On Objectification, Observers, Observation and Objects

I have written before that in a sense there are no objects, only processes. You can look at it that way, if you like. Some processes – like the moon or the earth, say – are sufficiently stable that we can treat them as objects. But if we look closely and honestly, they are in flux. They are processes.

Other objects, like eddies in a brook, begin and end within the range of our perception. So seeing them as processes is easier. We objectify them in the abstract. I say “eddy” and you know the concept of which I speak. The concept is stable; but the actual eddy in the brook is clearly processual. It’s passing. Calling it an object would be confusing.

Now, the concept “eddy” is passing as well. It too is in flux. But is harder to see this; it is maybe impossible to see it, save as yet another concept. But the goal here is not to force our seeing unto a space where it was not made to function.

Rather, we want to perceive and engage with an underlying principle, a foundational principle: the world – the cosmos – is itself a process. It is all flux.

What happens when we look into this?

Well, we attach differently to given objects, right? I don’t invest a lot in those eddies because that would be silly. I don’t say, “what a lovely eddy, maybe I can sell it and make enough money to retire and write poetry with my sweetheart all day.”

That would be silly because the eddy is a process. It’s passing. It’s fluxional. However, I still take joy in seeing the eddy. It makes me happy. Indeed, I often go to the river out back just to admire its many eddies. Like quartz rocks, they have always pleased me.

That is an important insight – that what is passing, what is impermanent, can still make us happy, even deeply so. We don’t have to possess it. We don’t have to control it. It’s sufficient that it exists, and that we exist, and that we briefly co-exist.

[When we go deeply into this we see that the eddy makes us happy because it reflects back to us our true nature – we too are processes, that is, passing patterns in a greater flux. This is clear in the way the eddy and the one who sees it mutually specify one another – the one brings for the other (who could be its own self (which, obviously, ends otherness altogether))]

The suggestion here is to consider extending that principle of joy-without-attachment unto all processes – all the objects that we pretend are permanent. Our favorite cabin, our dog, the polished quartz in the garden, our children, our spouses, our bibles and our coffee mugs . . .

On this view, an object is just a symbol for a process. It is organism-specific; our structure brings the object forth. The object is in this sense “right” for us. It is how our living organizes itself in order to recognize itself.

So the objects – from eddies in the brook to our beloved in bed – are really just patterns brought forth by our structure, together specifying love, where “love” is synonymous with “coherence.”

Another way of saying this is to say that love is what works well. Love is what works so well that we don’t notice it working; it just is. So all of these objects – which collectively are a world – are brought forth by and through us and when we are clear that they are simply temporarily and contingently stable appearances of flux – the flux gazing at itself, in a sense. The loveliness and helpfulness of this can be almost too much to bear. The sweetness becomes too much to bear.

This sweetness scared me for a long time. It still does, from time to time, and in a way. It overwhelms me. I resisted it for a long time, with various narratives (I don’t deserve it, suffering is a man’s privilege, I’ll get to it someday, one more drink or hit of acid, et cetera).

But resistance hurts, and hurt extends itself. When we say yes to love the boon reaches not only our own living but the world’s as well.

In the end, the sweetness of seeing the loving organization of the world as it is insists on itself. It will not be denied, because it cannot be denied. It’s merely the self remembering the self. It’s you being you. It’s altogether one movement, the way “juicy” and “red” are one movement in a single apple. You can’t separate it, save conceptually, and even then the “separation” is a stipulation that confirms the underlying wholeness.

So the work for me became not understanding this in an intellectual sense – though that mattered deeply because the study was the woodshedding, the scholarship was the yoga – but rather in accepting what I had learned.

That is, having discerned through study the path, and having confirmed through study the path’s utility, what remained was to walk it. And one does not walk by reading a book about walking; one walks.

It was as if I had studied light for a long time and then somebody just came along and said “here is a lantern. Would you like to hold it?”

And I was scared to hold it. I was scared for a long time to hold it. My hands shook. My heart trembled.

And the thing was, the fear was optional because I didn’t have to “take” the lantern because I already “had” the lantern. There was nothing to be scared of, nor anything really to do.

But it can take a while to see – as in understand and accept in a natural, sustainable way – this fact.

Now that’s a silly analogy because, as I eventually figured out, you can only “study” the light because you have the light to study by in the first place. Being afraid – being unready to hear and proclaim the good news, so to speak – makes an enormously practical difference in our living, even as it makes no fundamental difference at all. The light is there anyway. But still. It does hurt to resist this.

Insight comes of its own accord. There are many roads, none of them royal. I had to go past the cross on the high lonely hill, then past “past the cross on the high lonely hill.” I had to live mostly alone in a library in order to be reborn in a library. Writing writing all the time.

I don’t know what works for you, or will work for you. I am only glad that you are here, bringing me forth in love.

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