Linear time is an entropic dimension – nothing ever happens in it, in other words (despite all appearances to the contrary). Linearity is always like this – it wouldn’t be linearity otherwise. Linearity means that the proportionalities originally inherent in the message (or in the position we started off from) have to be perfectly preserved, without any change at all being allowed to occur. When an un-programmed change occurs then this is non-linearity – something else has come into the picture, something that we didn’t expect, something that we don’t know anything about. A spanner has been thrown into the works, a random variable has gotten into the mix, and that means that we can’t predict what is going to happen next.
Entropy is a measure of the predictability of the message concerned and so when we are talking about linearity, predictability is at a maximum. If we think about this in terms of Fritjof Capra’s Two Paradigms, the two paradigms of ‘Self-Maintenance versus Self-Transcendence’, we can say that linearity, from the point of view of the Self-Maintenance paradigm, is ‘what it’s all about’. If we could eradicate non-linearity entirely then we absolutely would do; when our agenda is to ‘ensure the fidelity of the message that we are transmitting’ then keeping everything on strictly linear track is The Great Task. We could think for example of a religion’s dedication to its sacred dogma – the article of faith that can never be questioned. The ban the institution of the Church puts on questioning (which is what it refers to as heresy) is what ensures the perpetuation of the linearity – that’s how we pull the trick off. Uncritically accepting the message as it is presented is the greatest virtue there is, questioning it the greatest sin.
This is also of course how a machine works. A machine’s agenda is itself, so to speak – a machine is its function and its agenda is therefore to enact this function. A machine which couldn’t guarantee fidelity with regard to its allotted function wouldn’t be of any use to us at all – a can opener which doesn’t stay faithful to its agenda of opening cans is of no worth to us and we will get rid of it just as soon as we discover this failing. Its fate is to end up on the junk pile, along with all the other stuff that no longer carries out the job it was designed for. The paradigm of SM isn’t restricted just to messages that we want to transmit, religions that we must never change or question, or machines which must always stay faithful to their function – it’s actually a way of understanding everything (which is of course what the word ‘paradigm’ means). When we think about things in general therefore, we think in this particular way – we see successfully meeting our targets as being unconditionally good and missing them as being equally unconditionally bad.
An essential illustration of this is provided by our attitude to the ego or self-concept – our fundamental agenda in life is to faithfully perpetuate this fixed or defined idea that we have regarding who or what we are. No one ever questions this (or if they do, they are considered by everyone else involved to be in need of serious therapeutic intervention). The type of change we value is optimization, which means continuingly upping our game, continually improving our performance, continually honing our skills, and the thing about this type of change is of course that it is linear – it’s linear because we never ever question our core agenda. The more we get caught up in optimization, the less we’re able to reflect on whatever game it is that we are trying so hard to optimise – ‘How?’ drives out ‘Why?’, in other words.
The result of this is that we end up in a situation where we are very good at doing whatever it is we are supposed to be doing, but absolutely no good at all at knowing (or caring) why we are doing it – which is of course the hallmark of a machine! When we’re ‘all about the how’ then we are being controlled by ‘the how’ because ‘the how’ has to do with how effectively we can control the system, and our controlling of the system is really the system controlling us. To be living in the linear is to be controlled 100% of the time, therefore; There’s no freedom here – the only way freedom could come into the picture would be if we were to turn around and ‘question our agenda’, question our need to keep on doing whatever it is we’re doing. We have no possibility of questioning the system when we’re adapted to it because the system is its agenda. A linear system is the extension of the bias which it is founded upon and means that it itself is the bias; it itself is the bias and a bias can never disagree with itself. On the contrary, a bias (or rule) works by agreeing with itself.
We like being in a world that agrees with itself, we like it because of the consistency (or predictability) that comes with this situation. When a particular logical statement ‘agrees with itself’ then that’s the end of the matter; everything has been settled – everything has been sorted out once and for all. Agreement is a closed sort of thing, therefore – once everything has been agreed upon then there’s no further discussion! There’s no need for anything else to be said, no reason for any other point of view to be brought into play. To live in a world where everything has already been agreed upon is live in a world where no new way of looking at things will ever come up, but the thing about this is that ‘seeing things in a new way’ is the only way to see them! The world is always new, always fresh, and so if we’re looking at it in the old way – which is to say, the way we always look at it – then what we’re looking at isn’t the world at all but simply a mental projection. If we want to see the truth (as opposed to our ideas about what is or is not true) then we’d need to drop all our prejudices, all our opinions, all our preconceptions, but – very clearly – we’re in no hurry to do this.
In the linear world we can never escape our prejudices, our preconceptions – the whole thing is based on prejudice, the whole thing is nothing more than ‘one big preconception’. The linear world is a defined situation that gets tautologically extended on an indefinite basis. We can say that it’s ‘tautological’ because it’s stating the same thing over and over again whilst managing to create the impression that something new is being said. A simple geometrical point is being duplicated out repeatedly on an axis so that it gives rise to a straight line; the straight line (unlike a static point-location) seems to be leading somewhere, going somewhere – just like a long straight road heading off into the distance seems to be going somewhere. A straight line can’t be leading anywhere however because it is only ‘the same thing said over and over again’. Quantity cannot substitute for quality! A straight line, we might say, implicitly claims to be more than just a single geometrical point, it claims to be a very different thing from a mere ‘point location’ but it’s not different at all. Linear progression is a trick, pure and simple.
The nature of the trick – just to recap what we have been saying here – is that a system which is closed (because it can never go beyond its own premise or foundation) falsely represents itself as an open system, as a doorway that actually leads somewhere real. A geometrical point, by endlessly ‘copying itself out’, creates the illusion that it’s extension can somehow be more than the sum of all the parts. It gives the impression that that sum of all these multiplied points can somehow transcend the limited nature of the zero-dimensional geometrical point (the ‘limitation’ in question being that this point has no extension into actual reality). The thing about the GP (that no one can deny) is that everything about it has been 100% defined; there’s absolutely nothing about the GP that hasn’t been defined and what this means is that it is an abstraction – which is hardly a controversial thing to say. For the GP to partake in reality (rather than being a mere abstraction from it) it would have to be ‘fuzzy rather than defined’; but the thing about this of course is that there can be no such thing as such a thing as ‘a fuzzy geometrical point’ – that’s a contradiction in terms! If it is ‘delocalized’ then it can hardly be ‘localized’ at the same time…
Speaking in terms of Fritjof Capra’s Two Paradigms, we can say that we as a culture are all about Self-Maintenance, and entirely uninterested in Self-Transcendence; we’re not just ‘uninterested’ either – we consider anything that ‘devalues the self’ to be an utter and unmitigated disaster, an utter and unmitigated catastrophe. Why we should have this attitude isn’t hard to understand given that we are very much a ‘self-centric’ culture (which is to say, we’re all about endlessly celebrating the arbitrary identity, not transcending it). We are so one-sided in this regard that we have incurred the real disaster, the real catastrophe, which is that we have been translated wholesale into a dimension that is entirely illusory. Lots and lots of things might seem to be happening but they aren’t – there are no real possibilities in it at all. There seems to be actual content in the game we’re playing – which is why we’re so very serious about playing it – but there isn’t. The game requires us to bet all our money on obtaining the appearance of content that is being dangled so enticingly in front of our noses, but it never ever pays out. Samsara is the crookedest game there is, after all…