Saturday, June 22, 2019
Roger Penrose- “Seeing is the essence of consciousness.”
When we open our eyes, we let in a vast channel of information. What we know we recognize, what we don’t we compare to other things until we find revealing similarity. In this way, the brain accumulates information for identifying and anticipating what happens in our surroundings. Our life experience builds layers of analogy on similarity of form. Perception of form is the first layer of understanding.
Explaining the brain does not presume to explain consciousness. Much is understood about the brain’s plasticity, creating circuits, strengthening those reused, while unused paths wither. How we store and retrieve and associate our personal library of life has been thoroughly investigated. Not consciousness. Though there are scientists that argue that consciousness is a phenomenon that arises from the brain itself, a localized consciousness inside a particular body, it’s a theory with nothing yet to back it up. But those not locked into a mechanical model, like the late David Bohm (quantum physics) and Rupert Sheldrake (biology) see the brain more like a receiver, the medium through which consciousness flows, just like the heart pumps the blood but didn’t make the blood and the lungs breathe the air from outside. We are vessels through which all the elements of life flow. Experience crafts the frequencies we receive so individuals experience consciousness according to the brain’s tuning occurring as a result of personal life, and learning may tune us to a broader spectrum of information in the overall field of consciousness.
When Sri Aurobindo says the “practical currency of (one)self” is not “the thing itself” he’s encouraging us to look beyond the body/mind to an enlarged realization of consciousness.
Alan Watts says the Christian “good news” Jesus delivered was that we had God within us, never separate, the actual seeing Self. The awareness within may be a feature of the animating life force. Many artists have a sense of being a conduit for ideas that may flow from beyond the personal self. To consider ourselves as collaborators, participants in a larger mind is humbling but opens us to our connection to the human species, offering what we see to the whole.
Without a philosophy that unites us, we drift apart. Chaos theory suggests that what appears chaotic will show a beautiful order if we step back to see a bigger picture. The encompassing metaphors of various religions should not be barriers when stepping back shows the universal structure beneath them. Just like we all share the earth we may also share the consciousness that flows through us.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
One of my favorite useful passages from the I Ching says, if you want to know what kind of person you are, look at the effect you have on others. If you’re making someone cry, that’s not a good thing. If you are turning one friend against another, that’s even worse. That’s what I see beginning to percolate in the toxic climate created by Trumpish hatefulness as he blames the Democrats for the disasters he creates. The I Ching also says it is the inferior person that puts blame on others, far better to look for the error in ourselves. As a philosophy aimed at bringing peoplee into harmony with unfolding circumstance, it has served me for over forty years, most of which I’ve systematized into weekly personal ritual that strengthens what’s best in me by emphasizing what matters. It’s a way to center, return to the larger context, reviewing the self in action. When religious scholar Elaine Pagels was asked in a radio interview what she believed, she said she felt that belief was overrated, that she appreciated the practice of her Christianity. A Jewish student said much the same thing, as an uncertain atheist her engagement with the practice of her religion connected her to meaningful traditions. One of my Muslim students said that the fast for Ramadan reinforced her sense of gratitude for what she had when breaking the fast at sundown. Weaving the practice of spirit through life routines is a way to reinforce the positive. Peter Breggin (author of “Toxic Psychiartry”) felt that what people suffered from today is more often a spiritual/emotional overwhelm when the old sources have been rejected.
There is an accumulated wisdom in all religions that is a resource available at all times. The differences between them are imagery that grew from the originating culture so it is most easily understood by those who grew up with it. People don’t have trouble accepting that different cultures speak different languages, why should there be such a battle between the different ways to express what’s beyond human understanding. The code of each religion is what speaks best to different regions. The conflict is artificial, based on history and imagery that can be twisted into a substitute for the actual. Beneath the imagery is a universal human essence. Each source, philosophy or religion is a finger pointing to the moon. If it helps you see the moon there you go. The finger is just a finger, guiding the gaze toward the Essence. In the Tao Te Ching it says “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”
There will always be more than we know.
Monday, April 22, 2019
Today, Earth Day, an Extinction Rebellion is going on in DC and has been for days all over the world. A die-in stopped traffic in NYC. Young people have been protesting and getting arrested in London, trying to get the attention of those in power so they’ll do something about the destruction of the earth. One of their websites defined it as an International Rebellion against the world’s governments for criminal inaction on the ecological crisis.”
That we are supported by the earth is not abstract. It is the ground we stand on and we are never outside its influence. The gravity that holds us close is constant and so utterly dependable that it goes unnoticed. We need the air, the water, the soil and food to maintain our physical existence. And the needs run deeper than that. Recently, I heard a report of the healing effects of nature on mental health, psychiatrists prescribing twenty minutes a day outdoors to perceptibly change mood. My experience walking a half hour each day confirms it on a personal level, and it’s a joy discovering what comes up around the house my first spring here. Graham Greene said the more deeply you looked at a person, the more you loved them and it feels true of the nature around us. The more you see, the more there is to see. As love grows, awareness of responsibility builds thoughtfulness and the will to care for surroundings. Artists guide public noticing, help focus attention where it matters and more artists are pointing to environmental issues.
Our continuity with our environment is inseparable but unconsidered in modern self-isolation. The technological interface between people and the surrounding world reduces the interdependent complexity of the ecosystem that supports us to one flat screen. With everything reduced and isolated, made uniform in that single frame, it can distort perspective and minimize the power to amaze. Nature is real and it is powerful. You have only to see the tree branch growing from the side of a concrete wall to feel its ability to recover the planet with life. It’s time to be more cooperative, to be part of something real that gets all the senses involved. There’s no price on a breeze, but if we take the time to pay attention, it’s among the most beautiful sensations available. But even our breezes are under attack. A recent BBC report detailed new studies that show that air pollution impairs cognitive processes.
It shows student performance dropping on the most polluted days, as well as impaired judgment and higher crime., not just in urban areas, where the winds converge in New England also measure high, recipients of all the industry along the way from two directions. To ignore this is to cultivate ignorance.
It’s encouraging to see people distancing themselves from their phones, getting involved in real life and not the escapist fantasies devised for profit. Don’t buy it. Get to know the planet that’s always been there for you, and be with the earth, today.