Some of us are quite sure of our uniqueness, while others are quite sure that nothing differentiates them from the crowd. But whatever you feel about yourself the vast majority of people I survey think that their feelings and experiences are inherently different from any and all other humans and beings.
Try it yourself — do you think that the happiness I feel is the same as the happiness you feel? Regardless of what causes the feeling, is it the same? If you say yes, they are the same, try and pump that intuition: is there a feeling that would not be the same between people? Love? Betrayal? Spirituality?
If you can get behind the idea that subjective experience is fundementally the same between humans (even if the specific details differ), do you think we share our experience and perception with bacterium? How about electrons? Or society as a conscious being?
If you agree that all things are the same, no need to read on. Here I will argue that there are two inherent perceptual forces that drive the behavior of all things, both animate and inanimate.
It is intuitive that living things, no matter how big or small, feel motivation and fulfillment. Many definitions of life rely on the concept that living things feel motivated to prolong their own existence and feel fulfilled when they extend this goal beyond the boundaries of their physical ‘selves’.
We can observe these two universal forces in many ways. Examples of motivation, or drives to maintain a ‘self’ through physical form, are shown through feeding, excreting, finding shelter, and resting to replenish and cleanse. Examples of fulfillment, or satisfaction at being a part of something bigger than an individual, include cooperating, communicating, procreating, and fighting to claim ownership (of places, things, other individuals, or groups).
From these examples we can see that motivation alone is meaningless in the long-term — being a successful individual is not sufficient to ensure continued success beyond your immediate boundaries (beyond your body, your life, your death). Similarly, fulfillment is not possible on its own — the existence of the individual is necessary to maintain something bigger than your ‘self’ (relationships, reproduction, society).
But what about inanimate things, like rocks, chairs, or electrons? By definition, no two rocks, chairs, or electrons occupy an identical space (otherwise they would be one chair, one rock, one electron. See ‘jootsing’ for how an electron can be a rock and a rock can be a chair). We can conceptualize these things (just like we do to living things) as individual objects because they have a boundary that separates their inner space from their environment, or self from non-self.
The inner space that defines these objects in relation to the external world is shaped by responses to a changing environment in the same way that our inner space is shaped by our behavior. We find it difficult to see this and empathize with rocks and chairs (although some people actually find it quite easy!!) because they react and adapt to their environments much, much more slowly than we do.
Despite this drastic difference in speed, inanimate ‘objects’ have the inherent perceptual forces of motivation and fulfillment in the same way that all ‘living’ things do. Motion, or energy emanating from all things, is evident at every scale and is what distinguishes objects as separate (it’s what prevents two electrons from occupying the same space) — motivation to maintain an individual ‘self.’ By definition, boundaries (even those of a rock) are an emergent phenomenon that arise from resistance to the dissolution of physical form — fulfillment at being a whole greater than your ‘self’.
These ideas are somewhat self-evident, but nevertheless, a plethora of converging sources tell us that everything is in constant motion. Even seemingly static things like stars, rocks, and trees are always moving, flowing, and adapting. Similarly, all things are clearly composed of smaller pieces, and themselves compose a larger whole. No matter where we look, up or down, big or small, each level is composed of, composes, and is connected to the levels ‘above and below’.
This is all well and good, but how is it functionally relevant to the life of a human reading this post? Well, eightstep me is a ‘self’ that accepts the universal, shared experience that is motivation and fulfillment.
It is a ‘me‘ that is motivated to be fulfilled and is fulfilled to be motivated.
By propelling your ‘self’ forward using this paradoxical bootstrapping you can ensure that you are in infinite, harmonic motion with the rest of the universe. The eightstep process allows for the expression of your ‘self’ as a unique, separate individual alongside the seemingly contradictory identification of ‘me‘ in relation to a greater, interconnected whole.
As Dr. Manhattan from the graphic novel ‘Watchman’ puts it: