How old am I?

I had a birthday yesterday, and it brings up the topic of age.

How old am I?

It’s a simple question, and if I take it seriously, it can reveal a lot about my nature.

THE AGE ON MY PASSPORT

In a conventional sense, I am the age my passport tells me. It’s the age in my official documents, and the answer most people expect if they ask the question. It’s not wrong, but it’s a small part of a much bigger picture.

MY BODY’S AGE

In another sense, my body has a certain biological age. Depending on genetics and lifestyle, it can be older or younger than my conventional age. This age has some importance in terms of my health. (And depending on how it’s measured and what criteria are used, it will likely change somewhat.)

THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE

In yet another sense, I am the age of this universe. According to current science, I am roughly 13.7 billion years old. This can sound like an answer that’s meant to be cute or clever, but it’s far more real than that.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of 13.7 billion years of evolution of this universe.

Every molecule is the product of this evolution, most having been forged in ancient stars blowing up and reforming into this planet which formed itself into all of us and this living evolving world.

Every dynamic in me is the product of the evolution of this seamless system we call the universe.

As Carl Sagan said, and I often quote: We are the ears, eyes, thoughts and feeling of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of the evolution of this larger seamless system I am a local and temporary expression of.

In a very real sense, I am the age of this universe. Everything I am as a human is the age of this universe.

This age is important since it’s a reminder of the reality of the oneness of the universe. It’s a reminder of what current science tells us about our more fundamental identity and nature.

TIMELESS

All of that has some validity to it. And yet, am I most fundamentally this human self? Or even a local and temporary expression of this seamless and evolving larger whole?

If I look in my own first-person experience, what am I more fundamentally?

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, including this human self and anything connected with it. I am capacity even for any thought or sense that I am fundamentally this human self.

I find that any experience – of the wider world or this human self – happens within and as my sense fields. (Sight, sound, sensations, taste, smell, mental images and words.)

To me, the world as it appears to me, happens within and as what I am.

This is my more fundamental nature, in my own immediate experience.

Here, I find I am what any ideas or experience of time happens within and as. My nature is timeless, allowing and forming itself into ideas and experiences of time and change.

LAYERED

My age is layered.

As a human being, I am the age in my passport and my body’s biological age.

As a local and temporary expression of this larger seamless evolving system, I have the age of this universe. (And that will change somewhat depending on what science says.)

And in my own first-person experience, I find my nature is timeless. I am the timelessness any ideas and experience of age happen within and as.

I love the richness of my age. I love that there are many answers and that some change over time.

I love that each one makes sense in its own way.

WHY DON’T WE USE OUR UNIVERSE AGE MORE OFTEN?

If science tells us we all are 13.7 billion years old, why don’t we use that age more often?

It may seem a silly question, but it’s actually a very important one. Science tells us our more fundamental age is 13.7 billion years, so why don’t we collectively take it more seriously?

It may be because this story is still relatively new so it hasn’t had time to sink in yet.

Also, we are used to using our age in our passport so most people stick with that. Much in society is dependent on separating us by age. (School, tickets, pension, and so on.) And many seem to like to follow that orientation.

For me, it’s beautiful and important that this is an age we all share. Everything that exists has the same age. That’s amazing and wonderful to me. It’s a reminder of what ties us together and that we are all local and temporary expressions of the same seamless evolving whole.

That’s far more fundamental and important than the age we happen to have as local and temporary expressions of this whole.

WHY DON’T WE ACKNOWLEDGE OUR TIMELESS NATURE MORE OFTEN?

Similarly, why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often?

It’s not because it’s not here to be noticed. Based on my own noticing and what I hear from others, it seems we all have this nature. (It’s the nature of the consciousness we all inevitably are to ourselves.) (1)

It’s not even because it’s difficult to find. I assume most can find it with guidance and within minutes.

So why don’t more people acknowledge this?

I assume there are many answers here too. The obvious one is that we live in a society that tells us – directly and indirectly – that we most fundamentally are this human self, an object within the field of our experience. As we grow up, we see that this is what others do so we do the same. In our innocence, which is very beautiful, we train ourselves to do as others do.

There are also many misconceptions about this. Many traditions suggest that finding our nature is difficult or takes a long time, or that it’s for special people, or that it’s about something distant, or that it gives us special powers.

In reality, it’s right here. It’s not only what we are most familiar with, it’s the only thing we are familiar with. It’s what all our experience consists of.

Since it’s about noticing what we already are, it’s for all of us.

It doesn’t give us any special powers, it’s just a noticing of our nature. (And that can be profoundly transforming for our perception and life in the world.)

And with good guidance, most of us can find it within a relatively short time.

How can we find it? The best approaches I am familiar with (so far) are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Of course, finding it is just the first step. It’s just a glimpse. If we want to continue exploring it, we need to refind it here and now. We need to explore how to live from this noticing. We need to investigate anything in us out of alignment with it, anything created and operating from separation consciousness.

And that takes dedication, passion, and a lifetime. (Or more if there are more.)

(1) Why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often? It’s not even because it’s illogical. Based on logic, we find that in our own experience, we have to be consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, we inevitably and most fundamentally have to BE consciousness in our own experience. And the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We have all of the characteristics of consciousness, and since the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – have those characteristics.

We are what’s inherently free of time and space and that our experience of time and space happens within and as. We are the oneness any sense of distinction and separation happens within and as. And so on.

This just says something about our own nature in our own first-person experience, it doesn’t say anything about the nature of existence or the universe. And that’s more than enough. If we are led – by existence – to take it seriously, that’s profoundly transforming.

Image: A look at the distant relatives we call the “Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.)

Why do we love our land? An evolutionary perspective on landscape

When it comes to understanding anything human, I often do a quick check-in with an evolutionary perspective. And the same obviously goes for understanding the behavior of any species.

My wife and I are stewards of beautiful land in the Andes mountains.

Why do we see it as so beautiful? Why do we feel so connected with it?

We fell in love with it within seconds of our first visit. And it feels as if the land chose us as much as we chose it.

