April 2022

For so long I have assumed that the word I use to describe something cancels out any opposing qualities, by default. I would say: “She is a nice person”, as opposed to “She is not a nice person”. For could she be both nice and not nice? Or I might say: “I don’t want to be with someone right now because I need to be alone”. Could I find what I need alone, whilst in the company of another?

I am beginning to see that all things contain their opposite qualities and many other opposite and complimentary qualities that I have not yet perceived; that what has limited my thinking and my evolution for so long, is this idea that one thing must be either this or that. Systematically, I have eliminated my own ability to see nuance in all things.

What is becoming clearer to me now is the true scope of this concept we simplify and reduce to the word life. Imagine something indescribable that is expanding endlessly out in all directions at all times, opening possibilities at every nanosecond; it sprawls massively further and further outwards, meshing nothinginto something, turning something into nothing, again.

Now imagine a tiny little mammal that very recently started communicating in a more elaborate fashion than any of its animal predecessors; its growth and development exponentially allowing for more and more complexity and far more questions than it has answers for.

Our ability to understand this concept or that — death, pain, love, air, sun, flower, water — is predicated on its opposite, that which is also visible to us — life, pleasure, hate, suffocation, darkness, bareness, dryness.

We need systematic, all-encompassing answers to define and thus understand the world around us. Answers provide reliability and predictability, safety and the illusion of certainty. To name something is to call it into existence, to have mastered it. Imagine reducing the essence of something into a word in order to be able to communicate this code to another human on like terms, that they may also understand; “I am going there with my Mum”, for example. How can this person ever know who and what your Mum really is? How can all that she is be reduced to Mum?

It is necessary to codify common connotations into quick, common language. But herein lies the paradox: at a certain moment, we see only words.

We cannot see beyond our own connotations — words that cancel out any other descriptors, by default. Our own points of reference, whenever we hear this word or that one, instantly limit us to the infinity of perception.

We are a brave and noble creature with an expanding consciousness, in a swirling cosmos of both unsettling chaos and magnificent order. We so often cling to our interpretations, constructs and paradigms for dear life: financial institutions and money, marriages and relationships, our various Gods and rituals — if we were to let any of them go, we would pull the rug out from underneath our feet. Our reality would literally collapse.

In streamlining our processes of communication, economics, technologies, relationships etc, into evermore efficient ways of operating, we paradoxically hinder further innovations and breakthroughs. For example: a large multinational corporation optimises its internal data review processes to a state of ‘maximum efficiency’ through job compartmentalization and updated automation of the software needed for data analysis. At a certain moment, there is barely any work that needs doing and the company faces the problem of a rigidly automated structure that allows for few variables, which must be learned in a highly specific way, with no one who is able to help another with their task. Overemployment, lacklustre workers and a general lack of productivity are inevitable, eventually leading to the collapse of said corporation. What begins as a need to run more efficiently, ends up creating standards that eliminate the gambles always needed for future innovation and growth.

We rely on what we know because it produces a known result. As the musician who ceases the experimentation that made them famous in the first place by applying their formula of success, when we have reached the zenith and there is nowhere else to go, our downfall is almost guaranteed. This is why Bowie killed Ziggy at the height of his fame - he simply knew the jig was up.

What start as novel ideas to bring us perceived security and happiness, unavoidably become chains that tether us to ever-changing realities and leave us inapt at adapting to suit them.

Herein lies the problem: mastering matter and phenomena, read also, knowledge, that must be understood for the sake of security and communication. This ‘knowledge’ as opposed to admitting that we don’t know and, perhaps, damning the need to ‘know’ in the first place; maybe (almost certainly) failing — leading to growth and renewal.

Mother Nature is swirling around us, at all times she stirs the pot. As life in nature moves seasonally and cleverly adapts its tone accordingly, it is our refusal to do this — which is born of nothing more than hubris and fear — that not only keeps us trapped in temporary shelters, which we do our best to make comfortable, but inhibits us from ever really thinking beyond the cave at all. We call homo sapiens an evolved life form, yet so often we are afraid to do it ourselves.