The Prison Of Infinite Redundancy

When we live in a world that is exactly the same size as ourselves (i.e., when we live in the Projected World) then we have to put up with a very particular type of consequence. The ‘consequence’ of living in the PW is that all the actions we carry out will be reversed at some future point in time.

This is – we might say – a very easy principle to understand; it’s easy to understand, but the point is that we don’t want to! The principle in question states that ‘the net change occurring as a result of any activity that we might engage in within the context of a closed system is zero’.To cross twice is not to cross’, says G. Spencer Brown. Whilst there might appear to be something exciting and new happening in the closed system therefore, there isn’t.

All actions are reversed later on because we are operating on the basis of logic, which is always literal (or linear) in nature. If I have a logical map of the world then this map presupposes a one-to-one relationship between my yardstick and what is to be measured; it presupposes a one-to-one relationship between ‘the map’ and ‘the territory’. Radical uncertainty is not being taken into account….!

If I am operating on the basis of a map then the actions that I carry out necessarily assume a direct (or literal) correspondence between theory and reality therefore, and this is just another way of saying that I am ‘living in a world which is exactly the same size as me’. This is what the Domain of the Known always comes down to – it is impossible to have such a thing as ‘the Domain of the Known’ unless a direct equivalence between map and territory is assumed. Stuff just can’t be ‘known’ otherwise!

Actions that are taking place within the Domain of the Known (or, as we might alternatively say, ‘actions that proceed on the basis of our trusty map’) are always going to be self-cancelling, are always going to be self-negating, and the reason we can say this with such assurance is because the ‘world’ that is formed from: Ingredient 1– The map (or the theory) plus Ingredient 2- The faithful extrapolation of the map (or theory) is always going to be tautological. [A world that is ‘not any different from our description of it’ (or ‘from our thoughts about it’) is always going to be tautological.]

When <actual> equals <expected> (which is to say, when ‘our predictions about the world equal what is actually observed’, or ‘when our description of the thing exactly corresponds to the thing itself’) then this is the very definition of tautology – a tautology being where we say the same tired old thing all over again and yet at the same time somehow manage to create the impression that we’re saying something entirely new and interesting. Mutton is dressed up as lamb, in other words. [Or to put this another way, a tautology is where we define something in terms of itself and then smugly believe that we have carried out a genuinely meaningful act.]

When we operate in a world that is the same size as us (where our thoughts about the world equal the world, as far as we’re concerned) then we are living a tautology and there is absolutely no way around this. How could we possibly imagine that there was – when ‘our world equals our thinking’ then there’s no escape from our thinking! It’s not that we consciously formulate our situation in this way of course (we’d never come anywhere close to that) but – unbeknownst to us – our ceaseless, over-valued goal-orientated activity (which we manage to get so excited about) is a displacement, secretly signifying to us our escape from the tautology which we do not know to be a tautology.

There is no escape from the tautology within the terms of that tautology and we can’t conceive of (or imagine) anything outside of the tautology, but rather than seeing this impossibility consciously we play games in which <winning> gets to symbolise ‘Freedom from The Prison of Infinite Redundancy’ and this unacknowledged symbolism is what allows us to be excited (in the patently ridiculous way that we do get excited. If we ‘saw things straight’ then we’d see that the status of being a winner which we’re striving for isn’t ‘special’ in the way that the game says but just another ‘tautological development or restatement of the game’. Everything in the game is a tautological restatement of the game – the game (any game) is always going to be ‘one big, fat tautology’.

As long as we stay ‘safely’ within the bounds of a world that is exactly the same size as us (i.e., the Projected World, the world which is ‘us in disguise’) all of our activity is going to be of the self-cancelling type and this generates lots and lots of suffering for us, but at the same time we have a very good reason for not looking beyond this constrained domain! Finite games never get us anywhere and that is a frustratingly meaningless kind of a thing (to put it mildly) but playing them over and over continuously does confer a type of a benefit on us however – it allows us to believe that we really are who the game says we are.

In order to be ‘genuinely free from the tautology’ we would have to venture forth into a world that is bigger than we are, a world in which there is always more to things than we think there is (and in which there is always more to us than we imagine there to be). We have to venture forth into the world which isn’t our own projection, in other words, and this is what Joe Campbell means by ‘Heeding the Call to Adventure’. ‘Things then proceed to get real’, we might say, but the problem with this is that we then discover that ‘the me we thought we were’ isn’t real at all, but only ‘an artifact of the tautology’. The familiar and comfortable illusion that ‘I am this concrete self’ is lost therefore, and in its place comes nothing but open space. We can’t play any games with space and so we’re in big trouble…

As Baudrillard says, ‘It is always the same: once you are liberated, you are forced to ask who you are.’ This is why we are in no hurry to escape from the tautological prison that we’re in, this is the reason we’d rather keep on playing our futile finite games over and over again rather than actually learn or experience something new. Devoting ourselves to playing our sterile finite games over and over again might be tedious beyond measure (and utterly meaningless into the bargain) but at least this way we never have to ask who we are. This way we never have to discover that ‘we aren’t who we always think we are’ (which is – of course – the most disturbing discovery we could ever possibly make, by far). This discovery – we might say – changes everything!

When we live within a world that is bigger than we are then there’s no tautology because nothing we see is what we think it is, and nothing we do is what we think either. <Actual> ≠ <Expected>. Things are always spilling out of their categories and overflowing all over the place, in a most unexpected way. Nothing that happens to us is what we initially though it to be, and nothing we do has the result that we predicted it would, and so from our normal viewpoint we would call this a ‘loss of control’ which is of course regarded by one and all as Great Disaster. For a finite game player, not obtaining the result that corresponds exactly and precisely to our goal equals this thing we call failure’. For a Infinite Game player however the failure of things to happen as we expected (or wanted) them to is a very interesting because that is what ‘opens things up’.

When <A> ≠ <E> this gives us a clue as to what we’re really doing, as opposed to what we merely think we’re doing; we move beyond the map rather than endlessly (and spuriously) confirming its validity to ourselves, which is what being a Finite Game Player is all about. Not being in control is what allows us to move into a bigger, more expansive (and entirely unexpected) world, whilst ‘staying rigidly in control’ ensure that we never do move away from our cherished preconceptions. Another way to put this is to simply say that Finite Games are driven by fear – i.e., that they are really nothing more than our way of hiding away from the ‘Big Picture’ by seeking refuge in the endlessly receding details. The Infinite Game is – on the other hand – fearlessly exploratory – we’re not afraid of living in a universe that is infinitely bigger than we are, and we are more than willing to drop all of our stale and flavourless certainties in order to be able to do so…

Image –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *