What would the world be like without names, terms, or definitions? Would we, human beings, experience life differently? I believe that we would perceive our sensory experiences in a dramatically different way if we did not witness our reality through ingrained terminology. The major shift in our consciousness from perceiving without the filter of definitions would be that we would no longer analyze our surroundings, but rather experience separate entities as a whole.
As infants, we do not know the difference between ourselves and others (Hammond, 34). It is our most natural state to not know what separates us. But as the awareness of individuality comes in, we start thinking that we are distant from what we perceive. We have to ask ourselves if this sense of identity is the truth of our existence, though. For if it is not, then that carries many implications.
If what we experience is not separated by definitions, a rose might as well as be ourselves, and vice-versa. In physics, we know that the shift of a single electron, say within an atom of a diamond, will affect the entire Universe (Sawyer, 435). This is due to the Universe having to compensate for the shift of the electron. From this viewpoint, we can see that a single action from one entity affects the entire spectrum of existence, and is therefore not separate.
Another implication we can consider is how we see ourselves. If we know that we are not just our identity, but the Universe itself, we can gain a profound understanding of who we actually are. Taking this standpoint, we then would be all the matter and energy that comprises existence, which would make us feel grand and small simultaneously. We are grand because we are a vast collection of illusory identities (given identification, but in fact whole), but we are small because we are just one thing. As one thing, size does not matter, nor any other distinction.
In Zen philosophy, emptiness is everything that is and what everything returns to through its illusory existence (Klacsanzky, 981). It is that something that cannot be described, as the best definition of it would be nothing, which is actually something. There can never be truly nothing, yet neither can there be truly something. For an example about the concept of nothingness, I will provide a short story. A Zen monk came up to Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen, and asked him something along the lines of, “If everything is emptiness, then how do we exist?” Bodhidharma then hit the monk on the head, and the monk winced in pain and understood later that saying exclusively that everything is empty is false. For explaining why there cannot be something, we can look at the most basic components of what makes up anything, which is essentially virtual particles that pop in and out of existence.
Applying definitions to what we perceive helps us to interact with each other and the world around us―yet these definitions ultimately are not true. By understanding that we are a single whole can have significant implications on the knowledge of who we are and how we comprehend our surroundings. We can know that each action that takes place affects everything else, how grand and miniscule we are, and the conundrum of existence of itself. But within this complexity, there is a sea of peace in knowing that we cannot understand the fundamentals of life, and everything is simply as it is.
Hammond, Luke. The Night’s Sky Secret. Chicago: Turtle Pin Press. Print, 2003.
Sawyer, Julie. The Physics Behind. Seattle: Rain City Books. Print, 2001.
Klacsanzky, Ghilabari. Zen and the Unfit Mind. New York: Big Pear Press, 2014.
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