Wednesday, January 28, 2015


You are a living being.  You have an organism.  Confusion about what we are as opposed to what we have infects every aspect of our society.  Let's get clear on it.  Everything about you that is measurable and observable; everything that medical doctors diagnose, that biologists observe and measure, that genealogists categorize; the blood you send to the laboratory and the fingerprints and the genome and all the ways that people who don't know you have of distinguishing you from other people, all of that is part of your organism.  That is all part of what people see when they look at you from the outside, whether with the naked eye or with scientific instruments.  

Regarding one's life from the inside out is an entirely different matter.  From the inside out you are you, a being, an experiencer and a desirer.  The way you experience the world is affected by the structure of your organism and the condition of your organism, but you are not your organism. You are that which experiences your organism,  experiences the world through the intercession of your organism, and desires things in the world many, but not all of which, originate in particular biological conditions of your organism.  But your organism experiences and desires nothing.

Your stomach is not hungry.  There may be certain chemical conditions in  your stomach that you translate into the experience of hunger, but it is you, the living being, that is having that experience.  Your stomach, like all matter, experiences nothing.  There may be all sorts of chemical reactions and muscular contractions happening in your intestines and around your midsection, which are either the result of you feeling certain things, or which cause you to feel certain things, but your 'gut' feels nothing.  You feel things which are connected to activity in your midsection, but your midsection is unaware of what you are feeling;  has no interest in whether it is tight or relaxed, loose or firm, or whether you are exploding with passion or enjoying deep and peaceful serenity.  And your midsection doesn't care whether it is helping you digest food, whether there are blood and nerves and digestive fluids coursing through it, or whether there is nothing coursing through it, whether the being, that is you, has departed, and it is now providing an evening meal for a group of hyenas.  Your midsection is matter.  It experiences nothing.  It is interested in nothing.  It is matter. 

There may be millions of electrical pathways being charged in your brain at this very moment, and these pathways may be recording your thoughts, or they may be leading to other neurons that hold information associated with those thoughts, but your brain is not thinking.  Your brain is matter, and matter does not think.  Those electrical patterns must be translated at every waking moment into conscious thoughts.  Who is responsible for this miraculous job of instantaneous and constant translation from electrical and chemical patterns into actual thoughts?  I will leave the answer to that question up to your imagination, for now.  But it is you, not your brain, not your organism, that is experiencing the thoughts associated with these electrical firings and chemical reactions. You, a living being, who experiences and desires, you think.  Your brain may help you record your thoughts, help you remember your thoughts and define your thoughts, but your brain does not think your thoughts.  The brain is matter and matter does not think.  

Your genes may control the kinds and qualities and amounts of proteins that your body manufactures, and govern your physical traits, but although the genes may shape to a great degree the way in which you experience the world, it is you, and not your genes, that experiences that world.  Genes are strings of nucleic acid molecules.  They are matter and matter experiences nothing.  Your eyes translate photons into electrical impulses which form patterns of electrical charges in the brain.  This is not sight.  This is no more than a video camera does. A video camera does not see its pictures.   You do that.  And your eyes and optical nerve and optical cortex of the brain do not see the world around you.  You do that.  You, not your eyes, are the seer of your sights.  You, not your ears, are the hearer of your sounds, the taster of your tastes, the thinker of your thoughts, the doer of your deeds.  Your amazing body, with its amazing brain and sense organs are the equipment that allow you to do that in the specific way that humans are able to do that.  Just like tigers and stingrays and tulips each have their own amazing equipment that allows them to experience the world in a tiger way or a stingray way or a tulip way.  You are the ground of being, the context of your experience and your desires.  You are not a that, but a that which; that which experiences and desires.

And scientists cannot see you.  No one can.  Oh, we can see how you express yourself through your face and hear how you express yourself through your words, but you, the expresser of these expressions, is not a thing, not a content, but a context and cannot be seen.  And because scientists cannot see you, nor see your experience, they make an egregious error.  They confuse you with your organism.  They conclude that the purpose of the organism is to survive, which is absolutely true; but then they go on to say that the only purpose of the organism is to survive, which is absurd.  Nothing survives just to survive.  If I build a machine I want it to survive at least long enough so that I can use it at least once, but use it for some purpose other than survival.  To build a machine to survive, just to survive is, as I said, absurd, which is exactly the conclusion that neo-Darwinist, materialist scientists reach: life is meaningless and absurd.  But the purpose of life, which eludes the scientist, is to provide a certain kind of experience for the being that occupies that organism.  The reason that all the biological activity that scientists study is focussed on survival, is that the organism is designed to provide this particular experience, this particular way of being in the world, for as long as possible.  And what the scientists do not see, or avoid seeing, is that these processes, these unconscious processes, all serve the conscious being.  The organism is the servant of the being.  Just as the being must serve the organism to provide for the organism what the organism needs in order to survive.  The being inherits a set of specifically designed desires so that, being utterly ignorant of the survival needs of the body, having no formal knowledge of how to take care of this precious equipment, the being simply does what it wants to do, eats what it wants to eat, drinks what it wants to drink, rests when it feels tired, moves to a cooler area when it feels hot, moves to a warmer area when it feels cold, has sex with a member of the opposite sex of its species when it feels horny, and by acting to satisfy this exquisitely designed pattern of desires, it survives and its progeny survive.  In the same way, the organism serves the body.  Whatever you want to do, or your dog wants to do, or a fish wants to do, or a grape vine wants to do, the moment any living being has a specific intention, whole cascades of electrical firings, energy shifts, muscular contractions and releases, gene firings and chemical reactions, shifts in blood or plant enzymes, are set precisely in motion to allow that being to do exactly what it wants at the moment and at the exact rhythm that it wants to do it.

