pádraig ó tuama and carlo rovelli on here21 Mar 2017
sometimes when i first hear something, it just floats by me. well, i guess it doesn’t float “by,” but it definitely doesn’t stick out as important. i suppose it gets processed and internalized, but just remains idle. but then, when another thought that’s relevant comes bombarding in, it lights up that other idea and makes it pop. i don’t know if that happens to anyone else, but this post is a recent example of this occurrence (although to not take too much credit i should be clear that krista made this specific connection in the episode herself this does happen at other times, too).
in pádraig’s interivew, he mentioned how the idea of “here” totally depends on who you are (excerpt below). two people can be sitting in the same room and believe they are in two different places. this is possible because location is all about your point of reference. in my own life, i’ve seen movement people do this by acknowledging whose ancestral lands we’re meeting on or which indigenous tribes still or used to call where we are land home. this is the idea that lodged itself without any active engagement at the time.
that idea didn’t stand out to me until carlo said in his interview that “here” isn’t a meaningful idea in physics. everything exists in relationship. here is only identifiable as the relationship between two things. ex: latitude and longitude only makes sense based on their center points (the equator and the prime meridian, right?)
now, what does all of this mean for the world and social change? i’m not totally sure, but i have a few hunches. i know on at least some level i’m going to have to start, in all contexts, recognizing “where” i am based on who i’m giving credence. i should probably start with where i live (in jamaica plain) and where i work (at mit near the river).
And the complication for me was moving home to Ireland after those years away and suddenly being back in Ireland, being north of the border, and realizing that some places that I went, people would say, “Oh, you’re from Cork. We beat you in the hurling last weekend. You’re just a local, just 250 miles down the road. But you know, you’re just local.” And other people would say, “Oh, you’re from Ireland. What’s it like for you living in our country?” And you’re kind of going, “I think I’m in my own country. I can read the etymology of the land, of the place names. I feel at home here.”
And so suddenly this question of, “What is home?” was really complicated. And here — you hear that way when people are speaking here, because Northern Ireland or the North of Ireland, though basically — they can be loaded terms. Sometimes you hear people saying, “Oh today’s a great day in this part of Ireland.” And other people say, “Today is a great day in this part of the United Kingdom.” So “here” is actually a complicated compromise. Also to be able to say, “What is happening right here, right now?” Even if it’s not what you’d choose. - pádraig ó tuama
Yes, the philosopher calls it “indexicality.” There — let me put it this way. Physics struggles to give an objective picture of reality as much as possible, which is very fine, very good. So it’s reality as seen from the — as much as possible from the outside. But if you look from the outside, you always miss something, which is the perspective from the inside. If you have a map of a region, and you want to use it, you want to know where you are in the map. So you need extra information, which is where you are. And there are words, like “here,” like “me” that have a meaning that depend on who says it.
If I say “I’m Carlo,” it’s true. But if you say “I’m Carlo,” it’s false. So the same sentence depends on who’s saying. So I think there is an aspect of reality which is strongly connected to its relational aspect. We perceive reality not from the outside, but from the inside. And there is this little difference between each one of us, obviously. And we have to keep this into account. And I think keeping this into account, it’s one of the ingredients for making sense of what time is. And maybe also one of the ingredients of learning how to deal with one another a little bit better by remembering that we always have perspective on things. And everybody has a slightly different perspective than everybody else.
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