Questions
by Ryszard Cichy

A mind “presents” the World to us.

Expressionless physical phenomena registered by our receptors are “presented” to us by the mind in colourful and varied form. It creates for us, as it were, a spectacle. It is something like a director and stage designer all in one.

What, for example, is temperature? It is only the energy state of an object. The mind, however, “presents” this state to us in the form of cold or hot sensations. Electromagnetic waves registered by our eyes, the mind “presents” in the form of a three-dimensional and colourful image. Quivers of air it presents as sounds, and the force of the earth’s gravity as weight.

The world as each of us experiences is a creation of our brain and there are as many of these Worlds as there are directors (brains).

It is this director who, on the basis of the same “text” (the same objective information) creates a different spectacle for each of us. For some their brain creates a colourful World, for others not so. For some it presents the people around as enemies, for others as friends. The former either avoid their neighbours or fight with them. Some their brains instruct to admire things or people which for others are repulsive or indifferent.

All the unpleasant things we experience are also produced by it.

Pain does not exist. It is the brain which creates such a sensation.

It is odd why we have been fitted out with the ability to experience this on such a scale. Would it not be enough for us to pick it up only as a weak signal when we are ill, when something bad is happening? As if a slight irritation? Whereas pain can be so intense that it becomes unbearable torture, upsets the organism more than the illness itself.

Since this is a subjective feeling, everybody takes it differently. Some take it harder, others less so. Just as if we had been “calibrated”.

Nowadays, the problem of pain is somewhat lesser. We have medication to relieve it. For thousands of years, however, millions of people experienced it severely. Why did they suffer so? And even today it is only human beings who profit from these remedies. At every moment there are billions of other beings experiencing pain without any chance of alleviating it. Why?

The scale of pain is rooted in us.

Could it be changed?

Some people preach that sinners will pay in hell. Let us imagine hell exists and that what we feel on Earth as a simple touch will “there” be felt as immense, unbearable pain. With such a shift in the “scale” of pain the unfortunate person sick with cancer would suffer incredible tortures there!

I complain that the Creator has “equipped” us with the possibility of experiencing severe pain.

But should we not be grateful that he has equipped us with only such pain?

Could it be worse?

The rules and principles by which we abide are also a product of our minds. I am thinking about moral, ethical principles. Some of them have been set down in writing but many are followed even though they have never been set down anywhere and their infringement does not entail any sanctions. Statistically, human beings follow fixed rules. Some of us do so very rigorously, others less so. All rules boil down to a few fundamental principles: do not kill (only an individual of the same species, of course), do not steal (anything belonging to an individual of the same species, because taking honey from a beehive is no theft), do not abuse (a human being, of course, because to harness a horse against its will and use it as a haulage animal is not abuse).

These principles, therefore, can be reduced to one, single rule: do no harm to any individual of your own species.

Is this a result of our reflections?

Most of us understand that to behave in such as way as to violate this fundamental principle brings more harm than good. We know that if we were all to steal and cheat, no team-work whatsoever would be possible within society, and yet all humanity’s achievements are a result of people collaborating, sharing knowledge and experience.

Observing certain animals, leads to the conclusion that they, too, apply this same principle of behaviour towards representatives of their own species - do no harm to other individuals of their species.

Is, therefore, our behaviour based on “doing no harm” to other people, a consequence of our thoughts?

Have not those species whose members harmed each other and did not co-operate with each other died out in the process of evolution?

Is behaviour consistent with fundamental moral and ethical rules not a result of records held in our genes?

Adhering to rules makes it much easier to live with each other. I recall an amusing novel where an author describes family life in the country dozens of years ago. Every member of the family left whatever tool they were using (a scythe, a broom) exactly where they had stopped working and did not return it to its rightful place although such a place had been designated (a rule had been set down). The next person needing the broom had to go and look for it, spending a good part of the day doing so. Of course, that person, too, in their anger left the broom where they had stopped their work.

The brain (mind) shows each of us a world based on information which reaches it and which it remembers. It has, therefore, a memory. The necessity to remember is connected to the passage of time. If time did not exist, a memory would be unnecessary.

