Rediscovering I and Thou

Martin Buber [1878-1965] was a Jewish philosopher with a particular fascination with the Kabbalistic, emotional beliefs of the Hasidic movement.

His notion of existence as encounter formed a strong basis for his metaphysical discourse. All human activity involved how we encounter the world around us. To Buber there were essentially one two ways–‘I – IT’  or  ‘I – Thou’.

The ‘I- IT’ encounter describes the objectification of the world.  All things are simply objects to be experienced. There is no ‘other’ to encounter, no real dialog, merely monologue . There can be little emotional content, no love or compassion involved whatsoever.

He saw ‘I – Thou’ as an essentially  deep connection with another person, object or being. There is no actually transmission of words or information during these encounters. Although difficult to measure or exactly describe, we know it when we ‘see’ it.

Examples are: two lovers together, a person with a pet dog or cat, an individual touching a plant or tree, two strangers viewing each other.
And to Buber, the ultimate ‘I – Thou’ was man’s encounter with God.
It is a fascinating concept to ponder

I believe that it requires to think about how we relate to the world around us. It seems to me that such metaphysical outlook can do nothing but to expand our horizon line.  It has the potential to drag us out of our tribalistic mentality. It forces us to confront our own bigotries and hatreds.

The ‘I -Thou’ position connects us with all that exists–human, non-human, living, non-living. It immediately envelops one in a peaceful and healing state of consciousness. It is incompatible with bigotry and hatred. It leads us into compassion and love for all that exists.  We should meditate on it.

THE FIFTH ‘R’

In an attempt to come to terms with how our minds actually work, I have been fascinated by on aspect of Metaphysics, namely the nature of knowledge.  Know as epistemology it endeavors to understand not what we know but how we know or believe something to be true.

The Four ‘R’s are discussed in prior blogs and the book.  In brief they are 1] RECEPTION–what we absorb from our culture through media, family instruction, schools, religion and other societal influences. It may be subtle or overt. It is a form of ‘brainwashing’ and begins even before we are consciously aware of it. It is the most powerful and persuasive source of our beliefs.

2] REASON–what we would perfer to consider a great influence on our beliefs, but frankly is much less than we realize.  We can clearly make every effort to rationally analyze the ‘facts’ of reality and then choose what we want to believe. But in truth our emotional mind exerts more influence than our rational selves.

3] REVELATION– may be the source of religious and spiritual ‘knowledge’. It applies to ordinary individuals who feel that they have acquired an advanced form of wisdom from a ‘higher’ source. 

4] RESONANCE–this may be the sum total of all other sources of belief.  It just feels ‘right’ with us and therefore we adopt it and attempt to live by it.

5] RESPONSIBLE BELIEF–the Fifth and perhaps least well defined.  The term implies that we can take Responsibility for what we believe.  We can examine several options and literally choose what we believe.  It is not strictly based on reason although we would like to believe so.  It is important to realize that our choice of belief, hopefully based more on rational consideration, even evidence rather than blind faith, will greatly influence the quality of our lives.

Our beliefs are our paradigms.  They are the fundamental basis upon which we organize our thoughts and feelings.  For example, if we are deeply religious, we may see all events as ‘God’s will’.  They may allow us to tolerate suffering far better than someone whose paradigm of belief dismisses religious thinking as primitive and irrational.  On the other hand, some religious belief describes non-believers as ‘sinners’ who deserve to suffer. They may also deny the obvious facts of existence as clearly demonstrated by science–evolution for example. Clearly any paradigm which confuses irrational religious fundamentalist dogma with reality cannot be condoned.

A scientifically trained agnostic or atheist will seek no higher spiritual meaning for life’s challenges.  Their paradigm known as scientific materialism only recognizes a physical, material basis for existence. Any suggestion [or even evidence] contrary to that paradigm cannot be considered.  There is nothing after this life.  There is no greater purpose to suffering. There is only chaos and chance.  This may or may not affect the quality of their contentment or happiness.

Someone whose metaphysical paradigm includes a spiritual dimension to reality [SDR] not clearly defined by any one religion may find understanding even in the seemingly unexplainable sadness that accompanies life itself. Fear, loss, tragedy can be seen within a greater context of many lifetimes in which a nonphysical aspect of Self, the soul, returns time and again in order to learn lessons of love, compassion and transformation. They embrace the knowledge that science offers, knowing that science is a process and is capable of self-correction.  They see spirituality in evolution as well. Our awareness and knowledge will never completely comprehend the unknown, but 21st century science seems to be confronted with the same challenge.

My personal journey has led me to embrace a paradigm which recognizes this SDR. The basis of this belief is not blind faith or even a ‘leap of faith’.  That is not an approach which I could comfortably accept.  However, my experience with EEA [extraordinary experiences of awareness] which includes deep personal interviews with those who have had the NDE, ADC, apparitional encounters and medium experiences have left me with no doubt as to their reality.

