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 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/q78PYnUehV8
I invited them to look into each of these topics and get back to me. I gave them a suggested ‘bibliography’:
- Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album
- Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing
- Frank Herbert’s Dune
- Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics
- The film Contact, starring Jodie Foster
- The link to create an account on Lord Of The Rings Online
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.
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.