The Patterns That Connect

in naturalmedicine •  6 months ago  (edited)

Looking for sameness within difference

Someone recently asked me how I could be into rock music, online gaming, natural therapies, Chinese philosophy, and science-fiction all at the same time. I replied, “if you can’t see the patterns that connect in those topics, then my answer wouldn’t make sense to you.”

Thanks to Sam Erwin for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

I invited them to look into each of these topics and get back to me. I gave them a suggested ‘bibliography’:

This wasn’t in my opinion an exhaustive list, nor a particularly archetypal one, however I felt it worked as a sufficient starting point. I could have provided them with anything really — it’s just that they were the first things that came to mind. What was more important was the instruction to go to those sources and find the patterns that connect.

This is a phrase that I first encountered from Gregory Bateson’s book Mind & Nature: a Necessary Unity. The idea being that if one can find in their own way patterns of how things are alike (rather than their difference), then one begins to develop a very different level of perception of the world.

This is not a process of homogenisation, rather a process of finding how things are the same at the same time as they are different. Well, at least that’s how I took it, influenced such as I am by Buddhist and Taoist ideas.

Let’s consider an example: black and white. Growing up we think of them as colours, when actually they aren’t colours in the technical sense. What they are is the total absence and total presence (respectively) of light. Colurs themselves are what exist in between those two polarised states, when they’re broken up into discrete little pieces – frequencies on the light spectrum.

Black and white. You couldn’t really think of two things furthest away from each other. They are so totally different. Yet when we look for the patterns that connect, what do we find?


There is something they have in common. Their states are dependent on this simple phenomenon, and their existence is mutually dependent on one another. Unless there is the complete presence of light, how can you have a state of complete absence; and vice versa.

At the same time, you can’t say that they are both the same. They don’t behave the same way, they don’t look the same way, and their effect on the world is not the same. They can’t both be tarred with the same brush.

They are very different; and yet there is something that connects them together, creates a mutual inter-relatedness and inter-dependency.

This is what we do when we seek patterns that connect. It’s witnessing and acknowledging diversity, and then seeing how that diversity emerges from something similar.

It’s why Belinda Carlisle’s Leave A Light On is as awesome as the Beatles’ Something. You just need to look for it.

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Since you have to look for the patterns that connect, this means you may need to put in some effort. This means you are responsible for what you find, or don’t. My question to you is: if you don’t find something, does that mean it is not there?

Or have you given up before you’ve found it?

Maybe you will never find it. How are you going to really know, though? How many times have you lost your wallet, and when you’ve looked everywhere for it you assume it’s gone, lost forever …? It’s only when your partner walks in and says, “is this what you’re looking for?” do you realise that your belief that it was lost was actually wrong.

So too with finding the patterns that connect.

My advice is: always keep looking.

You never know that you’re not inches away from finding it.

I invite you to have a go at looking for these connections amongst differences; you may find you are pleasantly surprised at what you may find.



This post originally appeared at Pandora’s Lost Gift.

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The question strikes me as strange but I can imagine being asked it. I suppose my answer would be “because they all exist and I can find beauty in them.” But finding patterns between the things we enjoy seems like a wonderful thought experiment. I always feel there are similar properties to the music I like that most people don’t see and only recently have I actually identified these patterns.

Yeah, the most obvious connection is simply 'me'.... the fact that I like those things.

But I can intuit a sense that they are connected into a bigger narrative that joins up with my life, my ideas, and so on. Eclecticism is a rich tapestry; which is why I love Lévy-Strauss' metaphor of the bricoleur in his explanation of the "savage mind":

What can one use in the moment to get the job done?!

Hmmm I've never thought of connecting my interests. 🤔 Perhaps I should also bother looking at the patterns that connect each.

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It's not so much about just connecting your interests, it's also about finding the sameness within differences. At least, that's my story and I'll stick with that for the time being, until something different comes along.

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I have a very diverse set of interests as well and they all connect at some point. There is just nothing that exists separately from the rest of existence. Speaking of gaming I guess you've already played Planescape: Torment. If not I highly recommend it for its brilliant story though gameplay might not be as good.

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