Thursday, April 24, 2008

Illusory Separation

The I Ching uses the metaphor, “progress like a hamster”, to illustrate an attitude too focused on accumulation. The fact that hamsters like to hoard shows how old the instinct is in our evolution. The emphasis on things embedded in noun-based language underlies the materialistic attitude toward living. If things are all that matters then success is based on how many things you have.
Erich Fromm wrote, “The nature of the having mode of existence follows from the nature of private property… It transforms everybody and everything into something dead and subject to another’s power.” Consumerism is the pathology. Because so much of the vital experience of living is left out, we cure our emptiness with consumption. Introspection is reduced to tabulation of what we’ve accumulated. Not only do we amass things but also nouns that aren’t really things. We accumulate achievements, degrees, honors, awards, promotions and results in general. The attention to outcomes rather than process, of accomplishments we can quantify rather experience as it unfolds, is part of the having mode. Dissatisfactions arise because we don’t have as much as someone else. Comparison to others takes attention away from the unfolding process of our own life. Vitality is sucked from the moment when attention is focused on results. The self is just another possession. Thinking of the body as something we have creates anxiety about losing it.
Activity is the mode of being. Doing is feeling alive. Peak experiences occur when the involvement is so complete we lose consciousness of the self. Full attention is absorbed by the activity itself. Being happy is immersion in the act of living. Stretching out into the world is the action of growth, whether it’s learning or making, or listening or appreciating. Images for growth can direct attention to the richness of being and our interconnection to larger patterns. Awareness of the dependence on so many other factors that support our flourishing enlarges our sense of connection to the larger whole. We are not separate. We’re woven into the network and participate in it.

2 comments:

Katherine said...

Confusion occurs when I think of the accumulation of things/objects that are mass produced vs. the accumulation of limited edition/one of a kind items. (just came back from an art fair). I am quite perplexed at the difference of meaning between the two categories. But reconsidering I think there are at least four categories of hoardable items: mass produced, limited edition, one-of-a-kI think it is important to distinguish the difference between one-of-a-kind items. The element of process becomes increasingly important for the one-of-a-kinds items. It seems as though once a one-of-a-kind item is sold/or given away the experiential process of making it becomes partially divorced from the object.
There seems to be an energy between maker and made object that resonates between the two when in each others company and decreases slowly over time. This may be due to both phsyiological and psychological memories not being able to remain as vivid over time. Therefore if the energy between object and object maker decrease over time it would be logical to think that when a one-of-a-kind that is sold or given away no longer contains as much relevance to it's unique process of coming into existence as would and object still paired with it's maker.

Thanks for making me think Susan.

Katherine said...

I guess I should have previewed that comment before I sent it.

My 4 proposed categories for hoardable items are:
1. mass produced,
2. limited edition,
3. one-of-a-kind that is sold/given away
4. one-of-a-kind still in possession of maker