps when the screen becomes blank once again, creators might have, in the final analysis, an appreciation for their ingenuity. The creators will mark the event by having a bag of potato chips, and, perhaps, think that next time the keystroke marked "run" is depressed, their creation might be bolder with its complexity. Then the creator would rest, in what might seem to us as with our own creation, in eternal quiescence, until it comes time once again to program another "Game of Life."

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