Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Black and White

I chose the white print on black background for this blog space for sake of analogy. It's enjoyable... and even useful to flip perceived reality around and look at it backwards, upside down or inside out. It aids our perspective and challenges us not to become so attached to the traditional view or the way things seem.

Alan Watts, the timeless philosopher and teacher of things eastern to us Westerns, articulates my point better than I. He says,

"When we were taught 1, 2, 3 and A, B, C, few of us were ever told about the Game of Black-and-White. It is quite as simple. but belongs to the hushed-up side of things. Consider, first, that all your five senses are differing forms of one basic sense--something like touch. Seeing is highly sensitive touching. The eyes touch, or feel, light waves and so enable us to touch things out of reach of our hands. Similarly, the ears touch sound waves in the air, and the nose tiny particles of dust and gas.

But the complex patterns and chains of neurons which constitute these senses are composed of neuron units which are capable of changing between just two states: on or off. To the central brain the individual neuron signals either yes or no--that's all. But, as we know from computers which employ binary arithmetic in which the only figures are 0 and 1, these simple elements can be formed into the most complex and marvelous patterns. In this respect our nervous system and 0/l computers are much like everything else, for thc physical world is basically vibration. Whether we think of this vibration in terms of waves or of particles, or perhaps wavicles, we never find the crest of a wave without a trough or a particle without an interval, or space, between itself and others. In others words, there is no such thing as a half wave, or a particle all by itself without any space around it. There is no on without off, no up without down.

Now, this lesson is, quite simply, this: any experience that we have through our senses, whether of sound or of touch or of light, is a vibration. And a vibration has two aspects: one called ‘on;’ and the other called ‘off.’ Vibrations seems to be propagated in waves, and every wave system has crests and it has troughs. And so life is a system of, ‘Now you see it, now you don’t.’ And these two aspects always go together. For example, sound is not pure sound, it is a rapid alternation of sound and silence. And that’s simply the way things are.
Only you must remember that the crest and the trough of a wave are inseparable. Nobody ever saw crests without troughs or troughs without crests, just as you don’t encounter, in life, people with fronts but no backs; just as you don’t encounter a coin that has a heads but no tails. And although the heads and the tails, the fronts and the backs, the positives and the negatives are different, they’re at the same time one. And one has to get used fundamentally to the notion that different things can be inseparable [emph. orig.]. That what is explicitly two can at the same time be implicitly one. If you forget that, very funny things happen.
If we, therefore, forget, you see, that black and white are inseparable, and that existence is constituted equivalently by being and non-being, then we get scared, and we have to play a game called, “Oh-oh, Black Might Win.” And once we get into the fear that Black, the negative side, might win, we are compelled to play the game, “But White Must Win.” And from that start all our troubles."

For most of us black represents emptiness or void and white is seen as something solid or real.

Why is this?

Is it conditioning, domestication, habitual patterns in thinking, symbolic interpretation, misperception?

In much the same fashion black is bad or evil and white is holy and pure. Thinking about this for any length of time will likely cause your perceptions to shift towards black and while. That might not be a bad thing.


  1. Ah, but what about that ubiquitous gray area?

    Too many times our hands or heads or other parts wander into that, don't you think?

    Black absorbs white too that where gray comes from?


  2. Ah, yes, gray is a subject all it's own and usually the situation we deal with. I like your thoughts here.

  3. "And one has to get used fundamentally to the notion that different things can be inseparable. That what is explicitly two can at the same time be implicitly one."

    Color me idealist, but I find it incredibly funny (and sad) that religion and humanity at large has rarely grasped this concept.

    Lovely post, Dreamer.