Friday, 3 May 2013

Get out of your head and into the world

There is a need to engage with the sheer physicality of the world, to get out of our heads and feel the resistance of the world as we do things in it. By being taken up with ideals formed inside our heads, we become focused on wanting solutions before we have even looked properly at the problem, let alone understood the problem. The physical world does not let you do this. It will bite back at you and hurt you if you do not engage fully, with all the senses, but especially touch, paying attention to felt experiences. This is the true meaning of 'mindfulness': it is not about the mind at all, but about getting away from the mind and experiencing the world and being aware of the world and everything and everyone in it. 

Our western culture teaches us to be thinkers observing the world - we absorb this standpoint like mothers milk, not even aware of how it is distorting our perspective of reality. Instead we need to be actors relating to the world. This viewpoint is profoundly heterocentric – in the physical world, if you constantly pay attention to yourself, you will trip up, so you are forced to pay attention to the world of which you are a part.

Technology disengages us from the world - we think we are supermen, when all we are doing is flicking a switch to turn on the power. We think that we can shape the world to our own desires, hammer and chain saw our way through any obstacle, not realizing that once something has been broken without understanding how it works, it cannot be mended.

Engaging with the physicality of the world teaches us to engage properly socially. Staying with the physical problem, realizing our physical limitations, feeling it through, accepting uncertainty and risk, looking for the novel approach, being physically hurt by mistakes; all this teaches us to listen to others, teaches us the value of dialogue and interchange, and the uselessness of competition.

Realizing how puny we are in the physical world, how fragile our bodies are, how easily we succumb to disease and infirmity, teaches us the need to find ways of working that use minimal force, that don't wear us out. As our engagement with the physical world teaches us to be easy with ourselves, so we learn to be easy with others, to listen, to engage, to forgive.

As we actively engage with the physical world, so we learn that to not get bitten back we must relate fully to the other, to know the other and to discover ourselves back through the other. And so in turn we learn to empathise with others, to know ourselves through the other person we are engaged in a relationship with. We realise that sympathy is merely looking at the other person through our own eyes.

And so it is that we come to walk cheerfully over the earth, feeling that earth rising up to meet our feet, and realising that 'answering that of God' is not a notion in our heads about some sort of essence in the other person, but seeing ourselves through them.

1 comment:

Craig Barnett said...

Dear Gordon,
This rings very true for me. I have been experiencing learning in a very different way to 'book learning' through working on the land over the last year. I have noticed the work re-shaping my outlook as I get used to handling tools and equipment, and judging the soil and crops in a very different way to the purely theoretical way of knowing that I was educated in. Also, there is no arguing with plants - when you make a mistake, there is no talking your way out of it... Thanks for your stimulating posts recently.
In Friendship,