my stupid foot

John: The universe is alive, intelligent, aware, self-conscious and interested in what happens to me.

Joan: A cloud of gas is not alive. Cosmic rays are not intelligent. A lump of rock is not aware. Vacuum is not self-conscious. Spacetime doesn't give a fuck about what happens to you.

John: If you say so. But think of this: my foot is not conscious, right? But that doesn’t mean that I as a whole am not. You say a lump of rock is not aware. (I'm not so sure but let's say you're right.) Whether or not a particular lump of rock is or is not aware does not dictate whether the universe is or is not aware. I'm aware, and I am part of the universe. So at least part of the universe is aware, right? And there’s lots of things like me in the universe. Lots of things that are alive, intelligent, aware, self-conscious and interested in what happens to themself. Just like there is something in me that is intelligent, even though not every part of me is as intelligent as every other part.

Joan: But the fact that parts of the universe are alive doesn't mean that the whole of the universe is alive.

John: It depends on the perspective you adopt. It depends on where you're sitting, on who's counting and what's being counted. The gestalt. My foot is not smart, but I am. If my foot were to be amputated, it would not play a very good game of chess. The universe is at least as great if not greater than the sum of its parts, and some of those parts are alive. If you define the universe to be a particular lump of rock, then yes, the universe is not alive in the sense of the word we are using here and now. But if you define the universe to be a particular lump of rock plus a whole lot of other things as well--like ALL things, including alive things and smart things--then yes, the universe is alive and smart.

Joan: Thought-processing takes place in your brain. Not in your foot.

John: I'm not sure about that. No-one knows where consciousness lives. No-one so far has been able to define what life is, where exactly life lives, what being alive means, what being aware means. Even what 'mean' means. No-one knows what the self is, where exactly the self lives, what personhood is.

Joan: You're just playing with words.

John: Maybe. As the song goes, "it's only words, and words are all I have..." We may not know wherever or whatever consciousness is, but we can be sure that it is part of Everything That Is. We may not know what life is, or what the meaning and purpose of life is, but we do know that life is part of Everything That Is. We can be sure that the meaning and purpose of life are to be found within the set of all meanings and all purposes, which in turn is part of the universal set, Everything That Is.

Joan: So I'm a man, and my breasts and vagina are just an illusion?

John: Great balls of snot, how do you arrive at that conclusion? Prithee explain.

Joan: Well, according to your logic, there are men in the universe. I am part of the universe. Therefore I am a man.

John: No, no, no, no. You've got it all wrong. It's not about you. Or me. Or anything specific to itself. Here's the correct logic: You are a woman. You are part of the universe. Therefore the universe has femininity; females and femininity exist within the universe. The universe also has masculinity. Therefore you are part of something that contains masculinity. On your own, standalone, you are a woman not a man. That's a small and limited perspective. If you adopt a bigger, unlimited perspective, you share in the masculinity that is part of the universe.

Here's an example: You are part of a football team that wins a match by scoring more goals than the other team. You don't score any goals; your team's star player scores all the goals. But you nevertheless participate in goal-scoring by virtue of being part of the winning team. Thanks to the win, your team advances to the next round of the tournament. You are selected to play in the next match. The implication is that you partake of the outcomes of the goal-scoring in the previous match, even though you yourself were not a goal-scorer.

And by the way, let's not use the word universe to describe the greatest gestalt of all. There may be other universes, which defeats the purpose of having a word such as 'universe'. Nor is the word 'reality' sufficiently big for our purposes. Nope. There's only one label that will do the trick, one signifier, and that is 'Everything That Is', or ETI for short. ETI is everything that is, was, will be, could be, has been, might be, and then some.

Joan: But what keeps it all together? Who says we're all one? What binds it up into this great gestalt of yours?

John: Aha! The Binding Problem. But that dialogue is for another day.