To truly see someone
look into the dark circle of their eye
and you will see
To describe the unique metaphysical qualities of zero requires painting a number of brushstroke ideas in an effort to reveal the larger picture. Each idea, in itself, might not be extraordinary but in totality they form an image that points to another dimension. The next few posts will represent the rational argument, a philosophical claim developed with empirical reason. And because the physical world is a world of opposites or in common terms 'a duality' a rational claim in itself is an incomplete explanation therefore later posts in this series will be a spiritual assertion.
Signs and Symbols
To maintain clarity it’s necessary to define the difference between signs and symbols. Signs give literal meaning whereas symbols have secondary amorphous meanings. Examples of signs are abbreviations; nouns in the English language are also signs. When I write ‘put the book on the table’ the words book and table are signs that refer to physical objects. Traffic signs such as a stop sign are signs and not symbols. The order to stop is a literal command and can be seen phemenologically in the action of stopping. Symbols, on the other hand, are objects that embody secondary meaning above and beyond their literal meaning. One example of a symbol is the cross as a symbol of Christian faith. Embodied in the cross is the story and the life of Jesus and the entirety of the Christian Faith. To look at the cross and to think of a physical body on a cross of wood is to misunderstand the meaning of the symbol. The meaningful aspect of symbols arise in your consciousness not from your senses. Other potent symbols are the yin and the yang, the Star of David, the Crescent and the Moon, and even the swastika. In my argument I am focusing on the special characteristics of Zero. The first unique characteristic of zero is it’s both a sign and symbol. The two are interlocked and cannot be separated.
Next post: Zero as Concept
Zero is a concept that exists only in our minds. We can’t measure zero, we can’t experience zero, and it doesn’t have a physical presence. Yet this concept that doesn’t ‘exist’ has been instrumental in creating the world around us and is essential in the meaning of our lives. Over the course of the next couple of posts I will explore the connection between zero and ultimate reality, first in a rational argument and then in spiritual terms.
The sun, the moon, the sun, the moon, day after day we are experience the wonder of our existence. The most meaningful symbol of our lives is the circle, a timeless myth that exists in all cultures. A universal truth. Over and over we experience circles in the shape of the sun and the full moon. The significance of the sun and the moon are more than their physical presence. They signify the passage of our lives, new beginnings, peace, and nature, the creators of life. The circle is powerful symbol filled with deep meaning. When we create a circle we are creating a symbol that represents something else, the sun, a pie, a wheel, the concept of zero. In cultures with a shared history the meaning is conveyed automatically without the need for explanation. I propose that it isn’t a coincidence that we use the circle to represent zero but a profound connection between the physical and the non physical dimension. To support my proposal rationally I will begin by defining what symbols are, look at the connection between symbols and their meaning, give some examples of how they are used, and conclude by stating how zero is really a symbol for ultimate reality.
Do we become spiritual or are we born spiritual? Why are some people more spiritual than others? Can a spiritual nature be cultivated? These are some of the questions I’m contemplating following one of the holiest Christian celebrations of the year. Unfortunately as with most questions there are as many answers as there are questions and the answers seem to vary from person to person. Of most interest to me is the question, why am I spiritual? I wasn’t raised in an overly religious family only occasionally did we attend church during my childhood so I can’t attribute my spirituality to any sort of religious indoctrination or focused effort on the part of those around me. There was a period around 10-14 were I was very afraid of the devil. However fear and spirituality aren’t on the same plane.
I believe nature holds the answer.
The ultimate reality (God) is most easily experienced in nature. To me God is the beauty found in nature, not esthetic (visual) beauty but something greater, more encompassing and timeless, something you experience with your heart and mind. When I was a child I was very independent and my Mother allowed me a lot of latitude to explore, perhaps too much but that’s a different story. One experience I remember was when I was four or five walking several blocks to play in a white wintery field of snow and ice. I would play amongst the dead cat tails walking on the crunchy ice of a frozen creek. The only sounds were the birds and the wind. I would push my feet through holes in the freezing water testing the limits of my boots experimenting to see how wet I could get them before the water would soak through. I stayed out until I got cold or bored, which was usually all morning, and then I would zigzag my way back to our suburban duplex. I spent hours alone with my own thoughts in a serene white landscape of silent falling snow. I was cultivating my imagination while connecting with my inner self.
Did I seek out these experiences because of an existing spiritual nature inside of me or was a spiritual nature cultivated by having these experiences? I suppose its how you choose to view it. As a child I didn’t have a conscious spiritual nature so I find it difficult to imagine that I went where I did to fulfill something already inside of me. It feels like these spiritual moments in nature transformed me into who I am today. Through them I was connected with the beauty that exists in me and in everyone. The timeless nature of our soul is what I discovered. All that was required of me was to be fully present in nature.
In a comparison between scientific and universal truths, universals are of a higher order. I believe this for two reasons. First scientific truths deal with facts while universal truths deal with meanings. Facts are concepts that come from that which can be measured and quantified. Although in our modern world we tend to value only what can be physically substantiated which we call facts but facts have a shadow side, which is the possibility of being false. It doesn't matter if these concepts are ever proven to be false but by the mere existence of a POSSIBILITY that they could be wrong shows their lower standing in comparison to universal truths. Universal truths are immutable one sided knowings experienced through meaning. Facts express very specific concepts that pertain to closed systems with limited conditions. However the vast majority of our existence lies outside our immediate closed physical system. Here is an example. We know what happens physiologically and chemically when our hair grows but we have no idea why it grows, what causes it to grow, where do these processes originate from? Similarly is the thought of where do ideas come from? We have thousands of ideas every day, some good, some bad, but where do they arise from? No one knows and we probably can’t know, at least not in our current state of existence. On the other hand universal truths evolve out of that which is meaningful in our lives. So what is meaning? Meaning is the spiritual part of your existence; it’s in your DNA but it’s not your DNA. Meaning is timeless and universal. Meaning shares the same problem of all things that exist outside our physical world, that being the word to describe what ‘it’ is can’t be said. I can tell you what it’s like, I can point you in the direction so you can look towards it but my mouth can’t form the words to say what it is. How does a musician write a moving piece of music, how does a poet form sentences, how did Einstein discover the general theory of relativity? Just like the farmer that plants and waters a crop doesn’t grow the plants, they grow themselves, he just provides the environment for the miracle to happen. Meaning arises from the miracle of our existence and universal truths are inherent in this meaning. One example of a universal truth is that the rising and the setting of the sun has meaning to conscious beings. Universal truths are also separate from scientific truths in how they are formed. Scientific truths are concepts of reason. We observe physical quantities and then using reason we conclude whether or not the facts support our hypothesis. If they do support the hypothesis now and over time we will call them truth. The concept of a scientific truth arises out of reason and exists in our mind. On the other hand, universal truths are deep knowings that exist not only in our minds but in our being, they are the world around us. We can recognize and acknowledge their existence with our minds but they don’t arise there, they aren’t thoughts.
Why does this matter? To me why this matters, beyond the millennia that philosophers have been trying to define truth, is because by knowing that facts although relevant aren’t all that matter in life. Facts can get us into a lot of trouble when we focus on them as if they are truths. Look inside yourself and you will discover the truth.