About fifty years ago I read what must have been a young adult’s version of The Voyage of the Beagle. Along with Charles Darwin himself, many have drawn inferences from the basic premise that in the process of life generating itself, there are variations along with a tendency for survival among those whose acquired variants are, in hindsight, referred to as best adapted to their environment.
In the now that was his time, the lad, portrayed here, was about to enrich, confuse or do worse to mankind. This, his portrait, could have, but didn’t simply disappear into some attic.
Without claims of novelty or obscurity, I now add to those conclusions my own.
The physiology of life is complex, so one should not be surprised that many can not fathom the claim of so humble an origin. Were evolution only about asexual reproduction, that doubt would make more sense to me than science, but the process sped considerably when sex introduced variations that were more numerous, more stable, and more pervasive than hereto available from genetic mutations.
More numbers expanded the possible; more stability allowed life to survive those many possibilities; and lastly more pervasive variations kept each physiological process in a state of ongoing evolution within its environment that now included other, supportive processes intrinsic to the species. Although rare, two nascent forms will, by this, emerge and co-evolve in time until their promise comes to fruition, catapulting the matrix into a new species and, by that, into the future.
The heart and circulatory system co-evolved around the needs of collecting-distributing and collecting-eliminating; as have a menagerie of leukocytes from some ancestral leukocyte: some to recognize intruders and some to confirm a second contact with the the lineage. Of course, we hear little about those species, catapulted in the wrong direction, because such are never an inside job.
Evolution is about survival and the alterations that contribute to or detract from it. To Darwin these alterations were in the biological constitution of life, but from the moment that one animal imitated another, a dual process has been out there: that of life developing and passing along beyond instinct—sometimes beyond species—actualized ways of dealing with circumstance, or of fulfilling aspirations. Henceforth, I refer to this process as actualizing evolution and to that based upon the multitude of developing biological characteristics and functions within life as physiological evolution.
Charles Darwin propped up purposeless, physiological evolution with the admittedly notational convenience of a selecting nature; but the corpora of actualizing evolution are the ways in which the faculties of perception, imagination, interpretation, belief, will, inference and communication bring visions and convictions into actuality. For each participant in this dual evolution, these faculties, beginning as notational conveniences, emerge as being very real—albeit subjective. In what follows, I assert guidance for interacting with them and some, tilted examples which underscore their potential to achieve or falter.
In the spring of 2005 a family of Red Tailed Hawks once nested about a hundred yards from our home. We had feeding stations for birds in our Crabapple Café and mother hawk would bring her two, big, awkward youngsters over for a raptor’s version of cook and eat classes. When hawks and other animals became intentional in passing on their ways, they were communicating beyond instinct and participating with a new intensity in actualizing evolution.
In time hominids stood on two legs and things really took off. Their hands opened to possibilities that, by import and variety, could only accelerate developments in physiological evolution. Actualizing evolution would successively bring its fecundity to: acting, signing, painting, speaking, writing, printing, phoning, recording, broadcasting and surfing. Each of these leaps extended the fruits of experience further beyond lineage and local community.
We peer inwardly at a physiology that has adapted us into this world and outwardly at challenges that would adapt us right back out of it. Born with only our instincts, how do we address these and other challenges? Without “ascending” the rungs of actualizing evolution, we don’t; in fact, such “ascents” are so important to the survival and well-being of any species initiated into them, that in such cases, the physiology of mind reaches out in sympathetic evolution towards ever higher quality in the interpretation and communication of experience as well as in the actualization of vision and conviction.