OUR ANCESTRAL HOME

One answer, which came up in my environmental psychology classes at the University of Utah, is that humanity comes from the Great Rift Valley in Africa so we are naturally drawn to that type of landscape. It’s our ancestral home. We love open landscapes with trees and shade. It’s the environment we co-evolved with.

Our pre-human ancestors likely lived for innumerable generations in that landscape, and our first human-like ancestors lived there before they started migrating out to the rest of the world.

In this case, there is a clear similarity between this land and the landscape of the Great Rift Valley. (Not surprising since both are close to the equator and about the same elevation.)

Many if not most of the ancestors in me feel at home there.

BIOPHILIA

There is also a much deeper and general reason for our love – and sometimes fear – of nature.

We are nature. So we love, and sometimes fear, nature.

The universe is a seamless whole. It’s a holarchy, a whole with wholes within it.

It’s also an evolving system, expressed through and as – among everything else in the universe – our living and evolving planet and us as a species and individuals.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

When we look into the universe, we are looking back at ourselves. When we experience nature, we are experiencing ourselves.

We co-evolved with all of it.

We find nature beautiful because we recognize ourselves in and as it, whether we are conscious of it or not.

THE LANDSCAPES WE ARE ATTRACTED TO

At a more conventional level, there are other reasons why we tend to find nature beautiful, and why we are especially drawn to certain landscapes.

Our ancestors lived with, from, and as nature, so it makes sense to be attracted to nature. It helped them survive. (Neutrality or aversion would not be so productive.)

It makes sense that we tend to be attracted to open landscapes. Having a view helped our ancestors to survive. They could see prey, friends, and enemies from far away and prepare accordingly.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to green landscapes. For our ancestors, it made sense to be drawn to green landscapes since it means vegetation, and vegetation means shade, protection, and food.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to moderate climates, for obvious reasons.

It makes sense that we are attracted to running water since it means fresh water for drinking, bathing, and cooking food.

Many love sitting by a bonfire or a fireplace, or even just a candle. For our ancestors, these types of smaller and controlled fires meant food, warmth, protection, and community.

The ones who were drawn to these features of nature were more likely to survive and they passed these inclinations on to their descendants, including us.

And it makes equal sense we are afraid of or slightly repulsed by certain things in nature. Most of us have some fear of heights, and this fear has helped our ancestors avoid dangerous situations. We tend to have some fear of snakes and some insects for the same reason. We avoid places that smell musty, moldy, or rotten.

Our ancestors who experienced some fear or repulsion to these things were more likely to survive, have children, and pass these tendencies on to us.

CULTURE AND ANYTHING HUMAN

Human culture and anything human – all our experiences, thoughts, and feelings – are obviously part of the seamless whole of existence. It’s all the evolution of the universe and this living planet expressing itself in these ways, through and as us and our experiences.

We obviously find a lot in humans and culture beautiful. But not always. Why is that?

Again, an evolutionary perspective can give us answers. If we see an open and infested wound, it makes sense to experience some repulsion since it can help us not get infected. If we meet someone who is chronically caught up in anger, blame, or similar, feeling less attracted to it can help us to avoid problems. If we see a building or village in disrepair, it may be best to find another place to go. And so on. (This is obviously a very simplified outline.)

On a more immediate level, what we find beautiful and not has to do with how we relate to our thoughts about it. If we believe our thoughts about something or someone, it will often create attraction or aversion.

HOLDING IT LIGHTLY

As usual, it makes sense to hold all of this lightly.

An evolutionary perspective on psychology and behavior helps us arrive at educated guesses at most. It’s not something we can verify once and for all.

Personally, I often use it to find more understanding and empathy for myself and others. I find a plausible explanation in an evolutionary context, and that helps me see that our experiences and behavior are not as personal as they first may seem. It all comes from somewhere else.

Note: The photo above is from our land in the Chicamocha Canyon.

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Genealogy and holarchies

A long time ago, in what feels like another life, I worked with translation, history, and genealogy.

I understand why people want to know more about their family history. It gives a context for one’s own life, and it’s interesting to know a bit about our ancestors, what they did, and where they lived.

For me, it’s also interesting with the two ways we have a family: Genetics and lived family life. Sometimes they are the same, and sometimes they are different. And sometimes, there are family secrets coming up through genetic testing, and people respond to it in all different ways.

Ultimately, we are all family. In the context of Earth life, all of us humans are relatively closely related. In the context of the universe, all Earth life is closely related. The history of humanity is our shared history. The history of the living evolving Earth is the shared history of Earth life. The history of the universe is the shared history of everything and everyone, including possible life in other places in the universe.

It’s all part of the same story. The story of the universe forming itself into all of this.

The story of existence forming itself into all of this.

And this story includes us and all of who we are and do and experience.

Seed: I was contacted by a family member passionate about genealogy.

Aspects of oneness

We can find oneness in several places.

I’ll make this short since I have gone into it in more detail in other articles.

ONENESS IN IMMEDIATE NOTICING

One general form of oneness is what we notice in our own first-person experience.

Here, I find my nature as capacity for all my experiences – for the world, this human self, and anything else as it appears to me. One place I find oneness is my nature as capacity for the world as it appears here.

Another place I find oneness is within my sense fields. All my experiences – of the world, this human self, and anything else – happen within my sense fields. Within sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, thought, and so on. These sense fields are a seamless whole. Any sense of boundaries and any labels come from my mental field overlay. This is another oneness.

I find that all my experiences – of the world, etc. – happen within and as what I am. This is yet another aspect of oneness.

These are all aspects of the same, and all ways to explore and find oneness for ourselves.

ONENESS IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE

We also find oneness in the world, in a conventional sense. And many of these stories of oneness come from science.

The universe is a seamless evolving whole.

All we know and see and know about is a part of this evolving seamless system.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

All Earth life share ancestors. We are all intimately related. We share huge amounts of DNA with a large number of species – whether we call them animals or plants.

