The Inside-Outside

Does a rainbow have skin?

I’d like to write about what I call the inside/outside distinction. It is the fundamental division that exists in the cosmos.  It works like this: there is that which is within me, and there is everything and everyone else. There would be no ‘me’ unless there was a you. And what defines me is what exists on the inside part of the inside/outside equation. What defines me, and what defines everything else that isn’t me, is something called the boundary.

The boundary isn’t itself me, or you, or anything else. It’s what defines me, you, and everyone and everything else. Without the boundary, there wouldn’t be a me, or a you. So our perceptions of boundaries are fundamental in our experience of reality as we know it. Without boundaries, we wouldn’t be, at least as we know ourselves to be.

We often confuse our identities with our boundaries. If you think about it, a person’s body is their boundary. That boundary is usually seen and experienced as the skin. It’s also composed of things like hair and nails, and the things with which we decorate our bodies. These are what we judge others (and ourselves) by. It’s the first impression. In defining our selves, we may also include other, temporary membranes which we place upon the essential boundary of our skin, things like the car we drive in or the home we live in. And what about tats, boob jobs, makeup, suntans, hats, male enhancement, things like that?

The first thing to note about the boundaries described above is that we really judge others and ourselves largely based on these boundaries, at least in the beginning. And first impressions count, don’t they? They’re highly influential.

Second, the boundaries which define ourselves and others are dead, aren’t they? The things which we look upon as most important, at least in some respects, are the dead parts of ourselves. The skin, the hair, the clothes. None of these are alive. In some senses, they are the least essential, and most temporary aspects of ourselves. Yet we make many of our decisions about ourselves and others based upon these surfaces.

The inside/outside distinction is probably the most important division each of us will ever make about the world. It’s certainly the most fundamental. For it calves off from the number One all other numbers, making numbers themselves essential, and the quantification and the mathematics that goes with numbers possible.

I’d like you to consider a radical idea: that the inside/outside distinction is an assumption, and that being an assumption, it’s a choice. Your eyes will argue against this. They will inform you that boundaries are an inherent property of the universe which you inhabit. Your logic will tell you that boundaries are not an assumption, and not something you choose, since you born into them, and experience them at all levels: on a sensate level, on a cognitive level, on the level of agreement by other inividuals. Both biology and physics show us that we indeed have separate bodies and that everyone else does, too. We can see that boundaries are an inherent part of reality, and that membranes characterize everything from atoms and subatomic particles to molecules, cells, and planets. Yet appearances can be deceiving.

An atom is simply a collection or association of particles. It has no skin. Particles themselves are simply discrete units of charge, mass or energy. Neither atoms nor particles can be seen or experienced as discrete entities. They are concepts more than they are things which possess physical boundaries. Quantum physics, one of the profound human discoveries of the 20th century, teaches us that particles and atoms are more descriptions of probabilities and fields associated than they are distinct bodies housed in separate skins. These boundaries are more descriptions of probabilities than they are detectable membranes.

And since these fundamental constituents of reality are the building blocks for everything we see and experience, how can we be so sure that the boundaries we see with our eyes are not similarly patterns imposed upon a more chaotic and random reality by our brains? Our brains are fundamentally driven by pattern recognition ‘software’ which is programmed us to fill in gaps. yuo fele em, dnot yuo? I bet you decoded the last sentence pretty easily.

Over the course of the next few posts, let’s explore some of the ramifications that the inside/outside distinction has for us, and for everyone and everything around us.

© 2019 by Michael C. Just

Mike’s novel, The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.

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