Definitions. Aren’t they the atoms of knowledge? If we have in mind a concept or idea, that incorporeal thing residing in our minds takes on a body when we try to put it into words – when we “flesh it out.” The cells of this body are sentences, the atoms of which are the definitions of the words of those sentences. But definitions, once again, are concepts, the parts of which, have their own definitions. And not unlike the subatomic world with all of its uncertainty, the realm of words is full of uncertainty. We might have an idea existing in our minds in pure conceptual form, surfing on the immeasurable wave, but when we try to put it into words, it decoheres into something measurable and transmittable yet only a shadow of the reality of the original concept.
The inherent flaw of definitions is that they introduce separateness. In fact, one definition of “define” is to set the boundaries or extents of something. Take for example a whirlpool in a stream and a tree. What is a whirlpool? Water flows around a rock and due to the physical fluid mechanical properties of the water, it forms an organized structure of spinning water that we call a whirlpool. In one sentence I have defined whirlpool, and in doing so have given whirlpool a separateness. You might see in your mind a tiny portion of a stream behind a rock. But the reality is that a whirlpool is not a separate thing. It is part of the stream, and the stream part of the landscape, and the landscape part of the world and so on… We could also unpack it the other direction and say the whirlpool is made of the same water as the rest of the stream, and the water is made of molecules which are made of hydrogen and oxygen which are made of energy. So the separateness given to the whirlpool is an illusion. What about a tree? Is it any different? It differs only in complexity of its organization and structure, but separateness of the tree from its greater universal context is also an illusion. This is not to say that definitions aren’t useful or important. They obviously are, but only to generate or transmit the concept.
So if the separateness of a whirlpool is an illusion generated by the analytic hardware of our brain which requires information to be parsed up, and the reality is that a whirlpool has no existence separate from its context, and if the same holds true even as complexity increases as in the tree, then what about us? We are a little more complex, but are we separate? Isn’t our separateness also an illusion? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.. death is a reminder to us all that we are not separate. In a few short years, our bodies will return to the earth from which they came. And what of a soul?
How do we define a soul? That immortal part of us that is the sum of all our thoughts, words, and actions. The “I am” that confines itself to this body. Like our physical body, like the tree, like the whirlpool in the stream, how can we be so sure our soul has a separateness to it? Perhaps it is the firmly implanted delusion that we are separate that is the basis for all other human delusions and follies. God breathed into Man’s nostril’s His own breath, and the man became a living soul. And when he dies, the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Gen 2:7, Ecc 12:7) To die to self is to let go of the delusion that we are separate. It is to stop spinning around aimlessly behind an obstruction and dissolve back into the flow of God where more adventures await downstream. 🙂