Excerpt from The Love of Uncertainty
When scientists study how much sensory information we’re taking in they count it in millions of bits of information, but we may be aware of only ten to forty bits of that information.
We thought awareness was going to do it for us, but the most we seem to be able to be aware of is a tiny fraction of what’s actually happening. Just pay attention to the bottom of your feet now and feel the pressure. That pulse and sensation probably wasn’t part of your awareness until I directed it there. So the question of happiness is an interesting one, because maybe we already are happy and we just don’t know it because we’re paying attention to something else—like the bills that aren’t paid or the argument we just had.
Metaphorically, the question of where our attention or our awareness is, is really the same as asking how we construct our reality. We talk about awareness as if it’s of a different order than the ideas we have—but awareness itself is an idea. What to do with sorrow and what to do with happiness is really the same question.
We can construct happiness all the time—the price is dullness. We can do that through spirituality, by living in the “now.” But now is surrounded by millions of other bits of information that we’re not taking in—to have the so-called now that we feel is better to have than not to have.
The total now is so far beyond “better” and “worse” because it’s beyond our actual capacity. Our human capacity to take it in is limited to this very small piece of it, so when we construct the feeling of now-ness we are also constructing an illusion.
We have to construct qualities such as happiness and sorrow out of our forty bits of information that we get to scoop out of the millions of bits that we can take in with our body senses, which are only part of the unknown, uncountable bits of information floating around. If we don’t create these qualities, then now doesn’t contain them. We do that because we’d rather have happiness and sorrow than the unknown, the unattainable, the untouchable, the ineffable.
Do we have to construct meaning—our forty bits of information, our little drop of reality—out of totality? Do we have to do that to function, to have meaning, to have a sense of identity—or is there the potential in the human being to live fully in the totality, without needing to construct the good and the bad, the happy and the unhappy? So far in history we’ve had to construct the social and political contracts and all the other structures to give ourselves identity, but those too seem to be breaking down.
We’re all freefalling. We can construct anything we’d like in the midst of that freefall—our own imaginary world with our experience of happiness or unhappiness. Whether we do that or not doesn’t change the fact of the immense energetic flow of the universe that’s beyond our ability to capture by means of the faculties that we’re used to employing.
And yet we don’t have the capacity to actually live the freefall. Whether we say yes or no to it is irrelevant. If there’s a wake up, it’s really to the total irrelevance of anything we could possibly say or do in the face of the overwhelming onslaught of bits.
We continue to weave story within story, like nested Russian dolls. We have a breakthrough and we create a new story about that, then if that breaks down we create a new story about that. But it’s not easy to construct a story around the irrelevance of our story.
Not that it’s depressing or self-destructive or bad or any of those negative connotations either. Irrelevance simply means that all the stuff that we’re churning around with this forty-bit machine of ours is like an ant walking across a road. The ant is not particularly relevant to the traffic going down the street, although the ant may think it is and you may think you are relevant in your life.
In the face of totality we want to do something with the little piece we get each moment, so we string those pieces together into a coherent story. I can understand why we do that because otherwise we’d probably just be sitting around in awe, just complete awe. But then we’re in the good and the bad and the ups and downs and all the story and drama, and we work our way through it, and we have the “aha” moments where we feel good about the story that we’ve woven. That story—the ups and downs and breakthroughs, the enlightenments—is all irrelevant.
That is the beginning point of something else. Our irrelevance is an introduction to the immensity. The immensity is beyond the word “immensity” and beyond our capacity. I have no idea what that something else is because that would just be a story about beginning, but it doesn’t have to do with my description or the narrative or the meaning of where I locate that something else. It’s not that you’re the enlightened one, I’m the enlightened one, we’re the enlightened ones, or wherever we try to locate it. It doesn’t have anything to do with any of that. It has something to do with what manifests, what actually occurs.
But we don’t have access to what occurs. We don’t have the ability to measure the energetic manifestation. It would be like going to the Empire State Building with a ruler and measuring a foot because that’s as far as our ruler goes. Our toolbox is pretty limited, and what we’re using just doesn’t have that capacity. Now we might say to ourselves that we collectively have more capacity, so if we take all of us, and that’s maybe forty bits times fifteen, or fifty, or five hundred, or five million, then wow, the capacity’s really going to be there. But it still doesn’t quite do it.
Perhaps we have the capacity to see those forty bits more clearly as a group of people, but “more clearly” often just shows that it’s limited. That’s the basic unclarity—that I think my forty bits is actuality, you think yours is, and together we can see that neither is. This is where we get into the area of exformation, the space around the information. We have capacity for only forty bits, but that is a representation of everything we’ve discarded, which is everything else. The actual is in that meta-space, the space around and including the forty bits. It’s not just in what I think about it but in everything else, too. It’s like stepping into the space around the reality we’re creating all the time.
We try to make this into meaningful information that passes between us. But I don’t know that what I have to say is actually meaningful. Here nothing has meaning. If we’re not looking for meaning, what will we find? If we don’t try to construct meaning out of what I’m saying or what you’re saying, then what is actually occurring?