Borders & spatial relations

“I feel life doesn’t have boundaries … King Kong was my introduction to serious art … and somebody who knows physics and doesn’t understand politics is a barbarian – that’s the kind of person who’ll go to work for the government and build bombs without thinking about the moral implication of what they’re doing”
– Robert Anton Wilson, Borders


Borders was a 1989 film, described on IMDb as a “philosophical flume ride through the physical, political and moral borders that inhibit the free movement of people and ideas.” It has interview clips with folks such as Robert Anton Wilson and Michio Kaku, and even features Steve Buscemi in a 6-minute dramatised section at the beginning (playing a sort of young Chomsky figure who goes to work for a military research department).

Borders, boundaries, and the physical and virtual territories they divide, provide a recurring theme in RAW’s writings. Most RAW aficionados will be familiar with his line about domesticated primates marking their territories with ink excretions on paper – and more generally with his riffs on how emotional-territorial neural systems activate not just in disputes over physical territory but in ideological and semantic disgreements, etc.

How the merely ideational realms count as territories to be jealously defended probably owes a lot to the way we conceptualise using spatial, material, embodied metaphors and models – even on the most abstract subjects. I wrote about this a little in my previous post on inherent “physicality”.

“The universe opens to infinity in all directions. As Blake said, you can see infinity in a grain of sand. Nietzsche said there are abysses everywhere, once you start really looking. But because of our mammalian habits of breaking things down into territories, we all create our own reality tunnel instead of seeing the infinity all around us.”
– Robert Anton Wilson, Borders


The spatial concept of physical division tends to serve as the prototype for our idea of difference, generally – including ideological difference. No doubt especially in pre-quantum reality-maps – in which physical objects are seen as existing independently of – spatially separate from – the experiencing observer. (This probably describes everyday ‘common sense’ for most of us).

Thus, the notion of spatial separation configures our apprehension of “different” things. Boundaries. “You think our beliefs are comical?! Then fuck off back to where you came from.”

We can speculate that in post-quantum (observer effect) reality-tunnels, in which the notion of separate, observer-independent existence of physical objects has dissolved somewhat as seeming incoherent, there might be a softening of this territorial behaviour over difference.

Different opinions, different ideologies, different semantics – they won’t appear so much like something on the “other side” of a spatial relation. That sounds pretty good in the context of a world that seems headed towards more dividing walls and more tightly guarded borders.


Borders is currently available to watch on Youtube.

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