Sunday, May 31, 2009


An idea: what if the universe is made up of nothing more than relations?

For example, we say that there is a color "blue." We know blue is not an actual substance but instead a certain wavelength of light which, when it hits our eye, causes certain rods and cones to change shape and then registers as "blue" in our minds. (Interesting sidenote: found out from my biology teacher that if we do not have the experience of seeing a color before a certain age as a child, we will never register that color- i.e. we will literally be color blind. They did an experiment with kittens and raised them for a few months in a room of only vertical lines, and then when they let them out of the room, they would run off of edges and stairs and one even ran off a cliff because they could not register a horizontal line!) Anyway, the main point being that blue is simply a certain relation of a wavelength of light to our eyes.

If you try to imagine the world as the atoms and space which really compose it, this becomes clearer. What I perceive as the difference between the air and my chair is due to a different relation of protons, neutrons, and electrons to each other; the electrons in the chair are arranged such that they deflect light in a way those in the air do not, and because there are more electrons on the same path or "orbital" in each atom of the chair, the atom is less likely to react with other atoms and so the chair is a "hard" surface to our touch. Everything is defined in relation to something else. Even protons and electrons are "charges"-- which means that they interact in a certain way with one another, attracting and repelling. The only thing that makes me me and not my mom, physically, is the difference in arrangement of atoms that make up me.

So what if everything really can be broken down to a simple relationship? What if Platonic forms really do constitute the universe and all the forms are just essentially relational?

To me, this makes sense because I believe that God is a Triune God. If God is essentially relational- giving, receiving, loving- then all images of and participations in Him should be relational as well. And if we think of the world in this way, then the Stoic ideal of a man "se ipse contentus est" (content in himself with himself), limits a person. If the universe is relational, then our being human-as-he-could-be-if-he-realized-his-potential (MacIntyre) is relational, and interaction with others and external forces as well as personal interaction within oneself trumps aloneness or self-sufficiency.

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