СодержаниеDelusion Generator → Часть 1

As my lunch hour blurred into afternoon, I had technically abandoned my job. I didn’t care. The time spent with this old man was worth it. I didn’t agree with everything he was saying, but my mind was more alive than it had been since I was a child. I felt like I had wakened on a strange planet where everything looked familiar but all the rules were different. He was a mystery, but by now I was getting used to his questions that came out of nowhere.

“Has anyone ever advised you to ‘be yourself’? ”

I said I’d heard that a lot.

“What does it mean to be yourself? ” he asked. “If it means to do what you think you ought to do, then you’re doing that already. If it means to act like you’re exempt from society’s influence, that’s the worst advice in the world; you would probably stop bathing and wearing clothes. The advice to ‘be yourself’ is obviously nonsense. But our brains accept this tripe as wisdom because it is more comfortable to believe we have a strategy for life than to believe we have no idea how to behave. ”

“You make it sound as though our brains are designed to trick us, ” I said.

“There is more information in one thimble of reality than can be understood by a galaxy of human brains. It is beyond the human brain to understand the world and its environment, so the brain compensates by creating simplified illusions that act as a replacement for understanding. When the illusions work well and the human who subscribes to the illusion survives, those illusions are passed to new generations.

“The human brain is a delusion generator. The delusions are fueled by arrogance—the arrogance that humans are the center of the world, that we alone are endowed with the magical properties of souls and morality and free will and love. We presume that an omnipotent God has a unique interest in our progress and activities while providing all the rest of creation for our playground. We believe that God—because he thinks the same way we do—must be more interested in our lives than in the rocks and trees and plants and animals. ”

“Well, I don’t think rocks would be very interesting to God, ” I said. “They just sit on the ground and erode. ”

“You think that way because you are unable to see the storm of activity at the rock’s molecular level or the level beneath that, and so on. And you are limited by your perception of time. If you watched a rock your entire life it would never look different. But if you were God and could observe the rock over fifteen billion years as though only a second had passed, the rock would be frantic with activity. It would be shrinking and growing and trading matter with its environment. Its molecules would travel the universe and become a partner to amazing things that we could never imagine. By contrast, the odd collection of molecules that make a human being will stay in that arrangement for less time than it takes the universe to blink. Our arrogance causes us to imagine special value in this temporary collection of molecules. Why do we perceive more spiritual value in the sum of our body parts than on any individual cell in our body? Why don’t we hold funerals when skin cells die? ”

“That wouldn’t be practical, ” I said. I wasn’t sure it was a question meant to be answered, but I wanted to show I was listening.

“Exactly, ” he agreed. “Practicality rules our perceptions. To survive, our tiny brains need to tame the blizzard of information that threatens to overwhelm us. Our perceptions are wondrously flexible, transforming our worldview automatically and continuously until we find safe harbor in a comfortable delusion.

“To a God not bound by the limits of human practicality, every tiny part of your body would be as action-packed and meaningful as the parts of any rock or tree or bug. And the sum of your parts that form the personality and life we find so special and amazing would seem neither special nor amazing to an omnipotent being.

“It is absurd to define God as omnipotent and then burden him with our own myopic view of the significance of human beings. What could possibly be interesting or important to a God that knows everything, can create anything, can destroy anything. The concept of ‘importance’ is a human one born out of our need to make choices for survival. An omnipotent being has no need to rank things. To God, nothing in the universe would be more interesting, more worthy, more useful, more threatening, or more important than anything else. ”

“I still think people are more important to God than animals and plants and dirt. I think that’s obvious, ” I argued.

“What is more important to a car, the steering wheel or the engine? ” he asked.

“The engine is more important because without an engine, there is no reason to steer, ” I reasoned.

“But unless you have both the engine and the steering wheel, the car is useless, isn’t it? ” he asked.

“Well, yes. I guess that’s true, ” I admitted.

“The steering wheel and the engine are of equal importance. It is a human impulse—composed of equal parts arrogance and instinct—to believe we can rank everything in our environment. Importance is not an intrinsic quality of the universe. It exists only in our delusion-filled minds. I can assure you that humans are not in any form or fashion more important than rocks or steering wheels or engines. ”


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