Nothing occurs by itself
Everything occurs by itself
Every thing affects every thing
My philosophical orientations often lead me to present questions and utter statements — as framework uncertainties and mythic affirmations. Not usually easy and often disorienting. Well, there you have it! Why is there something and not nothing? What am I? Does matter matter? And, in the end (au fond le plus profond): is matter matter? Is there an ‘it’ au fond?
(And do not tell me I am bewitched by language; of course I am: that is not the problem).
If I cannot step into the same river twice, can I at least finish the same sentence once?
I think that whenever humans begin to talk or think about talking, or pick up a pen or pencil to write, or approach a keyboard ready to type anything at all, we are getting ready to express ourselves, to communicate with others, to present thoughts, images, ideas, feelings and perceptions, and similar phenomena in social or interactive dynamics. It is also reasonable to say that everything that we do and are, and have done and will do, rests on several fairly important premises. For myself, I think the most fundamental of these is that we humans are individually and collectively (so far) continuous, ongoing, and passably coherent within ourselves and the world over a period of time, no matter how short or how long. Without that premise’s being operational, for humans, there is naught. I agree, of course, that many of these words are somewhat vague, perhaps whimsical, and obviously equivocal (coherent, really? continuous, surely not, and what could time possibly be, pray, tell ?). So what! What isn’t? Every thing or utterance loses its dynamic center under a bifurcating, probing gaze, and disambiguation becomes elusive — but, I was here yesterday, am today and will be tomorrow. I’d bet a nickel on that sans exception, sans hésitation!1.
Open your mouth, you/we are already on the path!
Rounding a corner and entering a room, when we inadvertently bump into a chair or a wall. We feel it, it hurts, and it stops us. We take note and, if we are still so inclined, we carry on. We can move the chair, trip over it, walk beside or around the wall, etc. We are not confused: the atoms and molecules of our bodies did not bump into the atoms and molecules of the chair or the wall. The subatomic particles of the wall or the chair were not in the way of the subatomic particles of our body. Our subatomic particles did not bump into their subatomic particles. At this level of thinking imagery, contemporary physicists intimate to us that these (really, really small) particles are not actually particles. (Hold onto your hat, that’s just a simple statement, there’s more to come). The forces, packets/bundles of energy, the force carriers, the units (? )of the standard model, waves and fields, of the chair or wall and my body did not bump into one another (If only CERN were here when you need it).
My brain neither sent me a message nor presented me with a representation of the world within which this happened. It did not talk to me about what had happened and tell me how to feel. As a living, clumsy, person, I found out by myself. I bumped into a chair or wall, etc. A body, mine, bumped into a body, the chair/wall. And so on…What is an account of what, after all?
PS. If you bump into the goose pictured above, watch out, trouble is imminent! Its the same goose that will attack you as the one you bumped into (the same you — do not get confused). This is not dizzying yet, although it could tend that way without due diligence. Which self, after all this? Same?
1. I know it is a little passé to talk admiringly about René Descartes’ Meditations. This little gem provided us with a good picture of certain traditional philosophical thinking of the era leading up to him, but really, he dropped the bomb of self-consciousness in our lap at the same time. We dwell on it today in the face of neuroscience and the conceptual game of the objective world, what is often simplistically called ‘nature’..
There is no possible world without imagination. There is no imagination without an actual world. Possibility is not actual, it is imagined: I reiterate for emphasize. Is pure possibility the opposite of pure actuality? Pure? Some people would say that imagination is a form of thought. I could not disagree, even if I tried.
Imagination is a primal form of thought, ground to many others, interwoven and randomly dispersed with reflection, deliberations, planning, speculating and navigating adventurously or in suffering. It is alive and active in individuals, our collective life, complex memories, and many forms of dynamic creativity — often seeming to have deeper origins, apart from, entwined with and before the beginning of all time and such matters. And sometimes, not infrequently actually, abstract and conceptual thought is at the origin of imagining, and not infrequently this form of thought follows upon imagination.
How could any of that possibly be true, pray tell?
I think it would be fair to say, that in my deepest, most hidden self, namely, the one which somehow I believe myself to be: I am an almost completely functional, significantly cognitively dissonant, and occasionally, a calmly turbulent, set. And sometimes not — imprévisible.
How that could possibly be, is, of course, an elusive sense of who or what it is that I am. (Or you are, surely.) I cannot begin for a moment to articulate and make clear what precisely that means in any straightforward way. Forgive me or not; that does not matter.
I accept that everything that there is, namely, the universe in which we live, the totality of all existence (the subterranean base of everything) is constant movement — an odd metaphor for something which is actually no thing. ‘It’ is a bundling agitation, coherently dispersed energy, and non-specific, changing particularity. Do I know this? Certainly not! I jump past the formulae and equations of the particle physicists. Not landing anywhere actual of course. That’s why I said I accept it. Besides, that’s not the sort of thing you can claim to know without a chaos of counter claims — sigh!