If we were not able to remember facts and actions, each day we would have to learn how to walk, fasten our buttons, or write. That much is obvious. Moreover, without the ability to remember we would not be able to understand the information passed on to us. If we see a sign-post on the road, the information it contains reaches us in an instant. It is a different matter with information passed on in writing or by word of mouth. From the moment we start reading each sentence to the moment we finish, a certain amount of time has elapsed. This activity, therefore, extends through time. In order to understand the meaning of such a sentence we have to link the words at the beginning of the sentence to those at the end. We have, therefore, to remember those which came first.

Scientists are trying to examine the brain. Apparently A. Einstein’s brain has even been dissected into tiny pieces in the hope of penetrating the mystery of his genius. To say nothing of the total lack of respect for this man’s body, what was being examined was, in fact, the brain of an elderly gentleman. The phenomenon of genius should probably be examined at the moment it strikes. I’m not, of course, suggesting that scientists should be put to death at the very moment they are developing a brilliant theory. Besides, would this be possible? How often do we appreciate somebody’s genius long, long after they are dead!

It is probably also the brain which gives us the feeling of pleasure accompanying certain activities. The mechanism of expelling all fluids from our bodies is probably similar. But eliminating some fluids, for example urine, leaves us feeling indifferent whereas eliminating others (sperm) is pleasant.

A food we eat, for example a tomato, is tasty only to us. Its “taste” is indifferent not only to carnivorous animals but also to the rest of the Universe – trees, water and other matter.

Living beings accommodate everything to “comply with their wishes”, satisfy the pleasures generated by their brain.

Many of us devote a good part of our day to construe and prepare various meals so as to enjoy the pleasure of taste at least for a moment and spend the rest of the day talking about food and drink (types of wine, beer and so on). Others go to concerts or listen to music over their earphones. Still others devote themselves to those who suffer, and find pleasure in caring for the sick or disabled.

Each of us pursues that what gives us pleasure. We desire friendship, love, appreciation, praise, sexual ecstasy.

We are “guided” by forces, similar to those guiding the individual particles, which dictate how we are to behave. They reside within us and appear when they want to, not when we want them to. These are the instincts encoded in us.

They make the brain first “generate” impressions, pleasures, in us and then, when we have experienced this, desire to experience it again.

The pleasure we felt grows into a necessity. We need to experience it again. Then this same brain passes on to us various methods (ways) of satisfying the needs it has generated in us! There is something of manipulation in all this.

Though maybe it is not the brain which is “creating” the feelings we experience?

Where does this question spring from? I saw a film showing millions of male sperm which, during the many hours of their tiring journey, strive to get to an egg in order to fertilise it. They move forward propelling themselves with a thin vibraculum. What pushes them along? What force?

Does the one sperm which manages to penetrate the egg “feel” any physical pleasure in doing so, some sort of satisfaction at attaining its goal?

If a sperm which does not have a brain or nerve cells, “experiences” some sort of “feelings”, it would mean that it is not necessarily the brain which “produces” the experiences a human being feels.

But how would this work?

Some of our needs are, on the whole, constant - like the need to dominate, which people who strive to rule others experience, the need to own, which those who aim to earn money reveal, or the curiosity which characterises scientists, discoverers and travellers. “Possessing” these needs is probably what differentiates people the most and makes them have the characters they do and behave in their different ways.

Each of us is constantly thinking about our needs and these needs change according to the period of our lives or even time of day. It is like in an automatic washing-machine which runs its programme (washing, rinsing, spinning). At puberty a need arises to be with members of the opposite sex and the mind immediately starts to produce the appropriate thoughts, plans dates, suggests ways in which an eventual partner might take an interest in you. In adulthood, the thoughts of a mature human being also change; they think about ways of securing the most favourable conditions for themselves and their family.

Why do we think precisely in this way and not another?

Do only needs cause the “production” of thoughts?

Has the mind been created only to satisfy needs which are programmed in us?

If there were no needs, would the mind produce any thoughts?

If needs did not exist would the existence of a mind be aimless?

