Making Sense of Experience

Stepping out on the back porch this morning, I was greeted by brilliant sunlight and a most welcome change to a milder air temperature, and the experience of the moment prompted me to open the window in my office for the first time since the air turned chilly last autumn.

The trees outside the window seem to have sprouted buds overnight, and the background murmur of life outdoors became the catalyst for thoughtful reflection on persevering through winter’s sometimes bitter cold sting. The simple appreciation of milder temperatures suddenly became clearer and more pronounced by having to slug through so many mornings with dauntingly frigid beginnings. While contemplating the experience of morning in the temporal world, I was reviewing several entries from my personal journals and was struck by two entries in particular.

The first concerned an excerpt from a book entitled, “Inward Morning,” by Henry Bugbee, which suggested part of the reason why tending to our reflections is so important:

“The reflection worth indulging doesn’t know where it is going…if philosophical truth is engendered in depth, we must not expect it to come to light except out of relative obscurity. One of the ways to uncover and illuminate the implications in the obscurity of our thoughts is by writing them down regularly and reviewing them over time. With regular attention, we can gain a degree of perspective, although Bugbee also reminds us:
“We do not predict and control the ebb and flow of meaning in our experience, nor do we easily ponder experience with respect to the tides of meaning.” It isn’t without some difficulty that I ponder my experience “with respect to the tides of meaning,” but the journal makes the process somewhat less confusing, while also making me keenly aware of just how far I have yet to go.

The second entry that caught my attention concerns a reading in a book of essays by Albert Einstein. While it is still the subject of continuing investigation, our ability to comprehend more fully our very human nature, in “Physics and Reality,” Einstein wrote:

“One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility. It is one of the great realizations of Immanuel Kant that the setting up of a real external world would be senseless without this comprehensibility. In speaking here concerning “comprehensibility,” the expression is used in its most modest sense. It implies: the production of some sort of order among sense impressions, this order being produced by the creation of general concepts, relations between these concepts, and by relations between the concepts and sense experience, these relations being determined in any possible manner. It is in this sense that the world of our sense experiences is comprehensible. The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.”

While Einstein admits further along that “sense experiences can only be comprehended intuitively,” he argues persuasively that we should, at some point, be able to make sense of “the labyrinth of sense impressions.” As our sense impressions constitute a major component of the subjective experience of consciousness, a vital link in the chain of conscious awareness, we must infer a “degree of comprehensibility” even in the “modest sense” suggested by Einstein.

Click to access Physics_and_Reality-Albert_Einstein.pdf

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