From "The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are" by Alan Watts:

As soon as one sees that separate things are fictitious, it becomes obvious that nonexistent things cannot “perform” actions. The difficulty is that most languages are arranged so that actions (verbs) have to be set in motion by things (nouns), and we forget that rules of grammar are not necessarily rules, or patterns, of nature. This, which is nothing more than a convention of grammar, is also responsible for (or, better, “goeswith”) absurd puzzles as to how spirit governs matter, or mind moves body. How can a noun, which is by definition not action, lead to action?

Scientists would be less embarrassed if they used a language, on the model of Amerindian Nootka, consisting of verbs and adverbs, and leaving off nouns and adjectives. If we can speak of a house as housing, a mat as matting, or of a couch as seating, why can't we think of people as “peopling,” of brains as “braining,” or of an ant as an “anting?” Thus in the Nootka language a church is “housing religiously,” a shop is “housing tradingly,” and a home is “housing homely.” Yet we are habituated to ask, “Who or what is housing? Who peoples? What is it that ants?” Yet isn't it obvious that when we say, “The lightning flashed,” the flashing is the same as the lightning, and that it would be enough to say, “There was lightning”? Everything labeled with a noun is demonstrably a process or action, but language is full of spooks, like the “it” in “It is raining,” which are the supposed causes, of action.

Does it really explain running to say that “A man is running”? On the contrary, the only explanation would be a description of the field or situation in which “a manning goeswith running” as distinct from one in which “a manning goeswith sitting.” (I am not recommending this primitive and clumsy form of verb language for general and normal use. We should have to contrive something much more elegant.) Furthermore, running is not something other than myself, which I (the organism) do. For the organism is sometimes a running process, sometimes a standing process, sometimes a sleeping process, and so on, and in each instance the “cause” of the behavior is the situation as a whole, the organism/environment. Indeed, it would be best to drop the idea of causality and use instead the idea of relativity.

For it is still inexact to say that an organism “responds” or “reacts” to a given situation by running or standing, or whatever. This is still the language of Newtonian billiards. It is easier to think of situations as moving patterns, like organisms themselves. Thus, to go back to the cat (or catting), a situation with pointed ears and whiskers at one end does not have a tail at the other as a response or reaction to the whiskers, or the claws, or the fur. As the Chinese say, the various features of a situation “arise mutually” or imply one another as back implies front, and as chickens imply eggs—and vice versa. They exist in relation to each other like the poles of the magnet, only more complexly patterned.

Moreover, as the egg/chicken relation suggests, not all the features of a total situation have to appear at the same time. The existence of a man implies parents, even though they may be long since dead, and the birth of an organism implies its death. Wouldn't it be as farfetched to call birth the cause of death as to call the cat's head the cause of the tail? Lifting the neck of a bottle implies lifting the bottom as well, for the “two parts” come up at the same time. If I pick up an accordion by one end, the other will follow a little later, but the principle is the same. Total situations are, therefore, patterns in time as much as patterns in space.

And, right now is the moment to say that I am not trying to smuggle in the “total situation” as a new disguise for the old “things” which were supposed to explain behavior or action. The total situation or field is always open-ended, for

Little fields have big fields
Upon their backs to bite 'em,
And big fields have bigger fields
And so ad infinitum.

We can never, never describe all the features of the total situation, not only because every situation is infinitely complex, but also because the total situation is the universe. Fortunately, we do not have to describe any situation exhaustively, because some of its features appear to be much more important than others for understanding the behavior of the various organisms within it. We never get more than a sketch of the situation, yet this is enough to show that actions (or processes) must be understood, or explained, in terms of situations just as words must be understood in the context of sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, libraries, and … life itself.

To sum up: just as no thing or organism exists on its own, it does not act on its own. Furthermore, every organism is a process: thus the organism is not other than its actions. To put it clumsily: it is what it does. More precisely, the organism, including its behavior, is a process which is to be understood only in relation to the larger and longer process of its environment. For what we mean by “understanding” or “comprehension” is seeing how parts fit into a whole, and then realizing that they don't compose the whole, as one assembles a jigsaw puzzle, but that the whole is a pattern, a complex wiggliness, which has no separate parts. Parts are fictions of language, of the calculus of looking at the world through a net which seems to chop it up into bits. Parts exist only for purposes of figuring and describing, and as we figure the world out we become confused if we do not remember this all the time.
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