Wholeness and feeling
Wholeness and “deep structure” are enormously difficult to see. Especially in a complex, real-world case, the task of finding the most structure-enhancing step available is therefore, in practice, extremely hard. Our current modes of perception are not always tuned to seeing wholeness in the world around us; and the exact definition of the structure of wholeness — the system of centers at all scales, with their attendant degrees of life and coherence — is cumbersome and hard to grasp when we try to grasp it by analytical means.
The living process can therefore be steered, kept on course towards the authentic whole, when the builder consistently uses the emerging feeling of the whole as the origin of his insight, as the guiding light at the end of the tunnel by which he steers. I am suggesting that if the builder, at each step of a living process, takes that step which contributes most to the feeling coming from the work, always chooses that which has the more profound feeling, then this is tantamount — equivalent — to a natural process in which the step-wise forward-moving action is always governed by the whole.
Roughly this, I am almost certain, is what traditional builders did. They paid attention to the feeling of the emerging structure: and thus were able to stay within the guidelines of the existing and transforming whole. Guided by feeling, they were able to function almost like nature: They were able to make each small step count in the emergence of a new unfolding whole.
For us, in our era, it is not so easy. The word “feeling” has been contaminated. It is confused with emotions — with feelings (in the plural) such as wonder, sadness, anger — which confuse rather than help because they make us ask ourselves, which kind of feeling should I follow? The feeling I am talking about is unitary. It is feeling in the singular, which comes from the whole. It arises in us, but it originates in the wholeness which is actually there. The process of respecting and extending and creating the whole, and the process of using feeling, are one and the same. Real feeling, true feeling, is the experience of the whole.
Being guided by the whole, and being guided by feeling, are therefore nearly synonymous. What I call feeling is the mode of perception and awareness which arises when a person pays attention to the whole. When people pay attention to the whole, they are experiencing feeling.
It may seem far-fetched to suggest that all questions of city planning, engineering, transportation — not to speak of building — should be decided by feeling, by the feeling of the whole. But that is, indeed, what I am proposing. It is an intelligent and practical way forward.
In any living process, or any process of design or making, the way forward, the next step which is most structure-enhancing, is that step which most intensifies the feeling of the emerging whole.
Feeling thus gives us human beings our access to structure-preserving transformations. It is the process of intensifying deep feeling in the whole which gives us direct access to the core of living process.
Although extraordinary, if judged by the standards of 20th-century positivism, this process is nevertheless sober and exact.
#book/The Nature of Order/2 The process of creating life/14 Deep feeling#