Everything vs Nothing

You see a nice “model” which I call “The System of Negation”, which I have been heavily thinking about.  What is its purpose?  Though it has more reasons behind it than what I’m about to say, the main purpose behind it is to help people see that a lot of what they talk about is vague, and that they are saying next to nothing.

System Of Negation

You see the most vague term I have on the chart is “entity”.  I can think of several other vague words as well, such as “thing”, “object”, and “thought”.  I think vague words, and vague concepts end up saying the closest thing possible to nothing, the most vague being concepts which embody “pure unity”.  A word which stood for everything which exists would be a word having the meaning of “pure unity” (Ex: the philosopher’s word of ‘being’).

Take for instance if someone says “I saw an entity”. Or, “I saw an object”.  Or, “I had a thought”.  That’s about as vague as you can get.  The amount of different things this  person could have seen, or could have thought about, is huge.  They could have seen a bus, a cat, or an apple.  They could have thought about death, their mother, or the fact that they’re hungry.  It’s true that they have said something, but very little.  We know that they’ve perceived something, as opposed to not perceiving something.  That’s about all we really know.

The word “entity” encapsulates so many words.  This is what I’m trying to get at when I say that vague words get closer and closer to “pure unity”.  You get these words that could stand for anything.  “Entity” could basically stand for any physical object.  “Thought” could stand for anything that could go on in the mind.  “Object”, like entity, could stand for anything you could perceive with any of the senses.

Now how is this practical?  Well, let’s take for instance morality.  I’m continually told in church to “love my neighbor”.  I believe this to be vague.  “Love” is a unity of all actions, done to someone other than yourself, which the person doing the actions would consider “good”.  People have different judgments as to what they consider good, and I believe that this does not help us in the least.  Telling someone to love, as opposed not to love, has not really said anything.  This word “love” does not seperate my actions.  It does not tell me “do this” and “not do this”.  All you have said to me is simply “Do something to somebody”, as opposed to sitting around and not doing anything.   It’s no different than “I saw an entity”.

I struggle with the concept of ‘Love’ because I have grown to dislike the word.  It just has no meaning, or if I give it a good meaning, it does not neccessarily mean that to the person I’m talking to.  If I had a really great girlfriend (which at the moment, I do not), I would not tell her “I love you”, or “You are beautiful”.  These are vague.  I don’t really know what they mean and are easily confused.  I have to speak in things that have meaning to me.  We would be on a walk in the park, see an oak tree and I would say:

“You’re like a firmly rooted oak tree.  You are strong and unmovable.  You hold the world beneath you together, yet you stand high above it all.  If I were to climb you I would see a new world from high above.  I would join the birds and the small beasts of the field in singing you praise.  I think I’ll take you with me.  I will stain and garnish you.  You will be the desk in my study.  My hand will rest on you as I write my journal.  You will be my rocking chair.  When I’m weary, I’ll rest in you.  I will rock back and forth in you, and enjoy the sunset.”

If you don’t understand my symbolism, I’ll briefly explain it.  Strong and unmovable means I trust and depend on her.  Climbing her represents her knowledge, she is interesting to talk with and I see new things every time I hear her speak.  As for the furniture analogies, I do not believe in cheap furniture.  I only use the best, and I plan to keep my good furniture for life.  My desk, and my rocking chair are my two favorite places to be in the world.  I think from my chair, and work from my desk.  I would never part with either of them easily.  As for my hand resting on her, she will always know my thoughts on everything. I hold nothing from her.

I much prefer things like that to “I love you”.  Anyways, back to negation.

Let’s talk about about so called “deep” spiritual texts?  Let’s take a passage from the Tao Te Ching, a famous eastern religious text:
Verse 25: Naming the Nameless

“What preceded life?  The earth.
What preceded the earth?  The universe.
What preceded the universe?
The soundless and shapeless, origin of origins,
ever transforming and having no beginning or end.

This Mother of the universe is boundless, and nameless.
But if we wanted to share with you anything
about this remarkable non-executing executor,
we must invent a name for it.

We call it the Tao because Tao means great.
Incredibly great because it occupies infinite space,
being fully present in the whole universe, and in every infinitesimal particle.

Because this Great Integrity created the universe,
and the universe created the earth,
and the earth created us, we are all incredibly great.

Life derives from the nature of the earth.
The earth derives from the nature of the universe.
The universe derives from the nature of the Great Integrity.
And the Great Integrity is the omnipresent, omnigenous omniform,
the universal material and spiritual substance,
and the holoversal interlinkage of coition of existence.”

