I wrote an email to a friend a couple weeks ago and I really liked the content of it, so I’m going to go ahead and write about the same topic here, but I will try to stray from exactly the same wording although undertaking this does give me a slight feeling of anxiety, like a dog glancing behind it to check for its owners as an endless forest stretches out before it.
(Actually to go onto a tangent right away, in a separate email — an email blunder — I was asking a friend for feedback on an idea I had about a project I wanted to undertake. The email, while personal in the sense that it tried to honestly lay out my emotional connections to this particular project and the reasons for pursuing it, was not actually personal towards this friend as a person, made even more clear as I had cut-and-paste it, verbatim, from an email to my aunt. Unfortunately I also cut-and-past the greeting to my aunt, throwing my email self under the bus. What I love about this particular friend, however, is that after I wrote an apology for cut-and-pasting an email to her, she admitted that her last email to me was composed in the exact same manner. I feel a bit like we are couple who just burped in front of each for the first time, shrugged, and continued to eat our meal.)
The meat of the email I wrote was about the idea of indivisibility which, as most ideas that float into one’s field of view, approached me from what was at first a single point of reference, but then suddenly became a salvo of relational and tangental references. My entry point, out of all places, was a church: more specifically a Romanian Catholic church in Cluj, which I entered during the beginning of a service being given in Hungarian.
(On a historical note: this part of Romania used to be part of Hungary, then went back to Romania, then (part) flipped back to Hungary, then (that part) flipped BACK to Romania, in what is a real land tug of war. It’s an interesting read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Transylvania
. Also what is interesting is that a castle that’s in Translavanyia, Vajdahunyad Castle, was recreated in Budapest, which I guess is sort of like dating someone that looks just like your ex. In a similar relationship analogy, many Hungarians and then Romanians asked me about the other nationality and what I thought about them. I’d demure on this front, which would be met with a comment indicating the asking party thought the other nationality probably hated their nationality. It felt a bit like a random man or woman coming up to me on the bus and asking, “What is your father/mother saying about me?” as if I was some child from their failed marriage.)
When I travel I like to bounce into churches as I enjoy what they smell like and I’m a sucker for spaces that make me gaze upwards as well as gold leaf and any paintings of saints that have super flat halos and oddly bent necks.
(I always thought that 14-15th century Spanish religious art really struck this chord perfectly, given museum research, but I’ve been in a lot of Russian orthodox churches that really blew me away on the super flat front. I had this ex-girlfriend who’s dad was Russian and he would sometimes go to church, while her mom waited out in the car reading a fashion magazine. I went with him once, standing in a room vacant of seats, looking around at walls painted like Jesus’ fever dream: all color and overlapping people and limbs and every nonhuman object placed in a way that seemed to indicate it was a symbol for something else, but for the life of me it was a single hand gesture in a game of charades where I had none of the same base knowledge as the other participants. The one guy I remember in the whole scene was this man in a blue robe, standing off to the side of a big group of similarly dressed people, and he was pointing off into the sky with a very serene look on his face. By coincidence, or divinity, he also happened to be pointing at an air conditioning vent.)
Anyways, I’ve recently been on a streak of hitting the beginnings of services. Or I should say a streak for me: 2 in 2 years (the previous was in Poznan, Poland, which has a really nice town square with a clock tower where two goats come out and butt heads on the hour. I was dating a woman here and those two goats seemed to be a metaphor that cut both ways. On the one hand we had a phyiscally overpowering reaction to each other that seemed in line with the base insticts of goats defending their territory, but on the other hand we maybe were just destroying one another.) I sat a bit before the service started and was immediately intrigued by the two people nearest to me: the woman to my left had a neck that seemed unusually long, but with lines that evoked carefully designed Italian cars from the 60s, and the woman in front of me was kneeling at her pew, but was somehow able to place the inside arch of each of her feet flat on the ground as she was kneeling. If you were to stand directly behind her and look down, it would appear as if a letter T was being written with human legs.
