More often than not, there is difficulty communicating between people. We have established languages, with vocabularies representing conceptual objects that we string together in a feeble attempt to lift our consciousness from ourselves and offer it to another. Some people claim the vocabulary of our language shapes our thoughts. Others instead claim that our thoughts wrestle with the clumsy limitations of linguistic representations for expression. What we do know is that our consciousness exists as certainly as another consciousness, and the avenues between them are a wilderness of language-constrained train wrecks.
In physics, the laws governing our existence are expressed as mathematical objects. We do not question whether our existence must, necessarily, obey laws. We assume that reason exists, in at least some form, at all levels, even within chaos. We tie the concept of chaos to randomness, and by doing so, we constrain existence, at least in part, with our mathematical objects. This may be a preconceived bias which limits a broader understanding, but it does impose definitions that we can utilize and manipulate within our framework of pseudo-certainty, that is a mathematical representation.
Language is a similar construct. As creatures with unique consciousness, we vibrate the air in defined ways that represent, more or less, the consciousness we are currently experiencing and wish to communicate to another consciousness. However, each consciousness exists in relative isolation from any other, much like parallel universes could be, and any communication of information between islands is fraught with potentials for error. For example, a word might not be understood in the same way on each island, or a string of words may have differing connotations that have arisen from the other consciousness’ history or bias. An even more challenging issue is the fluidity inherent within the island of each consciousness that is, by its very isolation, patently distinct within its own experiential awareness that changes, sometimes even radically, over time.
Objects we create (words or phrases) that are meant to be shared between islands have nowhere to exist, except within whatever space it is that we might label a mutually agreed-upon landscape of language. There is no metaphysical cathedral that houses the canonical truth of each object we have created, except, indirectly, by our further mutual agreement to imbue selected people with the responsibility of maintaining them, which is itself, fraught with peril. It is something, though. And it is a wonder we can communicate at all, particularly in the more abstract.
Mathematics has an easier time, at least within its foundations. The number “2” is well understood within our intersubjective landscape. Any misunderstanding or argument between islands about the number “2” would almost certainly be specious. This is an object that can reasonably be considered safely canonical. Even though it does not exist. I have never seen a “2”, in and of itself. But I have seen the curvy numeral written down many times, and have even determined a quantity of 2 for various things. I know — I lead a wildly abandoned life. But I would be hard-pressed to actually show you a “2”. That’s because it isn’t a thing, but rather a representation of an abstract concept. It is not really physical. Addition and subtraction are also abstract concepts, applied to other abstract concepts. As we’ve discussed earlier, mathematics is an abstraction, tied to the physical in only the most tenuous of ways through the concept of quantity. This has proven to offer us great benefits, but it can also hinder us when it is believed as a canonical representation of the totality of our existence. There is no basis for such an assumption, despite stacks of mathematics on paper.
It seems the human being is prone to adopt beliefs. This is how scientists, even physicists and mathematicians, can believe in God without violating the sanctity of their disciplines: because their disciplines arise from belief, they are accustomed to belief. The only difference between religion and science is the voracity of their self-consistency and their openness to new perspectives. These are constant challenges where religion, more often than not, falls short. But so does science. And like religion, science usually falls short when the canonical caretakers of the holy objects become more interested in their own personal perpetuation than their sacred duty toward humanity and the purity of their calling.
However, these are callings that are far removed from the more humble life we each lead as we return home at the end of the day. At home our concerns turn toward foraging for food, our feelings for the people in our lives, or having a comfy, warm bed in which to dream. While mathematics is removed from us and defined with rigor, the language of our time spent more at rest is sloppier, and is often downright messy. Some would like to bring the certainties of religion or science home with them in an attempt to impose comfort upon the messiness they might otherwise experience, but these are usually vain attempts. The messiness bleeds through. Something about us is wider than any discipline can contain. We are not entirely defined by the dominance of objects created within the outside world. We are aware of our island-hood, and the world we perceive externally is not, precisely, the sum of everything that we are, or might be. Even when we try to impose its order upon ourselves, our gut knows the difference. We will go into the applicability and validity of the discipline of psychology and neuroscience in subsequent pieces.
Language, that is extended to us from our culture, is the defining bridge to the external world. Our senses are also a bridge, but they lack any objective definitions without language. Our senses merely allow us to perceive and experience the external world. Language helps define common sensual experiences between us. The difficulty arises from the fact that our awareness is separated from the awareness that exists within other beings, and the only way we have to bridge these islands is a rickety structure composed of words. This is, perhaps, part of the appeal of mathematics — it is rigidly defined with only a small propensity for misunderstanding and error. However, mathematics is incapable of representing the spectrum that is the diversity within our inner lives. Though less prone to error, its vocabulary is utterly inadequate. We appear to be stuck with the uncertainty and error of language between us. And as an interesting aside, it is also fascinating to note that our understanding of these more pristine maths are formed through the messiness of language and what those words conceptually represent. But we’ll steer clear of that messiness for now.
