Nova Sententia: A New Way To See
Chasing truth through the illusory constructs
A broken compass
Part of our schtick as a human species seems to be the need to map out the territory atop which our existence flails around, whatever the style of map may be — be it science, consciousness, culture.
The kicker is that we seem to operate with an inherent tendency of over-complicating things.
Our emotions, our constructs, and our raving rationality have promulgated themselves into this insatiable appetite for patterning everything from our own behaviour to that of our world, while we often overlook the fact that we tend to overthink.
In reality, and in our quest to discover how our reality really works, we can should/would/could try to simplify a bit by basing how things work on, well, how things work.
For a long time now, we’ve been pursuing knowledge in a certain way that runs contradictory to the natural way things work — our pursuit hasn’t necessarily been a wrong one, as it has allowed us to advance technologically and achieve some remarkable feats, but it has proven a departure from the organic, intuitional side of perceiving reality.
We compartmentalize knowledge; we allow tenure or status to obscure our minds; we force-feed outdated methods of inquiry and treat mass learning as a commodified product; we censor and self-sabotage our curiosity because of cultural displeasures; we restrict access to information; we let money or access to funding be the primary motivator or a powerful variable in too many equations.
We’re not perfect, though we try to be, and we’re not necessarily destitute; and though the stream of optimistic perspective seems to run more dry every year, there’s hope yet with respect to how we can correct this seemingly sinking ship.
So long as we can figure out how to get out of our own way.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to learn how the world works; the hard part is actually surrendering to the fact that we may never know, but maintaining a healthy willingness to try and break free from the paradigmatic etches of yesterday.
Assume we take the ‘hard’ knowledge we’ve cultivated regarding the physical world — principles of, say, thermodynamics or magnetism or mathematics — things that are as irrefutable as anything (for nothing seems to be truly irrefutable as we zoom in closer or look out father) — and assume that we apply their workings to our world in a way that corresponds to the ‘softer’ truths — those intuitional bits relating to principles of, say, balance or polarity.
We can go as far as to make conjectures, and we do, but we seldom see much cross-referencing between, say, cosmological happenstance and social happenstance.
While our knowledge of the world is rooted in simple observation, upon which we form hard rules of logic regarding the way that matter works or how energy moves, our layering is a bit all over the place.
And while it’s fair to insulate our frameworks of knowledge with the more intuitional conjectures, we’ve taken this practice of insulating to some pretty crazy places.
Our culture has inadvertently undermined this process through this tendency to over-think, with numerous catalysts (i.e. news media) functioning to obscure matters more than they should.
Take, for instance, the pandemic (admittedly a cliché example to throw around nowadays) — it had served to divide, twist and pigeon-hole our understandings more than anything, as bipartisan politics and sensationalizing media obfuscated the landscape of our learning experience with this global event. A potential learning or unifying opportunity wasted.
But what if we can tune out the noise that’s typically generated by media headlines or our critically-loud culture; what if we can remain exclusively and loyally attuned to the fundamental truths of the known ways by which our reality works.
If we simply view everything in its naked and unfiltered form, looking solely through the lenses of ‘hard’ truths about our world and applying the more irrefutable principles of certain disciplines (say, thermodynamics), we can gain more than we’d otherwise think.
For one, we’d mitigate our emotional responses; we’d also employ a greater level of objectivity, working outside of the grooves that have been carved into our base-perspectives by inter-generational prejudices; we’d be assessing based on raw and pure observation, disentangled from the messy baggage and insulation that we’ve grown to over-apply.
But there’s more.
Fritjof Kapra said that in ordinary life, we’re not aware of the unity of all things but divide the world into separate objects and events. While such division is useful and pragmatic for everyday life (especially as we become more technical), it’s not true to how reality really works.
“It is an abstraction devised by our discriminating and categorizing intellect.”
It’s an illusion — this culture-heavy world we’ve established around ourselves.
Our mechanistic perspective, great for the profit-driven, material world, has effectively drowned out our more intuitional perceptions, perceptions that would otherwise allows us to gain a lot from observing the fundamental nature of existence.
To quote Kapra again:
“When one enquires into the essential nature of things — into the deeper realms of matter in physics; into the deeper realms of consciousness — one discovers a different reality beyond the superficial mechanistic appearance of everyday life.”
The monks may be on to something after all
What’s needed, then, is a new way to see the world — to simplify like we’ve never simplified before.
Leaving our baggage at the door and looking beyond the social or cultural constructs that have permeated into our existential methods of interacting with the world, or with consolidating the information that flows into our perceptual understandings.
Though simple in theory, the practice requires more than a mere perspective shift; it requires a continual and categorical deconstruction of perspective, a surrendering of opinion and emotion, and a commitment to quiet observation.
This can culminate into an understanding or territory map for how we govern ourselves and navigate the more difficult aspects of the human experience — dealing with motivation or grief or self development; how we treat others, how or why we consume media or what we want to fulfil in our time, all of which sparks a subset of auxiliary ripple effects from how we regulate our emotion to how well we sleep at night.
It’s all connected.
If we let, say, news cycles or pop culture or virtual society (because now we seem to need a term that goes beyond social media) be the primary interface through which we observe and experience reality, we’re inevitably fucked.
This is why we resign ourselves to intellectual combativeness; why we yell at one another in the streets or forums over topics we don’t truly (or can’t truly) know to a full degree; why we tribalize ourselves into an ineffective mass that consumes itself from the inside out.
Maybe we’re not totally fucked if we continue down this path, because who knows how things will really play out, but we’re ostensibly check-mated by ourselves because of our weirder conscious complexes — collective and individual, over-thinking ourselves into oblivion.
But all is not lost.
The answer lies in the question
So how do we use our focus of the essential nature of the world to avoid the pitfalls of the human experience? How does our detached observation of reality amount to anything really worthwhile? How do we win?
Well, if we have a motivation for this kind of understanding to begin with, it seems to be all we need. Everything boils down to the subjective perspectives we employ and, if we employ them right, we can’t necessarily lose.
One has to take a leap of faith from the objective into the subjective experience of the world — but it has to be acknowledged that reality is filtered through our singular perception of it.
We seem to want to observe everything from the stands, from a birds-eye view. There’s no doubt, given our inherent tendency spout off like experts when opportune, that we’re content at being armchair politicians, citizen scientists, pseudo-journalists.
And this doesn’t seem to be working..
It’s a fine balance between relinquishing the need to know everything while trying to actively know everything. Though something magical happens when we admit that we don’t know as much as we think we do — something that can only be experienced and not described in a Medium post.
This wonderful thing that happens, humbling though it is, allows us to shed the intellectual arrogance and institutional pomposity.
Moreover, it prompts us to realize the importance of subjectivity in our pursuit of knowledge and delineates why we need to jump from a passive bird’s eye view to an active participation in our own existence.
This subjective perception is — no, this appears to be — true in every layer of reality that we study. It’s the fulcrum of our perceptual experience in this world.
A subjective focus on the essential nature of all things, employed to follow the real things that lie underneath all of our cultural constructs.
That’s how we can maybe beat the game, or at least avoid being check-mated by ourselves for a while longer.
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