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2003-09-21 - 9:05 p.m.

I've been reading Lila at work lately. Lila is the sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which is my favorite book. For some reason, I've never been able to get through Lila; I'll start it but then I'll put it down. I've been reading a lot of Terry Pratchett lately, and a deeper, more meaningful book seemed about right for an interim novel in all of the Pratchett silliness. Hence: Lila.

As I was reading today, a sentence struck me: "No one has ever seen substance and no one ever will. All people ever see is data." I took a step back and thought, what? I always thought of substance as that which has form and shape; substance in terms of matter. So I looked up the word substance in the dictionary. Webster's defines it as: 1) a) essence b) a fundamental characteristic part or quality [I liked this very much, because if you've read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, you'll know that book is all about Quality, and so is Lila to some extent] c) GOD. WHAT! I thought. Substance = GOD? How strange to see that as a definition in a dictionary. It really was all capitalized, too. So! Substance = GOD, which makes sense with Pirsig's reference to no one ever seeing substance. And don't give me that bullshit about seeing the face of God and all that, because if that really was the case, there'd be no atheists.

The definition didn't end with GOD though, although you'd think it would. It went on: 2) a) ultimate reality [another word for GOD I supposed] b)practical importance [not really a definition of GOD by my standards, but most people who believe in GOD would say otherwise]

This was more interesting than I figured looking up the word substance would be, I thought to myself. But wait! There were even MORE defintions! 3) a) physical material from which something is made. [ah, I thought, I wasn't too off base with my original thought of what substance means] b) matter of particular or definite chemical constitution [right, right I thought] and then I came to c) something deemed harmful. WHAT!!! HOW can a single word contain both the definitions "GOD" AND "SOMETHING DEEMED HARMFUL"?! Not to mention, "ULTIMATE REALITY!" All in the word substance! I wondered if fundamentalist Christians could be deemed as substance abusers, and got a kick out of the idea. Pretty much anyone who takes God so seriously and let God run their lives. Nothing wrong with that really, if they're happy with it. Which for some reason so few of them seem to be. My memories of going to church mostly consist of a bunch of grim looking, unhappy people. And, ultimate reality as a substance deemed harmful? A crazy thought. Or is it? There's no way of me knowing, unless the day comes when I realize I am God myself.

Substance is my new favorite word now. I'm looking forward to picking it out in various conversations, newscasts, movies, and books. What an amazing word! Ultimate reality! Something deemed harmful! GOD! Fascinating.

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