The nature of the beast

Either we think through nature or nature thinks through us – either way, nature gains the power of thought.

Part 1: Dualities

Our presence in nature goes to show that there is more to reality than the unseeing and impersonal. Something has changed, and if that change is natural, then nature now forms a duality that is both sensible and insensible. In this duality the body retains its own needs and predilections, though like the ‘tame’ beast it can be pressed into the service of larger causes. Likewise, the dualities of change raise our schemes and intentions into powers and perversions under the influence of an emergent knowledge, or at least our version of it. We presume to identify truths, defend principles and know ourselves by espousing something that is no thing, something we see as all the more real for being more than us – whereby basic drives and noble values come to co-exist in us, and nature. Thus there is a paradox at the heart of nature: we know and so a part of nature knows, and it seems that all we know is owed to an erstwhile nature that knows nothing.

Part 2: Possibilities
We are a part of a nature that is in a process of change, in the act of becoming something more than it was. So it is possible to see evolution as something happening to nature. However, whilst it is patently obvious that thought has a presence in the universe, we are loathe to conclude that nature thinks through us, or even that will power makes a fundamental difference. Nonetheless, we introduce possibilities in the form of purposes, meanings, goals and designs that change the face of nature. Then, as a part of nature, we embody convergences of possibilities, each acting on the other and building into changes that extend the vital facts of nature into burgeoning faculties. And as nature comes to perceive itself though us, so self-perception elevates the natural into the realms of a super-nature – because nature doesn’t behave like that at its lower levels. Meanwhile, there remains the fact of what we were and still are – as animals contending with the dilemmas of our pleasures and pains. Typically, we crave food as much for the sake of pleasure as hunger, yet we make sacrifices and put ourselves under pressure to accomplish ends which place our basic needs and desires in conflict with our higher aspirations.
Part 3: Realities
In the bigger picture, the incongruous presence of personal existence in an impersonal universe is indicative of a convergence of possibilities with different natures. Thus nature changes through a series of ‘quantum shifts’ whilst losing nothing of what it was. So here we are. We look to the origins of the universe in terms of ambient possibilities of a different nature to the observable laws of physics, yet downplay the more obvious presence of animate possibilities acting upon the austere laws of nature. Nevertheless, something has obviously changed and the best example of this change is ourselves. We are both animal and animus, and the brain straddles this duality: being the insensible source of sentience, the impersonal seat of personality, the dark root of illumination, the blind cause of choice. And the mysteries of the body are eclipsed by yet deeper mysteries of the ‘known mind’ by which we presume to master ourselves, for it remains evident that the stark aloofness of our crowning glory in logic and reason can lead us to acts of wanton brutality that far surpass the savage nature of the beast. Paradoxically, our intellectual rowess is no surety against ourselves; and logic is not everything – for the nature of reality is such that we act through the auspices of other natures, binding our choices – and reason can serve any master.

Mike Laidler

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