This sounds profound, but it is not.  It is saying next to nothing.  Notice the first paragraph.  All they are doing is removing negation after negation.  They are climbing up the ladder, just as we have in our example (Dog, mammal, animal, to entity).  First they extend their boundaries from the Earth to all things perceptible.  Next they’ve taken away anything perceptible, meaning it is not perceivable by the senses.  Finally they’ve taken it outside of time, which means it stands in no relation to other objects or any observers.

They have taken away every possible property that can used to describe anything.  All they have done is eliminate all negations.  They have taken away all specificities, and now they are trying to get at some unity of unities.  What are they uniting?  Who knows.  Really, they are saying nothing at all.  Second paragraph goes on seemingly to admit this, saying it is “boundless” or that it is not subject to negation.  But now we need a name for the vague entity (which is inconceivable).

It’s the “great” origin behind the universe, the source of “life”, and anything else that sounds big and fancy.   It’s almost like it’s everything, yet it’s nothing.  This is exactly what my “System of Negation” is out to show.  Once you get infinitely vague, trying to make a unity of unities, you’re once again back at Nothingness.  Since your purpose of speaking was to refer to something, yet you’re referring to everything, you have said nothing.  It’s just a bunch of sounds coming out of your mouth.  Symbols on a page.  The same thing happens when you get infinitely specific.  You get so specific that you end up referring to nothing as well. (Words probably cannot ever be infinitely specific, so this is only a theoretical consideration)

Things only come into play when there is finite negation.  There has to be a negation on what exists, in order to seperate anything.  Being is.  Negations negate (seperate into multiple pieces) the being into various subsections.  You start off with a big unity, and then you divide it up.  Ex: (Man, dogs, tables, etc).  We divide up existence from a unity into various words because we have a purpose for doing so.  It helps up communicate various things we wish to communicate to people around us.  This Taoist stuff is just a bunch of confused words.

A last final example, is the problem of ‘individuality’ or ‘self’.  Greg and I were listening to an audio course on existentialism.  The professor was talking about Hegel’s view on the world.  Hegel was thinking that the individual was not important, it is only the collective view of all humanity as a whole.  The existentialists take the opposite perspective and go and focus their philosophy around the individual, and “being an individual”, as diametrically opposed to the whole.  They talk about building a ‘self’, and being a person of passion.  In my opinion, these are not profound philosophies, they are simply plays on negation.  Hegel’s trying to remove all negations and get a unity of unities.  Other philosophers focusing on the individual, “experience”, “being”, etc, are applying infinite negations to get at some specific something.  They are both saying nothing.  They are big books full of etheric fluff.  It’s just like the old concept of “ether” in physics.  When carefully examined, it’s something we could just easily scrap and go on with our lives and get what we want out of life.

Outside of Sartre’s philosophy toward the human dynamic, and a few concepts from Nietsche and Heidegger which actually break down into real things we can put into use, the rest of this talk about “consciousness”, “being”, etc, is just a bunch of fluff.  Nietsche’s view toward Master and Slave morality is interesting.  Heidegger’s views on authenticity and facticity is interesting as well.  It’s not all bad, but the really technical philosophy, such as metaphysics, is just a bunch of words and plays on negation.

Nietsche’s Recursive Life

There is a profound thought which I’ve came across from Nietsche, mainly his “view” that there is no after-life, but advocated that upon death we’re going to live the same life over and over and over.  This at first sounds silly, and I don’t even think Nietsche himself really held this view.  He advocated this view because people are continually neglecting this life for future rewards.  They’ll say things like, “This life doesn’t matter.  When I die and go to heaven, it will all be ok.”  So they let themselves become walked all over, they cling to strange duties to family and other social obligations thrown on them from all around.  Nietsche is only bringing up a point which is saying, “If you had to live this life over and over and over for all eternity, would you be making the same decisions you are now?”

I thought of a girl Greg knows.  Her parents are lazy and their lives have been falling apart, and she is the one who holds everything together in the home.  She is miserable living there, but feels she has a duty to her family to keep things going at the home.  Asking if I had to go through that for all eternity, over and over and over, I would surely say “see ya”, and move on to my own life.

Upon thinking on eternal recurrence of the same life, I wonder if I’d do what I’ve done, if I had to live it over again and again and again.  All this business stuff, I don’t really care for it.  I’d rather be writing philosophy and working on what I love.  I’m doing business mainly to achieve independence.  As I was walking around town, I was considering, what if I just sold everything, got rid of everything I own, got rid of all bills, and just studied.  Maybe work some little side job to make a little money, or have some small information product to bring me in enough money to live as I do my studies.  I have savings and things, but it couldn’t last a lifetime at the moment.  Maybe I could sell DVDs and books I write.  Who knows, maybe they’d generate enough money to support me in a modest lifestyle.

