“Since early years I have been cursed or blessed with a habit of mind – a character defect it may be – that likes to turn over problems that have no solution, or at least no solution that can be provided outside of thought itself (if there).”
– John Deely, Four Ages of Understanding –
This concept of “maturity” as I encountered it in John Armstrong’s Conditions of Love is caught like a burl in my system. Maturity as “not the idea, but the actual reduction of expectation.” Maturity is reductive. Is that so? Is the process of human living a progress of delimitation, scoping the range of experience to our actual organismic potentials? Process, progress, growth not expansive, extending operations, but boundarying and restraining limitations to our hopes?
I take my “problems” to my therapist. They always come back to me changed. “And what are the sources of expectation?” he asked. “Expectation is sourced in the past / oriented toward the future,” he answered. “If you reduce it – “YOU. ARE. HERE.”
Whenever I “get” something like that, I noticed I want to take off with it. Like a skipping stone, I feel inspired and start leaping the surface of things – making connections with this concept and that image, this thinker and that artist, that idea and this experience… activating PATTERNS from my past and projecting POSSIBILITIES toward the future… LEAVING THE PRESENT.
My therapist/guru(?) has been investigating the neuroscience of enlightenment – or being awake to reality / the actual…
…and working with the brain and body to (perhaps) soak or sink there
rather than skip along the surface from PAST toward FUTURE
My helpmeet described this as an interesting and fascinating capacity of brains excited by the ineffable to apply TOP-DOWN (or metacognitive, reflective, intentional attention, interpretive) strategies to BOTTOM-UP (automatic, subconscious, pattern-oriented, limbic or reactionary, survival-based) strategies in order to, in a way, burl them – mesh them – unite them with WHAT IS – the Umwelt – our actual EXPERIENCE of BEING a living organism PRESENTLY.
We NEED both strategies to survive, and thrive. Much of our life-world is uncertain and unknown to us – much we will never KNOW in any sense like “understand” or “comprehend.” Life constantly HAPPENS. We are quite limited, reduced, in our capacity to TAKE-IN, ABSORB, “com-prehend” (apprehend-with) all that our life-bubbles afford us and confront us with each moment… We NEED the emotive, reactive, pattern-based knee-jerk reactions to navigate much that could be life threatening (thought not much IS these days – WHAT IF something IS?)…no time to reflect or discourse or meta-cognize it if a car or snake or fire is about to strike you… but we also NEED the reflective, metacognitive capacities to distinguish between what is ACTUALLY life-threatening and what is ONGOING EXPERIENCE – opportunity – potential to comprehend, learn, understand, adapt, adjust, in-corporate, BE WITH.
That middle-point : tension-place : meeting-space (“like the appropriate tension of a string on a violin” he said) is perhaps where Armstrong’s maturity IS. Reduced to the present, what’s happening, our actualizing experience – NOT skipping the surface of automated connections drawn from past experience and projected toward possible futures…
In other words (again, in his words)