Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Within and Without

I found a reading chair yesterday for $15 at Salvation Army. After a ton of Lysol, a sheet to cover it, and some other small additions, I now have a functional, albeit work-in-progress reading corner. I christened it this morning...

In keeping my promise to Annie Dillard, I worked through another two chapters of her book, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," this morning. The second chapter I read was entitled "The Present," and the first portion called to me enough that I had to force myself to finish the chapter before my mind slipped into reflection.

I became conscious of this world almost 29 years ago. I may not remember it, but even the days I don't remember made me who I am today. Those 29 years now belong to this mythological entity we call "The Past." I've always been intrigued by history - particularly the parts of it that happened before I was born - because there's no way for me to REALLY know if it ever actually happened. Seeing as everybody has a different spin on historical events, I often can't help but think sometimes that we're all in "The Matrix," and this is just a big hoax.

In this chapter, Dillard alludes to how self-consciousness robs us of our capacity to experience the present. She's right again. Somewhere in my childhood or adolescence, I learned self-analysis and became self-conscious. I found such a fascinating query (my own brain) that I think I may have been (and am probably still) trapped in the stifling world of introspect since then, and in turn, cut off from the world around me. I've exchanged the real thing for some alternative reality I've imagined. And what have I really figured out? I still use less than 10% of my brain, and haven't really discovered anything that hasn't been discovered before.

I realized this morning in my readings that I'm not sure I have ever really believed the world existed/will exist outside of MY existence. (i.e. when I'm born, the world is born with me...when I die, it dies with me.) I hate that.

Now, this doesn't stem from me thinking the world revolves around me (though I'm hardly exempt from such shallow thought). It stems from the fact that I've been so very wrapped up in solving the Rubik's cube in my head that I've forgotten the world exists outside of it.

I like Dillard's artistic, yet logical take on the world. The nature of the Scientific thought process is sort of a trapping process where we catch, classify, categorize and compartmentalize. The world is so vast and alive, however, that trying to do this is like trying to catch every ounce of the fire hydrant's spray with little glass vials. In essence, one could argue that Science tries to harness this beast of a universe and confine it to a box that we can's like trying to find the end of infinity. In Dillard's artistic process, the goal seems to be exploring the wonders of the world simply to appreciate its literally expands before our eyes, and we grow to love infinity.

Now, please don't hear me downing Science here. I love Science, and it's so very important. Along with helping us be good stewards of our habitat, the understanding that Science provides makes it possible for us to appreciate this world's greatness in ways otherwise inconceivable. I think this is why nerdy scientists are so lovable, because every day they learn new ways to love the world. I like Dillard's thought process because I've spent so much time in the Scientific process that I've forgotten to appreciate the world and its essence, I've forgotten to live. What's the point of spending all of this time trying to understand if it doesn't ultimately drive us to appreciate and enjoy the world around us. I know, it's cliche, but that doesn't negate its truth. The question I'm wondering about now is: How can these two processes work in conjunction?

It seems I've got a very quickly growing list of resolutions for 2010, but this is one thing I'd really like to work on. I'd like to shift my gaze to without rather than within.


  1. You have been quite the "go-getter" this 2010 - Look at you!!! I love your reading corner.

  2. One of the most mind-altering things I've read in the last decade is the "Simulation Argument":

    Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?

    It could explain a lot...