On Self and World: “They Could Never Be There What They Are Here”


What is your understanding of self? What is your understanding of the strength of relatedness between self and the world that the self finds itself dwelling in?  Can we easily separate self and the world – are they two distinct entities that bear little intimacy with one another?  Or is Heidegger correct in asserting that self and world are one: being-in-the-world.

What about freedom?  Is human freedom unlimited – one can make of oneself whatever one wishes irrespective of the world that one finds himself dwelling in?  Or human freedom always a finite freedom?  Which is to say a human being, any human being, every human being, is only every granted finite freedom: freedom within certain boundaries – boundaries set by the world that one finds oneself dwelling in?  Here the word ‘world’ speaks more than the physical universe.  It refers also and especially to the social world – the world created by man including the world of people (including their God / gods) and the people’s way of showing up and travelling in the world?

I invite you to read and be present to the following words:

“There are four Bescharyin here at the tea house with me, exotic figures, splendidly robed, and armed, their hair teased out and glued into strands……. The contact between us is instantaneous and overwhelming. There is a spirit in this tea, a magic solvent to wash away our differences. This is another reason why I am here: to experience (nothing less) the brotherhood of man. Imagine meeting these men in a London pub or an American Diner. Impossible. They could never be there what they are here. They would be made small by the complexities, the paraphernalia that we have added to our lives..…. I had to come here to realise the full stature of man: here outside a grass hut, on a rough wooden bench, with no noise, no crowds, no appointments, no axe to grind, no secret to conceal, all the space and time in the world, and my heart as translucent as the glass of tea in my hand.

The sense of affinity with these men is so strong that I would tear down every building in the West if I thought it would bring us together like this. I understand why the Arab idea seems so perverse, so fanatical, untrustworthy and self destructive to the Western mind. It must be because the Arab puts an ultimate value on something we no longer even know exists. Integrity, in its real sense of being at one with oneself and one’s God, whoever and wherever that God may be. Without it he feels crippled.”

– Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

I say that wo/man and world are in the most intimate of relationship. No other relationship comes close. And this is so beautifully expressed by Ted Simon when he says “They could never be there what they are here.”  Yet this most intimate of relationship (wo/man, world) is hidden from you, me, us. We are not present to it. Being not present to the intimacy of this relatedness you/i/we pay little or no attention to the world.  And thus no attention to the way that the world influences, moves, shapes us.  Put differently, an enduring  transformation of self necessitates a transformation in world.  For self and world are a unity each flowing into and shaping the other.  Even more radically, the self is not closed, it is open. When you get the level of openness that is the case you see the self for what it is: a fiction. And you see that human freedom can never be selfish – genuine freedom necessarily consideration of the world in which one dwells. The freedom to rape, plunder, pollute the world rebounds on self.

Everything That Shows Up Shows Up In Relationship; Everything Said is Said by Someone


In our default way of being in the world, in the West, we ascribe properties to objects. So without any conscious-deliberative thought, we say:

  • This rose is red;
  • This bag is heavy;
  • My husband-wife-partner is selfish;
  • My boss is harsh-selfish-demanding-stupid;
  • My work is boring;
  • The English are cold-unfriendly people;
  • The Americans are arrogant;
  • This food is delicious;
  • She has such an irritating voice ……

Let’s stop and ask ourselves the question, “Is what I take for granted really what is so?”  Let’s just consider the last assertion “She has such an irritating voice!”, as assertion made by a family member when she heard me listening to a podcast.

When I/you say “She has such an irritating voice!” what is it that I am sharing?  Am I pointing out an objective truth? Am I pointing out to the intrinsic ‘suchness’ of her voice?  It looks that way doesn’t it given that is our cultural practice: we stand aside from the world, looking at it as a scientist does, and describe the properties of the world – including the properties of people, of objects, of groups of people and objects. And in so doing we forget that it is i/you/we who are doing the describing!

It occurs to me that when I say “She has such an irritating voice!” I am not speaking an objective truth. Rather, I am pointing at and sharing my lived experience. If I were to describe this lived experience it would be something like this:

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find that her voice shows up as irritating. “

Do you notice the different between these two statements:

“She has such an irritating voice!” and

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find her voice shows up as irritating.”

