Wednesday, December 2, 2015


 "Show me a man who is absolutely sure of his place in the universe and I will show you a bigot and a zealot - or a liar." - Anonymous

These observations are only useful if "one is ready to see the universe the way it really is, and recognize that the thoughts of man eventually work their way out through the motions of his actions and the words of his tongue" - Francis Schaeffer

The smallness of man when viewed against the largeness of nature is insignificant compared to the greatness of man from within it. - Anonymous

Nothing can be created unless it is first conceived. Even if we believe we are being random and taking a chance. The conception of randomness is, in itself, non-random.

Jackson Pollack attempted to demonstrate the randomness of the universe in his art. But even in these attempts, in his conception that randomness can be demonstrated visually, this creation of his showed him, and by some accounts sent him into deep depression, that the act of "setting up a test of randomness", is not random. And the seemingly random nature of this work of art, shows signs of an over arching order. Many believe his suicide was a result of the universe proving him wrong and the despair he felt in trying to live within this dichotomy. But either way, this painting could not have come into being unless, Jacksonn Pollack conceived it to be so. His attempt to reproduce randomness failed because the universe would not allow him to do so.

Man is a duality. He is like nature in many ways, but so unlike it in others. Apart from literary devices which are useful to enrich our imaginations, no one walks upon this earth and really lives like the tree, the deer, the flower, the bee, or the earth itself is operating with a conscience. And while mankind is forced to live in the cruel reality that is nature, he constantly endeavors to transcend nature and act its opposite.

We may say Nature is a cruel mistress. But I have never heard anyone say, and really believe, that Nature has done something wrong. Contrarily, we often attribute the "sin" in this case to the humans that build trailer parks in tornado alley; or the manufacturer's of these homes for profiting upon the backs of the poor. But let's look at this picture from the other perspective. What if I were to tell you that a human wreaked this destruction with one of his machines? Naturally we would make the assumption the man was


So why the difference? This is a question that has been on the minds of philosophers since philosophy was a thing. Could it be that it is because, we as humans, in spite of our similarities to, are by our very nature and the way we think and act, different than the natural world we inhabit? I believe this is so.

We do not walk around in this world like we believe it is completely random.

Empty Words

John Cage's Empty Words (1974) is a marathon text drawn from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau. This is one of Cage’s most sustained and elaborate moves toward the “demilitarization” of language, in four parts: Part I omits sentences, Part II omits phrases, and Part III omits words. Part IV, which omits syllables, leaves us nothing but a virtual lullaby of letters and sounds.

John Cage is an interesting study of man trying to force randomness into the universe but being unable to do so. The universe, simply will not let him live his philosophy. The resultant dichotomies in his theories leave me no alternative - the world is not random. Above is a quote from his website describing one of his works where he attempts to liberate language from its structured form of letters making sounds, conjoined with other letters making sounds; joining to form words which, joined together, produce phrases; which joined together make sentences; which joined together make paragraphs. These letters, words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, if placed in proper order, create content: real communication. Without this order, John Cage proves, there is nothing but silence - or babbling. It is interesting to me, that the description of John Cage's Empty Words, is not at all random. Why? Because he could not communicate his theory of randomness, indeterminacy, the militarization of language without, himself, using the order and structure; the only method the universe has given us to communicate our ideas.

I am using John Cage as an example to paint a broad stroke of humanity. Again, this is the only thing the universe allows us to do when speaking of our philosophies. I believe this is so because there is no evidence for a random universe. We simply have no choice, ultimately, but to fit within the framework of what really IS.

When asked about his other passion; the hunting of mushrooms and the philosophical ramifications of randomness in the hunting of the fungi, Cage famously said, "It would be foolish to apply my theories of indeterminacy to my hobby. I would not be long for the world if that were the case." Mr. Cage's dichotomy is yelling loudly.

Don't get me wrong, I am not mocking Pollack or Cage, or anyone with philosophical dichotomies - I certainly have my own. In fact, Mr. Cage's philosophy has many interesting and, indeed, beautiful, sentiments.

"The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason."

"If you consider something boring, consider it for two whole minutes. If it is still boring, then consider it for four minutes, then eight, then 16, then 32 minutes. You will eventually find that it is not boring at all."

It is interesting to me, that in this quote, the time he asks us to wait when considering something boring increases exponentially. Exponentially increasing time intervals is not indeterminate, it is not random, it is further proof that even the philosophers can not escape the universal order that is our language.

I believe I came from somewhere. In fact, I am almost sure of it.

I refuse to use the image of Rodin's The Thinker sculpture. It is trite at this point. Furthermore, I refuse to even quote the caption frequently accompanying it. However, one can not escape the very real position it puts us in. The greatest philosophical dilemma, according to Francis Schaeffer, is the fact that we exist. To go one step further, it really doesn't matter where or why exist - we have the ability to ask the questions- that is what matters at this point. Our theories, as plausible or as insane, as they may be are just that. Theories, born out of a need, by most, to know what comes before or what might come after. If we stay rational, then we must admit, that what we do means something. It must. Let us recap. Nothing is created unless it is conceived. We are in nature but despite our similarities-we are different than it. The universe is not random. And I came from somewhere.

And now, here, I am stuck. Taking the next step requires asking the next question. So then, if there is order in the universe,that is, something we can rely on to repeat itself, some way, based on past events, to predict what is to come, or to explain the present, then one needs ask the most controversial of all questions. Which of the many philosophies, religions, or world views is the true one?

It is here that I stop. Because to go further would immediately enjoin the support of at least one group of zealots and bigots or liars and the disdain of the other zealots, bigots, or liars. It is here that I stop because to go further will stop all useful communication unless, unless, we can come to agreement on these few ideas:

An artist can't create art unless he first thinks the art.
The universe is not random (though perceived randomness may take place within it)
Man is different than the natural world he inhabits.
We mean something and we came from somewhere.
There is such a thing as kindness.

If we can't get there; we can't go on. And do not be mistaken in thinking that I have gone further in this discussion than I really have. - C.S. Lewis

 I have not yet even begun to speak of that.

"I make little account of victory. Nothing is so foolish as to vanquish. The real glory is to convince."- Victor Hugo, Les Miserable.

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