Thisness

Haecceity (from the Latin haecceitas) is usually translated as “thisness.” Duns Scotus is believed to be the first person to use the word to denote the wholly unique components that make a person or object unlike any other person or object. In a certain sense it is the emergent quality of a thing that we recognize as being one of a kind and therefore worth great value.

Sanded

A post shared by Richard Powell (@stillinthestream) on

A sensitivity to “thisness” is one of the central muscles of a poetic mind. With it we move out of categorizing all stones as “stones,” which is a time saving device, into contemplation of this particular stone, which is a time occupying device. We pick up the stone, we turn it over, we appreciate it for it’s thisness. This of course is not a muscle exclusive to the poetic mind. The scientific mind also requires this working, this using of effort. In thisness the scientist and the poet stand together — in curiosity, in wonder sometimes, at the profoundness of this one unique thing, this anomalous data-point varying from all other data-points, yet clustering into that cloud of similarity that evokes the classification.

We make sense of the world by placing each thing into these clouds, these clouds of similar qualities, or similar appearances, or rigorous distinctions. Species, elements, personalities, types, kinds — the categories at least less numerous than the objects inside them.

The scientist must contemplate an objects thisness to determine which clouds the object belongs in, creating complicated Ven diagrams to nudge the object into understanding. Understanding arising out of the process of classification.

Thisness for the poet, however, is more about gratefulness, appreciation, and delight in somethings particular charm. While all rainbow trout are beautiful, this one is a little deeper in the belly, has a little larger tail, and those combinations make THIS trout more beautiful or significant or trouty than the others.

Finding the unique in all things is not possible for us, but perhaps is the pleasant task of God.

Continuing To Be Still In The Stream

Shortly after the publication of my first book on wabi sabi in 2004 I created a website called stillinthesteam.com. I maintained a full site with contests, articles, and news, for 10 years, then transferred my domain name here in July of 2015. I want to shift my focus from the wider wabi sabi ideal, to the application of sabi in everyday life. I still believe that the the phrase “still in the stream” captures the paradox and joy I’m following, and also searching for. When I started my 100 lakes project it was a way to more deeply explore sabi through a practice known as Kanjaku. The 100 lakes blog has largely been a series of travelogs with the occasional post of my philosophical musings.

Canoe on Anutz Lake, near a stream inflow

Over the years I launched new blogs to try and chronicle some of the inner journey I have been on, but as is often the case for me, and those with similar personalities to mine, I don’t seem to make much progress after the initial inspiration. But this is what it means, in part, to be still in the stream. Still, in this sense, equates to “continuing to exist, or persist” in the stream. Mid stream really. “Nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, nothing is finished.” And the nothing being finished part, like the rest, is not a bad thing. We want perfect lasting completion. We want to be able to relax out of striving, seeking, and working into accomplishment, answers, and rest. For me, those qualities are not bad, but the exploration of wabi sabi had confirmed for me that goals promise satisfaction and contentment one day, and as attractive as this sounds, it is an illusion. Because satisfaction and contentment are as transitory as all other feelings in life.

So, being still in the stream is being ankle or knee or even waist deep in the flow — in the process. But there is another kind of stillness that is not persisiting-in-the-moment-ness but more along the line of persisting-in-the-momentlessness. This is the stillness which we think of as being without movement. The stillness of a meditator, of a person in reverie, and of objects that reside in one place for a long time. It is the air that seems not to move in a forest glade, the water that seems not to move on a calm pond. We love the look and feel and experience of this kind of stillness. And most of us know it is a relative thing. Even when the mist is rising off a glassy lake, and the reeds and rushes stand like sentinels, we know that the mist is swirling is very small movements of air, and rings appear on the water from fish moving below the surface. Stillness of this kind is really a reduction of motion, a quieting of frenetic activity which seems somehow to hush our mind, to create a mindful state in which we can let go some of the burden we seem to be carrying. I’m realizing now that letting go, is perhaps as important to sabi as being still. And also, there is the stream. Always the stream. More on this as I go along…