Monday, November 26, 2007

The darkness of isolation

I've been thinking a little about intrinsic isolation, the darkness of never knowing each others thoughts, never fully understanding.... each of us with our own personal narrative in different colored ink and variances in paper quality.....intrinsically separated...

I’ve also been reading in Jonathan Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis. In particular, one particular paragraph on suicide (pleasant thoughts for Monday!), showing that statistically, people with bonds and responsibilities - those that are "tied down" to family, work or social groups - are less likely to kill themselves. Less likely to sink their little islands.

Of course it is impossible to fully know another's mind/viewpoint/understanding of the world. However, one aspect of the mind we all share is that everyone’s thoughts are defined by change, a constant filling and disposing of ideas. So in that, we are all the same.

Here's one theory/idea: Meditation sessions in groups concentrating on one object such as the breath may be the only times people may share the same thoughts. This is unlike a collective experience, such as watching a film, which is subject to interpretation of the incoming information (the movie) and what it means to the viewer, based on their past experiences, learnings and current physical situation.

However, a meditation – clearing all thoughts but the one - on an object such as the breath is, in my opinion, almost devoid of cultural or background significance. Everyone breaths and, sure, everyone breaths differently, but that breath is still just an in-flowing and outflowing of air. Even that is subject to variance though(especially if someone has emphysema) but less so than a more concrete object such as a candle flame, which may be infused with cultural significance. Even in meditation, people's own skill level will effect their experience. But I think if you took a group of experienced monks, perhaps they would be closest to the ultimate in mind-reading...that is, their thoughts would be aligned.

Here’s another wayward thought! In our efforts to understand each other, see each others point of view, explore our dreams and ambitions and imaginings, we have developed language. Language defines us as apart from the animals…especially in our ability to describe concepts beyond what is actually tangible and immediate. So in a way, our inability to understand each other is a catalyst to us being who we are, it makes us more human. And in our striving to communicate, we forge bonds that enhance not only understanding, but social ties, responsibilities, love and companionship. Keeping ourselves from isolation, increasing our ability to spawn sprogs, and continuing the genetic flow.

And then, taking it a step further (with the power of both our human language and ability to imagine and define imagination…) what if we could step inside someone else’s mind for a bit, totally immersed, to see what it was like. Even then, for the time we were in there, we would not be. Then when we stepped out, we would be us again and the experience would be purely only a memory, which in itself is colored by our own paradigms. We’d definitely have more of an understanding, but it wouldn’t ever be complete without losing all personal identity.

One final thought (from the tumult in my mind) is that, if we were somehow all one mind and all one sketch of feeling and thought process…. I would miss the little glorious moments when, in our current states, minds do actually meet - when we burst into spontaneous laughter together, cringe together, catch a glance across a table..... Those would all be without significance or meaning or delight if they weren't so rare, and therefore so precious.

Dark thoughts welcome…

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