I wrote this article 6 years ago today, but it got removed from this website in one of my many rebuilds of anotherguy.us – it’s back now, in all of it’s original splendor. Enjoy.
What happens when an Unstoppable Force collides with an Immovable Object?
Over the course of time, our greatest minds (some not so great) have given this question a lot of thought. There have been dozens of answers provided as a means to put finality on this discussion, and while some are very good (others very funny), they’ve not satisfied my thirst for more knowledge on the subject. I’ve been pondering this question myself for some time, and was recently reminded of the question by Andrew Eddie and his wonderful tweet.
But why am I not satisfied? There are several reasons:
- How do we know that the IO (immovable object) and UF (unstoppable force) even exist? If they don’t, then this question, and the answers, are not only hypothetical, but they are also a complete waste of time, since an answer simply does not exist.
- If the IO and UF are actual entities that can be perceived, then why have previous answers not given the definitions of what these entities really are? Since the entities have never been defined, there is no reason for me to believe that what they say is true.
To give you my own answer to the original question, then, I must first respond to these two problems and give some credibility to my own statements. Consequently, because of the nature of the questions, I’ll have to answer them together. Get ready for a while ride.
They don’t exist. They do exist.
When tackling the problem of whether or not an IO or UF actually exist, I realized that they could not possibly be real, tangible, physical entities in our own Universe. The reason why is found in the very nature of what these objects represent.
An Immovable Object cannot be moved, so when science (fact) tells us that objects in our universe are continually moving, either away from or toward each other, then immediately our claim that the IO could be anything physical produces an unsolvable problem (is this the UF? hardly, it just means we can’t find the solution). But even if for some reason there was a physical object in our universe that was incapable of moving it’s mass from one position to another (though this breaks what we understand of physics to be true), then the simple fact that it is a physical object makes it something that we can change through whatever processes might change it (whether that be with something nuclear, or like a chisel).
We can safely bet that the IO is not something like a real physical entity.
In the same way, an Unstoppable Force would have to be something only realized either in another universe, or in some other unobserved way. It cannot be something ‘simple’ like energy, because energy is always shifting, stopping and changing into some other form. Energy is our best offering, though, since anything physical has the same sorts of limitations on it as our IO was seen to possess above.
Physics vs Ideas
If we take these observations at face value, many people might say, “The entities therefore do not exist, and so the question is without a point.” This is only partly true. They do not exist in our physical world, but the realm of ideas and thought, they could exist very easily.
An object, as it turns out, is not limited to being something that is seen or felt, but is something (in a general sense) that can be described. We can have an object of conversation, an object of our love or an object that we are longing for (a goal). An Immovable Object, then, can be something of an idea.
The same goes for an Unstoppable Force.
This thought process only opens doors to whole new riddles. For example, we cannot say that something like ‘language’ is either of these, since we know that there has only been language for a certain amount of time (indeed, at least since the universe began). If something exists only based on the creation or destruction of universes, then it is not very ‘immovable’ or ‘unstoppable’, is it?
A Note on “God” – I am taking out any question of whether or not there is a God or gods from this discussion. Though I do believe in the Judaeo-Christian God myself, I recognize that an opinion of leap of faith regarding a belief in God does little to help the hopeful wander. The belief that God would be both immovable and unstoppable, not to forget the belief that there is no infinite deity figure that exists at all, is a question for faith, not for fact.
Ideas, in themselves, can be neither Unstoppable Forces nor Immovable Objects, since they’ve only existed since, at the earliest, the beginning of the Universe, and at the latest, the end. If ideas cannot be either of these, then what can?
Now that’s an interesting question.
What Facts Are Real?
First, let’s get something else straight: I cannot prove anything to you at all. Perhaps you are schizophrenic and don’t realize it, this entire physical universe is within the playground of your imagination. We exist because your mind says we exist, because you think you are feeling something when you reach out your hand. For all you know, pain is just something that your mind invented when it conceived this entire universe, and you are actually a god trapped in the world that you created.
To further prove my point, I ask this question; do insane people generally know that they are insane? No. The deceived think that they are being told the truth until proof of that deception is brought into the light. It is entirely possible that you are simply deceiving yourself (and we all know that the lies we tell ourselves and believe are the ones that are hardest to resign later on).
