The Philosophy Bit

It has to start with this. And I’m sorry for using the word “philosophy”. I can’t escape it. It’s like my fucking shadow – it only goes away when I’m surrounded by it. Well, by shadow-like darkness. Or philosophy-like…stuff. Master wordsmith right here.

So this isn’t one of those annoying new philosophies like you haven’t heard of, this is basically a summary of everything that we already know. Frankly we don’t spend enough time on Prime Mover style self-contemplation as a society, but I do so I’m going to talk about it. Partially related, my granddad became a satsangi years ago, and apart from the joy of mumbo-jumbo like “don’t worry, granddad’s made it so you’ll evolve quicker up the spiral of reincarnation”, I remember one thing in particular about that philosophy: that, according to him anyway, it was a philosophy. You could be a Christian satsangi. A Muslim satsangi. A Hindu satsangi. It didn’t have to alienate you from any erstwhile comrades you might have. I’ve never really looked much into the satsangis (or what is it, the Swaminarayan teachings?) because there was always this character granddad would talk about called “the Master” and pretty much from day one I was like fuck that.

But! It’s a great idea to have a way of thinking that doesn’t exclude anyone, so that’s what I try to cultivate. I don’t have a cool name for it, and generally I say I’m a pagan (because my IRL name is pagan and heck why not?) until people start asking more questions. Actually, I’m a bit of a chameleon. Talking to those of the Abrahamic persuasion I reel off the teachings of Christian theologians like I’m one of them (albeit a very cynical one of them) and among atheists I’m as happy to smash god as the next deranged humanist. What matters to me is that I get past the first bit and start having a proper conversation with someone. So far it seems that you can’t do that if you have a named philosophy you’re trying to preach. Also, this philosophy genuinely doesn’t need a name – it’s already sitting there in every named philosophy to exist, so you really can just say you’re whatever you want. Whatever has the best fragrance in the communal hall, the best songs, the best weird robes or…you know. Pick the culture that suits you best for daily practice. I’m actually drifting from pagan to “scientist”, or I was until I crapped out my latest attempt at a degree. The covid lockdown really didn’t help there – I’m both desperately insecure and massively social, so it kinda hit me at both ends, and not in a good way.

Yeah yeah Rosa, what is this philosophy then, go on, tell us. Alright! I’m getting to that.

It’s so simple that it’s actually really hard to draw your attention to it. Like it’s covered by a Hitchhiker’s Guide “somebody else’s problem field”. You have to catch it off guard, by talking about all kinds of other crap. And if me saying that has just made you stop reading, well, fuck. I guess it’s not for everyone.

Something concrete. I started this journey just trying to work out what the fuck is going on here. My Religious Studies teacher, back at school, did these casual extra classes for people who wanted to know more about philosophy rather than religion. We had two atheists, me (at the time a devout pagan) and a Muslim. I still don’t know what my teacher practised, though now I reckon he had a line on The Philosophy. At one of the early ones he tried to explain to us – we were about 15 – that all of our perceptions are unreliable. That idea, combined with the Matrix/Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, sent my brain off on one. Like woah woah woah man, you mean I don’t know anything?? And he was all like basically yeah.

The first task then was to check that information. Do I know anything? And that took a while. First, you see, you have to define your terms. What is “I”? Yeah, it’s that bad. And what is “knowing”? And, if you forget to ask while you’re answering those first two questions, what is “is”? Oh hell yeah this is/was some serious stuff.
I have some pretty good answers to these questions now, but I also realise that in a profound sense there are no “answers”, not like the facts you want, not like the knowledge you used to think you have. Nah man the answers lie in the spaces between things, or – more accurately – the flow of things. Which again is the Hitchhiker’s Guide bit, the somebody else’s problem field, or learning to fly – just fall at the ground and miss. But it’s also much simpler and more normal than that glorious sci-fi satire.

Knowing – you can’t. Know anything that is. But that’s the short answer. The long answer is that there is only one thing.

Also, while we’re on the topic, language is a real shit. It’s so hard to explain anything properly, in English at least. I don’t know any other languages well enough to attempt this level of nuance.

Self or “I” – there isn’t. Sorry, folks. Science is right, your sense of self is basically a fiction designed to help you survive. You are however part of the one thing, so it’s not that “you” don’t exist…it’s more like “you” is actually “we”.

Is – yeah. I’m being pretty silly right now, but “is” is the key word in all of this, it’s where the revelation comes from, it’s how you can make a semi-serious argument in favour of you knowing at least something.

Let me try and put it in less pugnacious terms. So I was trying to work out if anything could be known, while also trying to avoid “I”. Famously Descartes or someone said cogito ergo sum, which roughly translates as I think therefore I am. No. But it does kind of work. Simplify that thought, boil it down to its bare minimum and you have: something is existing, or “existence” or “is”. And even if you array all of your ability against that idea, against the idea that something is existing, I don’t think you or I can win, because it’s a truth. Possibly the only truth. Now you might be saying to me, but Rosa, that information is worse than useless, it’s actually just really depressing. If you are saying that, don’t worry – so did I! But try hanging out with it for a while, you know. Go out to your local, buy it a few drinks, make it a party, have a few laughs. It grows on you. You start to notice that actually having a basis for some kind of knowledge is…pretty cool.

I’m not gonna lie to you, I spent a long time just cycling that idea around in my mind, trying to make it mean something more. And heck, I basically got somewhere with that. I don’t think it’s me adding on shit that isn’t there. So, something exists. There can be nothing that doesn’t exist. Things that exist all share the attribute “exists”. There…you can get a bit lost. I needed to add some science to illuminate matters.

Let’s throw out a trite science statement “matter is neither created nor destroyed”. See – it agrees with me, this science stuff. But when you look at the implications of that, which all branches of science do plenty of, you see that everything is massively interconnected at basically every level. I’d really recommend looking at some theories of the origin of life for this – in fact I did an essay on that very topic, which I thought was pretty decent. I’ll try and clean it up, cut out the academic bullshit (in so far as it makes the essay harder to understand) and put it on here. You want to look at that because what we call “life” definitely came out of stuff we call “dead” and definitely still contains and depends on equivalents of all that “dead” stuff. The links and relations between the minutiae of matter is fucking amazing. It’s like looking at the anatomy of god, and I’m not just talking about their huge futa genetalia. If you don’t know what futa is probably don’t look it up. Basically god would have all the genetalia, so penis and vagina, balls and womb, breasts and too much testosterone. God looks either really weird, or really sexy, or both. Also god isn’t real (or, if you want to take it seriously and do a broad interpretation of the Cartesian attributes, god is just a crap – but ultimately serviceable – metaphor for existence itself).
I’ve definitely lost you now, right? I mean even if you’re still on board, you’re looking up futa and trans porn, you’re distracted, your mind and body are elsewhere. No I won’t recommend any decent sites. Shame preventeth me.

Let’s go back to the point of this universal interconnectedness – that, as long as you’re willing to forego “hard” knowledge, like definitive “this is absolutely right under all circumstances” knowledge, you can still understand the world very effectively. It’s changing sets of interconnected and more or less predictable systems. The biggest next revelation here actually is that sense of movement. Like we’re, or I was anyway, educated to think that knowledge is solid and still, and it really really isn’t. When you think about it, it becomes pretty obvious too – because no-one agrees on anything, except actually everyone agrees on quite a lot of stuff. You can’t encapsulate that kind of non-contradictory contradiction in a traditional theory of knowledge.

You have to understand that when you’re observing something, it won’t stay that way forever, and it might not have even been that way when you saw it. So, like all those predicting outfits out there, marketers, gamblers, scientists, you actually function by making loads of (in our case possibly infinite) small observations and building an average out of them. Do I need to keep breathing? It appears so. But those anaerobic respirators over there, they don’t need to breathe. Well, actually they kind of do, I mean they need to respirate or whatever. Alright – rocks. Yes, rocks seem to function without breathing, although their “functioning” is probably mostly at the atomic level. Up at this level they don’t seem to do much. So not all things need to breathe? It seems so. But I do? Well, you’re breathing right now, and when you stop, you really don’t like it, and other people who’ve stopped too long have died. Well…guess I better keep breathing then. Yeah, it’s a pretty safe bet.

And that’s it! The vast majority of what we do, is what we consider a safe bet. Umm, but the main point I want to walk away with there is the flexibility, the interconnectedness, the fluid nature of existence. I say fluid, I mean maybe there are gaseous bits. I dunno. I’m only really at initiate level here. Science will have to take it further.

The other thing to consider is that time is probably bullshit. Like, an illusion to facilitate some of what we do. I’m early days on that one. It’s real fiddly. All this stuff is.

Anyhow, the reason I’m mentioning philosophy so early on is that even this amount of information can completely change the way you interact with society and the world around you in general. There’s a tantalising amount of further info out there that we can quest for and discover, but at the broader social level, we’re still acting like something is true if the Bible says so. By the way, don’t get me wrong Christians who I already offended, the Bible may contain god-tier information, but you have to admit, since humans wrote it, rewrote it, translated it, re-translated it…I mean…it’s not gonna be perfect now, even if it was conceived perfect. Be reasonable. But yeah, human societies, even “the best ones”, are still acting like science is a hobby, which mostly relegates it, and the search for meaning, and evolution itself, to the minor leagues. Meanwhile, who’s got the shinest car takes the major league title once again, even though we’re in a climate crisis. I mean what the fuck.

[so yeah, as I said in the intro…pretty loose-cannon material right now, crashing and thrashing all about the decks. It’ll improve though. I actually have loads of casual and professional material on this already, most of which I’ve never used…so there is more basis to it than me randomly deciding to type this out today. Oh, and if you’re reading – thank you and I love you! And I’m sorry for being so aggressive in this – massive caffeine high. Massive.]

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