We don’t see anything strange about the fact that a rule gets to be so very certain about things, so unambiguous, so remarkably ‘black-and-white’ in its outlook. We don’t see that rules are – because of this – quintessential ‘generators of redundancy’ (or ‘entropy’). We can’t see their tautological nature – the way in which rules are only true because we have decided in advance that they are. If we did see this we wouldn’t be able to take the rules seriously and this would defeat the purpose of having them! What kind of thing would ‘a rule that no one takes seriously’ be?
All the same, whether we see it or not, there is something fishy going on with rules and that fishiness has to do with the key decision as to what information we keep, and what we throw away. This decision-making process happens every time we think about something and what is ‘suspicious’ about it is that we don’t know we are doing it. If I have to carry out some sort of procedure before I can see the world in the way that I do see it, and if the nature of this procedure is invisible to me, occurring in some sort of sealed compartment or ‘black box’ that I do not have access to, then surely this throws some sort of suspicion on the reality that my rational mind presents me with? All rational-conceptual operations of the mind involve ‘the previous intention to see what we actually do see’. In a general way, we can say that this is because we already possess the standard, the yard-stick, and the process of cognition is where we apply this cognitive key to everything we come across so that everything is turned into a ‘ratio’ of the original standard. Put this way, we can see that the essential operation of the rational or conceptual mind is the transformation of ‘open’ to ‘closed’ – open is how the universe is in itself, and closed is what the universe turns into when we render it exclusively in terms of ratios of the fixed yard-stick (the rule) which we are carrying around with us everywhere we go. Reality is categorized in terms what we already know to be true, and ‘what we already know to be true’ is only true because we have said it is. The yardstick is whatever we say it is. The ‘definitely true basis’ is wherever we freely decide to draw the line. The rule is whatever we say it is.
It is inevitable that the mind should work like this – it has to start off from a known point, a definitely true basis, or else it cannot start at all, but the only way it can obtain a definitely true basis is to pick something at random and then ignore all other possibilities. It is the ignoring bit of this operation that creates the positively defined structure – the rule specifies one thing positively and does not specify anything else, and so by implication everything else apart from what has been pointed at is unimportant. It does not specify the elements that are to be rejected otherwise it would be tacitly accepting that they do exist and the only way the rule can function as a rule is by treating all extraneous unspecified elements as if they do not exist. If a rule was to point to what is to be rejected as well as what is to be accepted then it would have to point at everything, and as we have already said a rule cannot ‘point at everything’ and still be a rule. For a boundary to define we have to look at what lies on one side as being ‘the important thing,’ and what lies on the other side as ‘the unimportant thing’, as being simply ‘not worth bothering about’ and this sort of thing comes very naturally to us. We are so used to having our interest arbitrarily cut off at certain points that we don’t think anything of it – this is what happens every time we create a category and categories are our bread and butter, our bricks and mortar, they are what we construct the world out of. So just to give a nice straightforward mathematical example, suppose I want to create the set of all odd numbers between one and six hundred, then what I do in my set-making is simply to discount all numbers that are smaller than one and greater than six hundred, along with all numbers that are even. This leaves the set that I defined and nothing else and it is of course the fact that nothing else is left that makes it defined. Mental categories – like mathematical sets, of which they are more complex examples – are created therefore by unceremoniously ‘dumping’ or ‘ditching’ all unwanted information – we don’t know what the information is that we are dumping, or how much of the unwanted information there was in the first place, we just get rid of it. That’s what ‘dumping’ means.
It follows therefore that when categories are created, and unwanted information dumped, that information cannot be recalled. When the information was dumped it wasn’t assigned tags or anything that could allow it to be ‘retrieved if necessary’ – obviously enough there was no record made of the information that was being thrown away or else it wouldn’t have been ‘thrown away’ in the first place! Information dumping is an irreversible process, a one-way street – it is like forgetting something and then forgetting that you have forgotten. The process of information collapse is therefore the same thing as the process of entropy production. We can differentiate between the standard thermodynamic understanding of entropy and what we might call a ‘psychological’ understanding – thermodynamically speaking it is correct to say that entropy is a reciprocal measure of informational content, i.e. S = W-1. Psychologically speaking, we require a somewhat subtler definition of entropy – rather than saying something to the effect that ‘the entropy content of a system is proportional to the loss of information from that system’ what we need to say is that ‘entropy is loss of information that we do not have any information about’.
