Tag Archives: The Tempest

The logical ballerinas: “Human being”.

 

 

What appears in the image is supposed to be a portrait of a being who, in 1758, called himself (and all those who resembled him, according to him) Homo sapiens. As an individual he called himself Carlos Linneo. It has been said he was indeed a great Swedish poet dedicated to Biology. Rousseau and Goethe venerated him. It was not God who named the animals. Not even the human animal, who seems to have named itself.

Homo sapiens. Human being. Are we before logical dancers, pure symbols, “nothings” that want to be something in a living consciousness? Are consciousnesses always “human”? Is it me, the one who now writes, a human being? Are you also that being? What is exactly a human being?

Before exposing what happens in my mind when the dancer “Human Being” dances in it, I suggest to take a look at the following ideas, questions and perspectives:

1.- The scientist-naturalist-evolutionist story: the matter [See here “Matter”] in which that story believes  that story (its universe), suddenly, at a specific point of its temporal unfolding, produces something prodigious: the so called “human being”. It is also said that that being is the “place” where the entire universe contemplates itself. Current state of that narration: in the first version of this article (2013) that narration affirmed that the first modern human being (with body and behaviour equal to ours) would have appeared in the current Ethiopia 195,000 year ago. They are the so-called men of Kibish, discovered in 1967 by Richard Leakey. But, apparently, since 2017 there is another place on the planet (in the known universe) that now has the honor of being our first cradle, our very first outbreak: Jebel Irhoud, in Morocco (315,000 years).

2.- The human being as a genetic sequence. “The human genome”. When exactly does matter begin to be a “human being”? When does it stop being? Is the genetic code the essence of the human? What limits of difference, of deformity, of distancing from the basic model of “human genome”, are admissible in order to continue talking about “human being”?

3. Models of human body. Hatha Yoga: the body as a spiritual shuttle. The Platonic model: body/ bad versus soul/good). The human body and its tension with society. I suggest reading this work: Peter Brown: Body and Society, Columbia University Press, London 1988.

4.- Shakespeare (The Tempest): “We are such stuff as dreams are made on”. We? What is that?

5.- Bible. Corinthians 3, 16-17: Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple”.

6.- Kant. We are citizens of two worlds. One of them is knowable by human beings. The other one is not. And we are destined to fly towards infinity. Towards Philosophy. We can not help it.

7.- Another reading that I consider unavoidable: Max Scheler: Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos [The Human Place in the Cosmos]. There is an English translation by Manfred Frings (Northwestern University Press, Evanston 2009).

8.- French structuralists. The end of the human being. Everything is a meta-human structure. [See Levy-Strauss still in Spanish].

9.- Political humanism. Construction and custody of political systems based on the sacralization of the individual human being. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But what happens if a human being is no longer clearly identifiable? I suggest reading this book by Francis Fukuyama [See here still in Spanish]: Our posthuman future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 2002.

10.- I also consider worth reading these two books of Yuval Noah Harari: 1.- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. 2.- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

I share some personal reflections now:

1.- Michel Foucault said [See here still in Spanish] that it is not men who make speeches, but speeches that make men. The goddess Vak said something similar – more than three thousand years ago – in the Rig Veda hymn that inspires my logical ballerinas.

2.- “Human being” is a word. We are not human beings. Poetry [see] -the group of logical dancers who have managed to survive in “our” mind- makes us see ourselves as human beings. Or not. One thing is our essential self (“metalogical”) and another our “logical” self: what we see of ourselves through the linguistic-poetical filter. From what unnameable abyss comes that Poetry that configures, that  bewitches, our look, that Poetry that makes us see ourselves as “human beings”?

3.- As I stated in “Progress” [See here], I believe that the “human being” does not demand a concrete form -not even a specific genome. Human beings might be philosophers capable to love (and dream and make others dream), no matter if adopting the form of centaurs, or of purple clouds, or of a small, never visited lake in Segovia full of magical living beings. This is not a definition of what we are. It is a suggestion of creativity, of poetization, of identification. That what we essentially might be, beyond Poetry, is ineffable. And, lets say it again, Poetry is not “human”: “human” is an outcome of Poetry.

4.- We might say, from the metaphors, always from the metaphors, that we are a shadow, or a “magical nothingness”: something unnamable, unthinkable, imperceptible that (creatively) dreams worlds: that creates/dreams human beings and is able to identify with them. And also to religate to them [See “Religion” here still in Spanish]. Or do not religate. The Samkya system: to know that one is not the phenomenal (we are not the “matter” and its forms).

5.- We are not the products of our imagination. But maybe it’s more fascinating to believe we are. 

I do anyway madly love human beings, those mysterious creations. And I cannot help it.

David López

The logical ballerinas: “Matter”.

 


 

“Matter”.

Another logical ballerina. Just a word. “Matter” is only -only?- a word.

And that word comes from the Greek hyle: a symbol that allows us to transmit a model of mind, a concept: something like the one we feel with the symbol “cut wood” or, also, “raw material with which to do anything”. In Latin the symbol is materia, and the concept associated with it would be something like “wood for any type of construction”.

