The Ethics of Relativity

Thunder Bay, June 22, 2000

Yesterday was national Aboriginal (Autochtone) day, and another reminder, for me, of the congruency of native thought with relativity and quantum theory, ... a congruency which teaches one how to escape from the unnatural anxieties of linear time, and immerse ourselves in the volumetric harmonies of the space-time continuum.

One has to 'listen with the heart' to understand both the native ethics and the ethics of relativity and quantum duality. That is, our senses are bigger than our rationality, and rationality is simply not 'big enough' to understand, in full depth, the relativistic concept of 'whole-and-part codynamic. 'Rational understanding', in its most popular usage, is built upon explicit material-causal 'explanation'. On the other hand, 'relational understanding' (relativistic understanding), emerges implicitly from the geometric relationships amongsts 'things' ('things' do not have to be seen as 'material objects' but can also be seen as 'geometric features' of our containing space).

One can envisage the relativistic view by thinking of the image of the evolving shape of the earth's atmosphere (cloud and inter-cloud weather patterns) as seen from space. A coherent whole-and-part codynamic is evident around the globe. In mathematical terms, this atmospheric space is a 'finite and unbounded space' which means that the atmosphere 'interferes with itself' through 'reciprocal disposition'. That is, when one portion of the atmosphere moves, since any portion has a defined reciprocal, the 'shape' of the atmosphere is reciprocally effected (the simplistic 'euclidian' space convention does not account for 'reciprocal effects' since the euclidian convention assumes 'infinite' space). In the 'real world' we live in, the kinetic 'possibilities' of any constituent portion of atmospheric space are simultaneously, reciprocally effected by the 'kinetics' of any constituent portion of atmospheric space.

Material kinetics reciprocally co-determine the 'shape of space' - the 'topography of possibility which 'gates' material kinetics.

(i.e. The motions of the constituents of space reciprocally co-determine their containing landscape of motive possibility)

In other words, atmospheric space is a 'whole-and-part' unity in terms of its evolving, transforming codynamical relationships. It is not possible to change one part without simultaneously changing the implications (possibilities for movement) of all other parts of atmospheric space. In evolutionary biology, one might similarly say that 'the organism is the environment', and in social systems, films like 'It's a Wonderful Life' make manifest the interdependency between 'individual' and 'community' which are not accounted for by an accounting of the individual's properties and behaviors.

Relativistic relationships are not confined to ATMOSPHERIC space, but according to the general theory of relativity, apply to space in general. i.e. Space is a 'commons' wherein the 'usage' of space by one constituent effects the opportunity for all constituents in using it. The 'commons' view of space is not visible via mainstream scientific theory which uses the euclidian space convention since in euclidian space and absolute time, 'reciprocal disposition' effects between the material constituents of space and the 'shape' of their containing constituency (i.e. 'space') are undefinable.

If we seek to explain the local material-causal kinetics of the molecular constituents of the atmosphere, our inquiry is effectively in 'rational terms'. Such explanations will not inform us as to the transformation induced in the shape of the containing space (the landscape governing constituent movements) which evolves reciprocal to such kinetics.

This 'incompleteness' of rational explanation, in that it deals solely with material kinetics and ignores the relativistic, induced reciprocal transformation of 'the shape of space' (the geometric relationships amongst the constituents), puts a major 'blindspot' in the epistemology or 'means' of knowing how the world works.

Rational explanation has an epistemological blindspot. What is not accounted for in explicit rational explanation are the reciprocal effects (of what is being explained) on the space which contains the phenomena being explained. Intensifying the exhaustiveness and precision of rational inquiry and explanation does not touch the issue of induced transformation of the containing space (container- constituent- coevolution). Relativistically, the constituent (sub-system) is, at the same time, its containing space (there is reciprocity between space and matter), thus rational inquiry is radically incomplete in delivering an understanding of how the world works.