And so on, and so on. There are always more examples of oneness in the universe and the natural world.

ANTIDOTE TO A SENSE OF SEPARATION

Why is this important?

Because it’s an antidote to a one-sided sense of separation. Especially in our western culture, it’s easy for people to feel disconnected and separate from just about anything – themselves, others, society, nature, existence.

Exploring the connections, and also exploring these forms of oneness, is an antidote to that sense of separation and isolation.

We can find the oneness already here, in our immediate experience. And we can find it in the universe and nature – which we are an intrinsic part of.

We can engage in all sorts of practices to explore this for ourselves.

We can explore the first general form of oneness through inquiry, basic meditation, heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, and so on.

And we can explore the second through deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, epic of evolution, the universe story, big history, shamanic work, rituals, and Practices to Reconnect.

We can find these two forms of oneness for ourselves, and allow it to transform us and our life in the world.

Photo: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, spiral galaxy NGC 4651

I am in you and you in me?

When you call me European, I say yes. When you call me Arab, I say yes. When you call me black, I say yes. When you call me white, I say yes. Because I am in you and you are in me. We have to inter-be with everything in the cosmos.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

This can sound like a poetic expression or well-intentioned wishful thinking.

And if we look more closely, we may find something else. We may find it’s an accurate description of how it already is.

BIOLOGY

We share ancestry not just going back to the first cells but to the beginning of this universe. We share 99.9% of our genetic material.

We are basically the same, in all the essentials. We have the same basic needs, wants, fears, and so on.

PROJECTIONS

If I have a story about you, and turn it around to myself, I can specific examples of how it’s true for me as well. I can find how it’s as or more true for me.

You are my mirror. You help me see myself. (If I allow it and notice.)

In this sense, you are me. What I see in you is what I know from myself, whether I notice or not.

WHAT I AM

My experience of you happens within my sense fields. If you are here, or I see a movie or picture of you, you happen within my sight and possibly touch, smell, and so on.

Whether you are here or not, you also happen within my mental field. You happen through my mental representations of you – my mental images, labels, memories, and stories.

I find I am capacity for you. You happen within and as my sense fields. You happen within and as what I am.

In this sense, you are me. You happen within and as what I am. And I am you. What I am takes the form of my experience of you.

I AM IN YOU AND YOU IN ME

In several ways, it’s true that you are in me and I am in you.

It’s true in a biological sense.

It’s true since you are my mirror. What I see in you is what I have in myself.

It’s true since my experience of you happens within and as what I am.

The question is: if I keep noticing this, and keep exploring it and seeing it’s undeniably so, what does it do to me? If I take this seriously, how do I live my life?

Alan Watts: For ‘you’ is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new

You have seen that the universe is at root a magical illusion and a fabulous game, and that there is no separate ‘you’ to get something out of it, as if life were a bank to be robbed. The only real ‘you’ is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For ‘you’ is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new. You do not ask what is the value, or what is the use, of this feeling. Of what use is the universe? What is the practical application of a million galaxies?

– Alan Watts

There are two ways to look at this.

One is talking about existence itself, which is more of a third person view and philosophical.

And the other is how it is in our own immediate experience, which is from noticing.

UNIVERSE STORY

We can say that the universe is existence exploring, expressing, experiencing itself in always new ways, including through and as innumerable living beings.

As Carl Sagan said: We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Our most fundamental identity is not as this local and temporary human being, but as the whole of existence taking all of these forms and always changing itself into new forms, expressions, and experiences.

This is a view that can be deeply inspiring and meaningful, and it can deepen our sense of belonging to the universe and all of existence.

We may also find that sensing, feeling, thinking, and living becomes meaningful in itself. And the more this is felt and visceral, the deeper is the sense of belonging.

DIRECT NOTICING

We can also explore this through our own immediate noticing.

When I look, I find I am not most fundamentally this human being. I am what all these changing experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happen within and as. I am capacity for the world, and what my field of experience happens within and as.

In that sense, the world as it appears to me is a magical illusion and a fabulous game. It’s all happening within and as me. It’s all an expression of the creativity of existence and the mind. The only real “me” is capacity for all of it, and all the always-changing content of experience – whether I call this my human self or the wider self or the whole of the universe. To me, it’s all happening within and as consciousness, and it’s all – in a sense – existence looking at itself from a billion points of view.

COSMOLOGY AS A MIRROR

Here too, we find that cosmology is a mirror.

We may have ideas about the universe similar to what Alan Watts describe, and what we find in the Universe Story and the Epic of Evolution, and these may be grounded in science and what we observe.

And we can find it here and now. We can find these mental representations here and now. And we can find what these stories point to in our own immediate experience.

In that sense, cosmology is both a projection and a mirror. We place our mental representations on the universe, and can use them as pointers to what’s already here in our immediate experience.

And there is likely some truth to both. We may be onto something about existence as a whole, and also – equally or more important – about our own true nature.

Alan Watts: our most private thoughts and emotions…. were given to us by society

We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society. We copy emotional reactions from our parents, learning from them that excrement is supposed to have a disgusting smell and that vomiting is supposed to be an unpleasant sensation. The dread of death is also learned from their anxieties about sickness and from their attitudes to funerals and corpses. Our social environment has this power just because we do not exist apart from a society. Society is our extended mind and body. Yet the very society from which the individual is inseparable is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual that he is indeed separate! Society as we now know it is therefore playing a game with self-contradictory rules.

– Alan Watts from The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

Seeing this helps us take our thoughts and emotions less personally. It all comes from somewhere else.

We can go further and find that every single thing we take as most personal is given to us by the larger whole. Our thoughts, emotions, personality, preferences, likes, dislikes, insights, choices, consciousness, any sense of a separate self, and so on were all given to us by existence.

The most personal is not really personal at all.

It’s given to us by society, evolution, Earth, this Universe, and existence as a whole.

We can take something very simple in our life and find a cause for it, and then another, and then another, until it’s difficult to find anything personal there.

