Fibers of Life

Fibers-of-Life

I don’t know if this is an argument for or against a divine creator, but I think the following analogy identifies the human need to fabricate meaningful existence.

My old piano professor used to point at the music in front of me and ask, “what is this?” And I’d say “it’s music.” “No!” he exclaimed, “it’s ink on paper.” His point being that in order to make music I had to stop fixating on the page and start interpreting the ink as emotion achieved through sounds. Providing inspiration for human feeling from otherwise pointless symbols on a piece of paper is an abstract translation to carry out. Abstract, but not hard… I see my elementary piano students accomplish this through their joy at playing even the simplest songs. And it’s not just music. We all do this when we sympathize with the protagonist of an epic novel. The thing that amazes me is the power of understanding and biochemical reaction (emotion) resulting from basically nothing. Where does this come from?

Our developed brains have the ability to attribute meaning to symbols, and we have tools to reproduce those symbols which integrates this kind of recognition into our cultures. We have the capability to write and print books that we all can understand. Pair that with individual perspective on cultural views. In childhood development we are constantly provided example of appropriate reactions and justified understanding of the things we see. This allows the individual to be part of the whole. Each one of us are acting and reacting while understanding how our behaviors compare to those surrounding us. The last part of the equation, I believe (and the most mysterious), is animal instinct. I witness emotional effect in a wide variety of animals as responses to circumstantial understanding. A mouse shows feelings of relaxation and comfort upon returning to the safety of its den; a dog demonstrates remorse and guilt when being scolded for misbehavior, humans exude excitement and all other sorts of weird emotions at the prospect of love. So, there is no denying the existence of such a basic process. Something which may seem pointless from an outside perspective can have substantial comprehensive and emotional power to an appropriated observer.

Now, let’s consider the blink of human existence among the vast expanse of time and space that is our observable universe; a single species among millions of others contained on a single planet, whirling through space around a single star which spirals amidst hundreds of billions of other stars in our galaxy. That galaxy, of course, flying outward from an explosion of matter producing hundreds of billions of other galaxies in our universe which is probably only part of hundreds of billions of other universes in some inexplicable realm which we call the multi-verse. From that type of viewpoint, it is easy to toss up hands and reflect on how pointless human existence really is. Just the same, I can point at a single note on a page of sheet music and think, “so what? that is just a Db on the piano… it doesn’t mean more than that.” However, that one note is only one pitch in a chord of other notes played at the same time, performed in the blink of an eye amidst hundreds of other notes and chords which produce the performance of a piece by Frederic Chopin. That performance providing the performer and others listening with some truly powerful emotional response. Therefore, is that one Db played on the piano expendable in the performance of the piece as a whole? Possibly. What if the pianist made a mistake which was barely noticeable? But, does this also mean that one is pointless in its existence? Absolutely not, because it serves a purpose for the greater good.

Furthermore, imagine if that single Db had a conscious awareness of its surroundings. It would only be able to observe other notes being played at the same instant of its own existence. So, it would never achieve a complete understanding of its purpose in the grand design. Because humans go through this process of symbol recognition and emotional response with music, art and literature in our daily life, I think we inadvertently see ourselves as minuscule parts of a meaningful whole… The question to ask ourselves is this: did someone else create the meaning?

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