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The old adage “What you see is what you get” is not at all what we see nor what we get. As human beings, we have senses that detect light, sound, pressure, smell, taste, etc. But these senses are limited in what they can detect. For example, our hearing can detect sounds from about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. But some sounds extend into the infrasonic regions below 20 Hz to .001 Hz. These low sounds are made by earthquakes, tsunamis, and African elephants for example. We can’t hear them, but we can sometimes feel them on our skin. They can produce a “creepy” feeling of foreboding. Above 20,000 Hz and extending as high as 200 MHz (200,000,000 Hz) there is ultrasound. It is used for sonograms to look at the development of a human fetus and is the province of bats, dolphins, and whales. So we hear about 10% of the sound that is there to hear. This is probably a good thing. Imagine what our environment would sound like if we heard the echolocation transmissions of bats and the communications of insects! Talk about being driven crazy by sound. On the other hand, what could music sound like at these higher frequencies? Celestial sounds?
Well, one can create a similar analysis for light and the eyes. We see but a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. What else is out there for us to see? What would the night sky look like if we could see in the x-ray region of light?
All of the signals from these band limited (a technical term meaning that our senses-really transducers-operate over a limited range) senses come into the brain and are coded in such a way that we can detect our environment. Then the brain does something truly marvelous: it “projects” the sum of all of these inputs so that we perceive our environment as outside of us rather than inside where the action is really taking place.
And then we have the audacity to create language to explain that projection and communicate it to other humans. So, through consensus reality, we all agree what a mountain is and further the metaphoric implications of mountain such as something that describes an obstacle to get over. If we go back to the origin of the metaphor we come to photons impinging on a retina, being encoded and sent to the brain, firing neurons that create a neural network that we interpret as an obstacle. It’s a wonder we can communicate at all!
But this illusion has its redeeming qualities. As suggested above, it allows us to limit the information we get from the environment (we are not mesmerized by the droning of bees), which allows us to focus our attention so that we can move about that environment, and it allows us to have enough brain capacity left over to invent philosophy, science, art, etc. The revelation is that everything is always in perfect order. The bandwidth of our senses are perfectly matched to the information handling capacity of our brains. And there is enough brain left over to create intuition, to problem solve, and to invent.
Which brings me to consciousness. Maybe this is too big a jump, but beyond senses, brains, and perception there is this other sense of who we are in the cosmos. That we are more than the synapses and neural nets. That we are perhaps the creators of what we are trying to analyze. That we are the pattern from which we were created and that we are really moving back to that place from which we descended into our projection. It told you it was a big jump.
It is our deepest natural impulse to be free so it should not alarm our deepest sensibilities to see perpetual struggles to attain it. The impulse to self determination and liberation are at the heart of the protests we now witness in the Mideast. The violence, which garners attention on the world stage, is only an externalized response to a deeper impulse, and can avert our appreciation of the innate and ubiquitous desire for self mastery and personal choice that underlies it. We all want to be free; free from the oppression and tyranny of external powers that would wield unjust power over our lives and deny us the fruits of freedom - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Because we enjoy peace in our land, it is easy to forget that radical revolutionary behavior was central to our nation's genesis. Because we live in relative freedom today we may have forgotten the reality of the bitter bloody battle; the extraordinary costs paid to wrest liberty from an autocratic King that once ruled unjustly over Americans choices and lives. The intrepid men who drafted the Declaration of Independence stepped boldly across the line of personal safety and put it all on the line to achieve the inalienable right of freedom. So what we see in Egypt and surrounding nations is the out-picturing in their people of the same core value that once rallied Americans to battle oppression and gain freedom.
Unfortunately, achieving true freedom is more complex. In truth, freedom is not won through successful wars, deposed dictators, or even governments by the people. True freedom is an inner condition; a state of mind that can overthrow the power of external conditions to affect one's peace.
We have always had the inalienable right to self-determination. Free will empowers us to cast the deciding vote on every issue. We are at liberty to find peace and plenitude in the very ground of our being.
When we realize the source and course of true freedom, we may be driven to our knees as much as to the streets. We may realize that non-resistance is as generative of inner freedom as protest is to the external kind. Beyond forms, conditions, and preferences is peace without condition. To be willing to sacrifice all our treasured but false notions about well being is to open out a way for a true and lasting freedom to emerge from within the well of our Being.
By Rev. Larry Schellink
Unity Center of Davis
PO Box 4478
Davis, CA 95617
Unity Center of Davis is an inclusive spiritual community that honors the many paths to God and helps people of all faiths apply positive spiritual principles in their daily lives.
More of Larry's inspirational articles can be found here.
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