A Writer’s Journey

Reflecting back over the years of my life now has taken on a wholly different character and sense of urgency. Each time I sit down to write these days, I am reminded by all of the objects surrounding me that the accumulation of years has also resulted in an enormous accumulation of memories and souvenirs of the many experiences of my life.

There was a prolonged period when I barely had even the shortest amount of time for such reminiscing, and I told myself over and over that the objects and documents and articles that I set aside would one day be a rich resource for writing about the times of my life. 

It seemed urgent to take this approach at that time since there were so few opportunities to review the important aspects of my experience of life. I feared I might lose the thread that would lead me back through the labyrinth of time when I finally was able to withdraw from the relentless burden of obligation to generate income.

$CoMmEntU

Even now, as I type these words, I am still not entirely certain that my intention to review the important objects which surround me will result in a sufficiently satisfying conclusion that will allow me to let go of them.  There are so many thoughts all jumbled up in my mind already—the flood of a lifetime of thoughts and memories often seems to overwhelm me—even as I attempt to organize them and convert them into some sort of coherent expression.

My online blog, “John’s Consciousness,” began as an earnest effort to begin to formulate the foundation of a much larger work.  While my current life is finally less crammed with the immediacy of unavoidable daily tasks for the most part, the daunting volume and immensity of the accumulated objects and documents weighs heavily on me. 

At first it seemed to me that all the efforts at preservation were primarily for my own benefit, and while I wasn’t certain about the specific motivation being employed at every moment, in the back of my mind, I supposed that the why and the wherefore would become evident upon review at some later time.

Looking back now over decades, there were many instances when I was either forced to choose a path at a crossroad or when I had to make a conscious, deliberate choice as I approached a crossroad, when I also found myself wondering if I was making the right choice. We cannot know with certainty, at any given moment, the full range of consequences which might ensue when making such choices, and we must often rely on some intuitive or instinctive inclination.  The perspective of time is needed to compare our achievements with whatever hard lessons may have resulted, in order to evaluate our current circumstance. Even though those hard lessons may have subsequently resulted in some benefit, it may not be sufficient to mitigate regrets.

Recent events and current circumstances have pressed me to reflect with much greater intensity on the balance of the costs versus the benefits, and it seems to me that there has been a reasonably fair balance between them.  We cannot reverse time nor can we untangle whatever confusion or uncertainty governed the circumstances surrounding any choice made in the swirling maelstrom of the past, but this acknowledgement hasn’t yet dissuaded me from meandering from time to time through the perennial realm of what might have been, or its close companion—what still might be possible.

Dwelling on anxiety over what might have been isn’t especially helpful, but traversing the road leading to what still might be possible is no cakewalk either. Whenever we project ourselves forward into the realm of what might still be possible, we are often limited by what we have already experienced as a starting point, so we must be able to somehow suspend our expectations based on previous experience in order to move forward.  What we sometimes describe as “thinking outside the box,” may provide the necessary degree of difference in our thought process, but it also requires an additional degree of willingness to venture outside of our comfort zone in important ways.  Such measures also require a degree of courage in treading a path previously untried.

In all of my deliberations thus far, I have steadfastly applied a deliberate effort to forge a new approach to the path forward, and aside from helping me to recognize just how difficult it can be to move ahead in this way, it has been suggested by my experience that failure is one of the best teachers, as well as an absolutely necessary component of any true success, which eventually appears when we make an earnest effort to forge ahead.

In the weeks to come I will be reviewing some of the components and accumulated memories, stories, documents and objects that I retained as souvenirs which surround me in my writing space, as I attempt to sort through them and decide which of them to keep and which of them I can safely let go.

Hopefully, in the process, my readers and visitors might find some benefit for themselves from following along with my struggle to sort it all out. As I happen upon important topics suggested by this review, I may veer off the beaten path for a bit to elaborate and/or mitigate the process, just to keep it interesting.

Looking forward to sharing this part of what continues to be a challenging journey with you all…..John H

Enriched Beyond Measure

View of the lake in the Pennsylvania mountains

Several times during the year, I have recently been able to enjoy the exceptional privilege to be invited to my sister’s lakehouse in Pennsylvania, occasionally for family gatherings, and sometimes simply for the pleasure of a visit. As someone who savors opportunities for communing with the natural world, over many years now I have also learned to appreciate well the bounty available in the mountains and woodlands as an avid camping enthusiast. I have written about my experiences in this regard several times in this blog, and posted photos of some of my favorite locations.

View of the lake in the Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County in New York

Far from the maddening crowd, completely removed from the daily grind and the routines of everyday home life, spending time out in the woods is always a welcome respite, which has very few of the creature comforts of life in our modest home, but is so rich in the benefits of being outdoors among the natural landscapes in the northeast corridor of the USA, that it outweighs any inconvenience or extra effort required to sustain whatever amount of time that is possible to participate in the cherished time away.

Creek along the Cascades Trail within the Jefferson National Forest in Pembroke, Virginia

My good friend and fellow blogger Anthony at zenothestoic.com recently inspired me to revisit a particularly important and relevant episode in my writing life by referencing the famous book by Henry David Thoreau called, “Walden.” In so many ways, Thoreau’s account of his years living in his “cabin-in-the-woods,” exemplifies not only the many benefits of spending time in solitude in the natural world, highlighting his extraordinary ideas about what constitutes “necessary” with regard to living well, but also presented him with numerous opportunities for personal growth and raising his awareness of what truly matters in life.

Sign at the site of Thoreau’s cabin next to the pile of stones left by visitors from all over the world

Visit to Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts, April 25, 1998

Sitting by the shore of Walden Pond, I experience an odd sense of euphoria. Dashing behind passing clouds, the sun, when it emerges, feels warm on my face, and the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of the surrounding woods. It is early afternoon and there is barely a sound to be heard, aside from my footsteps crunching rhythmically along the stony path leading to the site of Thoreau’s original cabin. A gentle breeze stirs the tops of the narrow pine trees, which now sway in a graceful natural ballet.

At the edge of the pond, in the cove just below the site, I set up my camera to capture an image of myself, standing in the spot where I imagined Thoreau himself must surely have stood once, possibly admiring a glorious spring day like this one. A guided path for visitors to the site ends abruptly at the edge of the cove, and I am left to discover my own way. Surprisingly, there are no other travelers whatsoever on this path, and I am alone as I approach the famous pile of stones near the markers delineating the boundaries of the Walden hut.

Imbedded in the ground, a stone memorial is carved into the foundation for the cabin’s chimney, discovered in 1945 by members of the Thoreau Society. A wooden sign stands near the memorial displaying the well-known quotation pictured above.

The view of the pond from where the cabin once stood gives a good indication of why Thoreau selected the location. Near enough to make good use of the water, but not so near as to be exposed to any hazard, the dwelling sits in the high ground providing both seclusion and an advantageous sight line to the shimmering pond.

Standing in the very place where the words were written, Thoreau’s descriptions of the surroundings and the pleasures of solitude come vividly alive for me, and I am nearly hypnotized by the symphony of sights and sensations that surround me. I sat for nearly an hour, soaking in the experience, savoring the beauty and serenity of Walden Pond.

Included in the preservation efforts of the area by the Thoreau Society is a replica of the Walden hut, built at the Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, which was constructed according to Thoreau’s descriptions and plans. He used mostly recycled wood and building materials from pieces of an abandoned shanty, hand-cutting many of the components, reportedly spending a whopping $28.12.

Along the return path, I paused periodically, reluctant to relinquish the moment. Turning to the panorama one last time, it occurred to me that I had not managed to make this pilgramage until the age of 44, the same age as Thoreau when he died in 1862. The writer in me grinned widely. Perhaps he was with me this day, whispering encouragement to continue writing. I drove away enlivened and enriched beyond measure.

Jung’s Psychological Reflections at Year’s End

“Without consciousness there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists for us only in so far as it is consciously reflected by a psyche.  Consciousness is a precondition of being. Thus the psyche is endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, which philosophically and in fact gives it a position co-equal with the principle of physical being.  The carrier of this consciousness is the individual, who does not produce the psyche of his own volition, but is, on the contrary, pre-formed by it, and nourished by the gradual awakening of consciousness during childhood.”  106:528

As each year comes to a close, I generally try to spend some time reflecting on the events and experiences contained within that time frame, with the hope of gleaning some measure of progress brought about by my efforts to better understand and appreciate my place in the world.  This past year has seemed to me to be as tumultuous as they come, with a number of epic challenges, difficult days, and wondrous moments of life-affirming experience, all wrapped up in both inspiration and exasperation.

Many of these experiences and events are deeply personal in nature, and involve aspects of my life which are clearly relevant to my topic here at “John’s Consciousness,” and while I have tried to include those which fit this description as much as possible in my blog posts during the year, I frequently find myself reluctant to do so, mostly because I prefer to express the deeper meaning of these events, rather than the particular events themselves.  My main goal is to present my ideas in a way that might inspire others to consider their own lives and to reflect on their own experiences, rather than to simply describe mine.

Jung’s words at the top of this post are particularly powerful in my mind because they address one of the central themes of my own work—which is that the nature of physical being and the nature of our non-physical being are co-equal, and must carry the same weight in any comprehensive explanation of our human nature.