Or would perhaps the mind, deprived of the need to “work” at finding ways to satisfy needs, produce “other” kinds of thought, inaccessible to us now?

These questions, in fact, come down to the question of the role played by the mind in the human body, of man’s range of freedom, this being understood as the possibility of conscious control over behaviour and instincts.

Does the mind play a certain superior role in every organism, or is its role just the same as that of any other organ?

In satisfying hunger, various organs come into play. The mind indicates the most effective way to satisfy this need; hands pass on the food and jaws chew it. The mind and other organs working together to achieve the same goal, appear equal to each other. If any of them did not work, the need would not be satisfied. For example, if there were no jaws the food would not be broken up.

What is interesting is that the way one thinks also depends on what one eats. The brain, after all, functions differently after consuming alcohol and scientists claim that some chemical compounds found in food increase the level of one’s trust or decrease aggression.

Some needs and instincts appear incomprehensible.

The need to kill is not clear. Wars of the past where millions of people died seem senseless. Why do we, as a species, like violence, power and killing?

Rapacity and predators fascinate many of us, which is why nature films usually show the lives of lions, tigers and crocodiles. The life (and fate) of a hare or deer is not interesting.

The instincts encoded in us dominate our minds as cool advisors. A mathematical mind would probably have prompted to Adolf Hitler that he would not win the war he had started.

But would individuals equipped with only a mathematical mind and lacking needs or those whose cool mind “defeated” their instincts be able to do anything at all?

In all probability such a “free” human being would not be able to reproduce since, not experiencing any pleasure in relations with members of the opposite sex, they would not seek any contact.

We do not know whether such a person would wage wars, or build pyramids, temples and palaces, or amass material goods.

Would they be motivated to work and earn money if they had no joy in spending it?

Would they have any “desire” to live at all?

Would even the most intelligent individuals, if they lacked any needs, be able to do anything whatsoever and exist independently?

Would such individuals not be soulless mechanisms capable of performing a series of functions which would have to be motivated and guided by other people?

Is it precisely instincts (the need for love, the desire to dominate and the competition – and maybe even the need to kill connected with it - or the desire for beauty) which instigate changes in the World of living beings?

Would depriving living beings of instincts lead to Life dying out?

Could it be that it is not matter itself but forces – those of a purely physical nature as well as those which, in living beings, we call instincts – that decide about the existence of the Universe and its form?

We are guided by yet another, particular need. We are attracted by beauty. Our minds “tell us” to surround ourselves with things or people which we consider pretty or beautiful.

What is this phenomenon we call beauty?

Why have we been provided with the need (desire) to be in the presence of beauty?

Many of us work hard merely to earn money to buy a car we think is beautiful although, apart from that one aspect, it does not differ in any way from other cars or may even be worse. We buy a cup which we like instead of one which is far more practical. We put a lot of effort into moving furniture around or painting the walls a different colour or into finding “these” shoes and not some others in the shops. In all appearances this effort seems a senseless waste of energy. Whether the table stands on the right or the left side of the room - as long as it serves its purpose – it is all the same. If both “these” shoes as well as others are just as comfortable, why chase around the shops?

The same mechanism applies to our choice of friends, lovers or spouses. Most people who get married decide to do so on the basis of how they appraise their partner and the most significant criterion is only one quality - good looks.

People enraptured by the beauty of their partner are prepared to sacrifice a great deal for a person who was a stranger to them before, for example, help them out in hardship or look after them in sickness.

The choice of two individuals based on the criterion of beauty seems contrary to the principles of common sense. With the aim of preserving the species, a man, for example, when looking for a partner ought to be guided by such criteria as whether a woman is hardworking, responsible or healthy. Whereas most men choose, without any sense whatsoever it would seem, a person whom they find externally attractive although lacking these virtues.

Moreover, most of them realise how transient beauty is.

Not infrequently, merely a small change in appearance caused by the passage of time or a car accident can lead to a “loss” of beauty. People who aroused great interest suddenly become indifferent for others.

Why are we guided by such seemingly “senseless” instincts?

