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MAN'S LAST SONG  

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Nearly all my writings are  in Chinese and English. My award-winning novel Man’s Last Song and other published stories can be found under [BOOKS] tab above. Essays and photos are under [BLOG]. Find  Guo Du in [ABOUT], or archived posts at www.guo-du.blogspot.com

这是个双语网页,所有故事和文章都中英对照,但并非翻译之作。在上面【著作】页面内有我的英文得奖小说Man’s Last Song 的介绍。中文版《笙歌》将於2021年初由《中和出版集團》出版成書, 部分章節可在此閱覽。其它在香港,新加坡,纽约出版的故事,大部分都可在此阅读。【博客】页内文章, 由冥想到遐想都有。何谓过渡?在【有关】内有介绍。 

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Calculus of Predetermination

微積分談宿命論 

Published: 6 September 2013

Tags: Daydreams, Otherwordly reveries心灵鬼话随笔非常道

Photo credit: Jolene Ho

Reality being increasingly counter-intuitive is not only a problem in politics. Quantum mechanics is also taking us further and further away from the neat and simple perception of reality that Homo sapiens have enjoyed for millennia. The more we think we know, the less sure we become. Perhaps it’s meant to be. 

 

The latest dilemma is that “Reality, Relativity, Causality, and Freewill” cannot coexist (New Scientist No.219 Vol 2928, 3 Aug 2013). One of them has to go. But which one? To me, the answer is obvious: Freewill! 

 

I suspect General Freewill to be an anthropocentric delusion spawned by arrogance and wishful thinking, a notion I briefly entertained fictionally in Man’s Last Song. Believe it or not, I reached this conclusion through a mathematical approach. Well, kind of.

Let’s freeze this moment for illustration.

 

Right now, this very moment, a single point in time, is the consequence of the preceding instant, and precursor of the ensuing one. But what’s a moment? To assist visualisation, let’s arbitrarily chop time into discrete tiny chucks each lasting a trillionth of a nanosecond. It would not be difficult to see that whatever happened one trillionth of a nanosecond ago has a dictating effect on this moment. The particular molecules approaching my nostrils; electrons and photons about to bombard my senses, thereby influencing my perceptions; the locations of countless bacteria in and on my body; the state of various ongoing biochemical processes, including the firing off of signals between nervous synapses, which would shape my consciousness and decision making, and so on, have been irreversibly set off a moment ago, perhaps down to the quantum level. How could the human will — whatever it means — freely interrupt this relentless cascade of events within a trillionth of a nanosecond?

 

If we trace the chain of events backward in time, moment by moment, a technique similar to integration in calculus, we’d go all the way back to the Big Bang and realise that every moment is intricately and inevitably linked to its precursor and successor. There’s no room for manipulation by artificial Freewill. Putting human existence into perspective, this seems entirely reasonable, to be expected in fact. Look at us in universal terms: We are but one of innumerable organisms (albeit the “top” one according to ourselves, subject to the kind permission of pathogens which could wipe us out) living on a mediocre planet no more impressive than a grain of sand amongst all the beaches on Earth. And that’s only within one scantly-known universe amid possibly infinite others, according to some theoretical physicists, and Buddha!

 

A common reaction to determinism is that without Freewill, life would lose “meaning”. This seems to me a fallacy. 

 

Firstly, those who despair losing “meaning” in a predetermined life can’t say what this “meaning” is. How can anyone lose something that he doesn’t know, cannot define, and has never seen or possessed? 

 

Secondly, many enjoyable things are clearly predetermined. When we relish a beautiful sunset, admiring the felicitous movement of a willow swaying in orange light, everything in that picture had been set in motion at the moment of Big Bang. The sunlight, the turbulent molecules exerting pressure on the leaves, have all travelled remarkable distances, through unknown aeons, to compose the enchanting scenery.

 

Another example. When we read a book or watch a movie, all the details have been fixed to the last comma. The exclusion of our Freewill doesn’t make it less interesting. Discovering a story moment by moment can still be fascinating if we pay attention. Perhaps that’s how we should deal with the story of our own existence?

 

However, regardless of my reasonable conjecture, my sense of having a defiant will inside has not diminished. Maybe I’ve been programmed to feel that way? More likely, there indeed is a potentially independent spirit in each of us, just that it’s carried by the overwhelming cosmic dance like a molecule in a waterfall, therefore not free. To free this will may require metaphysical efforts — efforts beyond the current realm of science. And I wonder what would happen to the rare individual who has succeeded in freeing his will. What impact can he possibly deliver to the big picture? My guess is none. Identifying our will, setting it free, getting out unnoticed, taking a one way trip to Nirvana is about the most that one can achieve.

