This is a very long and deep topic that I hope will raise some interest. I have been working on the module, but as this topic turned out so long, I will leave normal module updates for next week.
I considered the title, "What Inspires You?" for the blog this week, but hoped the one I finally chose may also inspire some discussion, as it is something that I thought builders of modules may have a shared interest in, even if it is only subconsciously. Outside links to different points raised are provided at the end of this post.
It was after I watched a Horizon programme, entitled "To Infinity and Beyond" that I was reminded of my own interest in the subject. For myself, coming from both a background of science and being a Christian, I look at this topic from different viewpoints - and if I haven't bored you already (and you forgive my reference to God now and then), I hope to share some of my own thoughts on the topic and would be interested to hear some of yours. However, if something else inspires you to write your mod, then do let me know that as well, as I am always interested in what drives fellow modders to write what they do.
The Complete Works Of Monkeyspeare
Some of you may already be familiar with the idea that given enough time and enough monkeys who would continuously tap away at a typewriter, that eventually, purely by chance, one of them would manage to type out the complete works of Shakespeare. So, if the universe is infinite, as many believe, then this idea, as crazy as it sounds, becomes a certainty. This idea can be extrapolated further to the point that eventually a monkey would manage to type out every word that has ever been written if Time is truly infinite.
The above assumes an eventual culmination of order of events that give forth a meaning. I then reasoned, using the same argument, that given enough time (infinity), it is not unreasonable to consider that something has to eventually come together in such an order that "random" actions are no longer random, but actually ordered in such a way to form consciousness. Indeed, on the face of it, it would appear I may be arguing the "evolution" theory, but I am not for reasons that will follow.
Nothing Is Perfect Forever
The above sub-title may appear straightforward when first read. However, it is actually ambiguous and its ambiguity is quite challenging. For instance, we could read it that we imply any "something" is always open to imperfection. However, it could also be read to mean that "nothing" is actually something that is perfect forever. It is saying that something is both perfect and imperfect at the same time, subject to its reader's interpretation. Why is this so important? I believe it is for two reasons: Firstly, if we believe God is perfect in everything He does (which the bible teaches), then the latter supports this point. Secondly, if nothing is actually "something", then I believe the idea of there being "nothing" is actually an illusion and a man-made interpretation of something that we cannot fathom or understand. In other words, there is no such thing as "nothing". While it is natural and correct for man to assume a duality in many things, in the subject of existence (and especially when considering infinity) there is no such thing as "nothing" as an opposite to "something". In other words, infinity exists beyond our own understanding of time and space.
Within The Mind
Even trying to grasp the concept of the infinite is mind-blowing. I consider that to try to think of infinity in some ways has to be a matter of continuous thought. Infinity is so alien to our thinking in terms of its size, that to think of it at all requires us to have an endless imagination - and in this sense, God has made us like this. In this sense, we have been made in His image (Genesis 1 v 5), in that we too have the ability to think in an unlimited time and space within our own minds. In everybody's ability to think and imagine, in this sense we also have the ability to perceive the infinite.
This is where we may find a modder can, perhaps, begin to have a common interest in the infinite, as every good modder must use and stretch their imagination into new thoughts and ideas to come up with a new adventure. In a much lesser way than God, they use their infinite mind to help create and develop an idea into a story, which hopefully becomes a module, in which other players can play and see the modders world come to life. It is an old cliché, but is quite true to say that DMs or mod builders are the "gods of their worlds".
This thought opens up another interesting pathway in our discussion of the infinite: Does the module we build, or the story we tell, ever genuinely have anything new or inspired? There is a belief that there are only so many fundamental origins for a story and that each "new" story is just another permutation of one of the fundamental stories with slight alterations. (If someone is able to find a source for this belief, please let me know and I will update this blog.) Even in the light of this "belief", I do not want to undermine the vision someone has of a creation within their mind's eye. For instance, it is often said that a sculptor will "see" the final statue they will eventually create in the rock they look at, even before they have sculpted it. The question I am trying to ask here is at what point does something become real? Is even a thought real?
