What’s Up?

Posted By on May 27, 2009

“The Upside (And Downside) of Up”

.: Who invented up? This seems, to me, a crucial question unfairly ignored by nearly every philosopher who ever committed quill to paper (doubtless it is ignored by a fair share of laymen as well). I’ve searched online databases of texts by Plato, Descartes, and Derrida to see if they had anything to say on the origins of up, but each philosopher I examined appears to take it entirely for granted, as if it didn’t matter who made it for us.

.: Up is one of the more useful tools for survival we possess. We use it when left, right, forward, backward, and down are unsavory options. And while up has been around for a long time, it only really came to use relatively recently when our ancestors started climbing up trees just a few million years ago. Clearly someone out there knew we would need a place to go when we could no longer advance, retreat, turn around, or bury ourselves, but even more miraculously they had the foresight to provide it to us before we even knew we needed it (indeed, before we could be said to know anything at all).

.: But up need not be limited as a tool of mere survival — up has many applications in areas of pleasure. For instance, to better appreciate a rockin’ tune we simply turn the volume up. When we want to show approval, up is where we stick our thumbs. And I need not remind you how best to position the sunny side of an egg.

.: One troublesome aspect of this beautiful gift has been its subversion for nefarious aims. Long-range missiles would not pose the threat they do if not for the existence of up; owls and other terrifying birds of prey would not be able to pounce upon helpless field mice without access to it; indeed, the more unpleasant effects of alcohol would have fewer means of manifesting themselves if there were no place for the contents of our stomachs to be thrown. I am left wondering if our world would be any worse by up’s absence; I am beginning to conclude that it would not.

.: The only thing preventing me from asserting this conclusion with absolutely certainty is our lack of knowledge concerning who designed up. If only we could ask them directly or read the instruction manual they left behind, then we might be able to know whether or not we’ve been going about this up business all wrong. The former possibility depends entirely on whether the designer still exists, the latter on whether we could read their handwriting.

.: The only thing I know for certain is that up clearly could not create itself. You could argue that up is entirely subjective to the observer’s frame of reference and not at all inherent in the structure of the universe, but soon enough you’ll find yourself sliding down that slippery slope to conclude that the universe itself wasn’t invented. To even say as much would be absurdity! You can trust me on this matter – it’s not the kind of thing I would simply make up.

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