Space itself carries the attribute of life
The normal way of understanding this example is to say that some system of needs or forces or processes exists — and must then be resolved by the structure which is designed. But in fact this idea doesn’t really make sense in the examples. We never really get a chance to understand what it means to say that the needs or forces are resolved. This whole “functionalist” way of talking about space is an elaborate circumlocution whose purpose is to make us feel that we understand — without creating real understanding in our minds.
On the other hand, the view that space and matter can have life — more of it, or less of it — as in the illustrated cases where the living room space takes on more life because of the organization inherent in the created field of centers, really does contribute to our concrete understanding — provided we can swallow the idea that space itself really can have life in different degrees.
I have said that centers help one another come to life, and that this “helping” is both functional and geometrical. But if the visual helping between the centers and the functional helping between centers are connected, how are they connected? A first answer is that something is occurring in a deeper domain than either function or geometry. The question then is, What domain? The answer might be given as: the domain where all this is happening is some domain of emergent life, a domain of space somehow “waking up”.
Hence when one region of space wakes up and then wakes up another region of space, there is also a functional connection which gets established. This mysterious structure, presented hitherto as centers happening in space, is actually a sequence of awakening in the more fundamental domain.
In this sense, what is going on is that life — an emergent thing in the space itself —appears as the space wakes up. When something works, or is “functional”, its space is awakened to a very high degree. It becomes alive. The space itself becomes alive.
The fundamental functional insight is to realize that the mechanistic functional analysis is all a myth anyway — since there is no stopping in the endless regression of reasons for why something works. What actually fits our common sense, and what we really do when we think about such things, is always, and only, to create this greater life out of greater life — and to make that answerable only to itself. There is no other reason behind it.
This is the surprising discovery about function, which makes us see function itself in a new way. If a thing gets its nature from its field of centers, and if the primary interaction between centers is the one in which they help to prop each other up by consolidating their centeredness, then what we commonly call ornament is not different, in principle, from function. If we understand the idea of the field of centers well, we shall have a picture of the universe as made of stuff — space/matter — which is potentially living stuff. It is a material in which the occurrence of centers produces more and more intensity of centers. The material actually transforms, comes to life, becomes transformed, “blazes” one might even say, as this field of centers is created in it.
#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/11 The awakening of space#