You are probably familiar with the following riddle. If a tree falls over with no-one to hear it fall, does it still make a sound? For most people the answer is a definite ‘yes’. Yet is this true? Is this really the only valid way to view reality?
The scientific worldview is immensely valuable. In this blog I would like to argue, however, that it might not be the only way to see and experience the world around us.
“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge”Carl Sagan
On the contrary. We can choose to experience our lives in many ways. In any way we want to, to be more (or less 🙂) precise.
In many cultures that have a close connection to their natural environment, shamanic practice is held in high regard. It is exactly this practice that attempts to warp the conscious experience of reality. Often into a dream-like state. To change the very meaning of truth. For the duration of a ceremony, or more.
Maybe this is just a bunch of wishy-washy bullshit philosophy to you. I can definitely not deny you to choose that to be your reality. The idea of ‘choosing your reality’ is about to become more relevant to you though.
Most of us have been taught that we are logical beings. We see, hear, feel and smell what is around us, but above all we have a mighty intellect for abstract ideas. We can speak, after all. And do we not have our books filled with knowledge? “I think therefore I am”, Descartes declares triumphantly.
Yet even now, you are staring at visual symbols and are mysteriously experiencing them as sounds. Think about that for a second. You are hallucinating a synaesthesia between sight and sound, right now. “Hearing with your eyes” sounds like a deeply poetic and un-scientific thing to say. It is however at the very foundation that makes the scientific worldview possible. Profound sensuous experiences are all around us.
One existential reality we can choose to emerge ourselves in would be to state that truth is defined by the direct experience of our senses. That both the falling tree and me myself are sentient beings. That we only share a reality as long as there is a reciprocal sensuous experience between us. Thus, there can be no sound in my reality as long as I am not able to experience it directly.
So what are the implications of this sensuous reality? There is no me without my senses. Without smelling, hearing, feeling and tasting there would be nothing to feed and shape my thoughts. There would be no talking to share my thoughts with other beings. No way to give a place to my thoughts in the physical reality that my body is a part of.
“We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.”David Abram in The spell of the sensuous
In my own life I spend a lot of time training my mind to see the world around me in this more sensuous light. I feel that seeing the world in this light contains more truth in most of the situations we find ourselves in everyday life. In kindergarten, highschool and university I always learned to see the world in an ever-increasing abstract way. Unfortunately, this teaches us that we shouldn’t play, smile and wonder about simple things, but rather explain them.
Luckily our ancestors have developed great techniques for us to cultivate a mode of being closer to our senses. Yoga and meditation practice have greatly helped me to break down some of the abstract filters I used to have in my perception. They have changed my very reality. Taught me to experience my environment more directly.
Yoga connects all the parts of the body, the breath and the mind in a swirling meditative movement. And how about sitting down with my eyes closed and observing my breath in meditation. This is truly an exciting experience to me now. I encourage everybody to let yourself doze off in the warm embrace of the only thing that is truly ever yours. That which you can share with no-one but yourself. The deep reality of your own sensuous being.
Wonderfully explained (haha pun)! — It teaches us that we shouldn’t play, smile and wonder about simple things, but rather explain them. — Explaining to me is fun, but with yoga and meditation al also learned it is limited. Very limited. Thanks for writing this.
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