Herrington: If Seeing Is Believing

Chris Herrington, Contributing Writer

The story of existence begins not with how what was not became what is, for that story is for a non-time at 10 X 10 ^ -42 seconds of our present history. Yes, we may or may not be an umbration of a set or series of big bangs and big crunches, and, yes, we may indeed be the manifestation of creative expression by some almighty being that has hosted the biggest block party of all time, but for all practical purposes it does not matter what was going on before we got here. Before that, we did not even exist. For those to whom such things are the battle ground of daily debate, I leave them to their extended discussions, and wish them well. I have no quarrel with those who wish to ponder how we arrived at our state of being; I merely want to discuss what it means to be, to live and breathe in the universe of “wires and stars,” as William Carlos Williams describes it.

Here we are, located on the cosmic map of the heavens. We are between some things that are much larger than ourselves and completely surrounded by some things that are so small and insignificant that we have only lately begun to guess that they even exist. The story of that existence defies and challenges our abilities to define or illustrate it in its incredible complexity, and yet we cannot help but to attempt to inaugurate the study of it at every glance, for it is not only all around us, it is us. We are the universe in all its forms and a part of its array of self-describing patterns. Let me illustrate what I am attempting to say.

The connectivity we both enjoy and suppress understanding is an overwhelming leap into the jargon of mysteries. I will then allow my subconscious mind to speak without my guiding it, without my consciously holding it at bay, and in this way we may gain some flavor of the immensity of the task before us.

I reach with my hand and what do I extend to? What do I extend? What do I hope to find? What in fact do I find? I do what I suppose and get what I suppose, and nothing new happens at all, right? And yet, I have no way to measure the existence of the mind, the soul, the ego, the psyche or the love that is used to perform these tasks. We speak about spirit all the time, and yet we cannot qualify it. Those operations and events, objects and perceptions we tend to share we tend to approve of as having existence, and yet in any given situation, our being asked to give our rendition of what we have seen will always contain elements which we will deem more important than do others. We will tell what we saw and when we compare it to what others say that they saw, it will to some degree differ. And why is this?

We each see what we see and we see what we want or will accept that we see. We project the potentials, the possibilities in front of us. We do not allow what we did not expect. For other than what we expect to occur would be to allow an objection, a contradiction of our own experience and thoughts and yet it happens all the time that we miss extremely important connections.

One of the important connections that we often miss is our own interactive perceptions with the objects around us. We look at things and have expectations about them and this then changes them right in front of our eyes. We transform their utilitarian value in our lives by our imaginative use of them in context. Something that we might use in a novel way can be transformed in terms of its empirical or practical value. A hat might be used to scoop water and so be used as a large drinking vessel, and this is seen easily enough. We use language all the time to describe this visionary process, for example, “It is hot enough to fry and egg on the sidewalk.” How many times has this actually been tried? Certainly solar cooking has it proponents. This might seem like a foolish idea once actually bought out in the open, but nevertheless we use this same sort of logic to transform everyday objects into other objects to cannibalize their uses in alternative ways all the time. Think MacGyver.

Artists use this idea in there assemblages, creating collage and even broken tile installations, and architects are famous for their imaginative use of materials in building novel concepts. In fact, we all in one way or another are constantly re-gifting ideas and reframing solutions, as in the alternative use of medicines or the use of cooking oils as alternative automobile fuels. So, the concept of our taking one thing and turning it into something else is not completely out of the ball park for most of us. It seems quite normal.

In the animal kingdom, some animals make adaptations over time that might assist them in evading predators, such as camouflage and mimicking. Human beings have a variety of presentations: eyes, skin color, metabolic rates, height, certain amounts of dexterity or ability to digest or employ the use of local foods. These adaptations are a use of everything from genetic engineering to adopting local bacteria for our own so that we can become more copasetic with the local environment and food offerings. Where we do not adapt, we starve or else are taken out by predators. Our perceptions and adaptations are the differences between life and death.

But, let’s not stop there. Let’s expand our circle of ideas. As we focus our attention on the mind of man, the instrument of perception, we find that it too must make adaptations. The sun sets in the west, moss grows on the north side of a tree, gravity makes things fall downwardly. As we collect tidbits of information and bring them into our minds, we bind with those bits of data, and they essentially become one with us, and when we do not use them instructively, we tend not to survive as well. If we misapprehend a signal, a sign, a cue, a pattern, a development, we put ourselves at risk. It is no wonder that the ancients took the time to note the aberrations of life: equinox, the full moon, the eclipse, the beginning of spring, the time of day, the passing of the seasons. These too then, are the patterns of all things that affect us however long in the collective unconscious. But, how do we make the leap between what we see and how we see it as a shifting pattern of expression, as a projection that transforms what we see into what we want to see? How did we become a hammer looking for a nail in a world filled only with nails? We filter everything we see; we transform what we might have seen into what we prefer. We have traded out potentialities for probabilities. What is the chance that I will see what I expect to see? What is the probability that if I don’t I will think of it as magic?

