At the heart of anything and everything is a weird kind of spiral movement that is like a dog chasing its tail…
Experience: Table of Contents
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“Life seems to resolve itself down to a … squiggling little nucleus that is trying to make love to itself and can never quite get there.”
Like a dog chasing its tail. What is the meaning of life? A dog chasing its tail. What is life made of? What is anything and everything made of? Something that reminds one of a dog chasing its tail.
My preoccupation with the idea of a Möbius spinning stems directly from insights equivalent to Allan Watts’ realization. It is a weird spinning motion that seems to dovetail right back into itself, and arise out of its own center. It closes back on itself, but not in a normal three dimensional fashion. It is not just a closed loop, or a spiral spinning around. It is like a spiral, but it folds back into itself in a non-three dimensional way. And it wells up from its own center.
This idea/insight/perception has implications on many levels. Let’s name a few:
1. String theory. Modern physics has backed itself into a corner called “string theory”. The idea is that electrons, photons and all the other micro-microscopic “-ons” are not points in space, but are extended objects like little strings. This is a contentious issue in physics. Not something I want to get into here (see my two favorite physics blogs, 1, 2, for ongoing bickering). But the contingencies of modern physics seem to point in no other direction.
There is this stringy little something, spinning around, and it does so in a multi-dimensional space. This little squiggle thing that Alan Watts identified, the Eenie-Weenie, was at the base of everything, and might well be the true form of the strings. Just recently, the poor physicists have discovered that are some 10^500 (that is a 10 followed by 500 zeroes for those who don’t know scientific notation) possible forms for the stringy thingy. They don’t have a way to tell which one is the right one: it’s the one that is chasing its own tail and never quite getting there.
2. Kundalini. Kundalini is the metaphorical serpent at the base of the spine. Certain advanced yogic practices “awaken” this serpent. This is a metaphorical way to say that the practices activate a specific type of (extreme) experience in people’s awareness. It is an extreme level of experience with much in common with the states of psychedelic inebriation discussed earlier.
The reason Kundalini is described as a coiled serpent is because, when it uncoils, one feels a spiral energy move up and down the main axis of the body, centered on the spinal column. At low intensity, it feels merely like shivers running up and down the back. At high intensity, it feels as if one is literally a slinky (you know, the toy) and that one’s very being is a spiral energy or movement.
Again, this spiral movement is not a simple spiral or circular spinning motion. No, it has that weird property of seeming to well up out of nowhere and to fold back onto itself. Further, it’s not just a sensation in the skin (called a somatosensation for you neurophysiology aficionados). The spiral sensation is also present in the mind. One’s thoughts, emotions and perceptions also spiral in this weird self-eating fashion; the snake eating its own tail, Ouroboros.
3. Natural phenomena. How many things are spiral-like in nature? Hmmm? Galaxies: young ones. The old ones spiral themselves out and become big giant spheres. I mentioned the subatomic particles above: they all spin too. Solar systems are also spinning around. How many plants have a spiral shape? How about DNA and proteins? Their basic shapes are also spirals. Many of the fibers in animal bodies are spiral in shape: collagen, hair, skin, muscle. Even the pattern of how electricity moves through the heart can take on a spiral-like shape, spiraling around the chambers of the heart and affecting the contraction of the muscle.
Spiraling molecules combine together in ways that make other shapes. Hair appears straight but is made of such spiraling molecules. Sometimes the spirals manifest in the macroscopic form of the hair and people have “curly” hair to various extents. Millions of dollars are spent on products to straighten the hair out: an uphill battle against nature’s spirals.
Spinning Out Of Control
I could keep going with such examples, but hopefully you get the point. Allan Watts’ perception/insight that:
“The whole fabulous complexity of vegetable and animal life, as of human civilization, is just a colossal elaboration of the Eenie-Weenie trying to make the Eenie-Weenie”
is not just some abstract thing. You can see it everywhere around you in living and so-called nonliving matter.
At this point, whether you think I am a raving lunatic or not, let us just grant that this Eenie-Weenie is at the root of things. That the root of things is nothing but a weird spinning motion, not just around and around in a circle, but weirder: it wells up from its center and spirals around and folds back into itself, trying to grab at its own center. But it disappears into itself before it can latch back onto itself: “As I pursue my own tail, it runs away from me.”
What does this have to say about our life and experience? What are the implications?
When one asks: “what am I?”, or “Who am I?”, and probes deep enough, they discover the Eenie-Weenie. It is just a spinning motion. But who or what is doing the spinning? No matter how hard one peers into it, one always gets the same answer: no one, nothing. Nothing is doing the spinning. There is only spinning; round and round forever chasing its tail. Welling up from seeming nowhere and fading back into whence it came, and never quite achieving its goal of touching itself.