Dissonance within Resonance

While slowly awakening this morning, drifting between brief wakefulness and lapses back into sleep, I found myself suddenly in a dimly lit hallway, searching for a stairwell or exit, when I noticed a television monitor suspended from the wall. Thinking that it might be useful in some way, I went toward it in an attempt to reach the “on” button, and when I stretched out my arm, my whole body seemed to lift off the ground and I was able to press the “on” button easily, before landing gently once again on the floor. As I did, my mind came back to semi-consciousness, and the words, “dissonance within resonance,” repeated several times in my mind.

The dictionary lists a common use of the word “resonance,” to mean “…a sound produced by a body vibrating in sympathy with a neighboring source of sound.” It has also come to mean a quality of an individual or idea, “…to strike a chord or evoke an emotional response by a sympathetic reverberation in another.” Dissonance, conversely, refers to that which is “inharmonious,” or involves “disagreement or incongruity.”

When an idea, or a feeling, or a person seem to “resonate” with us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are totally sympathetic with the idea, completely harmonious with the feeling, or one hundred percent compatible with the person. Certain aspects of the resonance are strong enough to warrant our “sympathetic reverberation,” and subsequent familiarity with the idea, feeling, or person may help us to understand the exact nature of the emotional response, giving us a better idea of why each of them “strike a chord.”

There are times in our lives, particularly in times of great stress, or when faced with perplexing personal circumstances, when we experience conflicting inclinations or confusion regarding our deeper longings or leanings. In psychology, the term “cognitive dissonance,” refers to “…psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes.” When I find myself in this condition, I don’t often know how to respond. Each moment is filled with a certainty about the existence of the feeling, and yet, a chaotic swirl of uncertainty as to how to deal with the feeling.

Sean Scully – “Wall of Light Desert Night” – 1999 – Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The incongruous nature of temporal circumstances in a degree of disharmony with those of the spiritual sort used to be a great deal more daunting for me to comprehend and to address, and there are still times when I am perplexed by the character of the experiences surrounding particular events and pivotal moments. I used to attribute the disharmonious parts to my own inability to bring the circumstances together correctly. It always seemed to me that there was something wrong with ME. I have come to understand that the very nature of life itself is rooted in uncertainty, and that it is largely undetermined, with a few areas of relative certainty discovered in the laws governing the natural world.

The laws of physics are both beautiful and exquisitely mathematical and can be relied upon to predict many outcomes with astonishing precision. However, as well equipped as we are through science to understand the nature of particular phenomena, the interaction of those elements, particularly with the unpredictable intervention of human beings and unforeseen natural events, is far less comprehensible. Certainty is elusive in the wildness of the universe.

In my view, beyond the laws of physics, the dogma of religion, and the world of the phenomenal and predictable, is the realm of the unseen forces that drive life itself. Over the centuries since humans became conscious, intelligent creatures, we have felt this pull toward the poorly understood universe of the unseen–what is often referred to as the universe of the spirit. The degree to which we can interact with it and gain access to it, is at the heart of the uncertainty of life.

Photo Courtesy of h.koppdelaney (flickr)

Of necessity as temporal beings, we often resort to temporal references in order to allude to that which cannot be described in temporal terms. The nature of life, temporal existence, the physical universe, and everything relevant to that existence cannot be described completely in terms belonging only to that existence. We have devised ways of referring to these other aspects of life and existence, particularly as they relate to our very human nature, and acknowledge them as existing in a domain far removed from the temporal–as far removed from the temporal plane as we are from the quantum world of the very small, and the farthest reaches of the physical universe. Although we are, in some important ways, defined by these two opposing aspects, the truth seems to reside between them.

There is, in my experience, an inexplicable resistance to exploring this aspect of our nature. Even in consideration of social norms, personality, previous experiences, and other influences, my sense of being compelled toward other like spirits is often mitigated by my own reluctance to acknowledge my connection to the ineffable. Temporal events have often complicated the circumstances surrounding the attention to the spiritual nature I perceive in myself, but at no time has it been sufficient to dissuade me from attempting to understand and expand my comprehension of it. It seems very unlikely to me that my most powerful urgings toward the world of the spirit, so vital to our humanity, could be mistaken. The sense of connection I feel is too profoundly affective to be a mistake. There must be a way to connect without complicating, to engage without reluctance, to pursue my powerful spiritual inclinations without turning the world upside down. This blog continues to be a record of this pursuit.

