Essays by Stan Tenen

Man Bites Dog
©1996 Stan Tenen

Click here to download the peer-reviewed version of this essay
published in B'Or HaTorah Vol. 14E

Science tells us that "It" comes from "Bit" -- that the world is based on information -- and that information is based on contrast.  We know that contrast attracts our attention.  And we know further that what catches our attention also engages our awareness and self-awareness.  Our awareness and our self-awareness enable us to decide how we shall act in response to what has attracted our attention. Thus, awareness and self-awareness are also driven by high contrast.

We are naturally curious about the unusual. The more unusual, the more interesting. Perhaps this is a product of our evolution where surprises - events that stand out in sharp contrast to the ordinary - are often threatening. We need to notice the wolf among the sheep because while the sheep are not threatening, the wolf may be.

Things and events that are unusual stand-out against a background formed of the ordinary and the usual. They attract our attention.

Anomaly is thus an attractor, perhaps the attractor, for consciousness. The greater the anomaly the greater the attraction. Thus the greatest anomaly in the world having the highest contrast with the ordinary will be the most effective attractor of our consciousness.

As Prof. Roger Penrose points out in The Emperor's New Mind, the source of highest contrast in our physical world is our hot, small sun in the cold, dark sky. Not only are all of the heavy elements needed for life produced in the nuclear furnaces of the stars, not only is our sun the source of the nuclear energy which warms our planet, not only is our sun the source of heat and electro-magnetism needed to drive physical processes in the solar system, but the hot, small sun against the cold, dark sky also provides us with the neg-entropic gradient - the information - needed for the self-organization of life.

While we receive energy as heat, light and electromagnetic radiation from the sun, neither we nor the Earth are net users of energy. We reradiate the energy we receive so as to maintain ourselves in energy equilibrium. If we did not, we would either heat up or cool down.

Professor Penrose has given us examples of the effects of high contrast at different levels of energy and information, and he has pointed out that it is not the energy, per se, but rather the neg-entropy, the information, we get from this high contrast, that enables life to self-organize and evolve. However, for our purposes Prof. Penrose does not go far enough. Since, as we are told, the neg-entropic gradient needed for the self-organization of life is due to the difference in entropy between the relatively organized visible photons coming from the hot, small sun and the relatively disorganized infra-red photons our plants (and planet) re-radiate into the cold, dark sky, we might then speculate about the effects of an even higher source of contrast.

We know that contrast attracts our attention. And we know further that what catches our attention also engages our awareness and self-awareness. Our awareness and our self-awareness enable us to decide how we will act in response to what has attracted our attention. Thus awareness and self-awareness are also driven by high contrast.

But what high contrast are we discussing? The physical sun provides the highest possible contrast against the sky. The sun attracts the plants’ attention because it nourishes the plants. At every level the principle of high contrast becomes more explicit. Instead of the nuclear furnace of any star, instead of even the energetic and neg-entropic gradient of our star against the sky, we need an even higher light to account for our self-awareness. We could account for the attractor that draws out and engages our attention, and our awareness, and entices our self-awareness to grow, by the discovery of an infinitely compact, infinitely distant, infinitely energetic and neg-entropic source - against a perfectly cold, dark sky. By definition, this ultimate, abstract idealization would provide infinite contrast.

If there were such an extreme contrast between exquisite singularity and all-encompassing wholeness, it alone would be the ultimate source and highest attractor of our awareness, our self-awareness, and our conscious will. What less infinite light could compete for our attention? We would look to this infinite-sun against the background of its infinite-sky for our spiritual growth from the physical plane just as a plant looks to the finite physical sun in its physical sky for its growth from the physical earth.

In the Five Books of Moses, there are two names for God. HaShem ("The Name" in Hebrew), also known as the Tetragrammaton (the "Name-Of-Four-Letters" in Greek), and often translated as "Lord", represents the most compact and Exquisitely Singular aspect of God, while Elokim, sometimes called the Five-Letter-Name (properly spelled with an h instead of a k), "God", represents the most expansive All-There-Is Whole aspect of God. The relationship between the complementary aspects of Exquisite Singularity and All-There-Is Wholeness is defined as infinite contrast. This highest contrast is also represented by the first letter, Bet (Bet = house, the distinction between inside and outside), of the Hebrew text of Genesis, from which the cosmos is said to unfold. In Kabbalah, the contrast of Absolute Unity in the context of Complete Wholeness is known as Tzim-tzum, "self-constriction," or compactness. In Kabbalah it is taught that creation continuously unfolds from the Tzim-tzum process. In this philosophical context, the undeniable existence of our personal awareness, our self-awareness and our conscious will directly infers (but, of course, cannot prove) the existence of a One-Whole Lord-God.


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