As the week draws to a close, I leave you with this enigmatic yet profound declaration of self against an uncaring universe. South Gate Is. But is it? How can we know? In the 17th century Descartes believed existence was proven by his own consciousness. In the 18th century Johnson demonstrated it by kicking a stone. Kant later added German notions of rigor to the question of existence by distinguishing between the ding an sich and our mere observation of the thing, which was necessarily incomplete and ultimately unknowable. In the 19th century, advances in pure mathematics brought new insights, with existence implied by the Zermelo–Fraenkel axiomatization of set theory. In the 20th century, as modern science captured the popular imagination, Schrödinger insisted that existence was contingent on observation. Schrödinger’s cat thought Schrödinger was a crackpot, but put up with him anyway because he provided a nice bowl of cat food every day.

In the end, despite the brave affirmation of this sign, perhaps we can never know whether South Gate truly is. And even if we did, what is it? The sign itself—rectangular, cold, and asymmetric—provides no clue, and anyway, south is a purely relative term. South of what? At the north pole, every gate is south. At the south pole, no gates are south. In space, the word lacks meaning entirely. We can therefore hardly accept South Gate Is as a statement of universality, but only as an aspiration limited in spacetime. Life sure is complicated, isn’t it?

June 1, 2018 — San Onofre, California

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate