The Element of Irreducible Rascality

This is one of my favorite phrases coined by Alan Watts

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This is one of my favorite phrases coined by Alan Watts, who I’ve been immersing myself in over the last few months.

The idea of the element of irreducible rascality is that there is no perfect system. There’s no ultimate stability in anything: physical, logical, emotional, or spiritual. At the bottom of every hole, at the end of every train of thought, and behind even the most powerful structures, is a little rascal that will undo it all. It’s the exception to every rule, including this one.

All things fall apart.

If the universe is balanced on the top of a turtle’s back, and that turtle is balanced on top of another turtle’s back, and the turtles go all the way down, then the element of irreducible rascality is at the bottom, holding nothing, standing on nothing.

The element of irreducible rascality created the first creator, and nothing created it.

It’s the paradox that ties together the two ends of infinity.

When you think you’ve figured it out, it throws in a new wrench. It has infinite wrenches.

Does the set of all sets that don’t include itself include itself?

Did you stop kicking the king of Jupiter?



I find strange comfort in the element of irreducible rascality. The groundlessness of all things. The merging of cause and effect, particle and wave, light and shadow.

It is the antidote to one-upmansip and the friend of craftsmanship.

The element of irreducible rascality will subvert any desire for permanence, stability, of certainty.

In its place is an appreciation for how a thing is done, for savoring, for gratitude, for connection. Imagine that you want to prepare for a perfect future. You somehow manage to amass unlimited wealth and become ruler of the world. What do you do? You solve every problem that the world has. Everyone lives forever, is always healthy, empathic, and intelligent. Space travel is solved. Time travel is solved. Multidimensional travel is solved. Universal respect and equality is established between all beings. Everything is hilarious, creativity and self-expression come naturally, and there’s ample time to yourself as well as with loved ones and new acquaintances.

What then?

The element of irreducible rascality will wiggle in and create new problems, new uncertainties, new ways to trip us up.

Not because it’s ill-intentioned, but because it’s just a little rascal, and ultimately we need it.

It is a part of us and a part of the universe. We try to suppress this element, but it’s irreducible, and a part of every thing.

And so, when all problems are solved, and new problems emerge, the element of irreducible rascality calls us again to play with it.

Rather than trying to get rid of it this whole time, we could play with it and enjoy its company even amidst all of our problems.

Rather than trying to one-up the universe, we can become craftsmen and craftswomen of rascality. Enjoying the problems and the solutions. Creating problems and solutions. Destroying problems and solutions. Flipping the coin and playing the game with equal heart whether we win or lose, because the element of irreducible rascality will be there with us either way.

– written on BART

· In these piles: personal-mythology · Original post