Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Sixth Sense

Human history is rife with examples of profound and universally accepted ignorance. It's usually not something you can hold against the people in any particular time period (unless, oddly enough, religion was part of some larger "truth"'s denial). The Ancient Greeks, for example, were perfectly content with the idea that all matter was made up of some combination of four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. An educated person from that culture would be able to rationally and logically explain it, and someone who didn't know better would be suitably and understandably convinced. Physicians from Mesopotamia to 19th century Europe wrote for over 2000 years about the four humours--black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood--substances which composed the human body, and whose balance or imbalance caused differences in physique and mood. Before the mathematics or instruments existed to discover otherwise, the observation that the sun moved in an arc across the Terran sky led to the belief that it orbited the Earth. And as recently as 500 years ago (well AFTER aformentioned mathematics and instruments existed), many predicted with conviction Columbus's disapperance shortly after he sailed off the edge of the planet.

Of course, now these are all silly examples of a simpler time, and a simpler race. We can compare ourselves to such folk and feel proud of our advancements in art and science, in culture. Of course, we can see the truth now. We know the deal, and we'll never live in the dark again.

Right? Maybe not.

Prehistoric Man never knew about his brain. Any attempt to explain it or its function would have been lost, except to point it out as that pink fleshy thing that spills when you open the skull. But the first day he came up with the concept that adding one stone to another created a sequence, or looked into the sky and wondered what are those white dots up there? instead of taking them for granted as backdrop, or realized that collecting seeds from one fruit and leaving them in the ground yielded more fruit, he fundamentally understood something about the brain's purpose. It isn't that he could have explained what just happened, but he was definitely aware something HAD happened.

The modern state of our science and technology is admittedly astounding. It used to be, as recently as a few centuries ago, that an educated person could eventually be taught all that had been collectively learned by his or her cultural academia, and still have enough lifespan left to practice be recognized for it. We are now well past that point, and that is truly amazing.

However, I wonder if it really makes us more advanced as a species, or just gives us a greater license to justify our modern ignorance. Such advances have taken thousands of generations, and millions of thinkers who looked at the information they'd been given and realized it was insufficient, that it did a poor job of explaining something that they either observed or understood on a deeper level. For many of the early thinkers in any given era, there were no means of discovering, but like prehistoric man, they became aware of something. Their ability to even perceive a thing was a small step ahead of their peers', and a first step in what would eventually change the history of our entire species.

I believe we may be on the edge of such a discovery now. Oh, I am by no means well educated, nor am I exceptionally intelligent. But part of me has, for my entire life, been aware that something else is going on in this world, or specifically, with myself as a whole being.

Now's the part where you skip down to the next entry, if you're generous, or click the 'Next Blog' button at the top of the page if you're not. And I wouldn't blame you. But if you're at this point already, maybe you'll follow me just a little further.

We as physical beings have certain sensations that tell us what's happening around us. We use our observations--provided by our well-understood five senses--to collect these sensations, and then we reason, to the best of our ability, their causes and consequences. Take something as simple as gravity. We know it exists and how it works; we all have observed it our entire lives and taken it for granted. But it took theoretical physicists, beginning with (if you believe the myth) Isaac Newton and his apple, asking centuries of questions before it could be accurately explained. (Even now, current accepted theory doesn't give us the whole picture. Go read Hawking.)

Now take something slightly more complex: magnetism. This is another thing we've all observed our whole lives (or at least since the first time you pulled yourself to a standing position against the fridge and slid down because you grabbed one of those silly plastic fruits holding up a shopping list). This isn't, however, something we can all explain. Once observed, though, we understand and accept it. It's just always there, even if we can't measure it or create conditions to artificially induce it. We just all know that, unless it was created artificially, a magnet never ever loses its ability to stick to our fridge.

Imagine, for a moment, that magnetism was not something universally observed or understood, but you, a lonely pilgrim in your simple human journey, discovered it. Not discovered in the traditional sense of course, because in truth, it will have always existed. What would you call it, and therefore how would you explain or refer to it to people you wished to communicate it to? If you wanted to explore it, would you know how to go about it? Would you have been lucky enough to come across a cache of magnetic materials to experiment with, or something randomly lying around? If the latter, would you assume it was an isolated phenomenon, or something due to the place you found your materials, or something relating to the position of the stars and planets, or something related to your accepted divine being?

And all these what-ifs apply to something we can put our hands on, something we can see, bring someone else to and know they'll make the exact same observations, something we can photograph and measure and publish in a journal.

The discovery I think I've made...isn't so much of a discovery, because I believe it's always existed, and not just in my life, but EVERY life. It isn't something tangible, it isn't something that has a name, or something that can be measured, or photographed, or published, or shown to a person. Or even, as we're both coming to understand, written well about.

Prehistoric man discovered, by realizing he could think and reason and question, his brain. What I am exploring is something I've named my Core.

What I'm talking about is the thing inside us that is a kind of perceptory organ. It's similar to the emotional device called a heart, but has more than an emotional function. It's also similar to what has been called intuition in that it can 'listen' to things outside our normal perception. Our cores tell us when someone is sad or angry or attracted to us, and broadcasts to others when we are. Our cores give us a sense that something is wrong, and may guide us on a course of action. Our cores ache and need healing when a loved one dies. Our cores can send up red or white flags, and ring alarm bells about a stranger who may only be standing at the next slot machine. Now, some people--smart people, mind you--will say that all this is physiological, a result of pheromones and body language and brain chemicals. Those people may be right. But like prehistoric man wondering at the stars in the sky, I am wondering whether these physiological signals point falsely to what I am describing, or the thing I'm describing actually dictates that physiology, the way the brain affects the body by releasing adrenaline, or the way the body can affect the brain if we indulge in too much sour mash. And sue me for saying so, but if billions of people can believe in a greater power for no apparent reason, and be believed just because they have a name for this believe ("faith"), then I can name and describe a possibly-fictional system of the body/mind/soul*.

This is closely connected to my belief in body energy. There are well documented accounts of chakras and chi and the like from numerous cultures going back (how many?) years. Has anyone besides me wondered why energy therapy is NOT part of modern medical practice? Maybe it's because we can't see it, or measure it, or quantify its magnitude or effects. I'm sure there are people out there who know some or all of the reasons, but I'm not one of them. It doesn't make body energy any less real, but it does make people look at me funny when I bring it up in conversation (which is very seldom these days.)

How the Core, my newly identified metaphysical sensory organ, relates to body energy, or anything else, is still an unanswered question. I'll never know for sure, not in this life. And even if I had some answers, they would be tiny, delicious little revelations useful and understandable only to me. But one of my biggest discoveries has already occurred: that naming this sensory thing has allowed me to move forward in exploring it, and exploration has always been the point all along.

*Just to be clear, I am not a faithless man. While I won't quote you all the biblical stories as solid fact, I think anyone who believes THIS is all there is to life is an ignorant fool. I also believe in a single god/creator/supreme being/higher power, which I suppose technically makes me agnostic. I give thanks and pray and ask for help like most people who identify themselves as religious. I hold my beliefs for many reasons, most of which come from observations made...with my core.

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