I got to reading this book by this guy. A Brief History of Everything, by Ken Wilber. Please forgive him for the big picture of his noggin on the cover.
It’s very good! There are so many cool ideas running through it, we’d be here for days. Among them (simplified blah blah):
- everything is a holon; that is, a whole and a part of some other whole
- holons are arranged in a hierarchy: atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, cells make humans, etc
- things that are higher up in the hierarchy are more “conscious”- frogs more than worms, worms more than dirt, humans more than apes, etc
- there are 4 quadrants of … the universe… interior/exterior and single/collective. So say there’s a newborn baby who has a brain that cannot tell the difference between what is itself and what is not itself. Exterior/singularly, we can talk about what bits of brain and neurons it has. But you could study all the neurons all day and not understand what it means to that baby. Interior/singularly, the baby has certain emotions along with that. (like examining a computer program’s code, and what it’s doing to the memory and disk etc, vs talking about what the program is actually doing in a meaningful sense) Similarly, there are collective sides to both things: what happens when a bunch of babies have a bunch of brains like this, and what does that mean?
- you can call these quadrants “I”, “We”, “It”, and “Its”. (or you can lump it and its together and just call them together “it”. It’s external, objective reality.)
- society has, since the Enlightenment/Age of Reason just forgotten about “I” and “we” and focused only on “it”. The brain and neurons is all there is; don’t worry about what that means to the person who’s experiencing it. This is a problem.
- personal mental and spiritual development are the same, along a spectrum. You go through these stages as a kid: distinguishing between you and not-you, becoming able to imagine what it’s like to be other people, focusing on first only yourself, then on other people in your group, then on all people worldwide, and then if you keep climbing this ladder you’ll hit a few states that we today would call “spiritual”… where you focus on all of nature, and eventually on the non-duality of everything.
These are all cool, especially the last! But it’s a lot to take in. Two questions:
1. How do I remember it, how do I make sure it doesn’t just linger in my mind for a week or a year and then disappear, leaving me back where I’ve started? This is frustrating; it seems like, to get better at these things, I’d have to study them as if a class at school. But I have a full-time job and thus not much energy to “take a class” too.
2. Should I even remember it? Is he right? Is this book just a bunch of nonsense? This is even more frustrating. Of course, I google it and the first things that come up are a few critiques. It’s like figuring out the truth in law or politics or computer science or anything else! Gah!
I answer myself: don’t worry about it, take a step back, chill out. But that seems to be my response to everything these days, which leads to nothing ever changing. And maybe I’ll spontaneously Get Enlightened someday at this rate, but I don’t think so.
Boy, it’d be nice if, y’know, understanding the universe, true happiness, enlightenment were easy, eh?
Aaron M Fraser - Jan 1, 2010
It’s a good answer, Dan.
There’s so much information out there, and it’s really hard to remember all of it. I think, though, that a bit of it will always stay with you.
Keep ruminating. Keep reading similar texts. You’re not going to absorb everything from them, but I bet you’ll absorb SOMETHING relevant. And it will change the way you move through life.
This book will lead you to reading another book you may not have considered before. Think thoughts you never would have had, which lead to others. Or even walk down a side-street you’ve always thoughtlessly passed, wherein you discover something beautiful.
So yeah, ya might forget most of this book, but it will have imprinted itself on you. If you listen to your heart/gut/intuition, and actively seek outward for something beyond yourself, you will come to where you need to be in life.
Dan - Jan 1, 2010
I guess? But how do you know?
What if I’m not trying hard enough, or if I’m not trying smart enough?
I think that a Zen master would hit me with a stick and tell me these aren’t even questions that make sense (it’d be like saying “am I tall enough to be enlightened?") but I’m not sure. I’m not sitting in a monastery for 12 years- how am I supposed to get enlightened? So I’m not even logically convinced; I don’t even KNOW it, much less FEEL it.
Aaron M Fraser - Jan 2, 2010
We put too much emphasis on “knowing” things. This is a mainly Western problem, or at least was originally. What can we really know when the very basic building blocks of our universe are virtually unknowable? (Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, forex - knowledge of one aspect of a particle precludes knowing anything else about it)
You seek truth, but no one can tell you what this is… but you. All truth is subjective, and what you find to be true is irrelevant outside of your frame of reference.
You may discover things that defy logic, or you may find it logic that you should FEEL or KNOW a certain thing before it is “true” to you - however, logic is a purely human construct, built upon premises we largely assume about the way the “world works”.
I wouldn’t get caught up in logic and knowledge and truth. This does not mean don’t question, merely don’t let your questions keep you off the path you’ve started down. When you start worrying about the end results to such a degree, you begin to sabotage yourself (see my post on Perfection).
After all, it’s the journey, not the destination, that shapes the man.
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” - Henry David Thoreau
Dan - Jan 2, 2010
“All truth is subjective”: disagree! Some things are just plain old true: I am sitting in a chair, the sky is blue, etc.
And the Heisenberg thing is I think misapplying a one-sentence explanation of micro-scale science on a macro-scale. For example, I can tell where a car is and how fast it’s moving (within a margin of error of say an inch and 1 mph) at a given time.
I do agree that worrying about the end results too much can sabotage your effort. I was just about to post something to that effect. (but again, it’s the old know/feel thing: I can say to you intellectually that I shouldn’t worry so much about _____, but that’s different from actually stopping worrying about it)
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