On the World Porcupine
Or: Why does Something exist rather than Nothing?
Oneness. Duality. Multitude.
Zwei, hier kommt die Sonne
Drei, Sie ist der hellste Stern von Allen ( Rammstein – Sonne)
Save Each Other From Togetherness (Rammstein – Herzeleid)
That is why, I am sure, a man once grieved that white thread should be dyed in different colors, and why another lamented that roads inevitably fork. (Yoshida Kenko – Tsurezuregusa)
El temor de separación es todo lo que une. (The fear of separation is all that unites.)( – Antonio Porchia – Voices)
“Something we cannot see protects us from something we do not understand. The thing we cannot see is culture, in its intrapsychic or internal manifestation. The thing we do not understand is the chaos that gave rise to culture. If the structure of culture is disrupted, unwittingly, chaos returns. We will do anything–anything–to defend ourselves against that return.” (Jordan B. Peterson – Maps of meaning)
The best part of inspiration for this text-shaped piece of shit came from:
- Rejection (keywords: life, borderline, instability)
- Talking with my exes (too many)
- Rammstein songs (surprisingly few of them actually)
Other parts are all due to my current situation as a stranger in a strange land, complete with an insomnia (caused by benzodiazepine-withdrawal) and of course, as it usually is the case, an utter confusion with the subject matter. I need to thank to Mr. Jordan B. Peterson for most of stuff here also, and to God Almighty, amazing ex partner Petra, beautiful borderline nutcase Nila, my Mother (not related to the former), my Father, and especially the first hamster I ever owned (forgot the name at this point, but he was a good guy).
The Purpose of this is not to say anything on one matter or another, in order to inform you about anything new under The Sun, or to impart any special knowledge on you that you might already not have. All knowledge and understanding is a from of remembering what once was forgotten. In fact, its almost amazing that everything here-written (but not said) is part of our intuitive nature as a billion year old life-form, and a sentient one at that, and, to increase the stakes, a self-conscious one. The latter is the part of the problem and also the part of the solution: the mere interaction of one’s sentience with itself, that is to say, being’s sentience of its sentience (I see that I see, but I also see that I hear – what English language somewhat mystically but very appropriately called the mind’s eye). This is the ultimate and obvious cause of all duality (animals know nothing of duality, or language, which is the same thing fundamentally) and hence the multitude as such, and in turn the Mother of all problems, questions, answers, and in fact of everything that exists in opposition to other (that is, every thing that exist, period), as Buddhist ontology firmly expounds. So, what’s the fuss all about?
Being more specific
“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Of course, it is easy, simplistic but correct, to attach significance here to either Oneness (mystic traditions, some religions) or Difference (structuralism, deconstruction, Derrida) as being primal, and even venture into ethics and make them analogous to the good and evil, to healing and suffering (in English word “whole” is etymologically connected to the word heal. Obviously: to heal is to make whole again), and to billion another analogies that exist everywhere from mathematics, biology to physics , philosophy, as if reality is fundamentally fractally structured, and thus we thrive in understanding analogies. But this is for some other essay, where we could focus on Douglas Hofstadter, my brother in enthusiasm towards analogies.
To further elaborate. The Word (Logos) that was the Beginning was a Word, only because a self-conscious mind can be even thought of having a word to say (or on itself, as we would say: on his mind – hence thinking itself was born). On the other hand, the body is, as a certain absolutely awe inspiring Japanese person called Mishima once noticed, of a completely different nature than language: and he himself questions: “How was it possible that I started to think even before I felt my existence embodied?” (Sun and Steel) . At least he made sure that the ending of his life was a bodily experience, and was beautiful. But the point here is not to trod on, on how the things are this way or another. Why? Because, in fact, they are not. As one Sutra says: things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise. We can see two (not one?) tendencies here emerging, of making differences where they seem to be none, or equivalences where there are apparently not. As one of the greatest Minds the World has ever Seen has once expounded:
“Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same. Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different. I was thinking of using as a motto for my book a quotation from King Lear: ‘I’ll teach you differences!‘. (…) ‘You’d be surprised’ wouldn’t be a bad motto either.”