 

Well, I better leave this boundless obscurity and return to the world of physics, where quantum mechanics has been making intriguing discoveries. If science needs to eliminate Freewill in order to move on, why not? It’s been largely redundant anyway.

  

量子物理學目前面對的問題與國際政治很相似。兩者都越來越 “違反常理”,與直覺 “現實” 不符,甚至不可思議。我們自以為知道得越多,就越糊塗。13年8月3號的“新科學家” (New Scientist)的一篇文章歸納得很好:現實,相對論,因果關係,和人的自主,四樣東西不能並存。要解決矛盾,必須否定其中一樣。但四個概念均被視為基本,要開除一個並不容易。

 

我卻認為答案很明顯:廢除自主!因為所謂自主,無非人類的自大幻覺。這點我在小說 「笙歌」(Man’s Last Song)也略略討論過。

 

信不信由你。我這結論其實頗有科學基礎,是按照微積分概念推斷出來的。

就讓我用這 “一剎那” 舉個例說明吧。不過一彈指間才六十剎那,略嫌太長,何不把 “一剎那” 隨便定為億萬萬分一秒,方便討論。

 

當前這一剎那,在物理世界是上一剎那的果,也是下一剎那的因。剎那與剎那之間,既然只有億萬萬分一秒,當然息息緊扣,因果相連。宇宙運行,一切如瀑流,不能阻擋,也不可能變卦。迎著我鼻孔衝的空氣微粒和份子;準備刺激五官的聲色香味;體內外數不盡的細胞和細菌的精確位置;五臟六腑,神經系統和腦袋各部門正在進行的生化活動等等,都會影響和決定我的主觀認知和感受,形成意識,構造思維,產生觀感,最後導致所謂 “個人決定”。這一切的外在內存因數,從一剎那演變到下一剎那之間,根本沒有空間容納所謂人為“自主”。

 

按照以上理解,用基本微積分概念逐剎那算歷史舊賬,可以一直算到宇宙大爆炸的一刻,也不會找到人類的 “自主” 空間。其實此乃意料中事。在我們身處這個神秘宇宙之中,人類不過是地球無數物種之一。雖然自稱萬物之靈,但不靈的時候多,也隨時可被看不見的細菌趕盡殺絕。而地球在宇宙中豪不出色,好比全球所有海灘河流里其中一粒不大不小顏色普通的沙粒而已。再者,無論物理和佛理,都說這個宇宙可能是無數宇宙中一員而已。在此無盡架構之中,夢想人類 “自主” 發揮作用,非但不合比例,簡直有些妄想。

 

很多人覺得沒有了“自主”,生命會失去意義。這個擔心似乎缺乏邏輯,也與日常所見有異。

 

首先,害怕失去 “生命意義” 的人,絕大部分說不出生命的意義為何。對一樣從未擁有,亦不知所以然的東西,又怎可以隨便報失呢?

 

第二,一般人對很多明顯 “高度注定” 的東西都很欣賞。美麗的日落,楊柳迎風搖曳,令人陶醉。風景中每一光環,每陣涼風,每塊樹葉,都是大自然當時的歷史結局,不會為觀賞者的主觀意願作出調整,卻很受大眾歡迎。

 

又大家看書看電影的時候,雖然故事已經完全敲定,卻不失趣味。假如我們能夠像看電影一樣,逐剎那發現情節,投入體驗,“毫無自主” 的人生也可能同樣精彩,甚至注定活出 “意義”。

 

不過說了一大堆自己覺得合理的夢話,心底卻依然感到有股 “自主” 力量,死不服氣!大概這感覺也是注定的吧。也可能萬法唯心,意志亦然。想把這份意念駕馭釋放,得靠形而上的修為功力,暫時不入科學範疇。況且,當罕有高人成功把心降服之後,他又可以發揮甚麼影響力呢?人心的自主,在浩瀚無邊的因果瀑流里,不外乎洪流中的一棵水分子而已。所以有道之士,最多也只能解脫,究竟涅槃,不可能改變因果循環。

 

還是回來看看物理世界面對的矛盾吧。既然 “自主” 概念如此討厭,阻礙科學發展,何不乾脆把它廢掉呢?反正在玄妙莫測的時空單元里,似乎沒有任何可以容納“人類自主”的間隙。

James Tam 2013.09.13 

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