Tagged: creation of the universe

Inner Worlds Within Worlds – Redux

Title: Self Awareness: Size: 21.5” x 30.5”x 1.75″: Media: acrylic, oil, collage & assemblage: Surface: canvas over masonite & board with wooden framework: copyright 2009 Lisa L. Cyr, Cyr Studio LLC, http://www.cyrstudio.com

“The only right and legitimate way to (a mystical) experience is that it happens to you in reality and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path, which leads you to a higher understanding. You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher understanding of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism.”

–Excerpt from a letter from Carl Jung to Bill Wilson – Jan. 30, 1961

Recently, I have begun to review some of my core postings here in John’s Consciousness, and in revisiting several of them these past few weeks, I have found that some of my insights and expressions have retained their centrality and sense of urgency even now. My experiences in the temporal world continue to point toward a synthesis of my many writings regarding the subjective experience of human consciousness, and my ever-expanding world within, when it is possible to attend to it directly, has benefited from the recent inclusion of serendipitous audio recordings of a kind of stream of consciousness that I have allowed to flow from within as I contemplate the stirrings within me. Central to these outpourings is a keen sense of longing to connect with other like-minded spirits out across the wider temporal world made available through modern technological advancements in communication and social media, and a much deeper personal and interior sense of longing for the kind of intimate sharing that can only result from developing a more spiritual worldview.

All of our longings, both temporal and spiritual, as well as the pain of new growth are felt both within and without. For me, the pain experienced within has always been the strongest and most difficult to endure. As an adult, I have come to understand more clearly now that something within me, long ago born and over countless centuries grown seeks acknowledgement in consciousness. As a youth, I felt this strange urge to express thoughts and feelings which burst forth without warning, and which I could not comprehend. Each time I would attempt to grasp the meaning of this inner force, bits and pieces of the curious puzzle would become clear briefly, and then vanish in the strictly-controlled religious world of saints and sinners and unquestioning obedience.

Occasionally, I would get glimpses of this inner world despite the pervasive atmosphere of strict controls and absolute rules, but could not sustain the thoughts and feelings long enough to make any significant headway. Looking back over the years, my whole being has now shifted from a traditional middle-class, religious upbringing, to a more unconventional and classless view of life that is a sharp contrast to the way it all began. Between moments of cognition in my inner realm, as rich and expansive as they continue to be, are extended periods of redundancy of obligation in the temporal. While most of these efforts represent necessary items that produce important results, it is often difficult to endure these gaps between meaningful awareness and dedicated efforts to sustenance, and it seems like endurance becomes more the goal than the means to an end at times.

Inner Worlds Within Worlds Art by Norman E. Masters

For some time now, the world outside of me has been at such odds with the world inside of me, that as I strive to maintain stability in both, I seem to be constantly shoring up the walls of one, deteriorating from neglect, and then racing back to devote my energies to the other. The subsequent chaos from running breathlessly between the two usually results in both alternately suffering to varying degrees. To complicate matters further, I have recently gained greater momentum in coming to terms with my inner world, significantly raising my expectations of achieving the goals I established for myself years ago. This hopeful progress, though uplifting, has created serious conflicts with my temporal existence. Thus far I have resisted abandoning my obligations for the sake of my work, and likewise refused to consider abandoning my work in favor of temporal considerations.

As with most esoteric undertakings, increasing comprehension precedes further progress. As my knowledge and appreciation of the complexities and subtleties of the evolution of consciousness grows, the many diverse and related theories begin to coalesce into a synthesis which is more comprehensive and quite beautiful in its depth and breadth. Human evolution, however convoluted or complex, has resulted in access to the penetrating self-awareness which characterizes human consciousness, and precipitated the development of human cultures, religions, and mythologies, as well as human psychology, philosophy, and a variety of sciences, all branching out like the veins of a large leaf, or a complex crystal formation.

The Psyche, according to Pythagoras “is the intermediary between two worlds: the Material and the Spiritual worlds. It is the Vital Energy that nests and inhabits in the matter”.