What all of this means, though, is that ‘facts’ in themselves, are not immovable either, even when they seem to be the likely choice. If the ‘fact’ that the Earth revolves around the Sun turns out be something of your imagination, then it is no longer a fact, is it? It’s an idea… and ideas can be moved, changed.
There is one single fact, though, that is universally true and quite unchangeable:
There does exist a fact.
The Immovable Object, Defined
Some would jump back to my previous conclusion that all facts could be bound within the schizophrenics perceived reality, and therefore could not be defined as true. The conclusion to this thought it, “There may or may not be a fact.” But this is crazy-talk, since in stating that ‘fact’ you are, in fact, proving the fact that, “There does exist a fact.”
This initial fact may only be talking of itself by stating that there is a single fact, but if there are multiple other facts, with all of those other facts being up for debate as to whether or not they exist, this original fact will still be true. For example, you alone can deduce from all of this two other facts: “I think therefore I am,” and “There are multiple facts.” If the second fact is true, then the third is as well.
Going back to Andrew, here the answer for your question – there is at least ONE truth – “There does exist a fact.”
This, my friends, is our infamous Immovable Object.
And now onto the Unstoppable Force.
What One Thing Is, The Other Is Not
If an Immovable Object is that initial singular fact, then what is the Unstoppable Force? I suppose that we can jump to the conclusion very swiftly by saying a single word:
If ‘the fact’ is the only truth that we can prove, and is the only thing that is immovable, then the ‘force’ that is unstoppable’ would be exactly the opposite. If you are the only being that exists (based on the second fact) then the force is found in everything that you think, which is continually shifting and moving. If we all exist in reality, rather than just in the schizophrenic’s mind, then this force has grown infinitely more violent: Each of our own minds is continually transforming and growing and influencing the rest of the world around us in a greater way than your own single mind can.
The effect is exponential.
Even people with the strongest convictions can have their minds changed at some point – or at the very least, they can die, and therefore all of their thoughts erased completely, being transformed into nothingness (again, I’m leaving out the existence of a supernatural realm, such as heaven, from this discussion).
If it helps, perhaps don’t think of “ideas” as they exist within the minds of sentient beings. Think of them more as possibilities.
The Unstoppable Force, Defined
If ‘facts’ are immovable, then these ever changing ‘ideas’ are exactly the opposite – unstoppable.
Their very creation story is based in the concept of “change”. No ideas existed before the Universe, but at the moment the Universe began and changed the state of itself from non-existent to gloriously here, an idea was sparked in the life that inevitably appeared.
After all of this time, we’ve finally answered our original two questions. 1. “Do these things exist?” 2. “What are they?” They do exist, and they are “There does exist a fact.” (IO) and “Ideas” (UF).
Now, what happens when they finally meet?
What of these things meeting?
‘Finally’ is not the right word to use when asking this question. The nature of these two things tells us that they have existed long before any of us were around (if God exists, then it has been even longer!). I believe the question should be rephrased, “What happened when they met?”
I like to think it was the Big Bang or something equivalent. Even besides that, though, we can see that everything has happened throughout history because of these two entities colliding. As humanity strives to find what other ultimate truths there are, our ideas continually batter against that initial truth. We ask questions, and receive one solemn answer:
How did the Universe begin? There does exist a fact.
When was life created? There does exist a fact,
What is the meaning of life? There does exist a fact.
Is there a God? There does exist a fact.
What should I have for dinner? There does exist a fact.
Because our own interpretations of those questions is continually changing and evolving as we gain an understanding of other ‘known facts’, the only true answer that can be given us of any of those is that ‘There does exist an answer (a fact).”
And since that fact does not, in fact, give us an answer at all; we are left with ourselves. We are left with the effects of ideas. We are left with wars, lies, religions, organizations, language, science, debates and cults. We communicate to try and uncover more of these ‘facts’, only to discover that none can be proven or used outside of finity.
We keep asking. We keep seeking. We keep getting new ideas for how to act or react to the universe around us. Our unstoppable ideas constantly slamming against the immovable facts.
So, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?