January 14, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Auto-Biography, Society, Unconscious

I have a friend whose dad was a famous guru and whose brother was a mathematics professor at a prestigious college.  My buddy chose a profession that surrounded him with art.  That’s how I met him.  I provided him illustrations.  Thirty years ago he made it to an endocrinologist to discover that he didn’t have schizophrenia as diagnosed.  He needed his hormones adjusted.  Pills taken, life settled down.  He was always going to be obsessive-compulsive, but the terror and paranoia went away.

Every autumn, my diabetic stepdaughter goes through endocrinological hell as her auto-immune system goes haywire.  Most years she spends some time in the hospital.  Doctors don’t know what to do other than to address the symptoms.  Gwyn is an artist of the palette, inventing new tastes and flavors and sharing them with those that visit her in her restaurant.

Where I live in Chicago, one of the most common topics of conversation is the weather.  When we ask each other how we’re doing, we respond with the conventional answer, fine.  Yet, somehow, discussing the weather is also a way to discuss how we are doing, but it is done in such a way that we aren’t getting sidetracked by what the person is aware of in his or her internal landscapes.  We hear the voice tones, timbre, intonation patterns, stress, presence and level of preoccupation when we discuss the weather.  Not incidentally, when we discuss the weather, communicating our internal states through various nonverbals, we are also discussing the larger community of variables impacting our physical, emotional and consciousness states.

For people like my stepdaughter, the weather is a life and death experience.  Without medical intervention, the autumn would have killed her years ago.

For my friend, misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, medical intervention has made him far more able to withstand environmental variation.

I personally experience radical mood swings depending on the season.  Growing older, I find that the swings slowly become less extreme.  Nevertheless, autumn anxiety and melancholy feel inevitable.  Deep winter depression is a routine.  During thunderstorms, I often feel elevated by the presence of something larger than myself.  I know many others with emotions, world views and even consciousness impacted by season and the weather.

My evolving understanding of evolution seems to be informed by a sense that our human idea of individuality, the way a human associates split consciousness or the experience of existential separateness with any being with a body, has impacted our ability to view/observe/listen to the world.  In other words, the peculiar human ability to be self aware has ironically obfuscated our ability to perceive a highly integrated, interconnected environment featuring relationships, not individuals.  Self aware, we have difficulty perceiving the awareness features of our environment.

The weather impacts our endocrine system, influencing our moods and adjusting our states of consciousness.  Each of us is self aware, but strangely we spend little time noting fluctuations in awareness.  Our consciousness is impacted by the environment, and we pay little attention.

If science is occupied by individuals talented at focusing on the specific to prove larger patterns, then perhaps it will take artists to understand evolution.  Evolution is a process that features massive interconnection.  Artists often succeed in crafting a communication that provides the person experiencing the art the feeling that he or she is not alone.  I’m slowly coming to the realization that evolutionary theorizing is more art than science as it becomes clear that breaking down larger patterns into smaller pieces doesn’t communicate the larger patterns.  To describe evolution, you need art.

Each of us is impacted by the larger patterns.  We know in our bodies, our emotions and our minds what it is like to be part of a larger system.  Evolutionary theory that both supports and reveals this experience would be useful.  Evolutionary theory that integrates understandings on what exactly consciousness is and how evolution engenders consciousness–beginning with how our environment influences human consciousness–would not only be useful, but would be art.


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