This epistemological 'blindspot', which comes from putting rational thought into the primacy over relational thought, characterizes the western culture. The western culture 'senses and responds' or 'manages' on the basis of material kinetics or 'action' out of the context of the induced reciprocal transformation of the space containing the actions. In social systems, this leads to a so-called 'win-lose' system, where we see ourselves doing wonderful things (on an individual or national level) out of the context of the fact that we are reciprocally strip-mining opportunity in the 'commons' of our containing space in the process of achieving these wonderful things, ... consuming the opportunities of other constituents of the commons to achieve our rational goals. It does not have to be like this.

Aboriginal ethics, (forgotten by many aboriginals), do not embody this 'epistemological blindspot' as western ethics do. Their 'relativistic ethics' encourage all people to consider the reciprocal effect of their actions on their containing space (e.g. to look at the effects of every action 'seven generations' forward, and to consider man as 'merely a strand in the web of life'). I am speaking here of the ethics of aboriginal tradition rather than the 'white redman ethics', a corrupted melange of aboriginal and western ethics.

Meanwhile, when the non-native looks at the ethics of native tradition or relativity in a 'rational' manner, he is looking through lenses which suffer from the aforementioned 'epistemological blindspot' and his visualization is reduced to the material-causal or 'kinetic' aspects, a radically incomplete, 'lower dimensional' form of understanding.

A familiar model which shows this 'duality' of informational content in physical systems can be seen in the game of pool. As the play continues and the configuration of balls evolves, this can be seen in the 'rational' terms of 'material cause', ... that the progress of the game is 'determined' by the shots made, ... how the balls are perturbed by the shots. Or, in relativistic mode, the game can be seen in the broader terms (terms which include the rational view but which go further) of the evolving configurational 'shape'.

The relational pattern information associated with the 'shape of space' is enriched by the notion that each constituent of space has, in effect, a unique and natural 'purpose', whether or not the constituent is an electron or a human being. That is, each constituent of space, uniquely 'centered' within its containing space-time, senses that it is immersed in a 'field', or 'possibility space' or 'landscape of opportunity' with respect to the forces of attraction and repulsion which co-develop between its internal sub-constituents and what is external to it (its containing space). It's purpose is to find 'inner-outer' dynamical equilibrium, a purpose uniquely co-determined by its reciprocal relationship with its containing space. This is the source of 'quantum duality' where each constituent (particle nature) of space can be seen in terms of its reciprocal relationship with space (its wave or 'relational interference' nature).

The containing 'field' or 'possibility space' is 'co-produced' by the constituent of space and its enveloping environment. The magnetized iron filing basks in a magnetic field which is partially of its own making and its movements in response to the field simultaneously change the immersing field.

The notion of 'reciprocity' between the containing space and the constituent makes a fundamental difference in how one perceives space and time and how one responds to one's containing world. As Marshall McLuhan says, it makes little difference whether a factory makes cornflakes or cadillacs ('making' being a material kinetic or 'rational' view), ... what 'really' matters is the reciprocal transformation induced by the 'factory kinetics' in the containing space (i.e. in the enveloping community and environment).

Explicit rational inquiry/explanation by itself is incomplete because it assumes the independence of the constituents of space from their containing space. Explicit rational inquiry/explanation ignores simultaneous reciprocal transformative effects on its containing space. Theory which explains how the world works at the level of atomic nuclei, ... which allows the construction of nuclear bombs, ... does not consider the transformation it induces in its containing space, yet this is the more profound aspect of 'understanding the way the world works'.

Mathematically, we can say that say that the relativistic view includes both the relational understanding (the induced transformation of the shape of space) and the 'rational' understanding. In the pool example, the wise player will 'manage shape' and allow his 'action management' (shot management) to be determined by his 'shape management'.

