Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I like nice things. I do. I like pedicures and unique handbags and ordering expensive cocktails wearing shiny dresses. These things make me feel good, and I cannot see it as materialism. This is true.

Then sometimes I go through periods of renunciation, even near asceticism. Of cheap or free everything. Of used and ill-fitting clothing and smuggled booze. Wanting at all seems materialistic. This feels also just as true.

In Sikhism, the influences of ego, anger, greed, attachment and lust—known as the Five Evils—are believed to be particularly pernicious. The fate of people vulnerable to the Five Evils is separation from God, and the situation may be remedied only after intensive and relentless devotion. ~wikipedia

Lately I've embraced all five of these. Well, I mean, maybe greed is a strong word for wanting to be able to do more than survive and pay rent, and if there's one thing I've taken away from religious studies, it's Don't You Dare Get Attached, and all right, I really don't get angry, not really.... Okay, so let's just say ego and lust. Oh, nevermind. Maybe I am a little materialistic.

Without question science has made unexpected discoveries about matter. Some paraphrase departures from traditional or common-sense concepts of matter as "disproving the existence of matter". However, most physical scientists take the view that the concept of matter has merely changed, rather than being eliminated.

One challenge to the traditional concept of matter as tangible "stuff" is the rise of field physics in the 19th century. However the conclusion that materialism is false may be premature. Relativity shows that matter and energy (including the spatially distributed energy of fields) are interchangeable. This enables the ontological view that energy is prima materia and matter is one of its forms. On the other hand, quantum field theory models fields as exchanges of particles — photons for electromagnetic fields and so on. On this view it could be said that fields are "really matter"

Okay, so really I think I'm bringing up quantum mechanics (any excuse...) to justify the splurging of my tax refund on a designer bag and wallet. They are shiny. They make me happy. My image of myself carrying them strokes my ego. Ego is an idea and not matter so it may not even exist. Maybe it's a field just like the bag and just like my brain and just like the word happiness we call what my body feels when my brain gets the message from my eyes describing my bag. A bag and a happiness that would not exist if we did not observe them.

If they were gone, I'd still be happy, though. The idea is the important thing, not the "stuff." But then I guess it doesn't really matter.

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