The question of reality or what is considered reality is a difficult thing to grasp when considering the infinite. After all, what we consider reality in the fullness of infinity would be considered almost a "nothing" if we had not already come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as "nothing". However, if we consider our reality in the light of God, then we could say (with almost certainty in an infinite reality) that we are Within The Mind of God!
I want to take a step back for a moment and reiterate this point. The reason I believe we cannot understand, comprehend or imagine anything beyond the infinite is because we are incapable of understanding fully what God's intentions for us are. In the same way, one person cannot fathom the limits of vision of another person; it is impossible for any person to out-imagine another. In this sense, we are infinite! And if we believe something could be considered "real" by words alone, then we can also create a reality out of nothing actually physical by speaking a story. Consider any favourite story. For example, if I was to ask you who is it that swings through trees on vines, has a companion called Jane and lives in a jungle, I suspect most of you are able to call to mind Tarzan. Yet, Tarzan is a fictional character who we say "does not exist". My argument is that in the sense of the infinite, he does exist. We know he exists because we are able to think about him. He is a fictional creation.
Substance In The Design
If we can agree that something can be "real" in a person's mind's eye, but at this stage are in disagreement about the substance of reality, then let us also consider the following: If anything that is possible can happen in an infinite universe, then anything that we can imagine as possible should eventually become a reality. It may take an unimaginable period of time (or maybe a continuous thought on the infinite) before it happened, but what does that matter in an infinite universe? We know there is no such thing as "nothing" from both argument and just by looking around us. Therefore, the building blocks for everything that is potentially possible already exists, and is available from all the particles of energy there are in an infinite universe. And if one argues that that is impossible, then ask yourself how did we come into existence ourselves? The particles had to eventually come together in such a way to form us, whether by accident or design. My typing this and you reading it, and having the ability to say, "I think, therefore I am" is all the proof you need to acknowledge your own existence. The only alternative is to argue that we don't actually exist and that we are the result of one infinite course (of many infinite paths) that just happens to be able to maintain a span of coherent thought over many thousands of years to be able to acknowledge a history and an understanding of Time in the first place. However, whichever belief you have, the result is we do at least acknowledge that we are cognitive beings in one sense or another.
What About Destiny Then?
To answer this question, we also have to consider the argument of whether we have freewill or if everything is pre-destined? This is such a big topic, but I will try to comment on it in the light of the infinite and all that I have currently discussed. I would also like to use the analogy of a player playing in the module of a fellow builder. (I hope nobody takes offence at my analogy when referring to God in such a way.) Let me start by asking the question, "How much freewill does a player have inside a module?" I have discussed this before (as I am sure many of you have), but I hope that all will see that the answer is actually very little. The player is bound by the universe as created by the mod builder. If the builder had created only one area, then the player would be bound to that single area, with no choice about going to another place. In the same way, but with certainly more potential paths, God has created a universe in which we may move about (according to our abilities), but will eventually meet with the same end: death! In this sense, freewill is only an illusion subject to Time and a belief that we are in control of our own destiny. By saying this, I am not condoning we do nothing but sit back and wait for destiny to take its toll on us (although if that is one's destiny, it would happen anyway), but instead, asking one to recognise that we are subject to the laws (code) and limitations that the designer of the world has placed upon us.
One may argue that we have freewill to make choices during this time. To admit this, however, we also have to admit that we are more than a simple result of chance creation within the infinite. There comes a point in the argument when we have to decide whether everything we do is the result of a chance happening of existence as it runs its course with us in it, or we are existing within the design of some greater being, like God. If we believe it is all a matter of chance, then the same argument actually leaves no room for any real existence or manifest inspiration within ourselves. Chance creation would not leave any room for genuine creation of any thought. Everybody's thoughts would be existing on a "good luck run" of particles and energy just happening to flow in the right way for this existence of the universe to take place as we now live. The opposite argument, however, that we are the result of design, defends our own thought processes as being something more than a chance run. This argument says that our own thoughts are important as new design and that we are truly being creative just as we were first created.