When we contemplate the astonishing variety of contingency necessary for human life to have progressed to this point, and to continue to progress beyond this point, it compels us to consider even some very unconventional points-of-view. How else can we arrive at such a distant destination in comprehension, as that of human consciousness, unless we remain open to alternative methods of enhancing our current comprehension, augmenting our current capacities, and altering our current level of consciousness? If the development of our ability to access higher levels of cognitive functioning, achieving an expanded intellect, and becoming self-aware, all were only just necessary adaptations for survival, and merely the consequence of natural selection, favoring those hominids with more complex brain architecture, there would be no compelling reason for consciousness to have progressed beyond a certain “survivability” level.

But if, as modern physics has demonstrated, we are all ultimately linked to the universal energies present in the early universe, and made from “the stuff of stars,” subatomic particles floating in the Higgs field, then it seems to me, that whatever forces govern the quarks, and hadrons, and leptons, and most recently, the theoretical “Higgs boson,” must be, in some manner, active within the wider universe of humans, planets, galaxies and super-clusters. All of existence, both temporal and metaphysical, must be a manifestation of and possess some degree of consciousness, only on a much grander scale.

If awareness of consciousness is an inevitable consequence of any evolutionary life process which produces creatures of sufficient cognitive ability and architectural complexity in the cognitive apparatus, then consciousness may well be what we can expect to find at the heart of the universe, manifested in an infinite variety of displays throughout. We will never know unless we expand our range of explanations to include every conceivable and inconceivable possibility.

marilyn connect to others

Reflection on these ideas has produced within me a greater expansion of the role of connection to others in my ruminations. Time after time, whenever a heightened sense of connection to another kindred soul enters my awareness, many of the ideas which have been percolating within me come (sometimes suddenly) to the surface, and I am occasionally intrigued beyond words at the prospect of opening up to a wider world of subjective experience as a direct result of these encounters. In the weeks to come, I hope to explore these connections more directly as they relate to this idea, and to seek a greater understanding of how these connections lead to a deeper sense of self.

–more to come–

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The Intimacy of Consciousness

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.” — Einstein

intimacy44

A recent conversation with a dear friend with an extraordinary gift for insight and artistry, inspired me to examine the character and quality of our very human consciousness in a way that not only solidified some of my own inclinations, but also clarified them in my own mind, in a way that I previously had not considered. It is a testimony to the power of collaboration, and of opening ourselves to new ideas. I can enthusiastically recommend a visit to their blog:

http://absolutefractals.com/?p=1142

After many long hours of conversation and contemplation, the images and ideas that we conjured began to coalesce within me, and our collaboration brought forth a keen sense that there is an intimacy to the subjective experience of human consciousness, which points toward not only the many potentials existent in our subjective awareness, but also to the intimate connection between every aspect of our temporal existence with the transcendent aspects of our nature as humans. It requires a kind of “leap of faith,” to even entertain the notion that consciousness may permeate every single particle within the universe, and that the sufficient agglomeration of those particles, in advantageous arrangements, ultimately results in a range of expressions that encompass everything from the beauty of flowers to the bounty of the future; from the proliferation of cells reproducing to the profundity of consciousness evolving; from the simplest relationship between subatomic particles. to the complex relationships between dear friends.

stars at night2

Another wonderful inspiration also recently took place in the comments section for my previous post, “The Fault In Our Stars,” from another gifted writer and poet, Tina Blackledge. Her gifts are abundant, and she possesses an enviable degree of curiosity and tenacity in the pursuit of her art that warrant a visit to her writing as well.

http://sanit128.wordpress.com/

In my previous posting, I wrote about how the sight of the vastness of space affects me, and how my participation in viewing that expanse seems somehow to be a vital part of the experience, and (in a revised version) I responded in this way:

