The thinking seems to be these days among neuro-scientists and phenomenologists that the concept of Self is an artificial construct evolution has foisted upon us in the interest of fending off extinction. By providing a focus upon which to differentiate options for action, evolution has provided, over considerable time, the means to improve our potential for personal survival. I’m guessing things like:” is that Sabretooth Tiger looking at me thinking about a meal in which case “‘I’better think about reacting” and so forth, has developed and perpetuated the myth of the Self.
So, I guess there really is no ‘Self’ other than a concept our consciousness has found useful to limit possible choices in order to provide some bit of stability within our limited sensible abilities; which also means the ‘World’ our artificial ‘Self’ recognizes is but a tiny fraction of what is actual out there existing around us.
But our sense of Self, researchers assure us, is pretty much impossible to eradicate as enlightening as it might be to do so. We can, though, I suppose, think seriously about growing our world awareness through meditation which is, after all, a ‘Self’ subordinating enterprise.
It appears that the very best, the only, really, reality anyone can hope for is a virtual one. Apparently our virtual world is limited to but a tiny fraction of the reality around us. Our virtual world is, I guess, the result of our need to pin down, create a static conceptual world that we, our “I”, is the center of separate from you, the other.
I do catch a glimpse, occasionally, of a richer reality which is available, according to the sage advice I’ve recently been reading, by simply ‘awakening’ to the moment, realizing with open mind what’s before me. So, what I would like to do is get better in touch with the immensity and complexity of the fluctuating, ever-changing reality that I know is out there.
I guess part of the solution may require looking past dualistic concepts like existence/non-existence which tend to lead to ideas of extinction or eternal survival, getting in the way of immediate sustained perceptual awareness. And then, too, I suppose subordinating ego, by-passing that annoying sense of ‘Self’ will also be necessary.
I will attempt, today, to embrace the moment, allow distracting concerns , past and future to pass by and stay focused in the now; no rushing around; everything in good time.
It appears neuro-scientists, brain researchers, have determined that there’s an innate sensibility, a pre-language understanding that all humans and some other mammalian species have in common. The theory is that this sense of existential commonality could only have occurred after the evolutionary neural development process that first produced a ‘self-model’ or individual identity in our early ancestors and that through observation and mirroring their cave mates, social connectedness and empathy developed from which cultures and civilization followed.
So, I’m beginning to understand that what I am, who I understand myself to be, my personal identity is little more than a particular aspect of neural development no more or less significant in the greater stream of consciousness than the world experienced through my sensual awareness.
Along with the sense of personal identity I’ve inherited self-consciousness, moral second guessing and the anxieties that go along with the desire for social inclusion as well as all sorts of other desires that have a tendency to pre-occupy my consciousness, all of which temper the positives a bit.
One could romanticize, I suppose, that a step back on the evolutionary scale would offer a simpler mental engagement. At the very least social media wouldn’t be an issue.
I understand that neuro-scientists are going to great efforts these days to make sense of what exactly constitutes consciousness. A lot of their efforts are about correlating conscious experiences, like the world view before us or our sense of time extension, with specific brain activity, what synapses fire when and where it’s all happening.
No easy task, I guess, but one particular difficulty these researchers are having is how to deal with extreme subtleties of consciousness, those experiences that defy verbal representation, like the aesthetic response one might have when hearing a particular musical refrain or the ineffable responses to the smell of flowers on a spring day. To make matters even more difficult the same sounds or the same odor may not elicit the same conscious response experienced a second time.
It seems to me reducing conscious experience to specific brain activity isn’t necessarily a desirable enterprise anyway. Perhaps allowing the ineffable to remain ineffable is a breath of fresh air.
I’m being led to understand, through some quite credible readings, that it’s likely physiological variations, like elevated heart rate or shortness of breath or even a stubbed toe precede emotional states; which means, I guess, one might be more likely to develop romantic feelings for a jogging partner or feel an excessive animosity for an athletic opponent after spraining an ankle.