The collection of essays and quotes in the book I’ve been reading this year, “Jung: Psychological Reflections—Collected Works 1915-1961,” is rich with material for anyone wishing to explore the subjective experience of consciousness.  His extraordinary insights and intellectual discipline in addressing the most important aspects of understanding our true nature as human beings results in some of the most compelling ideas I’ve ever encountered regarding our inner lives.

In particular, I have been struck by Jung’s concept of the archetypes of the unconscious—primordial symbols, images, and possibilities of ideas, inherited as members of the human species, Homo sapiens, which are of particular interest to me personally, since I have had numerous encounters with my own “unconscious contents,” and have developed some of my own ideas based on my appreciation of this interpretation by Jung.

“The great problems of life…are always related to the primordial images of the collective unconscious. These images are balancing and compensating factors that correspond to the problems which life confronts us with in reality.  This is no matter for astonishment, since these images are deposits of thousands of years of experience of the struggle for existence and for adaptation.  Every great experience in life, every profound conflict, evokes the accumulated treasure of these images and brings about their inner constellation.  But they become accessible to consciousness only when the individual possesses so much self-awareness and power of understanding that he also reflects on what he experiences instead of just living it blindly.”

69:373f

Part of the reason that Jung’s words are so compelling for me, is that I have a fascination already with prehistory—before there were established religions during the Neolithic epoch, which began around 20,000 BCE, when some of the most interesting cave paintings were being done, although some were created as much as 35,000 years ago.  Looking at the development of humans during that time and moving forward, we see that agriculture appeared around 10,000 BCE; irrigation and agriculture began in earnest in Mesopotamia around 5,000 BCE; the megaliths at the Stonehenge site began around 3,100 BCE; and the Neolithic period ended around 1,900 BCE, right before the beginning of the Bronze Age. 

My fascination with prehistory stems partly from observing how the trends taking hold in our modern world have clearly resulted in the loss of the concept of mystery that the early humans accepted as simply being part of the way of our existence—explanations of the strange and inexplicable in prehistory had none of the restrictions or prejudicial roadblocks of modern thinking.

We tend to suppose in our current epoch that we have surpassed our prehistoric ancestors in every way, and while modern life does have an enormous advantage in almost every area of knowledge and accumulated wisdom, we seem to have lost that unfettered capacity for consideration of the mysterious and ineffable, so matter-of-factly assumed in prehistory.  Jung describes the archetypes as:

“Living symbols that rise up from the creative unconscious of the living man.  The immense significance of such symbols can be denied only by those for whom the history of the world begins with the present day.”     69:202f

We cannot lose sight of the existence of the mysterious and elusive aspects of our very human nature, for to do so would cut us off from what constitutes the very essence of our foundation as a self-aware and cognitively talented species.  The early humans, in spite of possessing the very same physiological structures in the brain, took thousands of years to blossom into creatures with the capacity for creating symbolic representations of objective phenomena observed in the world included in the early cave paintings.  It took thousands more years to develop grammatical languages to express those concepts, and thousands more years to develop writing.

As always, we are limited in our ability to describe our ineffable aspects and inherited foundational sources, since they are, in important ways, transcendent of the physical universe, but with a sustained and determined approach to the subject, we may eventually break through our current limitations.

I look forward to continuing to do research and to consider these ideas more fully in the coming year, and wish to express my gratitude to all those who visit and comment here at John’s Consciousness.

Wishing you all the best in the coming year!

Finding Meaning in the Winter Season

Once again, as the year winds down and the fullness of the winter season begins to take hold, we are presented with a whole range of considerations and expectations, which seem to appear typically at this time.  For me, this year has been as tumultuous as they come, and there is a flood of concerns yet to be addressed, as well as the unfolding of events which have prompted me to reconsider my current path, and inspired me to investigate further, several of the ideas which have occupied my mind of late.

Chief among these have been the ever-changing landscape surrounding my home.  I have been paying close attention to the comings and goings of the plants and trees and flowers this year, and continue to marvel at the sometimes astonishing changes that have taken place.

As many of you readers may recall, I have been mourning the loss of the large tree out front, and have truly been inspired by the natural resilience of that tree to continue to sprout new growth in spite of being recently reduced to a stump.  The final images were a bit disappointing, as the leaves simply turned brown and fell off around the stump.

And yet, the smaller tree stump near the house, finally burst forth with some brilliant leaves this fall and provided a few lovely images that reminded me of years past.  The relentless growth of the ivy creeping once again up the front of the house truly astounds me with its dynamic persistence, and will require some additional attention this spring.

The autumn this year provided some wonderful opportunities for photography, and I was fortunate to have the chance to expand the range of my travels to include some fabulous scenery in several of the surrounding states near my home.

One of the most impressive blossoms of the year came just a few days ago, where the unusually warm weather of the past few weeks apparently triggered the blossoming of the rose bush out front in a spectacular burst of color, just ten days before Christmas!

