Re-post: World Without Measure

On occasions, I let people know that I believe in magic. This usually confuses them, especially if I try to explain. What I mean is this:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/uoc–sft042312.php

Even the most seemingly absolute and “natural” means of communicating information, math, is neither absolute nor natural: “the ‘universal language’ it’s not. Mathematics is neither hardwired, nor ‘out there.'” It’s an incredibly powerful and useful fetish (in the shamanic, not the sexual sense), and it powerfully conditions “reality” and our experience thereof.

But other experiences are, or at least were, possible. Imagine a mathematics where the spacing between integers is variable or one entirely without a number line. I have no doubt that such things at least were possible (could have been) even if they cannot be located by anyone who has received a modern education. But if everyone except for the Yupno vanished tomorrow, they’d at least have a chance of figuring it out.

This is the phenomenon of the lost trailhead: the journey first obscures, then devours it’s point of origin. This is because possibilities exist back there that could undermine the system created by the journey, expose it as a one, relatively arbitrary, possibility among many.

That’s why I believe in “magic.” These excluded possibilities, these equally-valid entities, surround us. Time is the slope of a valley wall, a non-linear arc in three dimensional space: “Yupno seem to think of past and future not as being arranged on a line, such as the familiar “time line” we have in many Western cultures, but as having a three-dimensional bent shape that reflects the valley’s terrain. […]  ‘Ultimately, no way is more or less natural than the Yupno way.'”

The world isn’t what we think it is, except that it is, because what we think it is overdetermines our experience of it to a degree that is hard to explain and impossible to fully experience. This doesn’t mean that everything is subjective, or that knowledge is meaningless. It just means that we will always know much less than we think we do. Someday, we might learn enough to be able to understand know little we know. That’s magic, or at least its prerequisite.

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