Naked and spectacular

Total pageviews


A congruence of internal dictionaries

In his book The God Delusion Richard Dawkins uses some kind of logic to "prove" that some kind of "god" does not "exist".  As this sentence implies, there are tree problems inherent in my prejudiced summation of his book.  Some words are just too undefined for us to ever hope to share a common understanding of.

First we have the word "prove" and it seems to me the primary purpose of his book is to prove that some god does not exist, which implies a belief; the belief that some god does not exist, precisely the evil that the book is against.

The second word we find problematic is "god".  I don't understand, and the half of the book that I read does not clarify this point, how a concept could possibly exist or not exist.  God is not an object that we can point to like a desk or a banana, however we created the word "god" for the same reason we created the words "desk" and "banana", to explain an experience.  I am sure some clever idiot could write a book proving that "hope" does not exist or "evil" does not exist because there is no physical evidence of these abstract concepts in the dimension we seem to most agree on.  I must say that God may be a useful concept for some people to discuss and understand an experience they do not have a better word to explain.  The idea that their experience does not exist is a hysterical degree of intellectual fascism, the idea that the word they use to explain it does not exist is just silly.

Our third problematic word is "exist" and any simple glance at modern science shows that we don't actually anything about existence at all.  Our physics has developed so far within such a limited spectrum that we realise that we have no idea, in a world where there are so many possibilities, each with a different probability of existing, why any event performs the formality of actually occurring.  We also make the assumption that abstractions such as god and hope are less certain than objects such as desks and bananas but when we look at these objects on a quantum level we discover that their existence is not as solid as we assumed.  It turns out they are mostly space and the atoms that make up their form seem to be appearing and disappearing for no reason we can understand.  Now we must wonder what we could possibly mean when we use the word "exist" when a perceiving entity is required as a reference point for anything to be considered "in existence" from our commonly-held scientific perspective.

Personally, I accept science as interesting and intellectually provocative.  I do not understand why it is necessary or how it is possible to "believe" in science as if it is "true".  These seem to me to be very unscientific, unexamined words.  For science to be interesting or provocative enough to retain my attention I first require an effective science communicator, someone who is able to straddle both the understanding of the theory, mathematics and implications of the science as well as the language we use to contain and share the science.  There are some scientists whose prose style I enjoy, just as there are some novelists whose prose style I enjoy.  In this way I can take science in the same way I take any other form of writing.

Belief is a trick of language.  Language does not create any truth.  Any feeling of truth obtained from language is simply that the language explicated something you already understood.  Language cannot present any new information when it obviously requires an existing understanding of each individual word and the listener's ability to reconstruct those words in a way they deem to be meaningful and of course they can only reconstruct these words in a meaningful way that is within their existing realm of understanding.  They cannot accept a meaning for a word that is beyond their present understanding of that word.

As a writer perhaps my primary break-through was the idea that words cannot convey meaning.  I cannot tell you anything you do not already know, or you wouldn't believe me.  Words do not contain information.  One might think this would end my career as a writer, realising that I could not possibly tell anybody anything worth knowing.  If this is true it makes sense simply to find some strand of pleasing illusion I can call my own and try to make a living from my skill and my specific strand of illusion.

However I also realised that despite being fundamentally meaningless, words are also extremely powerful.  Swear words are the most obvious example of this; meaningless words whose utility is merely offense.  I know from experience that I can stand up in front of a group of people and have a tremendous effect on them.  I can simply say some words and people will become quiet, the atmosphere in the room will change and some sort of physically awkward, intellectually quietening feeling will come across the listener.  Afterward somebody might tell me that I have "spoken the truth" and their feelings for me are genuine but their meaning is false.  A more honest person might tell me that it was "amazing" but they didn't quite get it all.  Superficially this second person might appear less intelligent but really they have a more accurate understanding of the fundamentals of what has just gone on here.  Consciously they might be thinking that if they heard the text one or two more times they would "understand" it but subconsciously they know that it is beyond understanding and that they have simply been affected by the vibrations of the sounds shaped by my voice and that connections have been made in their brain that have had psychic and physiological effects on themselves and others.  Perhaps, like a shared meditation, many of these psychic and physiological effects are similar from person to person and there is a communion possible in the sharing of words.  And of course it is all in the vibrations of the words, rather than the perception of their meaning.

I know I am a brilliant writer, but sometimes I bore myself with the blahblah contradiction of what I am writing about.  At my best I do not think, I simply slam the ends of my fingers down on the keyboard and beautiful combinations occur easily.  Sometimes I will sit and think and construct intellectually and bend my mind around concepts that are complicated and difficult to communicate and will most likely end up being limited and possibly contradictory and even maybe completely meaningless if I choose the wrong tone.  How can the tone of my writing render something meaningless when surely it is either true or untrue?  Perhaps there is no such thing as a shared truth that can somehow pass from me to you via this collection of symbols on some glowing screen.

Perhaps if you understand English well enough and we have read some of the same books and grown up in a similar cultural environment we will use these letters in a way that allows us to create vibrations that gives us a feeling of communion, of commonality that we might call understanding, of spiritual union and a feeling that we are the same being because we have the same experience of reality, if only for a moment.

Some days coffee and the sunrise morning allow me to clear and focus my mind and use my skill with language to shine  light onto the darkness of the internet that not only I find pleasing, but potentially many people around the world.  Some mornings I am not entirely sure I have been effective in this process.  To reassure me today I will post a series of three references all of which will be interesting and to the point and will perhaps communicate my intention if I haven't already.

An excerpt from the 2001 film Waking Life in which our hero hears a passionate explanation of the limits and power of our attempts to communicate through words.

The 1991 Robert Anton Wilson talking about how nothing has been explained so far and our experience of the universe is constantly changing.

An hour-long excerpt from a 1992 discussion with Terence McKenna in which he talks about, amongst other strange and fascinating topics, how reality is created with language.

Let me know how your explanation of reality fits into this paradigm.  Perhaps we can use this page as the beginning of a conversation because certainly in this area I am incapable of presenting a conclusive story.

No comments: