is your sovereignty “
~ rupi kaur
The great limitation of science is the very thing that makes it what it is. Empiricism is the study of the observable. The denial of what cannot be observed and objectively understood is both the foundation of robustness and the entire reason science cannot be fully believed. The paradox is evident in the extent to which so much of today’s science exists merely to support itself. “This study supports the findings of previous studies in the area which all suggest….”. What new information has been discovered? What new knowledge do we have? How will this change our experience? Our sense of being?
Science has been too long cut off from the imagination of poets and musicians. Artists and inventors. Without creativity, science is simply the study of what already is.
Without wonder and imagination, without the possibility of a plane of existence we cannot imagine or fathom, how could we even exist?
In this contemplation, existentialism brings us to the brink of our being, the very edge of our existence.
“Man knows nothing of himself, and cannot even dream of anything that is not human. To what can he therefore be compared? What man could judge man? In whose name would he speak?“.Simone de Beauvoir (1944, text copyright).
If we were immortal I could accept this conclusion. That we are unable to transcend our own existence. Self reflection can only occur, as far as we know, in a cognisant, living being (and perhaps to a degree in artificial intelligence). Life is contrasted with before-birth and after-death. Two planes of existence we cannot record or measure. But we know they are there. We could not exist without these other planes of existence. Our lives depend on the existence of something of us before we are born and after we die.
Before our lives began we existed. Our beings still fragmented and not yet come together, nonetheless, the parts that would be used to bring us into being, existed before our lives began. Biologically, parts of us were present within our parents’ bodies. So too, the context for our cultural and psychological conditioning was already at play, the consequences of which affected our lives when we were born into the future.
Our existence, the arising of our self, is dependent on conditions and matter that existed prior to our life beginning, therefore, in some weird, fragmented form, we exist before we are born. But this is not something we can perceive at the time, it is an existence free of perception. If we cannot perceive something we do not experience it, if we do not experience it we cannot reflect on it, and therefore, we cannot learn from it. Certainly, not as a matter of science.
Unless we listen.
Unless we surface our assumptions and set aside our biases and listen to the stories about things we cannot perceive our selves.
Like the story of how you were conceived.
Perhaps, as Simone de Beauvoir says ‘man knows nothing of himself’, but as someone who has been ‘other’ than man for the entirety of my life thus far, perhaps I would be permitted to reflect on those aspects for which I am other? What should the rules be in this situation?
If we learn to listen to the voice of the other, will we hear a reflection of our selves we have been missing?
The echos of our actions.
The ripples of our tears.
Man, as patriarch and the primary object to which womyn is other, cannot judge himself. He has created the conditions in which we all judge each other and thus cannot be trusted to see things objectively or rationally. He sees himself through his own lens, judges himself by his own standards, measures things according to his own science. For him, in the current default setting, there is no other. There is simply projection of self; you are what I make of you.
However, in reality, there is undeniably, the rise of an other voice.
And so we have three perspectives from which we can view the politics of gender. And with the lens of intersectionality, this understanding might also be used to understand the relative perceptual positioning of colonialism to race, and religious conservatism to sexuality:
- the subjective reflections of man (first position)
- the objective observations of empiricism (second position)
- the objective views of the other (third position)
The subjective experiences of womyn influencing the third position must also be acknowledged in this perspective taking exercise. Despite decades, if not centuries of debate about objectivity and controlling for subjectivity among scientists, humanities scholars bring a more holistic understanding of complexity in human life. As such, we have methodologies for robust, transparent integration of objective observation and subjective reflection.
We also listen to the voices of those who identity as neither man nor womyn.
Beyond the conversation between man and his science.
The world is not either or.
The world is not binary.
Without a clear voice from the planes of existence before-birth or after-death, the only reflective voices we have are those that arise from outside the dominant paradigm.
Acknowledging the voices of those who tell the stories of things we our selves can not perceive.
Perhaps, rather than asking “In whose name would he speak?“. We should instead be inquiring, to whose voice do you listen?
How do you know who you are until you see the effects of your existence?
The echos of your anger.
The ripples of your fears.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be free from suffering.
All images in this post by @lifeofrileypictures