- Education and Science
Structure of Reality: The Reliability of Myth
Culture is shrouded in myth, from the why-so legends of the multitude of Native American tribes to the cultural legends of Norse, Greek, Indian, Egyptians legends. A myth is something created with a grain of truth, a story that contains a principle for why something is. In our modern times, we tell ourselves that we are educated, that we live in a world of science and understanding.
Why The World Does Not Exist
The Reliability of Myth
According to Markus Gabriel, this is not so, in a generic, individual realm. In fact, each one of us plays into our own myth (which he calls the “world” in his TED Talks, “The World Does Not Exist.”) on a daily basis. Each person lives in their own personal reality, or world, which holds key principles, or myths, which they base their morals and practices around.
Gabriel explains that the world, in the personal experience and meaning of such, cannot possibly exist because it is based on experience, and to truly mean the all-encompassing world, one cannot possibly have the fullest of understanding of such. He refers to that which we have not experienced, from deeps sea-diving, to parenting, to sciences we have yet to understand. There is such a vast array of nouns that one individual cannot comprehend them all, and thus, cannot mean the world in the sense they think they do – and the world they do mean, is simply based on their own perception and understanding gained form experience.
These experiences – events, media, ideas, feelings, etc., that have been gained from the external influences – Gabriel calls Fields of Sense. He explains that these Fields of Sense are the assurances we gather from our environment which assure us of the reality outside our bodies, outside the safety of our skulls. Each field of sense acts as evidence which leads us to a conclusion. As the old saying goes, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” The myth is that it is a duck, the evidence which supports it is that it looks and sounds like a duck.
Another example can be examined from the perspective of the pot of petunias in Douglas Adams’ novel, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guild to the Galaxy, which finds itself falling from cloud level, and miserably mumble, “Oh, not again!.” In its experience, it is common to find itself appearing at very high altitudes and plummeting toward the ground before it continues on. Since this has happened again, the myth for the pot of petunias was that this was a normal, though annoying, event.
However, the natural Fields of Sense that we, as a whole, have relied on in the past are altering in our modern world. While philosophers would take the common experiences which lead to the conclusions in their culture and challenge them, today we have new Fields of Sense which reach our conclusions, and thus different philosophies.
Google Changing Grammer
Boris Groys argues that Google is our modern philosopher in his paper, “Google: Words Beyond Grammar.” Google, being the multi-billion dollar company which simply started as a search engine and is now in the lead for developing the western world’s first self-driving vehicle and other artificial intelligent anomalies, has acquired a status the western culture has yet to realize fully. It is our new parent, wiseman, Don Juan, and perhaps – deity. When answers are sought, they are sought on Google. “To Google” has even become an acceptable verb in the English language, and is even in the Associated Press Style Books, which gives tips as to how to use it in a sentence.
This godly search engine is now the go-to for answers, so much so, that even the boundaries of grammar are broken to create a new means of communication – so writes Groys. “Our dialogue with the world is always based on certain philosophical presuppositions that define its medium and its rhetorical form…Google presupposes and codifies the radical dissolution of language into sets of individual words…to its grammar.” (Google p.4)
Thus, Google has created its own myth, its own reality in which users share and understand. By creating its own laws of function and own language, essentially, it has created the myth that it is its own philosopher and keeper of answers.
However, as with everything, balance occurs. For every extreme, there is its opposite, and with the telling of every myth, there is a skeptic. The skeptic has an important role to play, so states Gabriel in another work, “The Skepticism of Art.” In this essay he examines how, while a skeptic is generally viewed as a Doubtful Debby, it is the skeptic that shapes the parameters of an idea, brings form to the imagination. “The skeptic has to tell us something very important by showing us the necessary limits of any universe of discourse. Skepticism amounts, thus, to an insight into our finitude.” (Skeptic p.59)
The thing which looks and sounds like a duck, so far is a representation of all ducks. However, the “duck” could in fact solely be an animation of a duck. It is the skeptic which adds the details that the duck is two-dimensional, that it has long eyelashes and a bow on its head. Is it any less than a duck? Of course not, however, the skeptic has defined that it is not a living duck, but a fictional creation.