This year, even with the restrictions of the pandemic, and the relentless stream of unfortunate events out in the world-at-large, I have been prompted to consider what meaning might be found in the winter season, and particularly, how it all gets wrapped up in the Christmas rush.

It’s not everything that has been done and said, written or expressed through history that reveals the significance of the Christmas season.  It’s clearly not only about all the hoopla and the carrying on, the decorations and sales, or the visits to Saint Nicholas at the local mall.

It’s also not really just about what has been depicted in the many traditional religious interpretations of the season from around the world.  If we look back in human history, long before there was a Christmas morning with a baby in a manger, expectant parents forced to stay in a stable, and wise men traveling to see the newborn king, there were a number of other traditions and much cultural reverence for the winter solstice, when the Earth tilted just the right way, after the harvest, leading us into the approaching winter.

When you look back over the ancient literature of the past centuries, you will see often an equivalence drawn between a human life and the seasons of the year.  The spring being the birth of all life on the planet, through the blossoming of the flowers and trees, the unfolding green lushness of the world of summer, all the way through to the maturity of the autumn, where the beauty becomes ubiquitous and startling. As it fades, we gradually find ourselves leading up to the winter season, when all things begin to decay and return to the Earth, and for a time, we must endure the harsh realities that appear at the end of the year.

These rhythms have been with us long before Christmas as we know it today.  Humans have long drawn the comparison of a human life to the turning of the seasons; we are born in the spring; we grow and flourish as we enter the summer, which brings with it the peak of our powers, and as we age, we reach the autumn of our years—the most brilliant, most productive and beautiful part of our lives—right before the encroaching winter as we enter the final stages of life.

In time, even the religious implications of the stories surrounding the preparations of the birth of the Christ child, were altered to fit the calendar; all of the various ideas surrounding the religious traditions constitute an expression of the symbols of the season and were made meaningful by the humans who created them.  If you have even a small amount of sensibility, you can see how the seasons shape us—how the tides of our lives shape us—and how all these aspects mirror a truth—a reality—and while it might not conform precisely to whatever traditions we follow, it does suggest something very human.

As we approach the season of Christmas in our current tradition, we all look forward to coming together, sharing familial love, and receiving gifts.  As young children, we have always looked forward to receiving gifts at Christmas—which is completely reasonable—and even as we age we may look forward to receiving a gift from that special someone in our lives.  As you age even further, you begin to understand a bit better, that the most important gifts we can receive at the winter solstice and at Christmas time do not need to be wrapped in paper and sealed with ribbons.

The most important gifts can be as simple as an embrace; as a loving glance; as a heartfelt “I love you,” spoken by the people we love.  And while recently there have been far fewer opportunities for such gifts, those of us in our maturity now can look back over a lifetime of all such gifts, and we understand now, better than we ever could before, that the greatest gifts are often intangible.  There’s no need to embellish or invoke cultural mythologies or any of the variety of religious connotations. This time of year, this season, is a reminder to us of the finite nature of life, which begins with birth in the spring, continues through the growth and flourishing of all things in summer, transitioning into the glorious peak in the fall, and ending with the diminishing seasonal winds of winter, when all things once again, end and renew.

While we may not especially look forward to the relentless broadcasts of seasonal music everywhere you go, there’s no reason to be opposed to the music that invokes the arrival of the winter solstice, the end of the seasons of the year or the winter of our lives.  The traditional songs and music are the echoes of what runs through everything, not just through the music we hear at this time of year.

There’s no need for discord or disbelief. It doesn’t matter what we believe. What truly matters is the embrace, the heartfelt glance, and the echo of the words, “I love you,” from those we love.

Let’s not forget, that everything that came before us, is what brought us here today, and as we celebrate here and now, what we show each other will fill in the moments of the memories of our children and our grandchildren, and we hope that they will feel the same way that we do.

God Bless Us, Everyone!

The Spiritual Journey Continues

The story of my life is now about to expand into a whole new direction and the events that brought me to this place and time, for some mysterious reason, have resulted in a whole new path, which became evident after receiving a request for me to perform a wedding ceremony for a beloved family friend.

“Me?”  “You want ME to marry you?”

During a virtual facetime meeting, due to Covid restrictions, the happy couple explained that they considered me to be the most spiritual person they knew, and that I was also the only person they knew who already did what they were about to do, which is to bring together two families, and start one of their own—together.

Combined with the long term relationships between many of the participants in this ceremony, it was clear that they looked at me as someone with a degree of wisdom that I could share, and get them off to a good start.

Not everyone thought it was a good idea, but most of the people I consulted thought it was fine. I embraced the opportunity whole-heartedly. I did my research, followed the instructions and spent time training in the areas of interest, applied for the certification and received it several weeks later.

