Physics tells us that everything can be categorized into one of the following types of matter;
Of course, this is an oversimplification of human experience and reality. Since science still seems to be accepted as the main way of perceiving "reality", at least in the West, then it may be useful to point out that we may need to consider a fourth category of substance.
This substance could be called an "in between substance", a substance that lies between nothing and something, existence and non-existence.
Examples of this substance include the following;
the Internet (?)
"atmospheres" and "sensing"
Many of these substances (or states) we know exist, however we cannot say what they are or what they are comprised of. From a scientific point of view, they cannot be measured nor can they be proved to exist, however it is obvious that some of these substances do exist.
Considering these substances or states may help us to turn our attention towards them and, therefore we can better comprehend them. However, it may be useful to accept that, using established methods of comprehending ourselves and our world, we cannot understand them any better than we do. In this case we may have to adapt our methods of understanding "reality" to accept the existence of this "substance". However, not being able to explain the constitution of something does not mean it is not existent.
Interestingly, even though science has difficulty with these ideas/phenomena and, therefore rejects them, the layman readily accepts many of these experiences. Many people have a strong understanding of emotions in themselves and they are able to accurately read them in other people, yet they have no scientific training. Nor do they have difficulty with the idea that emotions exist, even though scientifically, they are essentially immeasurable and defy scientific scrutiny regarding their constitution.
People commonly and automatically use intuition, hunches and sense "atmospheres". People readily accept and practice religious and spiritual experiences. Of course, science cannot cope with such abstract phenomena; scientific method would reject these experiences as non-existent.
The occurrence of "in between states, or substances" is nothing new. Historically people have been aware of this and nothingness (including pointlessness) and "in between states" are common occurrences and themes in our Postmodern times. Indeed science its self, has come across similar states of matter, for example; neutrinos (that are both existent and non existent) and dark matter (also known as anti matter) that astrophysicists believe fills much of the universe.
In fact laymen (I use the term "layman" to refer to scientific laymen, in this essay) have a better conception of an "in between substance" than scientists. It is non-scientists that are turning to acupuncture, homeopathy and other "scientifically unprovable" types of health treatments, due to the failure of scientifically-based, allopathic medicine. Medical science is very slowly catching up with the more broad-minded attitudes of the general public. The general public are also taking practical steps to find solutions to Postmodern problems, such as increased immigration and increasing multi-culturalism, etc. Scientists seem to spend much time creating irrelevant, time consuming research and trying to convince us that phenomena is verifiable by scientific method. By this time, the general public have already found solutions.
The imaginative arts have shown curiosity towards nothingness, the limits of scientific method and the existence of "in between substances" for decades. Unfortunately, arts practitioners have often been labelled as incomprehensible by non-artists and completely ignored by academic and scientific disciplines.
Multiculturalism is having a more profound effect upon Western culture than many of us expected. In fact the influence of people from different cultures is turning established, Western thought upside down. This is a period of transition that can be difficult to adjust to. However, people from other cultures bring new experiences and perceptions to Western life. Multiculturalism is one factor of many that is causing people to perceive "reality" or "realities" differently. It is evident that people from non-Western cultures can have very different approaches to comprehending ourselves and our world.
Returning to the imaginative arts, I believe it is important to point out that they allow free thought, therefore arts practitioners can consider subjects such as "in between substances", the limitations of scientific inquiry, etc. without fear of ridicule. In doing so, the imaginative arts have brought comprehension and clarity to these subjects that, from an intellectual point-of-view, would not even have been considered.
Therefore, academic and scientific subjects need to apply more free-thinking, more creativity to their method and subject-matter. By doing this we can begin to approach less tangible subject- matter from more practical perspectives. Artistic (creative) thought should be applied to academic and scientific thought.