Monday, August 20, 2007

Knowledge: Where Observation Goes To Die.

I hope you find this post as interesting as I do and please forgive the length. Now, before we begin, I must point out that knowledge is not only necessary, but has been an incredible service to humanity. I mean, it's pretty safe to say humanity would not be humanity as we know it without this vast store room of knowledge called memory. And not only memory, but knowledge accumulated over time, and held, actually becomes part of our genetic make-up, it moves from purely psychological to biological and chemical. It is an amazing phenomena of life. Survival, civilization, science, religion, society, culture, innovation, medicine, comfort, and personal security are but a few contributions that knowledge has made, and continues to make, to mankind. So what, you may ask, am I referring to when I say knowledge is where observation goes to die?

First of all, let us define knowledge from a particular perspective you may not have viewed it from before. I'd like to define knowledge as the attempt to alter behavior one has previously observed. Do you follow? We are talking about the very basic building blocks of knowledge. One is observing, for instance, the environment around them and aspects of that environment are being recorded in the brain. Not recorded by conscious choice, more fundamental than that, your body is directly recording information for its own survival. The recorded information of what has occurred is 'held,' so that the brain may alter its behavior in the future. I walked down this path to find berries but didn't find any, so when I get to this bend again I'll go the other way. Very simplistic view of knowledge so far, right? Now let's add the psychological aspect of human living, the 'me and my survival'. One probably agrees with others that at a certain basic, biological level the survival of the human body operates exactly the same for every human body everywhere. That is every body needs the same fundamental building blocks, on a consistent basis, in order to survive. However, the psychological aspect of the brain breaks that fundamentally level playing field apart into 'me' and 'you,' 'us' versus 'them.' Once this break occurs, whenever it occurs, and we can observe it occurring quite young in an infant, the environment that knowledge exists in, and attempts to alter behavior through, is far more complicated.

Why is this mixed environment of 'me' and the physical body more complicated? Well, for one, the brain recognizes all information that comes 'in' through the senses as fact, objectively so, doesn't it? WOW! Now, clearly this works on a biological level, there is no reason to not trust that the environment you see, for example, is not real, stable, and somewhat predictable based on one's stored memory. But the brain takes 'in' the psychological environment in the exact same way, as absolutely, objectively real. However, the psychological environment is far more subjectively unstable. When the brain takes the idea of 'me' as being an absolutely real object it attempts to accumulate knowledge about it so as to alter its behavior in order to improve its chances of survival, just as it does with the physical body. There's actually nothing separating these bodies so the brain is just operating as it normally does, it is all one movement. However, since the knowledge accumulated in the psychological sense is not 'actual,' permanently stable, but merely made of fleeting ideas, impressions, and images constantly being proven to be insufficient or flat out wrong, the brain becomes insecure in its ability to function. It becomes muddled up in this mess of knowledge its accumulated in order to alter a 'thing' that isn't there in any permanent sense, not like a forest you must hunt in everyday, or a field you must plant. I mean, you will wake up every morning for forty years and see that field outside your window. You will plant in it, you will adjust to the weather and the circumstance every year but so much of that experience is static, reliable, 'objectively' so. There is no such stability, psychologically speaking, right?

So this just highlights the limitations of knowledge in the psychological field and how it differs from observation. Observation is the foundation, the framework, of conscious life. When observation is recorded in the brain it is interpreted, according to the brain's need to be secure and survive. Knowledge then arises as thought from comparing memory with the circumstance that passed, in order to alter the behavior of the body meeting a similar circumstance in the future. When repeatedly thought, this knowledge has the ability to automatically react when presented with challenges in any given moment. However, as you can tell, knowledge is always limited and, therefore, never complete because each new moment presents a slightly different challenge that creates the need for further knowledge about how to correctly adjust in the future. Knowledge, therefore, is always being added to. It is never complete but always 'becoming' more complete. And yet it is knowledge that directs our behavior when presented with the challenge of the next moment. If knowledge is incomplete, partial, then our actions in meeting the next moment must be incomplete, partial. And incomplete action creates a conflict, a reaction, its own challenge that the brain records and attempts to alter its behavior in relation to in the future. Can you feel this incomplete movement operating within you now? Can you feel this process? Doesn't it sound an awful lot like the process of 'me'? Aren't 'I' the one 'becoming' better, 'becoming' different, 'becoming' complete? All my self-improvement, enlightenment, counseling, therapy, you name it, isn't it all attempting to address this process as if it were someone, actual and not simply an observable process of the brain? Observation is the freedom to look. When one is free to look, one sees clearly. What one sees clearly is the movement of knowledge BECOMING more complete and the fact that it will never BE complete. One also sees that 'I' am not that process of never-ending completion. Observation is a movement of freedom and knowledge is where observation goes to die.