I am writing this here now. Did I – as this human self – cause it? I saw a partial quote on FB and looked up the full one. This brain and body writing it come from millions of years of evolution. The computer was put together by many people I don’t know, and all the parts and technology were developed by innumerable people I also don’t know who are. It’s the product of millennia of technological development and the work and insights of a great number of people.

I didn’t write the quote, it came from Alan Watts. And he, in turn, was probably inspired by innumerable people, who in turn were inspired by and learned from a great many people.

All of this is made possible by this living planet and this solar system and universe. It’s all, in a very real sense, the universe and this living planet that is taking the form of this evolution, this species, all the species we have co-evolved with and depend on, these people, these thoughts and feelings and insights, the technology making writing it here possible and for you to read it, and everything else. It’s all the local activity of the universe and this living planet, through and as us and our mind and consciousness.

Everything that’s part of me writing this here has innumerable causes going back to the beginning of time (if there is any) and out to the widest extent of existence (if there is a boundary).

The reason I was drawn to it and decided to put it here must have innumerable causes from society, culture, biology, personal history, and so on. That too is the local activity of the universe and this living planet through and as me.

I cannot find any room for an “I” here doing it or deciding to do it. It all comes from somewhere else.

And to me, there is an immense beauty in noticing this.

This post was brought to you courtesy of existence.

Life is intelligent

You are very intelligent.

Thank you. Although it’s life that’s very intelligent.

There are always someone more or less intelligent than us, there are as many types of intelligence as there are areas of life to use our intelligence for, and what we call intelligence is often better called insights or experience.

In any case, it’s really life that’s intelligent.

Our human intelligence is the product of evolution, going back to the first single-celled organisms billions of years ago. It’s the product of this living planet’s evolution as a whole. It’s the product of the evolution of the universe, from the big bang via matter and solar systems to the universe evolving as this living planet.

Life created this intelligence. This intelligence is the Earth being intelligent, locally and temporarily here. It’s the universe and existence being intelligent (or not), here and now.

We cannot take credit for this intelligence, no more than we take credit for anything else.

It’s all given. It all has innumerable causes going back to the beginning of time and out to the widest extent of existence… and it may well be beginningless and endless.

It’s all grace.

13.8 billion years old

When people ask how old I am, I sometimes say 13.8 billion years old.

It’s the most accurate answer, even if it’s perhaps not what they meant.

We are all 13.8 billion years old, as far as we know.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, feelings, and thoughts of the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

We are part of the ongoing evolution of this universe as it explores, expresses, and brings itself into consciousness through us and other beings.

Everything that we are is this old. The matter we are made up of has gone through a 13.8 billion year process to be formed into this human form. Our mind reflects the evolution of our ancestors and their environments, the Earth as a whole, and the universe. Our body and mind are the product of 13.8 billion years of evolution of this universe.

And we are also timeless. We are what it all – this universe and the universe in the form of this human self – happens within and as.

As who we are, we are whatever age is in our passport, and we are also as old as this universe. As what we are, we are that which all of this happens within and as.

What is oneness?

What is oneness?

The most basic oneness is what’s here now. In immediate experience, for all of us, all our experience happens within and as what we are. The content of our experience happens within and as what we are.

We can call this consciousness or love, or awakeness, or the void all happens within and as, but those are labels. The labels tempt the mind into thinking it has got it while it’s not anything that can be gotten conceptually. It’s what we are.

Awakening means that what we are wakes up to itself. Glimpses itself. Notices itself. Notices itself more and more clearly as what any experience happens within and as, including as that which this personality and this conditioning like the very least.

Why is this not always noticed? Because mind likes to identify as parts of the content of its experience. Mind likes to take itself as a me (this human self) and an I (the observer, doer, etc.). It’s not wrong but it’s incomplete. It creates an experience of duality, of I here and the wider world out there, and that’s all there is to it.

That duality is valid in a functional or pragmatic sense. It’s helpful to take this human self as what I am, in a pragmatic sense. But it’s not the whole picture.

In immediate experience, “I” am what my whole field of experience happens within and as. That is, in a sense, a more fundamental identity. Although it’s not an “identity”, it’s just what we are.

We can see this in a couple of different ways. One is that the fundamental reality of the world is of me as a human self in the physical world, and it’s only in my experience all appears as consciousness. All appears as consciousness because that’s how it has to be in my experience since I am consciousness. This is the small or psychological interpretation and it’s a possible and valid interpretation.

The other is that reality is more directly as it appears. All is actually consciousness, all of reality is and happens within and as consciousness. We can say all is the divine or whatever name(s) we have for the divine (Spirit, the One, Brahman, Allah, Big Mind etc.). This is the big or spiritual interpretation and is also valid.

There is another form of oneness, or another oneness within the first oneness: the oneness of this universe. It’s one seamless whole, one seamless system. This system is what has formed itself into stars and planets, this living planet, and everything that’s part of this living planet (including us humans and all our experience). As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, feelings, and thoughts of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into awareness.

I should mention that within the small interpretation of awakening, the physical world – including our own physical body – appears as consciousness because it happens within and as consciousness. (Which is what we are.) In the big interpretation of awakening, the physical world actually is as it appears to us, it is consciousness.

In either case, we can investigate, with guidance, how our mind creates its own experience of the physical world, and perhaps of this physical world as real in itself, as solid, as dense and material. As we investigate this – and as we find ourselves as that which all our experience happens within and as – what we call the physical world will appear less and less solid to us and more as consciousness. In that sense, it will appear more and more as a dream (happening within and as consciousness).

How can we notice oneness and live more from it? This is, in a way, the main question of spiritual practice so it’s too big to address here. I’ll just mention that the easiest way to have a glimpse of oneness may be through inquiry (Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, Headless experiments, etc.). And Practices to Reconnect is an excellent way to deepen into the second form of oneness.

Only lovers left alive: a dialog with someone who has lived for centuries

Well, yes. It’s just that I have seen versions of it so many times, in so many periods and cultures. People are in pain. And they seek and latch onto a belief – a religion or philosophy or political system – that promises to give them relief. And the real relief is in healing the pain, not getting obsessed about a system or philosophy.

