Life, for me, began rather precariously and very nearly ended as soon as it began. As I entered the world, all of the normal techniques for encouraging a baby to breathe were not succeeding. I was, in the terminology of the day, a “blue baby.” According to my parents, in a last desperate attempt to stimulate breathing, the doctor struck me on the back of the head, which (thankfully) was sufficient to urge the first cry to fill my lungs with the necessary oxygen. From that day forward, many of my finest moments, as well as movements in new directions, have come about as a result of similarly abrupt events.
As each of us begins life, we aren’t exactly a blank slate. We are programmed to an extent by our human DNA, constructed of genetic material contributed by our parents, commingled in the dance of conception, created in a confluence of chromosomes, and we inherit a variety of characteristics as a member of our species. For some, this represents a formidable source of predisposal to all sorts of inclinations, and constitutes an overwhelming tendency toward an irrevocable human nature. However, neuronal development in the human brain from before birth to adolescence involves an amazingly complex process, which ultimately results in the writing of our essential mental record. Assuming generally good health and a sufficient degree of nurturing by our circumstances after birth (and providing that we are not deliberately manipulated), in general terms, we are essentially an unwritten record.
Nature has equipped us to survive and thrive by perpetuating a marvelous and rare evolutionary flexibility. We are, under most circumstances, purely and simply, a bundle of potentiality, unencumbered at birth by deliberate or malicious influences. Much depends on what happens after we are born. In spite of an array of inherited obstacles over the millennia, humans have displayed an exceptional capacity for innovation and may follow any number of paths.
There are both daunting limitations and extraordinary possibilities inherent in the evolutionary process, and in spite of powerful genetic predisposition, humans have demonstrated time and again the ability to overcome these limitations and take advantage of the possibilities that result from our adaptive nature. No one may violate the laws of physics, of course, but determined effort and persistence have led humanity through some of the most daunting challenges that nature can conjure.
Wholly separate from the science of life–biology, evolution, and cosmology–lies the underlying source of life–some sort of primal causality. Somewhere over the hundreds of thousands of years since the first inklings of conscious awareness stirred within us as a species, we eventually reached a level of cognitive ability that permitted us to wonder about the nature of phenomenal existence. As we evolved, we sought to understand what it is that animates the living of a phenomenal life. With the advent of civilization and symbolic writing, we began to record our ideas and images, eventually creating everything from ancient rituals to virtual reality, from astrology to astrophysics, from pharaohs to philosophy.
Is life simply just mysterious, or are there transcendent aspects of perception, or ineffable components to consciousness, or certain undiscovered capacities within us, that leave open the possibility of an essential and fundamental mystical element? One need only review their most profound experiences, their most intuitive responses to the unexpected events in their lives, and become acquainted with the whole range of inscrutable human experience through history, to begin to suspect that there may be more to life than meets the eye. Whether this equates to something that defies explanation, or to a mystery that simply hasn’t been unraveled as yet, the full exploration of our very human nature sometimes requires us to reach beyond what is definitive, and ponder the possible in whatever direction our hearts and minds and spirits lead us. To do anything else is to limit our search and our selves.
4 thoughts on “Life: Mysterious or Mystical?”
Fear and uncertainty often block our vision from all that is possible; your posts seek, in my opinion, to encourage the reader to open their eyes to progress and potential. There has been so much of it, and we are in fact swimming in it. With advancements come responsibility and the awareness of various paths, the awareness of what can go wrong, has gone wrong. Uncertainty is the hallmark of the invention process; perhaps this applies to the invention of human consciousness as well. Not that we have invented consciousness, but we have invented the infrastructures through which “legitimate” consciousness flows. Yet on some level I believe we do understand the weakness of our inventions, their ephemeral nature. What would consciousness be like if it could jump these humble tracks, these human contraptions…can it jump? Does it exist off the grid or does it only come to life for us in the channels we devise? Does it only pour into what we have designed for the purpose of holding it, capturing it? Can we only perceive consciousness, meaning can we only recognize it as it is born through our own valued and legitimate paradigms of understanding, our own theories of knowledge. Do our own molds and models alter and shape what comes through them?
Sorry…you got me to wondering…
Thank you so much for such an excellent response! There is no need to apologize for being inspired to wonder! I love that you thought this through, and that it provoked you to wonder and to ask further questions. You have inspired me to elaborate on those questions, and since the answers are a bit more complex than one might wish to report in a comment discussion, I will answer briefly here and respond at greater length in the posts to follow.
As the most recent version of the line of hominid species that became Homo sapiens, modern humans can only really claim to have made excellent use of the infrastructure that resulted from our evolutionary path throughout human history. Legitimate consciousness flows through the entire universe in one way or another, but it is most evident in human nature since we can EXPRESS consciousness through language, and ponder these aspects of existence in a way that most other temporal expressions of consciousness do not. This doesn’t mean we have any advantage particularly, only that the temporal manifestation of consciousness in human beings is demonstrated in a way that is not, at present, evident elsewhere in the universe.
Consciousness elsewhere in the universe is perceptible to us, and as the only cognitive creatures we know of in the universe, again, we are the only ones we know of who can express this existence through language. It is a big subject this question and I look forward to writing about it in response to your question.
Our own “translation” of consciousness through our cognitive and sensory talents is no doubt affected by our limited abilities cognitively and our limited range of sensory perception, but I do believe we can and do affect many of the outcomes of that interaction, and have, since our acquisition of self-awareness, directed the course of our evolutionary path in ways that no other species ever has. Whether this represents an advantage or a detriment to our species is not yet known, but my inclination is to feel that we are designed to BE the directors of evolution, and with luck, we will find a way to make it a positive.
Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, and for the inspiration for further postings!!
Warm regards……John H.
Good to be back, thanks for these offerings.
I missed your musings while you were away, but I am enjoying your recent entries as well.
It seems like so long ago I was auditioning for the theater, and even though it has been a while since I last performed on stage, your recollections of your own experiences bring back those times so well in memory.
Thanks for your visit…….John H.