In essence, the wise pool player is using 'relativistic' inquiry and response which includes 'rational' inquiry and response as a special case subset, ... the case where the reciprocal interdependency between the constituents of space and the 'shape' of space are assumed to be zero. The fact that the wise pool player is 'managing opportunity' for multiple balls at the same time (on an evolutionary basis), instead of simply making 'smart shots' (on a transactional basis), ... an approach which may close down opportunity for other balls not involved in the kinetics, translates in the social sphere into a more harmonic form of social ethic, ... an ethic which appreciates, at the same time, 'independence and interdependence' of the constituents of space, e.g.;

"All the races and tribes in the world are like the different coloured flowers of one meadow. All are beautiful. As children of the Creator they must all be respected." ('Native Code of Ethics').

The native 'Creator' is not, as in western religious tradition 'from an abstract and perfect invisible world', ... the 'Creator' is, instead, our containing space. As Hyemeyohsts Storm says in 'Lightningbolt' (1994) discussing the spherical space symbolized by the medicine wheel;

"The Medicine Wheel is the shape of the Zero. The Zero is the symbol and fact of Creation. The Zero Chiefs say that the Zero is not nothing, but is instead Everything. All of Creation's Children were designed and born from the Sacred Zero, and exist as part of the Zero. All of Creation's Children exist as Numbers within the Medicine Wheel. This the Children's Count or the Earth's Count. In the beginning was WahKahn. She is the Creatress Mother and the Great Zero, the Womb that Births All of Existence. Within instantaneous being was born the SsKwan. He is the Creator Father, and is the Dividing of the Zero. Creation, the Zero, is perfectly balanced. The Zero is Female and Male, and has designed and birthed all of Life."

Relativity would have us see space-time as a continuum (i.e. a space-matter-reciprocal codynamic), in the same manner as atmospheric space is a space-time continuum as is evident from satellite imagery. Since relativity characterizes space mathematically, by the finite and unbounded surface of a sphere (i.e. think of the self-referential atmospheric weather patterns as seen from outer space), a perturbance by any constituent of 'spherical' space changes the pattern forever since the perturbance reciprocally induces further (evolutionary) transformation which will become part of the basis for all future atmospheric patterns. In other words, the co-dynamical reciprocity of material motion and induced transformation of spatial relationships continues on forever. Seen in terms of 'reference framing', the atmospheric patterning of space (the swirling atmospheric flows) is the reference framing for local perturbances which are, at the same time, constituents of space, and their own containing possibility (reference-framing) space. That is, the sandgrain is, at the same time, the dune landscape which opens up possibility of movement for the sandgrain and whose shape modulates its movement, and the apparently independent moving sandgrain which is reciprocally transforming the dune landscape.

While the 'rational' view leads to a focus on what the constituent is 'doing' out of the context of reciprocal induced effects, the 'relativistic' view involves a consciousness of how the constituent's actions induce transformation in its containing space (an effect whose influence goes on forever because it becomes part of the evolving reference framing).

Relativistic perception and inquiry associates with the observer's ability to 'tune-in' to the deep space-time continuum which is unbounded in space-time. The skilled pool player can come to understand the non-causal (in a linear-in-time sense) relationship between the evolving 'shape' of the configuration in terms of the opportunity for the constituents of the configuration, and the kinetic perturbations which induce transformation in the configuration. The skilled pool player is like a 'bodhisattva' of billiards, whose purpose has him decline his own entry into Nirvana and assist all other constituents of space to attain Nirvana before him.

Rational perception and inquiry deals with the observer's ability to understand how one can manipulate the structures of the immediate past so as to achieve the desired structures of the immediate future. The poor pool player understands how to mechanically manipulate the balls out of the context of the 'shape' of the configuration. He sees his purpose in terms of transactions which convert the existing or 'past' state of the system into a more favorable future state, as measured by the proportion of balls he has pocketed.

Rational perception, inquiry and explanation can be seen in terms of an approximation of our relativistic 'self-other' co-experience, ... an approximation which references continuing evolution of a system to a prior 'state', and gives rise to the 'discrete' concepts of 'choices', 'decisions', 'progress', 'improvement' etc., all of which imply the existence of a 'stable' backdrop of 'the way things are' against which we measure the trajectories of continuing material-causal transactions, and give rise to the notion of 'purification' or monotonic improvement, 'betterment' or 'optimization' of the system.

