James Batcho, PhD | Age of Aquarium
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Age of Aquarium

CHIANG MAI. As much as I try to fight it, because it seems such a simplistic, convenient and contained worldview, I do subscribe to the aquarium theory of existence. This suggests that the limitations of reality (from consciousness to the cosmos) are somehow “observed” by a higher entity. We name this as God or various other spiritual traditions because we cannot understand it. All we can do is name.

I don’t like that I like this because it seems to necessitate a transcendence, something residing outside of the vast potentiality of experience. I’m a firm believer in immanence, even in the case of infinity. But maybe it’s not outside; perhaps we do access but we need to learn to listen in different ways. Really, the reason I subscribe to it because the concept of scale makes sense to me. I have wider field of awareness compared to the ant (so we presume), so why not continue the scale?

If this is the case, then intelligence and knowledge are probably best conceived not as being contained in the mind but are names for a force. The Greeks pondered this: a floating nous, a nonlinguistic and evolving logos, a Pythagorean harmony with dissonance, the grand apeiron. Such a force or power of knowledge is then conceivable as something like gravity, and it becomes a matter of degree and localization. Here the grain of rice falls to the floor in a highly localized event whereas the Earth moving around the sun is occurring on a broader scale. And on upwards. Why not knowledge too? Circles and rotations seem to be a familiar pattern of time, as is repetition with differences in each manifestation. The mind cycles and repeats, as do the planets.

I don’t pray to any entity beyond the immanence of nature. But I do give thanks in my own way. There are horrors, genocides and plagues, and at a more localized scale there is trauma, pain, torture. I don’t know why any of this has to be part of the process. But that’s because I don’t know. I’m a grain of rice, a grateful one at that. The thanks I give is for the little nudges that keep the aquarium from imploding completely—the poke of this twig here, the shift of the seashell there. I’m being metaphorical, of course; there may be no intervention at all. But I give thanks anyway. The lightbulb is still on; the electric bill is being paid. Whatever we may say about history and its disasters, about the futility of the anthropocene and the end of days, as of today the Earth remains a home.