Introduction (2) The Apprehension of Reality

Living this life, with all its foibles and pitfalls, results in a greater understanding of ones’ self and the world. When we are a new born babe, any event surprises us, because without experience we know not what to expect. With experience we know what to expect whether it be another days toil, or a holiday, or even a sedentary moment.

While even as one ages, one finds that one can take nothing as certain. There is that one day where the check did not arrive on time, or a day where ones love did not arrive. Experience is a great teacher and individuals and society as well benefits greatly by knowing what to expect. Knowledge depends on the understanding, and one can only acquire understanding through experience. Most feel confident that experience is what can be relied on, and it is that experience that has enabled the human species to survive.

Although it is possible of course, for example, for a species to be an excellent predator and because of this has been able to thrive, but later finds itself without food because of the extinction of the species it feeds on. Nowadays the world has excelled in the production of increasingly destructive weapons, and have been able to exterminate those less well armed. But now the nations that have triumphed face each other in hardened befuddlement. What are we to do now their leaders might wonder? One possible outcome, hopefully, is an age of cooperation.

While we know experience is vital for species survival, being the nurture in the nature/nurture distinction, the role of nature is less clear. Like a driving force which leads one to act beyond or without ones understanding, this force evades consciousness, and therefore, like bias itself, is beyond comprehension. Socrates claimed that the only knowledge one can have is the knowledge that we don’t know. One cannot really know for certain the true motives for ones actions. It might be thought by an individual that they acted out of love, or perhaps justice, but actually acted primally as our genetic ancestry dictates. The scope of consciousness must be necessarily unknown, because our genetic inspired drives do not rise to consciousness. How much is a true self-conscious motive is forever a mystery.

If we cannot know the extent of our conscious motives, we cannot really feel secure in these motives determining behavior at all. This is not to claim that the two, nature and nurture, cannot act hand in hand in the quest to survive. The relationship between these two is a very contemporary enterprise examined largely by science and philosophy and is especially poignant in the writings of Sigmund Freud.

While it seems to be true that our consciousness is limited to some degree, this does not rule out the usefulness of the human intellect. Certainly great skyscrapers, elaborate mathematical theories, and human cunning, is unrivaled in the animal kingdom, points to a conscious determinate existence. When looking more closely at Socrates’ dictum it becomes clear that his is a call to skepticism, a call to avoid dogma. We are indeed thinking beings with the ability to scrutinize and hypothesize as shown by Descartes’ Cogito “I think therefore I am.” One can find a sense of comfort with this assertion. It seems we must live meaningful and robust lives. For if we are able to think, we must exist, and be a thinking thing at that, a free independent consciousness.

When one scrutinizes the nature/nurture distinction, only one can be confused about what is reliable, what can be known, but when looking at assurances that at least to some degree one is a truly free thinker all trepidation recedes. Many would find it depressing if this great mind which humans possess only served ancestral animal instincts. We are then, at least to some degree thinking free beings, but the question may arise, as Rodney King after being beaten by the police, most famously stated during the subsequent rioting in Los Angeles, California in 1992,  “Can we all get along?”.



An Aside – The Apprehension of Reality

Like every day in this life the sun rises and sets. We behold a shimmering of light in the morning, followed by greater brightness, and then finally the sun skirting the horizon at dusk. Across the nations, the beginning of day heralds those rising from slumber, to do ones duty for ones employer; or for the employers themselves, and their bosses, to map strategies to expand their influence and to prevail over others like minded.

In this process of facing the day, one confronts certain realities, and different fears. Whether from want or plenty, all find the chill of the cold, or feel their perspiration from the heat. As the air is inhaled and CO2 exhaled, the respiration necessary for life enables our existence in the kingdom of life, as we, the most dominant species, prosper and flourish. Socially our cities stand as a testament to the species prowess, as individuals the palpitations of ones heart yearns in desire for satisfaction in bonding with a loved one.

Age speaks to the circle of life. As one ages, another generation is born to lead on where the former may have hesitated or failed. In the present, parties are celebrated; anniversaries are marked by happy couples who have overcome adversity, helping each other survive, healthy and happy, till death when they part.

This circle of life continues with or without us. We are only conscious of it for what seems to be a brief moment, only to be cast aside by seeming cruel indifference. We pay homage to the Lord and God who gave us breath, who gave us birth, stayed with us and presides over our death. It is a short existence, but can seem very long too if one learns to appreciate the moment. As one moves on and on in the ever quickening circle of life, infancy gives way to prodigiousness, prodigiousness to wisdom, and hopefully with apt mentoring, a better life for those to come.

Life seems real, ever so real. We feel pain and pleasure, often because of the action or reaction of ourselves towards others. Some assert karmic forces in determining our immediate condition, which affects our life, and as some cultures follow, future lives to come. With reincarnation, to be thrown here as a babe, seems an unjust reward for living ones life in some different time or place, especially when a justification cannot presently be found. When one ponders ones existence, one may find no justifications may in fact exist, but that things just are, and are so beyond all comprehension.

With fits and starts one moves on to the next challenge ever striving to overcome and to be better for it. This life seems painfully real and this stark being reminds of our beginnings and heralds our end. But at the core, worn away, a kernel appears, a diamond or a pearl that is shown, that presents a life well learned, and accomplishments earned; or perhaps finds nothing, a life that vanishes never to be remembered again.

Glory in the days of plenty, even if they are few, and rejoice in the life of wonder, however it comes, so that one can strive for a better life, a happier time and a greater ideal.