“When someone enters your life unexpectedly, look for the gift that person has come to receive from you. I have sent you nothing but angels. Others see their possibility in the reality of you.”
–Neale Donald Walsch from his book series, “Conversations With God.”
Have you ever been momentarily captured by the strains of a melody in a song or musical piece that you were hearing for the first time?
Have you ever stumbled upon a broad vista or panoramic view while hiking and been momentarily overwhelmed by how beautiful it was?
Have you ever held a newborn child in your arms and marveled at the miracle of a new life?
There are many examples of extraordinary events that can occur in our lives, which are unexpected or have unexpected effects when we are made aware of them, and it suggests some sort of connection that exists between people and places, and the realization of a degree of resonance that can exist even without prior knowledge of or exposure to specific stimuli.
Over the course of my nearly seven decades of life, and considering the number of extraordinary events that have punctuated those years along the way, you might think I would have become a bit more adept at deciphering them when they occur these days, but life always has opportunities for learning and expanding our understanding and awareness, and right alongside of the challenges and struggles we often face each day, if we are fortunate, we also encounter moments that lift us up and result in degrees of enrichment we never expected.
Reviewing the positive and negative events in the world at any given time, it can seem that one or the other may be dominating, but as I consider what has been most often the case for me personally, on balance, I would say that trying to understand the character of each has been one of the main reasons I have been driven to investigate our very human nature, by both researching the many aspects of subjective experience and consciousness, and comparing them with my own experiential reality to raise my awareness of the extraordinary aspects of being a living, breathing, human being.
It also has occurred to me that I may be so thoroughly out of sync with the times—an outlier in the modern world—that any hope of progress toward my goal of raising the awareness of what I have come to understand about the world-at-large may be overly optimistic. Nearly all of my responses to individuals who, for one reason or another, impress me as being extraordinary or potent in some way, seem often to be inexplicable in temporal terms, and attempting to express the importance of these interactions sometimes creates a degree of confusion or uncertainty as a result. I have long since passed that point in my life where refraining from expressing my honest responses to others in this situation feels like the correct thing to do.
Since crossing over the mid-sixties in age, I am painfully aware that I can no longer suppose that there might be plenty of time left to engage in genuine expression of my feelings. Naturally, most of us have no idea how long our lives will be no matter what age we have attained, but it becomes more apparent in the upper ranges of human aging that, even barring unforeseen circumstances, we still realize more readily how precious life has become, especially in view of the smaller portion of life one might have to experience and to share our insights.
The events of my life have been particularly instructive in this regard, since I often refrained from freely expressing my genuine responses to individuals in the past, and I realize more clearly now, that tomorrow is not a guaranteed gift for any of us. If there is a feeling we wish to express, or an experience we hope to share, it becomes a matter of greater urgency, since there are fewer tomorrows within which to do so.
I understand that others, especially those who are not as familiar with these ideas and who are not approaching the age of seventy, as I am, may not fully appreciate this urgency in the same way that I do, but I cannot change the arrangement of the circumstances which exist currently, and must act upon the urgencies which present themselves to me in a way that is responsive to my own character and disposition. There is now little time to waste in hedging or delaying expression.
While I acknowledge that others also have their own circumstances to consider, as a general principle, I tend to defer to the inclinations of those with whom I interact. Conversely, I also no longer feel as though my own inclinations aren’t worthy of attention either. I express whatever it is that I feel in as measured and considerate a manner as I can, and if the response is positive, I allow the interaction to unfold as it will, and if not, I am fond of saying, “I am easily discouraged.”
I normally rely on mutual agreement to determine whatever degree of sharing might take place, and would not ever seek to impose my own inclinations on anyone. Many times, the initial circumstances which ensue upon meeting an individual who captures my attention in a big way, far from being automatically engaged, are now much more likely to prompt caution at first, at least until some reciprocal response is detected.
