A Way Out of the Woods
To see how we can let the desire to give into our lives, let’s look at how nature does it. We perceive the outside world by using our senses, and we believe that the picture of reality our senses provide is accurate and reliable. But is it?
How often do we walk with a friend, and the friend hears something that we miss? Well, just because we didn’t hear that sound doesn’t mean there was none. All it means is that our senses didn’t pick it up, or that we didn’t pay attention. Or maybe our friend was hallucinating!
In all three possibilities, the objective reality is the same, but our perception of it is not. In other words, we do not know what the actual reality is like, or if it even exists. All we know is what we perceive of it.
So how do we perceive? We use a process best described as “equivalence of form.” Each of our senses responds to a different type of stimulus, but all our senses work in a similar manner. When a ray of light, for instance, penetrates my pupil, the neurons in my retina create a model of the outside image. This model is then encoded and transferred to my brain, which decodes the pulses and reconstructs the image. A similar process occurs when a sound hits our eardrums or when something touches our skin.
In other words, my brain uses my senses to create a model or form equal to the outside object. But if my model is inaccurate, I will never know it and will believe that the actual object or sound is the same as the model I created in my mind.
The “equivalence of form” principle applies not only to our senses, but to our behavior, as well. Children, for example, learn by repeating behavior they see in their surroundings. We call this “imitation.” Eager to learn about the world they were born into, and having no language skills, children use imitation as a means to acquire skills such as sitting and standing, speech, and use of cutlery. When we speak, they watch how we move our lips. This is why parents are advised to speak clearly to children (but not loudly; they can hear better than we). By imitating us, children create the same forms (movements or sounds) as we do, and thus learn about the world they live in.
In fact, not only do children learn that way, but the whole of nature is a testimony to the efficiency of learning through equivalence of form. It is thrilling to watch lion cubs play. They crouch in ambush, attacking each other with the enthusiasm of youth. They stalk everything from shadows to insects to antelopes. There is little danger of their actually catching anything at this stage, but for them, stalking is not mere play. By assuming the role of hunter, they act out a function they will have to execute very seriously as adults. Acting is how they bring the hunter within them to life. Without it, they will not survive because they will not know how to bring down the prey that will feed and sustain them.
If we wish to perceive the desire to give, all we need do is to create an image of it within us. If we pay close attention to our thoughts and desires while performing acts of giving, we will discover within us a desire that is equal to the desire to give that exists in nature. Then, as naturally as children discover speech by emulating sounds and syllables, we will discover the desire to give by emulating giving.
It may take a while before we know how to balance receiving and giving as nature does it, but practice makes perfect and we will succeed. And when we have done so, our lives will be a boundless flow of revelations so profound and rich we will be in awe at how blind we could have been thus far.
In today’s world, we can no longer be oblivious to the workings of the desire to give. We are not in Babel, where people could avoid friction between them by moving away and spreading to the outlands. Because we have populated every corner of the globe, we have nowhere to go. In addition, we have connected ourselves so tightly to each other that it would be easier to unscramble scrambled eggs than to undo our global connections.
And this is not a bad thing. Without global connections, where would we get such inexpensive goods as those provided by China and India? And who would give work and bread to the workers in those countries? Now that the world economy is going through a mammoth downturn, we can see how beneficial globalization can be if we use it properly.
Actually, the world is the same megalopolis that it was in the times of Babel, but now we are that megalopolis on a global scale. We cannot disperse, so we must either unite or destroy each other. We are a single whole, one body, and we must learn to act the part. The more we put off doing so, the less healthy we and our society will become.
So, to avoid destroying each other, let us all resolve that we are going to come out of this crisis together. On Mount Rainier, Josh and I did not like each other at that moment of distress, but we decided to actas if we did. And to our surprise, it worked.
On the mountain, there were just the two of us. We could just sit down and talk to each other. To succeed on a global scale, we need a global means of communication to communicate the concept of togetherness. To this end, we will now take a look at the media.