R. D. Laing once said that most of us life our lives in a “post hypnotic trance of early infancy.” Laing recognized that most of us live life unconsciously, driven by fears and anxieties that we acquired in our very early life before we had acquired reason. Most people do not realize that this earliest period of time was one of intense “conscious” awareness as we were soaking up the world in a way that would not be possible once the dawn of reason came at about age one and a half. (Aldous Huxley once posited the notion that our brain is basically a filter that selects what part of experience we will be open to.)
This core experience stays with us and will shape everything we do the rest of our lives. This core is inherently emotional, a “feeling state” that provides the basic orientation we have to the world and even to our own view of our self and that world. It will reflect our perception of our very place in the world and the perception of how much power we have to shape that world.
Asking someone to recognize this part of his/her existence is challenging and often impossible. I often use the following notion—it is like asking a fish to see water. A blog-o-sphere friend recently shared another image which I love—it is like asking someone who has fallen into a jar of marmalade and lived there all his/her life to see anything but marmalade. And this perceptual field is mutli-faceted, if not infinitely-faceted. But one facet will be the answer to this question, “Is this world an hospitable place?” Those raised in abject poverty are more inclined to answer “no” and adopt a stance of disappointment and hopelessness, a life confined to one poor choice after another. One that is born into a world that is stable is more likely to adopt a world view that sees potential, that sees the beauty…and the ugliness…in the world and says to himself/herself, “Hey, I can do this!”
A key task in life is the gain a perspective on our perspective and as one philosopher has said that to do so is to “somehow escape it.” I would qualify his observation with the notion that this meta-cognition is at least a step in the direction of escaping it. The next step will require courage, the courage to take the step beyond from time to time, to step into the beyond. And someone has noted, “When taking a far journey, you can’t see the destination until you have lost sight of the shore from which you departed.” It makes me think of the Call of Abraham who was asked to forsake everything and “go unto a land that I will show thee.”