Why do such tiny differences in the appearance of others – like, for instance, an olfactory organ (nose) a few millimetres longer or an orifice (mouth) a little wider, a slightly lighter shade of hair or lower limbs barely a centimetre slimmer, thickness of vocal chords or size of lactation glands (bust) – decide how people behave? The same probably happens to animals.

These trivial differences not infrequently decide the fate of not only specific individuals but entire societies. The choice of many a state leader is not infrequently decided by their appearance. Since television and films have become widespread, the influence of what seem inessential external characteristics has become exceptionally noticeable. Millions watch television merely to see “beautiful” faces or browse through magazines in order to find out as much as they can about the “owners” of the faces. They followed the ups and downs of Princess Diana and Rudolf Valentino. Knowing these people only from photographs or films, millions mourned and despaired when they died, a despair often greater than that following the death of close family members. Thousands took part in such funerals. Apparently some women wanted to commit suicide because of this actor’s death. People who are not beautiful do not inspire such feelings, their ups and downs do not arouse such interest.

One can go further and say that classifying living beings as good looking or ugly can decide their fate.

We willingly cultivate plants which we consider beautiful whereas those we judge ugly (weeds) we kill.

If we, living beings, really are guided by the laws of natural selection then the behaviour of female animals and women who pick specimens who are the tallest and strongest as their partners is founded. They most probably ensure the best existence for their offspring. What is less understandable, however, is why men are guided in their choice of partners by beauty. Good looking women do not necessarily have to be the best mothers at all.

Of course, we could try to explain this state of affairs by saying that admiration of a large bust assures the choice of a partner who can nourish offspring while admiration of teeth assures the choice of a healthy partner who can easily digest her food. But why do some men prefer one hair colour to another or this shape of legs to that?

Why do men perceive some women as beautiful and those are “popular”, while they are not interested in others?

Is this a mechanism which formed by chance during the course of evolution for no reason at all, or does it serve a purpose unknown to us?

Because of the enormous effect of beauty, we could risk saying that in democratic societies good looks (beauty) are a “fifth power” (after legislative power, executive, judicial and the “power” held by journalists).

Most of us realise the force, power and strength that beauty brings – the great power it has to influence others of our species. Those who lack beauty often suffer because of this. They dream of achieving good looks and, in their desire to possess them put in a great deal of effort to fulfil their dream. Many spend a huge part of their lives in beauty salons, hair salons, gyms or clothes and shoe shops. Another part of their lives they devote to reading magazines many pages long which write exclusively about the colour of lipstick, methods to lose weight or ways to enlarge biceps.

The power of beauty (the strength of its influence) fascinates many people. We read novels about love; we read poetry and listen to songs about it.

Our preferences (tastes) are subject to change – often what once we considered beautiful stirs no feelings in us and, furthermore, surprise us as to why we weren’t drawn to the something else which we admire now. Our preferences change whether we want such change or not.

We have a mysterious mechanism which operates and changes without the participation of our will (which operates automatically) and which classifies people, other living beings as well as inanimate matter into objects of beauty (attractive), indifferent and ugly (unattractive), on the basis of their appearance (size, shape) and their smell. Out of two cars constructed of the same amount of metal sheets in the same colour, we like only one car in particular. This impression comes from nothing more than the way the elements of which it is made, are arranged in space. Nobody knows as yet how this mechanism works and why it is self-regulating. Be that as it may, it guides our behaviour.

It is just as important as other instincts (needs) which push us to act in a particular way, such as hunger, the need to sleep and the sexual urge.

The sexual urge is also linked to the desire to satisfy our sense of beauty. It is uncontrollable, in the statistical sense of course, because individuals (persons) can restrain the urge just as some, for example, can refuse to eat as a form of protest. Every species as a whole, however, reproduces because it is unable to hold back this urge. The urge is so strong that it forces some to act against their will. I suspect that for many people, that is, intelligent beings proud of the ability to think logically, the fact that they are driven by such an instinct is, at times, difficult to accept. Because one shade of skin or eyes and no other (for example), or the length of somebody’s hair, can lead to reason “switching off” entirely and to unpredictable behaviour which astounds even the “owner” of the mind.

