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Divisions - A Life-Giving Definition

Updated: Aug 11

I'm making a little book called Just So Many Words: A Dictionary of Life-Giving Definitions. The premise is that no definition can ultimately be right, so why not use those that are the most helpful?

Having said that, I happen to think, with only a slight smile, that this take on "divisions" is ultimately right. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Today's Artwork: The artwork for today's post is by the wonderful Iranian artist Gol Naran, whose elegant, playful, dreamlike creations so often put our everyday divisions in the perspective of something grander. #golnaran, @golnaran, .



…are imaginary. All of them. There isn’t a single boundary that we couldn’t change or that doesn’t disappear on closer examination. A chair is a chair for a season only, till its parts lose their grip and each becomes itself. A board becomes kindling, kindling splinters, splinters dust. Rocks evaporate on a grander time scale, then coalesce into something new. And this “me” I keep referring to. Where do I begin and end? If I am my body, where is its outline? Like every life form, it exchanges atoms with my food, the earth, and the air; it seeps into a tree, my uncle Raleigh, and back into “myself” again. Zoom in on the most precise line you can draw, and you can see its blurred and irregular edges. Zoom in on any particle of matter and, say the physicists, it’s not really there; it spreads into a wave that saturates the universe and interacts with everything. I’m just reporting the facts.

No concept is immune from fuzziness. No one can say what a “race” is, much less point to a person whose race is pure. We are all mongrels. State borders can be redrawn. Red blends into orange and orange into yellow. Religion, spirituality, psychology, sociology, science, and math all comingle in their unpoliced outskirts. Chemistry merges with physics at one end and biology at the other. The blues bleeds into rock-and-roll. Where are the borders of love, joy, grief, patriotism, or any of the things we live and die for? If I am consciousness, then where is the wall that defines me?

Divisions exist only in the minds of humans. They serve limited human purposes. Humans choose these purposes. Like tools and toys, divisions can make things convenient, fun, or interesting. They can also do great harm. We can use a knife to cut bread or throats. It’s up to us what we slice and where we slice it.


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