In one of his writings entitled The Search in Living Structures, Thurman tells us that “life on earth is very restricted in its territory of occupancy. It is confined to a thin shell that includes uniquely the interfaces among land, air, and water.” This statement is part of a larger structure of ideas supporting the fact of the universe’s “all-inclusive immensity.” Every living being is inherently connected to all other life forms in material composition and spirit.
The quotation above has another implication for me, in two ways. First, it resonates with me because I feel very deeply that we (as humans on earth) absorb an extremely limited piece of the total possible arrangements of material reality. The total possible arrangements of matter our universe can construct, or even the potential creations of other life forms on distant planets with different environmental pressures, encompasses a range of experience we humans know little, if anything, of. Think about how many times per day we see grass, trees, clouds, buildings, cars, streets, other people. Material entities on earth seem to follow a very predictable pattern. When we need a place to convene, we build an architectural structure consisting most likely of four walls and a roof. When we are hungry, we choose from a specific set of edible foods. To get somewhere, we walk along a path whose arrangement is not new to us in any real sense. But if we consider for a moment all of the possible manifestations of material reality, many of which are entirely inconceivable to us of course, we can come to understand the staggering minuteness of our range of vision. This, to me, is true as a result of what Thurman calls our “restricted…territory of occupancy.” We can only ever see our giant planet from our tiny bodies; we can never hope to absorb our universe, our home.
Thurman’s words also caused me to think about how restricted we are in terms of the particular way in which we interact with our surroundings. Try for a moment to envision a new color, one you’ve never seen before. Try to conceive of a viable sixth sense (and not that of seeing dead people). Both of these tasks, I think, are extremely difficult. I think this shows how limited we are in terms of our understanding of objective reality; the fact that we do not often discuss alternate ways of interacting with material existence tells me it is something we have largely forgotten. Whether this is a good or bad thing is not for me to discuss in this post, but I think it is well worth thinking about.
In short, reading Thurman’s piece of writing reminded me that we’re all just stuck on an immense, yet insanely small, rock in the middle of a vast dark we know little of. Let’s explore.