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Piet's Videoranch Talks: April 1, 2007

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Freedom from Objectification

The last two weeks I spoke about time, when I appeared in streaming video, in Videoranch. Today I was only present as an avatar, and I gave only a short talk by typing text. Here is a summary.

The topic for today is Freedom. And it is related to science. Science tells us that the world is not what it seems. Science helps us to see a lot more about reality than our normal senses can show us. This extra seeing, and the knowledge it brings, gives us a lot of extra freedom, from deeper insight in the structure of matter to many applications through technology.

The problem with freedom, though, is that it can be misused, as many fairy tales and mythological stories tell us. What is freedom? An easy answer is `to be able to do what you want.' But immediately other questions arise, such as: `Who are you?' and `What determines what you want?' and `Are you really free to determine what you want?'

One problem with the scientific way of looking at the world is that science views everything in terms of objects, but science does not say much yet about the one who sees and investigates all those objects. We talked about that last week.

Science is based on experiments, and experiments are designed, carried out, and analyzed by scientists. All that is given in the experience of the scientists, but the scientific method, so far, has insisted on only reporting the object part of experience. This form of reduction of experience from subject-action-object to only the object pole has given us a very efficient and detailed view of the world as an enormous inventory of objects.

The drawback has been that we tend to see ourselves as bodies, as complex material machines, in a complete objectification. We forget that we can also, and more properly, see ourselves as the subject of our experience, rather than as a small part of the output of experience, in terms of objects that we associate with ourselves. By ignoring our role as a subject, we shortchange ourselves, and limit our freedom unnecessarily.

If we focus on a movie, we normally don't think about the projector. Similarly, if we focus on objects, including our body, we simply forget about the one who sees and hears and reflects, the one who says and thinks `this is me, this is my body.' It takes considerable conscious effort to become aware of the subject.

Here is an analogy: a blind man using a stick to get around, touching everything that way. Through holding the stick, he `feels' all the objects around him, but strictly speaking, he only feels the stick, and the reactions of the stick to what the stick touches. But in his experience the stick becomes transparent, as it were, and the blind person does not reflect on the fact that he only touches the stick. Rather, he reflects on all the objects that the stick touches. In a similar way, we don't normally reflect on our role of conscious subject, nor on the role of our consciousness, in which everything else is given. Our conscious experience has become effectively transparent.

If you look at the sky, you are painting the blue of the sky. In a direct way, you are the artist producing that color. But because we are so used to it, we assume that the blue is out there, and that we have nothing to do with it. We tend to forget the role of the subject completely.

If I look at the sky, I can ask the question mentioned above: who am I? I have been raised to think that I am a small body, looking up at the sky in a big landscape around me. with the sky and the landscape other than me. But when we really realize that all of that is given in our experience, in our consciousness, then we can equally well say `I am the sky'. Poets hit upon this, and poetry can give us back some of the freedom we have lost in our unquestioned habit of objectification.

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