Anti-Philosophy

after all, he seems to have a lot to say about what can’t be said.”  Bertrand Russell.

Ludwig Wittgenstein came from a  very wealthy and talented family of Vienna, in the time before WW I, a family of musicians, professors, and  suicides. He went to grammar school with Adolf Hitler.  His sister helped Sigmund Freud escape the Nazis.  He fought in WWI, reading Tolstoy’s Gospel in Brief while voluntarily manning the very dangerous point, on the front.  Beethoven was his hero.  He was precocious in math, and was fascinated by logic.  This led him to Bertrand Russell and Cambridge University.

Intensely introspective, he would scrutinize his own mental processes to find the unacknowledged assumptions that underlie our thinking and the subtle ways that logic fails. He would puzzle over nuances in words and speech, things subconscious to most of us, and search for  hidden patterns in mathematics, and in language, all to learn the limits of human reason and communication.  He wanted to know how we know what we know, to ultimately know what can  be known. . . the whole point of philosophy.

He was tortured by the riddles in logic that arise with self reference, the great stumbling block in Bertrand Russell’s attempt, in Principia Mathematica, to derive all knowledge from first principles of logic. Is the set of all sets, itself a set?

With his spooky certitude, mesmerizing stare and relentless argumentation, Wittgenstein was considered brilliant. He became sure that philosophical questions were merely linguistic puzzles, and that language, with its confusions of perceptions and conceptions,  hopelessly impaired thought. Truth can only be known by experience, not with thinking, and only shown, with art, but not with description. Thought and speech are mere ‘social games’ for living a social human life, something, sadly, he himself was not much able to do.

For a time, he side-lined all of conventional philosophy.  Give up on philosophy!

“Whereof one can not speak, thereof one must remain silent”.

He lived an eccentric, solitary life, spending much of his time in a remote cabin in Norway. At one point he gave away all of his enormous wealth, and lived in near poverty.  He was always feared going mad, that he might commit suicide.

Here, in Ludwig Wittgenstein, are the tell-tale signs of schizophrenia, a condition of constant and oppressive self consciousness, with a frightening confusion of ideas and reality.  A loss of one’s sense of self connection, a disorder of self reference, like the paradoxes of logic that so obsessed him.  Is my thinking about myself, also my self?

“Sometimes my ideas come so quickly that I feel as if my pen was being guided.

Mental illness and genius aren’t the same thing.

“He has penetrated deep into mystical ways of thought and feeling, but I think (though he wouldn’t agree) that what he likes best in mysticism is its power to make him stop thinking.”  Bertrand Russell.

In his time, there was no treatment. He tried, with philosophy, to think his way out of thinking too much.

 

 

Coastal Journey

Our solar system is not a perfect clock. There have been 16 ice ages in the past million years.

“Small variations in the tilt of the Earth on its axis and variations in the planet’s elliptical path around the sun are all that is necessary to plunge the planet in and out of the freezer. ”   Tim Flannery.

Some 120,000 years ago, modern humans migrated out of Africa, and we kept going, first into the middle east, then on to southeast Asia, (with a detour down into Australia), then up the eastern Pacific to the Bering Strait,  and finally into North America.  By 15,000 year ago, we reached the tip of South America.

We evolved in Africa, from a hairy, tree climbing, social primate ancestor.  Somehow, over time, we lost most of our hair, gained a lining of body fat, developed upright walking, a descended larynx that enabled speech, special sweat glands for  thermal regulation, and a diving reflex for swimming.  We became more like sea mammals,  more suited for water than the forest or savannah – dolphins are our close cousins in intelligence and communication.  The whale is the only other mammal to have menopause.  Where and when this happened is a mystery. The Afar Triangle of northeast Africa, on the way out of Africa, may have been a vast, flooded wetlands.  We may have had to swim our way out of Africa.

We followed the coastlines, along the beaches and up rivers, as sea gatherers and fishermen.  Food was plentiful, rich in value, and easy to harvest.  The travel and protection were easier.  We love the beach to this day.

Our journey was during a perilous geologic time.  A warming earth was melting ice, rising sea levels, lifting and shifting tectonic plates,  causing earthquakes and volcanoes. Released by the loss of the weight of the great ice sheets as they melted, continental plates heaved, and the moon pulled stronger on the increased tidal waters.  The Pacific tectonic plate, being the largest and thinnest – only 2.5 miles thick –  moved and cracked the most, aggravating the ‘ring of fire’ of volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunami’s that batter all the coasts of the Pacific Ocean.