Engine of Reality
The whole process of being might as well be called learning (and teaching) the differences, and yes, I also don’t know why he added that remark in the end. But as it might be already obvious, Kent’s quote from King Lear comes from asserting ones dominance over another (poor Oswald, being humiliated and pushed off the stage, to the delight of the King). But the existence as such is existence of a hierarchy – not only the one we are most used to, as in King Lear, dominance hierarchy, but also to the physical and infinite number of other hierarchies nested upon each other – from Standard model of physics to social institutions we dwell in, from biology to chemistry to psychology, from any and every self-regulating automatic system, every feedback loop which has it’s special evolutionary purpose in the service of the Whole, and so ad nauseam. The One at the end of this hierarchy, in our experience – is God, or not even to be named (道), or void as such, or Selfhood (Atman), or even equated to the notions of Good and True and Beautiful (or Truth, Path and Life?). But we also know that our self-reflective subjective experience of ourselves is in fact It itself looking in its own mirror image. The Sun as a cover picture was chosen as an appropriate expression of The Beautiful, The One, The All Giver, but we also understand that It projects its energy on another plane, penetrates the space, makes the difference itself – duality, and multitude, unfold. There is no other thing aside of this unfolding. This other plane, the cradle of life, is the Earth, which we often endearingly call our Mother. Appropriately the Rammstein song playing while I was writing this part was „Mutter“, meaning of course Mother – which we will first think its beautiful – but at the same time we will know that it is equivalent to death as much as it is to life (going back into one’s mother) but also analogous to orgasm (la petite mort) – I will not further elaborate on this, but it is absolutely obvious, and more than just “true” (somebody once called this types of truths as meta-truths). And as much as it, the Mother, symbolizes empathy, we know that empathy is extremely dangerous and tragically counterproductive. So this concept is creative-destructive and our collective unfolding is creative-destructive, and the Love we feel or claim or suppose or identify as the root of All, is the all domineering all prevailing force that unites and separates everything (and every thing) . And as one Mind has once noticed, there is and cannot be nothing either good or bad about it – if Love is the cause of the action.
Borderline personality disorder & Love
But let us now be more concrete on this notion of Love. We might not yet want to talk about Love of certain quarks in relation to another (in fact we never do observe quarks in isolation, a thing called color confinement, which has nothing to do with color as you think of it, but it might have with Love), but at least in interpersonal relations – and especially in the more intense kinds of relationships – we are finding the same mechanism of union and separation. Here comes into play what I always found the most astonishing and intense form of Love, but also the most dangerous, destructive and death craving form: the Love of a person with what is in a DSM-5 known as Borderline (emotionally unstable) personality disorder. Again, it’s almost astonishing to watch this mechanisms nested upon each other unfold in almost real-time: life-times worth of Love in what now seems to be a one brief moment – and it all comes from only one source – the fear of rejection, i.e. the intense dislike toward the idea of separation: the need for unity, but also death, melting in but also against, one another.
Okay, and the ways our societies are structured, what do they have to say about Love, in this more cosmic ontological sense of the word as we use it here? You can notice that we are jumping from one nested hierarchy to other. I might as well keep on talking about quarks and astronomy, for instance. But simplicity and clarity behooves me to stop at a certain point.
Here I will both link and quote Wikipedia, because Schopenhauer explained it better than I ever could, while at the same time his idea is uncannily analogous to what we had discussed before (click here for Wikipedia article on this concept).
Quote from the article itself:
The concept [of Hedgehog’s dilemma] originates in the following parable from the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer‘s Parerga und Paralipomena, Volume II, Chapter XXXI, Section 396:
A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another. In the same way the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance. By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied; but then people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get pricked himself.
When Freud went to USA in the beginning of the 20th century, he said his mission was to tame the wild hedgehogs (or porcupines). He found American society to be too unruly, almost barbaric, and in a state of feral collective unconsciousness – society was prickling one another in an unhealthy manner, both mentally and physically, especially in the long run. Of course, ultimately he failed, after his students did their part in creating Sexual revolution in the late ’60s. But here I want to use this beautiful and very well thought metaphor of Freud’s. If there was such a thing as an American porcupine in the 1920s, could we also speak about the World Porcupine, in a Hegelian sense, Geist– kind of – and its development, especially in recent years? We might also conclude that in Freud’s times – although he thought American porcupines were wild – they were in fact in their best and tamest condition in the last 100 years. Especially if you look at the current problems Mankind is facing – here I don’t want to elaborate on them, because we all already know, nor is this the goal of this text. What I want to do, as somebody who so admires Chinese culture, their political and economical system, language and tradition – to use this knowledge and try to create an idea of a World Porcupine – and maybe even predict the way in which He will behave in the future. So let us first start with the application of Hedgehog’s dilemma in the case of Chinese, or any other sinospheric (Japan, Korea) society. We will see that Schopenhauer’s Hedgehog developed in Prussia and that it is product of liberalism and civil society par excellence, and that Chinese culture and norms use vastly different ways (and yet, quite similar) to achieve the same goal – not to get too close lest they get pierced, but also, avoiding going too far from each other.
