Constructs and Inquantas
Everything man has ever known, thought, felt or encountered can be divided into two groups. We’ll call them “constructs” and “inquantas.” A construct is something that can be analyzed by reducing it into constituent parts. Matter, most energy and many of the concepts we use to think about the world are constructs. Examples of constructs include a bottle, a diamond, dirt, air and electricity. If you reduce a construct down to its constituent parts, it is often easy to reconstruct or reproduce it simply by sticking its parts back together or duplicating them. On the other hand, an inquanta is something that disappears when you try to analyze beyond a certain point. For this reason, at some point in any analysis, an inquanta defies attempts to describe or define it. Some concepts and a few of the things we feel at an emotional level are inquantas. A perfect example of an inquanta is a joke. The moment you begin to try to analyze or define a joke, the ‘ha-ha-ness’ of it goes away. For example, look at the following definition of humor put forth by William O. Beeman, professor of Anthropology at Brown University
”Humor is a performative pragmatic accomplishment involving a wide range of communication skills including, but not exclusively involving, language, gesture, the presentation of visual imagery, and situation management.”
No humor to be found there. Analyze jokes and suddenly they are no longer jokes. Upon any attempt at taking it apart, the funniness of a joke—the very thing that makes you notice it in the first place simply disappears. Another example of an inquanta is love. It lends it self to a certain amount of analysis and description but after a certain point in the examination of why a person loves, the essential feeling or element that makes it love —the reason why we love in the first place, just disappears. Curiosity and imagination are also examples of inquantas, although curiosity lends itself to analysis better than most other inquantas. Imagination is a special case as well since it involves a vital aspect of human creativity looking at itself. Like holding a mirror up to a mirror showing infinite reflections, instead of quickly disappearing, it explodes in a myriad sunburst of possibilities. Although we can describe in detail the effects of inquanta, accurate measurement and detailed scientific or analytical analysis of them is often very difficult. Still, inquantas display no lack of attempts to analyze them and over time we’ve accumulated a good amounts of knowledge about them and how they affect us. However, since they don’t lend themselves well to analysis, no one really knows if irreducibility is actually an inherent property of inquantas or if it just reflects the limits of human understanding. Are hate and fear inquantas? The short answer is no. They lend themselves to analysis too quickly for them to be inquantas. Although, by no means is it the sole reason why people sometimes hate or fear, the lines between them and ignorance are often obvious. Likewise, just like ignorance is no more than the absence of knowledge and wisdom, hate and fear are often no more an absence of things more substantial.
Most of the things science has ever discovered and allowed us to make use of are constructs. At the same time, virtually everything that is truly fulfilling in life, everything that makes us each get up in the morning and get on with the day, is an inquanta. At the bottom of it all, we don’t love our cell phones, we love or care about the people and the world that cell phones allow us to connect to. We all live to love, smile and laugh or for the hope to love, smile and laugh. In the end, everything that makes each of us really want to get on with life are things that are inquantas. In fact, to the limits of current human understanding, life itself is an inquanta as is the incredible strength of the human spirit. Constructs help us all perpetuate inquantas. This is the value of science. Although analysis often illuminate inquantas to fairly good effect, humans have other idea tools as well that help us understand them. This is the value of spirituality. At a very basic level it helps us fit many inquantas into our worldview when analysis seems to fail. Personally, I don’t find science and spirituality at all incompatible. They each carry an array of idea tools I utilize to help me better understand the world around me.
An assumption that is essential to the proper functioning of scientific inquiry is that anything and everything can be successfully analyzed to increase human understanding. In making this assumption, it serves us very well. One of the things that spirituality often assumes is that some things are forever simply beyond our ability to analyze. An essential part of any truly balanced world view is the acceptance of the paradox that both assumptions carry equal amounts of truth to the limits of human understanding. Neither science nor spirituality are going away anytime soon. Both provide idea tools that are good to get your head around. Better to arrive at an arrangement of peaceful co-existence than to contend ourselves with bickering and fighting between the two for the next several thousand years. As for constructs and inquantas —well, it’s very, very good that human curiosity forever strives to find out what really makes things tick. We gotta keep doing that or we’ll get nowhere. Meanwhile, it’s equally good to remember laughter is the point of a joke but it doesn’t make you laugh after you’ve taken it apart. To make it a joke again, someone else has to find it anew.