Each side of the balance has its smaller balancing act to conduct. While the skeptic forms the outline of an expanding and infinite idea, making it finite, it can go another direction. The skeptic can question the lines already drawn, erase and expand the fence-line, as we see in Catherine Malabou’s introduction to her book, “What Should We Do With Our Brain?” She examines the ways in which we have viewed the brain, a solidly constant state of being, though perhaps deteriorating as aging commences. However, she argues that is not the case, that because the body is able to generate new cells and tissues that the brain is also capable of doing so, and is also in a constant state of creating itself. Malabou coined the term plasticity in reference of the brain, that it is a malleable substance which changes, forms and reforms.
All areas of life has a myth, whether it be a grand cultural myth such as Osiris raising the Nile every year, Santa Clause, sailors seeing mermaids, or personal myths which might be positive or negative – eating disorders are built upon myths, as is arrogance, art, faith – or any other personal character trait. The same holds true to Karma – or balance – is a reality created by an individual.
On a universal level, we live in a very balanced existence – our planet exists in what is called a Goldilocks area. This means that we are the perfect distance from the sun that we do not burn up, but we are close enough to harness its energy both technologically, but on a more prehistoric level, via cells, which allowed life to proliferate.
Balance is a constant occurrence - what goes up, must come down; where there is no light there is darkness; male and female; night and day. Moving beyond the obviousness of opposites, it is balance which must occur in the body in order to achieve and maintain a healthy state. The body is a series of chemicals and interactions, just as everything else, and when the body’s Potential Hydrogen (pH) levels are too high or low, then sickness is the result. The peaceful balance within the body must be achieved, otherwise detrimental illnesses from chronic fatigue to Candida to cancer.
Laws of physic support the laws of balance - articulated perfectly when considering the Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal yet opposite reaction." This can be illustrated when emptying a water bottle, which in turn fills with air. While seemingly pouring out the occupant of the bottle, another element takes up residence.
The seemingly random design of trees has its own balance. While their branches might grow in a multitude of different directions, reaching out toward the light, towering above ground, their roots expand likewise below the soil, creating their own tangled web. The law of balance in trees states that all of these beings have an equal amount of mass above ground as it does below ground.
Each of these fields of sense validates the myth of balance.
"I Shall Call it Ground"
Returning to Adams’ novel, the whale, transversely, also found itself falling from a very high place in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and was developing its first experiences. It had no need to think ill of anything happening to it, it was quite pleased to simply be, as it had no recollection of doing so before. Nothing had done the whale wrong, so it suspected that its new friend would bring no malice upon him as he affectionately named it Ground. The whale’s world view was that of pleasantness and harmlessness, though the loudness of the wind whooshing by was particularly prominent as it fell. Of course, the whale then hit the ground and thought no more of his world, nor any other for that matter.
This is what happens when the Real reality meets the perceived world, and contradicts the personal myth.
The most stable of ideas can be built upon a shaky foundation, one that can crumble and be proven faulty, even the precious Law of Balance can be found lopsided.
The symmetry of nature, found in each petal of a flower, the aforementioned growth of a tree, proportions of faces and bodies – all indicate a steady pattern of equilibrium, however, if there is any constant in the Universe, it is change.
The uncertainty of nature throws the world into chaos – tornadoes strike, land-masses rumble, volcanoes erupt. Even human nature is unpredictable. In 1963, the United States’ world of order was turned up-side down when President Kennedy was assassinated, and shocked again when the accused gunman was in turn shot. Bars, banks, businesses closed in morning, women clung to handkerchiefs as whole families were glued to television sets. The comfort of the safety of America was disrupted by chaos. The event was seemingly unfathomable, especially with all precautions taken. The protocols posing as acts of safety failed, quaking the myths of impregnability through the American People.
Google, however, absorbs some chaos and attempts to put it into order, with some success. “Google is the first known philosophical machine that regulates our dialogue with the world by substituting ‘vague’ metaphysical presuppositions with strictly formalized and universally applicable rules of access,” he writes (page 5). In other words, Google takes the words or phrases entered into the engine, and allows the user branches, like a spider web, allowing the user to connect them together in whatever pattern is needed to acquire the desired answer.
