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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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broken record, or I'm trying not to drive myself nuts with this

Have you ever tried to look at the world from a purely objective viewpoint? Have you ever tried to look at what's happening around you through the eyes of a totally separate, non-integrated observer?

It's not a simple exercise, because you have to shake off your whole personality to do it properly. If you don't, then whenever you consider a situation or a person or an event, you'll think about what that situation means to you, or what that person thinks of you, etc. It's pretty hard (if not impossible) to look at the world without being affected by your own personality and your own conditioning. Everyone sees the world through their own eyes, after all. Some kind of cognitive process must occur when the images that fall on your eyes get transmitted to your brain and get classified as events, memories, people, places, etc.

But imagine looking at the world without giving a single thought to what it is you were looking at. Just observing it from an objective viewpoint that wasn't coloured by your own ideas and perceptions. What do you think you would see?

Personally, I'm not convinced that you'd see anything. I have a feeling that everything in the world must have a personal frame of reference in order to exist for us. What I mean by that is that if we didn't see it for ourselves, name it, and assign a definition to it, then it might as well not exist. Whatever we're not aware of, might as well not exist. Nothing can come into existence unless we're aware of it first.

Actually, some people might disagree with that. Do you think a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest and nobody is around? Or do you think that a sound only exists if there are ears there to hear it? I fall into the latter camp, myself, and I don't think that anything in the world exists without our having first called it into existence by naming it and becoming aware of it. That tree might still fall and create the illusion of making noise as it crashes to the ground, but if there are no ears present to hear that sound, there is no way to prove that it made one. Nobody heard a thing, so it made no noise. (Literally.)

Someone will probably quote some law of probabilities or something, and observe that under test conditions, falling trees make noise in 100 cases out of 100, which allows us to assume that falling trees will make noise 100% of the time, regardless of who is there to witness it. But I'm still not convinced. There's no way to prove that the tree even exists unless someone is there to see it for themselves. You can't definitively prove anything you can't actually observe.

Next week's question: who is doing the observing?

Alternate: Why am I asking these questions?
Second alternate: Are there actually any questions being asked?
Third one: who is asking the questions?

It usually ends up coming back to that one, doesn't it?

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(Anonymous) April 9th, 2001

How can you look at something without giving a single thought to what you're looking at? You wouldn't be human; you wouldn't be alive. Doesn't the looking itself require thought?

Something that is totally separate and non-integrated CANNOT observe.

Remember how in Owl Magazine, they used to have photos of ordinary objects taken from an extremely close angle, and you were supposed to try and figure out what the objects were? You'd stare forever at a craterous, dark hole, and a yellowy, fleshy, shiny bit before checking the answers at the back in frustration and realizing that it was a feckin' grapefruit. The observation never REALLY took place until you had some context in which to observe it. Then you'd go back and look at the picture and see it as the pore of a grapefruit.

Hmf. It just occurred to me that I'm probably agreeing with you...

I guess I knew that. I suppose my REAL question is, why would you WANT to observe without thought, emotions, ideas and perceptions?

That is still what I don't understand...

Grammar Dog

ask a silly question...

iamom April 10th, 2001
...here's my silly answer.

First, thanks for your comments, I appreciate them. Your quote from Owl magazine is interesting - you and I must be of a similar age.

I had a great discussion about this subject (my favourite subject) with my wife last night. When contemplating the totality of consciousness, she had no trouble grasping that our human existence is a so-called blip on the radar screen. However, she had a caveat: "I know that our lifespan is but a blink of an eye by universal standards, but if anything, that just makes it more important to live life mindfully and not give it too much thought otherwise. I can appreciate how fleeting our lives are, but I don't understand why you would want to think about that so often, or try to absorb yourself somehow into that kind of understanding. Isn't it more important just to live and enjoy life, short though it is?"

I think my wife is very wise, and she makes a very good point. So do you. Regardless of what is or is not, what has meaning or not, who's doing the observing or not; the universe is as it is, and there's probably nothing else we can do but experience it unquestioningly as it is. We are here, after all, and there's not much else we can do, regardless of our level of awareness about its inherent reality or whatever.

For whatever reason though, I've always wanted to see more than that. I've always wanted to look deeper into the underlying reality of any situation in life. This is no different. I have an intuitive sense that my consciousness does not begin and end with the body and personality I now own. Nothing I can see, hear, touch, or observe in any way in this life has any lasting meaning - the world and everything in it are a dustbunny under the bed, and will be swept away by a conscientious cleaner next week. This just feels true to me right now, and even if it doesn't feel that way tomorrow, I can only go with what I know today.

My primary concern has always been to learn to live life here in the context of an understanding of its inherent reality. Living life and experiencing its events seems a lot easier to me when I remember that it's not really happening - that it's a vivid dream in our collective consciousness that undoubtedly has an end, like any other dream. But that's not a scary thought or anything, because I am not really this person who could have anything to be scared about. I'm no different than my neighbour, that tree, or that galaxy next door - nothing happens to me, I am the universe only.

Hmf. I could never be accused of being too concise when I talk about this stuff. And I still haven't directly answered your question about why I would want to go through life like this, observing the world from an objective viewpoint that's not coloured in any way by thought, emotions, ideas, and perceptions. I guess my answer to that is that I have no choice in the matter - the way I see things is just the way I see things, and there's not much I can do to change it one way or the other. As I settle more deeply into a sense of self that goes beyond my own personality (which is what generates those thoughts, emotions, etc.), I become more detached from those emotions (not necessarily an unhealthy thing), and cease to act or react to situations in my life solely as a result of those emotions (something I used to do a lot, and it frequently made me depressed and angry).

But you know, having said all that, I realize that I've just given myself away and turned myself over to the consciousness police. Nothing I have just said has any meaning whatsoever, but it was nice of you to pop into my dream today and share it with me.

PS: This person recently wrote about what it's like for him to live in the world with this kind of awareness, and I thought he really hit the nail on the head. That's quite close to how it feels for me, anyway.

PPS: Who are you, by the way?

Re: ask a silly question...

(Anonymous) April 10th, 2001

Who am I, indeed.

While I don't necessarily subscribe to your particular way of thinking (or not, as the case may be), I also don't live my life unquestioningly. I like to think of myself as floating gleefully somewhere in the middle of utter detachment and complete self-consumption.

How do you live life while detached from emotions, actions, and reactions? How do you coexist with folks who AREN'T detached from those things? Why do you eat your favourite things, why do you read, why do you have friends, if you can't place meaning on any of those experiences? I've always been a bit of an oddball, I suppose, but I, for one, might feel a snitch underappreciated if I thought you saw a relationship with me as a vivid dream.

What you've said here must have SOME meaning. You certainly would not be doing it if it was meaningless, non?

Grammar Dog

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