The Eternity Paradox

You are either Eternal or not, but can never know which.

 

Eternal Clock by Robbert van der Steeg

 

You are either everything, or you are nothing. You are either Infinite, or you are not. Whether you are depends entirely upon the metaphysical realities governing your existence.

 

Ironically, because the Uncertainty Principle prohibits you from ever having any certainty with respect to your metaphysics, it also means that you can never have any certainty with respect to life after death. Not just within this universe, but within any universe within which you might reside. For example, even if there was life after this life, one could not guarantee that there would be life after the next life, or the one after that.

 

Just as no being can ever know if it only came into existence three seconds ago, so too can no being ever know if it isn’t going to randomly pop out of existence in another three seconds.

 

 

And of course, once you are dead, any concept of “knowing” that you are not infinite no longer has meaning.

 

 

This Paradox is significant, because it highlights the reality that the possibility of death is very real for all sentients. There is no sentient, including those that might like to think of themselves as gods, for whom the specter of death is removed. Irrespective of who you are, or how long you have lived, you can never know whether you are Infinite, or merely haven’t died yet.

 

While no being can ever know if it is Eternal, there is a price to pay whichever case may apply. For sentients that aren’t eternal, the price is oblivion. For those that are, the price is Omniscience. For those eternal beings that fail to move towards Omniscience, the price is ultimately a sort of deathless existence, where nothing new is contemplated and a sort of eternal stasis ensues, where stagnation is the inevitable result.

 

For many omniscience might seem like a small burden to pay. But omniscience doesn’t just mean knowing everything that there is to know. But knowledge isn’t just a simple listing of facts. If it were, encyclopedias would be sentient. Rather Omniscience entails experiencing everything that it is possible to experience. At the very least, Omniscience will entail experiencing the lives of every sentient that has ever lived on this planet, and potentially every sentient that has ever lived in the universe.

 

The reason for this is the nature of the Infinite. It is an understatement to say that it is gobsmackingly, overwhelmingly big. It is huge and to experience just a glimpse of just how huge is arguably to teeter on the brink of insanity. For the Eternal being a lifetime is irrelevant. Universes pop into existence, live for trillions of years, before fading away and this is an eyeblink. The Eternal being could live every possible permutation of our universe and still have not even begun to scratch the depths of their existence.

 

Because of the immensity of being eternal, the eternal being faces an interesting existential crisis. They need to keep themselves interested in life over an amazingly long span of time. While they could and most likely will engage in a whole range of activities that would to us be unfathomable, they still need to have a life that contains meaning and depth.

 

The exception to this would be if they sacrificed their capacity to remember, or if they lacked their sentience was limited. If the former, they could continually do the same thing over and over, while if the latter, they could live life entirely in the present, much like a dog, never worrying about the future, or the past. However, when I conceptualise a being as eternal, I am also conceptualising it as being able to remember and having the sentience to understand that it is eternal and the capacity to make the most of it.

 

A big problem faced by the eternal sentient will be finding tasks that are a suitable challenge to its nature (hint, they are going to be massive in scope…), and staving off boredom. This means that while they are likely to pursue a single goal for times that are beyond our fathoming, they will still need new and unique stimulation in order to keep their lives engaged and fresh. This search for the new is what leads an eternal sentient in the direction of omniscience. As they experience more, so they learn more and the longer they experience and learn, the closer they come to omniscience.

 

It is true that the Infinite comes in an infinitely large number of permutations. For example, if one contemplates a sequence of infinite numbers, it can be noted that the sequence of whole numbers above one (1,2,3, ect.) , is perhaps the most obvious way of “counting” to infinity. However there are an infinite number of other ways in which this could be done. For example, we could count only odd, or even numbers. We could use a rule, such as alternating between counting three numbers up and one down (3,2,5,4,7,6,9,8), or even something more esoteric, such as imposing a complex mathematical formula upon the numbers that we were counting. Of course, there is no need to rely exclusively on positive numbers, with it making just as much sense to count to “negative” Infinity.