I accept also that, like all other actual things, I am something which maintains its self (together), as what I am. I do not do this entirely by myself of course, because like everything else, I exist in a dynamic matrix. Not only Popeye says. ‘I yam what I yam.’ This is all taking place in the entirety of the interactive forces and interwoven situations which mesh and merge with us and have an impact on us, and in this case, me. I am only an example of water tension in the form of a living human — conatus, hmmm?
I wish I could say exactly what I think that the baseline for the deeper being of things, is. It is not enough, although helpful, to say that the underlying being of all this (what a word this this is) is a depthless, endless, full-less, ocean of quanta, quantum fields — just beyond the grasp of the mathematical equations and formulae which tie the mists and clouds together. I don’t think that that is false. But it certainly doesn’t help understand walking down the street, in any way, shape, or form. Especially if you are looking for a good espresso and especially, if you are feeling just great.
If what are called mathematical formulae do allow communication amongst specialty physicists, as if these formulae were a language of some sort, why cannot they be translated into what most of us think are conventional languages? What is a weltenchauung? Is it a trap or an opening?
OK good, so that’s off my chest. Now I can breathe a little.
Current language use and the inter-connectedness of today’s words with their deep and mythic interwoven history, are a very rich ground for the complexity of the meanings and functions of the words we use. Simultaneously, they engulf (some would say ensnare) us in primordial world views and earlier value systems and beliefs, even about the very subjects we are investigating and attempting more fully to understand.
Creating new concepts and their frameworks is akin to genius, a set of actions which does not have a clear precedent, but which re-frames experience into a not-yet fully understood, or foreseen, order.
Thank you Nietzsche!
Can today grasp the plenitude of tomorrow? Or yesterday today?
We should remember that while the language we use interweaves us into many earlier world views as a provisions resource, it also presents us with structures and meaningful content against which we struggle and contend while building the world and its minutiae. Language is the breathing of the mind.
Breathing does not by itself construct worlds. It occurs within a world and sub-sets of a world and sub-sub-sets of a world — like turtles all the way down. And without it, we are not.
Language by itself does not construct worlds. Shaping, however, occurs with such sweeping subtlety that we are easily confounded. Language does enable several insights into our grasp of what is going on, and therewith, how we portray, explain and/or justify actions, theories and plans in the worlds within which we do live. But not by itself — neither its ephemeral origins within our vague consciousness of ourselves and the ‘other’, nor the neuron firing in temporal harmony as if by plan and purpose, or as if by cause and effect. Language does not account for itself. And yet, without it, we are naught
Reality is existence. Existence is reality. Words about things are not the things. Words themselves are things – not the same kind of things as the words are about, I hasten to add!.
The speed of light is not a thing. It is a measurement expressed in words, i.e., its cousin to a formula and what we call numbers. A measurement is not a thing, nor is its cousin the formula/number. Everything we measure entails time end space. (Sigh, that Singularity gives us amazing conceptual tumult, e.g., the beginning? of time.[i]
In popular thinking (like that expressed by these mostly ordinary words), light is thought to be made up of photons. It gets confusing for laypeople (which is absolutely everyone except a handful of super specialists). It is even more perplexing when it is noted and suggested (claimed perhaps?) that light has no mass (like its second cousin once removed, the neutrino). This kind of unease, arising from lack of understanding and the peculiar way ordinary language is repurposed in speciality physics, is exacerbated when over time as we are told that particle physics does not actually deal with particles.
For a layperson, the non-particle particles seem to get discussed in the analysis and break down of atoms and their components into even smaller things — a peculiar set of words in this already dramatically small realm. In this super small world of particle-less particles, there are not only no particles, but there are also no things. This is thought tumult conflated with obscure public claims about the nature of nature. Nature is, after all, all there is — generally thought to be matter in some form or another. How else to measure it?
It takes one’s breath away.
I was a potter, after all. I made things, non? Like real things. The mug for your coffee and the sculpture on you pedestal. Not non-particle particles, although I guess they were there somewhere, non?
[i] Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les Choses, 1966. A painful and terrific, fun read if ever there were one.
