There’s a common story concerning three blind people who approach an elephant, one grabbing a leg, another its trunk and another the tail. Each then describes the beast that they believe exists and of course none of them get it right. Notice however that the only reason we know the people are inaccurate is because we’re told that the creature is an elephant at the beginning. The recipient of this story is given a small form of omniscience here and then the story-teller uses the narrative to wax poetic about whatever point is desired to reach. I’d like to go to a different conclusion here though and declare that all of them are correct. Without a context, without someone telling them or an outside observer possessing sight, there would be no real reason to declare any of the people wrong. They could go about their merry way with nary a moment of doubt concerning their truth and from within their world, they’d be utterly correct in lacking that doubt. Only in combining their perspectives, in rejoining the group that they originally arrived as, do they have the possibility of expanding their awareness and coming closer to accuracy.
Here then we have two conclusions from the previous expositions on decision-making: one, context is very nearly everything when it comes to revealing truth and two, only in joining with greater humanity can we begin approaching a larger awareness of our lives and an accuracy concerning our existence.
To recap simply, we have gone through an exposition on the nature of decision-making, noting how for all the power we as a species gives to reasons there is no sense in which any offered exist in a direct relationship with the shift in behavior or the initial action. There’s a mystery here where the precise moment in which neural connections are made is forever outside of our conscious awareness, such that reasons exist at best as potential explanations and at worst merely provide a context out of which the behavior was selected prior to awareness, very likely a combination of the two to be perfectly honest. In addition, these reasons do not exist context-free, there is no sense in which objectivity defined as being absent of environmental connection is in any way coherent. Reasons exist within a vast contextual pool of information, some known and a great deal unknown, all of which forms the nests (to use Ken Wilber’s term) or baskets of an interrelated and integrated universe.
We cannot escape this reality, cannot think outside of it and behavior is dependent and determined upon all of it, though only in the sense of being within a natural and materialistic existence not in a pre-determined linear connection. There is freedom here but it is not the freedom of a context-less being but one where an increasing awareness of interconnected reality within the human necessity to create relationships brings about a greater space for behavioral possibility.
I’ve mentioned at the end of each of the last two entries in this series a slightly vague declaration of the consequence of residing in this understanding of reality, noting how anger and frustration can be replaced by grace and compassion as we reside in a spiritual consciousness of integrated reality. This is all well and good and hopefully brings a smile to the face of more than just I, but it’s ridiculously lacking in specifics. Honestly, I don’t intend to provide a great deal of specifics, rather focusing on principles which can then be applied to everyday experiences. The individual analyses that can be done will, in keeping with the philosophy, be determined by the context of the situation including the people involved. I have my moments of celebrating a rather healthy ego but even that will halts in the face of attempting to answer every conceivable potential situation.
As mentioned initially, there are two conclusions: context is nearly everything and within community/relationships is found the space to expand our awareness and thus our behavioral potential. When we confront someone, including ourselves, both of these principles should be front and center, providing parameters for the cascading emotional responses giving our brains a bath. The way we hold our bodies, the words we “choose,” the tone of our voice, the connections we have with the other person, the events that happened earlier in the day or week, the memories being recreated as the brain makes connections between the current situation and past experience, all of these are occurring at the speed of synaptic connections, electrical impulses so fast they give us the illusion of instantaneous consciousness and a sense of the present.
We are often quite like the people in the initial story, each grasping at what we think is the totality of our experience and completely unaware of the vastness of the object we are blind to. A healthy ego knows its contextual sisters and brothers in humanity, knows that without the baskets of being holding individual experience there would be no such thing to write poetry about, become incensed over and feel passionately about. Depending on the person in front of us and all the variables just mentioned, we will respond with aspects of ourselves unknown or rarely instantiated and/or typical and in line with our perceived self narrative. The same holds for the person in front of you in reverse. There is still right and wrong, still potential for dialogue and therefore a progressive increase in accurately describing reality, but the process is found in union, not divisiveness.
We are not the humans people are so often looking for, capable of dispassionate analysis and complete control over our lives. Rather, we are the humans we see in every sweet statement of connection, every cry of pain, sorrow, joy and happiness, every thundering discourse from one’s bully-pulpit and each and every moment of head-scratching wonder. It is not the fantasy, it is the reality and thus all the more beautiful to experience together.
© David Teachout