I am officially an “Ordained Minister,” registered and supported by the Universal Life Church, located in Seattle, WA.  I am legally entitled to marry people and to perform spiritual services as requested or which may be needed in any given circumstance.

It’s a non-denominational organization which is promoting the spread of spiritual awareness, revival, and promotion, without imposing or exclaiming any specific dogma.  Each of us, if we decide to explore such an idea, must discover that place where we can see ourselves as spiritual beings, and while there are many different paths one might pursue in the interest of their own spiritual well-being, each of us must ultimately seek out our own resource for spiritual guidance as well, and continue to search until we locate one which either resonates with us personally or which might be recommended by others we respect. 

When the importance of this opportunity finally began to sink in to my incredulous psyche, I started to dig down a little, down through the deeper levels of consciousness, and when I came up for air, I had to confess to myself that the choices I made, and the life I have led, didn’t exactly fit the common description of what a minister’s life usually looks like.  I felt as though I was both on the edge of a cresting wave, and suddenly realizing that I don’t know how to surf very well.

I didn’t think I was worthy of the honor, not because of any deficit in the requirements, but because I didn’t see myself as someone who earned the privilege—at least—not at first.

As time progressed, I began to see a vague sense of coherence in the way my life was unfolding, and accepted that these developments might actually be necessary, in order to step off into the next phase of my evolving life!

So be it.

I decided to embrace this moment now—this one—the one I am constantly experiencing inside my head.  When events like this occur in our lives, we have to recognize why it’s not a good idea to dwell on the past, but also not to forget the important lessons our experiences provided.  It’s also becomes important not to look ahead to the future with anxiety or well-defined expectations—but also to realize that sometimes we still need to plan and prepare.  We need to adapt and overcome, when necessary, but still hold close to our values as people.

One day, all of this will likely be understood in a way that could not possibly be understood at this moment. The perspective of time is necessary, since what occurs may not be clear at the time when it happens, and it may require additional distance in time and circumstance to become clear.  In retrospect, some of what we conclude initially will make sense and some of it may not, but the lines which summon us to the task of greater understanding, all originate within us. 

In order to gain in perspective and illuminate the components of a broader understanding, it is important to be able to quiet the mind and, to some degree initially, to let go temporarily of our attachment to the temporal.  This is not an abandonment of reality, nor is it in any way a compromise of our most essential self.  It should be thought of as simply setting aside our attachment to surface matters, just long enough to allow ourselves to approach more closely our innermost being.  Each aspect of our humanity is equally important to honor and to attend to as a part of the fullness of our lives.

Our current 21st century way of life tends to emphasize the immediate temporal circumstance and, in doing so, can subsequently lead to a tendency to gravitate away from our deeper selves—to embrace a state where we avoid apprehending any sort of deeper meaning in favor of a less satisfying surface existence.  We sometimes fail to appreciate just how much we can gain from exploring and expanding our point-of-view to include a fuller range of human experience.

The world is rapidly changing now and trying to keep up with the latest trends and the explosion of information technology can obscure the path toward our inner life, by becoming so pervasive in our daily lives that there simply isn’t time to absorb it all.  The pathway becomes so clogged up with surface matters and distractions of every sort that it eventually prevents any substantial progress from being made.  Less concern for achieving any sort of deeply personal, spiritual, or philosophical appreciation for our inner lives can result in spending much less of our available energy and time on anything that might otherwise lead us toward a greater understanding.

An essential effort in the service of achieving a degree of balance in our lives includes giving deliberate attention to both the wider range of our very human nature, of which we are all a part, as well as attending to our inner world—the world which is not technically inside of our bodies—but rather, outside of our temporal experience of the world itself. 

It is truly challenging to contemplate such an essential aspect of our humanity, which is also beyond the temporal boundaries of our bodies. We spend so much time in the early part of our lives becoming familiar with our subjective experience of being alive as a human person, that we tend to associate the physicality of our bodies and the relentless stream of thoughts which occupy our minds with our essential “self,” and only after many years of life experience does it become possible to begin to understand that life is much more expansive and complex than our own individual experience indicates.

Unfortunately for many of us, early childhood often consists of indoctrination into some form of religious doctrine and practice, which is often well-intentioned and earnest on the part of our caretakers, but which can sometimes cloud our thoughts, rather than lead us to any degree of enlightenment. This certainly was true in my case, and although I was very fortunate to encounter many deeply spiritual experiences along with the religious regimen, I often found myself at odds with those same doctrines and practices.  It seemed there were always many more questions than answers available to me along the way.  It wasn’t until I was an independent young man that I finally found myself free of those restrictive beliefs, and able to pursue my own inclinations spiritually.