Alternatively, we can define the role of entropy specifically with regard to the operation of the rational mind by saying that ‘psychological entropy is what facilitates the existence of a statement that appears to contain information but which actually doesn’t’. The rational mind is made up entirely of such virtual statements, statements which have the character of a ‘disguised tautology’, i.e. statements that looks non-tautological (or non-‘self-referential’) but which actually are. All tautological or self-referential statements are by their very nature redundant, or ‘information-free’, and so not being able to see the tautological or self-referential character of a statement is the same as not being able to see that the statement is not actually saying anything. Psychological entropy is thus not merely some kind of ‘waste-product of the rational mind’ (in a direct parallel to the energetically-degraded exhaust emissions of a classic heat engine), it is the necessary condition for its functioning.
All of the terms that we have been using above are pretty much interchangeable: ‘information-dumping’ equals ‘forgetting’ which equals ‘entropy’ which equals the ‘one-sided boundary’. They are all ways of talking about the way in which the 2D abstract world which is the system of thought is produced and maintained. Again, as above, rather than saying that the one-sided boundary facilitates a ‘realm of abstraction’ we ought to say that the one-sided boundary facilitates the existence of an abstract realm which – from its own viewpoint – appears to be ‘non-abstract’. Whatever lies on the inside of the one-sided boundary has to be an abstraction because it only gets to be there if it matches the rule (or criterion) which the boundary is a topological representation of. Anything that gets to be ‘on the inside’ only gets to be on the inside because it has been accepted by the criterion or rule and if it has been accepted by the criterion or rule then this is simply because it equals the rule. This can hardly be denied since this is exactly and precisely how rules work – the relationship between the rule and the domain that is specified by that rule is strictly linear, and therefore it is one of identity. ‘The rule’ equals ‘the one-sided boundary’ which equals ‘the area contained within the boundary’. This raises a question as to why we see all of these things as different, particularly the actual area enclosed by the boundary. What does the enclosed area represent to us?
One answer is to say that it represents a positively defined object (which is to say, ‘an independent, isolated, self-existent phenomenon’), always remembering when we say this that it only represents this particular positive object when we look at things in the particular conditioned way that is inherent in the intentionality of the frame of mind which is necessary for us to see the object. The ‘conditioned viewpoint’ and ‘what the viewpoint shows us’ are not two things but one – they are both aspects of the very same self-consistent logical system. The fact that system is closed, that the viewpoint only shows us itself (albeit in an unrecognized form) means that the view that we see from the viewpoint is redundant, i.e. it has a zero information content. If the area delineated by the boundary equals the boundary then the area, despite appearing to signify something real, is no more than a redundancy and if what we see when we look at the world via the conditioned viewpoint that equals that viewpoint then what we ‘see’ is a redundancy. It isn’t actually ‘seeing’ at all therefore since ‘seeing’ means allowing in new information, it requires that the system be open instead of closed.
Another answer with regard to our enquiry about what the ‘area’ means is to say that the area enclosed by the boundary represents the two-dimensional continuum of possible states or configurations open to the system in question – each point in the area represents a particular state and the area overall represents the freedom that the system has to move between all these states. All of this is inherent in the idea of ‘space’ and even though its only two-dimensional space that we are talking about it is still space, after all there are still two degrees of freedom to play with – up and down, and back and forth. However, having said this we have to note that all logic-space (no matter how many dimensions we might be talking about) only contains a trivial form of freedom. Really, there is no freedom whatsoever within the continuum of logic, not even the slightest merest trace of it. I can move from one position on the chequerboard to another only by following, in the strictest of ways, the laws of transformation that govern what is and is not logically permissible. Saying that these laws are strict is not making the point strongly enough – they are absolute. Each position on the continuum corresponds to a particular mathematical ‘statement’ and since I can turn one statement into another only by following the laws of logic this means that nothing unpredictable or chaotic (i.e. new) is ever let in to the picture. What we are talking about here therefore is linearity, which is a way of saying that the set of relationships or proportionalities inherent in the original statement is faithfully preserved in all subsequent formulations of that statement. This is great news if what we are interested in is not losing that original statement, and being to retrace our steps back to it if we want to, but the other side of this ‘advantage’ is of course that we have zero freedom to deviate from the original. On the one hand we gain perfect fidelity, which is useful in a narrow way (e.g. for the transmission, storage and reproduction of signals), on the other we have to give up all freedom to move to any place other than the one we started out from, which is disastrous on the larger scale of things.
