zHOW TO PLAY LIFE: UNDERSTANDING (The Chapter I could not write
while my body and spirit were in prison)
“A) Rhetorical figure transposing a term from its original concept to another and similar one.
B) In its origin, all language was metaphoric; so was poetry. “ Lionelli Venturi 1
PART ONE: THE ABSTRACT LIE
Since we are born with it, the ultimate question for humanity is: what is life? Using a golf metaphor, the questions we ask about life can be sorted into one of three groups:
1) Abstract Lie
2) Hitting Impulse
3) Natural Swing
What is life? This question is like a shout on the canyon rim of what we know. It returns as only an echo of what language can express. Not even modern philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze’s valiant efforts can fill in the chasm between what we know and what we express, (reason).2
The seventeenth century philosopher, Baruch de Spinoza, was aware of the paradox of the gap between knowledge and expression that language creates. He said it was Nature’s work to give us, ‘true ideas’3 but some things are in our intellect and not in Nature; so these are only our own work and help us to understand things distinctly. Among these we include all relations which have reference to different things. These we call, “beings of reason.”4
Spinoza has been called a rationalist but this is only humanistic slander. Spinoza knew all true work was in Nature and that the work of our intellect is to understand how Nature guides our work of reason.
Reason and the actions that follow from it are the work that energy has given us to do. As physicists know, all work is the result of energy. Reason is a staircase to understanding. 5
Understanding is a gift from Nature that unfolds in our work.
Spinoza was the prophet of how we understand that Nature is immanent in our bodies, souls and minds, just as it is in the ‘soul’ of everything in the universe from quark to dark matter that sends and receives information.
Using abstract words like ‘nature,’ ‘reason,’ ‘soul,’ and ‘mind,’ we fall screaming into the chasm between knowing and expression. Wittgenstein calls this: “language on holiday.”6
Wittgenstein says meaning is the use we give words and in my paper: ‘Has Philosophy Ignored Spinoza’s Theory of Science?’ I explore Spinoza’s use of the abstract words like those above, as ‘tourist traps.’ 7
So what do we do if all the language we use cannot transverse the gap between knowing and expression? At its best, we can realize that language conveys metaphors that transpose expression into a like of knowing.
In the Emendation, Short Work on God, Man and His Well-Being and the Ethics,’ Spinoza sets out a method of inquiry, cumulating in ‘intuitive science,’ which builds on the foundations of the master architect of how we live in the space we inhabit: Euclid. 8
Because not even Spinoza can emulate the clear and distinct demonstrations of Euclid’s, which he adored, Spinoza fell into tourist traps. The chief one was ‘God.’
A host of misunderstandings have arisen in the interpretations of Spinoza’s theories, such as seeing Part One of the Ethics as an ‘ontological argument for God’s existence.’ 9
Spinoza, however, was more consistent in building on the foundation of Euclid than those individuals who have interpreted him. The metaphor of Euclid’s Geometry runs throughout the corpus of Spinoza’s work. We must all use metaphors which describe how and where we live, to express what we know.
This is our work and Spinoza says, when we realize we are, “…a part of Nature…(and) follow the laws of Nature…this is divine service…” 10
I am an old man. The condensed energy which has gathered into my body and its work will soon be liberated into what Spinoza calls, ‘mind.’ Some information scientists have called this substance; ‘It from Quibit.”11 The first and second laws of thermodynamics guide my expectation.
Since I was young, two questions have framed my work: 1) What is the meaning of life and all that? 12 2) How do I hit a golf ball? The first question is too abstract and has misled too many people to use. Not even ‘42’ suffices, even though with a scientific inclination, I would like it to do so.
Golf is an innocuous metaphor to those who, like Mark Twain, see golf as a good walk spoiled. I apologize for seeing it as a good walk made better.
! Ever since a friend took me to the Spokane Country Club to caddy when I was ten, I have had an epiphany of both special beauty and subsequent practical frustrations which I have never been able to reconcile.
An example of the first part of the epiphany is standing on a links course surrounded by water as the sun rose and folded the contours of the grounds in brilliant to fading shades of purple.
The second, as all golfers know, is a ‘shank shot;’ the result of trying to hit the ball a mile and it travels 50 yards or so to the left or right.
While golf is an innocuous metaphor, it is also an apt one. It is close to Nature and has the uncanny ability to display the Nature of those who play the game. A duffer is a duffer wherever you find them in life. Look up the Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘duffer!’ 13
Every individual who makes golf their work (professionals), have teachers who have taught them their swings and help to correct the bad habits which creep into all swings.
Euclid laid out the course in which we live (space) and Spinoza taught how to play that course (understanding). Of course pros have other teachers who help them fine tune their swings. As Spinoza said, one of life’s great blessings is sharing with like-minded individuals.
While these friends, some in books and others in daily interaction, are too numerous to mention, some are chief: George Boole developed the Laws of Mind from Euclid’s Common Notions, and brought together logic and mathematics in Boolean Algebra which underlies the language of artificial thought – the computer. 14
Albert Einstein, through his Theory of Relativity, brought time and the curvature of space into the course of space Euclid described. 15 He is part of the revolution which helped develop non-Euclidian geometry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which, while not discarding Euclid’s original formulation, greatly enhanced it. Einstein was also a student of Spinoza in his beliefs and in discussing social relationships.
The neuroscientist, Antonoio Damasio, has reintroduced Spinoza’s theories of mind and body into a modern context of neuroscience and a theory of feelings which is separated from theories of emotion which had confused the two.16 Feelings, said Spinoza, are the direct manifestation of Nature’s gift of understanding (the eyes of the mind). 17 Damasio demonstrates why this is so.
I first discovered Seth Lloyd’s work in Scientific American and open each copy expecting new discoveries from him (as I did this month). 18 I then bought Lloyd’s book, Programming the Universe, and consider it one of the most important works in the current evolution of human thinking. 19 Lloyd is an information scientist who follows George Boole in developing Euclid’s foundations on the axioms of thinking.
Moe Norman was a Canadian golfer and savant who brought together golf and nature. Moe taught me the failure of trying to hit a golf ball. Gilles Deleuze, who considered Spinoza the prince of philosophers and wrote two books on him, takes reason to its limits in, ‘What Is Philosophy’ with Guatlari.19 This is a magnificent effort and understands philosophy as expression.
Rose DeShaw, my partner in freedom of the spirit is teaching me the art of practical expression. She is the incarnation of Spinoza in my daily life.
Now I have introduced my teachers. Let’s see what they taught me about life.
Euclid began his description of the course on which we play out our lives with these words: “A point is that which has no part.” 20 This may be the most profound statement ever uttered by a human being. It not only acknowledges the chasm between knowing and expression but jumps into it with total abandonment.
We live in eternity. The point where we appear is our tee-off in space and time. Scientists call this point a fluxation. We appear, play a few rounds in space and time and then leave the course (death), maybe to play another course in space and time. Possibly, if they exist in what scientists hypothesize as universes, in the mulitiverse.
This popping in and out of space and time, birth and death, is fact but all the rest is pure speculation. Religious teachers have speculated about this popping from viewpoints as varied as the resurrected individual goes to a ‘heaven’ to live with an anthropomorphic God or is extinguished as an individual and ‘absorbed into the supreme spirit in Nirvana.’ 21
Spinoza says we …
”feel and know by experience that we are eternal. For the mind
feels those things that it conceives in understanding no less than those it has in memory. For the eyes of the mind by which it sees and observes things are the demonstrations themselves.”