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.
I’ve been reading that finding truth, particularly absolute truth, isn’t such an easy thing to do; in fact, seeking truth is a pretty nebulous enterprise altogether.
It appears that much of what we regard as hard truth is product of our conceptual constructs and belief systems which, when it comes right down to it is pretty relative information. What happens, I guess, is that our limited capacity to understand what we regard before us leads us to package our perceptions into preconceived concepts which become beliefs that fall way short of the truth embedded within that which we are observing or contemplating. I guess the lesson to be learned is that, to find truth, one needs to suppress beliefs and concepts and just open up to seeing, to purely observing what’s before us. I suppose some deep contemplation will be involved.
And then, I’m to understand, if we may be so fortunate, through our intense efforts to glimpse truth, the realization, as enlightening as it will surely be, will never the less be of an incommunicable nature.
Seeking truth may be the most important thing I will ever put energy toward. If I am able to arrive at profound Truths, as I hope to, just don’t expect me to try to share them.
I’ve been reading, lately, about the disconnect between ideological beliefs and hard facts; that firmly held beliefs sometimes get in the way of accepting objective knowledge when the two don’t exactly mesh. I guess we all have our ideological beliefs, what we see as appropriate, preferable directions and outcomes that our culture as we understand it, would best observe; perspectives that have come to us through our intuitions or religious beliefs or communion with like-minded folks. Pluralism being what it is, though, belief systems will never coalesce into a single dominant ideology.
Objective knowledge on the other hand, that knowledge that we obtain from careful observation and thoughtful painstaking data collection doesn’t require belief: it comes to us as a dynamic fact that shouldn’t be thought of as divisive in terms of ideologies. But, I guess were having a hard time these days separating beliefs from hard facts.
Anyway, I was thinking that it would be really good, ideal really, if we could all come together around the realization that what we desire is a shared common ground, a cooperative and peaceful humankind progressing through shared knowledge. We must not let ideologies get in the way of our idealism.
I’ve been reading, lately, a most intriguing perspective suggesting much of what our common sense tells us is inaccurate if not totally wrong. For one thing, so goes the thinking, consciousness must precede material existence. Which means, I guess, that when I’m unconscious not only does nothing outside of my dreams exist for me but the birds presently flitting about the feeder cease to exist altogether with my fall into unconsciousness.
Apparently the idea is that, since sub-atomic entities like electrons exist as both tangible particles and invisible waves simultaneously, at any given moment, what they actually are depends upon whether they’re being observed and if, when eyes are cast in their direction they are invisible waves one has to wonder about their very existence: electrons may be present when watched, absent when unobserved.
Which leads me to wonder whether or not the birds outside my window continue to exist after I doze off into one of my afternoon naps and then, when I wake, do the birds come back into existence or am I just seeing different birds. Anyway, if sub-atomic entities, of which the world consists, depend on an observer for their existence I guess it stands to reason that the presence of a conscious intelligence is required in order that there be a manifested world.
It all seems pretty counter-intuitive but, as I think about it, the notion of a world dependent on conscious awareness is pretty hard to disprove.