As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are also zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.
True art requires utter commitment. That applies to creativity of any type. The artist is a vehicle to “body forth” the new idea.
Here is Martin Buber’s take
“This is the eternal source of art: (I) am faced by a form which desires to be made (by me) into a work. This form is no offspring of (my) soul, but is an appearance which steps up to it and demands of it the effective power… The work does not suffer me to turn aside and relax into the world of It; but it commands. If I do not serve it aright it is broken, or it breaks me.”
I think that “bodying forth” is an accurate description of creative birth. I also have a note to myself on commitment. My wife (a psychoanalytic psychotherapist) talks of “claustro-acrophobia”, roughly translated as – sitting in the fence. Well, true originality requires utter commitment to the relationship with the idea. Otherwise the idea is broken and so am I…
“We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do” Einstein (in relation to wave-particle duality)
Quantum mechanics has repeatedly proved that energy and matter is contradictory – it is both a wave and a particle at the same time. In addition, it is observation that crystallises out our particular reality from the infinity of possibilities.
“When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove” John Donne
There is almost incontrivertible evidence that there is meaning within the universe. The physical constants are incredibly finely tuned to allow even atoms to form, never mind reflective consciousness. There are those who fervently wish to deny this meaning. (Why?). Their only defence is what is called the multiple universe proposition – that there are infinity universes and we happen to live in the one that has these constants aligned. Their problems are these. Firstly, there is not a shred of evidence for the proposition. Secondly it fails the test of simplicity (this is certainly not the simplest solution). Thirdly, even were it true – what then is the origin of the multiverses? Indeed, by definition Universe is all that is, and so multiverses are subsets of that. I personally dismiss this concept for what it is, materialist desperation. The Universe is significant and not simply material.
Material is but one aspect of reality, there is another a dual aspect. John Donne would call that “soul” as distinct from “body”…
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds…human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships” Ich und Du, Martin Buber
Martin Buber expresses this duality in his wonderful verse-philosophy “Ich und Du”. Not only is there duality in all-that-is, but it is in the dance – the relationships between the Within-Without, the wave-particle, the Ich-Du – that meaning exists.
People have called that meaning by all sorts of names. Who cares about semantics – a rose is still a rose by any name. If you’ve felt the connectedness of the Universe, then you’ve known joy in all its emphemerality, within the life of this body at least.
Dual, we certainly are, and inexplicably so. Although maybe…
“And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one” TS Elliot
* There is a tradition of theft within evolutionary science. Dawkins stole the concept of evolution in the noosphere and clothed in the language of the “meme”. He did not credit Teilhard de Chardin. Charles Darwin stole the concept of evolution by natural selection from James Hutton, who in 1794 wrote “in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be most liable to perish, while on the other hand, those organized bodies, which most approach to the best consitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race”.
Furbelows and curlicues
Flow tow below bellow follow glow
Hassock haired carded tows to rope gripped snake charming up to the pipe yet unremembered
Grip strip and magnify until chrysalis burst
out to new dimensions
(We are the process of weaving existence together)
Thinking is plural. It involves subject (thinker) and object (idea). Reality is in the relationship between; it is not concrete or material. “I think, therefore I am” is incomplete. Better would be – I think ABOUT, therefore there is existence.
This isn’t my insight, but variously Einstein’s (relativity), Bion’s (the mind as apparatus to think pre-existing ideas), Whitehead’s (Process and Reality) and Buber’s (Ich Ind Du). If there is a “singularity”, then it is outside the space-time in which we swim and spawn. As we Christians express it – God is “the Word, existing beyond time”. Others say the same thing in different ways (Nirvana ).
What we experience is dis-integration. Alone we are: alone. Point-less. Together and between us lies the truth. Indeed materiality is chimera: we reflect each other, flowers of the same plant. Reality is in the honouring of the God in You, in I-Thou rather than I-It.
“World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.”
“No man is an island” John Donne. But social media is trying to keep us there. The communion between each of us, real warm messy and vital – has always been the anodyne to our loneliness and insecurity. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. They give the illusion of connection, but not the substance; and they are in it for their profit. Money puts up these barriers, and we follow.
“The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being” Martin Buber. The difference between the isolation of the material existence and the vibrant human living in community is beautifully expressed by the jewish existentialist Martin Buber. He describes the two modes of man’s existence as I-It and I-Thou. If we interact with the world and people as material (It), then our I – our self – is material too. We imprison ourself on an island. If we acknowledge the other as Thou, then we are connected in a true sense. We each are transformed in our communion.
Consider. In the United States children talk to their friends in their break via their mobile phone – with so-called “social” media. Even though their friend may be sitting next to them. In Japan almost half of younger men and women prefer on-line sex and will not contemplate the “horrid” actuality of love-making. Face to face. Human.
Direct interaction is certainly messy and can be frightening. But it’s where joy flies leaping. When communion is real and vital, then we are each present to the other. It is the human condition to be insecure and lonely – inside and apart. We each live on our island with our inadequacy. Life and meaning is in the flow and community between us.
“The development of the function of experiencing and using comes about mostly through decrease of man’s power to enter into relation. How does this same man, who made spirit into a means of enjoyment for himself, behave towards the beings that live round about him?
Taking his stand in the shelter of the primary word of separation, which holds off the I and the It from one another, he has divided his life with his fellow-men into two tidily circled-off provinces, one of institutions and the other of feelings – the province of IT and the province of I.
Institutions are “outside”, where all sorts of aims are pursued, where a man works, negotiates, bears influence, undertakes, concurs, organises, conducts business, officiates, preaches. They are the tolerably well-ordered and to some extent harmonious structure, in which, with the manifold help of men’s brains and hands the process of affairs is fulfilled.
Feelings are “within”, where life is lived and man recovers from institutions. Here the spectrum of the emotions dances before the interested glance. Here a man’s liking and hate and pleasure are indulged, and his pain if it is not too severe…But the separated It of institutions is an animated clod without soul, and the separated I of feelings an uneasily fluttering soul-bird. Neither of them knows man; institutions know only the specimen, feelings only the “object”; neither knows the person or mutual life. Neither of them knows the present: even the most up-to-date institutions know only the lifeless past that is over and done with, and even the most lasting feelings know only the flitting moment that has not yet come properly into being. Neither of them has access to real life.”
“There is no I taken in itself, but only the I of the primary word I-Thou and the I of the primary word I-It. When a man says I, he refers to one or other of these. .. The primary word I-thou can only be spoken with the whole being. The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being.” Martin Buber, Ich und Du
The Jewish existentialist Martin Buber said “To man the world is two-fold .. the attitude of man is two-fold .. the one primary word is the combination I-Thou, the other is the combination I-It”.
I-thou is a relationship of inner to inner, an authentic encounter that is the touchstone of existence. (I-thou creating “our”).
Of course, Buber wrote in German and Du has currency in contrast to Sie or Es, whereas in English we now reserve intimate addressing for our relationship with God. How ironic!
In our English language how can we now mark the transition in relationships between the formality of “you are” and the caress of “thou art”? And when and why did we lose the rich language of intimacy?
Surely thou-ness was clear in the minds of the scholars constructing the King James Bible in 1611. Perhaps the slow death of this way of celebrating friendship is linked to the four hundred year rise of materialism since the reformation?
Perhaps as the smoke clears and we see the I-It debris left by capitalism and atheism a new expression of thou-ness will appear.
Let us pray so.