As modern humans arrived along the South East Asian coast, some 70,000 years ago, the shallow, continental Pacific Sundra shelf  waters were flooding, and a great volcano –  perhaps the greatest ever volcano – Toba – in Indonesia on the island of Sumatra, erupted.  The massive blast of volcanic dust blackened the sky, creating a volcanic winter and  mass extinction.  Human life all the way  back to Africa was nearly extinguished.

The surviving humans were pushed inland and north, and eventually into the New World.  Floods, tidal waves, receding waters and volcanic explosions filled their prehistoric consciousness.  This has carried on to our day, in the creation stories of the world, told by their descendants.

The myths are not myths, they are history.

In the beginning the world was in water, and there was darkness.  And then light came to the sky, and then the sun appeared and separated the earth from the sky.

 

Mindsight

Alberto Giacometti lived most of his sculptor life in a Paris apartment/studio, without hot water or a bathroom.  Brother Diego was his foundry assistant. He chain-smoked 4 packs a day, and wore the same grey, herring bone suit,  24 hours a day. He would buy a new one – same color, same style – once a year. He went to restaurants for his meals, bistros and clubs for drinks and conversation, and brothels now and then.  He was very upset when prostitution was made illegal.  He worked in his studio all night, and slept most of the day.  He married late, reluctantly, and enjoyed mistresses.  He had no children.

To Giacometti, life was magical.  He saw wonder in everything.  He believed in the intense significance of his feelings, and in the possibilities of the mysterious.  He savored primary sensation.  Attracted to the surrealists, he at first painted and sculpted as they wanted, from the psychological, the philosophical, and the political.  But it really didn’t take him where he wanted to go.  Existential angst, he realized, was not political, or philosophical, or, for that matter, anything new in human history.  And it wasn’t artistic.  He moved on.  Andre Breton, their commandant, wanted a discussion.  Giacometti escaped.  “No, that won’t be necessary”.

He discovered an obsession “to represent what I see”.  Not what his eyes see, but what he sees.

For years he tried and failed.  Constantly studying people on the street, and in conversations, he was drawn to the misfits and histrionic types, people who played out their selves, up front, unaffected.  He would pose his models for hours and days on end.  All night he would attempt sculpture,  only to destroy it in the morning, unsatisfied.

His friends and family lost confidence.  He seemed more and more a lost eccentric.

At times, having looked so long and so hard, he would feel an entranced  loss of the thoughts and identifications of what he was seeing.  The work would take  control.  Expressive shapes and proportions would emerge.

he found to his amazement, and to his consternation, that the sculpture grew smaller and smaller.  The smaller it grew, the more troubled it became, yet he could not keep if from shrinking. The sculpture itself seemed to determine in advance its appropriate size, would accept no alternative and compelled the sculptor to comply.”

Training builds creative and perceptive skill.  Practice areas of the brain become . . . swollen.

The posterior hippocampus, the area of the brain known to be important for memory, is bigger in London cab drivers than in most people.”

Attending a play in a theatre in Paris, looking at the stage and then at the audience around him, he had this realization that he was seeing differently, in some new way, “not like a camera“, but in dimensions of space and time, . . . with a strange sense of becoming.

His work became art,  sculpture with the essentials of human form, intention in posture, purpose in motion, all with an aura of being and becoming

. . . what you see with your mind.

The first and last speech

On December 13, 1963, Corliss Lamont hosted the 172nd anniversary of the Bill of Rights in Washington D. C., and presented the Thomas Pain Award to . . . Bob Dylan.

Mr. Lamont was the son of a wealthy banker, a graduate of Phillips Academy, Harvard, Oxford, and Columbia.  He had a PhD in Philosophy. He celebrated atheism.  In 1932, he visited the Soviet Union and found a very promising, enlightened society.  The secret police were “courteous and efficient and good natured“.  There were hungry people begging for food, but “most of these beggars are people who are too lazy to work, since every Russian can get a job if he wants to“.  He found “charming” the sight of head shaven, marching youth, “freed from their mothers and the bourgeoise ‘trip’ “.  He led the Friends of the Soviet Union, to “Hail the glorious achievements of the workers and peasants of the USSR – where starvation and unemployment have been abolished.” He sided with North Korea, the Soviet denial of the Katyn Massacre, and with Fidel Castro. He was a personal friend of the father of Kathy Boudin, the Weatherman underground radical.