– a quote from this dialog

I haven’t seen Only Lovers Left Alive yet, but read enough about it to know that the two main characters have lived for centuries and have amassed a huge amount of experience and perhaps some wisdom in the process.

So I thought it would be fun to try a dialog with someone who has lived for centuries.

When we use Voice Dialog / the Big Mind process, we typically dialog with parts of us that are obviously here like the voice of appreciation, the victim, or Big Mind / Heart.

There is no part of me that had lived for centuries. Or is there? I can easily enough imagine how it would be to have lived for generations, and access that voice or part of me.

And in a quite real sense, I have in me something that had lived for that long. Something that has, through culture, accumulated experience and wisdom over generations.

In another quite real sense, as part of this living Earth, and as part of this universe, I am billions of years old. Everything in me is the product of billions of years evolution of the universe and this living planet, millions of years of evolution of pre-human ancestors, and hundreds of thousands of years thousands of my human ancestors.

So, yes, I can probably dialog with a voice in me that has the experience and wisdom from having lived for generations.

Dialog with one who has lived for generations.

Can I speak with the voice that has lived for generations?

Yes.

How do you see the world?

Not so different from you. Just from more experience. I am much less caught up in the daily fluctuations compared with you and others who have only lived for a short time. I have seen it all. It all comes and goes. Disappointment. Elation. Health. Illness. Birth. Death. It’s all part of life, and I have seen all of it enough to not get caught up in it.

Does it mean you are detached?

For a while, I tried detachment and distance, but that’s deadly boring in the long run. It’s much more juicy to feel and be engaged and play the game, but I am not caught in it. I know it all, including my responses, comes and goes.

It sounds a bit like the wisdom of the Buddha?

Yes, I knew him. Good fella. (That’s a joke, by the way. I was somewhere else back then.)

But yes, it’s pretty similar. I think that anyone who lives for generations will develop that kind of wisdom or view on life. It’s almost inevitable.

Do you have any advice for P.? (This interviewer.)

Well, let’s see. I think he knows it already but hasn’t taken it in fully. He doesn’t completely trust it or allow himself to live from it. So if I can help, here it is.

He allows himself to worry about things that are regular parts of life, it’s the universal ups and downs. And he sometimes takes it more personally than he needs, and get more caught up in it than he would if he had longer experience. Life is not about him. Life just happens, as it does for everyone. Stay engaged, play the game, and know it’s not personal and most of the details are not even that important in the long run. Just do your best.

How do you see the world today?

Most if not all of the problems come from people being short-sighted. They think locally and act short-term, and although that worked in the past when humanity was smaller and had less powerful technology, it doesn’t work anyone. There are too many people, with too powerful tools, for that to work.

Humans need to imagine bigger, or at least enough need to, so they can create new systems that take deep time and global situations (like ecosystems) into consideration.

Human nature won’t change, but humans adapt their behavior to the system they are in.

(I should add: Human nature does change, but not very quickly. Not on the scale of centuries or decades.)

Is there a question you would like to be asked?

Hm. I like that question. Ask me what I enjoy the most.

What do you enjoy the most?

The changing seasons. The seasons of nature, of human life, of generations and human history.

The very small things, the ordinary. A cup of tea. Saying hello to a stranger. Waking a dog. Reading a book. Weathering an illness.

The new. A new dish. A new sunrise. A new here and now.

Is there anything you are tired of?

Not really. Perhaps the predictable, or at least thinking something is predictable. I have seen enough to know it’s not. I guess that’s something I am still learning.

Is there anything else you are currently learning?

I am not sure. I think it’s mainly noticing how everything is fresh.

The mind sometimes tells me that this is something I have experienced more times than I can count, and although that’s true in a way, it’s not the whole picture. This experience is fresh.

I guess that’s another parallel to what Mr. Buddha and others have talked about. And it is the only way to stay fresh and keep enjoying – and not only enjoying but deeply enjoying — life when you live and live and live as I do.

What music, art, and books do you like?

Anything. Anything from any culture and period. What’s familiar and what’s new. High culture and trash. It’s all juicy.

Is it possible to make a mistake?

Well, it depends on what you mean. Of course, we sometimes make mistakes in a small perspective. We bungle things. Make poor decisions. Or make good decisions that turn out badly.

In a bigger perspective, those are not really mistakes. We do what we can based on who and how we are and the situation we are in. And we get feedback from life and have an opportunity to learn. So in that sense, nothing is really a mistake.

What do you think about conditioning?

That’s something I have a lot of experience with. Conditioning is the operating system of humans or at least a large part of it.

Patterns are passed on through the generations, with some variations. Patterns of what’s seen as good and bad, right and wrong; and patterns of likes and dislikes, cultural and family hangups and traumas; ideas about heaven and hell, gods and demons, how the world works, and just about anything else that’s part of how humans function.

When you take a generational view, you see how it’s not personal. It’s all passed on. And then we make it personal, and we have a chance to not take it as personal if we realize what’s going on.

Even how we function as a body is conditioning, passed on with some variations through all our ancestors back to that first single-celled organism.

And how this universe works is conditioning.

Some talk about conditioning as if it’s bad or something we need to get rid of, but that’s a superficial view. We are made up of conditioning. Our bodies wouldn’t function without it. Our society wouldn’t function without it. We would have no chance to function, or survive, or exist, without it. It’s the fabric of what we are.

The only conditioning we need to be concerned about is the one of wounds and hangups, and even here how we relate to it is more vital than getting rid of it. Of course, we can do some of both.

And a part of this conditioning is the beliefs and ideas passed on through the generations that creates pain for us, and an unnecessarily limited life when we hold them as true.

How do you see non-dual spirituality?

I hoped you wouldn’t ask. Yes, it’s pretty close to reality. And in the modern western version, it’s often taken as a belief, something to hold onto to feel secure and try to stay safe. For many who are into it, it’s a security blanket. They just exchanged traditional religion for neo-Advaita. That’s fine but if they are not honest about it, they are deluding themselves.

