What A Difference A Day Makes

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Another day has brought a transformation in perception and an alteration in my experience of winter’s wallop…

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A stark contrast in the illuminated brilliance of the morning and a striking difference in the play of light as I opened my door…

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The palm tree near the window basked in the warmth of the sunlight, which decorated its slim leaves with sunlit stripes…

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Standing near the wood stove, peering out the front window, I turned to notice how long it had been since I had dusted the bottles on the shelf behind the stove…

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I retreated to the kitchen to start my day, and found I had just enough strawberry jam to make my breakfast treat…

Our perspectives on the world we inhabit often rely on our changing perceptions as we encounter the unique character of our everyday experiences, and what we learn from contemplation of our perceptions can affect our ability to utilize the resources we’ve accumulated in this way, as we navigate through the occasional rush of extraordinary experiences. Mindfulness is a process we can employ throughout our day to examine what occurs, determine how we feel, appreciate more fully what we sense, and lead us toward a future moment within which we might come to better understand the nature of our subjective reality. Our brains and our bodies provide the temporal resources for our very human experience of the world, but a fuller and more complete understanding of how our subjective experience of consciousness reveals a much deeper and richer foundation for all life can only come when we allow ourselves to be open to the infinite realm of possibility.

In the weeks and months to come, I will be examining the many aspects of subjective experience, from a variety of perspectives, and with an emphasis on how our everyday experiences can contribute to the accumulation of those vitally important resources for making sense of the extraordinary. This is an extraordinary time to be a participant in the conversations surrounding our true nature as modern cognitive humans, and it is my hope that my efforts to contribute to this important dialog will bear fruit in the year ahead.

Winter’s Withering Wallop

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As the storm began on Friday…there was only a hint of what was to come…

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This morning…the world looked remarkably different on the surface…but underneath it all…the foundation remains the same…

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Upon waking this morning…the ferocity of the winter storm had clouded my view out the bedroom window…

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…But it also revealed a hidden intricate pattern of wind and snow…and suggested the existence of a hidden beauty not often available…

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The cat sought refuge underneath the chair on the back porch…as the storm intensified…

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…But this morning…there was no place to hide…and the overwhelming results of the storm…temporarily suspended the opportunity for refuge…

Many circumstances in the temporal world we inhabit present us with similar predicaments and pose questions for us to consider about the nature of the world we inhabit, often suggesting hidden layers of existence, and making the answers to our questions ambiguous at best.

The subjective experience of human consciousness often presents us with the same ambiguities and poses some of the same questions, particularly when we investigate the mechanisms and cognitive processes of our miraculous brains that facilitate and enhance our experience of the world.

This year, I will be delving into the relationships between our experience of the world, and the fundamental nature of consciousness that informs and supports those experiences. Whenever possible, I will suggest examples of how the two aspects of our existence not only rely upon one another to inform our awareness, but how a blending of the two is essential to our understanding generally.

….more to come….

Winter’s Promise of Spring

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…the very observation is an act of creation, and that consciousness is doing the creating. ~ Gregg Braden

Opening up the front door this morning brought the image above into consciousness for me, and now for all of my visitors and readers here at John’s Consciousness. The first snow of 2016 may seem like an uneventful moment to carry with it the promise of the Spring to come, but as Mr. Braden wrote, the very observation of the world we inhabit suggests to the discerning eye that there is a great deal more to our experience of existence than simply what we perceive with our senses. Our subjective awareness of our experience has a vital role in how we ultimately determine the quality and character of our existence, and it contributes significantly to our sense of continuity and unity as the seasons pass, one after the other.

Eric Weiner, author of “The Geography of Genius,” reports that recent research into creativity and “cognitive flexibility,” suggests that our intellectual development can be boosted by “…a fresh perspective,” or what psychologist Nigel Barber described “an oblique perspective,” which can take place when we are uprooted from what is familiar. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, he quoted author and cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman of the University of Pennsylvania, who posits that “openness to experience,” is the most important trait found in exceptionally creative people. (WSJ, Review, January 16-17, 2016) Apparently, “…having your world turned upside down,” can be a catalyst for greater creativity.

