Freedom of the Spirit

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Freedom of the Human Spirit, is a 28-foot-tall bronze figurative sculpture that sits just to the east of Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was created by Marshall M. Fredericks for the 1964 World’s Fair.

“The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit in general requires still another kind of freedom, which may be characterized as inward freedom. It is this freedom of the spirit which consists in the independence of thought from the restrictions of authoritarian and social prejudices as well as from un-philosophical routinizing and habit in general. This inward freedom is an infrequent gift of nature and a worthy objective for the individual.”

–from an article “On Freedom,” Einstein, 1954

In my previous post, I began an exploration of how our subjective experience of consciousness suggests to me that there may be a kind of intimacy at the very heart of it, connecting our temporal existence with a transcendent aspect of our nature as humans. Since it is our experience of the world which results in the establishment of new neural networks and strengthening of existent ones in some cases, we can follow the process within which these activities manifest as actual physical changes in the structure of the brain, demonstrating in a much clearer way, how there may be a connection between this process and our intimate relationship with the subjective experience of consciousness. In both postings, I began with a quote from Albert Einstein, in which one of the greatest scientific minds of human history, somehow found a way to link our experience of the world to the human spirit, while also acknowledging our intimate connection to everyone and everything else in the universe. The quote suggests that an “inward freedom,” to pursue our thoughts without interference or prejudice is not only a necessity, but an outright gift only infrequently enjoyed in those pursuits.

sol photo

As usual, while my mind is so occupied with the subjects of my writing, it is in a fierce competition with my heart and my emotions, which makes my subjective experience feel tumultuous and profoundly affective. At times like these, my inner life stirs to almost fever pitch, and the mundane tasks and topics for conversation seem almost intrusive to me. I crave the connection to the intimacy of consciousness, and to commune with like spirits who connect with me there, but I cannot abandon social conventions completely, in consideration of others. And yet, I could easily wish to fly away from most other circumstances in order to delve into the intimate world of consciousness, in favor of a connection that brings me directly into the heart of it. The photo above came out of a moment of intense solitude as the day ended recently, while simultaneously sensing my connection to a deeper experience of the world just beyond the horizon.

An intense feeling of restlessness, which began in earnest more than 30 years ago now, has never left me and weighs heavily on my heart as I write. Contemplating the passage of time, and the lives of my ancestors both ancient and familial, has brought my thoughts of the human spirit to the forefront of my mind. I sense that there is a connection between my personal heritage and the heritage as a human being on Earth, and at moments such as these, the rhythms of my heart, mind, and soul seem to merge in the fullness of the moment. I believe it is an important component of any attempt to define or describe our subjective experience to at least examine the delicate balance between the science and the mystery of what might be behind all the science, and to consider the distinction between what makes the brain work, and what there is about cognitive creatures whose brains work this way that results in access to the subjective experience of the world, with regard to both the phenomenal and the abstract.

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Over the millennia since humans first became truly conscious in a meaningful way, able to demonstrate in a clear way that they not only knew they existed, but could recall events, thoughts, and ideas and convey them adequately to other sentient beings, human consciousness has continued to evolve, allowing for an expansion of cognitive functions far more useful than what these earliest humans possessed. Our own 21st century version of cognitive ability is mirrored in our advancing technological innovation, and increased our access to a fuller and far richer experience of consciousness today. As with most periods of prodigious innovation and adaptation, we suffer losses and gain advantages, and the changes which offer the most advantageous outcomes are usually selected. We humans are beginning to alter this scenario profoundly by periodically selecting disadvantageous behaviors, and by focusing too narrowly on others, which may only offer a temporary or limited advantage.

During the Enlightenment, a particularly important period of transition in our understanding of the world generally, and the true birth and burgeoning of modern science, we increased and expanded our comprehension of the world in such a profound way, that we began to develop our responses to our increased understanding, seeing further and digging deeper, both temporally and spiritually, without necessarily realizing the full spectrum of consequences that would result from doing so. It is not so surprising, that modern scientists and materialists of every variety have such a difficult time reconciling the facts of neuroscience with the subjective experience of consciousness, since by far, the most astonishing aspect of our understanding is that consciousness even exists at all. Based on what is currently known of our neural functioning, since there is no definitive scientific evidence that consciousness even exists, our subjective experience of it, which is so real to us as individuals living inside ourselves, flies completely in the face of the materialist view.

It is becoming clearer, as we view the behaviors of humans all over the world, that an even greater expansion of consciousness, and achieving a better understanding of the full range of its power and source, may be one of the most important undertakings of this and all future generations.

