There is a unique beauty about the universe found through knowing the physical laws which govern it. These laws can be proved through mathematics and, for the most part, remain eternal. Although ultimate knowledge may elude us; the consistency of mechanics perseveres, the constancy of the universe yet continues. Observing patterns and relationships has fascinated humans since the beginning of our existence. This innate curiosity has led us to a deeper understanding of how the cosmos works, as well as our own microcosms. Through theorizing, empirical investigation, and mathematical proof– laws and constants can be derived. A scientific theory or law must fulfill basic criteria: it must be hypothesized, experimentally tested, falsifiable, repeatable, and imply some sort of causality. This method allows us to understand the clockwork of the matter and motion surrounding us, giving rise to our experience. Although the physical sciences are known for technicality and rigor, there is a romantic aspect which comes with its aesthetic appreciation. The tenant of repeatability is, for me, a supremely beautiful concept. The most pedantic explanation of this is that when something is tested under exact experimental conditions, if the same method of investigation is used, the same causality will ensue, regardless of time. It may not seem so interesting at first, but when one realizes another implication of this– that this replicability stands for any observer. This leaves me in awe.
It has always concerned me that all humans conceive reality differently. Every human has a unique brain; a unique structure of sensing. The idea that someone will look at the same exact thing as me, but experience it differently frightens me. The diversity of subjective experience is something many have tried to understand. Psychologists use archetypes, artists try to convey themselves through expression, and the physical sciences attempt to reduce our condition and functioning to materialism. I find the physical approach to be most enlightening; not just in analyzing our own inner workings, but also that which is outside of us. I take solace in knowing that there are universal physical laws– independent of experience– constituting everyone’s reality. Everyone operates under these laws the same. One might consider laws, geometry, and mathematics to be universal truths. This universality is basic to science, and it unites us as humans.
I have only recently adopted this outlook. My personal experience with the sciences, and the educational system for that matter, has been a turbulent one. I was raised under an anti-intellectual roof. I was told that many educators were undercover soviets out to indoctrinate students into the liberal agenda: an attempt to destroy religion, capitalism, and the “American Family”. Scientists were the epitome of red. My freshman year, at a private Christian high school in the South, my Biology teacher preached to us for two lectures that Darwin was a heathen. Climate denial was ingrained in me. Environmentalists existed solely to burden corporations. Anything that contradicted my fundamentalism and nationalism was a manufactured lie. I was taught to only trust the divine. I grew up believing that deception surrounded me– naturally I became distrustful of all institutions. Ironically, it was this distrust that eventually led me to realize that all perspectives and beliefs are fueled by paradigmatic dogma, even my own. This severe skepticism dampened my education in some respects, but inquisitiveness persevered in me like a child’s, informing me of my own extremism. The idea that I had been raised a conspiracy theorist burgeoned. I decided to seek personal authenticity away from the influences of my upbringing. I began exploring interests independent of school; reading whatever caught my interest, neglecting my schoolwork.
My self-education brought me down a path I would have never considered before. My curiosity brought me to wonder how the God I believed in could somehow pause all of the motions of the universe to divinely intervene. I argued against myself by reasoning that He could deterministically plan to intervene, validating His omniscience. What effect would this have on free will? Is it fair to judge one’s faith and morals if individual circumstances inhibit finding the “right belief”. Arguments spun through my head; I tried to find my center. My skepticism led me to lose faith and I collapsed into an existential crisis. I struggled to find a way to understand the meaning of existence without a Creator. I was suddenly aware of chaos without meaning. Where could I find order? I became very depressed and dropped out of school. I was so overcome with angst; all I could wish was to escape my new self. I had become one who had bitten into the forbidden fruit. Knowledge felt like a burden. I wanted to find something independent of myself to escape suffering. I began surrounding myself with philosophy since I had nothing else to do. I wanted to understand what makes up experience. I wanted to find something outside of myself. I wanted to find reality.
So, I’d listen to philosophical round tables. Philosophers would debate their ontologies and metaphysics, and I would tilt my head back and sigh—I see merit in anyone’s arguments. Then one day, I heard a mathematician explaining Mathematical Platonism. He believed that geometric forms and math are abstract and exist independently of experience. This idea struck me. Here was something universal. I was also influenced by Spinozism. The pantheistic aspect affected me ephemerally; I soon became agnostic. However, I was absorbed by his related idea of “Infinite Substance”. I considered the entirety of the universe for the first time since I was a child. I wanted to understand it. I had finally found something both outside of myself, but that also included me. I became a part of something much larger. For once in my life, I realized that I was not unique in the experience of living; even if my experience was unique. It changed me. Everyone’s experience is determined by physical impulses traveling through unique structures of our brains. A nascent physicalism flourished in me– Of course it should make sense that everything should be described through materialism! What else could there be? My suffering seemed both trivial and explainable– I soon forgot about it. I took these commitments, along with my newly formed naturalism, seriously. I still feared chaos. I decided if there is a way to find structure it must be through the laws of nature. If I could predict a system, and it unfolded as I would expect, there would be order. This settled my angst and I felt at rest.
It has been just a little over two years since I went through my metamorphosis. I’ve become exactly who I started out thinking was the evil in society. I currently dream of becoming an academic; joining the exact institution I was raised to hate. Going from being completely egocentric to exploring myself as a microcosm, I have found myself interested in the inanimate and universal. I am constantly stirred by physicalism: the unification between sensation and stimuli; the causality between action and reaction; the way an abstract model can describe physical laws and interactions that give rise to phenomena. I am still very much a skeptic. As much as I appreciate the method and explanatory powers of science; I know that it does not explain everything. We are, certainly for now –and possibly ultimately– limited in approaching absolute knowledge. There is always more to be known; always more to be learned; and like the universe, always room to grow into. This drives my current outlook and shapes who I am. I’m no longer overwhelmed by chasing after meaning. I have allowed myself to become completely inundated by the beauty surrounding me; exploring nature physically and abstractly. Independence, skepticism, and inquisitiveness have all lead me to evolve into the person I am today- and I can’t imagine anything more powerful. Being open to new ideas and alternative perspectives makes for a wider outlook, allowing you to observe differently than before. In order to expand as an individual one must be influenced by an impetus, an external force, can be found through new experience. This impulse guides us through paths yet to be discovered. We have control over what we surround and stimulate ourselves with. The cognizance of the ability to exercise this control is liberating, and I believe it to be a realization essential to human progress by leading to authentic living. I have found balance through seeking order in disorder; I am guided by the knowledge and laws behind me, and I look forward to the unknowns and uncertainty that ahead of me.