Life Revealing Itself

There is a movement taking place within me and around me as the year progresses toward the autumn and winter seasons.  It’s creating a degree of both anticipation and trepidation, which I find a bit unsettling.  Even when we are anticipating the arrival of something wonderful, it alters our outlook if we are paying attention well enough, just as naturally as when we look ahead with some anxiety toward uncertainty or disruption in our immediate circumstance.

It has always been like this for me. Even as a young man I recall both the excitement of the arrival of new experience, especially when it is expected to be of a positive nature, as well as the fear brought about by not knowing what will happen, or how I might endure adverse circumstances.  In my early youth, I was always reacting to whatever circumstances prevailed at the time, and rarely had any time to prepare myself or any idea of how to deal with those circumstances, beyond what I could conjure on the fly.  

I was notoriously impulsive and spontaneous in most every circumstance, and often acted without thinking things through, no matter what the outcome might potentially be. This approach to living my life occasionally served me well when the outcome was advantageous in some way, but more often than not, my lack of sophistication and inability to mitigate my impulsive nature caused either me or someone else a degree of difficulty that was daunting in one way or another, and it took me many years to begin to understand why I always seemed to find out the hard way that my choices needed to be less impulsive. 

Joining the military at age 20 was a turning point like no other before it, and although it forced me to implement a greater degree of self-discipline, once I became more confident and successful in that environment, I still wasn’t completely able to let go of my spontaneous nature altogether.  I had finally stepped back away from the precipice of chaos, at least enough to be more measured in my actions, and the overall percentage of advantageous outcomes increased dramatically.

As a mature person in my thirties, it became a necessity to become more consistently reliable since I had become a parent to small children, and while I was able to provide for them sufficiently in the main, I constantly struggled with my own well-being in the process.  Throughout my working life, even when I had achieved a reasonably stable and prosperous level of income, I constantly had to submerge my personal interests so as not to endanger the well-being of those in my care.

This constant back-and-forth condition was both frustrating when it held me back, and equally compelling when it led to a burst of progress toward my personal goals.  The contrast between the two conditions was maddening at times, and there were moments which tested my resolve in both directions. It took me until well into my fifties to settle down enough to manage my general outlook in a way that didn’t undermine either my daily obligations or my personal well-being.

I know now, after many years of study and contemplation of the subjective experience of human consciousness, that in order to understand it and to move toward it, we need to realize that whatever the source of consciousness may be, it goes much deeper, and is more meaningful and profound than we currently suppose.  This search I have been on all these years has clearly been aided by my willingness to be open to the experiences of my personal journey, even with all of its starts and stops—even with each step forward and back. 

Just as it seems now, in consideration of our current understanding of the laws of physics and quantum theory, that the physical universe which we observe and study is reliant upon unobservable phenomena and additional dimensions outside of our direct perception—in part—a manifestation of non-material aspects—so too now, does consciousness appear to be, at its source, non-material.  The difficulty then becomes, trying to discern how the non-material aspects of the universe and of consciousness affect the physical world and interact with our daily waking awareness of our existence.

Many philosophers and neuroscientists wish to express the phenomenon of consciousness as an emergent property of our brain physiology, and in doing so, eliminate any other possible avenue of exploration and explanation.  We can certainly sympathize with this inclination in view of the enormous progress of the physical sciences generally, and of neuroscience specifically, that has been made without invoking any additional layers of existence or positing immaterial forces or energies that may contribute to the full understanding of both cosmology and consciousness.

Over the decades of my existence, what has consistently led me to be convinced to the contrary has been my own profound inner sense of something taking place within me, which informs me about my existence, in addition to my own personal physical experience of the world.  To the extent that I have studied the physical sciences and the laws of physics, and read and listened to a host of great thinkers of human history, nothing I have encountered along the way has been sufficient to dissuade me from concluding that my own personal awareness—my own subjective experience of existence—my own consciousness—is perhaps the greatest source for acknowledgment and discernment about my existence that I could possibly hope to possess.  There could be no more reliable source of inspiration or self-awareness for any of us than our own subjective experience, and while none of us is infallible or omnipotent, no other aspect of our awareness is more certain than our own experience of existence.

Anyone with generally good health and a reasonably stable physiology experiences their physical existence through the five senses, and processes the signals sent to their brains from the central nervous system as their waking consciousness, and so long as these physical systems remain nominally functional, our experiences of the world can be stored in memory, we can learn new skills, and generally remember most of the important knowledge we gain through experience.  The mechanisms of brain physiology are indeed wondrous and fascinating to study, and without these important functions operating correctly, our ability to be aware and to be able to experience our existence can be compromised. One need only look to the pathologies present in the human population from disease, genetic defects, and serious injuries to the brain, in order to appreciate the importance of these systems in providing us with access to a functional and productive subjective experience.

What may not be quite so clear is the full understanding of how it is exactly that these functions are accompanied by our extraordinary subjective awareness.  My whole life has contained an array of experiences and a keen sense of awareness of a level of existence that cannot be described in temporal terms, and several key experiences have provided me with an affirmation of my general notion that I have carried with me throughout, that everything we see, everything we do, every act, every nuance of experience, is made possible by a source which cannot be defined in material terms alone. 

