DISCLAIMER

Although these words cannot lay claim to such philosophical excellence of the kind that can begin or end an intellectual era, all that one implores of a reader is a listening mind to another mind’s wonderment at the world we live in. But why worry? In the end, as good friends would often say of our ceaseless doubting: who can tell you what to believe?

 

Prolegomena

Man thrives on representations. And it will be the death of him.

When something absent needs to be present, man creates something to stand for it. Or when a thing is too great or too minuscule to be there just as it is, a symbol must exist for it. But while these proxies have become the pillars of human life, it cannot be denied that they have placed us farther from the truth.

All along, we have been living in an environment built on representations of representations. Taken just as they are, everything in existence already speaks of itself one way or the other. Nature as it is can already be considered a symbol, yet such phenomena as those that exist in it are still cumbersome symbols for the human mind. And so, we find that natural representations are insufficient to suit our tastes and machinations.

Ultimately, humanity has been deriving power from a concocted environment of symbols. Our technology, social relations, and even our spirituality, would not function very well if it were not for our twice-removed (and sometimes farther) representations of reality.

 

A rose named you

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The real problem lies not in civilization’s pride in relying on flimsy stand-ins, but in the growing notion that representations are the very things that they represent. As proof, only the most obscene can do. And of all symbols, perhaps man’s worst creation was money—that inanimate anti-God disguising itself as the fountainhead of all things.

Money, as the textbooks would have it, was invented to remedy the unfair exchange of values that occurred in the barter system. Money succeeded in clarifying what anything was supposedly worth by making all values answerable to only one. Be it with gold, silver, or even just a plain decree, virtually anyone can put a price on anything. And how one carries that value also runs its own gamut of materials: from metal, to paper, to plastic, and most recently, to the completely digital form.

Yet if such standards are to be truly effective for everyone, we must, to a degree, desensitize ourselves from the real value of things and services. And by the same token, the whole process of representation is reversed. Having turned away from the intrinsic value of things, all worth must now derive from money and how things are priced. The sign suddenly possessed the heart of all worth. Or more simply put, the idol had become the god.

Now, the world operates under the notion of money as power. But such a power depends on nothing more than the amount of belief we put in it. The clout of wealth is just an ability to make other people give, or do anything, at the right price. No person becomes truly powerful by virtue of stouter pockets—the rich and oppressive are so because everyone lets them be. But in the end, what blame can man place on his perception that cannot help but create symbols? And yet, something must still be done to check this increasing belief in appearances.

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When all of society and contemporary reasoning drives one to trust in signs, all that one can do is to remember that truth was never in anything spoken or seen. For this mind speaking to you now at least, what we grasp by our senses and ply with our minds are nothing more than descriptions of truth—remnants of a passing colossus.

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