Things as They Are

When we were a newborn baby, there was no distinction between the world and ourselves. We were utterly unconscious, spontaneous, even intuitive. The word looked chaos.

Using a phenomenological term, it is epoché (suspension of judgment) to see things as they are. Unlike this phenological bracketing, however, for a baby, it is not suspension but total lack of it. A newborn baby is unable to make any judgment in the first place.

Seeing an apple in front of us, for example, we can call it a word, apple. We can also put other foreign words as an equivalent of apple in English. Or, we can point out semantic variants among many possible words that signify or symbolize this object. We can also associate various articulations.

Why can we do this?

It’s because we see this object, even the world around it, through the grid of knowledge in the meshwork of audio-visual symbols. Seeing three dots on a stone, for instance, we could recognize it as someone’s face on this stone. We can do this in the same reason.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:1-3

Knowledge is a set of windows for us to understand the world around us. Moreover, it is a set of windows to recognize ourselves, others, something, and someone beyond.

What if we remove these windows?

In phenomenology, such removal is epoché if we do it intentionally, as mentioned above. For a newborn baby, however, epoché is his/her initial state. The world is intrinsically chaos for a baby’s naked eyes.

How about us adults? Can we see the world as chaos without windows?

Not only phenomenologists, but even Impressionist painters made the same efforts. Instead of capturing objects, they used color dots. We can easily recall the work of Seurat. But the efforts were superficial. Even using color dots, the intention of creating the real scene was still there.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

Jumping to the late twenty century, a series of postmodern and deconstruction movements could be the same effort of removing knowledge windows. Postmodernists claimed that everything was interpretation and socioculturally constructed.

The world we see is a series of stories crafted by these socioculturally constructed interpretations. The mission of postmodernism is to overcome modernism and premodern traditional burdens to deconstruct them and decentralize the hierarchy of these knowledge systems.

The consequence of this effort, however, inevitably led us to either nihilism or narcissism. It is nihilism because we can no longer rely on any grand stories for which we live and die. It is narcissism because we think we are free from those burden of the windows of knowledge, but the reality is that we are still indulging with these windows identifying them as our enemies.

Still, another effort of suspending the windows is mysticism.

In the beginning, the world was chaos for our naked eyes. If so, by surrendering our ego and self-knowledge, we could restore a glimpse of this state, couldn’t we?

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:2-3

After all, the world including ourselves is a shadow of our knowledge. Beyond this shadow, if any, everything else could be a mere probability of dark matter. By calling it so, or even emptiness, we still miss it. For, it is completely unsayable.

Lao Tzu calls it Tao.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.

These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness. Darkness within darkness.

The gate to all mystery.

Tao Te Ching

It seems knowledge curses us.

Ever since we’ve been struggling to restore the very moment when the world was chaos; when the universe was emptiness, the truth is, however, they are as they are even now. It looks forever elusive as long as we pursue it by and through the windows of knowledge.

Image by pixel2013

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