Without referring to what is commonly called the known universe, how far is it, do you suppose, to the edge of the actual universe, not just the known one? Who can imagine the whole?2
1. Spock’s interpretation of V’ger’s state of mind after a mind meld (Star Trek, The Motion Picture, 1979); 2 https://www.space.com/24073-how-big-is-the-universe.html
simply complex:deeply known
[i] TEDx, Winnipeg, Presentation by Jeff Hancock: https://www.ted.com/speakers/jeff_hancock. [ii] We wear the Mask: Paul Laurence Dunbar (1895), A Century of the Blues (Robert Santelli); The Blues – a musical journey, 2003 Peter Guralnick (ed.). [iii] Children’s limerick to paraphrase the Poem by William Blake “The Liar”. [iv] Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy; Canto 1 Purgatory. [v] Limelight, lyrics written by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, of the musical band Rush, 1981. [vi] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents: W.W. Norton and Co., 1989
All beginnings of things occur in contexts, large and small; as do contexts.
Sometimes — most of the time — the actual, and deeper, beginning of things, is just outside our direct observation and straightforward recollection. Things come to be in their form which we perceive, note, discover, and think about: we come to know them and do not make them exist. Generally, unless we make or facilitate a thing like a coffee mug for espresso or a contemporary Space Telescope, it comes into existence independently of us. This orientation to beginnings, is about things, not about our understanding of them, and most assuredly not about our language about things, or about our understanding of the language about those, and all other, things.
Our understanding and languages about things also have beginnings and lives in contexts. We know this, we forget, we pretend otherwise. And that’s OK: it’s bigger than big, this something called existence. Not to mention the nothing!
It is important to remember that in human affairs and considerations related to human affairs, there is almost always a beginning to things. This is true, even when we consider something as common as material things like this chair, or as esoteric and small as atoms. electrons, photons, quarks and neutrinos, or, when we marvel at the seed of a giant sequoia and how this tree could grow so big from such a minuscule seed, or something as inconceivably large as the universe, can come to be what it is. Be careful, saying the beginning of things is the Big Bang is decidedly not helpful — or clear. And, of course — the coming to be of ideas, images, sensations, judgements, emotions and our own actions, constitutes an area of considerable fascination and mind-boggling ignorance or comprehension. Not to say that neurons do not fire. They do!
Beginnings often are used to offer explanations for situations, occurences, endeavours, mysterious arrivals, and so on. Our explanations need not include all beginnings to be acceptable as an account of any particular phenomena. Besides, they cannot so include — the mists are too dense and the compass too deep.
I accept, that, like everything — the totality of existence including its subset within which we live, move and have our being, (the really real real) — is constant movement, agitation, energy, non-specific particularity and indefinitely large numbers of actual particulars. Every thing, all the flurries, is/are a mode/nexus of existence.
As with all things, I naturally cohere and have integrity of being. This simple fact is nestled within the entirety of all interactive forces and dynamics. They influence, interweave and interfere with me, have an impact on all humans and in this case, me. Sometimes, of course, the dynamism of the ‘other’ is greater than the capacity of coherence within that configuration.
As with any thing in such a situation, I, cease to be, should it occur. Some call this death. Death is not a state.
There is no more justice than there is karma.
A desire rarely exists by itself in human life. Often, this desire is on a direct collision course with another desire: such is a common state of the human heart and mind: we want, we need, we long, we strive.
As desires collide, they do not automatically and harmoniously blend – when they crash and plow – they are propelled by one another in new orientations, they generate new paths, new directions, more collisions along their way: they tumble, perturb, disorient, aggravate, dislocate and fragment. This too is human life. It is uncommon, profoundly scarce indeed, that desire has as its goal a state which can be enjoyed equally by many desiring hearts.
Desire always wants its satisfaction, even on its collision course with its soulmate – a different desire also wanting its own satisfaction: want, want, me, me, mine, mine.*below
*We neither strive for, nor will, neither want, nor desire anything because we judge it to be good; on the contrary we judge something to be good because we strive for it, will it, want it, and desire it. (Benedictus de Spinoza, Ethics, Book 3, prop. 9).
I came to be; I will cease to be. I did not come to be from somewhere else, nor will I return thereto. ‘Come’ and ‘return’ are inappropriate metaphors.
It seems fairly clear every morning when I awake and start my day, that I am lying in my bed and getting out of it to get going. Some days, this is a bit blurry, but really, I never lose my way. I am not my bed. It does not take very long (nanoseconds?) as I’m moving toward coffee, that I am immersed in my physical feelings and sensations (chilly floor beneath my feet, stiff knees as I go downstairs) and my emotions, imagination and thoughts take up an increasing amount of my attention and focus. This set of words has a deep hint of Descartes hidden in them, but the grammar belies actual human life which encompasses this and more. Distinctions, as they appear in words are only occasionally in the world. Happenstance. There is no necessary tie between our words for things and those very things. The painter’s brush is not the anger in the portrait’s face, nor is the brush stroke of ‘just the right’ shape, texture and colour.
Which I is this and which I is that?