Especially during times of profound sadness and exquisite joy, during any of the many extreme circumstances that occur in our lives, we are more readily able to sense our closeness to this source if we are open to doing so. 

Even on a much smaller scale, when we encounter other individual human spirits, with whom we immediately feel a sense of connection, even if they don’t recognize it themselves, we may become aware of our connection to THEM, in a way that is so clear and so deep, that we are able to sense something existent within them that connects us with no ambiguity at all. 

The feeling of being connected to other like spirits, even when it is immediate and without precedent in our experience, can overwhelm us at times, making it terribly difficult to ignore, or to dismiss it as some sort of response to a biological process or instinctive reaction within us.  In my experience, reviewing these episodes of connection that have occurred so often in my travels, gives me good cause to suppose, that what we generally attribute to basic instincts or biological imperatives, or even to our physiological responses to stimuli, all of it may well be a manifestation of an ineffable source which subsequently allows us to “instinctively” lean toward the awareness of non-material aspects of life in the physical universe.  When we fall in love or when we feel enormously compelled to seek out certain situations or individuals or when we follow a hunch or are obsessed by certain ideas, all of these are indications of a connection to something larger than ourselves. Since we only have a limited range of responses that we CAN give, we tend to associate the brain’s activity as being the source of those responses, rather than recognizing the possibility that the source might be something else entirely.

4 thoughts on “Life Revealing Itself

  1. A very compelling post. Like you I constantly seek out this source and sometimes believe that I have witnessed it. Like you I often found it extremely difficult during my working life to juggle material needs and obligations with what I now realise was a strong need to seek the immaterial.

    At times I am swayed by the materialists, even believing in determinism. At other, more satisfying times, I seem to see beyond the veil and witness something entirely more wonderful.

    If there are any advantages to age, one of those is certainly the freedom to explore this other and hopefully better world.


    1. It’s interesting to me that you refer to the world which includes the materialists as being one world, and the world “beyond the veil” as being this “other” world, and that those times which contain “something entirely more wonderful,” are somehow “more satisfying.” I appreciate that, in essence, strict materialists do seem to inhabit a different world from the one which posits some degree of interaction with the “immaterial,” but it is my view that we all inhabit the same world, but we often do not see it as it truly is. I also appreciate that there is much we do not see, not because we aren’t looking and open to what might exist “beyond the veil,” but because the nature of life and the universe transcends temporal description in any very satisfying way.

      Both the “materialists” and the “immaterialists” can cohabitate the same world and live together in harmony if we all allow for each point of view to be heard, and share our views without imposing them on others. I have consistently taken the position that the principles of materialism are not completely in opposition to a broader view, because science often explains and verifies aspects of our physical existence in clear ways that make perfect sense.

      The problem seems to arise when other views less accessible to empirical scrutiny are dismissed out-of-hand because of the difficulty in explaining them in temporal terms. It is my view that BOTH can be true simultaneously. The aspects of the world that materialism illuminates DO NOT eliminate the possible interaction and essential nature of the immaterial, and what is often relegated to the category of the “ineffable,” are only aspects which may not have any material evidence or manner of describing in material terms.

      I believe there are a number of advantages to age, and while there are often a number of disadvantages that accompany advanced age, in view of the compensatory benefits, chief among them the freedom to explore, and the accumulation of knowledge and experience that make our ruminations a bit more compelling, I would say that there is hope to achieve the better world you suggested.

      I greatly appreciate your patience and continued support of my writing efforts here, and your generosity in taking the time to comment so thoughtfully.

      Kind regards…John H.

  2. A subject close to my core. As with you, these matters occupy a healthy proportion of my writings. Concerning the question (implied) as to why science and technology, based as it is upon a strictly physical comprehension of phenomena, has been so outwardly successful and transformative and yet has left many of us with such an emptiness in terms of questioning about what seems to matter most (i human terms), I would refer you to the ideas of Thomas Nagel. He was quite clear, though himself a well respected member of the academic elite, as to the implications and biases inherent within the foundational dogma of the scientific quest and the age of reason some 400 years ago. I offered an intro to his most critical ideas here:

    Also, I have spent much effort sometimes in poetry and sometimes in essays to describe as cleanly as possible some of my own experiences which highlight the impossibility of any purely material worldview. Here is an example:

    I will happily follow your writings.

    1. Rob,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and to introduce yourself. Your interest in many of the same matters as those which occupy my own writings gave good cause for my visit to your blog. While we diverge in some areas of emphasis, I found much of interest in your writings and plan to follow as well. It has taken me some time to squeeze in a couple of visits, but I wanted to spend some time reading before responding.

      Clearly, any effort to reduce our experience of being alive to simply examining physical processes and scientifically proven ideas leaves a tremendous gap in its explanatory power, but I have tried to be balanced in my attention to both sides. A recent offering on the website (September 17, 2021) called “You Don’t See Objective Reality Objectively,” presents a parallel view to Nagel’s thoughts which I found intriguing. It’s a subject full of interesting twists and turns philosophically speaking,

      I appreciate your interest in my writing and look forward to seeing more of yours…John H.

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