My Significant Other is the Kosmos Redux: Part 5 - Prelude and Fugue #2

Monday, November 11, 2013



Prelude

I was listening to an audio tape by the spiritual teacher
Adyashanti and heard an interesting description of a method he used
which he characterized as an inquiry.  Apparently when he was a
young man and in the early stages of his path he would go to a coffee
shop after work and, while nursing a cup of Joe, write in a notebook
in an attempt to answer a deep question such as "What is
surrender?".  He would continue to write until he
approached the very border of what he knew to be true, teasing out
everything he had in him, then stop and wait.  He would not
write another word until a real truth came to him - no theorizing, no
fantasy, no wishful thinking.  Oftentimes he would wait for
hours for the next truth to appear, but always he held back until he
knew that what was to be written was indeed true.

Upon hearing this I realized that he was essentially describing my
own method in writing this blog.  This is really an inquiry into
the questions I find myself asking, and in that regard also an
articulation both for myself and you the reader, one that is intended
as a dialogue even if I can't hear your internal mutterings in
response.  And as far-fetched as some of it may seem, everything
I write is the truth from my experience (or in some cases, a
tentative speculation based on true experience - this is, after all,
an inquiry).  Of course, I may be fooling myself, but then part
of the nature of an inquiry is to unmask self-deception, and part of
the nature of a dialogue is to corroborate and articulate
experience.  Webs of Interlocution, my friend!

The point of this is, I have been told by a few that I'm a tease,
leaving the reader hanging on the end of a limb with each new
posting.  And sometimes that hang-time is really, really long. 
My advice is that, like a football player returning a punt, you
call fair catch and wait for the ball to nestle into your waiting
arms, and be assured that as I end each posting I've taken
it to the very border of what I know and no further, except maybe to
peak over the edge into the unknown.  Besides, after a fair
catch the clock stops until the next play begins, so rest
in timelessness!  And as always, to be continued...

Fugue

There is apparently a branch of scientific speculation known as
Neuroaesthetics, the study of the neurological correlates to
aesthetic appreciation - or as one article about this was titled,
"Beauty is in the Brain of the Beholder".  It seems
that some neuroscientists have discovered areas of the brain that are
activated by aesthetic beauty, and have even been able to increase
appreciation of beauty in some cases by stimulating that area. 
This has led to speculation about the purpose of art for humans,
especially interesting as art appears to be ubiquitous in human
culture.  In fact, many anthropologists point to the first
appearance of art in the form of cave paintings and adornment-making
all over the planet as a marker of the dawn of humanity around 50,000
years ago.  So the question that naturally arises is, "Why
art?".

Indeed, I've been asking myself that question for quite awhile. 
This new neurological exploration hints at some tantalizing clues,
mostly based on evolutionary survival advantage - for instance,
one theorist speculating that Cro-Magnon man survived while our
Neanderthal cousins became extinct because of the introduction of art
in our ancestors as a method of imaginative problem-solving (and I
might add, imaginative web-of-interlocution building).  This is
all fascinating, and certainly a piece of the puzzle.  However,
reducing everything to biological survival advantage, as fashionable
as it is these days, hardly answers the really, really big
questions.  If we're to seriously ask "What are we, why are
we here,  what are we doing here", and now add to this
"Why art?",  can the answer really be..... simply to
better survive and propagate?  After all, that answer begs the
question, "Why survive?", a question that appears to be
utterly ignored in scientific discourse.

Methinks we gotta dig deeper, spin finer webs, cast them far
and wide.  Because the truth  of "Why art?" can't
be captured in the puny net of "biological survival and
propagation of the species".  And I suspect the truth
of "Why Art" is intimately connected to the truth of "What
are we, why are we here, what are we doing here?".  So let
the inquiry begin!

Let's begin back in the day, those good old days when art first
emerged in human culture.  50,000 years or 100,000 years, it
matters not.  Whether by UFO visitation, space wandering
mushroom spores, natural selection, or grace, it matters not. 
What does matter is that suddenly something new emerged,
something apparently in the consciousness of those proto-humans
that hadn't existed anywhere on the planet for billions of years. 
It's interesting to look at these early humans because they were
presumably free of so many of our modern affectations - narcissistic
self-expression, hunger for fame, commodity market manipulation,
to name a few.  They were big apes on the
savannah, mostly interested in the next meal and a little
nookie, and suddenly they started making stuff that seemingly
had more to it then just survival and sex (though
admittedly some anthropologists still insist on reducing all early
human motivation, including art, to the next meal and a little
nookie).

There's a possible clue in the famous cave paintings at Lascaux,
France.  This site is not the oldest evidence of art making by
humans, dated to about 17,000 years ago, but is certainly a
production of pre-civilized humanity, long before Stonehenge, long
before the Pyramids.  The huge caves are filled with hundreds of
images of animals, a shaman-like man, apparent star charts, and
abstract symbols.  An interesting aspect of the caves is the
manner in which they were discovered - a teenager in France in
1940, while searching for treasure, happened upon a narrow
channel in the ground and explored it with three friends, crawling on
their bellies in the dark for many yards and coming upon the vast
caves in total darkness.  When they lit an oil lamp they were
probably the first humans in many, many thousands of years to lay
eyes on this astonishing gallery of images.

Now, imagine yourself as a Stone Age individual being led for the
first time to the caves.  Under a cloak of mystery you're pushed
into a narrow, completely dark channel in the ground, urged on to
crawl an unknown distance in total sensory deprivation (accept
for hard earth under your hands and knees and the occasional
invisible crawly thing on your skin).  Finally, after a
seemingly endless and terrifying journey, you come out into a
large chamber and stand as someone lights a torch, revealing hundreds
of ghostly animals and symbols dancing all about you in the
flickering light of the torch, eerily alive yet just as eerily
unreal  Is it too much to speculate that your breath would be
taken away, that you would have an experience far removed from a good
steak and a great lay, that you just might be blown right out of
yourself and into a truly transformative experience?

That's what I call one powerful web of interlocution!  And if
I'm right, it would have been building completely new, completely
evolutionary structures in the consciousness of those early humans,
structures that may well have benefited survival but most certainly
had deeper implications.

To be continued...