If I am honest, and I know I sound like an old curmudgeon, many would do better to heal their emotional issues. They would find more ease and real contentment that way.

That sounds a bit harsh?

Well, yes. It’s just that I have seen versions of it so many times, in so many periods and cultures. People are in pain. And they seek and latch onto a belief – a religion or philosophy or political system – that promises to give them relief. And the real relief is in healing the pain, not getting obsessed about a system or philosophy.

To be continued…

A note: When I wrote this, I imagined dialoguing with a relatively average person who has lived for centuries. My partner dialogued with the version of herself that has lived for eons. And it can be fun to explore even more versions: the mystic, the poet, the wise man/woman, the scientist, the warrior, the one who loves earth, the one who loves humans, the one who loves life, the one who has lived innumerable lives in places around the whole Cosmos.

The importance of space exploration from human, Gaia, and Spirit views

I have always loved outer space, astronomy, space exploration, and science fiction. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ll write a few words about it at the end.

The moon landing happened 50 years ago on July 20. So here are some ways the moon landing and space exploration, in general, is important from the view of humans, Gaia, and the Universe, and also in the context of Spirit.

Human view

At the time, the moon landing was important for US politicians to show the superiority of their own technology over the Soviets. And, by extension, the superiority of their political and economic system. (The Soviets had reached earlier space-exploration milestones before the US.)

The space program was and is important in order to develop technology and understand our near neighborhood in space, and it was a good way of employing a large number of people (some say 400,000).

The moon landing inspired many young people and brought some of them into science and technology. It showed that technology and science can be cool and glamorous.

Space exploration is an expression of our need for adventure and exploration, built into us through our evolution.

The space program allowed us to, for the first time, see photos of the Earth as a whole and from the outside. This, along with testimonials from astronauts, helped us get a more visceral sense of the Earth as a seamless whole and a fragile living system we need to take care of. (This is part of the Overview Effect.)

As Carl Sagan and others said, the moon landing and early space exploration is a necessary step in humanity becoming a multi-planetary species. And this is essential for our long term survival. (Elon Musk is talking about this today as a motivation for his space technology business.)

Gaia view

The view from Gaia – Earth as a seamless living system – gives space exploration a different context.

Human space exploration is Earth’s space exploration. Earth has developed itself into ecosystems, the human species, human technology and science, and human sense of adventure. And it has done so over time, within itself, and as part of itself. It’s all part of the evolution of Earth.

Space exploration is the living Earth exploring beyond its borders. It’s beginning to explore its neighborhood.

Through space exploration, Earth is seeing itself from the outside and as a whole for the first time.

And through humans, Earth may eventually reproduce. Humans may terraform planets, making them into Earth’s offspring. They won’t be identical to Earth, but they come from the living Earth. (In this sense, humans may function as the reproductive organs of Earth.)

Gaia means Earth as a seamless living system. It doesn’t mean that Earth is conscious in the way we think of it. And it doesn’t mean that space exploration or anything else was intentionally planned at the level of Earth as a whole. It’s more something that naturally and organically grew and continue to grow out of Earth as a living system.

Universe view

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the Universe. We are the Universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Spirit view

All of this is Spirit – the divine, God, Brahman – expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

The evolving Earth. Ecosystem evolution. Species evolution. Human evolution. Cultural evolution. Development of science and technology. Human sense of adventure (and wanting to be better than the other tribe). Human space exploration. It’s all part of Spirit and Spirit exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways.

Some background…

I’ll add a few words about my own interest in this.

Early on in my childhood, I had a deep love for exploration and adventure, anything having to do with the future, and anything to do with deep space and deep time.

I also had an early sense of belonging to all of existence including the universe as a whole. I remember going out into the yard after watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan when I was about ten. Looking up at the infinite space and the stars. And experiencing profound awe, gratitude, and sense of not only belonging to the universe but being the universe in awe of itself.

Later, through the spiritual opening or early awakening when I was sixteen, it became clear that all of it happens within and as consciousness. It all happens within and what I am, and everything is. It all happens within and as Spirit.

And in my mid-to-late teens and early twenties, this evolved into a deep interest in systems views (Fritjof Capra), Deep Ecology (Arne Næss), the Gaia view (James Lovelock), the Overview Effect (Frank White), ecospirituality, ecopsychology, the Universe Story, and similar approaches.

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God as WE

Afterwards, my friend shows me a book called “God as WE” and asked me if I know of other authors on that topic.

From Dream: A New Dance, a post from 2007

This is from an old post that showed up in the sidebar today.

God as WE. That’s still alive for me.

All of existence is the divine. And so are all beings – the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as individuals and communities, and as evolving species and societies.

It’s already that way. God is already WE. And yet, when God recognizes and notices itself as WE something else comes in. A new dimension in our experience of ourselves as WE.

To me, this WE is not only all human beings, it’s also the whole Earth community. It’s all of life. It includes any beings other places in the universe, whether we know about them or not. And it even includes all of existence. All of it is WE.

This larger WE is what we connect with through the Universe Story or the Epic of Evolution, and through many forms of rituals and forms of spiritual openings. And the WE as a society is something that comes when we find a sacred context for how we see each other and society as a whole, and it can be supported by Big History and practical approaches to create a more real and deep democracy.

Healing on behalf of life

When I invite in healing for myself, it’s on behalf of life.

When I heal a part of me, it obviously benefits myself, my future self, and those around me. It may also benefit future generations and all life. And I am doing it on behalf of my ancestors.

So when I do healing for myself and it feels challenging, I can remind myself of this. I am doing it on behalf of life. And, in a sense, I have the support of all of life in my healing process. 

How is this true, more specifically? 

When I find emotional healing for myself, it benefits me and my future self. It’s an act of solidarity with my future self. I’ll be better able to make good decisions and fully enjoy and live life. It may also benefit those around me since I’ll be more free of emotional issues and reactivity, less annoying, and perhaps more understanding. 