“What I SEE when I observe the vastness of space isn’t as important to me as what I FEEL. It may be that my personal response is atypical in some way, or perhaps I am just more sensitive when it comes to natural phenomena, but I feel CONNECTED to the vastness. In a strange and inexplicable way, I feel as though that open expanse of the universe mirrors something inside me. Whatever it is that I feel when I look out into the depths of space, it matters to me on a deeply personal level that I am so affected by the sight, and like so many of our in-depth subjective feelings about the natural world generally, our internal responses do not always lend themselves well to articulation. I can tell you though, that my view of it is that the depths of space contain much more than simply the elements and components of matter that formed the many galaxies, and my subjective experience of the world we live in, as well as my response to viewing the world outside of our galaxy, feels deeply personal, and intrigues me beyond words.”

nervecell

The complexity of the neural underpinnings of our cognitive apparatus (our brains) provides us with access to an extraordinary range of functionality. Our experience of the world creates neural networks in the brain which permit neurological functioning, which allows for the production of thoughts, which construct and illuminate the mind, which facilitates the expression of consciousness, which manifests as subjective experience, which creates memories, which provide the basis for discrimination, which supplies us with the raw material for creativity, which relies on intuition, which requires contemplation, which feeds our dreams. In all of this activity, we see the complex relationships between each of the components that contribute to our experience of the world. All of our intimate relationships are a direct result of our intimate relationship with consciousness, and the intimacy of consciousness permeates every moment of our lives.

There are literally millions of significant moments in a person’s lifetime, and each one is essential as a component of that life. Changing even one or two of them with regard to the outcome of those moments could very well alter the path a person follows significantly. We rarely think of our lives as a series of vitally essential moments, but as I sit here and type this, even though this moment may not seem consequential, it surely must be. Important relationships may not result from every encounter we have with another person, but when we begin to feel a sufficient degree of connection to another person’s mind or spirit, the intimacy of consciousness becomes even more apparent.

Lucas-Higgs

Just as the minute subatomic particles of our atoms, and the structure of our genetic material, govern a large portion of our continued existence as a physical being, so too do the moment-to-moment components of our daily experiences and memories contribute to the person we are, and to the person we are becoming as the days accumulate. The more we advance in scientific knowledge and probe the mysteries of life, the more we can see that there must be a great deal more to our existence than simple genetics or particle physics, in spite of how much we rely on these temporal aspects as a foundation for the expression of our very human version of consciousness. Intimacy with another human spirit, particularly when we finally become aware of their significance to us in the sometimes mysterious ways that such connections come to be, we realize that no matter how clever we become at tinkering with even our human genes, and no matter how elaborate our understanding of particle physics may someday be, we are compelled to consider the role which our human spirit plays, as a component of our experience within the physical body, and how consciousness contributes to our continuing efforts to unravel the mysteries of life.

The Middle Path

middle-path

“Until the sixteenth century, men in general thought of space and time as though they were limited compartments in which objects were juxtaposed and interchangeable. The human mind believed itself to be perfectly at home in this universe, within which it tranquilly wove its pattern of metaphysics. And then one day this attitude began to change. Spatially our awareness of the world was extended to embrace the Infinitesimal and the Immense-the general and also the irreversible modification of perceptions, ideas, problems: These are (two) indications that the spirit has acquired an added dimension…showing our accession beyond all ideologies and systems, to a different and higher sphere–a new spiritual dimension.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin from “The Growth of Consciousness.”

Most of the reading I have done in the realm of human consciousness has left me most often unsatisfied with a strictly empirical approach in particular, but it seems clear that there are measurable and quantifiable components to the mechanisms through which our subjective experience of the world becomes manifest, which contribute in important ways to our understanding generally, and are therefore important to consider in achieving a more comprehensive understanding. I recently encountered a book by Arthur I. Miller called, “Deciphering the Cosmic Number,” about the relationship between Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung, that points to the benefits of collaboration and synthesis of the diverse approaches to achieving progress in creating a new perspective that eliminates the limitations of following more than just one narrow path. Jung has, thus far, been the most interesting and even-handed author, scholar, and empiricist, blending to the largest degree, both the scientific and the spiritual in his deliberations without diminishing the importance of either. His insistence on the scientific method in his research did not preclude the inclusion of the spiritual possibilities that are inherent in any discussion of living beings.