While Google can provide a plethora of different fields of sense from videos, articles, pictures, blogs – and so on – it cannot directly answer the question asked. It can only provide the querent with the experiences/creations of others, giving the querent the obligation of congealing an answer from the given data. For all the infinite possibilities, there is a finite ability to comprehend them all in a sensical manner. "The infinite play of imagination has its own limitations within the situation which all words occur in all contexts. In such limited situations all words become identical in their meanings - they collapse into one floating signifier with zero meaning." (Google p.10)
Malabou, included, defies the myth of balance and promotes discord, speaking of the brain as a rebellious state of chaos; that through generating its own web in its own system, still falls to unpredictability. “To talk about the plasticity of the brain means to see it not only as the creator and receiver of form, but also an agency of disobedience to every constituted form, a refusal to submit to a model.” (
The simplicity of the myth that we all carry within us rests upon the reliance of balance, however, which is simply that: a myth. The dynamic of “Good” and “Evil” can simply never be. Everything that exists is in a state of being. It does what is in its nature, which could be anything from hunting prey, to hacking the internet, to being a chair. The belief in “Good” and “Evil” is created by judgment, and thus, perception. The element of Good can only exist through the eyes of someone who finds a pleasing manner within the act or existence of another thing, likewise with an act or thing that is considered “bad”.
Taken to a scientific perspective, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can never be created or destroyed, it simply transfers from one object or state or another. Furthermore, energy, too, just is. There is neither good will nor malice behind a lightning bolt, in the energy that forced the ball along the ground and pushed over the rake that it hit.
Norse World Tree
Growth of the Myth
All realities are a myth. No myth is created of concrete. Because all myths are a creation of the mind after witnessing Fields of Sense through tinted lenses, all myths can be disproven and broken down. It is our natural nature to create our myths, though it is much more difficult to remove the lenses to understand the truest of realities.
Pardoning yet another tree analogy, a myth is a seed. As the seed is planted and begins to grow, roots are produced, soaking up nutrients, or fields of sense. The myth continues to grow, lapping happily at the external influences of the warm, dark soil. A sprout emerges from the seed, and happily makes its way to the surface of the earth. However, once it breaks through, is greeted with a startling different view. The sun is bright, the air is open, and the safety of the soil is left behind, only for its roots.
This is a terrifyingly different world. There is no calm comfort of the soft dirt, the gentle vibrations from unknown beings. The sprout is now exposed in this new world, and must gain all-new experiences to learn of this new existence.
Some seeds don’t make it. Some seeds are shocked by the cold, cannot handle the sun, or shy away from the harshness of the open world. Those that do, grow, in many different directions, like the oak tree. The oak is a strong being which lives for generations, serving as the center of stories. It embraced its change in myth from the time it was an acorn. Bamboo, however, grows straight, producing no branches. It may take years before it decides to emerge as the tree-being it is, and even so, remains thin, avoiding as much of the external fields of sense as possible. This suits the bamboo just fine.
However, it is the oak that produces a nut. The roots of the matter is the view, but the startling harsh reality produce the future, the oak’s hopes that more roots of the evolved view will bring forth a better reality.
“All structures…are part of the world which is why the world is chaotic and contradictory: if the world is not the only object of theories but if it contains those theories (after all, theories are not transcendent) and if there are contradictory theories and a variety of perspectives on the world, then the world itself is a paradoxal unity which contradicts itself. The unity of the world is unstable and ever-changing, because it depends on the plurality of frameworks within which its unity can appear. Truth can only take place under the premises of dissent, difference, and misunderstanding.”Slavoy Zizek
J'ecris - The Existential Crisis of the Cog
“pH: The Secret to Health.” Crabtree, Theresa. T-A-D-A.com 2014. Web. 28 May 2014.
“How To Balance Your pH to Heal Your Body.” Felicetti, Marcus Julian. MindBodyGreen.com. 24 Sep. 2012. Web. 28 May 2014
TEDx Talks. “Why The World Does Not Exist: Markus Gabriel at TEDxMuchen.” 25 Oct. 2013. Online video clip. YouTube.com. Web. 1 June 2014.
Groys, Boris. “Boris Groys Google: Words Beyond Grammar/Google: Worte Jenseits Der Grammatik.” 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts/ 100 Notizen – 100 Gedanken. Hatje Cantz; Bilingual edition. 30 April 2012.
Malabou, Caterine. “Introduction: Plasticity and Flexibility – For Consciousness of the Brain.” Book. What Should We Do With Our Brain? (Perspectives on Continental Philosophy. Fordham University Press. 3rd Edition. 15 Oct 2008. Book.
Gabriel, Markus. “The Art of Skepticism and the Skepticism of Art.” Philosophy Today 53. 2009. Frankfurt. Essay.