It’s a hard thought.  I hate money and working for it.  It took me a lot of studying things I don’t care about to get to where I could achieve independence.  I will soon have the money not to work at all.  As for right now, it’d be unwise for me to quit my businesses as I’ve built them up already and are coming to the end of that road, but looking back, I don’t know if I’d do it over again.  The things it is gaining me are not things I’m really after out of life.

I have learned considerable things about the mindset of the business man however.  That information is invaluable, and understanding their value, and the problems of communism is a pinnacle thought.  Most professors don’t understand what they’re advocating sometimes, and this business knowledge has pushed me to an edge when it comes to many aspects of society.  In that respect, I would never wish to let go of the knowledge I’ve learned.  A lot of the ways I view things are because of my experiences in the business world and various people I’ve dealt with.

It’s really hard to say, but I guess I’d do it over again, though I didn’t particularly enjoy the period.  It could have been done better.

Albert Camus

My final thoughts for this entry include thoughts on a novel by the philospoher and Noble prize winner Albert Camus.

As I have a headache at the moment, I will keep this brief.  Camus’ novel “The Stranger” is a fascinating book.

As for the plot of the book, you can read from wikipedia:

As for my interest in the novel, you find the main purpose of the book was to advocate a certain philosophy which most people would refer to as “living in the moment”.  The main character, Meursault, is a man who never uses his reflective reasoning.  He continually lives in immediate perception.  He doesn’t think about the future, the past, duty, morals, or anything of the like.  He just lives each day, moment by moment. He’s an example of “living in the moment” taken to its full conclusion.

The book is written from the first person perspective, so you hear what Meursault is thinking about at all times.  It’s fascinating.  One the thing Camus is out to show is that a lot of depression, and mental agitation comes from this needless reflection, and that if you would just learn to enjoy the moment you could be lot more happy.

But you also see the consequences of such a view.  Meursault ends up being executed for a murder (he killed a man, but it was not murder).

The first half of the book you find Meursault not using any reasoning at all.  He just lives moment by moment.  During his court trial, however, (second half of the book) he  slowly starts reasoning and thinking, and you start seeing anger and frustration.

I’ve been reflecting myself on this whole mindset, and find it worthwhile.  Camus has another book, The Myth of Sisyphus, which is about a being Sisyphus, who was punished by the Gods to roll a stone up a hill perpetually for all eternity.  (We’ve all heard of this myth)

Camus is out to show that if you utilize the “live in the moment” mindset, even a tedius pointless task, such as rolling this stone up the hill, can become a much better experience.  When there is a large task before you, the main gist of the mindset is, do not look at the project as a whole, but just get into the moment and do things one at a time.  Enjoy each individual moment, and you’ll soon get it all done.  The reflection on the big picture will just make you miserable.

It’s interesting to think about.  I’m not sure what to think of it entirely, but I’ve been pondering on it all.

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2 Responses to Everything vs Nothing

  1. Matthew says:

    I just wish you had done more homework and sincerely considered the Tao Te Ching before writing it off as “confused”. You seem well learned, although xenophobic when it comes to Taoism.

  2. I’m not xenophobic. I’m not going to comment on Taoism in particular, but on religion in general, that way answering any other comment people may make about other religions as well. I grew up in a very religious household, being taught religious and spiritual concepts my entire life. I have an entire bookshelf here in my study with nothing but religious texts. Though I don’t have the space here to fully dive into my position on this, I’ll say this: If you buy yourself serious, well-written textbooks on astronomy, cosmology, biology, anthropology, economics, physics, psychology, sociology, history, and other sciences related to life, society, and the universe, you’ll learn much more about who you are, the problems we as humans face, the origin of the Earth, the laws and patterns of the universe, and much much more. Read all those texts, in-depth. Don’t try to skip out on the long arduous process by hoping to learn it by watching a few documentaries. Read textbooks which are thousands of pages, with lots and lots of detail. Lock yourself in a room, and don’t leave it for 4 or 5 years. Even at 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, it’ll take you many years to plow through all of the material.

    After you exit your study, go back and read the religious texts. See what you think of them then. There’ll be all kinds ways and paths, and supposed truths. My own conclusions lead to me to find a lot of the moral teachings beautiful, though considering no actual details of action to love one another is specified, I also well understood completely why religious fanatics do stupid things, and think they’re loving one another.