In New Orleans, in the Summer of 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was passing “Hands off Cuba” leaflets, with copy written by . . . Corliss Lamont.

Bob Dylan, awkward, new on the national stage, ambivalent about the self-celebrating, moral preening of Important People, not wanting to offend and yet not wanting to embrace, gave a disjointed, rambling speech. “It’s took me a long time to get young“.   He  spoke of their  “bald heads“, and remarked that “I’ve never seen one history book that tells how anybody feels”. He then went on to say:  “I got to admit that the man who shot President Kennedy, Lee Oswald, I don’t know exactly where – what he thought he was doing, but I got to admit honestly that I too – I saw some of myself in him.”  This did not go over well.

Remember that many people, already, were not thinking that Oswald was guilty.  Framed perhaps, and young, and awkward, and arrogantly bold, and perilously sincere, and perhaps doomed to be forever misunderstood.  Not unlike  Mr. Dylan, . . .no?

Dylan wrote to “explain/not explain”:

“when I spoke of Lee Oswald, I was speakin of the times

I am not speaking of his deed if it was his deed

the deed speaks for itself

but I am sick

so sick

at hearin “we all share the blame”. . it is so easy t say ‘we’ an bow our heads together

I must say “I” alone an bow my head alone

when I speak of bald heads, I mean bald minds

for it is I alone who is living my life. . .nobody tells me how any of ‘m cries or laughs or kisses, I’m fed up with  newspapers, radios, tv, an movies an the like t tell me. I want now t see an know for myself an I accepted the award for all others like me who want t see for themselves an who don’t want that God-given right taken away

out! out! brief candle life’s but an open window an I must jump back thru it now

respectfully and unrespectfully, Bob Dylan”.

American Hamlet

He was just a sickly kid who loved heroes” –  Jackie Kennedy, with Theodore White, 1964.

He had a “rigid and physically distant mother”, and a domineering and  demanding father – “We want winners, we don’t want losers around here.”  Jack Kennedy, Barabara Leaming, pg. 61, 2006.

Joseph P. Kennedy, in 1962, was worth of $500,000,000.  The Kennedy’s were not just rich, they were super-rich.

It is so natural for the wealthy to be self-centered.  They are more valuable. They do have more to lose.

John F. Kennedy was self centered, and witty, engaging, charming, and a war veteran. He was famous from the start, his entire life stage-managed by his father. And he was haunted by losses – his older brother, his favorite sister, war comrades, and his own health.  He was very uncomfortable with emotional intimacy.

I once asked him why he was doing it, why he was acting like his father, why he was avoiding real relationships, why he was taking a chance on a scandal at the same time he was trying to make his career take off.  “I don’t know, really.  I guess I just can’t help it”.  He had this sad expression on his face.  He looked like a little boy about to cry.”  Dallek,  An Unfinished Life, pg. 152.

Kennedy had a sense of history, but he also had an administrative technique that made the gathering of history extremely difficult.  He hated organized meetings of the Cabinet or the National Security Council, and therefore he chose to decide policy after private meetings, usually with a single person.”  James Reston, November 22, 1963, New York Times.

That single person was almost always his brother.  In the Berlin crisis, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile crisis, and Vietnam, he was a tentative, and secretive, a reluctant leader.  The most powerful government in the world had great difficulty knowing its commander’s direction.

And the stakes were getting very high. The window of ‘opportunity’ for a ‘successful’ nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union would close. . . in November of 1963.

Mr President, you certainly can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you!” . . . And then the plaza rang with the first gunshot. . . The first bullet tore through Kennedy’s throat, and his arms went up as if to block himself from further injury.  His wife turned to him, and just as she did, another bullet shattered his head. . . .She remembered the strange elegance of his demeanor.  “His expression was so neat: he had his hand out, I could see a piece of his skull coming off; it was flesh-colored not white.  He was holding out his hand – and I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from this head. . .He had such a wonderful expression on his face.  You know that wonderful expression he had when they’d ask him a question about one of the ten million gadgets they’d have in a rocket?  Just before he’d answer, he’d look puzzled; . . .and then he slumped forward.”  Jackie Kennedy, Four days in Dallas, Bugliosis, 2009.

