chapter 14: it’s only natural

by kye on August 20, 2010

Before my sons were even born I could feel that they had different natures. In the moments after their births I experienced those differences much more precisely. The oldest looked at the world with a hungry intensity.  His muscles were also held more tightly. The younger was softer in the way he held his body and also in the way he gazed.

Giving birth to these two who were already so different at the moment of birth, showed me vividly that people really are born with different natures. The different ways we be are not only a product of different experiences: if you strip away ‘conditioning’ there is still someone. Every person, any moment, is there. Even in advanced dementia you can see this vividly. The person is still in there looking out. Even though they may no longer be able to speak with words, those eyes speak in that person’s own language.

Born with my own nature, my nature is also recognizably human just as the tree outside my window is recognizably a pecan, and my tabletop is recognizably granite. Each is its own something, and different in its very nature, from anything else that ever was. Each is also something which is, in its very nature, very much ‘a’ tree, or ‘a’ slab of granite. And I am ‘a’ human being.

These are not arbitrary classifications. If I am a gardener and know these seeds to be tomato seeds, that tells me some things I can do to help the plants thrive. Likewise with people: there are certain things one can do for a person. For example, to help a tiny new person thrive, we hold it, and nurse it.

From the inside, I can feel my own nature. When I act in accord with it in my present situation, it feels natural, unforced, without deviation from my wholeness. When I (or others around me) act against my nature, it doesn’t feel natural. Sometimes the feeling of it not being natural is glaring, other times more subtle.

Not only does it feel natural to act in alignment with my nature–it’s also more effective. So this inner cue which tells me when I’m acting in accord with my nature is adaptive, and appears to be something I’m ‘meant’ to attend to in the same way I’m ‘meant’ to attend to the pain of a burn so I know what to do and what not to do.

Part of my human nature is a capacity to pause and sense a new way of being that can come in any current situation where the old way doesn’t seem to make sense. Taken together with the capacity to sense whether or not that new way of being is actually natural to me and natural in my situation, this creative capacity makes me and human beings in general, something absolutely amazing: we’re able to act at the edge where nature is doing something new, in conscious self-awareness of whether this bit of new makes sense! That’s wild and wonderful.

But the wildness and wonder go even deeper than that. When you stop and turn and really notice it, everything having its own nature which goes on inseparably in this whole enormous incredibly intricate process we call Nature, is so wondrous it’s hard to even begin to take it in. How can this be? It begs one to ask: What is a ‘nature’ anyway? And where does the nature of something come from?

I can feel my own nature pulsing into the world right here and now. So… what if I turn, and look at where it all comes from, right here in me? What do I see there?

I ‘see’ something that can’t be seen. I ‘hear’ something that can’t be heard. But even though I can’t see or hear or taste or smell or touch it, I can still feel, very very intimately, that there’s something with no beginning or end which my ‘I-ness’ comes from, and not just my own ‘I-ness’, all I-ness all the way up to the great big huge I-ness of the whole big system.

It’s like the pattern for the biggest tapestry that ever was–except the tapestry is alive and growing and constantly doing something surprising. It’s like a pattern in which a billion billion points unfold in a choreography both precise and free, where I come in in the middle for a little while. It’s not quite predictable, and yet… somehow, it is order…. or a drive towards order… toward something like making sense, itself.

we try to see what can’t be seen:
the invisible
we try to hear what can’t be heard:
the inaudible
we try to touch what can’t be touched:
the subtle

these three are aspects of one, unfathomable
unclear even where it’s revealed
and utterly obscure where it’s hidden
an unnameable, infinite, continuous thread
which stretches out, and returns

it’s form, without substance

you can’t see its beginning or end

hold fast to it in its becoming
to move in the here and now
as part of the ancient unbroken thread

— Kye Nelson: translation and commentary on Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching

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©2010 Kye Nelson

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