Our inner experience is rarely what other people perceive. The inadequacies of language are not the only cause. Because of our uniquely individual craziness, we do not always construct language that is a true representation of our inner experience. Also, sometime we hear language differently than was intended, either because of that same uniquely individual craziness within ourselves, or the clumsiness of the person constructing the language toward us. And this is with truth as the backdrop. If we bring in the possibility of deception, we bring a wrecking ball into an already precarious and delicate environment. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this is all too common and is the source of a great deal of the confusion that permeates our society. Deception is always willful, even when it is simply a will to ignore or disregard the validity of some known or perceived truth. In many ways, this is the worst deception of all. Silence, indifference, or disregard allows deception to perpetuate and flourish. It is selfish, and almost always meant for one’s own perceived benefit.
But what is selfishness, other than a word? How is it possible to say that selfishness is bad, when each self is their own isolated island? The answer is simple when you realize that other islands exist, and are every bit as important as your own. There are lots of people like you, living on their own crazy, isolated islands. Even when they claim they are not. Particularly when they claim they are not. And in that, paradoxically, even though we are completely isolated, we are all in the same boat. If I’m not mistaken, I think that some form of love might fit in well just there. And though love can be considered selfish, it also, paradoxically, is the furthest thing from selfishness. Isolation is, intrinsically, a lonely existence. Though some religions try, they cannot command love between islands. And deception always results in isolation. If connections are to occur, each island must, through its own self-awareness, become aware of its isolation and seek to bridge that isolation in ways that are not based in deception. Or instead, remain in isolation. Anything else is a power play through manipulation.
If a sense of mutuality can exist between islands then an awareness of isolation also exists. Some means will be sought to create bridges in the interest of that mutuality. But if a keen awareness of the isolation between islands exists, how can one possibly avoid having a more passionate response that necessitates creating the most intimate connections possible? Though this situation is rare, here we must take care to balance between the negative forces that stem from desperation and panic, against the far more positive and powerful forces that such passion can engender as a motive for the fulfillment with all its benefits of unity. And even this must be balanced against the necessity of distinction, from which the true beauty and strengths of humanity’s genius emerges. This is the beautiful aspect within the darker nature of Existentialism.
It leaves me asking, as I look out upon the world, what is really important? Between each of our islands, what bridges have we built, or allowed to be connected to us? In what ways does mutuality currently manifest itself? Is it truly proven that deception results in isolation? Does it matter to our isolation if we are the ones deceiving, or the ones being deceived? And the most difficult question of all, why does this state seem to remain, in perpetuity?
I suppose that our self awareness is one thing, while our interactions with the world is another. This is inherently deceptive. Perhaps we must do, to get what we want. It is the exchange of one price, at the cost of something else. I suppose it all depends upon the value we place on one thing or another. And now, I feel like I’m caught up in the mathematics of economies. It is an intriguing symptom.
In that warm, comfy bed of mine, though messy, I had a dream the other night. Some people say I was experiencing random firings of neurons, while other say I was “sifting” through the day’s information. Nobody can say much about the particles. I only know that I had a dream. There was a large, flat landscape seen at a distance, like the world. It ground was a reddish-brown, cracked, clay desert at twilight. Lots of people were walking about in between plastic outcroppings in the plain that were shaped like rounded tombstones, but had brightly-glowing and colorful neon symbols that flowed in pleasant designs. They densely covered the plains while people walked amongst them, absently avoiding collisions with these colorful objects. All our interactions flowed through them, yet we always avoided touching them. Circles were always the most prominent design on the tombstones.
None of this was unpleasant. However, it did make me feel a little like a radio controlled robot, and I knew that everyone else was feeling the same thing. Mountains were off far along the horizon. We knew we were a colony, of sorts, and there was nowhere else to go. As Burroughs would say, “The theater is closed.”
But I woke up and decided to write this anyway. I feel compelled. It might be love. Or maybe religion. But then again, nothing is certain. Right?
Just a bunch of words, tenuously tied to the intimate experience of our unique existence. You can see such awareness in some people. Others might never get there. Still others are terrified. It’s not easy, with such awareness, being deceptive. Unless you are completely ruthless. That is effective evil. And it exists. It is a purity of self-interest.
Mutual interest does not just happen as a by-product of self-interest. Mutual interest strikes deep into the chest. It is undeniable. It is a function of awareness. And that, in my belief, is the mountain to whose heights we must aspire. Any other basis is petty and inevitably mean.