Armed with the evidence which I have accumulated, I can freely and rationally CHOOSE a paradigm which incorporates this basis for belief.  It is truly a healing choice.

HUMAN BEING VS HUMAN DOING

We often identify ourselves by what we do. Our occupation, our passions become the tag line to who we are. We often define ourselves the same way.  Am I doing everything I can to become a ‘success’ in life? Am I pursuing the right job? Will I be admired, respected, ‘loved’ because of what I do?

For most of us, what we do defines who we are. Others judge us by this same standard.  But should it? To some extent our daily activities do tell others a great deal about who we are. But few will admit that they continually run around accumulating activities by which to define and support their sense of self-worth.

  But does that reveal our true inner self? Does it allow someone to judge us? To make a determination as to the quality of our character?

We seem to care more about what someone does, than who they really are–their ‘being’.  This is clearly a mistake.  We need to refocus on what is truly important about another individual. Are they kind, compassionate, loving, giving?  Do they genuinely care for others?  Are they not totally obsessed with their own self-interests?

Perhaps rather than ask someone ‘how do you feel?’ it would be better to ask them, ‘how do you make others feel?’

We need to see the human being behind the human doing.

Central Park in Winter: The Illusion

Nature in the midst of the City–Central Park never fails to amaze with its healing beauty and metaphysical insights.  Now, in winter, it continues to reveal its secrets.

As I traverse its curved pathways, climb its elevations, descend through its tunnels, span its bridges–I become aware, in the absence of leaves, how close everything appears.

The dressed and verdant trees of summer seems to separate the Park into innumerable sections, hidden one from the other by the dense, deep, healing green.  It is difficult to look past what stands before our eyes.

But now, in December, when there are no barriers, everything seems so much smaller, closer, vulnerable. The entrance on 69th street seems to pour onto the Sheep Meadow, now.  Not so in summer. From the Strawberry Fields section near the Dakota Hotel where John Lennon was killed to the Lake now seems so obvious and nearby. Not so in the summer when no one could imagine that a large body of water was so close.

Even the width of the Park itself, from Fifth Avenue in the East to Central Park West, seems more like its reported distance, only a half mile.  Now it is easy to see large buildings on both sides, simultaneously. No one would believe that claim during the warm, sultry summers when  the Park seems to extend in a cloak of green in all directions and for miles.

So be aware–our perceptions are deceiving.  They change, evolve, transmute themselves continuously. In winter or summer, in spring or fall. Where is the illusion? Which is correct?     That is not the right question.  They are our perceptions–they are own own. They are our reality.

THE MIRACLE OF THE SEASON–AWARENESS

    Anyone interested in a holiday gift?  Perhaps you were ‘bad’–you’re reward is a lump of coal in your Xmas stocking–right? But what if that lump of carbon is transformed not only into a diamond, but an awareness of a miracle. The miracle of life itself.
    We hear of carbon in terms of global warming.  But lest we forget that we are ‘carbon-based life forms’……its existence, and our own are the stuff of miracles.  So forget about the Shroud of Turin, the burning bush, weeping statues……nature provides all the awe we could hope for.
    The carbon story begins at the beginning–but not exactly because after the Big Bang there was no carbon.  On the periodic table of elements, Carbon is C6.  It has six protons and neutrons in its nucleus. Only hydrogen and helium existed after the Big Bang.
    It took several generations of stars going ‘supernova’ and disintegrating before three helium atoms [H2] could fuse into one carbon atom.  After billions of years of stars being born and dying, our solar system, our star arose.  It contained the carbon from dying stars.  The sun, like ourselves, is truly star dust.
    With me so far?  Pretty good stuff, but the next phase of the miracle is well, even more miraculous.  So how does the carbon get into us?  Through the process that we all learned about in biology–photosynthesis.
    Now I believe we need a new name for photosynthesis, one less ‘scientific’ and more spiritual.  We need low lighting, New Age meditative music playing in order to be in the proper mood to absorb this truth.
    Primitive cyanobacteria ‘learned’ how to absorb photons of sunlight through the pigment chlorophyll and suck invisible particles of CO2 out of the atmosphere.  Oh, you say, is that it?  Well yes and more.
     Life contradicts the laws of physics, thermodynamics to be specific.  We should not exist because all processes and structures tend through the law of entropy to ‘breakdown’ into their lowest energy states.  Life confounds that theory–but it does so at a price–the requirement of ‘energy’.  Blue-green algae figured out how to do just that.
    This photonic energy powers nearly ALL life on this planet–our own included.  Animals cannot make energy.  We can only consume it. Plants produce it and more—They provide us with the carbon upon which every molecule in our body is based.  And they assemble themselves, one carbon atom at a time.  And further, what they expel, that toxic vapor that could ignite our planet in an instant, is what gives us life as well—oxygen. 
    So never, never pass a tree, a plant, a blade of grass, a weed…..without offering a prayer of thanksgiving.  Happy holidays and enjoy the gift of awareness.

