What is the difference between a photograph and a painting, from the point of view of the observer? If the observer is a machine, no difference at all, just pixels, impulses on rods and cones on our retinas (mine don’t work so well, being colorblind), eventually rendered on paper as printers dots (cf. Roy Lichtenstein) or as more pixels somewhere else. From woman, to photograph, to pixel, to painting, to man… A continuum of energy, of phenomena, of perception by consciousness. So, the world is really just energy, just one darn phenomenon after another, when you get down to it.
When you get down into it, the material world is mostly empty space, as is the universe, when you get out into it.. Difficult to find a hard surface on which to lay one’s head, or pound one’s fist. So, relax. No need to define everything, when this or that began, where those things are (i.e. have their being). Everything just is, as we perceive it, and as we create it with consciousness. The funny thing is, consciousness is itself created, so, as Lewis Thomas once remarked, we humans (and whatever else is out there scratching its head and thinking on some other planet) are actually the material world’s reflection on itself. Well, he said it better, and for someone who said it at MUCH greater length, go to Hegel.
Man his own nature never yet could sound,
He knows not whence he is, nor whither bound.
Atoms tormented on this earthly ball,
The sport of fate, by death soon swallowed all.
But thinking atoms, who with piercing eyes
Have measured the whole circuit of the skies…
from Poem on the Lisbon Earthquake by Voltaire