With hints from this physiology, I will take a stab into the inner darkness of thought towards understanding those mental faculties nudging us “upward” through actualizing evolution. Since each of these faculties must be open to any possible reality, my spin on their direction must also. Nevertheless I do have preferences and shall slip them in beside other indented examples. In no way do we consciously ascend either evolution; we act for our reasons and perhaps someone notices an ascent and describes it in alternate terms. The following faculties are considered:
Interpretations of experience are of necessity in terms of reference experiences from memories that may be personal, communicated, or inherited as clue fragments. For those animals, possessing a bicameral mind, evolution favors the harmonious application of the right hemisphere’s ability to conjure an interpretive similarity into a conduit for understanding, and the left’s ability to notice distinctions that tag other, more crucial distinctions. Without this harmony of likenesses giving way to differences and vice versa the world would seem either monotonically or chaotically unfathomable; in fact, its inhabitants would never rise above instinct.
The terms right and left hemisphere, although correct, cut us off from early writings where—in my opinion—they were referred to as the heart and mind. To connect with this but avoid confusion with current usage, I slip back several centuries to these spellings: hearte and minde.
- Hearte: Some ancient looked up at the moon with a chunk bitten out of it and was reminded in the void of a common shadow. Deducing from this rounded shadow that it could only be cast by the Earth, revealed the Earth itself to be round and westwardly circumnavigable.
- Minde: While an assistant at an obstetric clinic in Vienna, Ignaz Semmelweis investigated deaths from puerperal fever and noticed a great difference between the rates of death in seemingly similar divisions of the clinic. With further scrutiny he realized that students were taught in the more beleaguered section and midwives in the other. The fact that students came to their lessons from performing autopsies on those who had just died of the fever indicated to him that they had carried something with them. He spoke of minute organisms to no avail. He introduced the cleansing of hands, asepsis, with great success, but those who couldn’t understand chose disbelief. Millions more women died before the likes of Lister, the father of antisepsis, added their weight to the tide of evidence.
I do not believe that one should pass one’s strategies off as perceptions. The entire purpose of perceiving requires that we be open to its fruits, whether succulent or wormy. There are those who are unable to bear this uncertainty; before starting out, they must convince themselves and others of fruit, positively free of worms and within reach. For them a quest for succulence becomes sidelined into one of protecting credibility and this entrenched—albeit secret—strategy.
No better off is a pessimism that will neither exert itself up a tree nor be so specific as to point out the poison ivy on its trunk. Automatic hope and dread have convinced themselves that they are much different from one another. They have not convinced me, but have instead undermined authentic participation in experiencing and sharing those experiences.
However, there is a strategy that is free of such distortion and misrepresentation. It follows the hearte and minde through perceptions towards those ripe with possibility, whether hopeful or dreadful. It relies upon honesty to oneself; for it is fueled by a will to effort, driven by an emergent, inner sense of how important are and how likely might be the fulfillment (or avoidance) of such possibilities. Since its first thought, the bicameral mind has teethed on reality. I believe this approach to be a paradigm of and, when followed, a support to that teething.
Imagination is as vapors into which our hearte and minde peer; ways of dealing with circumstance or of fulfilling aspiration swirl in, and then into something else. Navigating this imagination is a bit like flying a plane: the ability to land is far more important than that hyped ability to take off. Hastily ejecting from a daydream that is no longer “real” leaves faceless our inner response at the last moment we had taken it as such. At night, when we are less distracted, our dream-self soars. By its sequence of dream circumstances, we are trained; by our responses, understood. Two “primitive,” Malaysian tribes referred to as the Senoi extend this into wakefulness through morning debriefings at which more experienced family members would pick up where the dream-self had left off.
Without being honest to oneself as to one’s will to effort, the imagination swirls into nothingness; but with such honesty one finds one’s place in one’s vision, saving it. This will to fulfill a dream while remaining true to convictions is at the core of any ascent; it keeps us from being dabblers who affect both values and intentional thought.
However far the physiology of mind reaches, it will always be rooted in the primeval instincts that had carried a strand of life to the threshold of actualizing evolution. These instincts, tugging at us through and counter to our will, faintly remember an early answer to survival. They are important and should not be disowned or ignored, but they were never precise and would need far more than a few hundred thousand years to adjust to this new world of ours; they would need the human mind and the place it would take in actualizing evolution.
In what follows I refer to that in the environment which an instinct recognizes as its marker and that around whose importance the instinct developed as its benefit.
- Our sense of taste is definitely tuned in to the life-giving nourishment of food, but of food as it existed during that instinct’s formation. When the marker and nourishing benefit are one in the same, the value of that taste transcends time; and as long as the marker with its enticing molecular angles is consumed in juxtaposition to the nutritional component, its role is fulfilled. Our taste for food and our well-being were allies until not that long ago, when some providers mistook the marker for the essence, stripping and throwing away the latter.
- Without the instinctive pleasure in our sexuality, we are not even here, but the marking of that other person is not exclusively about procreation. It moonlights as a drive towards accomplishment and as a bond towards the setting in of mutual support and love, with its emergent, endless variations of hearte to minde. Still that physical and mental acuity, which supports a dual entry into the sphere of actualizing evolution, potentially subverts through seduction; and physical or coercive rape.
Clearly for important reasons we have capacities that can also be misdirected towards stripping instinct of its raison d’être. I believe in less intense instincts which coordinate with rather than inundate the hearte and minde. They manifest themselves in a will that can bear discomfort or pass up gratification. They are not at all about stifling our instincts, but rather about returning them to their beneficent context.
Our physiological progress in supporting communication is a clear sign that, for us, community and personal interests are tightly woven. Although the growth of populations beyond early clans has attenuated the feedback for this effect, it is there; we are social beings and ignoring a negative impact upon others, whether in a goal attained or the manner of its attainment, can never be that different from ignoring one’s tongue, arm or even the very eyes that closed to that impact.
- The American Auto industry successfully lobbied to avoid having the buyers of sports utility vehicles pay a hefty gas-guzzling tax. Had they not been classified with trucks, their sales would have been more modest and the current over capacity would not be the heavy weight pulling that industry under. Many American companies are lead to the market place by what the public wants, not by what it will want once clarity overtakes advertising.
Thus, while inferring our way backwards through the details of a vision’s attainment towards the basis for a beginning, we must infer forward towards our acceptance of peripheral consequences. Again there is the harmony of likenesses and differences giving way to each other, but here towards a smooth landing from our imaginative business plan.
- Alexander Graham Bell had spent years helping the deaf to a tactile recognition of sound: something that otherwise would have been beyond their comprehension (as it was beyond mine). Later he flew his understanding of vibration within the human ear backwards, landing upon a primitive transmission device by Reis, and then with Watson forward to–oops-the telephone.
Here I offer a notion of equivalence that seems made for a common mental event: coordinating the hearte-minde duality with that sense of importance upon which one’s visions and convictions stand. It is, of course, a subjective term but one by which I hope to bring a new focus to human communication. Two subjects of reflection are equivalent when that which they have in common is held as more important than that which distinguishes them.
- Thomas Jefferson reflected upon people and held that what they had in common at birth was more important than that which, at that time, distinguished them. He wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Whether we believe in our unalienable rights and obligations and when believed, if and how responsibly we exercise them is all about our place in actualizing evolution. So also is how we protect those rights which we do acknowledge. Do we abide by the obligations that complement them or merely insist that others do so? Do we cut out the heart of a right upon the altar of consistency, or risk being taken as less than a purist by simply allowing it to defend itself? Certainly human beings are so entitled: if one is being taken down by a drowning man, breaking away and letting that person drown is not so very terrible.
As for being “created and endowed,” is this anything more than another notational convenience? I say yes, for it is about the bond between these evolutions, each with its own corpora and creator/s, but still more, it is about the struggle to communicate the ineffable.
Communication, when truthful and well expressed, can support others in rising to a better way of dealing with life but the telling of some truths is a struggle. The details may be something magnificent that would shrivel before the multi-eyed monster of yore, inundating to distraction its every ear; may promise clarity in bringing ideas together while, being too soon, lack a crucial detail; may close eyes that seek comfort in the darkness; or open them to a jinx that would eclipse their sun. For millennia beliefs have emerged that anchored themselves—albeit by a subjective equivalence—to such ineffable truths.