 

Chicxulub

Across the land, turbulent air flowing from the chilly north encounters the breezes of the hot south.  As the two fight it out over the plains, tornadoes are spawned.  Ninety percent of the worlds tornadoes occur in North America.”   The Eternal Frontier,  Tim Flannery,  2001.

Long before it became the first global human empire, North America was a climatic dynamo affecting the entire earth.

Unlike any other continent, it is a giant “inverted wedge”, 4000 miles across the in the sub-arctic north, sixty miles across in the south,  with the Appalachian Mountains to the east and the Rockies Mountains to the west.  This wedge is a giant. . . carburetor. . . funneling super-chilled Canadian air southward in winter, and warm Gulf air northward in summer, generating explosive storms, torrential rains, giant lakes, thunderous rivers, and intense seasons that have fueled an evolutionary combustion of plants, reptiles and mammals.  This includes the great forests of deciduous trees that shed their nutrient-drained colorful leaves in winter , when the sunlight is low, and reabsorb their fertilizer energy in the spring when the sun is bright.  And not only leaves, seedlings too, including nutritious, soft-shelled nuts that entice small mammals to carry them away and bury them.  North America invented squirrels.  Native american societies, too, thrived on the gathering and storing of nuts. Only in North America did inland complex societies arise that were not based on farming.

Sixty five million years ago, North America was  two continents separated by a shallow sea, the BearPaw Sea, covering what is now the great plains.

And. . .then. . . a renegade Manhattan-sized meteor from a broken asteroid escaped the gravity of the asteroid belt, and found its way toward Earth.  It lunged in from the southeast and across the equator and crashed into what is now the town of Chicxulub, on the Yucatan peninsula. It struck with a glancing blow “like a giant golf chip shot“, at a speed of 54,000 miles per hour, digging a celestial divot straight up into the BearPaw seaway, with a collision blast of a 100 million megatons of TNT, 2 million times greater than the largest nuclear bomb ever made, exploding a hole 3 miles deep and 100 miles wide, and creating a tsunami wave . . . one-half mile high. . . that smashed the whole world.  With heat one thousand times that of the surface of the sun, the entire North American forest was ‘carbonized’ – incinerated – all the way to the Red Deer River valley in northern  Canada, and even across the Pacific Ocean to Hokkaido island of northern Japan. Fourteen genera of dinosaurs immediately became extinct. The Age of Giant Reptiles cataclysmally ended.  The lee of the mountain ranges of the Appalachians and of the Sierra Nevada and inside the Arctic Circle were the only areas of sanctuary for life.

For many, many years, debri, dust, and smoke blocked out the sun, freezing the land, and poisoning the atmosphere with sulfur and acid rain.  This was “Impact winter”,  the long “polar night”. . .that starved planetary life.

It would be centuries before the charred North America would turn green again, slowly rejuvenated by a. . . fern, Stenochlaena.

 

Natural Civilization

Fourteen thousand years ago, Siberian and Mongolian people crossed the Bering land bridge into North America. Following the ice-free coastline, they eventually found the Andes mountains, the longest linear stretch of mountains in the world.  There, unaffected by Rome or Greece, or Moses, or Plato, or Aristotle, or by any of the rest of world history, they . . . naturally . . . became the Inca civilization, the largest, most sophisticated civilization of the New World.   One hundred thousand elites controlled 10 million peasants, unified by a religion of sun worship, ruled by an emperor who was “the king, the pope, and Jesus Christ all rolled into one.” All land was state owned, peasants were granted rights to till communal lands. Taxes were paid with labor, which created surpluses of food, tools, and weapons, which were stored along the Inca road network, and which were used for times of want, for war, and for patronage.  The few ruled the many.  Natural civilization.

In 1528, Francisco Pizarro found a Bronze Age society, 2,500 years back in time. The Incas did not have writing, or money, but they had deadly slingshots, and clubs, and vast armies. The Spaniards, though, had steel swords, armor, and horses, and like tank warfare against foot soldiers, 168 Spanish horsemen conquered 10 million Incan foot soldiers.

History has been the story of men killing other men, and so also in the New World.  The Incas had been fighting a gruesome civil war for many years, ever since their great Inca chief was killed by another old world weapon – small pox.  His sons fought to the death for the throne. Atahualpa had just conquered brother Huascar and executed his entire family, and was on his victory trip to Cuzco, to be crowned Sun King, when strange boats appeared off the coast. At Cajamarca, Atahualpa crossed Pizarro’s path. He promptly executed any of his men that showed any fear of the strange horse beasts.

