I’ve discovered a truth lately (there’s really just one Truth, but there are many ‘true’ projections of this Truth). People seem to think that it has no basis in “reality,” but in my opinion it is the basis of reality.
Here it is:
anything and everything anyone ever says is actually about themselves.
If this is an easy truth to swallow, I guess you can stop reading because I’m really just talking about myself 🙂
If you’re still with me (resisting) let me try to explain. The simplest reason that I find this to be true is that everything you are conscious of (sight, sound, touch, taste, even experience itself) is a simulation. As I’ve written before,
The way you interact with the world “outside of you” is by creating a sort of virtual reality within your head. An entire field of neuroscience has arisen to show that this is exactly how we store information about places and things: by making a simulated world containing neural representations of our environments (and ourselves).
So when I say “you are stupid” or “you are pretty” I am quite literally talking about a virtual, simulated version of you that doesn’t technically exist outside of my head. Our words refer to (what we assume is) a real object or person that owns an independent existence. But references are imperfect and the best we can ever do is to refer to a low-resolution ‘memory’ of our perceptual experience of places, things, people, and even our selves.
Now, this may seem contradictory, because as I’ve written before,
We are entirely and completely incapable of witnessing our ‘self.’
But our lack of direct interaction with “the real world” is exactly why we can’t witness our selves (in fact, there is no real way to directly perceive the environment. Any form of perception absolutely must be an indirect representation… perhaps a future post will cover this topic). Since everything you ever perceive is actually your self there is no way to differentiate your self from… whatever else might exist. It’s like trying to see a white square on a white background. You can fill in the space on the rest of the page, but at best you’re still only seeing an outline of the square.
As Alan Watts would say:
“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”
But isn’t the whole point of this post that literally everything we ever do is defining ourselves? So how can that be if it’s impossible to define yourself?
Thus, we find the same paradox that I have mentioned before in ‘Motivation and Fulfillment’ and ‘Zoom’. This paradox is Truth (with a capital T) that is differentiated from the many truths (with a lowercase t) that we all perceive. These truths are things like “all living things die” and “1+1=2.” These are undeniable and logical truths as dictated by the apparent laws of our reality. Since we all have our own unique perspectives there is some wiggle-room for the boundaries of these truths, but overall it does seem like there are some axiomatic baselines which underlie the shared space we call “reality.”
However, the Truth arises from the realization that none of these subjective truths are actually representative of reality (because they are reality). Kurt Gödel, a phenomenal philosopher, logician, and mathematician, once demonstrated through his incompleteness theorems that any sufficiently powerful system of arithmetic logic is inherently flawed. In other words, there are some problems that are unsolvable; some heights that cannot be climbed; some depths that cannot be plumbed; you cannot bite your own teeth.
There is some debate about the applicability of the incompleteness theorems for our conception of reality, but for the purpose of this post we can consider it to be the most useful concept imaginable. It is the closest approximation of communicable Truth that we can achieve. It is essentially the use of a logical system to show that there is no such thing as a perfectly logical system; the mathematical equivalent of ‘this sentence is false.’ ♣
Why is this such a useful concept? Because it is the ultimate reminder of the paradox at the heart of all logic, language, and existence: perception is nothing more than defining your self, but you can never define your self. We try and tell ourselves this in all sorts of little ways when we get insulted, like:
- “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”
- “I’m rubber you’re glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you”
- “I know you are but what am I?”
But too often we take these sayings as silly children’s retorts rather than adages about the self. They are used so frequently that they have become cliché. But I personally believe that these comebacks express an aspect of the deepest Truth that there is:
anything and everything anyone ever says is actually about themselves
I think everyone (read: ‘I, myself’) should pay more attention to this simple fact, because this knowledge is like a secret backdoor for hacking into the inner lives of anyone you interact with. More importantly, it can provide a level of insight into your self that isn’t normally accessible to… well, your self! It’s like looking into a mirror to see your own eyes, or making a plastic model of your mouth so you can bite your own teeth, or filling in the space on a white page so you can see a white box! Knowing that all of your words are a reference to your self is the closest you will ever get to defining your self.
eightstep me is as easy as remembering:
I am inaccesible to my self
Every word refers to me
♣For more information on this concept I point you towards the works of Douglas Hofstatder, who eloquently explains the work of Kurt Gödel and how it relates to subjectivity, conscious experience, and existence.