The Art of Being
A Dive into Phenomenology and Its Impact on Our Lives
“The phenomenological world is not the bringing to explicit expression of a pre-existing being, but the laying down of being. Philosophy is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being.” — Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Have you ever wondered why a minute can feel like an hour or a diamond ring can stir up a whirlwind of emotions? Welcome to the world of phenomenology, a philosophical tradition that delves into the essence of human experiences.
It’s not about the objective reality of things but how we perceive and interact with them.
So, buckle up as we embark on a journey to explore the unseen layers of everyday life.
The Unseen Layers of Everyday Objects
Imagine a truck. It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s capable of hauling enormous loads. But is that all there is to it?
Phenomenology encourages us to look beyond the physical attributes. It’s not about the truck’s weight or towing capacity; it’s about the experience of driving it, the feeling of the steering wheel in your hands, the rumble of the engine, and the sense of power and responsibility that comes with it.
The truck is not just a vehicle; it’s a symbol of strength, a tool of trade, a lifeline for businesses, and sometimes, a home for long-haul drivers. It’s about the camaraderie at truck stops and the solitude on long highways.
Now, consider a diamond ring. It’s a piece of carbon subjected to immense pressure and heat over billions of years. But phenomenology urges us to look deeper. It’s about the emotions it evokes, the commitment it symbolizes, and the status it represents. It’s about the pride of wearing it or the anxiety of losing it.
The diamond ring is not just a piece of jewelry; it’s a symbol of love, a token of commitment, a family heirloom, or a self-reward. It’s about the sparkle that catches everyone’s eye, the memories it holds, and the stories it tells.
Phenomenology teaches us that objects are physical entities and vessels of experiences and emotions.
“The door handle is the handshake of the building.” — Juhani Pallasmaa
Time: A Matter of Perception
Time, as we know it, is a constant. An hour is 60 minutes; a minute is 60 seconds, and so on. But have you noticed how time seems to slow down when you’re waiting for something or speed up when you’re engrossed in a task? That’s phenomenology at play.
An 11:00 am meeting might be another event on your calendar, but the experience of it can vary. For some, it might feel like the start of the day, filled with anticipation and energy. For others, it might be a dreaded event, making the minutes leading up to it feel like hours.
It’s not about the meeting; it’s about the people you’re meeting, the topic of discussion, the location, and even the day of the week. It’s about the rush to get there on time, the relief when it’s over, and the anticipation of what’s next.
Phenomenology reminds us that time is not a series of ticking seconds but a subjective experience that subsides and flows with our emotions and perceptions.
“A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.” — Gaston Bachelard
Money: More Than a Medium of Exchange
In its physical form, money is just a piece of paper, a chunk of metal, or a number on a screen. But its significance in our lives goes far beyond its tangible form. It’s a language of value, a measure of worth, and a source of security or anxiety.
Consider the perspective of a banker and a wealthy client. For the banker, money is a number to be managed and multiplied. But for the client, it’s not about seeing the money daily but knowing it’s safe. It’s about the freedom it provides, the opportunities it opens, and the security it offers. It’s about the power to make choices, the ability to provide for loved ones, and the capacity to make a difference.
Phenomenology helps us understand these differing perceptions and experiences, reminding us that money is not a physical entity but a complex symbol with varied meanings and emotions attached to it.
Phenomenology: A Tool for Insight
Phenomenology is more than a philosophical concept; it’s a tool that helps us understand our shared experiences and relationships with the world around us. It’s not about revealing the essence of a thing but rather our collective relationship with that thing.
By focusing on the human experience, phenomenology helps us understand what matters to us. It peels back the layers of our everyday lives, revealing our existence’s profound and often overlooked aspects.
It’s a reminder that we are not passive observers but active participants shaping and being shaped by our experiences. It’s about the joy of a child’s laughter, the comfort of a familiar smell, the thrill of a new adventure, and the peace of a quiet moment. It’s about the shared joys and sorrows, the common hopes and fears, and the universal experiences that connect us all.
Phenomenology celebrates the human experience in all its complexity and beauty.
“The perception of other people and the intersubjective world is problematic only for adults. The child lives in a world which he unhesitatingly believes accessible to all around him. He has no awares of himself or of others as private subjectives, nor does he suspect that all of us, himself included, are limited to one certain point of view of the world. That is why he subjects neither his thoughts, in which he believes as they present themselves, to any sort of criticism. He has no knowledge of points of view. For him men are empty heads turned towards one single, self-evident world where everything takes place, even dreams, which are, he thinks, in his room, and even thinking, since it is not distinct from words.”
― Maurice Merleau-Ponty
In a world obsessed with objectivity and quantifiable data, phenomenology offers a refreshing perspective. It reminds us that our experiences and perceptions are as accurate and valid as the physical world. It encourages us to look beyond the surface, question our assumptions, and appreciate the richness of our experiences.
As we navigate our daily lives, we often overlook the profound experiences shaping our existence. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle, forgetting to pause and reflect on our interactions with the world around us. Phenomenology invites us to slow down, delve deeper into our experiences, and discover the hidden layers of our existence.
It’s not about understanding the world; it’s about understanding ourselves. It’s about recognizing our shared experiences, acknowledging our unique perspectives, and celebrating our collective journey. It’s about the joy of discovery, the thrill of insight, and the satisfaction of understanding.
Phenomenology’s guiding principle is “To the thing itself.” Its philosophy entails investigating a specific topic, such as a book, mortality, kinship, an automobile, a cure, or a medical facility, without any pre-existing opinions, current fads, or imposed convictions. So, the next time you find yourself going about your day, take a moment to delve into the art of being. You might discover a new world of experiences waiting to be explored.
And as you embark on this journey of self-discovery, ask yourself: What experiences have shaped your perception of the world, and how can you use these insights to enrich your life and the lives of those around you? The answer might surprise you.