In the same way, it may benefit future generations. If I have children, they will benefit from my healing and pass it on, and at the very least not pass on the unhealthy patterns that ended with me. 

And I am doing it on behalf of my ancestors. Many unhealthy emotional patterns are passed on through generations and through our culture.  And even if my ancestors and previous generation were not able to find healing for the patterns passed on to me, I may be able to find healing for what they couldn’t (due to different times, awareness, support, skills). 

My healing can also help the wider living whole. Healing means contentment and less reactivity, and contentment allows for less (harmful) consumption, and reduced reactivity allows for kinder and more informed decisions and way of life. A way of life that takes into account the well-being of all of life. 

In these ways, all of life is an ally in my healing. When I imagine all beings as kind and clear, I know they support my healing. And I can remind myself of this and this implicit support, when my own healing seems challenging.

Beyond just reminding myself, I can call in and ask for support from ancestors, future, generations, and all of life for my own healing process. 

Note: I say “heal myself” which is partly true, but it’s more true that life heals itself. “I” am not doing it and cannot do it. Life does it. Life invites in healing for parts of itself and heals itself. 

Why is the world beautiful?

Why do we experience the world as beautiful?

Why do we experience people, animals, plants, landscapes, art, music, science, the Earth as a whole, stars, nebulae – and much more – as beautiful? As intrinsically beautiful?

Could it be because we are it? We are the universe experiencing itself as all of that. We are Earth experiencing itself as landscapes, animals, plants, humans. We are life itself experiencing itself as all of that. We are a product of the evolution of the Universe, Earth, and life on Earth. We experience ourselves. And we find it fascinating, interesting, and beautiful.

And what happens when we find some of it not beautiful? Could it be because we have stressful and unpleasant stories about it, and those stories temporarily shade our experience of its beauty?

In the even bigger picture, we can say that all is Spirit. All is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriads of forms. So it’s only natural for Spirit to find it beautiful. Spirit – as us – finds Spirit – as the world – beautiful. And Spirit sometimes forget. Spirit – as us – sometimes tells itself parts of itself is not beautiful, and temporarily believes it, and that too is Spirit expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in myriad of ways. That too is Lila… the play of the divine.

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Civilization and its discontents

A friend of mine’s profile picture on Facebook is of her snuggling with her cat. It’s very cute. And, knowing something about her background, it also reminded me of our human situation.

We have created a civilization that harms us and the Earth in some significant ways. It harms all life. And because of it, we seek comfort and healing in myriad of ways. My friend does it, partly, through reconnecting with nature and animals.

There is a lot more to say about this topic. But the main thing that struck me was just the image of her snuggling with her cat. And how that, in some ways, is such a good image of the trauma we have created for ourselves through our civilization and how we all seek comfort and healing from it in different ways.

Our civilization is partly built on an imagined disconnect from nature. That hurts us and all life. And we try to compensate for that hurt in so many ways, including seeking love, acceptance, money, power, healing, awakening, connection, and a great deal more that we see all around us and in ourselves. From our experience of disconnection comes a sense of lack and something missing, and we try to fill that hole in many different ways.

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The social and cultural benefits of genetic ancestry testing

I received my 23andme results a few weeks back and it has reminded me of a few things about genetic testing. Depending on how it’s used, it can definitely have some drawbacks. But it can also have many personal and social / cultural benefits.

Here are some of the possible social and cultural benefits that come to mind.

We are reminded that we are all overwhelmingly alike. Only about 0.5% of our genetic material has to do with our particular geographic or ethnic history. We are overwhelmingly alike as human beings, and as Earthlings we are also overwhelmingly alike. As human beings, we share almost all our history and ancestors, and as Earthlings we share a great deal of our history and ancestors.

Many of us, and especially in North America, have a far more mixed ancestry than we may expect. For instance, some who identify as “white” may have Asian, North-American, or African ancestry mixed in.

Same or similar genetic sequence-patterns are found in most or all human populations. So when the different companies assign an ethnic group based on particular patterns, they do it based on statistics and probably. Any particular pattern may be more prevalent in some groups but are found in other groups as well. So the analysis is not always accurate. Again, it’s a reminder of how similar we are.

Our official family history isn’t always the same as the genetic one. We have an official set of ancestors. We have a genetic set of ancestors. And the two are not always the same. This may help us hold our identity more lightly. We can (learn to) embrace and appreciate both.

This all makes it more difficult to justify or hold onto racism. (Although I am sure some will be able to if they really want to.) We are all Africans. We share almost all of our DNA. Many of us are more mixed than we think. Any differences are, in the big picture, very superficial.

As genetic testing becomes more common and our understanding improves, it may well have an impact on culture. And, if we want, it may help us see how closely we all are related. It may widen and deepen our sense of “us” as human beings and even as part of the Earth community.

As mentioned, there are also possible drawbacks. For instance, it’s easy to misinterpret or hold certain interpretations as more solid than they are. And some may get stressed out by certain interpretations of their health or ancestry data. They may realize one or both of their parents (or grandparents) are not the ones they thought they were. Or they may mistakenly think that’s the case based on misguided interpretation of the data. Or they may think that a slight statistical increase in likelihood of a certain illness means they are actually likely to get it (which may not be the case at all). With all of this, it’s important to be informed before jumping to conclusions, and in any case take it with a big grain of salt.

I guess there is also some risk that employees or governments can use certain data in unfortunate ways. (I don’t think it’s happening much or at all now, but there is always the risk.)

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Thoughts: a risky evolutionary experiment

Thoughts is one of life’s risky experiments.

It seems to work pretty well for non-human species. I assume many non-human species too have thoughts that mimic the senses. Imagined sensory information that helps them remember the past, plan for the future, and function in the present.

We humans have gone one step further. We have created language out of a combination of images and sounds. That’s another level of abstraction, and one that is both powerful and dangerous.