Examples are known of respectable and trustworthy or wise people (priests, judges, professors, moral philosophers) performing unworthy acts such as sexually molesting children when under the influence of this urge. I do not believe these people are unaware of the consequences of their behaviour but their reason (strength of will) loses against the strength which takes control over the way they act - as is proven by their actions. The internal force which they are unable, I believe, to control without the help of medication, limits, as it were, their soundness of mind, just like stupefacients.

Some people become victims of their own preferences and sexual urge. For others still, it becomes the main meaning of life.

Does beauty exist objectively or is it only a subjective feeling “produced” by each organism, just like sweat, tears, anger or sadness?

There can be no doubt, surely, that the feeling is subjective, that each of us “produces” it inside. It is probably the brain which generates it for us. If the phenomenon of beauty existed objectively then everybody would like the same thing and this is not the case, although people’s tastes are very similar. 80% of women find a man described as handsome attractive but for the remainder he will be indifferent. There will also be some who find him repulsive. It is more than likely that other living beings do not experience a sense of beauty when they look at human beings. If they experience it at all it must surely be when looking at specimens of the opposite sex belonging to their own kind. I doubt whether a spider finds any human being “attractive” whereas it is possible that it is “enraptured” by another spider of the opposite sex. It certainly applies some sort of criteria when choosing since initially it picks one female from among others.

Is ascribing to certain things adjectives denoting beauty the same in fact as giving them a meaning which they do not objectively have?

Our whole life is based on giving things, phenomena and events significance (“assigning significance”) which we have defined and invented, not to say imagined.

The cross didn’t have any meaning for pagans living several thousand years ago and has no meaning for unbelievers today. Temples mean a great deal to those who believe. For others they are only ordinary buildings.

For some, the name of the shop (brand name) where they bought their clothes has a great deal of meaning. For others, the company which manufactured their clothes is not important.

Throughout our lives we change the weight of importance we attached to things and phenomena. A toy, a wooden horse, meant a great deal to me when I was a child. Now it awakens no feelings whatsoever.

It is not only we who “assign significance”. Male animals fight each other over females because they mean a great deal to them. For us, human beings, these females mean nothing. They can, at most, be food for us (we assign a different significance to them than do their males).

It is this “bestowing” defined significance to things and phenomena by our minds that stops us from being indifferent to them.

Does the mind, “assigning significance” to things force us in this way to act, stop being indifferent?

No living being has the possibility of looking at itself. They do not know how they look. It is only us, human beings, who in inventing the mirror, have managed to look at and compare ourselves to others.

A mouse does not know whether it looks like a mouse of a mole.

A dog does not know whether it looks like a dog or a cat. In spite of this a dog unmistakeably recognises specimens of its own species and classifies a cat as belonging to “other living beings” on the basis, perhaps, of its smell. But, after all, individuals of a given species, even if brought up in isolation, in some way recognise “their own” species anyway, perhaps by their smell.

Is what we call beauty in some way linked to similarity?

Do we not find attractive that which is most like ourselves?

Is there a mechanism encoded in living beings which tells us to like that which is closest to them (the mechanism of similarity)?

Human beings above all find human beings most attractive.

We find beings which do not look like us far less attractive. We are not enraptured by monkeys similar to us or other mammals. Beings which differ from us by the number of limbs they have and are, therefore, completely dissimilar to us, like insects, induce disgust and repugnance. If they have no limbs, like snakes, we see them as something hideous.

The more dissimilar “something” is to us, the uglier it is.

Of course, based on this “mechanism of similarity” it would probably be quite difficult to explain why we find one particular flower pleasing and not another or this building pleasing rather than another.

The mechanism of admiring good looks can be compared to a lock and key. There is within us a certain matrix, model. Something like a keyhole. If a received signal fits the model (the key fits the lock) we are enraptured, dazzled. This emotion, in turn, sets in motion our further behaviour. We want to possess the object we admire. How does such a matrix, model arise, how is it formed?

What is this mechanism, with which we have been equipped, for?

