Being / Seeking

The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion; and to the very end of life, our location of all things in one space is due to the fact that the original extents or bignesses of all the sensations which came to our notice at once, coalesced together into one and the same space. — William James (1890)

120892My existence is mysterious to me, yet that I exist is my core reality. My existence integrates an experiencer with that which is experienced. My experiencer divides my experience into “external” and “internal” perceptual categories, which by convention I label as either objective (external) or subjective (internal).  Orienting towards my experience further divides the objective and subjective into seemingly inexhaustible perceptual phenomena. If I move toward the subjective, through my “inner world,” in the direction of the experiencer, I ultimately arrive at simple awareness. This seems to be the starting point of my existence, for here all my perceptions are subsumed since without awareness there is no experiencer. Without my experiencer, I have no experience, no existence. Awareness is my immediately available, experiential foundation, my existence. It is my source, the ground of my being.

When I maneuver away from my foundation of pure awareness, toward the “great blooming, buzzing confusion,” I feel unsettled because my source feels diluted in this mysterious array of experience. Making sense of this mystery is the impetus of science, religion, philosophy and speculation. In my own sense-making endeavor, I will inevitably diverge from all the other efforts to do the same. Nevertheless, I feel driven to make sense of this mystery to achieve a sense of coherence and to reconnect with the simplicity of my existence. I am ever seeking a state of connection, unity and oneness.

Do I continue seeking, dividing, sorting and rearranging? Or, is what I seek, right here, at one with me, inseparable and immediately available?

Could it be that simple?

Throw or Show?

We have a love-hate relationship with judgment. People universally dislike being judged, yet, seem to take pleasure from judging others. We cannot stop being judgmental — nor would we want to. Emotions, which guide our life, reflect our judgments. Without judgment life itself would not have survived. Evolving from the most basic approach / avoid survival response of a simple organism, emotions help us negotiate the Goldilocks zone of life.  At a core level, an organism must maintain itself within certain parameters and out of this our values are born.  Life necessitates decisions, and decisions involve judgment.

Relationally, our natural draw towards judgment leads to a form of communication that is debate-oriented. Springing forth from the natural sense that our perspective is the true one and our reflexive tendency to judge one another, debate naturally ensues. Each trying to convince the other of the truth that each sees so clearly. Neither really listening to the other, except to find weakness or opportunities to gain the upper-hand. The goal is to win, to be right and to have one’s truth validated.

Debate can be a game like dodge ball, with each side trying to hit the other without beingThrowingRocks hben-stiller-dodgeballit themselves. Each focused on evading and maneuvering and striking a winning blow. Debate can also become a fight, with each side trying to injure or perhaps destroy the other. The stakes become much higher, our words become weapons, like rocks being hurled at one another. The more emotional charge behind the words, the more severe the damage, like force behind a projectile.

There is an alternative. What if rather than throwing our rocks at one another, we show them? A geologist showing you a rock brings out a very different emotional response than a fighter wielding the rocks-1same rock. While curiosity might have killed the cat, it leads to a much less lethal communication style than debate. Curiosity engenders dialogue and mutual interest in understanding the other. Curiosity tempers our natural move towards judgment, and rather than already knowing the truth, it opens us to discover the truth. It reminds us that we don’t really know it all.

We are locked in a subjective reality that only feels objective. Dialogue is a form of communication that mirrors this understanding.  If we are not careful, our self-protective emotional intensity will push us towards judgment, debate and possibly war. Diplomacy demands that we slow down and cultivate curiosity. Nurturing curiosity, nurtures dialogue which will nurture your relationship.


John R. Lucy, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice at Decatur Psychology, LLC.