Even though it looks as if there is more freedom, more scope in a three dimensional space than a two dimensional area, inasmuch as the new dimension is every bit as linear in nature as the old ones no freedom has been brought into the picture. After all, the equation needed to specify the position or motion of a point in that 3D space is every bit as determinate as that needed to specify position or movement in two dimensions. It doesn’t actually matter how many dimensions I add to the mix, all I am doing is adding to the number of terms I need to have in the equation to describe what is going on – for a ‘jump’ to take place between the predictable, definable trajectory of computable movement and the unknown, the new, the unpredictable something-other-than-a-logical-continuum is needed. What is needed is simply a gap, a discontinuity, a breakdown or failure of our system of measurement. In other words, its not a new, additional frame of reference that is required for freedom to enter the system, but the dropping of all frames of reference. Freedom is in other words the result of a negative action not a positive one. Whilst operating on the basis of rules inevitably snares us all the more in redundancy, letting go of all our presuppositions, our assumptions, our devices, our frameworks releases us from this most pernicious of traps – the trap of the rational mind.
The discontinuity that we are talking about here is necessarily hard to get a handle on (naturally enough, since it equals ‘the absence of all handles’) but that doesn’t present any obstacle since the discontinuity doesn’t rely on our ability to understand or conceptualize it. The discontinuity – despite the fact that we never include it in our models of the universe – is central to everything. It is the very heart of reality – the inconceivable fulcrum around which all change, all movement occurs. When an electron moves from one orbital shell to another it leaves the grid of linear space and reappears in the new position. As quantum physics reveals, space/time is itself quantumized, full of gaps, full of discontinuities – when we read that the shortest measurable distance is 1.3 x 10-36 M, or that the shortest interval is 5.39 x 10-44 seconds this naturally baffles and perplexes us. What is it that exists between the intervals of space, the intervals of time? What’s there? In one way we are wasting our time asking since we are, by implication, asking for an answer within the terms of our rational minds, but in another (intuitive rather than rational) way there is an answer, the only thing being that this answer comes in the form of a riddle, such as the ‘bigger than bigger and smaller than small’ riddle mentioned by Jung: Q – What is smaller than a mustard seed and yet bigger than a mountain? (What is smaller than an electron and yet bigger than the entire universe?) A – The Discontinuity.
STRETCHING A POINT
To summarize, then, when we look at the figure outlined by the boundary in a one-sided way we see the figure. The area of space within the boundary represents the positive object, it is the positive object. When we don’t look in a one-sided way we can see that the area within the boundary doesn’t mean a thing – we can plainly see that it is a ‘stretched tautology,’ an ‘inflated redundancy’. This is not to say that the rule is a redundancy, merely that too much has been made of it, that the point has been stretched too far. The stretched point is the continuum and the problem with the continuum is as we have said that it has a tendency towards greed, a tendency to collapse everything into itself so that everything that exists has to have its existence somewhere on the continuum. A closed version of reality is thereby created – even though it considers itself not to be closed, being as it is ‘constitutionally incapable’ of allowing for the possibility that there might be something outside itself. The original ‘Open Reality’ is, we might say, composed of an unlimited number of points but these points do not exist as ‘points on a continuum’ (which would mean that they are all the same point) but rather they exist as points that are separated from each other by a discontinuity. Each point is therefore different from every other point and so as we move along our movement can be characterized by the fact that we are continually getting somewhere new. The whole idea of a discontinuity is that what lies on the other side is unpredictable from our present standpoint, it represents information in other words. It is fresh and new and ‘unsuspected’ and the continual movement into what is fresh and new and unsuspected is the movement into reality. This gives us a view of reality that is quintessentially ‘not fixed’ – we are not defining reality in relation to any absolute statement or absolute description (which is the usual thing we try to do) but rather we are saying that we only come into accord with it by continually letting go of our descriptions, our rules and criteria. The truth of the matter is found by letting go of what we previously found to be true, so to speak, so that it is in the letting go of ‘what is’, that ‘what is’ becomes real.