Let me take this final point to ask a question using my "infinite" imagination to try to grasp some of the truly infinite, which we know is impossible, but is obviously destined to be: Where does all this lead to? Well, we can either believe we are following the path of chance, in which case, as I have already discussed, ones destiny is already set as your life is already following its path for this infinite road. Or, we can believe there is a God with a design in mind. Interestingly enough, however, this argument also points to a pre-destined road, with one exception: God is in control of your destiny rather than nobody.
If we believe an artist can perceive something before it is created, and we also believe God is an artist, then we can easily believe that God could have perceived us (made us real) in His mind (the Infinite) even before we were made substance (using the particles of energy that have always been - assuming there is no such thing as nothing). Life and existence is then God's creation bound by the laws He wants. In the process of its building to perfection, some parts will be forged into His design while other parts will be perfectly removed and discarded. In much the same way a story writer or a modder will rewrite some sections of their book or module to make it as "perfect" as they can, God does the same with His creation but to absolute perfection and without any possibility of error.
With infinity as His backdrop and eternity as His time schedule, every moment of life could be taking Him unimaginable amounts of time to work. Just because we perceive time as a constantly flowing thing, it does not mean that God has not rested many times during His continued design for us. Imagine the passing of time like watching a video that God is making. If we were the actors in the video only conscious of the story being told, then we would never be able to understand the idea of more time passing outside of us while God paused in His work (paused the video) and did more work before un-pausing the action for more of the life story to continue. To us, the actors inside the video, life would be continuously flowing, but to God, He may have taken an infinite amount of time to perfect one scene. (How many hours does creating a cutscene take to make compared to when it's played in the game?)
One Of Many
Throughout this blog I have been discussing only one infinite universe and one destiny. There are mathematical theories now, however, that suggest our infinite universe is just one of many. It suggests that there are an infinite number of infinite universes. When we consider this, then maybe we are reaching the limit of our imagination, because to suggest we are able to think about more than one infinite universe at a time almost becomes an absurdity if we consider our imagination to be like a single infinite process itself. What it does suggest, however, is that no matter how much we try to think about the infinite, we can never truly grasp what the infinite beyond us is, perhaps much in the same way we are unable to say when we have reached the limit of our own imagination.
My conclusion to all this, no matter what you believe, is that we are all subject to a permanent consciousness. Or, to put it another way, in an infinite universe, it is impossible to ever be in a state of permanent unconsciousness, as eventually, either by chance or by design (God), we will return to being conscious just as we are now. After all, it has happened once already! You are alive now! In an infinite universe, it can happen an infinite number of times, even to the point where you have retained memories. The extreme amount of time that passes between such manifestations of your consciousness will mean nothing more than a video on a brief pause when considering infinity. One minute you will be alive, the next minute dead, and in the blink of an eye, conscious again. You cannot ever be aware of being non-existent! You can only ever be conscious.
Now, if we are to assume the possibility of this in an infinite universe, it becomes a certainty. Only the existence of God will have any meaning to the result of a rebirth if it is part of His design. There is even the argument that God MUST exist in an infinite universe, which is, of course, my own belief. I don't think living eternally is ever in question if considered mathematically. The question is if there is any meaning to it all.
Some may argue that even universes eventually die or return to such a low energy state that they eventually cease to exist. Well, let us consider this in the first place, where traditional science has us believe in a "Big Bang Theory", and I stress that it is only a theory. Even in this theory, they suggest everything that exists today came from "nothing". As I started this debate, I do not believe it came from nothing, but came from God's Mind. The moment God thought about it, creation began. And no matter what you believe, it comes down to the same argument, if it can happen once, then it can happen again!
For those that have not yet seen The Matrix trilogy of films, then I recommend you do. They help you to imagine some of the things I am trying to say, and while I obviously do not subscribe to the fact that we are in a simulated reality created by sentient beings, I do sympathise with the overall concept of a reality designed by a greater sentient being for His own purpose. If we believe in the Bible, then we know the world (and universe) was created by God out of love. The greater part of the mystery of creation (once we die) we must wait and see, although I believe we are given an insight of what to expect through the Bible.
Horizon: Infinity & Beyond