So, magic then is seeing what we do not expect or, that is, being fooled into expecting something other than what is there. Sleight of hand is one way we might be fooled, say with a conjurer’s tricks and prestidigitations. But there is a more subtle tomfoolery that often astonishes us; our own ignorance of how things work is bound to just blow our socks off when we come face to face with the facts of the case and why they so differ from our expectations. Some of the greatest inventions are things that previously would have seemed miraculous. Flying, radio broadcasts, electricity, video, microphones, nanotechnology, all these and millions more ideas and inventions seem common to us now, but just 150 years ago we did not even know to wash our hands before performing surgery. There are now a whole cornucopia of ideas that were not within reach until we had reached a sufficient level of sophistication in our thinking; that is, the wealth of ideas were in fact invisible to us and we were ignorant of these concepts until we abandoned our previous biases of perception and saw them for what they were, available for anyone who had a mind to make use of them. Some positive and some very destructive.

Just so, we have made sufficient branched connections in the direction of psychology, having reached out from the science of quantum mechanics to hazard a guess as to how the elements that make us up may in fact have some bearing on the organic mechanism which they have been used to construct us. There is then the idea that there are multiple uses for the structural elements that collectively make us up.

In this new realm of understanding, we have mounting evidence or at least some fair reason to begin to believe that a multiplicity of things are going on and that at the root of it all is the concept of consciousness. If we are to believe what we are told, then our being conscious of a process, changes the appearance if not the fundamental potentialities of those processes that we observe. The observation of this writer is that if we can change the fundamental action and activity of a given atom, then is it not plausible to believe that we are busily transforming everything round us as we observe it? Isn’t possible that in observing something, we cannot only imagine an alternative use of that object, but that the object itself if somehow fundamentally changed? If this is so, then depending on our own consciousness we may never see nature as it is to others or how it might have appeared without our having seen it.

Isn’t it possible then that we have never seen the world as it is in its untransformed state? Isn’t it possible we would not know the truth if it slapped us in the face? Isn’t it possible we have no idea what we look like, who we are, what we are doing, or what we need to do on any level? Isn’t it possible that all we know is what we have allowed ourselves to know, and that we have been living, as Plato has suggested, in a shadowy cave our entire projecting existence?

Even if we do then happen to get a happy glance of reality, either by meditation, near death experience, ethnopharmacology, or sheer effort of the mind to unhinge itself from its barriers by charging at a Zen koan, having an insightful moment of spiritual awareness, or having an enigmatic break through on the outer banks of some barren preserve, we may not ever be able to repeat the effect, transfer the knowledge or in any way any more than infer the memoried passage we have had into such an arena of existence.

Some have suggested that following a path, any path to its logical conclusion will land us at the end of the journey, abandoned of all defenses but then staring reality in the face. Perhaps reaching the bottom or having the cathartic moment is such a passage. Blinded, bewildered, beset, or beaten, any and all pathways seem to be able to render someone defenseless against seeing reality without its masks. In any case, it occurs at the moment when all is lost, all defenses are depleted, and the desire for control has been forfeited. At the end of our rope, we find the Gordian knot.

We cannot take the Oracle’s words at face value, the natural man does not receive the understanding of the spirit of God; to look is to fail, to turn to salt, or stone, or to be destroyed. And yet we are left bereft of our own faith. Our disbelief is what must be dealt with and so this is the direction the truth travels. For, to believe that we have the wisdom is to block the wisdom we need so desperately. Without dogma, without ritual, without ceremony of show, without any sense that we ourselves are in action, we must nakedly step out and see what is as it is, without any projection on our behalf. Faulkner saw this in “The Bear.”

If we were to imagine such a state, our being so lacking in projecting our own sense of the world on to what we see or sense then what would we need to have realized? We can look into the quantum state and process and reflect upon its tenants in order to understand this remarkable calling. But if seeing is believing, then seeing is a study we need to attend to with due diligence.


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2 Responses to Herrington: If Seeing Is Believing

  1. Bonnie says:

    As Don Juan Matus taught, to arrive at seeing one must first learn to stop the world.

    • runningturtle87 says:

      I’m on board that train………the world of performance and fakery, self-righteousness and public ceremony for show….yes,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,!

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