Seen in the light of relativity; i.e. 'space-matter reciprocity', this 'discretization' of space-time is an approximative abstraction since the reference frame IS, at the same time, the dynamical feature whose discretization is dependent upon the stasis of the reference frame. In reality, the feature is included in its containing environment rather than being excluded (detached, independent). For example, if we want to study the behaviour of a vortex in a turbulent river when we, the observer, are being carried along within the river-flow (i.e. when the observer is also a flow-feature), rational analysis would have us discretize the vortex with respect to an abstract inertial reference frame which, as Henri Poincaré notes, is not something which exists in nature but something we IMPOSE on the phenomelogical model. This discretized 'thing' which we have created, artificially liberated from reciprocal dependency with its containing space, is what we then proceed to breakdown into components and study.

Explicit rational perception, inquiry and explanation, and its discretized material concepts which in turn give rise to the linear notions of 'purification' and 'optimization', become the new approximative paradigm for developing generalized laws such as Newton's laws and all scientific laws based on mathematical equations based on relationships between dependent and independent variables. However, in our 'inclusive' relativistic reality, there are no 'independent variables', only relational features within the space-time whole, and however valuable and wonderful the tool of rational inquiry, it must be remembered that we have imposed this discretization on our rational paradigm, without which it could not exist, but we cannot impose it on Nature. All evidence and experience supports the theory of relativity and its thesis that there is reciprocity between space and matter. Space-matter reciprocity is evident in atmospheric phenomena and atmospherics are 'real world' phenomena. To insist on space-matter independence would amount to putting abstraction into the primacy over our real-world experience.

The imagery of atmospheric swirling or evolving billiards configuration 'shape', as seen by the skilled pool player, gives 'meaning' to the terms in relativity; 'space-time continuum' and 'curved space' (spherical space). The discretization-dependent notions of 'choice of alternatives', 'decisions', 'progress' (e.g. as measured by the number of balls sunk out of the context of how the 'shape' of configuration has been transformed) forces one to think of 'time' as an absolute, linearly progressing foundation of reality. However, if we regard ourselves as a feature of our containing space, as a vortex within a flow, then the codynamics of us as flow-feature and our simultaneously transforming containing flow is part of an 'inclusive' co-dynamic which enfolds the dynamics of our ancestors as it is enfolding our dynamics and will enfold the dynamics of our grandchildren.

This vision of change is one of a space-time continuum as in spherical atmospherics, .... a codynamic between space and its constituents which evolves in an inclusive fashion. When the mind engages with this 'evolutionary flow' type of development, it becomes fascinated with the 'shape' of things in space-time and how shape is reciprocally transformed via the kinetics of oneself and other constituents. When the skilled pool player steps up to the table after another player has perturbed the configuration, ... his mind engages with the evolving shape of the space-time patterns. This relaxed view of time wherein one is an immersed co-dynamically engaged constituent of the evolving flow-patterns of the 'space-time' is very different from the anxious and detached rational view of 'absolute time' which 'sees things' in terms of mechanically constructing a discretized future 'state' from a past 'state'.

To reiterate, thinking in the relativistic terms of a 'space-time continuum' or 'curved space' does not 'conflict' or take away anything from 'rational thinking', it simply extends thinking from local kinetic process to include the induced transformation effects of local kinetic process on the containing space. Rational thought, by comparison, can be seen to be radically 'incomplete' in being confined to local kinetic process.

Relativistically, the current moment in time is connected to all of space-time (i.e. think of the relationship between a current atmospheric storm, and the history and future of the atmospheric flow (which also connects with hydrospheric flow and lithospheric heat flow etc.). Rational thought, by contrast, sees the current moment as the mechanical connecting interval between two 'existential states', .... that which was and that which is about to be; i.e. rational thought sees each moment as 'local' (defined by the past and future on either flank) and independent of the whole of space-time, while relativistic thought sees each moment as connected to all of space-time, as the beating of a butterfly's wing in response to a gust of wind, is to all future gusts of wind and all future butteflies buffeted in the wind.

