One of the 15 fundamental properties.
Not-separateness is the way the life and strength of a center depends on the extent to which that center is merged smoothly — sometimes even indistinguishably — with the centers that form its surroundings.
What not-separateness means, quite simply, is that we experience a living whole as being at one with the world, and not separate from it — according to its degree of wholeness. […] It is so simple, so harmonious, it melts into its surroundings humbly, connects with its surroundings, is indistinguishable from its surroundings. But it does this altogether without giving up its character or personality.
Any center which has deep life is connected, in feeling, to what surrounds it, and is not cut off, isolated, or separated. In a center which is deeply coherent there is a lack of separation — instead a profound connection — between that center and the other centers which surround it, so that the various centers melt into one another and become inseparable. It is that quality which comes about from each center, to the degree it is connected to the whole world.
This is, finally, perhaps the most important property of all. In my experiments with shapes and buildings, I have discovered that the other fourteen ways in which centers come to life will make a center which is compact, beautiful, determined, subtle — but which, without this fifteenth property, can still often somehow be strangely separate, cut off from what lies around it, lonely, awkward in its loneliness, too brittle, too sharp, perhaps too well delineated — above all, too egocentric, because it shouts, “Look at me, look at me, look how beautiful I am.” Those unusual things which have the power to heal, the depth and inner light of real wholeness, are never like this. They are never separate, always connected. With them, usually, you cannot really tell where one thing breaks off and the next begins, because the thing is smokily drawn into the world around it, and softly draws this world into itself. It connects.
This property comes about, above all, from an attitude. If you believe that the thing you are making is self-sufficient, if you are trying to show how clever you are, to make something that asserts its beauty, you will fall into the error of losing, failing, not-separateness. The correct connection to the world will only be made if you are conscious, willing, that the thing you make be indistinguishable from its surroundings; that, truly, you cannot tell where one ends and the next begins, and you do not even want to be able to do so.
The sophisticated version of this rule, which comes about when we apply the rule recursively to its own products, produces an atmosphere like gentle evening smoke, which ties the whole together inside itself, which never allows one part to be too proud, to stand out too sharp against the next, but assures that each part melts into its neighbors, just as the whole melts into its neighbors, too. This is where the golden colors help, where joining lines and echoes help preserve the wholeness of the thing, prevent it from disintegrating under its own inner tensions.
The structural feature which is perhaps most responsible for the easy, healed feeling of not-separateness is lack of abruptness, of sharpness. A thing which has this quality feels completely at peace because it is so deeply connected to the world around it. This quality, geometrically, depends especially on the state of the boundary. In things which have not-separateness, there is often a fragmented boundary, an incomplete edge, which destroys the hard line. Many of the most beautiful old carpets also have an infinite pattern which is randomly interrupted, as if by a window, which also destroys the sense of self-containment of the design. Often, too, there is a gradient at the boundary, a soft edge caused by a gradient in which scale decreases (hare-and-tortoise-like) so that at the edge it seems to melt indiscernibly into the next thing — this is why things get smaller at the edge — it destroys the hard edge. Finally, the actual boundary is sometimes rather careless, deliberately placed to avoid any simple complete sharp cutting off of the thing from its surroundings — a randomness in the actual boundary line which allows the thing to be connected to the world.
Our brains are trained to pick up on patterns, in particular patterns that break, things that stand out, probably because these things from an evolutionary perspective are the ones that could harm us, and therefore we are exceptionally good at spotting them, and that perhaps also goes with a certain feeling about them?
For a variety of functional reasons environmental systems are made more whole, and have more life, when there is a pervasive connectivity connecting the inside of the systems with other systems beyond them or outside them, making an unbroken fabric in the world.
Practical and ecological reasons also suggest we must try to make transitions of materials around the edge of a building, so that each material is next to something else that it can live with: for example, wood to concrete; concrete to earth. The series of transitions avoids any abrupt juxtapositions that would not hold up over time.
Not-separateness corresponds to the fact that there is no perfect isolation of any system, and that each part of every system is always part of the larger systems in the world around it and is connected to them deeply in its behavior.
This deep interconnectedness of all things is visible in science and in the quantum mechanics of the late 20th century has been openly talked about. However, there is very little actual scientific research which directly deals with it. For examples of theory which even touch on this matter, one must go far afield and stretch small bits of theory, metaphorically, to extend them to domains where they have not yet concretely appeared. An early formulation of a similar general intuition was given in the Mach’s principle which asserts that all particles of matter are somehow deeply connected so that gravity itself, and the gravitational constant G, are dependent on the total amount of matter in the world, and thus are somehow directly linked to every other particle of matter. In terms of current theory, this intuition could be understood as related to the principle known as Bell’s theorem, which asserts a deep connectedness in the fabric of matter and space so fundamental that it appears that parts of the world are linked even without the transfer of normal mechanical or causal processes. This property and the previous two (The void and Simplicity and inner calm) are so complex that, at our present state of mathematical knowledge, there is almost no possibility that they might be formulated in precise language, or that one could give a general theory of why these phenomena occur that is more than poetic.
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