Once it becomes clear that there is sufficient encouragement to continue, I usually will, and if it becomes clear that continuing would impose some difficulty, I tend to step back or away from further interactions, recognizing that anything other than a positive response must be acknowledged as well. The real challenge comes when the individual is uncertain or vague in their response, and doesn’t give a clear indication of a negative or positive response. In cases like these, I tend to err on the side of caution, or, at the very least, refrain from any overt response, until such time as a more definitive indication is forthcoming.
Over the years, I have become a better observer of body language, facial expressions, and other circumstantial indicators, and have learned to better trust my own instincts. Self-doubt is still a factor in some cases, particularly when the interactions are intense or disproportional to reasonable expectations, but having suffered through a number of emotionally agonizing consequences from miscues or misunderstandings, I am far less inclined to go where angels fear to tread.
All of these machinations and interpretations of previous encounters still haven’t prevented me from suffering to some degree when an extraordinary individual arrives and presses me to respond in a more immediate way. The recent encounter with a “kindred soul,” which prompted the creation of the previous poem, was similar in character to some others, but, as the poem indicated, it was surprising in its complexity, and stunning in the degree of delight it produced with no apparent outward cause.
These are the truly mysterious kinds of unexpected encounters that occur so infrequently, and strike with such suddenness and intensity that I am typically thrown back on my heels, holding my breath, and uncertain as to how it was even possible.
In this case, I was fortunate to have time in between encounters to consider what my response might be, but even these advantages seem to have failed to prevent me from feeling completely confident in determining just what my response should be. Clearly, the initial response warranted an additional opening to the interaction which occurred several days later, but I am now beginning to wonder if I have tested the patience of an angel.
Underneath all of our temporal inclinations, beyond the considerations of brain physiology and neuroscience, and in spite of uncertainty surrounding the basic understanding of our subjective experience, the human spirit remains for me the “élan vital,” at the heart of all contemplation of human nature, and I savor the delight of interacting with every positive moment, and strive at all times to learn from the others, and to grow and share what I have come to understand.
6 thoughts on “What I have Come To Understand”
” the human spirit remains for me the “élan vital”
I am entirely with you. although I would extend “human spirit” to any form of consciousness (I wouldn’t like to rule out aliens or animals).
I realize that I am relying on my own subjective experiences and I accept that there are many who do not believe in a self or in the experiences of a self but to those people I would merely say “I disagree”. I disagree on the flimsiest and strongest of grounds – my own personal experience. I think therefore I am and I really do not care who says otherwise.
Like you I also have some deep rooted sense of a “divine” albeit (in my case at least) a very unconventional concept.
Perhaps eventually I will be shown to be mistaken. I very much hope not!
Life is not only about one thing. We know that there are physical forces at work in the world which we cannot observe directly, and that we only see a very narrow band of visible light, even though the full range extends well beyond our limited abilities to observe it. According to modern physics, there are dimensions beyond the three we exist in physically and one of time, but our perceptual abilities are unable to reveal them to us directly. Somehow, that’s acceptable, but consciousness cannot be anything more than neural networks and physical laws. How absurd!
We do need to study neuroscience and learn all we can about brain physiology, and we should not be made to feel foolish because we sense the existence of something beyond what science can explain, and philosophy should include the full range of free thought in order to expand the realm of what might be possible.
Perhaps one day a breakthrough will come that opens our eyes to that realm, and we will gain exponentially in unraveling the mystery of consciousness. That is my hope!
Well said John. Well written and well thought. After two hundred years of success the arrogance of modern scientists reminds me of Kelvin, who, in the 19th Century believed there was no more to be discovered. How very wrong he was.
Another beautifully written and insightful post, John. I have found that as I get older, the more I can calm my brain; the more I can see the beauty in all that is around me.
So nice to hear from you, Wendi!
There are a few advantages to getting older, (Thank heaven!) and seeing the world through decades of experience can truly be inspiring and helpful as we age. Your own observations and thoughtful writing certainly have been in this category. The beauty is always there all around us, and we will see it if we are open to it.
Now, if only I could calm MY brain! That would really be something!
🙂 That is one of my main focuses – calming my mind 🙂 –creating that calm allows so much more enjoyment in life.