 

But in order to examine the Infinite, we don’t even need to use whole numbers at all. For example, we could just as easily obtain an infinite number count using only the numbers found between zero and one (0.1, 0.11, 0.111, 0.1111, ect)

 

One not even need to count to infinity using a rule based mechanism at all. Assuming a truly random method of number generation, one could count to infinity in an infinite number of random ways.

 

In this way, when looking at the Infinite in this regard, it can be seen that there is no reason why a being couldn’t count to infinity in a manner that suits their preferences. In this context, the traditional, Omniscient God would be a being that had counted to infinity in all of the infinitely possible ways that this can be done. Twice.

 

We can see the act of counting to infinity, and the number of possible ways of doing so, as being a metaphor for a sentient living to infinity and the number of possible ways in which they could do so. Given this variety of ways, there is no reason why an Infinite being could not simply engage in experiences that they find to be rewarding and pleasant, while ignoring those that they would find distressing, or personally destructive.

 

For example, one infinite being could keep itself happily occupied by simply exploring every possible permutation of a single life (assuming that there are in fact an infinite number of possible permutations). Another could experience every sentient life from a particular universe. Yet a third could combine the two approaches, experiencing every possible permutation of every possible life in a particular universe. While this might seem a bit counter-intuitive, implying as it does that some “infinities” are larger than others, it can be understood intuitively by reference to the Symbol of Infinite Life. While there is an infinite amount of space outside of the symbol, there this doesn’t change if one simply expands into only a small arc rather than the entire space available.

 

It is here that we encounter the dark side of omniscience, namely the obvious truth that there are things that many sentients would probably not want to experience. A little bit of imagination will allow us to understand why a particular infinite being might seek to only explore a particular fraction of the full potential of the Infinite. Even if we look at the world around us, it will become apparent that there are many existences and experiences that most of us would not wish to experience under any circumstance. In many ways, the world in which we find ourselves and the human species in particular, seem primed for a dysfunctional and pained existence that only a madman would seek to experience.

 

So, just as one could count to infinity using only the even numbers (which we can equate to being “good”), so to could an infinite being spend its eternity exploring only “good” experiences and existences. The problem here though, is that one can put forward an excellent argument to say that it is precisely the evil in the world that creates the best opportunity for individuals to demonstrate the good. It is no coincidence that all good novels and stories have an underlying element of challenge, tragedy, or even downright evil. The protagonists find their true selves in confronting obstacles and overcoming difficulties. Just as any other sentient without challenge begins to stagnate, so to could one expect an Infinite being to experience similar decline.

 

Another difficulty for an infinite being engaged in rule based exploration of the Infinite is that after a while, it would probably be incredibly confining and limiting. They might quickly become trapped in an environment that was highly predictable and which rarely bought new experiences, joys or challenges. For most sentients repetitive behaviour becomes boring after a while. While there are some personalities that are orientated to the mindless tedium of repetition, it I would suggest that most Infinite beings would not seek this path, or if they did, it would only be for a limited period of time. Eventually, the call of new experience would draw such a being into new unexplored territories.

 

On the other hand, a purely random method of exploring the Infinite would be liable to land one in some very hot water, rather quickly. A totally random selection of experience would be like being a totally random character from a totally random book. Are you more likely to end up as the hero, of which there are few, or one of the more euphemistically described “plot devices”, who’s mangled, tortured body is included for dramatic effect?

 

But however an infinite being goes about exploring the Infinite, it is almost certain that they would seek to push the boundaries with what they know and that might very well take them to places that they’d really wish they never went.

 

Ultimately, this is the Curse of God. If it is the case that an Omniscient Deity does in fact exist, then this is a being that has by definition, experienced ever permutation of every logically possible reality and who has experienced horrors beyond our very comprehension. They have also experienced joys beyond our imagining, which raises the very valid question of whether one needs to experience the lows, in order to fully appreciate the highs. Unfortunately, while this is a question of Psychology, it is unanswerable, as it relates not to our psychology, but that of the Divine Mind.

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