True meaning of relatedness

In the super modern apartment building, as one of my friends put it, “it seems that there is no one home”.

I have slowly become certain that the relatedness we experience in things with living structure it not a psychological trick or an illusion. What we experience as a link is, I am certain, real. The apparently self-like presence which I seem to see in the world — in the column bracket, in the tree stump, in the water of the pond, in the scudding clouds — is an actual thing in the thing. It is not a mental construct. It is not an idea we have formed in our minds. It is an actual presence in the material thing itself. When I experience the relationship of my self to that pond, when I see this thing and recognize myself in it, I am related to that thing. I recognize it, and feel related to it, because — somehow — I am of the same substance. The self-like quality I experience in it is what I also experience as self-like in me.

Wonder if he is going to explain further how he came to that conclusion…? It is interesting that with all the talk about cosmology and relatedness to self, that he defaults to this having to be rooted in the world, in the objects, to be “real” — the choice of the world “real” also reveals that he might still be as rooted in a fundamentally rational and materialist world view as most of us are. I find his arguments so far extremely convincing, and the way he argues extremely clever (to make even hardcore rationalists at least consider his theory for a moment), but here — probably as I spent way too much time reading about cognitive science — I feel a lack of acknowledgment of the cognitive part of our experience. Not in a purely subjectivist perspective, but certainly we have figured more things out about how the universe works than we have figured out how our brain works. Why shouldn’t it be possible that the key to scientifically establish the basis for a new cosmology in cognitive science rather than physics?

I do not know of any part of contemporary physics or biology which sheds light on this. Yet if this relatedness is there — literally there, not as an illusion, but as a fact — it needs to be explained.

Of course, as I have suggested, we may turn to modern psychology for an explanation. One might, for instance, interpret it as a matter of structural or cognitive similarity, claiming — for instance — that the cognitive structure of the human mind has structural features in common with the structure of the dewdrop. But if I turn back to you and ask you, “Does your feeling of relatedness with the dewdrop shining and glistening on the branch, truly feel to you as if it is explained as a structural similarity between your cognition and the dewdrop?” Then I believe you may well reject this explanation. It is a possible explanation, of course. But I believe you will recognize what I mean when I say that it leaves me unsatisfied, that is does not somehow go to the pith of the experience we have in front of the dewdrop. The feeling of relatedness we have with that dewdrop feels like something more, something more basic, something more essential. If you examine your feeling carefully, you will find, I think, that your instinct is that the nature of the relatedness means more, and is more.

Well, that’s not convincing to me. Clearly he read lots of books about physics and biology and cosmology, but perhaps not enough about cognitive science? How can we rule out theories about this based on feeling and experience, when we don’t really understand how cognition works? I get that he doesn’t want to accept “simplistic” subjectivist theories that “it’s all just in our mind anyway”, but modern cognitive science is past that and has potential frameworks to build such a theory on just like modern physics has.

The relatedness that occurs is something between you and the bit of blue in the painting. You do not, I think, experience the bit of blue as if it were your self. I believe rather, that you experience something stretching between yourself and the blue hill, something that seems to mobilize your self, stretch it towards the bit of blue, connect with it. The thing which comes into play, is the something stretching between you as you stand there, and the bit of blue. That is the relationship I am referring to.

What happens? You look at the blue hill and something, stretching between you and the blue hill, then comes into existence. But it is a very important thing that comes into existence. It is not the mundane, everyday self, which is being mobilized. It is as if the eternal you, the eternal part of you, your eternal self, is somehow being mobilized — and has been mobilized — simply because you are looking at that bit of blue.

(Pages 61-62)

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