I am not my bed. We are distinct from one another. What about the I which walks down the stairs? Distinct? Be careful, ‘a’ is not ‘b’ although they are intimate companions with innumerable, interwoven fields.
Navigating Scylla and Charybdis may best be managed by creating an alternate route. Such a move will shift the mythos and entail creating a life-boat just in case.
It is not our language which bifurcates the world although it is often thought to do so — look to one’s self!
There is no returning, as has always been known by those who dwell in time. Time is remembered movement. Time is movement!
There is no possible world without imagination. There is no imagination without the actual world. Possibility is not actual. it is imagined. Some people would say that imagination is a form of thought. I could not disagree.
Imagination is a primal form of thought, ground to many others, interwoven and randomly dispersed with reflection, deliberations, planning, speculating, lying or navigating adventurously. It is alive and active in individuals, in our collectivities, complex memories, and dynamic creativity— often seeming to have deeper origins, apart from while comfortably entwined with and before the beginning of all time, and such matters.
How could any of that possibly be true, pray tell? What if it were not?
zero — timespace — here/now: there/then?
(holy smokes, Batman, even the Batmobile isn’t fast enough)
Light escaping; captured at the edge; no edge; but light, what are you doing here?
The known universe — a grain of sand, a mathematical point — no more.
What is there, but what is? Is not existence everything? Surely, there are not two all existences! Am I not something?
Existence does not occupy space. Some modes of existence are so small they do occupy space and some so very small, that they do not occupy anything at all. Some modes of existence are so large that they are empty within, while making space as full as it is. Is this dimension(s), hmmm?
awakening: illusion 1.0
It seems fairly clear every morning when I awake and start my day, that I am lying in my bed and getting out of it to get going. Some days, this is a bit blurry, but really, I never lose my way. I am not my bed. I am not the day. It does not take very long (nanoseconds?) as I’m moving toward coffee, that I am immersed in my physical feelings and sensations (chilly floor beneath my feet, stiff knees as I go downstairs) and my emotions, imagination and thoughts take up an increasing amount of my attention and focus. This set of words and the sequence of them has Descartes hidden therein, but the grammar belies the myth. Which I is this and which I is that?
I am not my bed. We are distinct from one another. What about the I which walks down the stairs? Am I distinct from it? Whoa — exit stage left! Neither a cartesian nor an empiricist be! Enter stage right — the human! Yah, yah, I know. What is a human (really), really?
Navigating Scylla and Charybdis may best be managed by creating an alternate route. Such a simple move will shift the mythos, and could entail creating a life boat, just in case. Not like the one above; it sinks.
It’s not, however, without its hazards: holograms to left of us, looped simulation donuts to the right, brain hallucinations to the left of us, illusion selves to the right.1
And here I am, stuck in the middle with you! (Steelers Wheel)
1 idiosyncratic gratitude: Genesis 1:27, Parmenides, Tao, Nicholas of Cusa, le vécu, , Buddha, Spinoza/Nietzsche, life, light/darkness, Democritus, Hume, natural science, quanta, yesterday…(help, it’s losing me).
Language is a gift of such immensity that it’s fullness frequently escapes our notice, let alone our comprehension. Its intricacies so fine, we cannot plumb them all and have them on instant recall. Its harmonic connectedness with the fabric of our mental life so complete that we live with them as if they were the same — yet distinct. Identity, difference, similitude: interwoven, interdependent, separately together. Caution is the companion of confidence, doubt is the heart of faith.
It would be most peculiar to say, and to believe that it is true: that the brain is experienced by a person. That is to say, the brain of the person is experienced by that very person. It would be equally odd, perhaps foolish, to say as I clinch my fist, that I experience the nerve activity which stimulates the muscles to make my fist contract, and that I sense the ephemeral cross-cranial/brain activity which gets the whole processed started (we are told). But, hold on here — I do experience a tensing of the muscles and the closing of the fist and the forces that seem to be involved in my (the) power of closing the fist. But it is very peculiar to think that we experience the brain, the neuron firing, the electron flow through all the nerves and muscles, and the muscle-stimuli in this simple action. We do not.
Not only do we not experience these inner, subtle, but powerful activities that are going on in our body as we do certain things, like picking up a fork, going downstairs, etc. It is equally peculiar to say that the brain thinks about what is going on, as I am clenching my fist. As far as I can tell, the brain does not think.
We, human beings, fortunately, do think. In that thinking process, of course our brain is extremely active (we are told by videos, wave-pattern activity charts, colorful line graphics of brain activity, etc.), which for us is a true benefit. But the brain itself does not think, and the brain does not imagine what it is that’s going on, or about to happen with my body as I clinch my fist, or walk down the stairs. I, on the other hand, experience all of those bodily actions and often enjoy it, until I make a mistake. My brain does not make a mistake.