And what is built with matter? The world? The whole reality? Can the matter itself be constructed with something even more esencial? Is the world a sum of material bodies (molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks…) that are enslaved to some eternal, never changing physical laws?

What is a dream made of? I mean, for example, a kiss on the lips of a beloved woman, a kiss wanted, desired, dreamt years ago. Is that kiss – and the hearts and fantasies in it intertwined – constituted by dead atoms subjected to physical laws as implacable and dead as numbers written with chalk on a blackboard?

Why do most models of reality feel dread towards freedom and creativity? Well, some of them do only consider possible the freedom and the creativity of human beings.

What is the matter of our dreams made of?

Some years ago I had this dream: I was walking down the staircase of the apartment building where  I lived until I was nine years old. On that staircase there was a window from which a garden could be seen. Suddenly I knew that I was actually dreaming, that I was inside my own artificial reality and that, therefore, I could build whatever I wanted within the unlimited matter of my mind.

I just wanted to fly. And, flying, I was able to reach the branches of one of the trees. Once there I spent a good while touching with my irreal fingers the dreamlike surface of that vegetable/dreamed entity that was being softly moved by a very real and mysterious  breeze.

The point is that I was able to touch the matter of dreams. It was one of the most extreme and sublime experiences I can remember from this level of consciousness. The matter of dreams/the matter of the real universe. Is there a difference? Shakespeare wrote what follows in the first scene of the fourth act of The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

One may ask: Who -or What- sleeps in that sleep that envelops all lives? And, above all, is that dreamer a creator? Are dreams outcomes of a conscious creative effort?  Is it possible to freely configure matter or is it eternally subject to unconscious, but also omnipotent laws that determine all possible configurations of matter?

“Matter”. Before presenting my ideas / sensations, I would like to suggest the study of the following subjects:

1.- The Arche in ancient Greek Philosophy: What is everything made of? Hylozoism: Thales of Miletus (matter is alive; and all is full of gods).

2.- Matter in Aristotle: that out of which something is made.

3.- Neoplatonist philosophers (Plotinus, Proclus, Simplicius of Cilicia and Iamblichus): matter as pure receptacle without qualities or measure. I recommend once again the Philosophy Dictionary of José Ferrater Mora, now specifically his article “Materia”. It is written in Spanish, and, unfortunately,  not yet translated into English.

4.- Matter according to scientist thinking and to magical thinking (enslaved matter versus free matter).

5.- Dualists. Matter is Evil. Matter in Samkya metaphysics: suffering and slavery derive from identifying with the psychic-mental experience (prakriti or matter).The Charvakas of ancient India: matter is the only reality; and its great. Descartes´ dualism: body and mind as different realities.

6.- Matter in current Physics. The definition of Matter by CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire): “All ordinary matter in today’s universe is made up of atoms. Each atom contains a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons (except hydrogen, which has no neutrons), surrounded by a cloud of electrons. Protons and neutrons are in turn made of quarks bound together by other particles called gluons. No quark has ever been observed in isolation: the quarks, as well as the gluons, seem to be bound permanently together and confined inside composite particles, such as protons and neutrons”. The quark-gluon plasma. A.L.I.C.E.

I proceed now to share some personal philosophical sketches caused by the dance in my mind of the logical ballerina “Matter”:

1 .- First of all I think it might be useful to differentiate between matter as formless “mass” with potential to adopt any form (something that for the Neoplatonists was a receptacle without measures or qualities) and matter as “what fills the space”, or “set of physical bodies” , or “density variations in a unified field”, etc. The first conception of “matter” suggests a kind of “nothing” able, and ready, to be anything. The second is a legalized, enslaved something. I see more life (more truth) in the first concept of matter.

2.- If matter is such in-formable mass, we could imagine a prodigious “mass” that might had, at the same time, infinite potentiality (infinite capacity to adopt forms, to be a natura naturata) and infinite creative power (natura naturans). That prodigious “mass” may be called “God” (the metalogical God: being essentially formless) because it might be able to build any world (any form) with and within  Himself.

3.- I believe that the terms Matter, Maya and Magic might share the same ontological meaning: they name the essence of the show that is presented before our consciousness. And in that show our thoughts and our own psychical and optical self (what appears on the mirrors, what we see in the photos, the parts of our body we can see from the position of our eyes…) should be included. I agree with Schopenhauer that we are the secret directors of the theatre plays of our lives.

4.- According to the above I consider myself a materialist. Why not? I love the matter. A lot. I love the texture -sometimes fierce, terrible- of this prodigious dream. My rejection of materialism, let’s say, dualist materialism (the one that distinguishes between matter and spirit) derives from its contempt for the worlds and, over, for its contempt for the real, “imperfect” human beings.

5.- In a meditative state we can experience something that I would like to call “pure matter”. In such state, the experienced “nothing” [See “Nothing” still in Spanish] seems to be able of configuring itself in any imagined world: any Creation might occur in such prodigious Nothingness.

I return now to that dream in which I could touch the branches of a, lets say metaphysical, tree. What did I really feel while caressing that dreamlike vegetable, while breathing the air and light of “my” own imagination?

I felt astounded and amazed: feelings that -very powerfully- trigger Philosophy.

David López