Relationship first

The idea that a relationship can be prior to its parts may sound strange, but when we start to think about it, the idea that things exist first and then enter into relationship can come to sound just as strange…Imagine a glass cylinder or tube that is open at each end lying on its side. Inside the cylinder is a marble. We are going to push the cylinder so that it is rolling, and we wonder out of which of the cylinder’s two ends the marble will escape. As we discuss it, it is perfectly natural for us to distinguish between the two ends or openings of the cylinder (if we are standing on the same side of the cylinder, we might refer to them as the “right” opening and the “left”opening). If we began to pay a lot of attention to these two openings (perhaps they are not identically shaped and we think one end is a more likely exit for the marble) we could conclude that what the cylinder really is, is two openings connected by a glass tube. We could see the glass tube as the connector or relation of the two ends. Although this is an unfortunately static, reified image of a relationship, the tube is, in a sense, the bond or link between parts, the two ends. The parts “have a relationship” to each other and the tube defines it. But it would make just as much sense to say, “Wait a minute! The cylinder does not connect two openings. There wouldn’t be any openings without the cylinder. It creates the openings., All there really is, is one thing, a cylinder. The cylinder has openings, not the other way around.

The relationship has the parts. The parts do not have the relationships.

R.Kegan (in over our heads)

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