I struggled greatly with my relationship with my parents as a result of my independent explorations and pursuits, but the struggles were necessary and ultimately led me to a much greater appreciation of my own deeply spiritual nature. 

I am now about to embark on a totally new spiritual journey as a mature man and as someone who will be considered in a whole new light from anything I have ever done before. 

After The Rain

After The Rain

The silence is only an illusion.

It’s just that we do not always hear

What is actually still there.

The echoes of the rain,

Stored in memory,

Play over again as the dripping remnants

Give a rhythmic tapping serenade.

The chaotic winds rise and fall as they cause

The rustling of leaves not yet fallen. 

Outside my window,

The swishing hiss of passing cars,

Interrupts the silence briefly,

As they pass through the overflow,

Sliding along the rain-drenched streets.

The air is fresh and cool.

I breathe deeply and deliberately.

Sometimes the wind will gust just enough,

To move the air around my skin. 

I always pause at that moment, if I can—

Embracing the opportunity to become

Completely present in that moment.

The pleasure is exponential when

The gift of a breeze is met

With gratitude and appreciation. 

So it is with us.

We see our lives through a prism at times.

Everything looks distorted and chaotic

Through such a lens.

Particular aspects of our lives

Can also become clearer

In the swirling swishing of time.

But we have to keep our chins above water.

Relentlessly swimming through your life

Can only go on for so long,

Before we begin to question our methods.

 

We dread the rain when it comes without mercy;

Today the rains fell with a vengeance. 

The deluge knocked the plants off the porch rail.

Even as I endured the worst of the storm;

I knew it could not last—this downpour.

But all the while, I feared it would outlast me.

I prayed that it would soon subside.

Life changes and is modified, moment to moment—

After several hours of relentless deluge,

The winds subsided and the rain lessened. 

After the rain, what feels like silence reigns,

The forecast for tomorrow is

That it will be a lovely day; sunny and mild. 

That’s what they always say.

© September 2021 by JJHIII

Hope you enjoyed reading my most recent poem. I’ve been working on a video series of short snips of different subjects to try out the visual arts capabilities of my computers and other devices. I am putting together a preliminary sneak preview of the most recent video-series-in-progress.

I know that trying to control every aspect of the presentation is a fool’s errand, but for the first few videos in the series, I wanted to keep it simple and figure out how to integrate any future skill with this in mind. I enjoyed the process immensely, and there are a few hilarious outtakes that will probably survive should that ever become something of interest.

For now, I am focused on reading, research, writing, conjuring, getting through things. There is so much good in the world, and not everything is about mainstream media either. Some of the best reading anywhere happens frequently here at WordPress.com. Hang on out there!

Kindest regards…John H.

After A Tree Falls…Nature Responds

Just after the tree company demolished the front yard tree, I somberly examined the remaining stump and photographed it for posterity, sadly contemplating the loss as a necessary but unfortunate development.

I even stood upon the stump in a defiant expression of frustration at the total destruction of a long term relationship with a lovely arboreal companion.

The link above tells a little more about what followed this summer, and my astonishment about the power of nature to renew itself, but this next series of photos really adds a fitting follow-up to the disappointment I felt last September when the tree was cut down.

This is the same stump this morning as I took a walk around to the front yard. It is hard to believe that it has simply refused to be extinguished!

This growth is now fuller and amazingly taller than me! It’s getting to the point where I may end up having to trim it down again. It is oddly reassuring to me that the tree seems not to want to “give up the ghost,” and has somehow defiantly asserted itself so that I can’t now stand again on the stump, unless I figure out some way to make my way through the foliage that has erupted all around it.

In an interesting side note, I recently attended the wedding ceremony of a family friend and was pleasantly surprised that the location for the reception included a large meadow out in back of the venue, and when I stepped out into it during a break in the action, I discovered this wonderfully robustly healthy tree cousin of substantial proportions.

In a very comforting way, standing next to this behemoth of the same variety as the one removed from my front yard gave me a sense of calm and admiration for what is possible in Nature when given sufficient opportunity to grow.

I’m actually hoping to see some sort of autumnal transition to occur in the regenerated tree stump out front, and will post something either way when enough time has passed.

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.

When The Path of Destiny Calls

We do not always choose to arrive on the path of destiny. We may avoid it at times it if we are determined to do so, but at some point, no matter how desperate we become or how clever we are, one way or another, the path will find us.

Occasionally, if we are truly on the path, the universe will rise up to meet us, and join us on the path. It may walk awhile with us, or it may visit unexpectedly for a short time and then go away.  It may linger without saying a word, but when we walk our true path, the universe walks with us, even though it is a manifestation of something much greater and grander still.

