Playful Detachment




Is this seat saved?

So I’m sitting in a movie theater and this guy comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, is this seat saved?”

And I say, “Well if Thomas Aquinas reasoned that even animals have no souls… how can an inanimate object like a chair expect to attain eternal salvation!?”

And he says, “No I mean is anyone sitting there?”

And I said, “Ah…! Ambiguity. The Devil’s volleyball.”

Ambiguity. The Devil’s volleyball.

The universe is ambiguous and inexact, so stop looking for bright lines or you’ll miss the show. Reality is not digital, it’s analogue. Your life is not deterministic, it’s stochastic.

You and I and everything else in the universe are made of elementary particles that don’t so much exist as they are sort of just probable to exist.

If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

No. It doesn’t fall in the first place.


Reality itself doesn’t actually crystallize into existence until we observe it.

It’s not present, it’s only probable.

And when we look away, the universe turns back into a smudge.

The universe actually works like this, and we have no idea why.

We see it as through a glass darkly.

For now we see as through a glass darkly — 1 Corinthians 13:12

In the original Greek translation of Paul’s letter to Corinth, the word used is not “darkly,” it’s “en ainigmati” meaning “like a riddle.”

I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors, but even the apostle Paul new that life is a bit of a practical joke with no punch line.

Tika – Howlo

Here are two non-English words, “Tika” and “Howlo.” One of these words means pointy, and the other means round or curvy.

This is not a trick question, just go with your gut, and raise your hand if you think Tika means pointy and Howlo means curvy.

Thanks. Here’s the thing. These words don’t exist. I made them up.

What manner of trickery is afoot that we can instinctively agree on the meanings of nonexistent words!?

“In the beginning was the Word” – John 1:1

Word, yo.

Did God cast a spell by spelling the Word to create the universe?

Are we in the cast of some grand performance?

If I am in this cast, do I have top billing or am I listed as “second middle-aged man.”

cogito ergo sum

Do I exist?

In 1644 Rene Descartes reasoned that I exist because I can think about my existence.

But maybe I just think I’m thinking?

For bear in mind that Decartes also said, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

It’s all quite amazing.

Look, the road to death begins at birth and the path from the one to the other is beset on all sides by a veritable symphony of the grandest of miracles.

You are a little blob of the universe that thinks it thinks, for god sakes!

The two-slit experiment

If you shine a light at a card with 2 slits in it, what you see on the wall behind the card is a set of light and dark stripes. The dark stripes appear because photons move in wave patterns, so the photons passing through one slit interfere with those passing through the other slit to either reinforce each other or cancel each other out, just like waves on water.

The thing is, you get the same interference pattern, the same stripes, even when you only shoot a single photon at a time at the slits.

Even when there is nothing there to interfere with it, the photon acts as though there is.

The conventional explanation is that the photon actually passes through both slits at once and interferes with itself.

Are you kidding me? (Here’s a great video explaining this phenomenon.)

It’s ok to be amazed.

You see, we’re given only hints of the great rip-roaring carnival happening just beyond the edge of what science can confidently reveal.

It’s as though in our lives we’re made to play a game without knowing the rules.

How can you play when you can’t even work out whether you’re actually thinking?

You’re a wave.

Most of the matter in your body is exchanged every few years. (Truthish, but a matter of some debate.)

Just chemically you’ve got atoms switching between molecules, molecules breaking up and becoming waste… at the molecular level you are a boiling soup of frenetic activity.

You’re not separate and apart from this world. You’re a wave that passes through it, picking up bits of it here, shedding other bits there.

con spirare
To conspire – con spirare – to breathe together.

Some of the air leaving my lungs as I speak is infused with microscopic cellular material from within me, which is wafting through the air and finding its way into your lungs.

And if we were to look very closely right now, we would probably find a few fragments of my DNA in your bloodstream.

I wonder how that will affect you.

in spirare

So as we conspire or breathe together, with inevitably breathe into each other, we inspire each other.

We are one. Ours is the world and we are the world and everything that’s in it.

Thou art God. – Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (also 1 Kings 18:36, 1 Chronicles 17:26, Psalm 86:10, Psalm 90:2, and Acts 4:24)

Our own tightest chains and heaviest burdens are we.

When I endorse playful detachment, what I am talking about is detachment from fear, and loathing, and worry.

I’m advocating playful detachment from failure. From fear of failure.

Have no fear.

Don’t sweat it man. It’s all just quarks and gluons.

You are a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a bag of skin.

Your existence is a frickin miracle and full of eloquent mystery. A real cliffhanger. A real barnburner.

Without mystery there would be no use for our God-given curiosity. You see, because the world is replete with ambiguity and uncertainty and that’s what makes it exquisitely beautiful.

Either way it’s a miracle.

G. K. Chesterton once said that it is one thing to be amazed at a dragon or a griffin, creatures which do not exist; but it is quite another and much higher thing to be amazed at a rhinoceros or a giraffe, creatures which do exist and look as if they don’t.

Don’t wait for permission.

If you’ve got something interesting you want to do or try, don’t wait, do it now. As long as you’re not hurting anyone and you’re generally operating within the bounds of ethics, there is nothing on this blue earth that is standing in your way.

This is your show.

You’re the star and the director and the screenwriter and the grip and the gaffer and the best boy.

Merrily merrily merrily merrily…

When I speak of playful detachment, I mean detachment from certainty, from the expectation that there should be certainty.

For the only certainty is that you seem to be here.

So wake up every day thankful for the banquet that’s been set before you, and, well… eat, man.

Ambiguity.

So what’s the punch line?

A grizzly bear walks into a saloon with a bandage wrapped around the end of his arm and he says, “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw…”

So what’s the punch line?

The punch line is that it’s all punch line.

All the way down to the Devil’s volleyball court.

Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Playful Detachment

  1. Brent,

    Great post! Have you heard of this book? – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1577314948 . It talks about some of the same points you make about reality, existence, consciousness, etc.

    Carol

  2. George Gordon

    Well said Brent. It’s just one big hologram!

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