Thursday, September 3, 2015

paradigm shifts

Taking hallucinogens taught me just how impossible it is convey a scenario between two people who hold inherently different values.  How so much of what we take to be reality is predicated on the different sorts of values we place on all its parts.

Death is a basic example.  Countless millions of lives are extinguished, with every passing moment.  Countless millions more are born.  These numbers can seem impressive, and yet abstract.  Unfathomable.  Essentially, irrelevant to how desperately we value the lives of our loved ones.  Our own lives.

Given a different frame of mind, those countless millions don't seem so abstract.  They don't seem unfathomable, so much as deeply indisputable.  Our place in this vast sea of life, comically irrelevant.  To think we should be happy or sad about that would be to entirely miss the point.

I struggle to remember what it felt like.  In that moment, I realized that even any so-called enlightenment would itself be transient, like anything else.  An awareness that flickers into existence given just the right interplay of circumstances, and then to dissipate, as all things do.

This is not to say that I believe I attained enlightenment.  I don't believe in enlightenment.  Not that it's impossible, just anybody's guess as to what it really represents.  There are lots of possibilities, some more impressive than others.  I only know what I experienced, and that it was rather enlightening.  I also know that no amount of description equates to understanding it as I did at the time.

To feel reality turned upside down, without perceiving anything that was factually wrong.  Just a different sense of values, an awareness of how subjective that is.  How impossible it is to convey what it feels like, to fundamentally place different values on all the things we take for granted as objectively valuable to such a subjective degree. As well as the awareness that every individual is bound to have unique variations in their own value systems, differences in life experiences, and brain chemistry.

Shifts in mood can disrupt value measurements, too.  Especially when they extend beyond the normal range, into what we call mental illness.  When I lost the apartment yesterday, I wanted to attempt to capture how I felt about the entire week, in which I thought of nothing else.  I knew that my value system was out of whack.  Nobody died.  Everything would be ok.. and yet, that's not how it felt.

That is a very difficult thing to convey.  If you tell someone that having a hangnail feels like having your whole arm dipped in hydrochloric acid, that is objectively absurd.  Unless someone has a neurological disorder that makes it absolutely true, but this is damn near impossible to imagine.  At least convincingly enough to viscerally appreciate, even if it were possible to discern the truth of it.  As opposed to just taking their shrieking melodramatic word for it.

We're wired to interpret our perceptions of other people through the lens of our own experience.  We instinctively assume that what we've experienced is going to be essentially the same for everyone, in some basic ways.  When it comes to a whole lot of what we consider important in life, this is not true at all, and when we communicate, I'm not so sure that we're ever really hearing each other.

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