Union

Although this weld bead is not a good one from the perspective of a welder, it caught my attention as a potentially abstract image, rich with color, texture and highlights. When I came across the image today the word “joining” came to mind, eliciting some observations for contemplation. Some of the metaphoric implications are obvious, others not so much. And because Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J. wrote so extensively about the evolutionary dynamics and implications of union—joining together—I offer some of his quotes that distill the essence of my observations here.

In the first place, I notice that a bead of molten material, itself metal, is used to unify separate pieces of steel. It’s not a different substance that unites, it’s the same in essence, except that it’s in a molten or liquid form. Just so, two individuals with differing values or perspectives can become united in purpose or function by a third party, a “facilitator” who shares their vision or common objective. As long as there is a commonly held outcome, there’s the potential for bonding. And when it’s realized, their strength is increased considerably. The whole has expanded potentials and more capability than the individuals would have had operating separately.

Everything in the universe is made by union and generation—by the coming together of elements that seek out one another, melt together two by two, and are born again in a third.

Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

Metals are “hard-nosed” individuals. They are fixed in their ways, not about to change. They “like” being separate. So much so, they can only be bonded by another metal that has undergone a change of state—transformation—from solid to liquid. In the realm of matter, pliability is a necessary condition for unification. In the human realm this equates to flexibility. And that’s where we have an advantage. Even when individuals are fixed in their ways and disagree, bonding can occur through mutually respectful communication.

Fuller being is closer union.

Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

Importantly, in the above image both pieces of metal retain their individual uniqueness even when they are joined. In the human situation, the molten bead represents the power of agreement and compromise. And that is accomplished in the fires of discussion and debate—which should, like the elements that compose the metal, include everyone who has something at stake in the outcome that will be affected by unification.

True union does not fuse: it differentiates and personalizes.

Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

It may be extending the metaphor too far, but I note in this image that the solidified bead is brighter and shinier than the metals it joins. In the domain of human interaction I take this to indicate that the agent of unification needs to be someone “brighter” in the sense of having an expanded perspective, particularly with regard to the potentials that can be achieved through joining.

Union can only increase through an increase in consciousness, that is to say in vision. That is why the history of the living world can be summarized as the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes within a cosmos in which there is always something more to be seen.

Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

The lesson I draw from the metal and human communication analogy is that separate individuals, hardened in their values, beliefs or perspectives, can unite either through intelligent and wise communication or commonly shared experiences. United, individuals are stronger and capable of achieving what could not be achieved by themselves.

I do not exist in order that I may possess; rather I exist in order that I may give of myself, for it is in giving that I am myself. Cosmic life is intrinsically communal. Being is first a “we” before it can become an “I.” 

Teilhard de Chardin S.J

ABOUT THIS IMAGE

Title: Welding Seam

File: DC624

I came upon these pieces of joined metal in a scrap yard. “Smart Sharpening” was used in Photoshop—slightly—to accentuate the textures.

ABOUT TEILHARD

If you would like to read about Teilhard (pronounced: “Tay-yar”), I recommend Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin by Ursula King, revised edition 2015 by Orbis Books. It can be found in most public libraries.

Teilhard’s legacy was the formulation of a comprehensive mystical vision that integrated science and spirituality. Science critics didn’t think he added much to the field of evolution or paleontology. And the Catholic Church banned him from publishing during his lifetime, even exiled him to China to prevent him from speaking. In particular, his views on original sin and evolution presented a threat to dogma. Recent pope’s however, spoke highly of his contributions to Christ-centered spirituality.

It’s perhaps no accident that I chose an image of metal for this contemplation. When Teilhard was a child he collected rocks, drawn to them because they were the hardest, most lasting objects he could find. Then one day he discovered a piece of shiny metal under a cart. Because it was much harder than rock, he thought he’d found something that would last. He said he “cherished” it. When it was left out in the rain for a time he came running to his mother in tears because his precious find was rusting. In telling this years later, he cites the incident as the moment when he became determined to find something that would last forever. He found it in the human spirit.

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