Some may wish to suggest that the universe is already pretty darn grand just as it is—just as we see it. When we look up at night through our telescopes in the backyard or through a powerful earth-bound telescope or even while reviewing the feed from the Hubble Space Telescope, we will see a universe that is beyond grand—beyond a comprehensive description—defying all of our attempts to describe it. Because it is so vast, it contains vast quantities of the mysterious, and the wondrous, and the beautiful.

What we sometimes refer to as “the soul,” or “the spirit within us,” may actually be a reflection of the mysterious and profound transcendent aspect of the universe.  We are a part of the universe, and the universe is a manifestation of something truly bigger than the grandest view through any telescope.

Along with everything we recognize and understand in that view, considering the universe even as a temporal physical structure, fully understanding the way it works seems, at least currently, to be beyond our grasp.  Of course, even our vague understanding of what we can actually observe, even considering the parameters of our current cosmological knowledge; we do understand that what we DO know is only a fraction of what there IS to know.

A materialist view takes the position that what cannot be demonstrated to exist physically, or as the result of a physical process, is either irrelevant or based on speculation or supposition, and while we must acknowledge the limited ability of the scientific method to confirm the existence of phenomena or principles that are immaterial, this inability is not, in and of itself, a definitive indication that such aspects do not exist.

BECAUSE such aspects are not demonstrable empirically, in my view, increases the likelihood that they DO exist. Let me explain.

Let’s suppose for the moment that immaterial and ineffable aspects of reality are ESSENTIAL to our physical existence, and although they cannot be unambiguously demonstrated to be a part of our substantial physical reality, over the centuries, it became widely accepted that they do actually exist.

Our subjective experience of consciousness would be far less mysterious, and it would be taken for granted that these immaterial concepts and components are simply part of the foundation for the broad spectrum of human experience which includes them. 

Under these conditions, the whole history of human experience, the enormous volume of literature, philosophy, religious ideas and inspirational scientific discoveries, all of it, would be considered a part of the unfolding of our experience of the world, and justify all of our efforts to enhance our survival, in order to gain a greater understanding of our place in the universe.

Now suppose that none of these ineffable elements and ideas have ever existed; since the dawn of modern humans, no other explanations were ever entertained for any reason.  Only physical laws and demonstrable scientific ideas would be considered as being possible to explain the world and the universe.

Suddenly, our actual human history would no longer make any sense at all.  Tens of thousands of years of that history would not contain an overwhelming volume of expressions of those aspects that have been recorded in every epoch, every culture, and every geographic region of the Earth since the dawn of modern humans.  Reports and descriptions of such ideas would never have been made, and through the millennia, there would be only life and death and taxes. No reason to dream or hope for anything other than survival while we live, and no cause to ponder or wonder about anything until we die.

In such a world, our actual human history would be completely incomprehensible.

Unless we humans eventually discover some future method of explaining through the scientific method what is now considered “ineffable,” it only makes sense to approach these ideas with an open mind, and consider what might actually be possible. The main obstacle, as I see it, is the reluctance of many individuals to even entertain the concept of any sort of immaterial principle existing in the first place.

I get it.

Anyone with no experiential encounters with something bigger than themselves, with no sense of an existence beyond the temporal world of the palpable and the graspable could be blamed for being reluctant to embrace such ideas.  Many materialists will cite “Occam’s Razor,” as the most reasonable approach to the most vexing issues in philosophy and science, which posits that the simplest and most basic approach to explain any phenomenon is usually the right one. While it is reasonable for those with no commensurate experience or encounter with anything beyond the five senses, to be skeptical of an existence or a feature of reality that is not accessible to science, simply because there may not be an empirical solution for the mysterious is, in my view, insufficient as a rationale to disregard other possible explanations out of hand.

Every experience and part of the path of my life up to now has been a preparation for and a prelude to what will now follow.  Had my life taken a totally different path; had there been no spiritual awakening or serious temporal disruption to my otherwise ordinary life; had any of the pivotal events in my life turned out differently or had the resulting chaos resolved itself in some other more agreeable fashion, it is likely that none of the words I’ve written over the decades would have been recorded in any of the thousands of pages, represented by the numerous journals and digital files that I currently possess.

My life contains a piece of the answer.  The events of my life have been part of a constant struggle to pursue the answers.  The arrival of the Jonas materials back in the mid-seventies was pivotal to bringing me to a place where the answers would eventually begin to be revealed.  All of the years since then have contained elements and components and pieces of the understanding that I continue to seek to this day.

The path of destiny is something I have eagerly sought to follow, and in equal measure, feared to tread upon.  There have been times, when the path led to events and moments, that were as brilliant as they were desired by me, and at other times, which brought me to my knees in despair at my inability to follow in a way that it seemed I needed to go.  The conflict within me would often swing wildly in opposite directions, and just as some degree of progress was being made, I would find myself paralyzed with either fear or uncertainty as to my course.