The Incas, it seems, did not know the plight of Montezuma and the Aztecs. They were self-sufficient mountain people, not traders with the larger world. Pizarro had been with Cortes. He enticed Atahualpa into a courtyard, and in a bloody ambush, captured him.

For ransom, Atahualpa filled the Cajamarca courtyard with gold.  Pizarro executed him anyway.  His wife became Pizarro’s mistress, and bore him two sons.

To subdue a civilization, dethrone its religion.

The last Inca Emperor, Tupac Amaru, in Cuzco before his execution, tells his people that their religion has been false.

Lords, . . . Let it be known that I am a Christian, and they have baptized me and I wish to die under the law of God – and I have to die.  And that everything that my ancestors, the Incas, and I have told you up until now – that you should worship the sun god, Punchao, the shrines, idols, stones, rivers, mountains, and sacred things – is a lie and completely false.  When we used to tell you that we were entering [a temple] to speak to the sun, when we told you what it said and that it spoke – this was a lie.

The Last Days of the Incas,  Kim MacQuarrie, 2007.

Sir Paul

Across the way from his childhood row-house home, across Strawberry Fields, Paul McCartney met one John Lennon. Both of their mothers died while they were teenagers, both of their fathers were musicians. Lennon-McCartney wrote and performed songs, and the whole world went . . .crazy . . .over their music,  and still does.

Paul is charming, kind, a devoted father, a faithful husband, a very successful businessman, and a Brit who honors his queen. He has always loved his Liverpool past.

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes, there beneath the blue suburban skies”

He has lived 50 years of magic – wealth, fame, exhilarating creativity, and bittersweet pain and loss.

He still can’t read music.

What ever is the gift for songwriting and singing, Paul has it.  He gives commanding concert performances, like a gifted athlete.   He sings his solo career songs, yes, but with Beatle songs – which he is careful to do as they were originally done, . . . he brings down the house. . . . still.  It is the Beatles music that carries gloriously on, ever ecstatically received.

Paul McCartney is reticent with personal feelings, and superficial in person.  He barely seems to know Paul McCartney.  “Maybe I’m amazed” . . . . maybe?  He just never wants to get deep.

“the fool on the hill sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round.

Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say”.  ‘Was I harking back to my mum? he asks.  Who would know?  Few realize that his song ‘Blackbird’ was written to console african-americans after the death of Martin Luther King.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly“.

He can’t explain his creativity – or doesn’t want to. “I’m very lucky with my voice, I have no idea how it happens“.  Songs just come to him.  He dreamed the melody for his greatest song, ‘Yesterday’, the most recorded song in history. He spent months sure that he had heard it somewhere before, trying to find out where.

Paul has this mastery of melody, how it forms and carries a song. His best songs feel already known, like they could be no other way.  The words, by themselves, have almost nothing there.

there is an unmistakeable sadness in McCartney’s gaze and muted manner“.  John Colapinto,  The New Yorker,  June 2007

He was unable to reconcile with the bruising John Lennon, before his death.  And there is the losses of his mother and wife, both in the full of their lives,  to the same disease.

For well you know that its a fool who plays it cool, by making the world a little colder”  – Ironically, it was John Lennon who wanted this line kept in the song.

Above all the acrimony and nihilism of his times, he holds out, decent, and up beat.  The spirit of a 19 year old Beatle lives on.

I’m never going to believe I’m 70.  I don’t care what you say.  There’s a little cell in my brain that’s never going to believe that“, Rolling Stone, March 2012

Driver

In the movie Drive, the central character has a special talent. Driving, yes, but more compelling, he can stay calm and focused during intense moments, like driving fast and escaping the police, or like when someone is trying to kill him.  It is a gift, his ability to stay cool, it helps him get by.  But it may have helped him get involved with the wrong people.

Behind the wheel, his eyes centered on the road, he is ever wary, a taut spring. His smile is soft, his eyes rarely blink.  He says pretty much only what is necessary to say. He seems satisfied staying in the background. Somehow he has ended up half way between good people and bad.

He meets a girl from down the hall, an innocent, vulnerable mother to a young son.  He helps her out. Watching television, the boy says you can always tell who the bad guys are. Driver asks: ‘How do you know?’

