Dissonance within Resonance

While slowly awakening this morning, drifting between brief wakefulness and lapses back into sleep, I found myself suddenly in a dimly lit hallway, searching for a stairwell or exit, when I noticed a television monitor suspended from the wall. Thinking that it might be useful in some way, I went toward it in an attempt to reach the “on” button, and when I stretched out my arm, my whole body seemed to lift off the ground and I was able to press the “on” button easily, before landing gently once again on the floor. As I did, my mind came back to semi-consciousness, and the words, “dissonance within resonance,” repeated several times in my mind.

The dictionary lists a common use of the word “resonance,” to mean “…a sound produced by a body vibrating in sympathy with a neighboring source of sound.” It has also come to mean a quality of an individual or idea, “…to strike a chord or evoke an emotional response by a sympathetic reverberation in another.” Dissonance, conversely, refers to that which is “inharmonious,” or involves “disagreement or incongruity.”

When an idea, or a feeling, or a person seem to “resonate” with us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are totally sympathetic with the idea, completely harmonious with the feeling, or one hundred percent compatible with the person. Certain aspects of the resonance are strong enough to warrant our “sympathetic reverberation,” and subsequent familiarity with the idea, feeling, or person may help us to understand the exact nature of the emotional response, giving us a better idea of why each of them “strike a chord.”

There are times in our lives, particularly in times of great stress, or when faced with perplexing personal circumstances, when we experience conflicting inclinations or confusion regarding our deeper longings or leanings. In psychology, the term “cognitive dissonance,” refers to “…psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes.” When I find myself in this condition, I don’t often know how to respond. Each moment is filled with a certainty about the existence of the feeling, and yet, a chaotic swirl of uncertainty as to how to deal with the feeling.

Sean Scully – “Wall of Light Desert Night” – 1999 – Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The incongruous nature of temporal circumstances in a degree of disharmony with those of the spiritual sort used to be a great deal more daunting for me to comprehend and to address, and there are still times when I am perplexed by the character of the experiences surrounding particular events and pivotal moments. I used to attribute the disharmonious parts to my own inability to bring the circumstances together correctly. It always seemed to me that there was something wrong with ME. I have come to understand that the very nature of life itself is rooted in uncertainty, and that it is largely undetermined, with a few areas of relative certainty discovered in the laws governing the natural world.

The laws of physics are both beautiful and exquisitely mathematical and can be relied upon to predict many outcomes with astonishing precision. However, as well equipped as we are through science to understand the nature of particular phenomena, the interaction of those elements, particularly with the unpredictable intervention of human beings and unforeseen natural events, is far less comprehensible. Certainty is elusive in the wildness of the universe.

In my view, beyond the laws of physics, the dogma of religion, and the world of the phenomenal and predictable, is the realm of the unseen forces that drive life itself. Over the centuries since humans became conscious, intelligent creatures, we have felt this pull toward the poorly understood universe of the unseen–what is often referred to as the universe of the spirit. The degree to which we can interact with it and gain access to it, is at the heart of the uncertainty of life.

Photo Courtesy of h.koppdelaney (flickr)

Of necessity as temporal beings, we often resort to temporal references in order to allude to that which cannot be described in temporal terms. The nature of life, temporal existence, the physical universe, and everything relevant to that existence cannot be described completely in terms belonging only to that existence. We have devised ways of referring to these other aspects of life and existence, particularly as they relate to our very human nature, and acknowledge them as existing in a domain far removed from the temporal–as far removed from the temporal plane as we are from the quantum world of the very small, and the farthest reaches of the physical universe. Although we are, in some important ways, defined by these two opposing aspects, the truth seems to reside between them.

There is, in my experience, an inexplicable resistance to exploring this aspect of our nature. Even in consideration of social norms, personality, previous experiences, and other influences, my sense of being compelled toward other like spirits is often mitigated by my own reluctance to acknowledge my connection to the ineffable. Temporal events have often complicated the circumstances surrounding the attention to the spiritual nature I perceive in myself, but at no time has it been sufficient to dissuade me from attempting to understand and expand my comprehension of it. It seems very unlikely to me that my most powerful urgings toward the world of the spirit, so vital to our humanity, could be mistaken. The sense of connection I feel is too profoundly affective to be a mistake. There must be a way to connect without complicating, to engage without reluctance, to pursue my powerful spiritual inclinations without turning the world upside down. This blog continues to be a record of this pursuit.

….more to come