I struggled greatly with the pull of opposites. Going in the direction it seemed I needed to go, often presented such a challenge to my temporal life, that I was unable to commit to a particular course of action, and events in my temporal life often led me to pursue actions, which inevitably brought me to an awareness of essential elements, and precipitated startling revelations that were impossible to ignore.

The story of Jonas, as it has been revealed to me through the years, is an attempt to express not only the extraordinary nature of my connection to the ineffable and to the spirit of life, but as a metaphor for the struggle that we all face when the path of destiny calls.  None of us can simply ignore the urgencies of temporal life, even when the draw toward our destiny is as compelling as mine was in the early days of my awareness.

As often as I pressed myself to surge forward into the abyss; as difficult as my temporal life became at times; in spite of the profound and formidable compulsion that descended upon me during those times—I was often thwarted in my attempts to override my personal interests sufficiently to abandon my responsibilities.

Within my own personal subjective experience of my own consciousness, it was often crystal clear to me what it was that I needed to do in order to satisfy the demands of my destiny, and it was rare that my own personal inclinations were at odds with the path as it was revealed to me.  Had I been unrestrained by the circumstances of my personal responsibilities, many times the choices I would have made, would have been of a wholly different character. 

Countless eons passed without awareness being possessed sufficiently in our species in order to develop an adequate mechanism for expressing that awareness. Even when the early hominids had acquired sufficiently complex brain architectures to support awareness, there was no established process for expressing it.  It took many thousands of years of development to acquire that capacity, and tens of thousands more to devise methods of coherently expressing what was taking place within us, utilizing the acquisition of our newfound self-awareness, supported by the evolutionary architecture inside the brains of our fellow human ancestors.

What You Hold In Thought

“The evolution of life in the double direction of individuality and association has nothing accidental about it: it is due to the very nature of life.”

“Essential also is the progress to reflection. If our analysis is correct, it is consciousness, or rather supra-consciousness, that is at the origin of life. Consciousness, or supra-consciousness, is the name for the rocket whose extinguished fragments fall back as matter; consciousness, again, is the name for that which subsists of the rocket itself, passing through the fragments and lighting them up into organisms.”

“The effort we make to transcend pure understanding introduces us into that more vast something out of which our understanding is cut, and from which it has detached itself. And, as matter is determined by intelligence, as there is between them an evident agreement, we cannot make the genesis of the one without making the genesis of the other. An identical process must have cut out matter and the intellect, at the same time, from a stuff that contained both. Into this reality we shall get back more and more completely, in proportion as we compel ourselves to transcend pure intelligence.”

“On this new ground philosophy ought then to follow science, in order to superpose on scientific truth knowledge of another kind, which may be called metaphysical. Thus combined, all our knowledge, both scientific and metaphysical, is heightened. In the absolute we live and move and have our being. The knowledge we possess of it is incomplete, no doubt, but not external or relative. It is reality itself, in the profoundest meaning of the word that we reach by the combined and progressive development of science and of philosophy.”

—excerpts from “Creative Evolution,” by Henri Bergson, 1907

The world is neither simply what we perceive it to be, nor is it strictly a metaphysical mystery beyond our understanding.  These two apparently opposing approaches to our understanding are, it seems to me, more correctly to be two components of the same conundrum.  We tend these days to gravitate toward specialization in almost every arena of endeavor, and in doing so, we seem often to be missing the larger picture of what might be most helpful in increasing our understanding generally.

Mr. Bergson, who wrote extensively about the nature of matter and intelligence more than 100 years ago, even without the accelerated advances in knowledge we enjoy currently, correctly framed the question of how we might advance our understanding.  We cannot simply focus on a narrow selection of material, intellectual, or spiritual criteria and cannot reasonably consider only one approach as sufficient to give us the broadest understanding.  Mr. Bergson just wasn’t equipped enough by the technology of his day to take it further.

Today, we know more and understand better about the world in which we live, but we are still struggling to catch up on the broadest inclusion of ideas possible, and we must allow the full investigation to proceed in each of the three realms of material, intellectual, and the spiritual.  It’s not possible to eliminate any reasonable approach just yet, but these three each have important components to contribute.  It’s a generalization in terms of describing the issue, but we definitely need to expand our realm of possibilities to include a variety of approaches which just may support the others in some useful way.

Lots of new material is in progress here at John’s Consciousness, and I hope my visitors and readers will be patient with me as I navigate the path forward.  I have been immersed in some of the most important and profound life works of my nearly 70 years of living this past year or so, and, like most of us, I feel like I just want to break out of isolation into something that truly matters.  I’ve been developing a new approach to sharing my writing here, and when I am ready, I will begin to engage more fully with the content of my writings, and to share more fully the ideas which occupy my heart, mind, and soul. 

Stay tuned.