Is this too far out for you?  If anything, it is too far in.  What I am talking about is nothing 'supernatural,' no mysterious substance, no ethereal ectoplasm, or anything that you may or may not catch a glimpse of once in your life time.  I am talking about you, the you that is there at every moment of your life, the very ground of your being.  Closer than your breath, closer than your thoughts, closer than your body sensations.  You are not your body and you never were your body.  You were not the size of a single cell when your organism consisted of one fertilized ovum.  You were not eight pounds when you were born.  You are not one hundred and eighty pounds now.  Your body, your organism is those things.  You are a being which is not a thing, which is boundless.  You may not realize this and live within a claustrophobic prison built of your own unfulfilled desires, but that is a prison of your own making.  The truth is that you are boundless.  You have no height, no breadth, no weight.  There is no limit to what you can understand or experience.  There is no end to you, spatially or temporally, whether you realize it or not.

Now when I say that this body and brain is not a being and is not capable of experience or desire, I don't mean to imply that this is just your equipment. This absolutely precious organism, built with unfathomable complexity and precision, that you have been given is your opportunity to experience this world in a particular way.  This is your organism that responds instantaneously, miraculously, to your every intention.  It is not the random result of some absurdly fortuitous chain of accidental molecular collisions.  It is a purposeful, intentional gift.  It allows you to be in this world in a particular way and to enjoy it and learn from it.  This learning has to do with those desires beyond the purely biological, that you arrive here with.  It is in the pursuit of those desires, the satisfaction of those desires, and the deepening understanding of which desires are important and which are not, that precious lessons are learned.

We live in a society where it is thought that we are the random result of molecular accidents, with no planning, no caring, no purpose involved.  Also that there is no self, no boundless context of experience and desire, that all we are is a combination of genes and brains that we have received in a random game of chance in which some of us are lucky and some unlucky.  In a world focussed on material organisms rather than on experiential beings, no wonder that our main concern is in acquisition, whether of money, possessions, fame or sex partners. No wonder that we treat each other so shabbily.  No wonder that we obsess on this unfair treatment and think our entire lives are dependent on the way others respect us or not.  And this is a world where the reality is that you have the capacity at any moment to close your eyes, be still, go within, and in moments fall back in love with the universe, yourself and all the beings in it; and you can do this at any time you choose.  Can you see the strength and resiliency in that?  You are not that fragile thing that has to enter a room terrified of what someone might say to you or how someone might mistreat you.  You are the boundless self that is not in any real way affected by these treatments.  And these are your spiritual brothers and sisters, whether they realize it or not.  Enter the room with joy, with excitement.  How will this relationship with my new brother or sister, with such similarly magnificent equipment as I have, and with a being which is not only similar to my being, but is actually a different aspect of the exact same being (discussed in other posts), how will this interaction unfold?  Going into a room fearing an insult or going into a room excited to have an enjoyable interaction produce two very different results.  Neither result actually changes you.  You will still emerge from this interaction as perfect and boundless as when you went in, but your momentary experience in the first case has a very good chance of being torturous and, in the second case, has a very good chance of being wonderful.

Is it any wonder that we have to go back over a hundred and fifty years to find any music or writing that could be described as glorious or transcendent?  The passion for the joy and beauty and glory of life that filled Michelangelo and Shakespeare and Beethoven and that resonates so profoundly with us (when we can find those rare modern musicians and actors that know how to play them), where is anything in modern art that matches that depth?  Do you really think that we have no more Shakespeares and Michelangelos because we now know more about life, or because we now know less?  I know that we know more about organisms than they did, but in our fascination with our organisms have we overlooked, degraded or misjudged our actual life? These men looked at the world as a glorious creation and their talents as glorious gifts, which they were.  They believed in destiny and fate and purpose and design and reverence and gratitude.  And, of course, they were right!

Please feel free to comment.


Squeegie60 said...

What bothers me most is that what passes for literature in high schools these days feeds the lowest expectations. Hwaet(the court poet's call to "be attentive to what follows" in English poetry from the fifth to eleventh centuries)!Let's get this clear right now...Shakespeare knew everything. A Midsummer's Night Dream has the fanciful trappings of a mythological dream but is really a study of the relationship between reason and the imagination. Do kids learn this? Why aren't they taught this? So they might come to believe they are nothing more than the matter that makes up their bodies. Literature these days are accounts like "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families", an examination of tribal genocide in Africa. I'm sorry but that's not literature. Shakespeare, Donne, Davies, unnamed Celtic poets (The Dream of the Rood, Beowulf). These are literature. These lead to understanding of the world around us and the inner self, the person who animates the body. Yes, I'm a frustrated shouldabeen English teacher.

Kelly Murray said...

What if one and her family had an extra gene...and was not mentally deficient? What if one and her family had questions about things happening in her life and the lives of her children? And what if she were scared and did not know what to do?

Matt Chait said...

I can't tell from your comment what it is that is troubling you. I would encourage you, however, to find some time when you can relax, watch your breath and see if you can't, at least temporarily, quiet yourself internally. Then, I believe, the next step that you need to take will suggest itself. That next step may be seeking help from some provider. But if you need assistance, the best provider for that assistance will suggest itself when you are at your most relaxed and internally quiet. Try not to do things out of a moment of desperation, but give yourself time to retreat from the drama of that moment and then search for a solution. Just being able to access that inner source of peace and tranquility and knowing that it is always there underneath whatever else is going on, is a tremendous source of comfort and confidence in the future for you and your children.