The girl’s husband has been away, in prison, for what we don’t know.  He eventually comes home, and has problems he can’t handle.  He is roughed up to pay escalating demands for protection payments he may or may not have ‘purchased’ while in prison. This threatens the mother and boy. Driver decides to help get the money, in a robbery he has been asked to drive for, but things go awry.

Bad guys show up for the same money.  They kill the husband. In a sinister luxury SUV, they give chase. Driver races away. He manages to get bumper to bumper – in front of them – going very fast, backward, in control.  They think they have him, but just near the end of the road, an end they don’t see because they are looking at him, he spins around to the side, and they go on to crash.

But he gets found, and almost killed.  He acts fast, and survives.

Somehow, he knows how to deal with creeps, how you have to speak to them, how you cannot trust them, how they only respond to threat and force, how you sometimes have to kill them.

But they keep coming, like insects.  He has to stomp one to death, in front of her, in an elevator, to protect her.  He has no choice.  She watches. Maybe she thinks he is one of them. She leaves. What can he say?

They kill his friend.

He must have thought he was one of them, at one time, but with her he seems to realize he isn’t.  He is not going to go back.

He phones her:  “I just want you to know that you and the boy are the best thing that has ever happened to me”.

Then he goes to settle things, to ensure her safety. He gives the ring leader a chance to honor an honest deal. The guy doesn’t, of course, and Driver, nearly killed,  has to do what he has to do.

He leaves the money with the body.

 

 

Swerve

Quantum theory predicts that the vacuum of space is a roiling bath of virtual particles that continuously appear and disappear.  These vacuum fluctuations produce measurable phenomena, such as the Casimir effect, which arises from the pressure the virtual photons exert on stationary bodies.  In 1970, Gerald Moore theorized that bodies in accelerated motion would produce real photons out of quantum vacuum fluctuation . . . Accelerated bodies modify quantum vacuum fluctuations, causing emission of photon pairs from the vacuum and dissipation of the bodies’ motional energy.  The power dissipated in the motion of the body is equal to the total radiated electromagnetic power, as expected according to the law of energy conservation.”  Nature,  November, 17, 2011.

Acceleration of matter in vacuum space creates photons, particles of light.  Acceleration of spin creates magnetism.  Acceleration of mass creates gravity.  There. . is. . something. . about. . acceleration.  It is a form of change, of variation, in our universe, a special form, it is change of change – change squared. And it is the essence of  gravity, matter, and light.

It is mysterious that light has the same velocity for all observers, but it does.  To be so, it must be something like infinite acceleration, each point of light being infinitely close to being instanteously brief, but infinitely accelerated from the previous point, infinitely close to reaching an asymptotic limit of velocity that is, weirdly, infinitely close to being constant and therefore . . .finite. Einstein realized that light, then, being infinite acceleration that  paradoxically achieves finite and constant velocity, is the universal invariant. It can be relative or variable to no other position or movement.  Curiously, although matter and energy are interchangeable, only energy – electromagnetic radiation – can travel at the speed of light, matter cannot.

The Roman poet, Lucretius, in his famous poem:  On the Nature of Things, introduced to the Roman world, the philosophy of the pre-Socratic Greeks of 300 B. C.  These thinkers had deduced that the building blocks of reality – atoms – were infinitely small, infinite-in-number entities that repell and attract each other such as to create all things and events. These ancient Greeks saw, long before Darwin and Einstein and quantum physics, that the fundamental units must have . . . what Lucretius called: swerve  – an irreducible, varying indeterminancy in their behavior so as to make for the change with variation that is necessary for the evolutionary processes that manifest all things and events, inorganic and organic. The most basic units of reality, they realized must be, themselves, units of variation, units of change.

If all the individual particles, in their infinite numbers, fell through the void in straight lines, pulled down by their own weight like raindrops, nothing would ever exist.  But the particles do not move lockstep in a preordained single direction.  Instead, “at absolutely unpredictable times and places they deflect slightly from their straight course, to a degree thqt could be described as no more than a shift of movement” (2.218-20 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things),   Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt, pg.188.

Even if cooled to a temperature of absolute zero, all objects will retain a fundamental jitter in their physical positions due to quantum ‘zero-point’ fluctuations.”  Painter, et. al, Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 033602, 2012