It’s powerful since it allows us to explore the world in the abstract. It allows us to take what’s already there in less abstract thought, and create everything human civilization has created – from agriculture and cities to science, art, and technology.

It’s dangerous. When we take our thoughts to be real and true, it creates suffering for ourselves and can easily do so for others as well. And that happens at social (war, religion, oppression) and individual levels.

And it’s a risky experiment from life’s side. It may not work out for very long. We may self-destruct because of our inability to use thoughts in the most beneficial way. And we may take some ecosystems and other species with us. Of course, it’s not really that risky since everything dies anyway – species, ecosystems, living planets, solar systems, and the universe as a whole. It may just speed up the death of some species. And as we know from Earth’s history, mass extinctions create room for new species, ecosystems, and life innovations. (It’s also not “risky” since it’s not a planned evolutionary step, it just happened because it happened to give our species a survival advantage.)

Thoughts can be a very useful tool. As mentioned above, it seems to work pretty well in its less abstract version, prior to more complex language. And even with higher levels of abstraction, it can work well. We can recognize thoughts as a tool of limited value. They are very valuable in helping us orient and function in the world. And yet, they can’t do anything more. They are questions about the world. They have no absolute or final truth to them.

Who knows, perhaps humans will eventually evolve so a majority of us inherently know that thoughts are tools only. If so, humanity may have a long lifespan.

From a Darwinist point of view, this will require those who are less inclined to believe thoughts to have a survival advantage and produce more offspring. On the surface, that may not seem to be happening. Although who knows. If we are around for long enough, we – as a species – will see.

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If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person

Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.

This is the classic analogy, but it’s still very appropriate.

Take care of your own basic needs first, and then you’ll be in a much better position to assist others.

On the one hand, this is a dynamic balance. Sometimes, it’s appropriat to focus on taking care of our own needs. Other times, we are in a position to focus more on the needs of others. And this often changes with the roles we play over the course of a day and a lifetime.

On the other hand, they are two sides of the same coin. We may spend time taking care of our own needs, for instance when we need healing or to get basic needs taken care of, and that benefits others in the moment or later. Or we may find ways to assist others in ways that are deeply nurturing and meaningful to us, and also takes care of our own material needs.

Several things may help us find and live these solutions that simultaneously benefit and nurture ourselves and the wider world (even if it’s in apparently small ways).

It helps when we hold the bigger picture in mind. When we seek solutions good for all, including future generations. And when we are open to solutions outside of what we expect or are familiar with.

It helps when we take care of our beliefs and identifications around either being a self-sacrificing martyr or selfish. The solutions present themselves easier the less we are identified with these, and the more we are free from them.

It helps the less substantial we take the imagined boundary between ourselves and the larger whole to be. The more we experience it as just a temporarily imagined boundary, the easier it is to act in ways good for ourselves and the wider whole.

And it helps the more healed we are as human beings. Wounds often make us act in reactive ways, including from reactive and narrow-minded self-preservation. The more healed and whole we are, the more natural it is to wish to act in a way that’s kind and informed by larger picture concerns.

And working on these is, in itself, an example of a solution that benefit ourselves and the larger whole.

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My larger body

Some statements are often seen as poetic or romantic, but in this case, it’s a literal reality.

My larger body is nature and society. My larger body is this planet. My larger body is this solar system and universe.

My existence as a human being depends 100% on this larger body for its existence and survival. The only boundaries between this human self and the larger whole is imagined, and invested with reality only by our minds.

This is very real from a ordinary material and scientific point of view.

And going beyond that, as what I am – what all experience happens within and as – it’s all what I am.

It may seem a romantic or hippyish notion, but it has very real consequences for how we live our lives.

If I see myself as a human being mostly separate from the larger whole, I’ll act accordingly. I’ll act as if the health and well being the larger social and ecological systems matters little for my own health and well being. I’ll tend to act from a short term and narrow perspective. I’ll tend to act in a way that’s – intentionally or not – harmful for the larger whole. And we create our societies, social systems, and worlviews to reflect this. We’ll use economic models that assume that the health and well being of the larger whole doesn’t really matter. We’ll create transportation systems, production systems, food systems, water systems, energy systems, and more that reflect this world view. And we’ll reap the consequences individually and collective. That’s what we see today with a growing awareness of the consequences of toxins in our air, land, and water, diminishing ecosystems, and climate change.

If I see the larger social and ecological systems as my larger body, my view and actions will be different. I’ll act from a longer term and larger perspective. I’ll seek solutions that benefits myself as well as the whole. And we’ll collective use worldviews and systems that reflect this reality and this desire to support life at all levels.

If I see the solar systema and universe as my larger body, I’ll tend to experience a deep and profound sense of belonging and meaning. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into conscious awareness.

Of course, this has to be a lived reality for us. It may become a living reality through natural adult maturation and development. It may happen if we live in a society or group where this is a mainstream view. And it can happen through education and experiences such as the Practices to Reconnect by Joanna Macy.

I am aware that I am using the word “reality” here and it’s not really that. It’s a perception. An experience. A worldview. But “reality” works as a shorthand even if it’s not that precise.

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Keeping the big picture in mind

A recent survey asked “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”. In Sweden 10% thought things are getting better, in the US they were only 6%, and in Germany only 4%. Very few people think that the world is getting better.

What is the evidence that we need to consider when answering this question? The question is about how the world has changed and so we must take a historical perspective. And the question is about the world as a whole and the answer must therefore consider everybody. The answer must consider the history of global living conditions – a history of everyone.

– from A history of global living conditions in 5 charts by Max Roser

It’s important to keep the big picture in mind, especially with a media that tends to narrowly focus on what doesn’t work. In this case, the bigger picture is how the human condition has changed over the last two centuries. It’s equally important to make decisions for future generations, and

It’s equally important to make decisions for future generations. And to see ourselves in the context of the history of the Universe as a whole. We are – quite literally – the universe expressing, experiencing and exploring itself. Remembering that gives a sense of awe and is amazing, exciting, and sobering.