We could use a musical analogy for this and say that the rules, the literal statements about reality, are the notes that make up the overall symphony. It is of course very obvious in this analogy that if we get attached to a particular note, and hold tightly onto it, then none of the other notes will be allowed and so whilst each note is essential for the symphony to come into being, if we ‘freeze-frame’ any one note by refusing to let go of it then the note becomes discordant and obstructs the symphony instead of being a valuable part of it. If the note is released as soon as it is stuck then it can be seen in relation to all the other notes and it is ennobled thereby – if it is held then it exists in isolation, it can only be seen in relation to itself, and so that the beauty which it otherwise would have had turns into ugliness.
Similarly for the rule or ‘literal statement about reality’ – if the rule is gracefully relinquished then in this letting go it can be seen in relation to all the other rules, and thus it genuinely conveys information about the whole. It is information because it is not fixed or absolute. If however we hang on to it and create an isolated, self-referential analogue-world which does not convey information about anything other than itself, and it’s ‘self’, because it has lost its connection with any greater reality, no longer contains any information (although it misleadingly appears to do so). If I let go of the ‘absolute statement’ as soon as I make it then in a way we can say that it ‘resonates to what it is not’. This might sound like a curious sort of a supposition but as we all know it is it is quite possible to say something very definite and yet have everyone know that you do not at all mean what you say. In crude irony we mean the exact opposite of what we say, and with a more subtle application of irony what we could do if we wanted is to gently call attention to the way in which what we are saying is not actually true at all.
ETERNITY IN A GRAIN OF SAND
Another possibility is that we use a word or phrase metaphorically to hint at something less concrete, something less ‘cut-and dried’. Given the fact that what a poet is trying to say has no literal words for it (otherwise it wouldn’t be poetry at all but merely a technical description!) this is the only way that we can use concrete language. In this way creativity is allowed into the picture and even a humble run-of-the-mill literal descriptor, entirely and exclusively specific to its modest domain of applicability, can partake in something greater than itself. When used creatively rather than concretely, words or concepts resonate in tune with a wider reality and thus become expressive of universal rather than a particular (or relative) truth. A twig can speak of a forest, a sea shell lying on the beach can echo the ocean, an empty packet of cigarettes lying abandoned on the pavement can allude painfully to a doomed love affair. As Blake says, one sees Eternity in a grain of sand. The particular, when seen by incurious eyes, remains the particular, but when seen as it truly is, in relation to the Great World from which it came, the humblest, most mundane particularity reveals itself to be a startlingly alive and potent symbol of an unfathomable and inexplicable totality.
SETS ARE ‘CHOPPED OFF’ ARTIFICIAL REALITIES
We have said that the ‘shaded area’ that lies inside the closed boundary equals that boundary, since anything that gets to be on the inside only gets to be on the inside because it matches the rule. We could therefore explain the enclosed area by saying that it equals ‘the set of all elements that are specified by the rule’, or by saying that it equals ‘the continuum of all statements that are logically consistent with premise that has been taken in order to create the continuum’. We could also explain the enclosed area by saying it is a region of zero information content – although this in itself is paradoxical since there is no need to specify or define such a region since there is nothing there to talk about in the first place!
Paradox notwithstanding, this is exactly what the enclosed area shows – an area characterized by a ‘lack of information content’. The idea that our mental categories have no information content goes against the grain of everything we believe. It throws everything on its head, much like the inversion that used to take place in the Middle Ages on the Feast of the Fools when for a day the fool becomes the king and the king the fool. Hard to take or not however, the argument is both robust and easy to make. We can take several approaches, as we already have done. One would be through set theory – if a rule or criterion specifies what is to be included in the set then it goes without saying that what we will find in the set will not come as a surprise. If we know the specifying rule, then the content of the set is absolutely predictable. That is the whole point of a set – it is absolutely not about surprises. Now one might object that if we have a set such as ‘the set of all animals with four legs’ then there is still going to be interesting variation within the set because we will come across weird and wonderful animals such as hippos, tree sloths, bandicoots, aardvarks, lemurs, pine martens, marmosets, geckos, gophers, giraffes, squirrels, field mice, alligators, wombats, and so on.
But with regard to the abstract set that we are talking about, all of that interesting variation simply doesn’t come into it. This is because the set actually is an abstraction, which is to say, it does contain those elements that have been specified, and it doesn’t contain anything else. This is of course equally true for games – the centre forward for Manchester United might have an aunt who once met a man who knew another man who happened to meet Peter O’Toole in a pub late one night but that interesting fact – needless to say – doesn’t really come into the game. These details, and untold masses of other extraneous details so far unmentioned, have no place whatsoever in the game – the only stuff that is meaningful in terms of the game is that stuff that has been specified in advance as being meaningful. It’s not so much that we ignore everything else but that we just don’t register it – when I am properly absorbed in the game (rather than just watching it half-heartedly) anything else simply doesn’t exist for me.
