Communication and the Reality of Relationship

September 6, 2022

There is a new world of possibility that we gain access to when we change how we understand relationships and communication.

This shift in perspective illuminates the world differently so that we begin to see relationships all around us and at the same time we open to the vast amount of information that is constantly being communicated to us from every aspect of the world. In this essay, I will introduce you to this miraculous shift in perspective.

We live in a materialistic worldview. That means that fundamentally we see reality as being made up of tangible and material things. That’s why we use the word ‘everything' to mean all that is. If you have everything, you have all the things there are, and that’s all there is.

A worldview is more than a perspective, it is also a set of values. In a materialistic worldview physical things are seen as real, which means they matter. The relationships between things are seen as secondary and matter less. But, I learned in college that things can only exist in relationship. On their own they don’t exist at all. Relationships exist and things are defined by them.

As an undergraduate I studied physics, and my favorite course was An Introduction to Metaphysics. The professor was a round elderly gentleman one year from retirement. When he lectured, he giggled to himself after nearly every sentence and licked his glistening lower lip after about every third word. I had no background in philosophy, but the provocative questions and statements he inserted between giggles held my attention transfixed for an entire semester.

One of the things I learned was that reality was not a collection of things arranged in spatial and temporal order. What we perceive as real is a constant and ever-shifting sense of relatedness. We don’t perceive things, we perceive relationships, which means contrasts, and distinctions. Things are defined by these, and they exist only as phantoms created by the false assumption that a relationship cannot exist on its own. In fact the opposite is true. Relationships are perceptible, they do exist, but things are only perceptible as sets of relationships.

Relationships are experienced realities that exist independent of the things related. The quality and essence of our relationships can be seen and must be attended to. Our relationships should not just be considered as secondary realities. They are real and they are alive. They need to be nurtured and fed and cared for.

We have also been taught to see relationships as distinct from communications, but every communication is a form of relationship, and more surprisingly relationships are a form of communication. The twentieth century philosopher Gregory Bateson called the most fundamental form of communication ‘news of difference’ and he envisioned an entire universe created not from atoms, but out of news of difference.

If you put an apple and a banana side by side, the obvious communication coming from both sides is, I’m not that. The contrast between them is an announcement of difference and that is the most basic form of communication. We have been taught that things are real and so when we look around us we see a collection of things. But when we open to the reality of relationships we step into a different world. We look around and all we see is communication or news of difference.

Everything is communicating to us all the time. We live in a constant exchange of information. We do not live in isolation, we live in a continuous conversation with reality. Everything around us is alive and communicating, and so much information becomes available to us once we learn how to see it. Learning this secret allows our vision to become deep and the world opens up to us and reveals more and more of itself.

Everything in our lives, our personal happiness, our spiritual well-being, our financial stability, everything is created by the quality of our relationships and our ability to build rich and meaningful relationships depends on being able to see them.

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