Science and Ghosts

    A November 5, 2007 Newsweek article by Sharon Begley attempted to provide a ‘scientific’ explanation for the phenomenon of seeing ‘ghosts’.  It relied on a well-known aspect of human perception–namely that our brains seem to seek order and understanding of unexplained phenomena.
     We have an innate tendency to ‘see’ faces in the shadows, to attribute intelligence to inanimate objects, to see ‘ghosts’ were there are none.
Such an explanation is part of the naturalistic/scientific approach to paranormal/spiritual experiences–I use the term Extraordinary Experiences of Awareness [EEA] to describe them.
    And there is no question that the human brain DOES indeed seek explanations for what is frightening or unknown. 
But…..this, I believe, does not completely account for such EEA as perceiving ALL apparitions / ghosts.
    Scientific attempts to ‘explain’ the near-death experience as an illusion of the brain are equally questionable  [see NDE discussion–to be posted]
    As difficult as it might be for some to accept–I do believe that apparitions of the dead are and can be perceived.  I do not state that I have ‘proof’ of this.  But the ‘evidence’ seems overwhelming to support this contention.  Can I explain this as a being a ‘disembodied’ entity? Can this be an image that is ‘created’ by the brain and that appears to be projected into space?  I can’t say.  But some of the experiences I have heard from reliable sources are quite extraordinary and deserving of consideration.
    I do refer to others in my book Meta-Physician On Call for Better Health.  But I will relate one or two here.
The first comes from a young woman who works for me.  She has no particular reason to ‘make up’ any of this.  She grew up in a home that was more than one hundred years old.  She recalls a ‘playmate’ who was a young blond girl who wore an ‘old fashioned’ dress.  She would appear in her bedroom from behind a piece of furniture and play with her.
    She recalls telling no one about this until many years later. Her half-brother, 14 years younger, was then staying in the same room.  She spontaneously described seeing the same young girl to his mother.
    In another story from one of my patients:  she had been very ‘close’ to her father-in-law who had died several months before.  One night he appeared to her at the foot of her bed, glowing with a warm light and wearing one of his favorite sweaters.  She told no one.  In the morning her teenage daughter excitedly reported seeing her grandfather and described the same sweater.
    There are numerous other examples of ‘confirmed’ sightings in which more than one individual has described seeing a deceased person.
I personally cannot ascribe Begley’s theory to explain such phenomena.  There clearly seems to be some intelligent ‘energy’ that manifests in a particular time and place.
    More than that, I can not hope to explain–at least for the present.
However, I do continue to seek scientific explanations for all mental phenomena.  It may very well be that there is no true distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’.  They may all eventually be understood as some common phenomenon.  This approach does not diminish the notion of spirit or soul.  It merely states that we don’t know what the relationship between matter and soul actually is.
They may not be separate aspects of reality [Descartes Dualism].  They may be ‘real’, however.  They may represent different degrees of vibrational frequency of the same underlying ‘substance’.
    After all, without the scientific demonstration, who would intuitively know that ice, water and steam are all  identically the same?

THE NATURE OF MAN–GOOD VS EVIL

The recent TIME magazine, December 3, 2007 ran a cover story, ‘What Makes Us Good/Evil.  It is well worth reading. Essentially, it covers one of the greatest mysteries of human behavior–the exteme divergence in mankind’s treatment of fellow humans.

How could both the Dalai Lama and Adolph Hitler be part of the same race of beings?  Of course, to a less dramatic degree, we see the extremes of personalities and behaviors among our colleagues and friends.

Since much inherent human behavior seems to exist as a consequence of evolutionary adaptation, how can we possibly reconcile such divergent behavior?

The bottom line seems to be our species innate tribal mentality. Survival could never possibly have occurred to our ancestors as ‘rugged’ individuals. Only through group cooperation and identification could we have lived on to reproduce and pass along those genes which promoted tribal identification and behavior.

Altruism, cooperation, self-sacrifice only makes sense from a Darwinian perspective if it helps our tribe survive. We willingly sacrifice ourselves because we innately understand that our ‘kin’ based tribesmen will allow our genetic material to be passed down to future generations.

The problem arises, however, when this same tribal identification necessarily excludes other tribes. As ferociously as we defend ‘our own’, we are capable of de-humanizing the ‘other’.  This innate human capacity allows to wars, genocides, holocausts, slaughters, pogroms…etc. to occur.  The military understands how necessary it is to de-humanize the enemy in times of war.

Jihadists understand the exact same thing.  In order to generate a homicide bomber, that individual must be taught to regard the victims as subhuman, devil-worshippers, evil beings.

It explains how concentration camp guards who led Jewish children to their deaths could be loving, caring parents to their own. 

This truth about human nature should be the source of much frustrations and sadness.  But in this knowledge lies the seeds of healing and repair.

First acknowledge the truth, then strive to remind each other that we are all the SAME!  There is no difference between any of us.  Peace and healing will only begin to emerge when we comprehend that truth.