Games are abstractions, which is to say: the rule equals the specification which equals ‘the arbitrary cut-off point’ (or ‘limit’) which equals the game. The cut-off point is intentional rather than being inherent in the nature of things, but we do have to have one or there will not be a game. If we don’t decide upon a cut-off point the game will inevitably involve everything and then it isn’t a game anymore, i.e. it wouldn’t be an abstraction in that case but actual reality. Everything naturally leads on to everything else (not in a narrow linear-causal way but in an ‘open relationship’ type of way) and so if we don’t select a chopping-off point every thread will lead inescapably back into the giant ball of string which is the interconnected universe.
The universe is not a ‘chopped-off thing’, an arbitrarily or artificially simplified system or game, but rather it is the ultimate ‘complex object’ – it is so complex that it is actually not an object at all since there is no viewpoint which exists ‘outside of it’ and which could therefore be used to conveniently objectivity it. Complexity means that there are always going to be levels of description that are invisible to us from our current level of description. As we have already noted, this is just a way of saying that the universe contains information rather than being devoid of information, which is what it would be if everything about it were to be logically deducible from any starting point that we might take. So we can say that what we can see and know about is always like the tip of an infinitely large iceberg, which is to say, what we can see and know is in no way predictive of what we don’t see and don’t know. [This of course would not be the case for an ‘information-free universe’ but we will not waste time talking about that scenario since there is simply nothing to say about an information-free universe!] In a complex universe, therefore, it has to be the case that any statement I make is ultimately quite meaningless since I am only able to make it in the first place because of my blind-spot, i.e. because of the presence of an indeterminate area of ignorance, the existence of which I have no way of knowing about.
Any statement that I make (any rational thought that I think) has to be made (or thought) within a specific framework of reference in order for it to make sense. The frame of reference is essentially a game, which is to say, it is a situation where all the parameters have been defined in advance, and where anything that has not already been defined is tacitly ignored. So my positive statements, my literal descriptions, my rational thoughts and actions, only make sense because of the special conditions which I have provided, without of course acknowledging my role in the provision of these conditions. Furthermore, the defined agent (or self) which makes the positive statements, thinks the literal thoughts, executes the purposeful actions, etc also only ‘makes sense’ within this specially provided ‘artificial environment’. It too is a construct that can only be perceived as having an actual positive, independent or ‘real’ existence if we make sure to perceive it in a strictly one-sided way.
This, needless to say, is a most perplexing situation – or at least, it is from the perspective of the rational-purposeful self which is trying to understand it. From outside of this necessarily narrow or one-sided perspective, we can see that the whole thing is really just a joke; it looks serious if we look at it one way but when we look at it another way we see that the whole thing was ridiculous – we thought that there was an insoluble problem there but the existence of the problem was predicated upon the same set of assumptions that all of our attempted solutions are, and actually this set of assumptions is no more true, no more special, than any other set of assumptions, out of an unbounded range of possible assumptions. Seen from within the context of the closed system, the problem is insoluble, it constitutes a lethal irreducible paradox, but when we realize that there is actually ‘no such thing’ as a closed system we simultaneously see that the problem never existed either. To put it another way, the ‘problem’ is a function of the entropy of the system and as long as the entropy is there, the problem has an unforgiving literal existence, as does the self which experiences the literal existence of the problem, but when insight arises (when the entropy disappears) so too does our ability to take both the problem and ourselves seriously and so all we can do is laugh…
In order for my statements to be genuinely meaningful (which is to say, in order for my descriptions to be literally true) I have to take it for granted that my oversimplified game-reality is not a game at all, and so I have to have a cut-off point, a limit in what I am interested in, or concerned with, and in addition to this I have to apply this cut-off in interest to itself, so to speak, so that I have no interest in the fact that I have no interest beyond a certain point. If I followed all the threads of my interest I would find out that what I know is merely the tip of the iceberg, the submerged mass of which is inconceivably large. The statements about reality that I made beforehand would therefore have to be ‘qualified’ to an unknown extent and in the course of this qualification they would necessary change from being ‘absolute’ in nature to being merely ‘relative’. But the whole point of my system is that the statements or rules it is made up off really are literally true, this after all is how I derive all my ontological security – a basis which is not really a basis, a truth which is only arbitrarily true, is no good at all for deriving certainties, and it is the certainties that I want.
