Why we can't make sense of the world

Curse of Consciousness
Credit: Open Clip Art (openclipart.org)

Collectively, we have a shared perception of the world, a compilation of presuppositions, public opinion, tradition, and local customs.  Most of this operates on us, affecting our behavior, far below the surface of our operating consciousness.

During our "everyday" lives, we're only aware of immediate impressions: the light and sound around us, the words we hear, things that stress us out, and whatever else has been presented to the audience.  Imagine sitting in a theater, staring at screens displaying all the things you're aware of right now.  

What would you see?  Are your reactions to something happening right now based solely off the circumstances of the moment, or are you influenced by factors from past experiences?  How about genetic tendencies?  It would be rather foolish to assume we're not affected by anything in our past; every experience influences our behavior, like using bonsai techniques to control the growth of a tree.

Most of these factors shape who we are in the present moment, but we're unaware of the exact reasons why we do things, why we like or dislike certain things, and yet we continue to carry out actions for which we cannot offer a reason.  

Our inability to make sense of the world is rooted in our inability to understand all of the unconscious factors that influence every single decision, thought, feeling, and experience.  How can we hope to make sense out of this experience if we cannot make sense of ourselves?

Let's explore the mechanism of perception embedded in the heart of this curse: duality.

Identifying the Problem

The nature of duality and the curse it bestows

Light & Dark
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Our perception of the world is a composite of opposites; to understand anything carries an implicit understanding of that which contradicts it.  This is a fact of human understanding; this is an easily demonstrated principle unbeknownst to the mind beholden to it.

If only light existed (i.e. all was bathed in brilliance) then we would have no concept of darkness, nor of any object at all, as all would appear as light; how do we know that we love someone without also understanding that we don't love others; can we make sense of poverty without also grasping the idea of wealth?  Without a reflection, a mirror, how can the human race acknowledge that anything exists at all? 

Regardless of what we analyze, it is immediately and irrevocably conjured with its contradicting idea.  There is no escape from this systematic perception: as we live and experience the world, we do so through the lens of duality.  

So why is this a problem and how does it contribute to the human condition?  

If you don't already have a notion, consider the simple problem facing the world today: religious violence.  One group believes they are right and others are wrong, and they are willing to enforce their belief.  If the concept of right and wrong--particularly regarding belief--could be removed from human perception, the violence associated with that dual conception also vanishes.

The entire human world and everything within it is built upon the perception of duality.  Animals appear to be unconcerned with this problem, living and being what they are without worrying about what they're not.  Of course, we cannot know if animals think in this fashion, but it should be obvious they don't: animals don't try to accumulate wealth and power, they don't express their appreciation of beauty or ugliness, and they seem content to just exist without worrying about moral or ethical dilemmas.

Why does this curse afflict us?  What can we do about it?

Approaching Balance

Embracing duality and finding the way out from within

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Perceiving duality is the human curse, unique to us (at least here on Earth), and the weight it bestows on us also grants us the ability to share experiences, build civilization, produce art and literature, and every single act that makes us human.  Contradiction brings us love and hate, fairness and injustice, charity and greed, and even the horrors of war and starvation alongside the blessings of peace and plenty.

Notions like "see the silver lining" or "see the best in people", and other colloquial phrases to help us focus on what we consider the positive or beneficial aspects of duality, are simply a form of self-hypnosis.

Positive-focused people tend to spread joy, happiness, and uplifting feelings to those around them.  Most humans enjoy being around positive people, and this mindset is almost universally upheld in the western world.  

If we focused on all the 'negative' aspects, we'd feel terrible and likely not want to be part of the human experience very long--cynical people, for instance, are generally unpleasant to be around as they tend to share that cynicism, the focus on the 'negative' aspect of duality.  

Why do we prefer positive over negative?  The world is clearly and undeniably composed of both light and dark, good and evil, in equal measure.  One place may seem gripped in violence and death, but we cannot see the kindness of someone help another below the dark cloud; a person may seem to be the soul of charity, but we cannot see the abusive behavior that leaves their family in tatters.  

The constant uncertainty, imbalance, and inability to embrace and accept both sides of the spectrum is the direct cause of our dysfunction and destructive tendencies.  We hate the murderer simply because we believe murder is evil, and evil is something we must not have among us.  

What if evil--or good--didn't matter at all?  Can you imagine it?  If the one who kills is free from all the things they feel to be good or evil, all the factors that drove them to kill, then such a thing would not exist.  Because we are shackled to our perceptions, this is nigh impossible to conceive.

On a personal level, the way out is from within.  Consider it a thought exercise: begin to embrace and accept all the horrible things that lurk in your own mind and heart.  Do you covet and lust for someone--let it play out in your mind.  At first glance, that may seem like terrible advice, but ask yourself why it's terrible.  Have you wanted to destroy something?  Close your eyes and think about how you would do it and picture the systematic destruction of the object.

What are the limits of your imagination?  If left to its own devices, is your mind bound by good and evil?  When you dream, do you dream about morality and ethics?  Our mind is boundless; it is a piece of cosmic infinity that can create anything desired.

Create your own perception of reality and remove the trap of duality by embracing it, becoming it, and then blending it into your own cocktail of consciousness.