The Meaning Of Existence | Nov 2005

FMBR Editorial: Nov, 2004

The Meaning Of Existence

Clarence A. Mitchell

What is existence? How do you describe the existence of something? What does it mean for anything to exist? These questions have been plaguing me for most of my later adult life. Walking along any street of a city, I am aware that the concrete under my feet is composed of some of the same atoms that make up my living body. However those atoms are, as scientists have proven, composed of mostly nothing. The subatomic particles within that small vastness of nothing move about at nearly the speed of light in a probability field of neither here nor there and yet both. So atoms made up of mostly nothing exist because of particles that are either here or there and both. Further down in size, scientists theorize the existence of infinitely tiny physical dimensions contained in looped strings of energy. At this level matter and energy and what we call time freely interchange in a chaos without definitive identity.

But how can the material world I live in exist on a foundation of chaos without a definitive identity? Doesn't the establishment of a definitive identity verify that something exists? My body has sensations of vision, hearing, weight and movement. But vision, the perceptions of color and shape and texture, are merely the interpretations of my brain of the input of photons of light being reflected off of the environment. In fact all of my senses are interpretations of my brain. But if there were no light then color would not exist. If there were no force of gravity then weight would not exist. Without air, sound would not exist. But weight is merely the interaction of solid bodies like the earth on space, creating a curve in space. Sound is merely the interaction of ripples of molecules in the atmosphere being interpreted as sound. But these molecules are made of atoms, which are mostly nothing, which are made of subatomic particles, which are neither here nor there and yet both, made of a matter-energy-time interchange with no definitive identity.

The photons of light bathing the earth move within space that has been shortened and time that has been slowed, and yet I feel their warmth -- a warmth that is merely the interpretation of my brain. The time I function in has not been slowed nor the space shortened. Yet I and the light exist simultaneously - and yet not simultaneously. At night the light from the stars are not the appearances of stars in present time but their appearance in past time. And what is time? Einstein proved that time and space are relative. There have been stories of people who claimed to have accidentally traveled back in time or gotten a glimpse of future events. If there is any truth to these stories it would further expand the idea of the relativity of time and space.

Is existence also relative? The physical presence of Elvis Presley has ended and yet he continues to affect the world. So in that way he exists in a social cultural manner. It would appear that "existence" depends on the interactions and interrelationships of various factors that in turn depend on the influence of other interactions and interrelationships of other various factors etc. - etc. All of that emanates from a supposed foundation of chaos without definitive identity. But is this subatomic chaos the real foundation? Is there something below that? Does a definitive foundation exist?

If no definitive foundation exists and there is only an endless interaction and interrelationship of vast numbers of influencing factors, then what is meant by the term - exist? If nothing exists in and of itself without the influence of something else, what does this mean? Is that question actually relevant considering existence may be relative - or a gigantic illusion - or both? Scientists theorize that what we call "empty" space is not really empty. Quantum fluctuations are, supposedly, everywhere so that what we call matter and energy arise from "nothing." This means, according to scientists, that a state of absolute nothing cannot ?exist." But if such a state did "exist" then nothing would exist; but a state of absolute nothing would "exist" even though "nothing would exist -."

If I live in a world of infinite co-influencing factors with no definitive foundation then how do I describe existence without describing every one of these co-influencing interaction factors? If it is absolutely impossible to describe all of these factors, then how do I describe existence? If I cannot actually describe existence then how can I give meaning to something I cannot describe? If I make the statement "I exist," what am I really stating? How can I make such a statement if I cannot describe existence and, therefore, cannot assign a meaning to the indescribable? If existence cannot be described and there is no meaning, then -------- What am I experiencing?

Clarence A. Mitchell, Artist, Actor, and Martial Artist, November 2004 

Comments on editorials are always welcome! To email yours, click on; Letters@FMBR.org ).

Click to see the original the letters of response .

Note: Clarence Mitchell, as an atheist, evoked considerable reader response when he challenged the concept of the soul. W.C.Gough billgough@fmbr.org