Freedom of the Human Spirit, is a 28-foot-tall bronze figurative sculpture that sits just to the east of Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was created by Marshall M. Fredericks for the 1964 World’s Fair.
“The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit in general requires still another kind of freedom, which may be characterized as inward freedom. It is this freedom of the spirit which consists in the independence of thought from the restrictions of authoritarian and social prejudices as well as from un-philosophical routinizing and habit in general. This inward freedom is an infrequent gift of nature and a worthy objective for the individual.”
–from an article “On Freedom,” Einstein, 1954
In my previous post, I began an exploration of how our subjective experience of consciousness suggests to me that there may be a kind of intimacy at the very heart of it, connecting our temporal existence with a transcendent aspect of our nature as humans. Since it is our experience of the world which results in the establishment of new neural networks and strengthening of existent ones in some cases, we can follow the process within which these activities manifest as actual physical changes in the structure of the brain, demonstrating in a much clearer way, how there may be a connection between this process and our intimate relationship with the subjective experience of consciousness. In both postings, I began with a quote from Albert Einstein, in which one of the greatest scientific minds of human history, somehow found a way to link our experience of the world to the human spirit, while also acknowledging our intimate connection to everyone and everything else in the universe. The quote suggests that an “inward freedom,” to pursue our thoughts without interference or prejudice is not only a necessity, but an outright gift only infrequently enjoyed in those pursuits.
As usual, while my mind is so occupied with the subjects of my writing, it is in a fierce competition with my heart and my emotions, which makes my subjective experience feel tumultuous and profoundly affective. At times like these, my inner life stirs to almost fever pitch, and the mundane tasks and topics for conversation seem almost intrusive to me. I crave the connection to the intimacy of consciousness, and to commune with like spirits who connect with me there, but I cannot abandon social conventions completely, in consideration of others. And yet, I could easily wish to fly away from most other circumstances in order to delve into the intimate world of consciousness, in favor of a connection that brings me directly into the heart of it. The photo above came out of a moment of intense solitude as the day ended recently, while simultaneously sensing my connection to a deeper experience of the world just beyond the horizon.
An intense feeling of restlessness, which began in earnest more than 30 years ago now, has never left me and weighs heavily on my heart as I write. Contemplating the passage of time, and the lives of my ancestors both ancient and familial, has brought my thoughts of the human spirit to the forefront of my mind. I sense that there is a connection between my personal heritage and the heritage as a human being on Earth, and at moments such as these, the rhythms of my heart, mind, and soul seem to merge in the fullness of the moment. I believe it is an important component of any attempt to define or describe our subjective experience to at least examine the delicate balance between the science and the mystery of what might be behind all the science, and to consider the distinction between what makes the brain work, and what there is about cognitive creatures whose brains work this way that results in access to the subjective experience of the world, with regard to both the phenomenal and the abstract.
Over the millennia since humans first became truly conscious in a meaningful way, able to demonstrate in a clear way that they not only knew they existed, but could recall events, thoughts, and ideas and convey them adequately to other sentient beings, human consciousness has continued to evolve, allowing for an expansion of cognitive functions far more useful than what these earliest humans possessed. Our own 21st century version of cognitive ability is mirrored in our advancing technological innovation, and increased our access to a fuller and far richer experience of consciousness today. As with most periods of prodigious innovation and adaptation, we suffer losses and gain advantages, and the changes which offer the most advantageous outcomes are usually selected. We humans are beginning to alter this scenario profoundly by periodically selecting disadvantageous behaviors, and by focusing too narrowly on others, which may only offer a temporary or limited advantage.
During the Enlightenment, a particularly important period of transition in our understanding of the world generally, and the true birth and burgeoning of modern science, we increased and expanded our comprehension of the world in such a profound way, that we began to develop our responses to our increased understanding, seeing further and digging deeper, both temporally and spiritually, without necessarily realizing the full spectrum of consequences that would result from doing so. It is not so surprising, that modern scientists and materialists of every variety have such a difficult time reconciling the facts of neuroscience with the subjective experience of consciousness, since by far, the most astonishing aspect of our understanding is that consciousness even exists at all. Based on what is currently known of our neural functioning, since there is no definitive scientific evidence that consciousness even exists, our subjective experience of it, which is so real to us as individuals living inside ourselves, flies completely in the face of the materialist view.
It is becoming clearer, as we view the behaviors of humans all over the world, that an even greater expansion of consciousness, and achieving a better understanding of the full range of its power and source, may be one of the most important undertakings of this and all future generations.