There’s No Muddling Through This Terrible Transition
Taking a meditation on the patio at sunset on a gray, wet and chilly day, there came, unexpectedly, the feeling of space and sacredness that is always new.
Sunset was barely discernible, just a deepening dusk. The branches of the two tall pines a couple houses away heaved in the wind. The trees aren’t visible for three seasons of the year, but when the leaves of the big olive tree next door are down, they stand out through the bare limbs.
Watching them as one watched the movement of thought, and watching the movement of thought as one watched the pines, there was ineffable beauty, beyond forms and appearances.
Given the horrifying, heart-breaking images streaming into our minds and hearts from Gaza and other places, a few minutes of peace every day is a prerequisite for keeping one’s head above the chaos of this world.
One doesn’t need to suppress or stop one’s chattering, overloaded mind; one only needs to fully attend to it without the observer. The ending of the observer is the beginning of true meditation.
It occurred to me that I might have been the only person in this small city taking a meditation outdoors today. To Californians, 50F/10C is cold, irrespective of rain.
As the mind fell silent and meditation deepened with dusk, questions arose again:
Without implying linearity or design, is there an intrinsic cosmic intent to evolve, through random means, brains such as ours? And if so, why is direct awareness of the sacredness that pervades nature and the universe so difficult and rare?
Clearly evolution, cosmic and terrestrial, does not have a goal, much less a specific creature as its goal. Anthropocentrism is the collective self-centeredness of the human species.
But evolution does have a direction, and if life is not unique to this planet (which is a preposterous proposition), then increasing neural complexity is inherent in cosmic evolution, wherever life has the right conditions and enough time. It may be no coincidence that there are as many neurons in our brains as there are stars in the Milky Way.
Homo sapiens is not an intelligent species however, but potentially intelligent life. And no matter how smart the thought machines we’re making in our own image become, no computer will ever be intelligent in the deeper sense of the word.
The word intelligent derives from the Latin ‘intelligere’ -- to understand. For the intelligent human being to emerge, there has to be insight into thought, rather than assuming symbols, memories and the known are the ground of our existence.
There are two priorities for the serious human being – the fullest possible awakening of insight in this lifetime, without falling into self-absorption; and inquiry and insight into man, thought and humanity’s place in the universe.
So is the darkness of man unique to humans? Are we being watched to see if we make it through this terrible transition?
Though I’m sure there is no separate Creator, I don’t believe that cosmic and terrestrial evolution are entirely random and mechanical. To my mind consciousness is the core feature of the cosmos, and the universe contains an intrinsic intent to evolve brains such as ours capable of directly sharing in it.
Astronomers sometimes say, “We are the universe aware of itself.” But that’s only half true, and the false half is left unsaid. Humans are plundering the planet that gave rise to us, and now using digital technology to make war on ourselves as we did in the wild with stone axes.
With regard to man’s runaway division, fragmentation and darkness, does evolution on other planets, where purported intelligent life arises, produce species that aren’t as incorrigible as the human species?
Natural selection spools out from the genetic material at hand. The threads of DNA are probably the common fundamental strands wherever there’s complex chemistry and life begins to weave ecosystems.
As far as the human species goes, Homo sapiens, using the supreme adaptation of symbolic thought, became a separate and alienated species, which killed off all its hominin competitors. Even where that occurred through displacing and marginalizing other species that paleo-anthropologists regard as human, man is an extraordinarily aggressive and warlike primate.
Therefore it stands to reason that the evolution of neuronal complexity, resulting on other planets in brains with capacities equal to or greater than ours, would emerge in very different ways. It could have done so on earth.
Which isn’t to say there's been other species long before Homo sap that possessed equal cognitive capacity. Or that there will be other potentially intelligent species in earth’s future if humans bring ourselves to extinction along with the innumerable fellow creatures we are extinguishing.
The upshot is that the present crisis of thought-based consciousness will intensify until enough of us awaken insight into ourselves through self-knowing.
The essential thing now is to fully awaken the promise of insight that children possess until it’s crushed out of them by conditioning, a capacity that remains latent within conditioned adults.
The state of insight is congruent with the intelligence that imbues the universe, and without experiencing that on a regular basis in our lives, everything we do becomes meaningless busywork at best.
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