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Words

In my last post I asked where is the exact line when a single water molecule ceases to be a part of a lake and becomes a part of my body. Well, one could always say that there is an exact line which is not just an arbitrary construction of a human mind. As my body is composed of cells, and every cell is protected by cell wall and membrane. In a single cell, the membrane is there to be objectively perceived, forming a clear line of distinction between the in-cell and out-cell. And on a larger scale; I can freely move my body around without moving the soil under my feet, so sure there must be a sharp line separating my body from the rest of nature? If I pick up a small stone, I can intuitively perceive it as a separate entity, and if I throw the stone to the lake, I can still think of it as an separate entity located in the bottom of that lake.

So, I'm not to deny that some objects appear to be separate entities - you can move an object X and separate it from its surroundings. But that is just on the practical level on our daily lives. We can move, collect, stack, alter and use items as separate entities. Still, if we believe that these objects are separate in some metaphysical way, then we begin to run in trouble. Image that we took a single cell and a single human organism, and suddenly re-located them into the outer space. They might still look like separate objects, but I'd guess they would both die immediately. So, the life and the functioning of a cell or an organism can not be separated from the surroundings; the life in us is only the life of The Earth - just like my life runs and vibrates through all the cells in my body, so does the life of The Earth sustain my body.

Well, from a scientific point of view this might seem OK. But what happens if we dig deeper? We find atoms and sub-atomic particles, and aren't they the basic building elements of everything? A single electron or a single photon is a separate entity in the proper metaphysical sense of the word, is it? Yeah, is it? Or is it just a beautiful ancient Greek myth that bigger objects are composed of smaller ones, and that there are some ultimate primitive particles which aren't composed of anything smaller? Moreover, what makes us think that all the electrons would be exactly the same without any irregularities? We can say that the planet Earth is not flat but a sphere - like the other planets. When we take a closer look we discover that The Earth is not an exact round sphere, but more like an oblate spheroid with some surface irregularities like mountains and valleys. (And for us earthlings is is those exact irregularities which make the Earth livable for us). It might be that these small irregularities don't make a a big difference when calculating how The Earth moves around in the space. But still, it would be metaphysically wrong to assume that The Earth is an exact geomethrical sphere - so is there any justification to believe that if we zoom in much enough, we reach such a level of material existence where there are no more irregularities and only particles with perfect geometrical shapes? Personally, I guess that is just a myth - an useful tool for making mathematical models, but nothing more. Moreover, I'm not convinced that bigger objects are made of atoms and atoms are made of sub-atomic particles and so on until we find the final fundamental building blocks of Everything. I tend to think that The Universe as a whole is just all that there is. If you zoom in, you see smaller details - if you zoom out, you see bigger figures. And it is just our human mind which likes to see the smaller details as somehow more fundamental. (For example, it might be that to better understand wave-particle duality we need models of not thinking particles as metaphysically separate entities, but seeing them as fundamentally being-part-of-a-whole. I'm not a physicist, and don't pretend to be one. For me it is just enough to realize that the myth of separate entities seems to fail to fully understand the universe as we see it.)

Also, we often think that words are like labels or name-tags for separate entities, for groups and for classes of entities. Like "Muusa" is the name of my dog, and "dog" is a label for the class of dogs, and so on. With this concept of language we end up thinking that to use words is essentially about making distinctions and putting labels of boxes. Using words and concepts is like capturing the essence of the world and putting it into a cage of definitions and theories. So if we want to experience the world as a great unity, or if we want to feel ourselves as being in a direct contact with the Great Mystery of Life, then we have to abandon words and concepts? Again, I don't think quite so. Instead using words as a cage, we might feel words as poetry, as gestures and as tools. We can use words to paint pictures of the world - remembering that the world is always more than what fits in a picture. Instead of trying to find rigid and exact definitions to capture the truth, we could be happy with rich theories and good discussions which help us to understand something which is beyond words. Now, I think some philosophers and psychologists think that our language sets limits to our experience - we can only conceive such things we can express in our language. To me that seems like too narrow view of human capacity to observe and to perceive the world. Sure, we can only understand what our internal information processing is capable to handle. But there is more than words in that internal information processing, there are different layers and different ways of processing information. And sometimes it might be that we get to experience something which forces us to re-think and to re-shape our language and our way of thinking.

It is past midnight and I'm beginning to feel to sleepy to write clearly. So I'll finish with a picture I quickly drew. In the picture we can easily spot figures of a tree, a human, and sun. No problem, they are there. Yet it is not easy to say exactly where the tree ends and a human begins, or where the ground and the sky meet - they are all made of one single line. Similarly, we can see the sunlight, and the flow of holy ground water, and we see them blending with the tree and the human. So, for me it is perfectly OK to use words to describe the world we see and the life we live. It is just that the words aren't that much labels on separate boxes, but more like gestures pointing at recognizable shapes in the great flow of the energy called The Universe.

simple figures
simple figures
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Comments

(Merleau-Ponty's way of writing is sometimes said to be hard to follow, as he could first describe a position he disagrees with - and then shifting to countering that position he had just described, and then going on trying to formulate his own view - all in a single long paragraph. I'm afraid I tend to do the same =) Maybe that is the way I think - instead of solitary monologue it is like having a constant conversation with different views.)

Hey Erkka,

I don't know if this is said enough but I enjoy reading your blog. Please don't stop.

Thank you.

Hey Tom,

Thank you for the feedback. I'm happy to feel that most of the time my head is full of things I'd like to write about - and then hearing that there are real people out there who actually read and enjoy the blog. So, the combination of these two makes it so that I won't stop writing =)

That drawing and that last paragraph are really inspiring. Bravo! Do you draw regularly? I would love to see more if you are. And as Tom said, don't stop writing please. I recently discovered your blog (and Sami and URW) and i am loving all of your work!

Uh oh, sometimes it surprises me that people like my writings - and drawings =) I don't draw that often, I'm more of a writer. But I recently started a "daily picture" project - mostly quick snaps with a mobile phone camera. There is a small text link above the blog post title.

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