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Posts Tagged ‘participation’

    Old and young

    Old, or young?

    She thought she saw a wicked witch
    A-cursing in the wood.
    She looked again and saw it was
    A damsel fair and good.

    I wrote a post earlier which shows how easy it is to mistake one thing for another ; if you like, you can find the post here.

    So, at first glance, and for particular reasons, she first saw a wicked witch ; but, at second glance, and for different particular reasons, she then saw a fair damsel.  But suppose there had never been a second glance?  Suppose there had never been particular reasons of the second kind?  Surely she would have gone on believing for ever that she had seen a witch.  She would have gone on believing in a mistake.

    Now,  it’s plain to see that an individual can easily make such a mistake.  But suppose a whole population were to make that same mistake?  Is it possible for an entire population to misconceive something?  For, surely, our most common test of truth is that everybody believes it.  In our common way of thinking, the more people who believe in a thing, the truer it is.  There are many possibilities for developing a discussion on this point.

    But, for now, I’d just like to focus attention on some thing nearer the root of this peculiarity of ours ; this peculiar ability to form two distinct and contrary concepts from the same raw material.  How can the same ink marks on a piece of paper give rise to contrary mental (cognitive) models of the material reality in front of us?  It would seem that the differences in the concepts do not arise from the world outside of us, and so they must arise from within ourselves ; from our own mental processes.

    So, the ink marks seem to be just that, nothing more ; but the concepts of them seems to be within us.  Does this mean that world outside of us is one thing, while our concepts of the world are another?  Are there, in fact, two worlds – one outer and one inner?

    Some argue that there is only one world, and that is the world as we see it ; the world of our consciousness.  But, if that is the case, then how are we to describe what is outside of us?  Perhaps the ‘world’ outside of our consciousness is only a potential world ; and it does not reach its completion until we have formed our concepts of it.  Thus, the paper with the ink marks is only potentially a picture of something real ; it becomes real when we have made a mental model of either a witch or a beauty.

    So, if this is the case, then the world is something that we create within ourselves.  But, if that is true, then it is no longer true to say that we see either a witch or a beauty in the world before us.

    But there is yet another way of understanding this.  We can say that, having made a mental model of something in the world outside of us, we then project our model on to that object.  The ambiguous object then becomes identical to our mental model of it.  Some people call this process interaction ; we are not so much passive observers of the world, are active observers who do, in fact, play our part in creating the world.  And so, as we go on discovering new things, the world becomes what we ourselves make of it.  In older times this same process was known as participation ; we participate in the material world, while the world participates in us.  As we change as a result of our participation in the world, so the world changes as a result of its participation in us.

    Much to meditate on here!

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On being blind

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,

And that one talent which is death to hide

Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest he returning chide,

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”

I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state

Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’er land and ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and wait.”

By John Milton

____________________________

I suspect that the opening line of this poem is something of a puzzle to modern readers.  What do the words, “When I consider how my light is spent” mean?  How can one spend one’s light, as if it were a substance which we possess ; and which might become depleted or lost?

To understand the line better we might revisit an older psychology, that which was well understood from antiquity right up until the time when a much duller way of understanding the world was ushered in (unintentionally) by the scientific revolution.

By painful degrees that revolution has relegated man to the position of being a mere passive observer of the world he lives in.  But, in more lively and creative ages than this, intelligent people knew that, far from being  detached observers, we are actually a part of the world.  And, being a dynamic part of the world, we affect it simply by being here.  Merely by observing the world and taking an interest in it, we alter it.  And we alter it for good or for ill according to the state of our consciences.

This principle of worldly activity was known as participation.

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The Rainbow’s  easy stretch, from wood to vale,
Sends out its borrowed colours, and the eyes
Remember the promise in legend old.

Green are the clothes of the Trees
And green the raiment of Earth ;
As fresh the promise grows.

Lively flow the Rivers of Life
That change in tune with Time.
And all is borne in Hope.

Far travels the Sun, what way He will ;
And fair the Moon that follows.
Gold and silver the promise lightens.

The image and likeness sees all these
And names them to existence.
And makes them known and real.

Jamie MacNab

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Other ideas on rainbows.

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