There must be more than a few people who are creative or artistic for whom “objectivity” is something of a bad word. I was one such person so it could be that I’m projecting. Somehow I got the fuzzy idea from my so-called university education that objectivity is about inert somethings interacting and tracing out again and again the same region in space-time. It is because of this that objective laws can be expressed. Again, just as fuzzy, art is not about dead or inert somethings, but an expression, at the best of times, of the truth of human experience. In this version of truth, point of view and subjective detail in art have great value. Of course, this way of seeing things does not really stand up, but I nevertheless hear it often enough in different forms to conclude that it is “out there”.
This more or less usual way of describing the polarity between objective and subjective has worn a groove into the Western mind. This is the groove where people interested in the expression of thought and feeling, ie. artists, find themselves championing the subject. The artist, tortured by visionary insight, labours for years to evoke an image of life in word, in paint, in light on film and dies unheralded only to be “resurrected” by posthumous critical opinion. Whereas the seekers of objectivity seek for prescriptive forms of truth; they seek the general dictates by which an entire systematic statement of reality, or a portion thereof can be made. In this clash of opposites, the champion of the subjective sees in the objective a pale shadow of the living essence of life empty of spontaneous engagement and human contact. The champion of the objective sees the subject as something to be accounted for, rigorously defined and then fitted into the big picture. To the so-called objective view, the subject is beholden to laws beyond their grasp and any notion of individual freedom is an illusion. Of course, this is a picture drawn with cartoon-like strokes, the shaman battling the scientist.
I’m not looking to critique this cartoon, as such, but I do feel the need to introduce the terms in a different context. The challenge I see in communicating something about this is that it is difficult for our mind to hold onto several things at once in order to get a good look at them unless we bring a special effort to it. Because of this general inability to hold onto to several ideas at once, the discourse about these topics tends to fall into simple dualism. Once this happens, the talk tends toward argument. Because of this, I want to explore the triadic (three) relationship between objectivity, subjectivity and intelligence. With a threeness we do not encounter argument in the same way. With threeness the discourse does not easily devolve into tit for tat. However, with threeness the special effort is to be able to allow for the flow of relationship. Although writing forces me to express these one after the other in sentences and paragraphs, their relatedness is dynamic and simultaneous. Yet, in order to begin to ponder this some picture of the whole needs to be held. The only reliable place to enter into this triad is not through an abstract model, but in observing one’s self. Unless we can root this wholeness in the self, we will only be chasing around words and definitions. Inevitably this will become again dual.
When I was learning to drum some years ago, I remember sitting very attentively trying to make my body do what I wanted it to do. The rhythm was the Cuban son rhythm that I had been taught by a drummer in Santiago de Cuba. I could hear the rhythm in my mind and my fingers and hands were nimble enough to perform the movement, but the two were not coming together. In this case, my hands along with the drumming pattern were the objective element. I say “objective” because these features were well defined and did not depend on my intention. Occupying a shared space, they were features of the present moment that I had to accept. However, my wish to learn was the subjective element. It was my wish after all. In this duality there was tension and frustration. My wish was not making contact with my hands and the pattern that I wanted to play. Either I would persevere or simply give up. I was in front of a choice.
After some perseverance, a third element spontaneously entered and with this I was all of a sudden drumming. This third element was breath. With the entry of breath into the struggle between “I” and my hands there came an intelligence, an energetic something, tht reconciled my wish to drum this particular pattern with the instrument that had to carry out the wish, my hands. I say that my breath was intelligence because in the consciousness of breathing I could adjust my hands while at the same time maintaining an image of what needed to be played. Intelligence allows for learning.
When I thought about it later, I marveled at how much sense it made that it should be the breath that reconciled the basic duality of subject and object. Breathing has both an objective and subjective aspect. Air is from the shared objective world and all beings can freely draw upon it. At the same time air provided a level of consciousness for me at that particular moment in my subjective experience. Whereas we breathe unconsciously more often than we need to, air provides an infusion of conscious energy when there is something in us that mirrors this conscious energy. Thus, air is both objectively available for every creature without distinction, and it allows for an increase in subjective experience when breathed consciously. This third element brought everything into relationship. With the substance of air, I could come into contact with my hands. In this relationship, I could truly make time.
I wish to further explore this triad in future posts. I intend to be able to draw out the hexad (six) of pairs of which the triad is composed. I hope that this discussion will allow for an enriched view the objective, the subjective and the intelligent.