All of This and Nothing

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I've been working with my Ashridge colleague Hugh P on a dialogue project which will celebrate a new translation of Martin Buber's 'I and Thou.'

Buber's work is often seen as one of the founding texts of conversational practice and dialogue; he believes in the fundamental wholeness of nature and our complete participation in it.  Hugh has been working with a short piece of Buber's work, "I consider a tree...'" and we have been asking top academics from the fields of physics, mathematics, botany, ecology and art, "So, how do you see a tree?"  In turn, I have been working photographically with the various responses to produce images for a film which Hugh will present at a conference in Mexico next month.

This image came from our conversation with the brilliant Andrew Steane, Professor of Physics at Exeter College, Oxford.  Andrew guided us into through the matter and forces that make up a tree before takinging us into the shadowy world of quantum physics where the idea of matter itself becomes erm... problematic...  We know that we have information pointing to the existence of matter but actually putting a finger on it....

So, here is my quantum tree.  We can see information that leads us to think of the tree but... it kind of isn't really there....

Martin Buber - I consider a tree

I can look on it as a picture: stiff column in a shock of light, or splash of green shot with the delicate blue and silver of the background.

I can perceive it as movement: flowing veins on clinging, pressing pith, suck of the roots, breathing of the leaves, ceaseless commerce with earth and air - and the obscure growth itself.

I can classify it in a species and study it as a type in its structure and mode of life.

I can subdue its actual presence and form so sternly that I recognize it only as an expression of law...

I can dissipate it and perpetuate it in number...

In all this the tree remains my object, occupies space and time, and has its nature and constitution.

It can, however, also come about, if I have both will and grace, that in considering the tree I become bound up in relation to it. The tree is no longer It. I have been seized by the power of exclusiveness.