Our bodies are not machines. Our brains are not computers. The living world is not a market or a battlefield. The solar system is not a frontier. The universe is not a four-dimensional block or a ten-dimensional bubble or any mathematical construct. Equations are approaches; approaches are not the world. Theories are models; models are not the world. Metaphors are fictions; fictions are not the world.

We need them all, because the “cognitive revolution” in our brains disabled us from direct experience, but we need to recognize them for what they are: the crutches, lovely and extravagant as we can make them, upon which we hobble through reality. With these imaginary tools we have built a squalid and brilliant shell for our timid flesh, unforgivingly material as that stone Samuel Johnson kicked, but reality unmakes even the hardest materials in a cosmic heartbeat. And so the ordered pulses of energy through which our transactions are done and upon which our words now float? Sea foam.

It’s not a two-way street: what exists exists independently of us, but we do not exist independently of it. Here’s a different metaphor: Technologists are blindly sawing away at the umbilical cord as we speak, but they are stabbing through the womb to get at it.