How does the experience of being aware arise? And what is the relationship between mind and body, or, to put it another way, between consciousness and matter?
Some examples: we can choose to train ourselves to adjust our breathing to affect our mood and ability to concentrate (meditation, did you know that a Buddhist monks and nuns have been studied during deep mediation, a shotgun can be fired behind them and there is no recognition in their brain activity whatsoever of this ‘shocking event’). And our sexual feelings can raise intense expressions of love for another person that may rise to an intense realisation of the interconnectedness of everything. An example from American poet Walt Whitman:
“I mind how once we lay, such a transparent summer morning;
How you settled your head athwart my hips, and gently turn’d over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth;
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own;
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers;
And that a kelson of the creation is love;
And limitless are leaves, stiff or drooping in the fields;
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them;
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, and heap’d stones, elder, mullen and poke-weed.” Excerpt from ‘Song of Myself’ (part 5) Walt Whitman (from Leaves of Grass, first published in the 1855 edition).
But the nature of scientific discovery during the time since the printing of this poem to this day has left many feeling bereft with the feeling that a direct connection to reality is a delusory ambition. Pessimistic relativism rules in our ‘day and age’, post-modernism breaks us into tiny fragments beyond any sense of narrative that contains meaning. I argue fervently against such belief. That the understanding of the oscillation of time, the relativity of time, the subjective nature of our reality leaves us empty and lost (shaking my head determinedly ‘no’). As the environment stretches a species what happens? Adaptation occurs in order for a species to survive, if they do not… they fade into extinction. Human adaptation is now possible because we have already adapted on a incredible scale some 40,000 years ago (or for the creationists reading this when God made man in the image of himself, except with free will) with the ‘big bang’ of our evolution that took a major risk but enabled us to have a creative mind that could remember, plan and imagine a future with the information available. We have the ability for spiritual development because with reason, creativity and instincts in balance we can make the finer distinctions necessary for getting in touch with more subtle aspects of reality. I defy anyone to tell me that the cutting edge of quantum physics doesn’t sound like at least sci-fi or intense spirituality.
“New organs of perception come into being as a result of necessity. Therefore, O man, increase your necessity, so that you may increase your perception.” Sufi sage Julaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
If you so wish there will be more… but, my beloved friends, this is it for today. Perhaps I should give these musings a new category… ‘errant talks’. Hmm, I like the sound of that.