In some sense, what we may wish to describe as non-physical or spiritual phenomena, when they become manifest in the temporal, appear through discernible mechanisms. Even though the source of such manifestations may not be accessible to conventional scientific methodology, nor any way exist currently of confirming a spiritual component to human nature, at least none that might be considered plausible by any scientific standard, Jung was able to bridge the chasm between the two worldviews sufficiently to at least acknowledge the potential for expanding the conversation generally, while suggesting specifically what he described as “the archetypes of the collective unconscious.

ma_yuan_walking_on_path_in_spring

Painting by Ma Yuan, Song Dynasty, “On a Mountain Path in Spring.” from http://beyondtheouterrim.wordpress.com

According to a popular website on Buddhism, “The Middle Way (or Middle Path) is a Buddhist term with rich connotations. Most simply, it implies a balanced approach to life and the regulation of one’s impulses and behavior, close to Aristotle’s idea of the “golden mean” whereby “every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice.” — (http://www.sgi.org/buddhism)

Rather than limit ourselves to any extreme or narrowly focused approach to consciousness or to human nature, a synthesis or blending of both the scientific and the metaphysical disciplines, in the spirit of Pauli and Jung, seems like a more balanced way to make progress. However our complex human nature developed, at some point, all of our diverse capacities, psychological, social, biological, mental, and spiritual, combined to produce a keen self-awareness which enriched our everyday level of awareness, eventually enabling us to access higher levels of consciousness. While primitive humans immediately supposed that the world was supported by forces beyond what could be ascertained by the senses, the attainment of these higher levels gradually led to astonishing social and technological progress into modern times, opening the way for modern humans to contemplate the existence of realms beyond the physical world from a more informed scientific and metaphysical point of view.

Life-on-Earth

The evolution of life on earth, leading as it has to the presence of Homo sapiens, doesn’t necessarily imply a deliberate plan to produce them, nor does it guarantee our survival as a species on this planet. The Universe, our galaxy, our solar system, our planet and all of our ancestral creatures existed well before our conscious awareness of them, pointing to a potential for continued evolution, which could bring us closer to a comprehension of our place in the vast cosmic ocean, and lead us to discover a connection to the source of those forces demonstrated by their existence. Scientists don’t like to even infer the possibility of the existence of a transcendent source unreachable in a repeatable experiment, which may be responsible for a universe with seemingly indisputable and clearly defined physical laws. It may seem counter-intuitive to suppose that a transcendent source would not simply reveal itself unambiguously within the evidence we gather in exploring the universe, but even physicists in the 21st century have begun to investigate possible explanations for our existence which would have astonished some of the greatest scientific minds of human history.

Middle Path

This past week in Tuscon, Arizona, some of the most prominent philosophers, scientists, and thinkers from around the world, gathered at the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona for the “Toward a Science of Consciousness,” conference. I have been following the events along with many others on the internet at this url:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/consciousness-central-tv?utm_source=crowd-live-backend&utm_medium=visit-channel&utm_campaign=notifications

There are lots of interviews, debates, news, and different points of view on display, and while much of it is entertaining and informative for those interested in the subject, the disparate points of view on display show vividly the need for a greater effort at bringing each of the extreme views into a more considered synthesis of ideas and principles in order to make any progress.

The middle path is not just an esoteric belief in a balanced way of life. It is also an ideal for our age.

Inner Worlds Within Worlds

Title: Self Awareness: Size: 21.5” x 30.5”x 1.75″: Media: acrylic, oil, collage & assemblage: Surface: canvas over masonite & board with wooden framework: copyright 2009 Lisa L. Cyr, Cyr Studio LLC, http://www.cyrstudio.com

“The only right and legitimate way to (a mystical) experience is that it happens to you in reality and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path, which leads you to a higher understanding. You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher understanding of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism.”

