See that book there? I’m reading it. It’s fascinating. It’s turning me into an insight machine, as books like these often do. Ironically, if I were to share these insights with the author, he–as with most of the sciencey materialist types who want to keep their status–would be unimpressed. Or perhaps impressed with how delusional I am. Maybe he’d be depressed?
I just read a passage about what social animals we are and how isolated hermit types are likely to die quicker than social butterflies. Most people find aloneness lonely, which creates deleterious physical effects. Not mentioned in what I read but also true, solitary confinement in prisons can drive inmates mad. This is why it’s used as a deterrent for crime.
The author goes on to examine the correlation between brain power and the number of members in a social network using comparative analysis of monkeys and apes and humans. How many friends ya got comes down to brain size and the neocortex. It’s always about a material process developed in response to environment through evolution. The material process determines how much socialization an organism needs. This is because the scientific Theory of Mind (ToM) is really a theory of brain.
As I read this, I realized there’s just one problem with the whole “it’s all about the brain” line of reasoning: me.
Loneliness is entirely different from aloneness. That loneliness must be passed to be alone. Loneliness is not comparable with aloneness. The man who knows loneliness can never know that which is alone. Are you in that state of aloneness? Our minds are not integrated to be alone. The very process of the mind is separative. And that which separates knows loneliness. — Jiddu Krishnamurti
Not just me, but that’s a good place to start.
I never get lonely. I like being with people but I don’t need to be. I never get bored. Restless, but never bored. I never get sick except for the rare cold and food poisoning. I’ve been like this for over a decade.
I used to feel lonely. I used to get bored. I used to catch flus. What changed–my brain? Did it shrink? Did it suddenly beef up my immune system and my contentedness?
No. What changed was that for a brief moment my brain stopped projecting a seeker, an ego-self named “Jeremy” and in that moment Mind not born of the brain leaked into the body and put some things in order. Prior to this, I performed quite a bit of introspective self-analysis breaking down and dissolving personal problems. These problems were the obsessive thoughts that unconsciously motivated me. When I brought them to conscious light through being honest with myself, they disappeared like the shadows they are. A little bit of me died with them because they are me.
Thoughts are things. The self is a thing. You and I are thought. The vaguer, less thingy, brain-mind becomes, the more room not-brain-mind has to maneuver. And when not-brain-mind pierces through the unconscious into the conscious–when it becomes brain-mind, that’s what people often refer to as “enlightened.” Whether or not that’s true enlightenment is another talk. But for now, I think most of you know what I mean. The poetic version is this: When the candlelight blows out, all does not go dark. In fact, the sun rises.
Or, if you like, when the ice cube melts, one flows. One becomes whole. That doesn’t mean one stays whole, necessarily. This is the fallacy of those who talk about higher selves and the enlightened guru and all that. There are these wrong equations that whole = higher and that enlightenment = forever. The first is never true, for there is no hierarchy in wholeness, and the second is not always true. One can easily and painfully slip back into the life and the lies of the ego-self. One often does–namely this one. Me.
True though that is, I still carry with me the aforementioned qualities, one of which is that I am immune to loneliness. It might be hard to wrap your head around this being true but I am just as happy and contented alone as I am with people. Women do not complete me. Friends are fantastic and they are a choice. This is just who I became one day and I didn’t suffer a brain injury to become me.
None of this denies that most folks need “love” and companionship and networks of friends and all that to remain sane. None of this denies that these issues are localized in the brain. What it says is that the brain-based self is a context. And human needs, like personal needs, are context-sensitive. What neuroscience explores is the dominant Western human context. But there is a re-contextualization of the brain-based self that comes into being when it drops away like shed skin.
Formless mind gives birth to the brain, which gives birth to a fragment of mind–the mind of the form. That fragment is to formless mind as a blood clot is to blood: sure, it’s blood too, but it’s completely unhealthy to have that thing circulating through the system. Dissolving it so that blood can flow naturally and freely is the healthy decision. And that is the lesson brilliant scientists like Leonard Mlodinow cannot learn and therefore will not entertain.
Their denial does nothing to address the issue: How is it that people who have a moment of complete silence, complete inner stillness, can satisfyingly and healthily drop that which the brain is programmed to do? The answer is obvious: any theory of mind that begins and ends with the brain is wrong. But because mind’s most obvious aspect is correct–there is this brain-born self that is a response to environment, is a product of evolution–it’s easy to not see the hidden fact that the personal self is embedded in the brain which is embedded in formless, transpersonal self.
The plight of the materialist scientist is no different than that of the young reader whose word comprehension skills preclude them from understanding subtext and deriving deeper meanings from literature. That these scientists often clash with fundamentalist religious believers is not much different than when my pet bird would peck at herself in the mirror. Although maybe that was narcissism. Although maybe this is, too.
But don’t mind me. I’m the delusional one.