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"Has the sheep eaten the flower?"

Any ant we observe can seem to disappear, perhaps into its colony.  The colony is itself obscured by the ground or ant-hill it is in.  The signs of any such lair are diminished or consumed by their surroundings.  The whole scene is rendered insignificant by the world at large.  On this scale, the ant's civilisation is nearly invisible.  Satellite photos of North America will not show the crack in the pavement on this street from which ants crawl.  Still, the ant lives.  His existence, experiences, and import go on, or stop, unaffected by what we see in satellite born images.

Those who would dismiss them may cast us all as ants.  They say the individual is illusory, transitory, and unimportant; in the big picture, his time and place on Earth are insignificant or else nothing at all.  What a weird fate it must be to reason oneself out of existence.

Yes, we are indeed each individuals much smaller than skyscrapers, planets, or galaxies, yet we are also part of a society, the world, and the universe at large.  Without a whole, there may be no parts, but without any one of the parts, the whole changes.


  1. It doesn't make sense to me that meaning should depend on size or duration, since fat people or old people like the ones in Gulliver's travels that lived forever aren't more meaningful than me just because of those aforementioned characteristics.

    I think it's more of a subjective sense, and probably an emotional one, not just something you can understand logically.

    The last part of what you said, about being connected to a whole, sounds true to me. Sometimes, lately, when I draw, I like to imagine that there's a hidden god that's guiding my hand over the paper and showing me where to put the lines. I mean, I know it's not really true, but I like to imagine it is so. Or when I ride my bike down hills I like to just let go of the handle bars and lean back and feel like something else that isn't me (be it gravity, wind resistance, or something not even scientific) is controlling the velocity of the bike and guiding it along tracks according to its whims and not my own.

  2. I agree that personal (and interpersonal) views and emotions play a large part in determining 'meaning' of the 'What does it all mean, Charlie Brown' sort.

    As to allowing or wishing for 'outside' forces to control things, if only every now and then, one can sometimes find freedom in constraint--all sorts of disciplines dabble in the use of arbitrary rules as tools for unlocking creativity. A decent approach, so long as it doesn't become the goal itself.

    Metaphysically, I think there's something like a blurred line or a continuum between those things which are generally thought of as internal and external. For example, the tools we use (whether conceptual, as the rules I just wrote of, or concrete) can be seen as extensions of ourselves or our minds. For those objects are necessary to or a part of the mind functioning as it does when operating said tool.

    Further, as thought is a form of action, and as it can be expressed as action, we can see or hear some thoughts of others in the actual, physical world. This is particularly so when a person is 'thinking what he is doing' without extraneous internal conversations taking place (e.g. in high-level sports and martial arts, where participants must concentrate fully on what they are doing to achieve optimum results). In these instances, we may see a fencer thinking or feeling with his blade, or a batter doing much the same with his bat. There are more mundane examples, as when we observe a person thinking aloud, or an artist following his brush.

    Anyway, you should try polishing up that last paragraph of yours there. It has the makings of a nice bit of prose-poetry.

  3. When I try to polish I usually end up over polishing though...

    As for 'thought is a form of action', I was watching Yuja Wang playing piano in a video yesterday and the day before, and I was pretty fascinated by all her little distinctive mannerisms that she has when she's playing. She mouths out the notes, sways her head around, smiles, and so on. I felt like I was watching her rediscover the melodies that she'd learned from her years of training as she was playing.

    These are my two favorite songs, if you're interested, they're both ~ 3 min. Maybe you can see what I mean.

  4. I'm not familiar enough with the pieces to really understand her playing as a part of the larger picture of classical piano, but I can appreciate her combination of skill and talent. Those videos present a strong interplay between (incredible) muscle memory, mental memorization, and being-in-the-moment. She is clearly 'thinking the music'.


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