Enchantment - Dorit Braun
I have been reading a book by the American founder of the Humanistic Psychology movement and father of client - centred therapy, Carl Rogers. This post is based on a chapter in his book - A WAY OF BEING.
I am sure you have seen this cliche scene in a movie - someone suddenly sits bolt upright in bed with a wild eyed look in their eyes. Its always either a moment of terror or a Eureka moment. Well that scene is a metaphor for a sudden mental realisation that dawned on me. Let me explain:
A dear friend of mine commented on a blog I had written on this Blogspot. He took apart my convoluted logic regarding my subject of 'Common Sense'. He slayed my incisive repartee, my stupendous intelligence (always modestly alluded to by me of course), my huge instinctive, inspired logic which in a very spare 4 million words I had outlined a momentous epochial idea that I felt would surely change the course of human history and win me a Nobel Prize - and he contradicted my thesis with just nine words.
He said: "Common sense tells us that the world is flat".
He is Wright of course: And when we put to one side our "Common Sense" and re-examine some of the perceptions given to us by our five senses we are left with the question: Where or what exactly constitutes reality?
The fact is "common sense" can give us a false idea about many things. As I lie in the cockpit of my small yacht in some safe anchorage and stare up at the high wheeling sideral light of the stars for hours at a time and watch the Milky Way slowly rotate around me I could let 'common sense' tell me that the whole cosmos has me at its centre. Yet the fact is we are all on board spaceship earth that is hurtling through space at 108,000 kilometers (67,000 miles) an hour.
If my ego and sensibilities have been rocked by not being at the very centre of the universe, 'common sense' tries again and tells me that as I lie on deck viewing the stars surely I can be sure of the reality that the deck beneath me is solid and unmoving except for the gentle sleepy rocking of a happy yacht in a safe harbour. Wrong again! The deck of the yacht is indeed at the Macro level stable and solid, but its underlying reality at the Micro level is extraordinarily different, i.e:
A yachts deck is made of atoms. The extraodinary fact about the atom is that not only is the atoms core (which is made up of protons and neutrons) in constant motion but the electrons that surround an atoms core are a great distance from that core - If we made a scale model of an atom with the nucleus of the atom (protons and neutrons) the size of say a small soccer ball - the orbit of the first electron in this scale model would be nearly 11 miles (17.5 km) from the nucleus - the atom is almost 99.9% free space. Does common sense come to my aid in developing a complete picture of the true nature of reality? I don't think so.
If we shift to the interpersonal world looking for some reassurance that our common sense deductions regarding those around us can be relied on we are again in for some more surprises.
Carl Rogers states: "But at least in the interpersonal world, I know my family and friends; this knowledge is surely a solid basis on which I can act. But then my memories trip me up. One needs only the simple occasion of a softly facilitated encounter group, where permission is given to express oneself, to discover how shaky our interpersonal knowledge is. Individuals have discovered in their closest friends and family members great realms of hidden feelings. There are previously unknown fears, feelings of inadequacy, suppressed rages and resentments, bizarre sexual desires and fantasies, hidden pools of hopes and dreams, of joys and dreads, of creative urges and unbidden loves. This reality, too, seems unsure, and full of unknowns."
If we shift again to the individual self and tell ourselves, "well at least I know who I am" again we come up against some perplexing questions. What is this "I" that resides within us all? Descartes stated that "I think therefore I am" i.e identifying the "I" with thinking - but the Buhddists talk of their experience when the thinking is stilled until it is no more - the "I" still remains. What is the reality of the "I" - the behaviourists will tell us that we are nothing but the sum of stimulus inputs and conditioned responses, while others will point to the experiences of dreams, visions, hallucinatory experience, meditation experiences, near death experience, separate realities, out of body experiences and various other states of altered conciousness which beg questions about what consitutes the 'real world' or at least question our knowledge of where the boundaries lie.
What is commonly agreed (or imposed) to be "reality" as a tribe / community / society / culture can have grave consequences for those that might disagree with the common "world view" - Copernicus and Galileo are the classic examples of those who looked deeper into the nature of things and upon expressing a different point of view were declared heretics for their trouble. The history of much of human culture is a history of the torture and killing of those who deviate from the group, tribe or cultural perception of what constiutes the agreed religious or philosophical reality and certainty.
Carl Rodgers conclusion regarding all of this is to say: "I, and many others, have come to a new realization. It is this: The only reality I can possibly know is the world as I percieve and experience it at this moment. The only reality you can possibly know is the world as you percieve and experience it at this moment. And the only certainty is that those percieved realities are different. There are as many "real worlds" as there are people!...."
My conclusion is that these ideas and questions regarding the nature of reality mean that I must try and not rush to judgements regarding ideas - wait, watch, dig deeper if possible - I must try and suspend my judgement regarding attitudes and opinions that may differ from my own - Be open to new experiences and hold off the human need to catergorise, pigeonhole, analyse and confirm. Enjoy the wheeling stars, the wind in my hair and in my sail, enjoy the human experiences of friendship and love, and if unable to fully explain what it all means, then be happy with no explanation for the moment, defer any judgements, be happy in the moment with the partial answers - and until some inspiration from deep within me awakens some sort of understanding and /or answer, just call the things, ideas and dreams that are bigger than myself by the names they have always been called - wonder, mystery, magic, numinousness, enchantment and love.