unfolding expressions

Origami in reverse

context and contents

edit: 31 March 2023.

Although constrained, our lives are not merely assortments of elementary particles, scattered along their inevitable paths by the Big Bang like packs of snooker balls. While laws of cause and effect seem obvious the roles we play are subjective and variable, our behaviours the expressions of choices that we make, outcomes of perception as much as of fate.

expression is like a layer in a map, coextending with perception, with meaning and experience. The contextual relationship between them is recursive. Continuing to evolve, it drives the formation of societies and individuals —I did not expect to discover this when I began to write, nor that my accounts of it here would also have to coextend.

λ  literal error
    language and meaning

The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing, and yet a fundamentalist faith in literalism prejudices our understanding of what we express —there may be an epidemic in our minds, and one too in our souls, but even if so these are not the same. When different frames of meaning are mixed, ideas become muddled and choice misdirected.


Ψ  on being heard
    perception and expression

On being heard the environment gave birth; in the beginning was the word —just not a word that we recognize. Life perceives patterns and signs, it coextends with meaning; through the signs that they make, beings then perceive each other, and as a consequence language and societies emerge and develop.


Δ  making sense
    experience and expression

Survival, from the beginning, has been determined by the interaction of beings with environments that are social, as well as material. In order to benefit from the protection and empowerment of social integration, therefore, communicative competence is fundamental; and mental well-being coextensive with fluency.


θ  incorporation
   expression and individuality

As a society develops and grows, its individuals become more dependent upon it, and their roles increasingly specialize. Cohesion is achieved by means of a shared cultural narrative. To survive, this must compete with others in the thoughts and behaviours of individuals. On being believed, it replicates, and its society grows.

quoteleftQuantum physics .. leads us to accept a new form of determinism: Given the state of a system at some time, the laws of nature determine the probabilities of various futures and pasts rather than determining the future and past with certainty.
Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, "The Grand Design", 2010.


edit: 10 March 2023.

expression refers here to any signal that a being generates, external or internal, consciously or not, whether transmitted through a channel that is biophysical, e.g vocally, by luminescence, neurally, etc.; virtual, e.g via text, artefacts, smoke, etc.; or bio-virtual, e.g via telephony, video, etc.

expression here refers then to any response of a being to its perception of an external or internal event, i.e to the meaningful internal representation that a being generates from the chemical, electrical, or electro-chemical expressions of its sensory mechanism to an external or internal stimulus.

artefact refers here to the creations of any being, not only to man-made things, e.g to the sculptured sand bowers of Pufferfish, or the ornately decorated play-house of the Bowerbird.

Pufferfish Bower.
A Pufferfish bower. ...more

will and want

edit: 14 Mar 2023. written: 1 Dec 2023,
quoteleftI do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can certainly do what he wants but he cannot will what he wants', accompany me in all life's situations and reconcile me with people's actions even if they are rather painful to me. This understanding, of the lack of free will, protects me from taking myself and my fellow human beings too seriously as acting and judging individuals, and from losing my good sense of humor.
Albert Einstein, Berlin 1932, speaking to the German League of Human Rights. It seems that Einstein is, famously here, interpreting the observation Schopenhauer expressed in his essay: 'On the freedom of the will.'

Ironically, Einstein does not account for time here; while we cannot choose what we want in the instant that we want it, as we have control of our behaviours, within limits, changes in these are achievable that are then coextensive with changes in wants. Each behaviour, each choice that we make, then precipitates a continuing, systemic change, and the feedback that this connects us to then changes our perception and tastes. In time, our wants change; and we can, in time, change our wants.

One year earlier Einstein wrote:

quoteleftEverybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying, that "a man can do as he will, but not will as he will," has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.
Albert Einstein, in Mein Weltbild (My World-view), 1931.

Speaking not of the absence of free-will but of compulsion and necessity, Einstein then admits stimulus, behaviour, and choice —such as between fight, flight, or inaction for instance— presenting not an absence of free-will, but one that is simply constrained.

quoteleftAs little as a ball on a billiard table can move before receiving an impact, so little can a man get up from his chair before being drawn or driven by a motive. But then his getting up is as necessary and inevitable as the rolling of a ball after the impact. And to expect that anyone will do something to which absolutely no interest impels them is the same as to expect that a piece of wood shall move toward me without being pulled by a string.
from Chapter III of 'On the freedom of the will', Arthur Schopenhauer, 1839.

Schopenhauer's observation is not atomistic or deterministic, but simply that we are driven, in whatever manner, by self-interest.


open quotation markHuman beings are a part of the whole called by us "universe", a part limited in time and space, yet we express ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest; a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness.    Albert Einstein, February 1950.
Translation of the note, handwritten in German by Einstein and held in the Albert Einstein Archives, Jerusalem.


3 Mar. 2023, written 26 Feb. 2023.

In his note, Einstein refers to Ein mensch, a phrase that in German refers to both men, women, and children; however, translating it into the gender-neutral term, A human being, gives rise to a seeming incongruity of the sentence following it in the translated text.

While respecting the words Einstein chose, the insights he offers are, for me, are more important than a word-for-word translation. Existing translations of the note's opening sentences highlight an apparent lack of gender neutrality that makes their insight seem outdated. In the second of these sentence, therefore, I substitute the first person plural for its third person singular, and substitute human beings for its singular plural in its first sentence, in order to match that. As I may as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb, I then replace the full stop between the two with a comma and a conjunction, to better echo the connection the two have in the full text, and replace the final comma (in the German, a dash in the English) with a semi-colon.


delusion and illusion

edit: 17 Jan. 2023.
open quotation markEin Mensch ist ein räumlich und zeitlich beschränktes Stück des Ganzen, was wir „Universum“ nennen. Er erlebt sich und sein Fühlen als abgetrennt gegenüber dem Rest, eine optische Täuschung seines Bewusstseins. Das Streben nach Befreiung von dieser Täuschung ist der einzige Gegenstand wirklicher Religion. Nicht das Nähren der Illusion sondern nur ihre Überwindung gibt uns das erreichbare Maß inneren Friedens.
Test of a letter of condolence (bold emphasis added), handwritten by Einsteinand held in the Albert Einstein Archives, Jerusalem.

Einstein spoke the refined German of the Bildungsbürgertum. This is characterized by precision, so it may reasonably be assumed, as close inspection of Einstein's original note also suggests, that his use in it of the word Täuschung (delusion) twice, and Illusion (illusion) once, was considered rather than careless.


Etymologically the word delusion implies an action, a deceiving, referring here to that suffered by 'Man' through his consciousness. Through this he then perceives an illusion of being "separated from the rest", a deceptive appearance.

open quotation markTechnically, delusion is a belief that, though false, has been surrendered to and accepted by the whole mind as a truth; illusion is an impression that, though false, is entertained on the recommendation of the senses or the imagination.
after the Online Etymology Dictionary: Delusion, retrieved: 4 October 2022.
open quotation markIllusion (n.), developed in Church Latin from the late 14c. onwards to mean: a "deceptive appearance".
after Online Etymology Dictionary,: Illusion, retrieved: 4 October 2022.

open quotation mark..as free-spirited and anti-bourgeois as Einstein may have appeared to be all his life, his language remained the refined German of the Bildungsbürgertum of his time, a language he mastered with virtuosity.
from a 2008 essay by Barbara Wolff, Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

comment: *

subject: *

name: *