A relativized rule (a rule which may or may not hold true) is not a rule at all – it is what Robert Anton Wilson calls a ‘MAYBE’. MAYBES are no use whatsoever as a foundation for building positive structures since however far we progress, we haven’t actually progressed anywhere; no matter how high we build our tower, in reality we are still right back there at ‘MAYBE’…
IT IS AS IF…
The realm of positive statements and positive structures is the realm of ‘It is as if…’ Everything we say ought to be prefixed by ‘It is as if…’ because this is where we started from. Having started from this propositional basis, it is of course impossible ever to go beyond it. Our trick, however, is to get around this snag by starting off with the ‘It is as if…’ prefix and then conveniently forgetting that this is how we began. The crucial intentional aspect of the progression is conveniently disregarded, and so our subsequent ‘progress’ really does feel like progress for us. At this stage investment of time and effort can take place and because investment has taken place we become extremely (not to say infinitely) resistant to ever seeing that everything started off on the basis of a completely unfounded, completely impartial MAYBE and so the all-powerful motivation of fear creeps in.
Fear can be seen therefore as a profound form of incuriousness, an infinitely stubborn refusal to see beyond the intentional concrete reality we have created for ourselves. This way of looking at fear differs from our normal everyday understanding which sees it as being a biologically helpful (or adaptive) aversion to danger – to physical pain, injury, and death. Psychologically speaking however, is suffices simply to say that fear is an aversion to mental pain, and the mental pain of seeing that the security structure upon which one orientates one’s understanding of both oneself and the world is entirely arbitrary is maximal. Psychologically speaking, there simply isn’t any greater challenge than letting go of our ontological security. At root, this is equivalent to the fear of death, the fear of ‘loss of ego’. This is what fear is all about – stepping into the Great Uncertainty, entering into the Great Discontinuity.
THE CLOSED PERSPECTIVE OF THE SELF
Not only is it maximally challenging (or difficult) for us to ‘let go’ of our security, we fundamentally don’t want to ‘let go’ in the first place – great resolve would be needed to undertake the task and our resolve is orientated in entirely the wrong direction – we are resolved, though our allegiance to the game we are playing – to not see the truth. We have invested our entire lives on the game not being the game. My very conception of myself – which is the only self I know – is constructed out of this game, and so seeing through it would be functionally equivalent to voluntarily sacrificing my sense of myself, with no guarantee that anything good will come of this act. Certainly, from the closed viewpoint of my self or ego, no good will come of it at all. There is an ‘irreversibility’ that comes into the picture just as soon as I identify with the game-playing or conditioned self and that is the irreversibility of always acting in the interest of this self, and never doing anything that acts against this interest. It might be argued that a mind-set that is founded upon morality does not automatically act in its own interests in all situations, and that this is indeed the whole point of morality, but inasmuch as morality is deliberate stance that I take it is merely a sophisticated way of acting in my own interest. If the stance is deliberate then it is done with an aim or purpose in mind and it is impossible to have an aim or purpose that is divorced from the ‘me’ that has it; this is just another reformulation of what we were talking about at the start of this discussion when we said that personality (or ‘ego’) cannot deliberately do anything without involving itself – just as the system of thought cannot ‘go beyond itself’ neither can the sense of self or identity that is engendered by the system of thought. The conditioned self and the closed or one-sided viewpoint that creates and enables the conditioned self are one and the same thing; the knot, the tautological trap, that we are talking about here is the very same closed loop of logic in both cases, the very same ‘dead end’. The set of positive statements, ideas, beliefs, memories and routines that altogether go to make up ‘me’ (my everyday perception of myself) is not different from the special set of conditions (the ‘artificial or abstract environment’) that allows those statements, thoughts, routines, etc, to make sense in the first place.
