I only have a few minutes to write today so I thought I’d chew on something simple, like merging with space. Haha. What the hooha? I know. I’ll see if I can lend language to something that I do instinctually and then see if I can break it down. For the record, I don’t think it as a good thing to do or a bad thing, nonetheless, it happens, and so one might as well attempt to understand and maybe even work with it.
A good place to start perhaps is the idea of objective vs. subjective. When I’m flipping through a magazine I am mostly in an objective stance. I’m out here in the world of my room or whatever and the room in the magazine is somewhere else. We are separate. From that place of separate I can look at the rug in the image, the sofa, the paint color, the art on the walls, and think to myself, like that, like that, don’t like that. I wonder why they chose that. Ooo that’s a pretty print, etc. Take it apart. There is as much merging so to speak as is necessary to send most of my focus to the room in the magazine instead of having my focus in the room I’m physically in, but thats about it. I’m mainly in objective mode. Separate, and from there I can think and be critical. Opinionated. There’s not a ton of fun in this mode, but it feels like I’m gathering data and learning. Sharpening my senses a bit. Sometimes though an image is so inviting, I flip into merging. I’m kindof there. In the room in the image more than in the room of my body. The boundaries are gone for a brief instant and I’m just as much in that room as the photographer who took that picture.
This word reification, a very interesting word, comes up in my mind as I type this. I’ve only encountered this word in Buddhist or psychospiritual teachings in which to reify somethings is generally taken to mean exist in a state of dualism, as in separate from, like that is over there and I am over here. Almost insist, so to speak, on separateness between the observer (me) and the observed (that over there thingy). To objectify. There’s almost something pushy about reifying something. Like hey, if you left that alone, it wouldn’t need to be that thing you are trying to make it be. It’s manipulative a little. Like I’m going to take this lovely wafting cloud and make it a bunny rabbit, because thats more interesting than the simpler version when it was just a cloud; or I’m going to make this person’s perfectly innocent and natural existence and make it mean something quite specific to serve my own purposes. Reification. I’m not sure those are good examples, but maybe. I’m trying to understand it.
If you look up reification, dictionaries talk about taking the abstract and regarding it as concrete. Like justice is a thing, society is a thing, which I guess is pretty useful since that helps us talk about difficult subjects and maybe it helps us work with concepts in a way that helps organize the mind, link it to other things we know about already, or creates a way to take action with regard tot he reified thing, or who knows. But my impression is that is different; that to reify something is do something that is not really necessary, not really helpful. Dictionaries also talk about reification in the context of Marxism, which is not something I know anything about but can only imagine it is not the best.
So the point is if you are busy objectifying or reifying, you can be sure you are not really merging. Like you’re in your agenda sortof complicating things. Merging to me is somehow drifting close to something, so close to it, that the boundaries are less apparent. The distinctions get fuzzy, not because they aren’t real, but because they don’t seem all that relevant or helpful. So subjectivity—a word that I think carries a lot of unnecessary baggage in this day and age — is a sort of merging with and just being with. A stepping into the experience of a moment or of a place, or of a place in a moment, without clamoring for separateness. It’s maybe the opposite of reifying. And it feels different. It’s a bit warmer. And its scarier.
So why on earth would someone want to merge with a space and time? Well, a bunch of reasons. One is for no reason, it just happens naturally. These are our highly sensitive people, our empaths, and our feelers, and many artists. Their natural inclination is to go toward (to merge) rather than away (to observe). They’re merging all over the place for better or worse. Then there’s flow. You are merged with time and space so you kindof disappear. There’s a pretty cool book about that called Flow by Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi. You feel really alive in flow, you are creative, you are unaware of yourself and of time passing, and all manner of positive things go on in flow. Another reason is to feel empathy and maybe forgiveness. If you can merge with someone your know, you will stand up for them, advocate for them, care, love, shelter, be curious about them.
Some actors merge with their characters, which in my book is also an act of empathy. Super daring actors will go right to the edge of not knowing the boundaries between themselves and their characters, to the point that some never make it back. Separating is seeing the bus driver, remembering the perfectly true fact that I’m not a bus driver, and feeling our separateness as natural. I don’t have the uniform, I don’t have the bus driving skill, I don’t have the job, all true. Merging is for a flash of an instant feeling like I’m just as bus driver as the bus driver even though that isn’t logical; on some plane of existence there exists the possibility that I am a bus driver, our identities are not different. Somehow they merge. I don’t go and kick him out of his seat and take the wheel, but i feel our shared humanity more keenly than our separateness. Because, apart from driving the bus well, there is no need for him to be distinct from me. Again I’m not really sure if that is not reifying him but I think its in the same ballpark. And as someone who acts from time to time, I can attest to the peculiar act of attempting to embody another person by releasing mental boundaries intentionally. But back to environments.
When we find our selves spending lots of time protecting our being or our senses from insults, we develop a solid reification habit I would say; and merging comes less easily. Everything is over there apart from me. There’s no intimacy with life, environment, the world. Which means you don’t get to enjoy that melty pleasure of merging. When an environment is not friendly, which could mean anything from wild animals roaming the halls and clawing at your front door to the place is just a serious mess of unfixed papers and unwashed laundry and dishes in the sink, we close down our senses. Noone wants to merge the senses with dirty dishes i don’t think. But the opposite is also true - When we put a little time and energy into creating lovely heart-opening space to live in, and we cultivate the ability to regulate when we are merging with vs. guarding against, more warmth can come into our being, more flow, less opinion, and less boundary and barrier to the entirely unfickle splendor of this world. And energy flows in the body when we are relaxed. Won’t get into the whole cortisol thing in this post, suffice it to say that staying in a state of stress is not natural and hormones go wild and wreak havoc on the body. Relaxation, the opposite.
Well somehow that went in a pretty different direction than I thought. I was going to talk about the value of merging in picking paint and in decorating. So let me leave it at this: merging is risky but more fun. and merging isn’t really sanctioned or talked about in our culture, so its a rarer behavior in my experience. I think choosing paint and decorating your space takes a mixture of merging and separating, both subjective and objective; we research a little, plan a little, then feel it out a little.
Hope that made some sense. Please feel free to share any thoughts feelings insights or stories. So long, until next post