In view of this conclusion, and considering my own experience of the world, I should be uniquely positioned for a boost in creativity. Over the holiday season, which held a fair amount of both new experience and the familiar, there has been an incremental increase in my creative endeavors, beginning with my previous post, “Christmas at the Lake House,” and included the creation of some interesting “threads of thought” for me to follow in the coming year. While I was visiting the lake house, I took the opportunity to look back at myself while in the midst of new experience, in an attempt to see if there were any obvious signs of an “oblique perspective.” I’m not sure the image indicates any hint of the oblique, but perhaps our visitors here will detect some sign of it:

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It’s not an especially cheerful pose, I admit, but it does accurately capture the psychological state I was experiencing at that moment. Whether or not this translates into a “fresh perspective,” on the year ahead is an open question, but I am determined to continue to pursue the themes and areas of interest this year as I have over the past five years here at WordPress.com. Here is a brief preview of some of the upcoming topics and themes for the year ahead:

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Revisiting the importance of subjective experience.

Every experience of the world, from the most prosaic to the most profound, have a commensurate effect on our brains as human beings, and in spite of how each of us has a remarkably similar brain structure generally speaking, we are as unique cognitively as snowflakes and fingerprints. Viewed broadly, these differences are like viewing the landscape above in the rolling hills of West Virginia. From this distance, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to see either the subtle or the most significant changes taking place in the vast expanse before you, but if you look more closely, profound alterations in the forest floor are occurring all the time, and can change with astonishing swiftness with even just a rudimentary insight into the dynamics which govern its ever-changing nature.

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Ancient worlds and ancient cultures continue to hold true relevance to our understanding of our modern world.

From the earliest epochs of human migration across the vast expanses of the ancient world, through the development of the earliest beginnings of civilizations across the globe, through the age of exploration and discovery that formed our modern world, great upheavals and subtle incremental changes in human progress contain small pivotal moments, as well as the rise and fall of great empires, each of which produced a variety of central figures of every sort, who created thought-provoking and timeless contributions to the pantheon of human history, human thought, and the arts. As we advance technologically, we mustn’t lose sight of the lessons learned, nor can we abandon them, as our educational systems seem to be doing these days, and as I encounter important examples, I will include them in future posts and highlight those which seem most universal and timeless.

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Developing and Enlarging our understanding of Neuroscience and our very Human Nature.

Enormous progress is being made in our understanding of cognitive functioning and what it is that truly makes us human, and the field is wide open regarding what might be included in that progress and understanding. We have only really begun to scratch the surface in our neuroscientific endeavors, and there are hopeful signs that more and more scientists are beginning to challenge the conventional wisdom that has prevailed for decades regarding the true underpinnings of our cognitive talents as human beings. I am hopeful that the scientific community which supports our efforts to understand consciousness will continue to challenge the prevailing assumptions of materialism and reductionist thinking. I intend to persist in investigating and opening the conversation for as long as I am able.

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Monitoring and keeping tabs on our progress with Artificial Intelligence.

Few subjects are as controversial and as promising as the development of what is called, “strong A.I.” and while there is much to consider in the ethical and technical limitations of this research currently, the rapid pace of exponential growth in this particular field is both frightening and exhilarating for most of us. As we move forward into the 21st century, we must dedicate the proper attention to safeguards and to ethical application of the new technologies.

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The continuing Journey of the Human Spirit.

Few topics of study and conversation in the realm of human subjective experience can be said to be fully engaged without consideration of the very life force which supports every human endeavor. Few people who study, research, and write about our human nature can avoid the foundational subject of the human spirit. For me, there can be no discussion of any of the surrounding topics covered here without the inclusion in some way of our spiritual nature. It doesn’t require us to invoke any particular religious connotation and whether or not we have a background devoid of religious training or have lived lives steeped in a particular regimen of religious belief, the conversation surrounding consciousness and human subjective experience clearly begs the question of an underlying force or energy that may not ultimately yield to empirical scrutiny, but which is, nonetheless, a vital aspect of the conversation from my point of view.

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With best wishes to all my readers and visitors from around the world for everything good that is possible in the coming year, and with gratitude for the many generous comments and regular support from you all these past five years.

Kindest regards…..John H.