It’s amazing the amount of people that get to the countryside and say “It’s so peaceful here.” What’s unusual isn’t that they notice it, but that it’s somehow “out of the ordinary” and not something they usually experience. Contrast this against entering urban areas, especially city centres. We have to filter out all the sensations we’re bombarded with, and, if we become used to this, we develop a habitual numbness, an adaption to stop us from being overwhelmed. We are sensitive creatures, after all. Perhaps there is no such thing as an “insensitive” person, just a desensitised one?
Desensitised like this, we seek out extreme experiences that will fulfill us, or at least give us a brief moment of fulfillment. Perhaps in drugs and other substances. Perhaps in extreme sports or at adventure parks. If we can’t live these ourselves, perhaps we find it in films filled with high emotions, action and violence, or sex. Something, anything that will evoke something in us. (Or perhaps we seek out things that will numb us more; it can all be too much, even our own emotions and sensations!)
I think it’s necessary to find sanctuary where we can lower our defenses against an intrusive world, where we can appreciate and delight in the little things in life, pleasures that are easily overlooked. I’m used to the rhythms and seasons of my mountain valley home, and my senses pick up on anything that looks “different” or “out of place”, subtle changes in the environment. Back in the city my well-developed defenses come back into play, and I enter The Tunnel, just to get from A to B. It’s a useful adaption, and saves me from more stress than necessary (though I’m not saved from the numbness). But I like living life with sensitivity, using and developing all the senses that nature endowed me with. In natural spaces, I reconnect not just with nature and its wonders but also with my own body, a connection I don’t want to lose.
The ego is just the tip of the iceberg, a fragment that thinks it’s a whole; the individual is deeper and broader than the ego, as the iceberg is deeper and broader than the tip. But the ego doesn’t always recognise this, so everything that it doesn’t recognise as “self” must be “other”, and so the unconscious is projected outside. Once the ego learns a bit of humility it’s limits can be punctured and then begins the work of integration.
When we are “educated” (read conditioned) all those unwanted qualities get hidden in the unconscious, and rest there until rediscovery. Perhaps confidence was buried; perhaps gentleness was hidden; perhaps curiosity and creativity were deftly swept under the carpet. And we learn to live with this and get on with our lives, even if we feel unsatified with our lot. We have within us treasures awaiting discovery.
Also, the ego interferes with the unconscious as it tries to impose itself on the world within and also the world without, but cutting itself off from its treasures hidden in the unconscious – until it can learn a bit of humility and learn that it belongs to something deeper, higher and wider than itself. Then the conscious and unconscious can become well functioning parts of a whole that is the Self in the process of Individuation.
One very easy tool I’ve found for self-investigation is questioning my beliefs. It wasn’t enough to have beliefs but to understand why I believed such-and-such, what motivated me? And do I really believe it or is it something that I’ve inherited from the world around me? What are really my beliefs?
I call it easy because it’s a way of looking at yourself without really looking at yourself (it has the appearance of “questioning and investigating belief systems”, but it’s an interesting preliminary step to finding our own motivations behind how we think). Our beliefs are symptoms of the way we think, and so too what ideas we find most appealing or convenient for explaining the world around us.
I’ve also learnt that beliefs don’t represent static statements on the nature of reality (at least not for me) but are simply ideas we have about the world that need testing and updating every-so-often, because as our understanding expands, and experience and reasonings develop, so should our beliefs, aligning more with “what is” rather than “what could be”.
““There was a time when the earth was to all appearance utterly destitute both of animal and vegetable life, and when according to the opinion of our best philosophers it was simply a hot round ball with a crust gradually cooling. Now if a human being had existed while the earth was in this state and had been allowed to see it as though it were some other world with which he had no concern, and if at the same time he were entirely ignorant of all physical science, would he not have pronounced it impossible that creatures possessed of anything like consciousness should be evolved from the seeming cinder which he was beholding? Would he not have denied that it contained any potentiality of consciousness? Yet in the course of time consciousness came. Is it not possible then that there may be even yet new channels dug out for consciousness, though we can detect no signs of them at present?
“Again. Consciousness, in anything like the present acceptation of the term, having been once a new thing—a thing, as far as we can see, subsequent even to an individual center of action and to a reproductive system (which we see existing in plants without apparent consciousness)—why may not there arise some new phase of mind which shall be as different from all present known phases, as the mind of animals is from that of vegetables?
“It would be absurd to attempt to define such a mental state (or whatever it may be called), inasmuch as it must be something so foreign to man that his experience can give him no help towards conceiving its nature; but surely when we reflect upon the manifold phases of life and consciousness which have been evolved already, it would be rash to say that no others can be developed, and that animal life is the end of all things. There was a time when fire was the end of all things: another when rocks and water were so.”
Samuel Butler, Erewhon
I remember the good old days, you know, when energy was cheap and was available all the time. No need for budgets, meters or restrictions on use. Yep, those were the days. That was when energy was leaking black from the ground all over the place and when even the sky wasn’t the limit. I think the limit was somewhere just beyond the moon…
But that was when we took things for granted and frankly just didn’t appreciate what we had; we didn’t notice it until it stopped being so cheap. We’re better off now in a way: we actually have to think about what we do with energy and use it intelligently. It’s cold in winter, but when you’re sitting right next to a warm fireplace you know what it means to have energy to keep you warm, and that to have it takes a bit of brainpower and a real valuing of it. And the earth’s better off; it deserves an intelligent, thinking, appreciative humanity, and it has that now for the most part.
Well, now I come to think of it, really, I suppose, that’s part of the good new days!