Solution in both cases is basically analogous the the Ancient Greek concept of the “right measure” or Golden mean and in Wikipedia (that is, some textbook Wiki is quoting), its is elaborated in this very convincing fashion:
“The hedgehog’s dilemma suggests that despite goodwill, human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm, and what results is cautious behavior and weak relationships. With the hedgehog’s dilemma, one is recommended to use moderation in affairs with others both because of self-interest, as well as out of consideration for others. The hedgehog’s dilemma is used to explain introversion and isolationism.”
Of course, this is almost impossible to accept from the BPD (borderline) perspective. It is a widely different perception of the world, it is a widely different world, period. But both are manifestation of the same fundamental ubiquitous force of Love, only quantitatively different, with the same essential (and primordial) quality. But it is also interesting to notice that this “middle way” or “golden mean” path of life was a very influential school of thought both in the East and in the West, from Seneca and Buddha, Aristotle and virtually all patriarchs of Buddhism, all the way to Vedas and other less known scriptures and philosophies. Again, World Porcupine always seems to develop independently from one another and simultaneously, in a truly mystical way.
What does the future bring?
The Chinese well mannered and distance loving Porcupine will have a peculiar confrontation with the Western much more closer together (but hurtful, piercing) porcupine constellation. On the other hand, Western pop culture is spreading in China like wildfire in this age of social media and decentralization. Here I am an optimist – although I consider this a profoundly realistic position. It is in everyone’s best interest, it is the work of universal force of Love as we elaborated before, and after thesis, antithesis will bring about the synthesis of this two vastly different world experiences and comprehensions.
Repetition is important
Love manifests as a driving force of Universe (which is a never ending, never beginning play between One and Many – God and Creation – Sun and Earth – Body and Language – I will stop here, but indeed, there are simply too many examples anyway ) . As we see from this analogies – there are many examples of the same process (don’t let me get into quarks again). Sociology, Ontology, Psychology, Physics, Biology: reproduction on all levels – energy, Astronomy, Mathematics. Even the apparently trivial distinction between discrete and continuum is fundamentally based in this analogy. And aporias we stumble upon if we ponder to much, they are precisely the fundamental structure of reality, because this Love is as allusive as God itself (or Laws of Nature modern physics is struggling with, or Language in it’s ambiguity, or Buddhist void in it’s inexplicable, ungraspable and allusive nature (“Turn towards the void and you shall turn It’s back“). It all falls back to one simple principle.
Instead of conclusion
Finally, an ethical turn. What are we ought to do? What is Good? So far it seems I have made everything reasonably clear. But as somebody who was always overly concerned about the destiny of Mankind, I still wouldn’t be able to properly answer this question – what we ought to do with us, with Mankind? To not let it die? Why? Because I felt a little piece of me dying at the mere writing of the capitalized question “why’ in the last sentence? Or, in one sentence, because in I personally know that I am, in essence, It manifesting itself, together with itself – and Others? I don’t know, but it sounds like a plausible enough idea for now. I have yet to see a more – for me personally – intuitive ethical idea by which to act in the world.
I would also like to just mention the Native American (I think Hopi ) myth of primordial Man and Woman creating Universe by the force of Love, via Divine Copulation: but this myth also abounds with references to Chaos and Order: this again fits really well into the gist of this theme, especially because this oral transmitted myth is estimated to be 20-30 thousand years old. And of course, these kinds of myths are ubiquitous throughout human civilization, and prehistory, and are obvious meta-truths in which we are, as beings, immersed. I would like to add more examples here, and I will do so as soon as I get inspiration. I have absolutely forgotten using the Nagarjuna’s doctrine of two truths (let’s say for simplicity sake – Truth from the perspective of One, and conventional truth of duality) as a sort of “solution” to our ” problem here. But since Nagarjuna also expounds that Nirvana is Samsara, and Samsara is in turn Nirvana, my omission is hardly problematic – since this teaching is, again, as obvious as anything we ever intuitively comprehend.
Explanations come to an end somewhere.
What, you scoundrel, you would speak no nonsense? Go ahead and speak nonsense – it doesn’t matter! (Holy Augustine)
lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh