5.20.2012

The World is Full of Itself

The world is full of itself. It's not just dense, every square millimeter accounted for — it's infinitely dense! Every square millimeter is infinitely divisible. Take your hand: we can zoom in closer and closer and closer — we can zoom forever — and know what we'll find? More hand!

Often, we imagine the world is this static platform on which there's stuff. And then there's us who spend our time maneuvering around this stuff.  But between the stuff and between us is, well, some stuff but also a whole lot of nothing.

The rise of modern science is premised on this very belief — that there is such a thing as nothing. They call it a vacuum. Scientists do experiments in a vacuum to understand the laws of....something.  Which seems odd, doesn't it?

But there have always been those who believe there is no such thing as nothing. They have been known to call themselves plenists which, once I write it here, is hilarious. Thomas Hobbes was a renowned plenist, among other things, no doubt. Leibniz, too, in a different way. I fancy myself a plenist. 

This is to say, I believe the world is a plenum — it is full, absolutely full. And always at its limit. It can grow (or shrink) but it is still, always and necessarily, full and at its limit.

When I look at, say, a flower I am not looking through nothing. Between the flower and me is so much stuff, an impossibly thick layered quilt of stuff — oxygen and nitrogen, sure; some carbon dioxide, no doubt; but also ideas, history, sentiments, moods, textures and shapes of diverse invisible planes. Between the flower and me is nothing less than the world.

Even the machines in the Matrix understood this. Look what happens when a bullet tears through space: it tears through the viscous stuff of the world.


We are packed in here with the bees and the chickens and the spiders and the chairs and the gases and the ideas and the books and the dreams and the stars. And, miraculously, we can still move. That's because all this stuff is more than just solid, liquid, and gas. There are other states, too.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty says that between the world and me is something called flesh. He claims this is an element such as fire, water, earth, and wind. This flesh embraces us, all of us. It embraces everything. This cosmic plenum is an infinite hug. 

3 comments:

TomG said...

I have always felt that Zeno was not arguing that motion was paradoxical but rather that motion would be physically impossible unless the universe were one. That's to say the world is infinitely divisible, and motion is possible, because any and all such divisions we make are arbitrary.

Daniel Schealler said...

Nothing isn't nothing anymore! - Lawrence Krauss

Booyah. ^_^

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Daniel: Great video! Thanks. I really love it.

@ Tom: I like this — it's strange. A good friend of mine reads Zeno is negatively affirming the calculus by revealing the absurdity of geometry.That is, the thing that's missing from geometry is time, change. And in my plenum, time is constitutive, a dimension — so everything is moving. Like in the video Daniel sent.