490. It May Seem Hokey

April 22, 2015

Life is not a given or a right; it is a process of building ourselves to our own specifications. And supporting others in building themselves to their specifications, not ours.

I am thinking of the life process as an opportunity for engaging the world around us, and inviting that world to engage us as we go. That way, both self and its world meet their respective requirements by making adjustments for the situations that come up along the way.

So do we grow into ourselves, by adjusting our steps to current conditions, here leaping hummock-to-hummock, there by stepping carefully stone-to-stone, crossing rivers when we come to them by whatever means we can devise while staying in touch with our minds and surroundings, engaging them, inviting them to engage us.

All that wrapped in one mental process that guides us on our way—that’s what I mean by mindfaring. Each finding and going her own way, as driven by a life force as a personal prime mover. Creating a sort of engagement based on an attitude encompassing both equality and fairness for all who go with us in our time and place. An attitude that promotes sharing, taking turns, and striving out of respect, along with a sense of personal responsibility for everything we contribute to a particular engagement.

That’s the state of mind I’ve come to by writing this blog up to this point. I did not have plans to say what I have just written. The words have flowed from the situations I’ve worked myself into day-after-day, from the day I started out until this minute, today.

I am a creature of this very moment. A creature with a past, yes, but building toward a future that will be an extension of the journey I have made so far. That is the upshot of what I now refer to as mindfaring, the process of living life with an attitude of trust, intelligence, interest, curiosity, adventure, openness to what happens, and striving to go beyond that.

Since all learning is essentially self-learning, mindfaring comes down to learning about self while being mindful of others. Other people, other creatures, other ways, other things, other ideas, other universes unto themselves.

What I’ve just put before your eyes is an example of the thought process I’ve been going through in real time in synchrony with my fingers typing on the keyboard of my computer. It may seem hokey that the word I was searching for was based on a word (wayfaring) I’ve been using all along, but the point is that my usage was based on a nonverbal kernel of thought, not the actual word, which I was using intuitively without a definition in mind beyond the cluster of felt meanings that I have suggested.

What I’ve been doing is putting legs under that kernel to give it a particular kind of flexibility and mobility in the situation I found myself in during the process of trying to depict the state of mind that has been driving this blog all along. The process of inner discovery I’ve put before you is what I’ve been getting at in trying to describe the workings of my mind.

So there you have it, Exhibit A of my mind engaging with itself in as concise a summary of self-reflection as I can put into words.

Mindfaring, I discover, requires engaging yourself and your surroundings at the same time. It is simultaneous an opening-to and a taking-in. In that sense, it means truly connecting with the world beyond your bodily perimeter while also connecting with your inner self.

The trick to engaging is being both attentive and purposeful at the same time. Attentive to what you are perceiving and purposeful in what you are doing. That way you set up a continuous loop of engagement so that input affects output, and output affects input, your situated intelligence and judgment in the middle position maintaining an exciting and effective relationship between the incoming and outgoing parts of your mind.

By my black box metaphor, engagement is told by both input and output terminals being active together in real time, not by matching set responses to signals coming in.

As bipedal animals, our remarkable, weight-bearing hind limbs support much of our wayfaring, freeing our forelimbs for all manner of clever manipulations for which we are duly famous.

While our legs shuffle, walk, lope, stride, run, hop, leap, jump, skip, dance and generally carry us ahead in a forward direction, our arms, hands, and fingers can hold, carry, throw, catch, pull, push, press, twist, hit, point, tweak, rub, caress, clap, and make a great many other finely-adjusted movements and gestures in accomplishing the myriad tasks we assign ourselves to do every day.

Think of the physical discipline required of ballet dancers, baseball players, musicians, mechanics, assemblers, crafters, artists, chefs, carpenters, jewelers, surgeons, and all who work with trained arms, hands, and fingers. Now think of the thousands of hours of practice, rehearsal, and refinement they put into acquiring the skills they need to create the civilized world we take so for-granted as if being born to it meant it has existed forever just as it is.

No, the world we live in today is largely made and maintained by human hands. Hands consisting of bones, joints, muscles, and tendons all directed and coordinated by human minds that intentionally will them to perform as they do. Here is the crux of our loops of engagement, the behaviors we exhibit as appropriate to the situations we get ourselves into.

This is the leading edge of our intent to get through the day and survive. Every perception, judgment, and action leads to this, our daily performance. Our engagement with life itself by which we prove ourselves worthy.

Just having that thought gives me a jab to the chest, leaving me breathless. It’s that simple? The commotions and alarms, the furor, the folly, the turmoil—all come down to this? Our painstaking engagement in doing whatever it is that we do?

Me, sitting at my computer, leaning back in my chair, staring at my winking cursor at the end of this very sentence? This is what it is all about? The point of my life? Me, sitting here, fingers poised over my keyboard, deciding what to write down whatever it is my happiness dictates?

Yes, in my case, this is precisely the point. I have shut everything else from my mind. My life experience leads to this moment of wonderful tension. What now? After eighty-two years, what do I do in this exact instant?

Picture a life made of millions of such instants. Cumulatively preparing for, adding to, and shaping this particular one. The evidence of my survival for those millions of instants tells me I must be doing something right. As a wayfarer, I have made and followed a course for myself that leads here.

The challenge I take from this instant is to decide how I am to guide my arms, hands, and fingers to type what it is I have to say. Not want to say, but have to say because my entire life is balanced just here at this point in time when I am about to change the configuration of the world with my next stroke of a key. Spiritual guidance is what it takes, in the form of a metaphorical helmsman at the inner wheel of myself.

These thoughts may give you a sense of the urgency that drives me to engage in this task I have assigned to myself by living the life I have lived. To get down on paper my thoughts about how my mind works. The only mind I have access to, which I can only take as a fair example of minds somewhat similar to those of my family and friends.

The recent deaths of my two brothers, both elder and younger, leave me as the last man standing—the last wayfarer—of the generation born to our father and mother, who, too, were survivors as proof they must have taken the right path, as their progenitors must have taken theirs, all the way back to beginning times.

You see how I have fleshed out the instant when I caught myself gazing at the cursor. One instant leads on to the next, and that to the next. Thought follows thought, action follows action, keystroke follows keystroke. The necessary order of my life appears before me, more discovered than planned.

I put myself at the leading edge of my existence, and that edge cuts decisively ahead into the unknown and unpredictable. I barely know what I am thinking and writing. What I do know is that I have to be true to the sense that emerges within me when I put myself in this place.

What I am trying to do is trust the life force that is driving me ahead right now. To listen to that force and write down what it dictates. Except it doesn’t dictate, it passes the burden to my fingers and tells them to get busy and write what they want. Which turns out to be the words you are reading as they flow from the situation my mind is facing just now.

My life force is engaging your life force one-on-one. My mind is speaking to your mind. There’s only the two of us together in this instant. Engaging in our own way. Being wholly ourselves. Separate as individuals in different black boxes, but equal one to the other as joined in common endeavor. Trying to understand what is going on in our respective minds. Caught up in that challenge. Giving our utmost to that cause.


Following perception, the next stage of our mental engagement is to put the resulting understanding in the context of our current situation so that a judgment of its meaning or place in our scheme of things prepares us to frame an appropriate response.

The agent performing that judgment in the presence of affect or emotion is what I call the self or situated intelligence at the core of the mind where it serves as mediator between perception and action. The self is the intelligent agent having access to memory, perception, understanding, emotion, and biological values, together with the life force as the metabolic fuel driving us to act on our own behalf in a particular situation.

How the self resolves the various motivations feeding into it by comparing, weighing, and judging their influence is what we call free will.  It is “free” in the sense that each person judges the relative importance of the various motivating forces in the light of her personal experience, the residuum of her having lived this far in her life and earned the right (if not the obligation) to be the person she is.

Free will is nothing else than the gift of learning through experience that evolution equips us with as we face into the situations we encounter, and decide how to respond in light of the teachings of our personal life story.

There is no blanket formula for survival we can all call upon such as insects’ reliance on a small set of pre-programmed instincts; we are under our own recognizance, and have the privilege to decide for ourselves what to do, including calling on the judgment of others when we need their help.

What we call belief is a conceptual summation of the internal forces of motivation which drive us to construe a given situation one way or another. The irony of the situated self is that living within the confines of its particular intelligence in its figurative black box as uniquely suspended between input and output (perception and action), as each of us does, our primary motivators together make up the situation that we occupy at any particular time, so that our operative reality, experienced uniquely by each of us, is a matter of subjective belief.

That is, we construct the situations we find ourselves in from the inherent mental forces that motivate us at the time, and those forces—memory, understanding, imagination, thought, values, emotions, energy level, among many others—are weighed against one another in forming a judgment upon how best to resolve the tension between perception and action in a manner appropriate to that subjective situation.

The world we claim to live in is a high-level abstraction, a concoction of our unique intelligence in its internally-structured situation.

Our subjective reality results from the categorization (interpretation) of impressions as projected upon the energy field that surrounds us, and as such, is subject to a construct or construal for which each of us is wholly responsible.

The world lives in us as much as we live in the world. And that world is largely a matter of subjective, affect-driven belief, not demonstrable fact.


Copyright 2012 by Steve Perrin.

Our minds hop from one to the next, situation-to-situation, like islands in an archipelago. From one instant of focus and feeling to another, that is our grand adventure, coming to clarity here, then moving on. Setting new goals, starting new projects, entering new relationships, one engagement after another like pearls on a string, event after event, adding up to a life.

There is an organic logic to this progression, like a sequence of base pairs serving as code for particular amino acids, which add to a particular protein, which folds to a particular shape, which performs a particular role in the life of a cell.

Every situation serves as the basis for the one after that. Awareness flows instant-to-instant, minute-to-minute, event-to-event, day-to-day. All adding, as I said, to a life.

Such are our loops of engagement. We reach for sensory impressions, interpret them, fit them to our understanding, then construct situations which we judge according to our fears, needs, and desires. From there we decide what action is called for if we are to be true to ourselves. We set realistic goals, channel our energy and skills into doable projects, seek help and support from those we trust, and make ourselves happen in the world in fitting response to the situation as we have constructed it from the evidence of our senses

After getting clear on a situation, we shift attention from perception to action—to what we are going to do about it. We set goals and get down to work. So does the life force—the urge to make ourselves happen—drive us to keep up with our situations as they develop.

Getting up, washing our face and combing our hair, walking the dog, fixing breakfast, getting the kids off to school, we prepare to take on the new day. We check the news or headlines to see how the situation has changed overnight. Then we schedule ourselves to get done the jobs we feel called to do, and do our best to meet the expectations we set for our daily performance. At the end of the day we review all we’ve done, and get set for the day after.

So goes the mind, the day, the life: situation-to-situation, with us at the core providing the energy, each doing his or her share of the work. All organic: body, mind, and life. The grand adventure in which we each play our part.

Organically, I remain, y’r friend, –Steve