The drumming and chanting of the pow-wow in Thunder Bay, if one abandoned oneself to it, took you into the unbounded space-time of relativity, ... where you no longer consulted your pow-wow schedule, simply because you were no longer concerned with the existential state which just was, and the existential state just about to arrive. You were no longer referencing yourself to an inertial frame of your own abstract manufacture, and to the gearworks axis of 'absolute time', ... which Einstein and Infeld referred to as 'frightening ghosts' in their discussion of 'the evolution of physics';

"The equations of the new theory [relativity] are, from the formal point of view, more complicated, but their assumptions are, from the point of view of fundamental principles, much simpler. The two frightening ghosts, absolute time and an inertial system, have disappeared."

Similarly, when we are sailing on the oceans, we can use latitude and longitude as our reference, and clock our progress along a pre-planned course, ... this is the rational way. But we can also, as Henri Laborit observes, pull up our rudder and pull down the mainsail, demoting the courses plotted on our lat-long charts from their primacy, and sailing on the 'jib of purpose', ... referencing ourselves relativistically to the winds and currents of nature and the opening up of opportunity within that continuum rather than referencing ourselves to euclidian grids and absolute time.

This geometrical option as to what we put in the primacy; i.e. the rational pursuit of explicit goals referenced to inertially framed kinetics and absolute time, ... versus the relational pursuit of implicit opportunity referenced to the relavistic flow of our containing space-time, is ever present. When we are critically reviewing the Pow-wow program, we are in rational mode, and when we are absorbed into the rhythm of the tam-tams, we are in relational mode. In the latter mode, we have not abandoned our rationality, we have simply demoted it from the primacy to standby or 'support' status, ... but when we are in rational mode, we no longer have access to the depth and mystery of the space-time continuum as in relational mode.

The particulars of native tam-tamming and pow-wows is not the 'story' here, .... these are simply particular instances of a general geometry. We always have the option of leaving the anxious tensions of linear time, where our happiness is waiting for us 'over the horizon' and we must work for it, ... and abandoning our detachment to come home to our own 'inclusive' space-time continuum where 'happiness is the way'.

In achieving this 'deepening' of perceptual experience, we are like the sailor who accepts the winds and currents in which he is immersed and seeks to cultivate a harmonious codynamic with his containing environment.

His motive ethic is no longer based on movement from point A to point B in which he considers the natural enveloping forces which shift him off course or delay him in a negative light. He is no longer enslaved by Newton's first law, ... a law which remains in a position of primacy within mainstream science, and which denies the dynamical currents and winds in which one is immersed, ...."Every body persists in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it."

This ego-centric, anthropo-centric notion, the inertial framing foundation of mainstream science, which denies the natural dynamics of our containing space, and gives us artificial licence to refocus on our own 'independent' course oblivious to the dynamics we are immersed in, is what prevents us from accessing the deeper reality of the relativistic space-time continuum. It is also what brings on the anxieties of linear time in which we see ourselves as voyeurs detached from an objective reality 'out there' where our happiness and fulfillment is always 'over the horizon', ... a construction which will be finalized at some future time coordinate, rather than something 'in the moment'. In relativistic space-time, rather than coming from logical constructions built upon an fixed inertial foundation, we allow our thoughts and actions to 'flex' in such a manner as to keep us 'in the zone' of codynamical harmony with environmental dynamics.

The ethics of relativity transcend the ego-centric pseudo-reality of Newton's law, and instead, accept that the dynamics of our lives are relativistic co-dynamics with our containing environment. Relativistic ethics allow us, by allowing our actions to be shaped by the cultivation of opportunity for those around us as well as ourselves instead of clinging to the mechanics of 'our explicit course', .... to participate in sustaining the harmony of the constituency of environment with its constituents.

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