The vegetable dreams; its life is sleep. In it reality and dream are one, as in fantasy, for it dreams itself. And also because it sleeps permanently and what it dreams is what is. The plant is the shape of its dream.
In the animal bad dreams begin; the dream that is different from its own being, the nightmare. Nightmare is the dream opposed to life. The dream that bears down on consciousness or the hint of consciousness and that has to originate in the necessity for movement. The quiet vegetable, ecstatic, is immersed in its sleep and in not moving does not distinguish, between outside and inside. And so does not need to have consciousness.
Consciousness has risen from movement and the movement in turn makes it feel and creates the sensation of a rift in its reality, divides it into my “outside” and my “inside.” Movement is necessary for the animal, it is the generic form of its life, because its necessity is without limits. And because it must go far in search of its satisfaction and this too is its power. Without movement it has no power. And so the root of its necessity and the root of its power equally oblige it to move.
For the plant all must be felt inside, only gently may it feel the outside and not as such, but as a brush, as a wound in the worst case. The tree, the plant live their dream within, not only feeling the earth where its roots are buried, but all of space, the dome of the sky. For these are born not in going out from itself, but in a budding; a passing from darkness to light, and the air that continues to cover them as before the earth did the seed, but without oppression; an inside very spacious and light where its being unfolds and enters through subtle relations with “the other,” “the others,” as with the animal. “The other” which is the origin of “the enemy.”
The feeling for other bodies will present itself to them in different forms of relation without struggle, or antagonism; corresponding perhaps to moments of contemplation of the beautiful in human life.. The beautiful, even happiness devolves for man from the world where the vegetable has continued to live, since they bring it to the interior without boundaries. To a spacious “inside” where it is not imprisoned or exiled. To live outside is to wander in amazement and in struggle; to live inside is to be bound and isolated. This manner of vegetal living and that which man enjoys when he feels beauty or is happy, is neither outside nor inside; participation in the life of the whole, without going to find it; is the presence not pursued; the being without boundaries that senses the richness of the universe unfolded. Meanwhile in human life one seeks the whole of that which “the other” [el otro] and “the other” [lo otro] enclose within themselves, pursuing it, conquering it among the avatars of the necessity to possess what refuses us all the same, the quietude of living within and the freedom of living without.
Maria Zambrano, “El vegetal,” Roma 1954, Algunas lugares de la pintura, Madrid 1991 (Reprinted in Cuba secreta, ed. Jorge Luis Arcos, Colección ensayo, no. 90. Madrid, 1996: 148-49.)