Just to recap here: One-sidedness results in our taking positive statements seriously, i.e. it results in our literal descriptions of reality becoming ‘absolutely meaningful’ to us. This naturally leads on to what we have called investment, which is necessarily irreversible since the more we invest, the more we have to protect and secure what we have invested, which amounts in itself to a further investment. The burden or weight of investment inevitably grows, like the familiar cartoon image of a snowball rolling down a snowy slope, picking up more and more mass as it rolls downhill. This irreversibility is of course what Shakespeare is talking about in the line in Macbeth Act 3 Scene 4:
For mine own good
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepped so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er: …
A commonplace instance of this is the example of the lie which grows and grows as time moves on – once told in the first place (as a way of extricating myself from a difficult situation) it becomes straightaway easier to continue with it, and embellish it, rather than to go back on what I have said and own up to the lie. There is a ‘built-in’ directionality here, a gradient which ensures that, if left to itself, the process moves in one direction and not in the other. After all, if the truth of the matter was already too hard for me to admit to, how much harder would it be for me to own up to both the original situation, and my cowardly subterfuge in denying it?
Comparing a lie which grows and grows (in an environment of denial), with the progressive formation, development and consolidation of the sense of personal identity upon which we rely in order to function in the world sounds flatly ridiculous, but when we consider – as we have been doing in these pages – that the root of this sense of identity, this ‘positively defined self-concept or self-image’, lies in the quintessentially shifty act of me ‘doing something and immediately saying that I didn’t’ (i.e. disguised redundancy) then it suddenly becomes apparent that the two processes are not so very different after all. Both have their origin in that initial ‘freely chosen’ act of deception (or self-deception), and following this free choice both head inescapably down a deterministic path where free choice is an impossibility. After all, how could free choice possibly be predicated upon an act of self-deception? Following this choice, nothing can follow except ‘more of the same,’ and then more, and more, and then more again, until one becomes utterly and profoundly sickened by the whole wretched business. Whether we are talking about the little lie that, in the course of time, becomes a remorseless juggernaut of denial that steamrollers everything under it, or whether we are talking about that initial tiny movement into the realm of mind-created redundancy which results in the inexorable progression and proliferation of the system of thought (which is the ‘framework’ within which the self orientates itself and is therefore dependent upon for its very existence) makes no difference – the principle is exactly the same in both cases.
CREATING A ‘TOY UNIVERSE’
The initial, all-determining, possibility-collapsing ‘event’ that precipitates the irreversible movement in the direction of information-reducing self-referentiality may be characterized as a generic, all-purpose ‘goal-orientated action’, which is to say, as ‘a move within a game’. One way of looking at a game, as we have already suggested, is to say that it is a kind of oversimplification, i.e. that it is an abstraction – a ‘toy universe’ that is created by disregarding all the elements with the Universal Set apart from a scant few, and then acting as if these scant few elements (or rules) are the only ones that exist. Another way of looking at a game is to say that it is where the original ‘complex’ situation is crudely reduced to an unambiguous polar situation where the only possibilities of orientation are ‘UP’ and ‘DOWN’, ‘WIN’ and ‘LOSE’, etc (in other words, to reduce reality to a situation where everything can be exhaustively described in terms of sets of opposites).
Yet another way of getting at this idea is to say that a game is where a goal can be clearly and exhaustively defined, and where – by an obvious implication – what constitutes failure to achieve the goal is also very clearly definable (failure is anything that is not success, and what constitutes success is, as we have said, is a state of affairs that is capable of being exhaustively defined). The invisible and wholly unsuspected corollary of this handy scheme, this usefully closed system where everything can be unambiguously and handily differentiated into ‘UP’ or ‘DOWN’, ‘WIN’ or ‘LOSE’, is that by simplifying things down so much we have ended up in the entirely ridiculous situation where we spend all our time trying to have ‘one side of the stick but not the other’…
We have, through our short-sighted urge to find an easy short-cut, an idiot’s version of reality, ended up with a situation where everything has been loaded or collapsed onto the ‘X’ dimension (say for example ‘height’) so that the desired, ideal state of affairs, which we will call winning, is when you are ‘UP’ and the undesired or wrong state of affairs, i.e. losing, is when you are ‘DOWN’. But UP is inseparable from DOWN, these are the two complementary ways of talking about the very same dimension, the very same continuum. Both terms (like all pairs of polar opposites) are entirely interchangeable – UP is entirely lacking in any irreducible essence of UPNESS just as DOWN is entirely lacking in any essence of DOWNNESS. The terms are relative not absolute and what they are relative to is each other. This means that they constitute a closed system which only exists (in terms of the UP-DOWN way it presents itself as existing) in its own self-referential terms, which is to say: