Page Created: 7/7/2015   Last Modified: 3/21/2017   Last Generated: 1/17/2023
The most important Element of Binary Opposition is the dichotomy↗ of Unity (One) and Separation (Many). In my opinion, it is the most important because it was the First. It was the moment a Hammer struck a Bell, followed by a ring of vibrations lasting billions of years↗.
Our world and ourselves are constantly combining, separating, and recombining.
Unity, at its most elemental, is a result of a creation. And separation, its opposite, is understanding, a result of a destruction.
All creation is the composition of multiple elements into a single element. This can be easily visualized in a painting, where the artist paints with different colored paints. But even stone sculptors, by removing the medium subtractively, are performing a composition, in this case a composition of ideas or other shapes that they combine to produce a single shape.
And we cannot understand things without first separating them from one another, forming artificial dichotomies. For it is the differences between elements that provide us with new knowledge.
But how does one separate an object? There are an infinite number of ways. Our understanding is thus based on how something is separated. You can dismantle an alien spaceship to find out how it works, or you could disintegrate it. Dismantling it would uncover the knowledge of their mechanics, machinery. Bombarding it with electrons (mass-spectrometry) would uncover the knowledge of their chemistry and metallurgy, a destructive process. But there may very well be a way to separate the spaceship that is known to the alien race but unknown to human beings, "dotted lines" that our mind cannot see.
One cannot understand something by looking at the whole if they haven't first seen the parts. The parts form our language, and language decodes pattern. But it seems to decode only those patterns written into our language, based on how we separated those parts to begin with... it is a self-fulfilling cycle. Therefore, when something cannot be expressed within our language to the degree needed for understanding, we have to either create a new language, or shape our existing language to fit the new concepts.
We don't have to separate everything we observe to understand it, but we have to have previously separated other similar things to see those parts.
And one cannot create something without having the language, the parts, first. We cannot create things that are outside of our language. If you have no language (whether it is verbal, scientific, artistic, visual) you cannot create. Creating requires borrowing the components from other things (even if these things are just ideas) and recombining them into a whole. A child, for example, cannot create until he has formed some form of language, even if it is just visuospatial.
And sometimes, by creating new things from those parts, our "new thing" approximates something strange that we observe around us and cannot understand. This sometimes correctly informs us that these strange things are not so strange at all, and have similar underlying mechanisms, similar parts, even if it is beyond our power to deconstruct them.
In DMT hallucinations, there is a commonly-reported phenomenon, documented by various researchers↗, where people witness other beings, intelligent entities that they believe are real and not just hallucinations. Many of these reports describe the beings as always being there, in our field of view, but we simply cannot see them. When they first become visible to these people, they peek out from "cracks" as if our 3D space is broken apart in space of another dimension.
They emerge from the lines where our world seems to separate, those parts, but in our normal lives we cannot see those dotted lines.
When we look at random noise, occasionally we will see patterns, known as pareidolia, but we only see patterns if we have a language of those patterns. There might be a perfect image of an alien organism on the screen but we cannot see it.
Once we decide on how to separate something, we have chosen our own fate. What we observe as our reality is our pattern of separation. There may be an infinite amount of realities around us, if we were to separate things differently, like different radio frequencies in the air around us.
When we first separated the DNA molecule into its genes, we made an interpretation about a molecular pattern, the gene, but there many be numerous other molecular patterns that are not recognized by our interpretation. A mosaic tile floor, for example, may contain an image of colored tiles within, but a long crack, a fracture across a series of tiles, has nothing to do with that coloration, and yet that fracture will tell us which tiles may crack next.
And what about that quantum superposition, being both part of and separate, violating the rules of that dichotomy? The superposition itself appears to encompass one of the primary elements of a fractal, the fact that it is both a part and a whole. Instead of looking at the superposition as a strange, quantum phenomenon, perhaps we should look at it as a consequence of our position within a fractal structure.
I find it fascinating that every day we articulate our limbs, our hands are in front of our face doing things for us, but are we our hands? Are we the eyes looking at the hands? Are we the ears listening to what our eyes cannot see? While standing on earth, Time moves a fraction of a second faster for our head than our feet. Our head and feet are not in the same Time. Where is our Center? Which part of us is us?
There is definitely a focal point, where the many become one, and create our identity, our individuality, but it is in fractal space, non-Euclidean space. It is hard for us to isolate.
We are fractal beings, both parts and whole, we can separate, combine, and recombine at will.
If the human body was redrawn as a network map, showing only the physical connections, but not scale, its skeleton would look fractal. If the human body was redrawn showing only the scales of its limbs and digits, it looks fractal. It is not a perfect fractal, like most fractals in nature, but it is imperfectly scale-free.
When I extracted Binary Oppositions while working on my film, I performed a separation, and when I studied Separation itself, I performed another separation, that from Unity. You can continue to do this sort of fractal reductionism until you've reduced everything to that which exists and that which does not. But what we consider to be meaning seems to be a gradation between 2 poles, not the poles themselves, it is the self-fulfilling shape that emerges as we chip out the stone.
We are seeing ourselves everywhere we look.
Sometimes separating does not appear to destroy something. When some types of worms are split in half, they continue living and regenerate their lost body parts, forming two worms. But something was still destroyed, our focus. We have lost the ability to apply our singular focus to that entity, for it is now two. We now must apply it to one or the other.
And sometimes combining and creating leads to understanding, but the understanding is formed in the process of manipulating the parts, or seeing the interrelations of the parts, or discovering a meaning derived from a language of the parts. One first has to have the parts, which are obtained through a destructive process, whether it is a physical destruction, or simply the destruction of our focus.
In particle physics, every attempt to separate quarks, the smallest particles of matter, has resulted in the instantaneous creation of new quarks↗. It seems that the energy needed to separate them is so great that it transforms into matter, via Einstein's mass-energy equivalence.
But with things as small as quarks, we can't really put our singular focus on them to begin with, since we don't really know where they are, being in a statistical wave-function, a fuzzy cloud. Our very focus collapses the wave function and turns them into particles. Could this be the same reason we cannot separate them?
Like a Chinese finger trap↗, perhaps our focus itself is creating the confinement, keeping them together. If we simply forgot about them, they would exist in that fuzzy cloud once more.
If we simply forgot about them...
In my opinion, it seems that we are asking the wrong question.
On one hand, we are creating our own idea of reality through our very actions, our choice of how to separate the world into components.
But on the other hand, we want to see what is behind the veil, what our world is composed of, and we find that there is nothing behind the veil. This is analogous to building a man out of clay and then trying to figure out why we cannot open it up and see its skeleton. It is just more clay, the skeleton does not exist, for we created a man without the need for one.
To me, this tells me more about ourselves than about the Universe that we think is real.
Perhaps it is now time to forget about that Man, ball up the clay, and begin making something else.
There is a curious feeling that I experience, that when I am part of a small group of people conversing with each other, and I have to leave while those people are still talking, as I walk away and the voices fade away, for a short time I feel that I am still in that group with them, that my focus is still there, as if my body walked away, but my mind had not. I do not experience a sharp division between when I was inside the group and when I left. I may be many rooms away, far beyond audible distance, but I feel that I am still present in that other place, and then a minute later, this feeling dissipates and my entire focus rejoins my individual self.
One could say that this is simply my memory, that I am still thinking about the previous place. But the feeling is not the same as memory recollection; It is a feeling of telepresence. Perhaps there are neurons that maintain this feeling of presence until it fades out, like afterimages fading from our retina after we turn our head and look at something else. Perhaps it is a short-term memory buffer. That would make sense from a computational perspective--we are still reading an old memory buffer and haven't yet switched over to the new one.
Or perhaps, while in the group, part of myself, who I think I am, has temporarily moved to the group...
But I ask myself, where are we exactly when we are in between states of focus, crossing that gap? Is it the gap that is fuzzy or it it ourselves? We think using a collection of neurons, and like a crowd of people crossing the street, there is a short time when we have to wait for the collection to cross the gap. During this crossing, we enter a state of dispersal, where our focus is split and not clear, a very brief state of forgetfulness, non-presence.
While our physical body moves with smooth precision, our most conscious, focused thought moves in jumps, the result of another Binary Opposition, a separation of Analog and Digital. Just like our modern society has replaced many Analog technologies with Digital ones, our earliest civilizations may have already done this long ago within our brain, when we created language and Words.
Binary oppositions are "logocentric" and are not necessarily universal to all human beings. Different people are free to construct different oppositions.
I've been a runner most of my life, and I prefer not to wear a digital GPS device while running unless I am unsure of my fitness level and need to periodically determine my actual pace. But, weeks or months later, once my fitness level stabilizes, the device becomes a hindrance. If I know the distance, the simple equation of distance/time can give me my average speed, and a simple time-keeping watch or clock will do. And if I know my average speed, which many fit runners can feel if they pay attention to their bodies and pace, then I can compute my distance.
But if I have no GPS device and no watch, an interesting thing happens.
A mind in a relaxed, meditative state induced by distance running does not move discretely, it moves smoothly; analog. My steps are rhythmic, cyclical, and my mind rides atop of this wave. Objects around me seem to pass smoothly, and I frequently find myself running faster than usual without knowing it. I begin to pace myself by feel. In competitive running, we learned not to fall into a "comfortable" feeling because it will frequently lure you into a slower race time, and so we learned how to apply a certain level of discomfort that maximizes our overall speed. Doing this requires the application of will; it is not something your body wants you to do. Your body, being part of the natural world, informs your mind that it wants to follow the path of least resistance.
However, when you glance at a discrete Time, distance, or speed measuring device, it immediately collapses this wave and breaks this state, making you a slave to the device. The magic suddenly vanishes. The human body is not designed to run at a constant speed like a mechanical escapement↗, but continuously vary, depending on the state of its system, the state of the environment, changing its flow of energy over Time. Sometimes physiological mechanisms will implore you to slow down slightly, but this can be beneficial if it allows you to pick up the pace even faster later. Sometimes your body tricks you, but other times, it comes clean and tells you the Truth.
What if this binary, digital brain we have constructed through our use of Words is causing us to see the world as digital? Time is a concept that many physicists postulate is quantized (in other words, digital). Is it really? Or are we just seeing the resolution of our own thought processes? If you place a screen in front of your eyes, everything looks like a series of discrete boxes, but this is only because we have erected such a screen.
Just like conversing in a small group, we don't have to touch each other to feel we are part of a group, we can just be near, within audible distance. And today, with electronic communication, spatial separation is not a factor, and people hundreds of miles away can feel connected, thanks to the speed of light. You can extend this into temporal separation, too. Books allow people hundreds of years ago to speak to us, as if we were in their group. Communication unifies separate parts, forming new wholes, even creating new entities.
On July 15, 2015, while writing this essay, I watched live on NASA TV as scientists released the first clear photos of the surface of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft which had flown by Pluto the day before. Pluto was around 3 billion miles from earth at the point of its passing, and it took over 4 hours for the spacecraft signal to reach earth, a signal traveling at the speed of light, the fastest speed in the Universe. The spacecraft had snapped a series of high-resolution photos and stored them in its memory, but over that distance it could only transmit data to earth at a rate of less than 2 Kbps, around the speed of a computer modem, circa 1985 or a packet radio transmission. So, at that time, we only got a clear, tiny piece of the whole planet.
Scientists began to dissect this tiny piece, breaking it apart along the imaginary lines of things that they previously understood from the earth and other planets in the solar system: mountains and canyons, ice and volcanism. But there was a brief moment, right when the images were first unveiled, before they drew those dotted lines, where anything was possible, where meaning was not yet constructed, where we can all draw our own lines.
Pluto, the rebel of the original Nine planets of the 20th century, was kicked out of the group in 2006, as Mankind decided to move their imaginary line of division, redefining the word planet itself↗. The English names for the planets were taken from Greco-Roman mythological gods, yet this strange human convention wasn't what was under scrutiny. While a name is free to draw many associations, relate to many concepts, it seems that a category is not, even though a category also has a name.
A category is a break, another fracture, a fractal bifurcation, an abstraction that can only be seen from certain perspectives. Those concepts on one side of the fracture are considered related in a way that those on the other side are not. Categories have been a focus of philosophical study for thousands of years. I've even created my own personal categorization system for this web site.
By redrawing the lines of a category to be more restrictive and exclusive, one has declared that the previous relations are no longer important, a way of curating knowledge.
I still see those previous relations as important, however, and to me, Pluto will always be a Planet; I don't have to accept this artificial division, and by doing so, I've created my own division, between my language and the language of someone else. When we wonder why there are so many different people on the earth, so many different cultures, different viewpoints, and different languages, there is a reason; people separate as much as they unite, it is an ebb and flow, another binary opposition.
Approximately one week before New Horizons photographed Pluto, a reality television show called The Island had finished its first season in the US, and the remaining American men had returned after surviving on an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean for several weeks. Many of the men had to improvise without having access to training or knowledge of survival techniques.
