FOREWORD FOR ‘DOUBLES’ BY TRISTAN CEDDIA, 2011
One is a puzzle, and here’s why.
One does not rely on other numbers to create it (like Three and Four being necessary to make Seven) or give it meaning (like how Six is explained according to the way it is divisible by Two and Three). It has its own symbolism and possibility.
The Oroboros is the snake that swallows its tail. It was said by Plato to be the first life in the universe. He described the creature like this:
“The living being had no need of eyes when there was nothing remaining outside him to be seen; nor of ears when there was nothing to be heard; and there was no surrounding atmosphere to be breathed… there was nothing which went from him or came into him: for there was nothing beside him.”
Oroborus was a complete and permanent cycle: as it self-slayed, it self-created. For this reason, it is a symbol of wholeness and the number One.
The creature also shows how One has the potential to be infinite. Like a perfect circle, Oroboros had no clear beginning or ending – and so logic supplies that it could always have existed, and may always exist this way.
But this is only true so long as the whole remains undifferentiated. A circle in several parts has clear points at which lines begin and end. Any challenge to the Oroboros – anything besides it – will affect the self-contained way in which it exists, and this will break its cycle. One can’t stay one when it is two.
The earliest written reference to a person as being ‘beside themselves’ is in the King James Bible, 1611.
Somewhere in Corinthians, it reads:
“For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.”
Clearly, in the centuries since this was written, the meaning of the phrase has changed. We still use it to refer to states of anguish, ecstasy, fury and joy, but also to exaggerate the state someone is in. We use it offhand, like chucking a ring over a pole without turning back to see if we actually nailed it.
To be beside oneself in 1611 was something profound. The passage states that, when communing with other people, we remain contained – but when we encounter a presence greater than ourselves, there’s a split between the body and the spirit: one goes one way; one goes the other.
This was not a new idea by any means. The Ancient Greeks also believed that, under immense pressure, the physical self would be deserted by the soul.
The idea that we might contain different parts, or two sides that can lose cohesion in the face of a challenge, might sound inhuman – but it is actually our humanity that makes this possible.
Dualities are what make up everyday living. We work things out by comparing two or more options. We find differences between two things funny or unsettling or profound. In the Corinthians passage, the state of containment is the lowlier one. Holding it together can also mean being unchallenged, unthinking, even unrealized. In a way, being beside yourself is what it means to be human.
‘Doubles’ is now available at Colette.