Many attribute the evolutionary success of our species, of us humans, to our ability to abstract Nature. Abstraction rather than fitness. Through abstraction we are able to roam the world.
This abstraction starts out in a very physical way. As we evolved, some argue, we added membranes and layers to enclose us and make our own world within. The most obvious example of this was in moving the developmental process of our young from the ponds and the soils into ourselves. First there were eggs and pouches. Then there was the womb. Inside we made a womb wherein we could regulate the temperature and the flow of nutrients. For our developing young we are the environment, we are the world. They grow inside us. And what a trouble it is! It's not easy making a little verse, a miniverse, for our little ones!
Yet even after we are born this abstraction, this wrapping up, continues. The physical membranes are not enough. We add yet more layers. We add layers of knowing, of culture, layers of language. We add them inside the wombs of our families and tribes. Inside our homes by warm hearths we teach the stories that our young will need in order to locate themselves before the endless torrent of Nature. It is a long path to adulthood and the world that we are finally born into we see through many veils.
Nature presents a vast array of phenomena. A tsunami. Of course we needed to abstract Nature to have any chance of remaining standing in the face of that tumult. To have half a chance of remaining standing as thinking selves.
It seems to me that it is a wonderful thing this outside in turning. Nature is recreated within us. Abstracted and ordered within.
This view of Nature sees Her as a boundless source, a limitless impulse. But from whence does this limitless impulse come?
A correlate of this process, but reversed, is the blossoming of a flower. Plants are stationary, they do not abstract their environment. And flowers open outwards towards the Sun. They turn inside out whilst for us we are ever turning outside in. Perhaps that is why flowers are so beautiful. Their outward turning is the bearer of the inside. And we delight in them. Flowers are the messengers of the inside of things. They point to what it is hidden. They point to what is within.
Flowers are windows that reveal the boundless source of our ever inward (re)turning.
This post was inspired by Henri Bortoft's amazing book on Goethe's way of science. Trying to be...