the relativity of cheese

Everything is absolute, but every thing is relative.

Here are some of the things that are relative: time, space, cheese, algebra, me, you, English and my mother's recipe for cheesecake.

Einstein taught us that time and space are relative. But how is cheese relative? Well, for some people, cheese is food. For others, eg people who are lactose-intolerant or allergic to milk, cheese is poison. Furthermore, there are and have been and will be places and times without cheese. Before there were milk-producing animals, there was no cheese. So cheese is not omnipresent, let alone omniscient or omnipotent.

How is algebra relative? Well, there are algebraic statements that can't be shown to be true algebraically, but rather can only be shown to be true outside of algebra, within a meta-system that encompasses algebra. In other words, the truths of algebra are not absolute. This limitation and others applies not only to algebra but to all "formal systems", per Godel's incompleteness theorems. Also, there are places where arithmetic is not known, and periods of time in which it has been unknown.

How am I relative?

  • Firstly, my physical body keeps changing. Cells die and new cells are created moment by moment.

  • Secondly, my "mental body" keeps changing. I forget things. I learn new things. What's in my mind changes from moment to moment (my mind and its content are unstable!). In fact, every sight I see -- whether seen before or for the first time -- presents itself to my mind as new information. Every sound I hear -- whether heard before or for the first time -- presents itself to my mind as new information.

  • Thirdly, my "emotional body" keeps changing. Most of the things that made me angry as a child, no longer make me angry or make me less so than they did before. My emotional body is maturing, albeit very, very slowly!

  • If there's part of me that's eternal and unchanging, my "soul body" if you like, then that part of me would, perhaps, be absolute. But where would that leave the rest of me? The preceding question is too complex and profound to be answered in this simple, shallow little blog.

How is English relative? Every language changes over time. There is no absolute English, French, Chinese or Swahili.

How is my mother's recipe for cheesecake relative?

    Firstly, the form in which it's expressed keeps changing. It can be written on paper (or parchment), or spoken out aloud, or entered into a database using a keyboard. At the moment, it's written in blue ink on a piece of notepaper that's stuck to the fridge door with a magnet. Exactly how long it will be there, in that form, is impossible to say.

  • Secondly, the relative quantities of the ingredients keep changing. The recipe specifies x teaspoons of sugar, but no two teaspoons are identical. Teaspoons made in one factory won't necessarily contain exactly the same amount of sugar as teaspoons made in another factory.

  • Thirdly, there will come a time when the recipe will no longer be my mother's recipe for cheesecake. Before my grandmother died, it was my grandmother's recipe for cheesecake. Before my grandmother was born, it was neither my mother's nor my grandmother's recipe for cheesecake.
How is Everything absolute? "Everything" includes every thing: material things such as rocks and planets, as well as immaterial things such as recipes and allergies.

By definition, Everything contains every thing: material, immaterial, past, present, future, real, imaginary, illusory, known, unknown, existent, non-existent and otherwise. There is nothing outside of Everything. Therefore, there is nothing for Everything to be relative to (with?). It's nonsensical to say that Everything is relative to itself. Everything is context-independent, absolutely. Every thing else is context-dependent.

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mgeorge said...

Superb. More woe for those who desperately want to believe that they have the "answers", that all woes exist only because others will not accept these answers, and that relativism is the creed of the Unspeakable One.

Most acquired tastes represent change - relativity. The foremost values of society are themselves shifting, no matter how much we want to "plug the dyke."

Gravity, that great abiding mystery of "hard" macro-physics, is itself relative as demonstrated by the Foccault pendulum; there is a large version of this device in the lobby of the NY UN building. Things here have detectible mass (weight) because of the mass of the Earth. The Earth, and every larger agglomeration of astronomical bodies in turn such as the Solar system, Galaxy, and galaxy clusters, have mass because they interact with surrounding masses - never mind whether "dark" or otherwise.

On a simpler scale, do we even understand why, as first demonstrated at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, why a large object and a light one fall at the same rate?

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, thanks for your comment. The article would be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of the relativities you mention.

Re the fourth paragraph, I'm sure there are millions, maybe billions of people who don't understand that particular principle. And probably at least millions who don't know what or where Pisa is, and have never heard of its Tower.

Thanks for stopping by, Cheers, MM.

Lily Strange said...

The world would be a far sadder place if there were no cheese.

masterymistery said...

Lily, indeed 'twould, but the fact that there is means the world's a far smellier place, my word! MM