Letter from Carl Jung to Bill Wilson – Jan. 30, 1961

All of our longings, both temporal and spiritual, as well as the pain of new growth are felt both within and without. For me, the pain experienced within has always been the strongest and most difficult to endure. As an adult, I have come to understand more clearly now that something within me, long ago born and over countless centuries grown seeks acknowledgement in consciousness. As a youth, I felt this strange urge to express thoughts and feelings which burst forth without warning, and which I could not comprehend. Each time I would attempt to grasp the meaning of this inner force, bits and pieces of the curious puzzle would become clear briefly, and then vanish in the strictly-controlled religious world of saints and sinners and unquestioning obedience.

Occasionally, I would get glimpses of this inner world despite the pervasive atmosphere of strict controls and absolute rules, but could not sustain the thoughts and feelings long enough to make any significant headway. Looking back over the years, my whole being has now shifted from a traditional middle-class, religious upbringing, to a more unconventional and classless view of life that is a sharp contrast to the way it all began. Between moments of cognition in my inner realm, as rich and expansive as they continue to be, are extended periods of redundancy of obligation in the temporal. While most of these efforts represent necessary items that produce important results, it is often difficult to endure these gaps between meaningful awareness and dedicated efforts to sustenance, and it seems like endurance becomes more the goal than the means to an end at times.

Inner Worlds Within Worlds Art by Norman E. Masters

For some time now, the world outside of me has been at such odds with the world inside of me, that as I strive to maintain stability in both, I seem to be constantly shoring up the walls of one, deteriorating from neglect, and then racing back to devote my energies to the other. The subsequent chaos from running breathlessly between the two usually results in both alternately suffering to varying degrees. To complicate matters further, I have recently gained greater momentum in coming to terms with my inner world, significantly raising my expectations of achieving the goals I established for myself years ago. This hopeful progress, though uplifting, has created serious conflicts with my temporal existence. Thus far I have resisted abandoning my obligations for the sake of my work, and likewise refused to consider abandoning my work in favor of temporal considerations.

As with most esoteric undertakings, increasing comprehension precedes further progress. As my knowledge and appreciation of the complexities and subtleties of the evolution of consciousness grows, the many diverse and related theories begin to coalesce into a synthesis which is more comprehensive and quite beautiful in its depth and breadth. Human evolution, however convoluted or complex, has resulted in access to the penetrating self-awareness which characterizes human consciousness, and precipitated the development of human cultures, religions, and mythologies, as well as human psychology, philosophy, and a variety of sciences, all branching out like the veins of a large leaf, or a complex crystal formation.

The Psyche, according to Pythagoras “is the intermediary between two worlds: the Material and the Spiritual worlds. It is the Vital Energy that nests and inhabits in the matter”.

When we contemplate the astonishing variety of contingency necessary for human life to have progressed to this point, and to continue to progress beyond this point, it compels us to consider even some very unconventional points-of-view. How else can we arrive at such a distant destination in comprehension, as that of human consciousness, unless we remain open to alternative methods of enhancing our current comprehension, augmenting our current capacities, and altering our current level of consciousness? If the development of our ability to access higher levels of cognitive functioning, achieving an expanded intellect, and becoming self-aware, all were only just necessary adaptations for survival, and merely the consequence of natural selection, favoring those hominids with more complex brain architecture, there would be no compelling reason for consciousness to have progressed beyond a certain “survivability” level.

But if, as modern physics has demonstrated, we are all ultimately linked to the universal energies present in the early universe, and made from “the stuff of stars,” subatomic particles floating in the Higgs field, then it seems to me, that whatever forces govern the quarks, and hadrons, and leptons, and most recently, the theoretical “Higgs boson,” must be, in some manner, active within the wider universe of humans, planets, galaxies and super-clusters. All of existence, both temporal and metaphysical, must be a manifestation of and possess some degree of consciousness, only on a much grander scale.

