There have been moments lately, where it seemed to me, that I, myself, have been chasing the shade.
Clearly, in the summertime, when it gets particularly hot, and the sun is particularly dangerous, we find ourselves moving our chairs so that they remain in the shade. As the sun creeps up, we move the chairs again. We’re always chasing the shade.
Of course, we do it for a completely good reason.
There have been moments in my life recently where I have been doing the same thing in my life, only it’s not exactly like moving a chair out of the sun. Instead, I have been stepping back and looking at the sunny world from the shade. I realized this in a recent review of the photography that I have done over the past few years. I seem to be always looking for the sunshine, but wanting to take the photographs in the shade. Sometimes standing in the sun is unavoidable if I really want to get the picture, but as soon as I feel as though I have captured the moment, I then tend to race to the shade to get out of the sun.
We chase the shade all summer long until the autumn begins to turn a bit colder, and suddenly we’re moving our chairs from the shade INTO the sun, so that we can feel the warmth. Even if it’s bitter cold in the winter, we still prefer to be in the sun if it’s available.
So chasing the shade and chasing the sun end up being the same process in the essence of the moment, just from a different perspective. We seek the warmth of the sun when it’s cold outside, and we seek the cool of the shade when it’s hot outside—it’s a very human inclination.
In my life, as I encounter other souls in my travels, I know I have spent a fair amount of time in pursuit of moments like this, when I want to place myself within the range of light of a unique soul, basking in the radiance of their presence, not wanting to go back into the shade.
At that point, I stop chasing it.
Winter is upon us. Driving down the streets and highways, there’s hardly a leaf to be found on any tree. Traveling along the interstate the other day, I noticed how barren the trees looked—seemingly lifeless—stretching up to the overcast sky, highlighting the darkness of the branches against it. I couldn’t help but think, as only I might, that if you turned the images of the trees upside down, they would resemble the dendrites descending from the axons attached to the neurons in the brain. There are numerous images of these features of the neurons available now—electron microscopic images—that are similar in appearance to upside down trees.
There are also new images of the cosmos made available by advanced technologies employed with space telescopes that are reminiscent of brain structures. The hundreds of billions of stars seem to form images that evoke the structures formed by the hundreds of billions of nerve cells in the many connected networks within our bodies. Our sensory experience of the world, the sights arriving in the visual cortex, the sounds arriving in our auditory regions, and the touches which register in the regions which give us those sensations, all combine to bring our inner universe alive, as we interpret the universe in which we exist physically.
Sliding our hands or our fingers across a familiar surface—the brow of a loved one; the fine fibers of a newborn infant’s hair—textures of every sort are translated by the interactions between neural networks and brain regions to become part of our library of sensory experience, but there’s a lot more than data streaming through the central nervous system that accounts for the fullness of our subjective experience.
The memory of the touch of the soft skin of our beloved becomes a profoundly important conclusion to the mental processes in our heads. There’s something else behind it all.
In the weeks to come, I will begin to explore the boundaries of our experience of the world, to uncover what exists beyond this moment. I hope all of my readers and visitors will return periodically to see where it leads, and hope that the New Year brings you all much joy and continued expansion of life and love.