I’m nothing if I’m not moving! My life as a verb
Darbella and I listen to Audible audio books, and recently I’ve been enjoying various parts of the trilogy Illuminatus!. I won’t even begin to try to explain the plot–click the link if you care to.
Yesterday, I heard something like, “There are no nouns in the natural world,” attributed to Bucky Fuller. I did a quick Google on it, and came up with the following quote, which I judged to be close enough.
I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe. R. Buckminster Fuller, I Seem to Be a Verb (1970)
Fuller had a very Zen way of looking at the world, and at himself. Here’s another quote:
As a consequence of the slavish “categoryitis” the scientifically illogical, and as we shall see, often meaningless questions “Where do you live?” “What are you?” “What religion?” “What race?” “What nationality?” are all thought of today as logical questions. By the twenty-first century it either will have become evident to humanity that these questions are absurd and anti-evolutionary or men will no longer be living on Earth. — Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. (1963)
Fuller, more than most, was aware that ‘outside of the box’ thinking was required if we are to survive. Yet, we are plagued with exactly what Fuller warns about in the above quote–I’ve often said that grad schools crank out specialists in a world desperate for generalists.
Specialists are people who know more and more about less and less.
Generalists see the myriad forces at work, and can find new and exciting ways to recombine the data into something new.
Another concept that comes up in Illuminatus! is that the authors use the terms neophobe and neophile. The words mean, in order, fear of new things, and the love of new things. This concept fits both with what we are talking about here, and with Fuller’s concepts. The idea is that if one is fearful of change, one will look for any excuse not to. If one loves change, then “stuck in the same groove” is repugnant and non-helpful.
The neophobe dimension is captured in the expression, “We always did it that way!” It is also captured in, “Everybody knows…” Neophilia is best expressed in the concept of curiosity.
The natural order is a verb.
Get your head around this–everything is a part of the natural order (even things manufactured) so everything is a verb. A process. Here’s a popular example. Think of a car. Which part of a car is “the car?” Is any one, or several parts of the car, a car, or must we say that the finished, complete car is a car?
Can you find the essential “car-ness” in, say a tire or steering wheel? If a car is a car (i.e. a noun) then there ought to be a “thing” we can point to, that is “always and every time,” a car.
So, you might say, “Yup. There is a car. Right there, Wayne, you ninny.”
Next door, parked in the driveway, is a vehicle (a van, but for purposes of this illustration, it’s a car.) 2 years ago, I remember hearing its owner trying to get it to start. Grumble, thunk, no go. So, for 2 years, it has sat there, unmoving. So, is it really and truly a car?
In fact, my neighbour has filled it with junk, so has the former car become a shed?
Now, you might be thinking, “Well, I’ll just modify my former statement to, “A car is that thing over there, and also it runs and moves when you turn it on.”
So, then, is the essence of a car that it moves? I’m asking this: can you reduce a car down to something that makes it a car? Or is a car the process–the “parts” that make up this thing we call a car, plus the movement of the engine, plus the locomotion along on wheels?”
If it is so that the real answer is, all of this, and more, then can you go here?
There is no “thing” called a car, but rather, there is “car-ing.” It’s a process, a verb, an action, which includes all the parts. It is emphatically not not a noun.
Same with you and me.
This is Fuller’s point, in the first quote. We are not static things, but rather dynamic processes–evolutionary, evolving processes. We are, endlessly, in flux.
If you are a neophobe (likely 95% of the population fits into this category, varying in degree from terror of the new to grudging, half-hearted acceptance), then this is the last thing you want to hear. Neophiles, on the other hand, are standing up and cheering.
Relational discord comes from fear of verbs. No. Really.
Every single example of problem relationships I’ve ever come across has had this as a major feature: “S/he isn’t the person I got into relationship with. S/he’s changed. I don’t like it. How can I feel safe if s/he won’t cooperate?”
I keep trying to sell the idea that “Your partner is who s/he is, right now–is a dynamic process. So are you. The only way your live is going to work, the only way to live in the continual Now, is for you to totally accept the following: “The only constant is change.”
Everything in the natural world is a verb.
Nothing fits categories, other than artificially. I might be a liberal, Zen-ish male on a Stats Canada form, but to know what that means will require that you live with me, and even then, you’ll realize that how I “did” liberal, Zen-ish male 10 years ago (or 10 minutes ago…) may or may not be similar to how I “do” it now.
Darbella is certainly a moving ‘object’ similar in some ways to the woman I met 25 years ago, but in reality she is the 2008 model, in spades. If I wanted her to stay the same, to make it easy for me, I have had no success. In actuality, I love that she’s a verb.