9.26.2015

Empiricism is Transcendence, or Look! The Universe is Thrown


I took this from my bedroom window while writing this. 
Look at the universe — look at invisible space — bend.
Space is not the background. It's all inflected.




The west coast sky of the United States — at least between upper Oregon and Half Moon Bay — has been outrageous as of late. Yes, that's kind of an absurd thing to say as the sky is always exactly as it should be — outrageous. But, holy moly, it's been really and truly incredible recently.

I've been lucky to enjoy the sky for extended stretches, with no distractions — no emails or phone calls, no conversations or traffic. Just sitting there, safe and sound, beneath, below, and within the sky, watching. How's that for an excellent day — I spent several hours looking at the sky! That's a good god damn day.

Anyway, I'm sitting there watching the sky and this particular distribution of clouds and I see something amazing: I see the curvature of not just the earth — but also the earth — but the curvature of the space around us. I see space bending!

Now, it's tempting at times to imagine the earth as this body that's in space. We're on solid ground, suspended in even and continuous, if interrupted, space. But what is space? Is space the background or canvas on which we hang our planets and stars and solar systems, the empty place we fill with our structures of knowledge? Space is the blank spots, the playing field. So we imagine.

But I'm looking at the sky and, well, it doesn't seem even at all. It doesn't stretch out evenly in all directions. The thing we're suspended in — if we're to continue with that figure, which has all kinds of problems — is not uniform. Space is not blank at all. The damn thing is bent! All that yawning sky, that space, is not a great openness. It's filled with planes — planes I can't see but whose effects I can see (that is, the clouds and trails don't just drift any old way; they drift along what the great poet and sophist, Lohren Green, might call a seam). 

Just look at the freakin' clouds! They don't fill space evenly or randomly. No, they drift along one level plane, like the cool kids on the mezzanine at the party. 

And it's a plane that bends! The vanishing point of this plane is not the same as the vanishing point of the earth — the horizon. But both sure move along what are obviously planes. And obviously along planes that are related to each other in some complex, mutually inflecting way.

Space is not geometric; it's, at the very least, calculaic. It is bent, everywhere, all the time, in infinite curves. Space is thoroughly internally differentiated. How do I know? Look at the fucking sky!

If you literally look up from daily demands and anxieties — jobs, rent, traffic, girlfriends, boyfriends, parents, children, tv shows — you see the cosmos bending with the force of enormous, twirling, spinning bodies. The universe is thrown. It's big banging all over the place, at different speeds, at different angles, along infinite and intersecting planes, creases in the cosmos, pleats in the universe — all these crevices and niches, canals and alleyways, hills and valleys of the goddamn universe. The universe is San Francisco (geographically).

To see the world is to be outside yourself. To see is to take in the world and, at the same time, to let the world take you in. To see is not to just be the seer; to see is to be seen. A condition of seeing, of taking in the world, is that you make yourself something that can be seen and taken in. This is the mechanism of life — sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. You only see because you can can be seen; smell, because you are something that is smelled; touch, taste, and hear only because you're tasty, smooth, and loud.  

When I'm looking at the sky, I move along with the big banging planetary bodies moving along this infinitely variegated and inflected universe. I'm seeing that which means I'm experiencing that. As that space bends with forces and bodies so vast and swift, I tilt with it, even if ever so slightly. 

Empiricism is not a dead end road of numbers and knowledge, a means to an end, a resting place. Empiricism is participation. Empiricism is keeping your fucking eyes open for whatever and however it all comes, or not. Empiricism means moving along the planes of the cosmos with the speeds and pulls of bodies vast and swift. Empiricism is the way to transcend the ego and become with the world.

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