If awareness of consciousness is an inevitable consequence of any evolutionary life process which produces creatures of sufficient cognitive ability and architectural complexity in the cognitive apparatus, then consciousness may well be what we can expect to find at the heart of the universe, manifested in an infinite variety of displays throughout. We will never know unless we expand our range of explanations to include every conceivable and inconceivable possibility.

Philosophy is for Everyone

Have you ever found yourself wondering why the world is the way it is, or why you sometimes feel completely at ease with your life and, at other times, completely confused about everything? Have you ever marveled at a spectacular sunset or felt exuberant for no particular reason and wondered why? These and other similar questions could very well have resulted with an unintended brush with philosophy.

Although the very mention of the word can be intimidating for some, (from the Greek philos-loving + sophos– wise – love of wisdom or knowledge) we all have had thoughts, ideas, and questions that are directly probed by philosophy. Should we be content and never wonder? Should we merely accept our lives and our world just as they are? Should we simply abandon the search for knowledge if it requires speculative thought?

The question of what matters in our lives is largely a matter of individual prerogative. For some of us, there are very few matters that are of consequence in life, and to others, the world and their lives are overflowing with concerns that require serious contemplation. But there is much more to our existence than simply being alive, and there are also limits as to how much we can resolve in a lifetime. Somewhere between disinterest and obsession lies philosophy.

The fact that we do exist infers that something caused us to exist. We did not decide, “Today, I will exist!” Modern science has been able to determine, with a reasonable degree of certainty, an explanation of the evolution of life on this planet, and most scientists generally agree on the basic concepts of physics that explain the development of the universe itself. Anyone with basic intelligence and reasonably functional senses can acknowledge themselves (self-awareness), observe the world around them (sense perception), and with good cause conclude that they exist (cognition). Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the French scientist and philosopher, expressed this idea in the now famous quote, “Cogito ergo sum, — I think, therefore, I am.” The true nature of that existence, and any conclusions that can be drawn from our study of it, constitute some of the central issues of philosophy.

As a species, our continued existence can arguably be attributed to our ability to think and to be self-aware, combined with our other inherited natural endowments for survival. When threatened with death, our natural inclination is to at least try to survive. The philosophical question, “Why?” is a natural one for any thinking person, and typically one of the first that we ask as children. The search for the answer is fundamental to our nature as human beings. Recent advancements in the scientific realm have raised other important philosophical questions. The discovery that our universe had a beginning called “The Big Bang,” immediately suggests the question, “What caused it?” Thus far, we have been unable to uncover the cause empirically, and it may be that the answer lies beyond the reach of science. Once we venture outside of empirical methodology, we enter the realm of speculative thinking and philosophy.

There are many other less profound questions from everyday life that can lead to this same kind of thinking. Unfamiliarity with the subject or reluctance to attempt an examination of it because of not knowing where to begin prevents many people from enjoying the benefits of philosophizing. In order to prepare to investigate philosophy, it is a good idea to establish a few ground rules that will make it easier to avoid some of the common problems associated with its speculative nature. In his book, “A Preface to Philosophy,” author Mark Woodhouse provides some very helpful suggestions for anyone who is interested in philosophy but is unsure where to start. He offers four basic traits for a good foundation:

1. The courage to examine one’s cherished beliefs critically – This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for some people to overcome. We seldom challenge our beliefs on our own, but rather only when challenged by someone else. By initiating the examination on our own, we avoid becoming defensive or feeling criticized.

2. The willingness to advance or assume a tentative hypothesis and react to a philosophical claim no matter how foolish that reaction might seem – In order to appreciate and understand a philosophical argument, it is sometimes necessary to suppose that a particular claim were true. Then, ask yourself some questions and consider the consequences as if it were factual.

3. A desire to place the search for truth above the winning of a debate – The goal of any philosophic discussion should always be, above all, a search for the truth, not a competition among the participants to see who can demolish the arguments of the others.

4. The ability to separate one’s personality from the discussion content – Philosophic statements and discussion can sometimes cause emotional reactions due to the nature of the subjects that arise in conversation. If you can stick to the subject and judge statements on their merit alone, discussion will be more productive.

