Breaking through the ‘space barrier’ from abstract perception to alive natural perception
This is a guest blog written by scientist and natural philosopher Dr. Alan Rayner.
Imagine yourself standing petrified on the concrete edge of a swimming pool, while being jostled by those next to you. Someone splashing about in the water shouts to you. ‘Come on in, the water’s lovely!’ But you’ve never experienced full immersion in water before and you’ve never been taught how to swim. How do you feel?
Our cultural and educational institutions teach us, from a young age, to perceive our selves and others as if we were separate, isolated objects, both set apart from one another and boxed in by rigid boundaries.
In order to feel secure, we mentally sever ourselves from each other and the creative wildness of the natural world by setting in place an imaginary hard line or ‘cut’ – what I call ‘the space barrier’ – that enforces profound social and psychological conflict and environmental destruction.
Recall Hamlet’s famous soliloquy and where it led him: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, OR, to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them’.
Do we give our selves the space and time to stop to think carefully about why we impose these definitive limits on ourselves – as present or absent – and Nature – as a sea of troubles.
Ask yourself what kind of a boundary could actually cut the space within you away from the space around you without itself including space?
Imagine drawing a circle on a still sheet of paper. You can’t do this simply by applying pencil point to paper – all you would get is a ‘dot’, a stationary point. Instead, you have to move the pencil point around to produce the circle, while not making the pencil point so sharp and hard as to cut a hole in the paper. The circle is formed by a combination of continuous paper with continuous pencil movement. Now, bearing in mind that paper is, like water, a tangible substance that can be cut, not a limitless pool of intangible presence, like space, think how this could relate to the way natural forms arise, through the movement of a presence within and around space that cannot be cut.
We can dispense with our imaginary need to hard-line ‘things’ by recognising how natural space and boundaries actually are distinct but mutually inclusive presences. We can do this by appreciating:
- Natural space as a presence everywhere that is not a substance but makes the existence of substance possible
- Energy as continuous motion that locally in-forms space into bodily presence
When we think about it, every ‘thing’ or ‘body’ is 100 % space PLUS energy, not part space and part energy. That’s how Nature is, including human nature.
All natural form is the co-creation of continuously mobile, informative presence (energy) and continuous receptive presence (space).
This different perception frees us from divisive belief in a struggle for existence (‘to be’) against non-existence (‘not to be’), to an acceptance of living bodily boundaries continuously circulating and reconfiguring within a limitless sea of receptivity, not holding their own against a sea of troubles.
As William Wordsworth once declared:
‘In nature, everything is distinct, yet nothing is defined into absolute, independent singleness’.
Now I’d like to introduce an observation that brought out this radically different, natural perception of everything to me.
‘Mushrooms and toadstools’ are, in reality, no more ‘all there is’ to a fungus than an apple is all of an apple tree!
Behind the scenes of that outward appearance is an extraordinary, hidden production team that does all the hard work of gathering in the energy required to make it possible. This is known as the ‘mycelium’ , a collective organisation of microscopic, branching tubes, called ‘hyphae’, which grow from their tips in a radiating pattern.
In abundance it multiplies; in scarcity it conserves and redistributes what it already has. Unlike our current, divisive social and economic systems, it does not borrow what it hasn’t got from a future that hasn’t come in order to gain a competitive advantage over its rivals!
Here is an important lesson I learned from Nature:
In Naturally Sustainable Organizations, Life is a gift of energy to be received, sustained and passed on in natural relay
This brings me to recognize that evolutionary diversification arises through a dynamic transformational process of natural inclusion of each in the other, NOT, as envisaged by Darwinian selection theory, through the competitive exclusion and extinction of one by another. Instead, evolutionary diversification is perceived as a fluid dynamic process of cumulative energetic transformation, over vastly differing scales from microcosm to macrocosm.
We can dispense with defining things into an abstract, unnatural order and learn to live in a more naturally attuned, passionate, compassionate and sustainable way.
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