For some reason at this moment the idea of indivisibility hit me; in particular indivisibility and the holy trinity and my realization that the holy trinity is one of the only things that make sense to me in Christianity; or maybe not one of the only thing that makes sense to me — I’m all for loving my neighbor, not killing and whatnot — but it seems like one of the most honest ideas presented. Because units are such an important part to the construction of knowledge basis. In math, you get units in numbers like 1, e, and pi, but these numbers are revealed as being arbitrary, in a sense, because they expose that there are different unities in different contexts. We need unities so we can build from them — we need packets not waves, to build some ontology — and the holy trinity is acknowledging this by saying there’s three things in one thing and we’re supposed to focus mostly on the one thing in order to build out the whole idea, but really all things can be viewed as other units. And that’s an idea I can get behind: we’re limited as humans, but we’re trying our best.
Because of cultural bias (read: war on Christmas… just kidding) and various personal encounters, I’ve never really had a warm stance towards priests, and in these wandering thoughts I added onto my dislike that a robe is basically a way to make a person look more indivisible by hiding the usual associations of a body being a trunk with a handful of appendages. This is obviously my own bias being revealed, but I couldn’t help but feel the honesty of the holy trinity was being hidden in robes. And while I don’t believe in god, I do believe the usual role people play is making murky the water of anything that seems honest, whether that water has god in it or not.
And I guess this makes me think about people who claim indivisibility as part of the structures of thought that they propose. It makes me think that concerns of indivisibility are concerns with control; concerns with ones own aptitude and worth. A cloying NEED for something seems to be present. Bohr with quantum mechanics and the Pledge of Allegiance (to the United States of America) make me think of this when they toss the word “indivisible” around. It seems to be the word to build a plank that you eventually step a little too far out on and fall into an ocean of bewilderment. Indivisibility in the sense of constructions of thought seem to be like gold. They seem to be statically present, but really they are slowly disappearing (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/jan/24/scientists-weigh-up-shrinking-kilogram
), its just we tend to be stuck in a very small finitude of scale when we think about most things. The only time “indivisible” can stick around is in a completely closed information system, like with integers, or the characters in M*A*S*H.
In some ways the Pythagoreans and Darwin showed us how the indivisible parts of an open systems can fall apart from a mechanism within the system itself; which makes me think about being a kid and trying to run across a dark street at night and completely overlooking a low siting, black car that I subsequently ran directly into: my goal was very clear and obvious, but I didn’t foresee how the mechanism for completing my goal would be my undoing. In the case of the Pythagoreans they believed that the entirety of the world could be described in whole numbers, an indivisible fact of the world, only to have their study of a right triangle with unit length sides show the existence of a number that had no end: the square root of two. In a bit of a lesser way, but also like running into a parked car, Darwin was discovering the consequences of heredity and genetics while being married to his first cousin, which began to dawn on him as not the most genetically ideal situation (Rudy Giuliani, infamous ex-mayor of NYC, on the other hand, can not claim a late scientific discovery to explain his marriage to his second cousin.)
And in the final piece of this, not a piece that will necessarily tie all of this together in some way, but instead is more of a “huh, would you look at that?” sort of addition is that of a thought that pops up in the book Hyperobjects by Timothy Morton. Hyperobjects, whether you are on board with them or not, are pretty aptly named as they are objects that exist beyond what we typically think of as objects. (As an armchair/backseat philosopher please allow my terminology to exist in the best light you can possibly find. Perhaps put all this text by a window overlooking a nice view of a meadow.) Morton tackles the topic by draping it over the hyperobject of Global Warming, but I find it easiest to just think of the entire universe being objects in objects (where there are no voids to speak of, no infinity of space) and one of those objects that is either wrapping or being wrapped in this thought experiment you will find to be very “unobject”, as you typically think of an "object", and that there is your hyperobject.
Hyperobjects have the saucy property of being nonlocal, which means they don’t exist in one place at one time. With our different ways of perceiving the world we slice into hyperobjects with different perceptual plans and get these little peeks at them; like cutting a multilayered cake at odd angles and getting all kinds of different strata. While this means with more abstract objects like Global Warming that we have a hard time describing them, because we can never really see them in totality, I’ve been wondering if ALL objects are really sort of like hyperobjects, but statistically it is so rare for them to present with a new phenomena to us, that they appear static: I don’t expect my pencil to suddenly fall into quantum disarray, because the likelihood is very very very small (although it isn’t impossible.)
Indivisibility can also then be related to the desire to fix the phenomena of an object. And maybe in a human scale these things do seem indivisible, but to believe that they are in their essence also indivisible, seems to misunderstand something basic about the foundations of our experiences; it puts in our mind a mechanism for our thoughtful undoing.