An empirical test for comparing the degree of life of different centers
I mean that we ask, specifically, which of the two things generates, in the observer, the most wholesome feeling?
My experiments show that, in general, people agree to a remarkable extent about which objects are more, or less, like their best, or better, or most whole selves. Very surprisingly, it appears that this judgement is independent of person-to-person differences, and independent of culture.
What is more, this form of the question creates the opportunity for growth. Even if an observer is at first confused by the question (and perhaps also by the question, “Which of the two is more alive?”), it allows him to teach himself and to grow in his ability to judge the matter.
The question forces a kind of internal development and growth in the observer, so that he or she gradually comes face to face with what wholeness really is, and is able, step by step, slowly to give up his or her own idiosyncratic ideas about what is beautiful, and replace them with a lasting accuracy of judgement.
There is an awareness of the beauty of potential that lies in each one of us which is crucial to the question. If we seek a thing which reflects this potential as well as what we have achieved, it is entirely different from choosing a thing which merely reflects the one-sided imperfection of the present idea we have of ourselves.
A thing about which we choose to say, “That looks like me” or “That looks just the way I feel”, is always one-sided, has our peculiarity in it. It will be in no sense universal and this is because, in our immaturity, we try to forget the so-called bad things about our selves, our incapacities, our weakness.
But when we look for a thing which reflects everything, both our weakness and our happiness, our vulnerability and our strength, then we enter an entirely different domain. The question takes on a different meaning, and we find that different people do usually choose the same things.
However, the surprising, and the important, thing is that the mirror-of-the-self test does not correspond to our everyday sense of what we like. When we really concentrate on the life in things by checking how much self they have, we find that sometimes, yes, the test does confirm our liking, or our preference. But at other times, it gives us quite different results, which are not stereotypes of good design but which surprise us, shock us out of our complacency, and make us recognize that we are confronted here with an autonomous phenomenon, that has a great deal to teach us.
This life or self in things is surprising, and it takes an enormous amount of attentiveness to be constantly awake to it and to keep it clear and distinct as something different from stereotyped liking or preference.
#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/8 The mirror of the self#