….more to come

4 thoughts on “Dissonance within Resonance

  1. “The sense of connection I feel is too profoundly affective to be a mistake. There must be a way to connect without complicating, to engage without reluctance, to pursue my powerful spiritual inclinations without turning the world upside down.” See, I don’t want to be contrary, what’s the point, right? But for some reason the words, Identity is conflict, came to mind as I read this last line, Freud believed this. I think it’s from Civilization and Its Discontents. Anyway, the state you are referring to, I think, is deep engagement without reluctance, in my opinion does turn the world upside down, as the only way to engage at that deep level, unless you are still in the womb, is to let go of your own consciousness. But there is a conflict because what we seem to hope for is deep engagement not with our primal undifferentiated selves but with our developed selves; but the developed self by nature is separate, has evolved to live independently of the host, the mother. Just thoughts. I’m not sure if they are appropriate. I read your piece and am sorry I have yet to get back to you on it…the holidays got in the way….but I am going to reread it now. It reminds me of some of this post. I sometimes wonder if all roads lead to the dog house…that tiny room from which we were expelled, bloody, slick and squealing.

    1. “Never in the world were any two opinions alike, any more than any two hairs or grains of sand. Their most universal quality is diversity.” –Montaigne, Essays, 1580

      I’ve never been much of a fan of Freud, and I’m not sure I agree necessarily that “Identity is conflict,” but I’m very glad that you thought enough of my posting to respond so thoughtfully. My personal philosophy is more closely aligned with Jung, and I have a much greater familiarity with his works.

      Jung believed that “…the essentially ‘internal’ process of individuation does not go on in some inner space cut off from the world. Rather, it can only be realized within the larger context of life as it is lived.” Our developed selves, brought about by individuation are, in my opinion, perhaps more accurately described as being founded upon our primal undifferentiated selves, rather than as something separate from it, but it seems pretty clear that it is our developed selves which inspire conflict when it does occur. Conflict seems to me to be more of a cultural problem than one of the host being separate from the mother.

      In a letter he wrote a few months before his death, Jung stated:

      “It is quite possible that we look at the world from the wrong side and that we might find the right answer by changing our point of view and looking at it from the other side, that is, not from the outside, but from inside.”

      For me, the connections I recognize as those which I strive to engage without reluctance and without turning the world upside down, transcend the developed self. The crucial point of the matter here seems to be our connection to the infinite. In his autobiography, Jung wrote:

      “If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change…In our relationships…the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness is expressed in the relationship…Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious…In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination—that is, ultimately limited—we possess also the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite.”

      I love reading and discussing your thoughts, and regardless of whether or not they conflict with mine, I hope you will always feel welcome to express them. I am looking forward to your considered response to my piece and hope that our conversation about these important issues will continue.

      Warm regards…..John H.

  2. Man is a rational animal. And so he always aspires to understand… even that which is beyond his cognitive abilities. The knowledge of our own limitations can sometime be a sort of salvation.

  3. You are very kind to acknowledge my aspirations with regard to understanding, and I am delighted that you thought enough of my posting to spend time preparing a response. In reviewing your blog briefly today, I realize that you also have much to offer through your vision, which is embodied in your photography.

    While I am not prepared to accept that the understanding I seek is beyond our very human cognitive abilities, I am even less inclined to acquiesce to limitations of any sort, particularly when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge. There may be boundaries which I personally may not be able to transcend in this life, but I refuse to accept that my most powerful and potent urgings toward the spirit of life and toward the subjects of my writing will remain outside of our collective understanding indefinitely. We are rational, to be sure, but we are also natural explorers and possess great curiosity about the world, and while I may not achieve much through my limited talents and time on Earth, the understanding we currently enjoy was not instantaneous, and required the efforts of many thinkers over the centuries.

    Thank you so very much for spending some time with my writing here, and I hope you will continue to visit and share your thoughts as you are inspired to do so……..John H.

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