The Intimacy of Consciousness

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.” — Einstein

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A recent conversation with a dear friend with an extraordinary gift for insight and artistry, inspired me to examine the character and quality of our very human consciousness in a way that not only solidified some of my own inclinations, but also clarified them in my own mind, in a way that I previously had not considered. It is a testimony to the power of collaboration, and of opening ourselves to new ideas. I can enthusiastically recommend a visit to their blog:

http://absolutefractals.com/?p=1142

After many long hours of conversation and contemplation, the images and ideas that we conjured began to coalesce within me, and our collaboration brought forth a keen sense that there is an intimacy to the subjective experience of human consciousness, which points toward not only the many potentials existent in our subjective awareness, but also to the intimate connection between every aspect of our temporal existence with the transcendent aspects of our nature as humans. It requires a kind of “leap of faith,” to even entertain the notion that consciousness may permeate every single particle within the universe, and that the sufficient agglomeration of those particles, in advantageous arrangements, ultimately results in a range of expressions that encompass everything from the beauty of flowers to the bounty of the future; from the proliferation of cells reproducing to the profundity of consciousness evolving; from the simplest relationship between subatomic particles. to the complex relationships between dear friends.

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Another wonderful inspiration also recently took place in the comments section for my previous post, “The Fault In Our Stars,” from another gifted writer and poet, Tina Blackledge. Her gifts are abundant, and she possesses an enviable degree of curiosity and tenacity in the pursuit of her art that warrant a visit to her writing as well.

http://sanit128.wordpress.com/

In my previous posting, I wrote about how the sight of the vastness of space affects me, and how my participation in viewing that expanse seems somehow to be a vital part of the experience, and (in a revised version) I responded in this way:

“What I SEE when I observe the vastness of space isn’t as important to me as what I FEEL. It may be that my personal response is atypical in some way, or perhaps I am just more sensitive when it comes to natural phenomena, but I feel CONNECTED to the vastness. In a strange and inexplicable way, I feel as though that open expanse of the universe mirrors something inside me. Whatever it is that I feel when I look out into the depths of space, it matters to me on a deeply personal level that I am so affected by the sight, and like so many of our in-depth subjective feelings about the natural world generally, our internal responses do not always lend themselves well to articulation. I can tell you though, that my view of it is that the depths of space contain much more than simply the elements and components of matter that formed the many galaxies, and my subjective experience of the world we live in, as well as my response to viewing the world outside of our galaxy, feels deeply personal, and intrigues me beyond words.”

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The complexity of the neural underpinnings of our cognitive apparatus (our brains) provides us with access to an extraordinary range of functionality. Our experience of the world creates neural networks in the brain which permit neurological functioning, which allows for the production of thoughts, which construct and illuminate the mind, which facilitates the expression of consciousness, which manifests as subjective experience, which creates memories, which provide the basis for discrimination, which supplies us with the raw material for creativity, which relies on intuition, which requires contemplation, which feeds our dreams. In all of this activity, we see the complex relationships between each of the components that contribute to our experience of the world. All of our intimate relationships are a direct result of our intimate relationship with consciousness, and the intimacy of consciousness permeates every moment of our lives.

There are literally millions of significant moments in a person’s lifetime, and each one is essential as a component of that life. Changing even one or two of them with regard to the outcome of those moments could very well alter the path a person follows significantly. We rarely think of our lives as a series of vitally essential moments, but as I sit here and type this, even though this moment may not seem consequential, it surely must be. Important relationships may not result from every encounter we have with another person, but when we begin to feel a sufficient degree of connection to another person’s mind or spirit, the intimacy of consciousness becomes even more apparent.

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Just as the minute subatomic particles of our atoms, and the structure of our genetic material, govern a large portion of our continued existence as a physical being, so too do the moment-to-moment components of our daily experiences and memories contribute to the person we are, and to the person we are becoming as the days accumulate. The more we advance in scientific knowledge and probe the mysteries of life, the more we can see that there must be a great deal more to our existence than simple genetics or particle physics, in spite of how much we rely on these temporal aspects as a foundation for the expression of our very human version of consciousness. Intimacy with another human spirit, particularly when we finally become aware of their significance to us in the sometimes mysterious ways that such connections come to be, we realize that no matter how clever we become at tinkering with even our human genes, and no matter how elaborate our understanding of particle physics may someday be, we are compelled to consider the role which our human spirit plays, as a component of our experience within the physical body, and how consciousness contributes to our continuing efforts to unravel the mysteries of life.