A Thing Is a Noun
The most comforting thought I’ve ever agreed with is that ‘a thing is a noun’. As cliché as it is to say, reality is one as we know it. What I mean by that is in reality, there is no actual separation between things. As we truly perceive it, on a scientific level, there is no actual separation between anything. Because logically, on a subatomic level, everything is just particles alongside other particles, like water alongside other water in the ocean that we call the universe. That is the reality of the universe. We are just particles in an ocean of particles that we call space. And other than the variations in the denseness of the populations of these particles to create abstract form, it’s all the same on a subatomic level, or at least it is perceived as that for us.
Therefore things as separate from myself, and things as separate from other things, is a logical illusion to what we know to be the scientific basis of our reality. And that’s incredibly fascinating given that it seems so real to us. We can logically reason that the separations between “things”, ourselves included, is an illusion, and yet we constantly forget that it’s an illusion because of how real it seems. The separation between us and the rest of the world and the separation between things and other things seems real.
And what fascinates me, is the process by which the illusion we’re speaking about is created. Because how we create this “illusion of things” is not a mystery. How we create the illusion by which “things” are separated from other “things” is not difficult to understand. It is easily deduced. Yet as far as I can tell, most folks don’t bother to think about the process. And so most people don’t realize the implications this process of creating “things” has on their options.
When a baby is born, a baby thinks that the whole world is them. Babies then slowly discover the idea that they are separate from the rest of the world, from the rest of “things”. Babies discover the idea that they are a “thing” separate from other “things” to survive. Babies have to learn nouns, starting with the concept of themselves to survive. A baby first learns the idea, the noun, the concept, of “I”, then “mom”, then “dad”, then “food”, then different kinds of food, then maybe “chair”, then possibly “table”, then other physical “things” and non-physical conceptual “things” like love, history, and measurements. And this survival skill of learning “things” continues to develop as a person grows. People simply continue to learn the names and identifying words of physical and conceptual things ad infinitum until sudden death or eventual brain decline. This is learning, this is “reading comprehension”. Like the myth of Adam naming “things” in the Garden of Eden, every man approaches reality as a name game, just as Adam did. It’s just that in the myth, Adam was the first man, so he didn’t learn the names, he made them up. And in that way, we are all Adam. We agree with or originate the names of things. We create through separation and identification of concepts. In the bible, God tasks Adam with naming everything as his duty as a man. The truth of this myth is the recognition that every “thing” has its origins in labeling by man. Western religions say that man is created in the image and likeness of God and Eastern religions say that man is an extension of God, but both philosophies are a response to the fact that man creates like God. Man is a microcosm of the macrocosm. Man creates and shares with other men, and ideas, “things”, spread to the whole. I remember every month during the summer as a kid, year after year, attending rollerskating birthday parties at my local roller rink. And then at one such birthday party, all of a sudden, I was given the option of something called rollerblades instead of roller skates. Someone had recently decided to make roller skates more like ice skates, then shared the idea. And I learned about rollerblades, and through agreement, made rollerblades a part of my universe, like a god. A lesser, and arguably lamer god, being that the example is rollerblading. But still a god with an acceptable amount of control to create or allow a new “thing”. In this case, rollerblading.
This learning, this name game, is a mathematical process. It is a process of division and calculus. A being first divides themselves as a “thing” separate from most of their existence using their name, “I am Joe” in my case. A being will label themselves as a noun by a name and thus becomes a “person”. Then this “person” divides the rest of existence into “things” while calculating what each “thing” is by giving it a name or learning/cooperating with the name another has given it. This cooperation is seen in measurement. Each person could certainly invent their own units of measurement, but most people adhere to the metric or imperial system, as cooperation on scientific naming offers cooperation in science, which is advantageous for sharing advancements.
What I am getting at is that functioning in what we call ‘reality’ is a name game, a game of giving and/or learning nouns. It is a process of simply labeling something with a noun, and then memorizing that noun. That is learning. And this cooperation of naming amongst humans is good and advantageous for communicating and therefore advantageous for many types of progress. However, we as humans owe it to ourselves to remember that this process is completely abstract. It is an inherent illusion that is best described as a process towards a greater approximation, not an absolute truth, and by all accounts ignores so much, as so much does not practically affect us. And anything that doesn’t practically affect us gets labeled as “nothing” aka “no-thing”, which is how we got that word.
We must keep in mind that this process, this name game, provides us the opportunity to refine our perception, and to explore all we may have missed or not yet fully realized. This process implies that things, both physical and conceptual, can be redefined by renaming and reordering based on physical or mental focus, or any logic that fits. It’s possible that a table was invented before a chair or vice-verse. Or they both came into invention together. Or maybe they were both carved from wood in a chair-table combo, a primitive picnic table of sorts, with a single name to describe the whole. Or a table first, with a rock for a chair, still labeled a ‘rock’, with a chair being created to replace the rock. And agreement with self and others validating these creations of “things”. Because of course, even the most logical of things to us are shared illusions. For example, some cultures eat with forks and some cultures eat with chopsticks. Both work. Both are simply a workable paradigm to a human need. A culture could have settled on a “two forks, used like chopsticks” paradigm. Any made-up paradigm that achieved the human-desired end of eating would have worked. A fork, chopsticks, some combo of the two, or something completely different. When we look up at the stars, what we see is chaos. It is us that draw the constellations.
