What We Have In Mind

I walked by the Greek Orthodox cathedral this morning, three blocks from our home, on the way to Queen Street, a route I’ve taken many time. Only this morning did i see the architectural detail of the tower. I’ve seen the tower dozens and dozens of times but never seen the four pillars in the top most section with the stepped out centre section. forgive me lack of architectural terms. Hence the photo.

Once I saw that detail and admired it so, I looked for other detail and saw all kinds of shapes and shadow lines in the building I’d previously seen only as a square brick structure with a tower, rose window and peaked roof.

It struck me that I saw that detail because the previous day I was googling router bits and learning how to use a rounding-over bit to make different edge profiles on a piece of wood. Along with the rounding of the edge, lowering the bit in the router produces a lip to add some interest, and as one mentioned, a shadow line. That term stuck with me. I felt in that moment I appreciated the affect of design and decoration provides. It resonated with my own sense of how photography works, also working with light and shadow.

For me, this is an example of how what we think about puts us in the way of how we are in the world. If we add this to the idea in the blog Visioning Dreams, then perspective and insight and engagement with life emanates from within. Of course that is what the science and psychology of perception has researched. As I’ve referred to in other blog posts, the eyes in our head are not portals looking out on the world, but receptors absorbing huge amounts of data every second. The brain selects only a little of that data to be our focus in the moment. As we know, if we are out in the garden and we hear a branch break behind us, all our attention turns to that no matter how taken we are with the beauty and perfume of the rose we are admiring.

The selection of data as science tells us is not indifferent. Rather we impose our impression on the data, interpret it from a preordained pattern. We see what we want to see. And we are committed to that inner organization. In fact the brain seeks to automate as much activity as possible. We don’t want to take up limited conscious activity with knowing that our hair is growing or the skin monitoring and interpreting the temperature outside us.

The energy I gave to studying routering in wood it seems was a kind of pattern, a kind of recognition brought to front of mind, and that attention led me to see the detail in the cathedral tower.

It’s not a radical idea -only one that’s hard to accept because we like to think we are in absolute control of our thoughts- that what we consume becomes us. We are not any different, nor can we be, than what we spend our time doing. Know yourself: know how you spend your day, what language and images to feed into yourself.

This is why, as you know, I’m critical of social media. I don’t believe the freedom claimed for its unbridled use is freedom at all, but imprisons one by its very nature. Is a poison to us that we take in and becomes us. My suggestion is that we cannot read vitriolic, insulting, rude, nasty, bigoted comments, just toss them off, and not become those thoughts. If we fill our mind, tolerate the kind of mean vindictive language, that becomes our pattern. And we get all wired up and bound up and wonder why we feel bad and have to drink so much coffee, indulge in so much stimulation just to keep ourselves going.

In a presentation on resilience delivered to a diverse audience including civic leaders and people with considerable personal resource financial, intellectual and otherwise were asked if their phones were charged in the morning when they awoke and a sea of hands went up. For the next question, asking who woke up in the morning and felt charged themselves, only two hands went up.

The norm we come to accept is not to my thinking acceptable. I think we have to reconsider the quality of digital streaming passing through one’s body each day and ask what it is doing to us. Each of us ask the question of our own Self.