What is the purpose of our minds “indicating” that a particular object is beautiful and another ugly even though someone else’s mind might classify them the other way round?

If an observer managed to watch life on Earth at accelerated speed they would come to the conclusion that living beings appear and disappear like virtual particles.

Each of us has had ancestors and most of us will have offspring. Our ancestors appeared and disappeared. The same applies to each of us and our offspring.

Over the past 100 years each of us has had, on average, four generations of ancestors. Going back 500 years there have been twenty such generations. Going back 10,000 years there have been as many as 400. These figures, however, are deceptive because, insofar as each of us has had only two immediate ancestors (parents), we have already had four grandparents and eight great-grandparents. Going back four generations (a hundred years) 16 great-great-grandparents indirectly “took part” in creating each of us (you and I). Going back another twenty generations (five hundred years) the number of people “taking part” in creating each of us increases to over a million people (1,048,576 great-great-grandparents).

This is probably the number of people there were at that time in the country I inhabit.

The same mechanism will operate in the opposite direction.

Each of us, if they have one offspring in every generation, will be the ancestor of at least 1,048,576 people living in the twentieth generation after them, that is, 500 years later. If there will be two offspring in every generation this figure will be doubled. Each of us will be the ancestor of 4,194,294 descendants.

These figures seem enormous and incredible. Each of us, participating in the process of reproduction, takes part in a gigantic broadening pyramid and is the apex (end) of another pyramid the construction of which began many generations ago. Every living being constitutes the beginning (apex) of a new pyramid and the end (apex) of another one. Since there are billions of living people, these pyramids – like a net – overlap and dovetail. Procreation so expressed seems to be nothing other than a continuous mixing of genes, the life and death of organisms being elements in this process.

One can think of this process in a different way. Demographers claim that there are over six and a half billions of us. They have calculated that every minute 100 people die on Earth which means that in an hour there are 6,000 less people and in twenty-four hours almost 150,000 less. This happens every hour, every day, every year.

In the place of those who have departed new people appear.

Of course, nobody is moved by the fact that within barely an hour so many people have disappeared; we have grown used to this although – what is interesting – we are moved by catastrophes in which barely a few people die.

Does the perception of beauty (and striving towards it) serve merely to initiate (drive) the mechanism which “mingles” genes?

Most species now look after their offspring. Perhaps in the past there were species which did not possess such an instinct. They probably became extinct during the course of evolution since the care of their offspring was not assured and these quickly died of hunger, unable as they were to secure food for themselves. One can also presume that during the course of evolution species which ate each other, limiting, in this way, the number of the species, also died out. Those remain which do not harm each other. During the course of evolution, those individuals who do not feel a sexual urge for the opposite sex also die out without leaving any descendants, for example men attracted to other men or grass or stones.

Our behaviour based on caring about those close to us is not the only way living beings can behave.

It is probably the same with beauty.

In our World, other qualities (for instance wisdom) are not, statistically speaking, attractive. Perhaps the trait of being guided in our choice of partner by beauty has also developed during the course of evolution. It passed the test and that is why we are as we are. Perhaps those guided by other criteria died out?

Are there, however, beings somewhere in the Universe which do not experience the perception of beauty and are guided in their choices by other criteria?

Asking about the forces that guide us, it is impossible not to ask about the strongest one, the survival instinct. The force of Life is enormous. Every one of us, every individual cell, every animal, every spider or bacterium strives to preserve its existence as long as possible. We want to be, to dwell in this World at all costs even at the cost of discomfort, suffering and pain. In order to exist (live) living organisms push their way mercilessly, destroying other organisms, eating them.

Where does this “force” come from and why is it so strong?

Is the World in which we dwell not the best of possible Worlds and every organism somehow (instinctively) “knows” this?

Can it “be” far worse for us after we die than it is now in this World about which many of us complain and of which we are displeased?

A terrifying vision!

Can the belief, therefore, that death might be a release be mistaken?

Could the life which each of us has received be a reward?

QUESTIONS by Ryszard Cichy, Wrocław 2008 Retro-Art, Warszawa 2008, ISBN 978-83-87992-56-9 translated by Danusia Stok