Do you notice that the label ‘irritating voice’ points towards and highlights the flavour-tone-touch of  my relationship with her?  ‘Irritating voice’ is not a property of her. Her voice is simply her voice: it is neither melodious nor irritating.  Any irritation that shows me in me arises out of my relating with her voice. 

Summing up:

– man is being-in-the-world-with-others and as such always exist in relationship. Everything that shows up shows up in the space of relationship. There are no objects with intrinsic properties independent of others.  

– all descriptions, all labeling, all asserting is done by someone. Humberto Maturna is reported to have said “Everything said is said by someone”.  By this he meant that all acts of cognition-experience occur, are distinguished by, and spoken by someone.  This also means that “All that is heard is heard by someone.” 

– when you and I get that, really get that, then the space of transformation (in our relating to ourself, to others, to the world in which we dwell) opens up and is available for reinterpretation. Whether you and I step into that space is a choice that we can accept or decline.  

 

 

 

It snowed, there is snow, is that all there is to it?


The folks at the weather station predicted snow.  And then it snowed. And there was snow.

Upon seeing the snow the youngest two members of the family ran to the windows.  They became smiles and excitement.  They lived into a future that gave them joyous being: schools would be shut, no school, stay home, play with friends in the snow!

Upon being alerted to the snow, I reluctantly put on my shoes, headed outside and drove my car off the drive and towards the top of the hill.  I lived into a future of risk/struggle/fear.  The risk associated with getting my car off the drive.  Last time it snowed heavily and did that I couldn’t. And when I persisted the car skid into a wall and required costly repairs.  Struggle because every time it snows heavily it is a struggle to get anywhere without considerable effort. Why fear? Because twice in the past my car skidded in the snow/ice, I lost control, felt helpless, felt fear, and the car hit something.

Upon being alerted to the snow, my wife said and did nothing.  She just got on with what she was getting on with or needed to get on with.

The next day, we had to go out.  My wife drove and I was happy for her to drive.  Later we are told that the schools have closed and have to go and pick our son up.  There is a lot of snow on the ground. And it is snowing hard.  We are not at home.  There are long queues of cars.  The sat-nav does not work, I am fretting.  My wife, she is calm. It takes us over an hour to do a fifteen minute journey.  I am uneasy, I am cursing the snow, I am fretting about not being able to get through to my son – he is not answering his mobile phone. My wife? She is calm, she is patient, she drives, she finds her way.

We get home. The children in the street are playing in the snow. They are laughing, they are clearly making it a great time for themselves, playing in the snow. Someone is rolling in the snow.  It is our daughter, the youngest member of the family.  Her face is red. Her clothes are soaking wet. And she is experiencing pure joy – out rolling in the snow.  I look at her in astonishment and head inside where I can be warm.

What shows up for me?  I am present to several distinctions, that I first came across in Landmark Education, that are in operation in each of us:

Event/Story: The event is simply that there is some 15m of snow.  And then each of us, me,  wife, son, daughter, made a different story of the snow.

It is the future that you are living into that gives you your being-in-the-world right now.  My children were living into a future of no school, playing with friends, snowball fights. And their being was joyous.  My wife was living into a future of ‘no big deal and it snow can be pretty. So her being was undisturbed, she got on with what she needed to get on with.  Me, I was living into a future of fear/risk/struggle – of losing control of the car. And so my being-in-the-present was annoyance with the snow.

What am I present to? All that happened was that it snowed.  All there was was snow, ice, slush, more snow.  Yet, none of us left it at that. All of us made it mean something. And our being-in-the-world was a function of the meaning that our human machinery gave to the snow.

Which means that my being-in-the-world, your being-in-the-world, is a function of the story that runs me, runs you.  And our freedom lies in our ability/freedom to create better stories – stories that move-touch-inspire us.  Our ability to change reality – whether it snows or not – can be limited.  Our ability invent stories, invent possibilities, is unlimited.  So, ultimately, our freedom lies in the domain of possibility and of story.