    I also began to wonder exactly what mystics and gurus expected to find, sitting there in a room meditating. The world was begging for them to explore and discover, yet they were looking inward for something. Yet year after year, knowing many who do that sort of thing, they never seem to progress, and never does the world.

    They claim to go to distant locations, in a timeless world, where they can talk to anyone, and learn anything, in an all-knowing state. I don’t believe that for a second. They claim to leave the slavery of their human body, and exist in some unbounded glory. I don’t believe it.

    But as to that, if you want to learn how to love the people around you, I’d recommend books like ‘How to Win Friends And Influence People’, and studying the issues of politics in-depth. Make sure you always vote properly on issues, and stand for the correct things, informing everyone around you when they’re being misdirected and misinformed. Our modern world is an information age, and what people need is intelligent people to help them sort through all the lies — mostly fed to us by the big corporations to keep the status quo, and maintain their profits.

    You might presently be searching for truth in religious texts. In the beginning, you’ll find them deep. There’s a time you have to move beyond them though. Eventually evolution has to surpass creation. Big bang replaces God (or the Tao or whatever). You have to base your life on empirical studies and research or you never progress.

    The beauty of life is in the details, and the elegant laws which bring those details together. So much intricacy and detail, yet somehow simple patterns and laws govern everything behind them. The beauty of that governing force will become apparent, and you’ll want to know more and more about it. But as to whether you’ll learn about it from the Tao Te Ching? Nah.

    What I find “deep” about life is things like the dynamics of light. How it’s both a wave and a particle. How space and time warp as you move at different relative speeds. Nebular theory, and watching solar systems start out as a ball of gas, gravity and angular momentum spin the gas around, flatten it out into a pancake like shape, the star ignites in the middle, and the planets of the system begin to take form. That’s deep. Comparatively, religious texts are not deep, at all.

    I never would have imagined the world I’ve came to know. I never could have meditated and learned these things. The difference between an empirical researcher such as myself, and a mystic is that I don’t try to tell the world what is true. I simply search and let information flow to me. THEN the world shows me what’s true and it’s infinitely greater and more beautiful than what I could have ever came up with.

    I would have had no idea that nothing has a set color. That both color AND shape vary relative to how fast I’m moving. That time is so complex, and that if I were to move near light speed I could travel across the entire universe almost instantly. That distances are relative to how you’re moving! It’s almost unbelieveable. That’s why Einstein’s book on Special Relativity has far more depth that all the religious books out there combined. He not only tells you something amazing, but backs it with the unchanging laws of physics.

    Sure it’s complicated. That’s why people will not want to study it. They’ll try to short-cut the process. But you can’t short-cut knowledge. If you’re willing to mine it out of the world, it’s yours to keep. And once you have it, you’ll never trade it for anything else. Knowledge is always its own reward, worth more than anything else.

    With science, unlike most religious texts, you’ll actually feel yourself grounded. You won’t be free-floating around in continual speculation. You can spend hours and hours pondering religious texts — and believe me, I’ve already been there, done that — and years later you’re at the SAME place you were. There’s a quick spurt of progress when you first start learning, but it quickly tapers off, and you learn no more. But with science, you keep progressing and progressing. There’s never an end to it. Your worldview will keep shifting around and changing, but you’ll find yourself honing in on some “truth”. You start to get a glimpse of something. That “something” is only known to those who study science for an entire lifetime.

    The “everything vs nothingness” aspect to this article was primarily concerned with something entirely different than religion. When I went for a walk that day, and thought about these things, I was thinking about how our brains link words together, and how sometimes we create circular loops. But saying I think Taoism is confusion is not true. I agree with the fact that there’s some universal concept behind everything. The more I study, the more things unite and become one. That excerpt I read seems true, but without other studies, it’s too vague to be useful or really progress you past anything but the most elementary thinking. It speculates that there’s a common base. No proof, no detailed studies. Just a speculative statement that seems true, intuitively.

    Honestly, I find a physicists concept of energy to be a much better way to view reality than reading through cryptic texts on what Tao is. All matter is compressed energy. They say Tao is some sort of principle behind both existence and non-existence. Energy must be the positive side of Tao. But as for non-existence. What exists, exists. What doesn’t, doesn’t. I don’t think there’s a principle for non-existence. There is only what is. The “non-existence”, I believe, is just a in our minds. It’s a thought which exists, which states that something we’ve seen before, is not present in the current situation. That’s “negation”. We take a memory of something, and how things were at some point, and then comparative that to the present situation.

    Our minds can remember that there once was a table in the kitchen, but now that table is gone. It’s just something our minds can do. But if you damage your memory through brain damage, or drugs, you’ll find this ability goes away as well. It’s in the mind.

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