You can take control of nature and time.
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
There are two distinct ways of looking at our relationship with Nature, Time and Truth. The first, the Subjective viewpoint, celebrates our ability to shape Nature and Time, as well as our capacity to comprehend the Universe through concepts we have devised. Conversely, the Objective view sees us as struggling on a path in pursuit of understanding, believing that our own prejudices must be dismantled in order for us to comprehend a Truth greater than ourselves.
The Subjective view acknowledges that our control is constrained; day and night rotate as hot and cold periods do. Yet, it is us who define the calendar, creating a seven-day week and dividing the day into hours, minutes, and seconds, as well as recognizing certain days as special.
Even the concepts we use to understand Nature are our own creations. Every leaf is distinct, yet we assign a single abstract concept, “leaf”, to encompass this immense diversity. We identify a certain amount of wood as a single object, a table. Momentum, Force and Energy are intellectual conceptions for explaining our observations, making predictions and constructing machines. Concepts such as Causality and Free Will are absent from reality, yet we include them in our models to gain Understanding. Even Truth itself is a concept that serves our purposes.
We exalt in our subjectivity!
The Objective view holds that there is only one Truth, and it is outside of ourselves. The world exists independently of the mind and it is our responsibility to discover its nature. We must continuously strive to make our approximations more accurate, and whenever we find that some concept is a fiction, we must do our utmost to dismantle it. Dismantling these artifacts is the path to uncovering Truth, though much of what we already know is true and we will eventually reach complete Truth. Free Will is simply one of the most pernicious illusions; everything is predetermined.
Furthermore, the Subjective view is perilous. It has encouraged us to ravage the World, prioritizing our needs and desires instead of respecting Nature. We have attempted to subjugate without comprehending our role in the environment.
The Subjective view responds that only a sense of agency can save us. We must not succumb to being mere tools of fate, helplessly carried along by a callous current. For it is this attitude that will steal away the only hope we have – our sense of responsibility for the future.
When your birthday rolls around, decide for yourself when to celebrate it – either before or after the actual date. Ignore anyone else who tries to dictate when it should be celebrated!