Religious believers who make a pilgrimage to this blog often amuse me. They'll say, "Brian, you live in your head; you need to give up your concepts about reality and embrace God's truth."
Ha ha ha. What a joke. These guys and gals are deluded. They've got things completely backward.
I just rode my Burgman 650 maxi-scooter to a coffeehouse in downtown Salem. It's 45 degrees here in Oregon. I was cold, but comfortably not freezing, thanks to warm gloves/gear and a large cozy windscreen.
I didn't think about anything supernatural once on my 25 minute drive. Here and now reality was all I needed, or wanted.
So tell me, supposed concept-giver-up'ers, how often do you have thoughts about your God, divine ideal, soul, spiritual essence, heaven, paradise, other-worldly ultimate reality, or whatever else you believe in?
Much more often than I do, for sure, because I've almost entirely given up ponderings about imaginary things that are conceived as existing somewhere beyond the physical. Thus I win the Concept Game, if points are scored by living as close as possible to thoughtless reality.
In my last post about "Philosophy in the Flesh" I said that I'd share how a final chapter in this book speaks about religiosity and spirituality. Well, I already have -- in my own words.
But here's how George Lakoff and Mark Johnson put it.
Your body is not, and could not be, a mere vessel for a disembodied mind. THe concept of a mind separate from the body is a metaphorical concept... In short, our very concept of a disembodied mind arises from embodied experiences that every one of us has throughout our life.
Consider: every holy book, every holy person, every holy vision -- these all are part of someone's bodily awareness. This isn't a conjecture. It's a neurological fact. Show me one human being who has ever had an experience without a physical body.
You can't. Because it has never happened. Being human means being embodied.
Why, then, is it so easy for people to believe that they are, or have, a disembodied soul or spirit? This gets us into the roots of religious belief, a big subject that I don't have time or inclination to address here (my coffee cup is already half empty, and my writing is fueled by caffeine).
I'll simply share a cogent observation by Lakoff and Johnson that's related to a basic fact about the brain.
The bodily organ that makes it possible for us to be aware, isn't capable of being directly perceived. This is why neurosurgery can performed without anesthesia. Such makes sense, of course, from an evolutionary standpoint. If our perceptions of outer reality were mixed up with perceptions of the brain's perceiving, things would get real confusing, real fast.
In virtually all of our acts of perception, the bodily organs of perception (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin) are not what we are attending to. For example, when we walk down the street and look at a house, we are normally not attending to our eyes, much less to the visual system of our brains.
The fact that what we attend to is rarely what we perceive with gives the illusion that mental acts occur independently of the unnoticed body. In summary, we all have a metaphor system that conceptualizes our minds as disembodied.
This can't be helped. It's just the way that we've evolved to experience the world.
However, us Homo sapiens are capable of minimizing the illusion of disembodiment. We don't have to add to this conceptualizing by imagining a supernatural realm that is separate and distinct from earthly existence.
Doing that further distances us from reality. Now we've come to not only view ourselves as somehow divorced from the physical world, we've also embraced a concept of an entirely other world to which we aspire.
Again: "God," "soul," "spirit," "heaven," "paradise," and so on are concepts.
More: insofar as these notions are viewed in a supernatural sense, they are conceptualizations which don't relate to anything real -- since every human experience is embodied.
Lakoff and Johnson do not dismiss spirituality entirely, though. It is possible to live in this world and be of it.
The environment is not an "other" to us. It is not a collection of things that we encounter. Rather, it is part of our being. It is the locus of our existence and identity. We cannot and do not exist apart from it.
...An embodied spirituality requires an aesthetic attitude toward the world that is central to self-nurturance, to the nurturance of others, and to the nurturance of the world itself.
Embodied spirituality requires an understanding that nature is not inanimate and less than human, but animated and more than human.
It requires pleasure, joy in the bodily connection with earth and air, sea and sky, plants and animals -- and the recognition that they are all more than human, more than any human beings could ever achieve.
Embodied spirituality is more than spiritual experience. It is an ethical relationship to the physical world.