- Jefferson’s draft addressed a few of those struggles. He took liberties with Genesis as did—I am sure—those who once passed it along by spoken word. His insight was not available centuries earlier during a prolonged, worldwide, cold spell. About five thousand Greenlanders, early Norse settlers of that island, starved and froze to death in the midst of . . . well, not plenty but enough. They just could not bring themselves to adopt the harpoon or igloo from their “inferior” neighbors, the Inuit. These truths would not have been self-evident to those Norsemen nor would they be—even post facto—to Americans who relocated enslaved aboriginal Africans.
Religious teachings are replete with proposed beliefs and commands that their composers took as true to their own hearte-minde harmony: by this jargon, as equivalent to ineffable truths. For those of faith, Genesis and other ancient scriptures offer early access to actualizing evolution with their abundant stand-ins for scientific precisions of obscure impact.
Of course, there must be concerns about the lack of rigor in this mode of comparison. Since it includes a parallel meaning for not equivalent, abandon or retain both, remembering that to embark on too rigid a critique of actualizing evolution with its billion nuances can be immodest. Instead heed my and René Descartes’ quagmires in a mathematical precision which had missed uncertainty’s ability to turn thoughts into breath. With that in mind and depending on your willingness to relax into a lesser rationality, I offer a view of beliefs that ought to bring understanding or comic relief. Here they are:
- Implicitly equivalent, when their equivalence is by virtue of their sharing common implications.
- Responsively equivalent, when their equivalence is by virtue of their evoking common responses.
- Pragmas, when they are responsively equivalent to, and effective markers for ineffable truths. We are driven instinctively towards an understanding of our environment, whether it come by insight or pragma.
Take early descriptions of Creation as examples:
- Implicit in each is the fact that once the human race and ourselves did not exist. How long would it have taken for one of Jefferson’s newborns to have understood and later communicated this without pragmas?
- In Genesis, Adam and Eve’s exile is responsively equivalent to the painful fact that, by shutting oneself off from the experiences of others, one chooses to investigate places from which there may be no return.
- From monotheism comes another possible pragma, carrying the usual concern about how unimportant are its variations from the truth. Consider a revered being of extraordinary wisdom and ability, whose longevity extends beyond limit. Such existence and uniqueness are a promise of the harmonious co-existence of modest versions of these attributes but with that uniqueness comes a warning not to approach them by imitation simplified by a tossing out of context.
- There are also these dual attributes: a watchful presence as pervasive as reality itself; and, through a special relationship with that reality, loving guidance and intervention. For a mortal, to be everywhere is to be nowhere; to be constantly dominating and rescuing is to be ego driven. But a watchful presence and a love for others are both worth cultivating. Unfortunately wonderful attributes are paired with those belonging only in the rarefied heights of a special relationship with reality. That—I believe—is the price of denoting, by these ethereal adjuncts, that this is all about reality and that responding to G-d is to respond to reality. Furthermore, no matter how wide might be the arcs of our approaches to actualizing evolution, they all come back to that one Reality, but not to the static reality that balms an orthodoxy in dread of it own mystery.
For the faithful this is no pragma but simply is; for the atheist, no pragma but simply hog wash. Ironically a great pragma would have it no other way: being trusted or doubted each detract from being understood. In a world that is ready to communicate and to find itself wrong, actualizing evolution thrives upon such diversity; elsewhere only chaos thrives. An important question arises: “Do I undermine the faith by which these pragmas open their doors?” Yes, but also the doubt, and if they each become disoriented by this tap, it is a far better balance to which they shall return.
For decades now (physiological) evolution has offered me a magnificent point from which to peer at nature, and so I did with awe at time’s backward reach. It never promised to better my chances with her but did tip me off to a global classroom whose blackboards were chalked in with examples of success, failure and what I only took as such. Now I let go of that sleight of hand, called species, and prepare for what really is beyond preparation, as far beyond as were my more sensible, backyard hawks to prepare to be hawks.