Sending men to a remote island was synchronistic with sending a spacecraft to a remote dwarf planet. In both cases, men had to approach new situations in Nature without any understanding--the survivalists trying to find water and food, and the scientists looking for geologic structures on Pluto. On the island, the men tried to apply their knowledge based on what they had learned in the industrialized world (parts) to new things (wholes) that they had never encountered, such as rough terrain, hot weather, strong water currents, human limitations, and native animal life.
It is a good thing that human beings are similar but not exactly the same, for our understanding of the world and ourselves depends on it. If we all act the same and think the same, we are united as a powerful unit, but the extent of our power is limited by our own tunnel vision. If we all act as individuals, our paths ahead appear vast and unlimited, but we quickly find that we need the group in order to make any headway down those paths. We must move as an organism.
Many of the men's problems could have been avoided if they acted as a group, but many of their successes came from individual contributions. At some points, I cheered for group cohesion, but at others, I welcomed individual spirit. If I could view those men from above using a time-lapse camera, and drew lines between them, it would be a familiar shape.
Have you ever seen an amoeba↗, the single-celled organism, move? It has a central blob which stays relatively blob-like, but then it has these blobby projections, called pseudopods, that branch out like feet. At the time of this writing in 2015, nobody knows exactly how they move. And nobody knows exactly what they are. They do not have a biological "category". They seem to be a type of category themselves, as new "molecular phylogenetic" research has discovered. Under these types of classifications, leukocytes, our white blood cells, could even be a type of amoeba.
Isn't that strange? Here is what seems to be a distinct organism, a cell that slips and slides its way around in an amorphous shape, and yet we do not give it a specific name, but treat it as a named category. Even with the DNA, it is hard to classify. Visually, we can study its "morphology" (its structure) and try to classify it, but this is similarly difficult. And even their basic shape is hard to define and classify, as they are shape-shifting.
Viruses↗ are similarly difficult to categorize. Yes, they contain DNA and RNA, but are they life forms? They do not have cells or metabolism, yet they can reproduce. But perhaps this is because we have drawn our imaginary line upon them. When combined with another cell, they become part of that cell. Is that simply an infected cell or a new classification of cell? Scientists could, for example, extract a molecular sequence from a living cell and turn it into a synthetic virus used to infect other cells. It seems that the division is, again, semantic, our limited way of classifying and understanding those parts that may not break along the lines we intend.
Unfortunately, we have already drawn a very Dark Line, using Black Charcoal and India Ink, encircling fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics, not to mention those like linguistics, psychology, and art. It will take a long time for these lines to fade and lighten, but mathematics is like the Sun; it both illuminates and irradiates, bleaching away our earlier mistakes.
When we encircle or group things, we have united separate things, creating a Unity, a category, a Taxon↗.
There is no universal agreement↗ on how to classify living organisms. The same problem that astronomers have classifying celestial objects like Pluto applies to the living world, too, as everything around us is part of Nature.
Our taxonomy, that seems to hold so well for most of biology, has places where it breaks down, where meaning gets all fuzzy again. Then we have to question if we started categorizing everything the wrong way from the very start. Perhaps we made hasty approximations, and like how the orbits of dynamical systems eventually diverge from patterns in the natural world, our taxonomic systems will diverge, too.
In my opinion, this is because we are seeing fractal structure, the whole and the parts are the same thing, differing only in how we choose to see them.
After extracting Binary Oppositions while writing my screenplay, I then began to use them as parts to build my whole, I began to re-construct my film using my crisp, clear new language. But the moment I did that, I began to destroy it, erasing the multiple layers of meaning in my art that I didn't consciously decide to construct in the first place, the under-appreciated junk DNA↗ of my own subconscious. So I built a system to visualize those patterns and was careful about my modifications, using my new system like a conservator-restorer uses a lens to restore an ancient mosaic.
I would move or change a tile fragment, then look through the lens again from many different angles (metadata many-to-many relations) to see if the overall shape was still intact. In this way, I could sharpen the details and consistency while keeping the structure in its whole form.
The closest that I have gotten to perfection in this dualistic universe is to pivot, or balance, on the boundary between part and whole, trying not to allow either one to destabilize that equilibrium.
Like ballet dancers, figure skaters, or even that lowly amoeba, our fluid feet can extend to lead our way, but we must eventually retract them to maintain our central integrity.Comments