Metaphysics. Metaphysics is the study that drew me to philosophy. I wanted to understand the mysteries of the Universe. I wanted to meet gods. I wanted to discover some secret law of physics that allowed me to will my body to be able to contain enough power to literally manifest any ounce of my will. I was dissatisfied with human life, and I wanted more- a lot more.
And then some thing happened. Well, first no thing happened, as in, I never developed magical powers or discovered some secret gate to the dream world. Then, after all of that disenchantment in the real world, after years of escapism and making a mockery of modern human living, I started to find value in it. I began to feel emotions, intense complex emotions about the real world, not just fantasies. It had to do with my expanding understanding and appreciation of love and science, but I think the more important factor was that I had become even more disappointed in my fantasies. They continually failed to deliver, and I started to let my dreams fade before they were properly encoded in memory after waking because the deep sense of meaning and belonging provided by certain dreams clashing with, well, the exact opposite was becoming too painful. It was like dwelling on a dead loved one. I had to let it all go.
Over a year ago my friend Jack and I were having a discussion about metaphysics and our disappointment:
johnny4playdub: I don’t know about manifestation, man. I don’t believe in it.
Feind.Shyft: I do, but- WITH SCIENCE- in like two hundred million years.
johnny4playdub: MATTER FABRICATORS DON’T COUNT, YOU DOUCHENOZZLE!
Feind.Shyft: What if they are implanted in to our brains?
johnny4playdub: We won’t be human anymore. I’m talking about in the now.
Feind.Shyft: Which is obviously not two hundred million years from now, yes.
johnny4playdub: Objective reality, man. Now. What is around us, not our imaginations. I’m training myself into the idea that imagination is only useful when used in harmony with the outside world. As in, work with my surroundings first, and when I reach an impasse use abstract thinking. I think I’ve been living my whole life in reverse.
Feind.Shyft: Fantasizing first and then trying to make reality comply?
johnny4playdub: Using abstract thinking as a base mode of living and then being fucking confused by everything that happens in the world. Yeah, basically.
Feind.Shyft: I know I’m guilty of that.
johnny4playdub: I mean, man, it’s been 23 years on this planet so far, and I’ve spent most of it inside of my fucking head. I don’t have much time left, and there’s an entire world out there to experience. I don’t have time for anxiety and depression anymore.
Feind.Shyft: Me neither.
johnny4playdub: NO MORE THINKING.
Feind.Shyft: Haha wait.
johnny4playdub: Hahahahaha! Over-thinking.
Feind.Shyft: No need to over-compensate. Yeah. Man, I miss metaphysics though. It was scary, but it was ours.
johnny4playdub: I’m fucking SICK of metaphysics. GO AWAY. Hahahaha!
Feind.Shyft: every time the conversations were over, and every one went home, the real world would be so much worse. It was like a cocoon to retreat in to where the Universe was ours to define, and it seemed so important that returning to the mundane felt near impossible the next day. This is why, yes, I am also sick of metaphysics. But it felt safe. It made me feel powerful. But ethics, now- ethics makes me actually powerful. To understand people is some thing we can use!
johnny4playdub: Metaphysics made me feel extremely weak.
johnny4playdub: That wasn’t a cocoon, it was a prison. I hated it. I hated thinking about it. It was exciting at first, and then it made me feel worthless, devoid of purpose. Those conversations were tough, and they left me drained. For me it was more begging to return to reality, because reality is simple, and has meaning, even if I don’t understand why that meaning is there. And I didn’t have to think about it. Just get drunk and party with my friends. I mean, having that knowledge has always been great for starting conversations with people, and seeming like the guy who’s both cool and intellectual, but the conversations with daily Joe never got much deeper than simple explanations, so it only served to make me more popular and I didn’t really have to expend the heaps of energy.
Feind.Shyft: Why’d you keep doing it, then?
johnny4playdub: Because I thought that there would eventually be a solution.
Feind.Shyft: A solution to what?
johnny4playdub: All of the problems.
Feind.Shyft: Ah. Yeah. Me too.
johnny4playdub: Like some kind of super basic observation on reality that unfolded into becoming the answer to every single problem that people have. That’s why unified theories in physics have always interested me. Anything really that attempts to define the building blocks, but it’s just increasingly more and more complicated. Never simple.
Feind.Shyft: Sadly, we only realized more trivial things, such as how no everlasting god would ever be so human. Great. We can debate more with religious people.
johnny4playdub: That kind of thing stopped interesting me, too, gods and what not. It’s too far removed from the basic reality that surrounds us.
Feind.Shyft: Honestly, I probably only still care for the sake of my story telling. Otherwise, I just want money and recognition and skills and love and discipline.
Jack now regularly expresses his deeper values concerning making a positive impact upon society, particularly by fighting against ignorance and destructive biases. I still feel positive nostalgia for those times, but I’ve realized that my purpose and my happiness are tied to this world, and can only be gained by functioning within this society. I still feel more at home within my stories than I do in real life, but I do feel at home in real life, and my emotions understand that they are just stories.
I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point I realized that real physics has taken the place of metaphysics. We don’t need to know whether gods exist, because we’ll be making them in a matter of decades. We don’t need to find new places full of wonder, because wonder is in us. We don’t need complex thought experiments to understand how the Universe works, because we can fucking measure it. I don’t remember when it happened, but I’m sure that I wasn’t able to submit to real physics until after I had shifted my investment in metaphysics from metaphysics to ethics and cognitive science. I don’t refer to my self as an agnostic any longer. I am an atheist through and through, and I understand that agnosticism is a bull shit oxymoron. I still love Multiple Personality Solipsism, but I am a full-blown skeptic and only believe in science and art (in their methods, not that every thing that they have to ‘say’ is true).
I understand that the sense of belonging to some invisible entity that I feel when listening to sentimental music is because the longing-for-companionship function is being triggered in my brain by conditioned chemical patterns. I understand that dreams feel more vibrant because the subconscious has a freedom that the waking self does not have, not because we have some secret tap in to extreme amounts of energy that fuels an impossible to evolve feature of our brains that can bring us to or even show us alternate Universes or what have you while we are sleeping. Sure. A god could have build this in to us deliberately and could be hiding some of the rules from us, but I know now that the only reason to believe this is because we are insecure and desperate to escape from our own inadequacy, our own ineptitude.
And there’s no need to day dream about magic and profound freedom, because one of these days we’re going to transcend humanity through nanotechnology and up loading. Teleportation, body-flight, telepathy and telekinesis, immortality, you name it! All of it will become normal, standard, mundane. And you won’t need to day dream about what ever is imagined to qualify as magic then either, because that reality will be just as awesome as this one, and this one is awesome, as long as you remember to look at it the right way.