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Home > Uncategorized > Levels of connectedness – more from Alexander
The first batch of quotes from Christopher Alexander’s The Luminous Ground was really intended for one person, but it turns out that that one person was many. I personally find Alexander so inspiring and intriguing that I’m more than happy to share more with those who are interested. Alexander’s basic stance – in a nut shell – is that space can have more or less life, that the structure of living space can be reduced down to a set of 15 properties, and that these properties are the result of a step-by-step, holistic unfolding process. This much, Alexander claims, is based on decades of experience, both his own and with hundreds of students, clients, and other participants – experience which others can repeat and find true for themselves (or not). The final volume of the “The Nature of Order” from which these quotes come tries to find an ontological description of the world as it must be for his work on living space to be true. In other words, Alexander asks, if all this is the case about living space, then what must the structure of the world be? The Luminous Ground provides his varied and tentative answers to this question. Here I present further quotes and commentaries as they apply to community building (or co-creation, or being in the world).
The core of what I intend to prove is this: Each of us, as we are, is connected to the world. We are connected to it in a concrete way. The character of this relatedness is not invented or concocted in our minds, but actual. I seek to demonstrate that the tree which stands is entangled with my self, and I am entangled with it. This entanglement exists in a fashion which – when I understand it correctly – will forever change my conception of my place in the world. Once we understand it, it will change our conception of the universe and our conception of the matter of which we are made. (52)
Alexander begins with a trope of modern science, ecology, and pop-spiritualism alike: that we are all connected in the world, we’re all one. But the common explanation of this statement usually does not go beyond the world of materiality, of simple causation. In this paradigm we are all connected because the tree gives off oxygen, which we then breathe in, exhaling carbon dioxide, which the tree then breathes in. This is, of course, true. We are all connected in the sense of being physically related to one another. Anything that happens on Earth changes the shared environment of that same Earth, thus proving that same deep physical connection.
But this is not what Alexander means, at least not at the level of physical causality. Instead, Alexander’s claim is that we are connected at an even more fundamental level. Speaking of looking at dewdrops hanging from a branch he writes, “It is something like the fact that we are made of the same atoms, they and I, but it is a far greater thing. It is that we are both made of the same Self, we share the same inner character, the I which I experience in me as myself, and the I which I experience in them, as a feeling of love or relatedness. (61)”
I feel as though certain experiences in my life have given me a taste of this shared Self, many of them occurring in Nature. But knowledge or intuition into this insight does not come easily. It seems that seeing the Self involves forgetting one’s own self – if only for a short time – and this is something we are loathe to do, even if we want to! Meditation and experiences in Nature are our lost likely paths to this insight, but the question here is: how does it “forever change my conception of my place in the world?”
I think the answer is hinted at before. It’s that in deepening this insight we learn to stop seeing ourselves as isolated selves or, in the mechanistic form of connectedness, even as essential parts of a whole. Instead we begin to see ourselves as existing only as an undivided unity. For community builders – or any one trying to build genuine relationships – this means that the apparent conflicts of interest between parties, their very division into different people, organizations, and interest groups mutates from one of compromise to one of awareness about this unity. Of course, I wouldn’t go around saying that in so many words – except that I guess I just did! – but the resultant change in perspective alone in powerful in maintaining the right attitude in community building. And, as we’re learning, our attitude, the “condition of our interiority”, is one of our most powerful tools.
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