A jump to speaking about the existence of an I
Within this feeling of relatedness with the tree (or the dewdrop or the patch of blue), and because each one of us feels it more or less the same way, there must be something — an actual something — in the tree. This “something” needs a name. Although the relatedness is something ancient — something experienced, I believe, by many generations of human beings — in our time it is so unusual even to talk about it, it runs against the grain so strongly, that it can hardly even be referred to in modern parlance, because we no longer have the words for it, we no longer even have a single word for it: neither for the relationship itself, nor for the “thing” to which I feel related.
Above all, I feel the experience of relatedness with the tree as personal. It has to do with ME. I feel related to the tree, I feel that my own existence grows, extends, and becomes wholly good, as I experience my connection with the tree. So a phrase like “living structure” is far too abstract. Though there is indeed living structure that lies in the tree, that phrase alone does not express — nor does it suffice to contain — the personal feeling of relatedness.
I might describe what I experience as a “presence” in the tree or in the dewdrop. In this way of talking I would say there is a presence, and I feel related to that presence. Looking for a name for this presence, we might call it “the eternal self”, felt in the tree, felt in me, stretching between the tree and me.
It is above all a relationship. It is never only in the thing itself, nor is it only within me. It lies between us. It is almost like a single all-embracing thing, which I have tripped up against, stumbled into. It is an object which lies outside the boundaries of space and time. Whatever it is, it is not limited in its position. And it does not fluctuate with time.
Above all, I must be able to refer to it in such a way as to make clear that “it” has three qualities: (1) first, that it is personal — of you, and of me; (2) second, that there is only one of it — the relationship we feel is with a single I-like thing, lying in all the universe; (3) third, that it is so personal that it is suffused with relatedness, and expresses, when I refer to it, the intimate relatedness I feel for a tree or for my favorite bowl. The use of “I” — rather than self, or ground, or universe, or eternal self — does convey just these three things.
It was — in every era except our own — of the essence for human beings, the most important thing there was, the form in which people kept and cherished their connection to the world, and thus the form in which they experienced themselves as part of the world, and in which they experienced the world as “theirs”.
The existence of this relatedness, our right to exist, our love for the world, acknowledged as a real thing, and our relationship to all of it as something permitted, endorsed, supported: there can hardly be anything greater than that. Our lives will be changed, utterly, if we can establish as factual, this personal relatedness between each person and the living world; establish it as part of the nature of the world, and as part of the nature of our selves.