These paradigms of words that we call reality are constantly expanding, contracting, and being reordered based on a process of division and calculus: Dividing one “thing” as different from “another” and calculating what “it” is versus the “other”. We as people are constantly doing this. And we can take control of it. It’s simple to do. We can constantly reorder, reframe, and rename things simply to experiment. Simply to try to find a greater truth. It is simply a matter of refining the microscope of our perception based on our needs. We could easily label a tree ‘a tree’ and ignore leaves as a separate part if we wished. But labeling leaves as ‘leaves’ versus the tree as a whole is beneficial to our daily logical need to communicate for survival. So we take that extra step of separating a tree into parts. This way we know what is a tree versus its leaves versus its fruit. Because by understanding that, we can survive better. So we only tend to separate things when they serve a greater benefit in doing so.
We separate things based on their properties. This judgment of properties is defined by our logic. And this logic is defined by our desires. Reason is the slave of desire. And as humans, we ignore a lot of the background to exert control as quickly as possible over our desires that emerge from chaos. As the expression goes, there’s what we know, there’s what we don’t know, and there’s what we don’t know we don’t know. The latter being infinitely bigger than the former two. The amount of reality we ignore is infinitely greater than the amount of reality we acknowledge through this process of mental focus: This process of using language to zero in on a “thing”.
This illusion of order with words is nothing more than a temporary constant that aids us in survival or gratification. If we went back far enough in distance from our sun, yet could still see our sun, it would seem to simply appear and then explode. Because the farther you are away from the gravitational pull of a thing, the faster time moves. Meaning if we could look far enough at a distance from our sun, we would write our sun off as mere chaos — not the object we view as rising in the east and setting in the west in an orderly fashion. And even experiencing anything up close, we would write it off as chaos over time — as everything dies, changes, and goes through metamorphosis. With enough time and/or distance, we eventually find more anomalies than constants. But amid any experience, for the brief moment, we’re experiencing any experience, we will find the constants of that experience that aid us in achieving our wants, and from those noticed constants, we will create “things”.
“Things” tend to grow greater and lesser in relevance and “things” come in and out of focus as they do so. In the past, there were many names for swords, because sword use was so common that a need to identify different types of swords was necessitated. Folk referred to swords the same way we now refer to cars, by the various types. But nowadays, we tend to see a ‘sword’ as a sword. Eventually, like swords, we will move so far technologically past cars, and cars will become so commonplace and/or antiquated, that the idea of calling one car a Mustang and the other a Tacoma will seem ridiculous. The distance of time will eventually make those terms funny chaos. But because we are currently so dependent on cars, it becomes logical to create more nouns to explain the differences. What I am getting at is that “things” change based on our logical needs for the immediate moment. And we change those “things” by changing nouns, by using a mathematical process of calculus and division with language. A “thing” is a noun. And if we realize that, then we can change “things” quicker.
This expanding, contracting, and reorganizing evolution of words and language can be seen in things physical, in things metaphysical, and in things that combine both the physical and the metaphysical. In American English, love is used to describe everything from loving your dinner to loving your spouse, and we rely on excess words to describe the depth and weight of the type of love we mean. This is just the way we have ordered it for our logic and ease. The ancient Greeks had six words for love to jump to these subtleties quicker. Their culture preferred that for logic and ease. We expand, contract, and reorganize language based on ease and need.
Even colors come into being when people give names to shades, such as “scarlet red”. “Scarlet red” was obviously separated from “red” at some point and invented in the naming. Even the umbrella color “red” had a logical birth in its naming — its invention in our collective conscious by the first person who divided red from other colors, and calculated the name ‘red’ to identify it in contrast to purple or orange, the umbrella colors next to red on the color wheel. And of course, we could have sliced up the color wheel anyway we wanted to, like a pie. And that’s what language is. Language is the process by which we slice up the pie of particles that we call the universe to create “things”. And these slices happen on the microcosm, on the macrocosm, and on all levels and dimensions of time and space to create these “things”.
Skateboarding is realized, named, and shared. Then skiing is realized, named, and shared. And then a hybrid called ‘snowboarding’ is realized named and shared. Thus creating snowboarding as a “thing”. Things are created by growing, combining, and pruning the tangible reality of things, or even simply the view of things. Things come into being when they are acknowledged in self agreement. Our universe is created by us, through agreement with ourselves to adhere to labels of ideas. We are in control of this and need to realize that it requires our endorsement. And it differs based on language understanding and even language options. I find it is common for a person of a foreign language who speaks fluent English to try and describe something in English, only to finally say that there isn’t a word or phrase to match the word or phrase they are thinking of in their native language in English. Because reality is a name game that changes based on words and phrases. Truly, every word you don’t know is an idea you don’t know.
One of my favorite books is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Wonderland is a world where a Mad Hatter celebrates Unbirthdays because that’s an option — because the Mad Hatter knows a thing is a noun. Wonderland is also a world where a Cheshire cat pokes fun at Kings and Queens because the Cheshire Cat knows that a person wears the outfit, the outfit doesn’t wear the person. Because a thing is a noun. We can play with reality and speed up our arrival to greater truths if we all realize that our journey is very abstract. And our journey is constantly growing through an expansion, contraction, and reorganization of language. Because a thing is a noun.