There are very few people who can produce grand theories in philosophy even after years of study. Even though you may have no previous background or formal training, your thoughts are no less valid or important. Philosophy is not some mysterious, ancient voodoo ritual. It is a common, everyday investigation of questions and issues that we all have thought about at one time or another. Although you may not have had an interest in the subject generally, you may be surprised to discover that some of the famous philosophers through history have spent years studying questions that you have also pondered. Many people do not even recognize philosophical thinking when they engage in it. It can begin with wondering if something is moral or ethical, and progress to something as complex as life after death or the nature of reality. Everyone inevitably ends up struggling with some philosophical issue, and if you can allow yourself to wonder, you can arrive at philosophy.

The Tree of Life – a film by Terrence Malick

This week, I was finally able to view the film “The Tree of Life,” directed by Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. As expected, I was deeply moved by the powerful emotional, psychological, and spiritual experience of this masterful rendering of the experience of life. There is much of value to be gleaned from viewing this intensely provocative and enormously absorbing film which takes on the whole universe from its spectacular beginnings to the minute by minute unraveling of life in the modern world. We are led through a kaleidoscopic journey of a Texas family in 1950’s Texas, which unravels through tragedy, leaving many unanswered questions and a haunted Sean Penn as the grownup version of the young boy who lost his brother as a young man and who lost his way as a grown man.

Even though I hadn’t slept the whole night, I stayed up for another two hours and twenty minutes to take advantage of the opportunity to view the film and I was not disappointed. I spent much of the next day exhausted from both lack of sleep and from the emotional and spiritual roller coaster ride created by Malick’s masterwork. The film is not an easy experience to endure. Malick challenges the viewer to delve deeply and focus intently on some disturbingly emotional vignettes that punctuate a surreal mental landscape of memories from a childhood which began in the 1950’s. The film evokes the period vividly for anyone who remembers those years, and as a child of the 1950’s myself, much of the film resonated uncannily at times with my own experiences.

This is a photo of my siblings and me out in front of our home in 1956.

Malick has composed a patchwork symphony of pivotal intimate moments of childhood experiences, and woven his richly-textured cloth into a complex and, at times, disparate pattern that frequently struck at the very core of my being. I found myself oddly vacillating between exceptionally emotional highs and lows as I moved through my own emotional and psychological panorama, which was provoked by the extraordinary force of Malick’s vision. Viewing the film put me in a state of discomfort so often that by the end of the film I felt shell-shocked–unprepared as I was for the barrage of unrestrained emotional upheaval.

One of the most profound aspects of the film for me resulted from the inclusion of a phenomenally vivid and lavish reconstruction of the creation of the universe and the ensuing development of stars, galaxies, and our familiar solar system, culminating in the evolution of life on earth and the dawn of consciousness itself through the evolution of humanity.

Malick seems to suggest to us that our subjective experience of the world is not simply a consequence of our cosmic and human evolution, and that supporting it all is an underlying non-physical substrate–that beyond the physical universe there exists a transcendent reality of which we are subjectively aware, but sadly lacking in understanding fully how these other layers of existence gave form and substance to the physical universe in the first place.

While each of the characters in the film are compelling in their own way, none is more compelling for me than the mother of the story played by Jessica Chastain. Throughout the film, I am constantly drawn in by her extraordinarily keen sensitivity and powerful connection to her children. In the opening scene, her portrayal of the mother struck by the news contained in a telegram of the loss of her child grabbed a hold of me so intently, that I could not take my eyes off her whenever she appeared.

It was “Mrs. Obrien,” who gave voice to the main theme of the story, which was that we must choose either the way of nature or the way of grace, and she articulates the difference in the two approaches by characterizing the way of grace as one which “doesn’t try to please itself,” and the way of nature as one which “only wants to please itself…to have its own way.” Throughout the film, Malick places these two opposites up against each other in numerous ways, and the tension it creates presents the viewer with some of the film’s most potent and emotional moments.

It seems very likely that there will be more discussion of this film finding its way into some of my future posts.