Dualism and why Alice is a bitch


I’m in a bad mood. There. It has nothing to do with Monday blues or the 10 degree drop in temperature. Birds still sing their hot little hearts out and there is no stopping my grass from its one spell of freedom it gets every year. I can’t bring myself to cut the wild flowers and besides, the ground is too sodden from the snow it devoured earlier this year.

Last week I posted a couple of geeky articles on search for the fundamentals of the universe and my own stab at it through immature research into genetic fractals. The snag with digging this up – and serving it! – is that it now plays in the background of my mind, like one of those annoying songs (and I’m not going to suggest one. You can thank me later).

So I went for a long walk around the Geneva botanical gardens, to get over this pointless Sudoku puzzle of the universe that is supposedly graded “killer”. I live a little bit higher up on the foothills of the Jura mountains at 643 meters, depending on the room I’m in. The gardens are at 381 meters, depending on the flower bed, and invariably they are one season ahead from where I toil the soil.

At this time of year, the rhododendrons are a spectacle of out-of-control colours of entire bunches of flowers growing from a single branch. Clouds of pinks, mauves, reds and yellows with the odd bridal whites fight for space along a wooden walkway that is uncharacteristically overgrown, thereby defying an entire volume of Swiss by-laws. A few bushes were flowerless.


A wheel turned, a lever clicked and dang, we’re back.

Flower, no flower: where are they when they are not there? Last week I answered this by dismissing the duality and smugly sitting back and letting the sun have a go at my face. But I’m not in the mood for the simple solutions that Zen gives us.

Where was it, before it was there?

You can substitute ‘it’ for anything that matters to you. When I’m in this mood, I go for the hard ones. Universe will do for today. It wasn’t there and then it was. How exactly? Let’s ask God.

I don’t want you to think that I don’t appreciate the gardens here. There is a beautiful Victorian greenhouse that maintains a tropical climate and has papayas, bananas and cocoa growing all year round. I go there when it rains in the winter. This is so much better than flying to Thailand, you get the same weather, vegetation and if you’re cheeky, fresh fruit without the hassle of jetlag and missed transfers. I have to confess that I’ve done some guerrilla planting here but the Swiss gardeners are on to me and ripped my plantations out of this Eden. Oh, yes, God.

I’ve been following some of the God /no-God posts and want to thank the bloggers for keeping the candle burning in both camps. Unless, they wear out or God intervenes personally, this will go on for a while. There is this inherent problem with the debate that if you are willing to accept God as a reality, then you can only do so against the background of no-God – how else will you tell the difference? The no-God camp has the same problem. How can you deny God if you don’t believe that there is this concept that it isn’t? Now, I wouldn’t pretend to have the final proof or disproof of the ontological argument, but I’m quite sure that atheists and Christians are stuck with each other until they accept the inevitable and meet up for a drink instead. The inevitable being, well, you know what.

I just picked up my daughter from school and we had this interesting and mildly relevant conversation.

‘I was wrong’, she said.

‘What? What about.’, I replied.

‘About Alice being a bitch’.

‘So, she isn’t a bitch? I thought she was pretty mean to you.’

‘Yes, but that is because that is how she is.’

‘So, she’s a bitch’.

‘Yes, but she can’t help that. She explained it to me. So, it is OK’.

‘But she’s still a bitch’.



So, God won’t help, he’s a non-entity and non-entities have their limitations.

I sat down with a piece of paper, the old fashioned way. I wrote, nothing. The word ‘nothing’ I mean, not nothing as in writing nothing, though it could have done that too. Then I wrote, nothing implies something and something implies something else and hey presto, the universe came into being. Now, God would have taken the Sunday off but my work wasn’t done yet and admittedly, it is only Monday.

How can there be nothing unless there is someone to notice its absence? Even nothing needs to be noted for it not to exist. After all, I have no rhododendrons in my garden but unless I look at it and feel it, smell it or touch it, the absence of pink rhododendron flowers would be void, in all its meanings.


I did have them before but it is too dry here. Rhododendrons need water throughout the year. It didn’t help that they were at the Jura side of my house and we get these huge downdrafts from the mountain when the sun drops behind them and the air cools in the valley. At times I have to ask my neighbours to return my garden furniture which has overcome gravity. One moment its there, the next it is annihilated. I suspect this is an even more surprising spontaneous act of creation for my neighbour. But I digress.

This idea that without an observer, the whole question of nothingness and its inevitable cascade into life, the universe and everything, becomes void annoys me. Why can’t the universe get on with it without me looking at it? I don’t mind the job and all that, but it seriously puts into question what I am.


You’ve seen the Yin-Yang symbol with the two fish complementing each other. I once worked out that somewhere along the line, the interpretation was lost because it is such a clever drawing. The Yin-Yang duality is not shown by the two fish that imply each other but by the head and tail of one of the fish that are separate at the point where they touch, but that they are still one and the same fish when you look from the other side. Head and tail separately imply each other but head and tail are together as one fish.

Therefore, observer and observed are one fish. To put that in the context of this fish tale (couldn’t resist), the origin of the universe and myself are one. I am the origin of the universe. You may read that I as I from your perspective: how does it feel? In fact, I am anything that I observe (but nothing else).

Now, this is not the reason I was in a bad mood earlier on and yes, I feel better now. No, what bothers me is that I’m back at Zen! It’s nice to have given you scientific evidence for that great art whilst having put God/no-God on a terrace with a glass of ice cold rosé, but frankly, this is not going to help me with the original genetic fractal.

As I’m sitting here sipping a big mug of tea, I have a deep intuition that I’m not going to solve this by Saturday so I’ll give it a rest. It’s been a useful exercise, this post. At least I know for certain that Alice is a bitch and my daughter is fine with that, existentially spoken.


14 thoughts on “Dualism and why Alice is a bitch

  1. I’m sorry I don’t have time to read your post right now, with my work and getting ready for my trip to Paris…. I saw the attached photos and had to leave my trace 😉

      1. 4 months worth. We spent most of our time in the west, then up at RaRa Lake. Astonishing patch of earth. My friend then went up to Kashmir (loved it) and i headed out to Jaisalmer and played in the desert.

  2. Wonderful article, genetic fractals. I really enjoy this. I remember the not-zen still being zen paradox from my own experiences and if I may pick up on a detail: ‘guerilla planting’. Priceless. 🙂

    1. Thanks LivelySkeptic! I’m still trying to make sense of what I wrote, but it’s in there somewhere :). Guerilla gardening is very liberating, in particular in Switzerland where society is seriously constrained. They haven’t caught me yet, but that’s possibly just a matter of time!

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