Daily Archives: February 27, 2011

How do we lose our way? And how do we find it again?

Sensitivity in its highest form is intelligence. Without sensitivity to everything – to one’s own sorrows; to the sorrow of a group of people, of a race; to the sorrow of everything that is – , unless one feels and has the feeling highly sensitized, one cannot possibly solve any problem. And we have many problems, not only at the physical level, the economic level, the social level, but also at the deeper levels of one’s own being – problems that apparently we are not capable of solving. I am not talking of the mathematical problems, or the problems of mechanical inventions, but of human problems: of our sorrows, of despair, of the narrow spirit of the mind, of the shallowness of one’s thinking, of the constant repetitive boredom of life, the routine of going to office every day for forty or thirty years. And the many problems that exist, both consciously and unconsciously, make the mind dull, and therefore the mind loses this extraordinary sensitivity. And when we lose sensitivity, we lose intelligence.- J. Krishnamurti The Collected Works Volume XV


We explain things to ourselves using ideas and words. These explanations fall short, as they must. They are, by necessity, simplifications. And because we confuse them for the experiences they are intended to describe, something of the essence of our experience is lost in this translation into abstraction and generalization.
We have a great psychological need to banish any sense of existential dread. Because fear can overwhelm us at any moment and we can lose touch with a sense of comprehensible and manageable reality, we calm ourselves with beliefs in the validity of our mental concepts.
Because we use mental models to experience the world, we have a built-in inability to distinguish between our mental models and the world itself. And even while we are experiencing the world by constructing instantaneous mental models of the present, we are reviewing our memories and filling in gaps in perception with previously perceived experience. Instead of attending to what is happening to us in a given moment, we are interpreting events in terms of explanations we constructed in the past.

Our need to understand things compels us to accept explanations in terms we have only incompletely understood. In other words, the ways in which our minds operate require us to make deductions from incomplete information. And the problem with this is that there are many ways in which we can be fooled. Because we formulate hypotheses based upon limited already-existing concepts, we construct measuring devices and scientific instruments, which are designed to produce results in terms we have already encountered. This is not the most efficient way to be made aware of new information.
By the simple act of reminding ourselves that we are losing our way – not by any fault of our own but by virtue of how experience itself occurs, we can learn to recognize our limitations and make corrections. Being aware of the illusory nature of our experience can sensitize us to the true reality which lies behind all illusion, which is after all, awareness itself.
Image: “Self Portrait” by Tullio DeSantis, 2011

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