So, I was thinking about this after my bi-weekly exercise regimen the other day when it occurred to me that I did indeed feel a sense of bonding with and good will toward my companions, nothing romantic you understand, but a familial closeness with the good people in our group. Whether I would have developed those same feelings had our relationships developed as, say, library board members I don’t know but I do kind of doubt it. I suppose one could over-intellectualize the issue, debating which came first the heart palpitations or the feelings but better, I think, to just keep exercising and let nature take its course.
I’ve been reading that, as we observe the world around us, the amount of information we receive through our senses: visual, aural, smells, all our sensory input is too great for our brains to process.
So, what happens is we conceptualize: we ‘package’ what we observe into easy to understand tidbits of information that, unfortunately, tend to leave out a whole lot of what is really there before us; all kinds of information we simply find inconceivable.
This is, it seems to me, unfortunate; if we spend a bit more time observing and less rushing to categorize we might gain some insight into the inconceivable. I’m inclined to proceed in such a manner; at least until I lose myself in inconceivability.
So I’ve been reading that the idea of cause and effect is not a necessarily local process, one thing following another in a relatively straight forward manner related to time sequences and spatial proximity; that an occurrence in one place, at one time has ramifications not only for what universally will be but what has been throughout time as well.
I guess it all has to do with quantum physical theory, that subatomic entities exist simultaneously as two things, particles and waves and these most basic of material building blocks defy logical analysis, interacting non-locally with other entities, shifting what has and will occur as entropy moves them to action. Or something. But all of this leads to the absolutely mind-blowing idea that what I do right now, right here, affects everything that ever was, is or will be.
As counter-intuitive as this may seem there is certainly something enlightening about the idea. If I can realize my impact and connectedness in relation to the world around me and then act accordingly it can only be a good thing.
I’ve been trying to make sense of the idea of a timeless universe. I get that in our local reality, that is the reality around us we experience every day, change is occurring constantly and to make sense of it all we apply the notion of time; you know, this happened and now I’m here and maybe soon that will occur if such and such doesn’t interfere although one can never discount the serendipitous….. and so forth. If the only reality is now, the past no longer, the future yet to be, then the passage of time is an illusion because ‘now’ is all that there can be.
Science informs us of the beginning of it all, the big bang and the expanding universe and the day in the future when the last star in the heavens will blink out leaving eternal darkness, but the numbers that are applied to such theory are beyond astronomically large. All such conjecture uses time as a theoretical postulate, the numbers are simply too big to be real (pragmatically if not mathematically).
It all makes me think I need to concentrate more on the immediate.
I don’t know why it is but for me there always seems to be an ominous presence just beyond daily occurrence that, no matter how nicely everything seems to be proceeding, in my mind disaster is just a tick away from happening.
I live, I guess, with a close companion who harbors a certain pessimistic perspective or, maybe, just maybe is offering fair warning of impending disaster I better take note of. The thing is, as disasters go I really can’t say I’ve experienced anything, you know, particularly devastating in terms of life and death occurrences. But, nevertheless, whenever things are moving along smoothly there is, in the back of my mind, a sense of impending doom.
I really can’t explain it but I suspect I will be compelled to live with my pessimistic companion and the angst he causes me as long as I draw breath. After that I suppose I’ll have to admit I was fairly warned.
I’ve been reading that the sensory input we experience during our waking hours is a bombardment of information most of which never registers within our consciousness, but, nevertheless may find itself lodged within our unconscious mind, which may explain how we come up with those Trivial Pursuit answers seemingly out of nowhere.
And, since conscious memory is selective by necessity, the inability to grasp all data the senses provide and our need to offer feasible explanations to ourselves and others, our verbal presentations of what has happened is almost always a pretty far cry from factual evidence.
So, I guess we may be somewhat excused if the personal narratives we conjure don’t exactly jibe with reality. And, since we’re doing everything within our limited sensual powers to spell out what’s going on around us maybe we need to reassess what exactly reality is.