The Space Between Us
“Now, if the two distinct hemispheres can learn to communicate on so impressive a scale,” Churchland wonders, “why shouldn’t two distinct human brains learn to do it also?”
And how will we understand and conceive each other? “In Roughly the same fashion that your right hemisphere ‘understands’ and ‘conceives of’ your left hemisphere – intimately and efficiently, but not propositionally!”
[The is all on page 611 of some book, if that helps.]
Let’s stretch the idea. Imagine a future in which, by means of new super-science, every individual mind is threaded together. The connection is intimate, immediate, and unmediated. Our perception of the external world is unaffected (this isn’t The Matrix) while we are able to share inner space – literally a meeting of minds.
Because of the enormous practical advantages – instant transmission of complex ideas, the efficiency of an integrated perspective, and so on – and ensuing new-age thoughts about untainted emotional encounters and the spiritual union of mankind, we gradually dispose of the clunky old methods of communication (like words) and move towards permanent universal mental connection.
We start to see each other and ourselves differently. Barriers to understanding dissolve. Miscommunications are eliminated. The experience of the other, of another, is no longer something foreign, something abstract. The boundaries between our experiences become increasingly fuzzy. One’s own experience eventually loses its distinctness and priority.
Ultimately, we fulfil our utopian vision of a single united experience, a collective human consciousness. Every person is essentially tied into the collective subjective. The experience of the other can no longer be casually set aside. Indeed, it makes ever less sense even to talk of an other. Our vision, our will, our egos move into alignment.
We create and invent with breathtaking rapidity. We imagine with a new depth and range of insight. Most of our interpersonal difficulties are eradicated: The immoderate assertion of ego, and the associated arrogance and insecurities. The intolerance. The isolation. The failures of understanding. Failures of perspective. And while the communal consciousness could never be seamless, in our utopia it is at least a little sounder than that complex, fractured, whole that is our own mind. Our petty subjectivities are reduced to neuroses in the universal psyche.
Today’s struggles become no more than quaint memories: The valiant but ultimately vain attempt to express one’s deepest self. Or how we jealously guard this self; and how - after tentatively building channels of trust, constructing shared points of meaning, of significance – we commit the rare and hopeful act of lowering that guard – never completely, because our trust and hope is never complete; yet somehow meaningfully, despite the doubt and uncertainty.
The receiving of another is no less significant. I must clear the interior space to accommodate your vision. I respect what you are saying, and am able to appreciate it, to the extent that I allow my thoughts to resemble yours. To the extent that this does not happen, I am merely reflecting my own self off of the surface of your ideas. Empathy is always, to some degree, an act of transformation. We can only make this choice from a position of difference.
So rather than despair our isolation, perhaps we should reflect on the terrifying beauty of the spaces between us.
(I'm a little wary of the romantic streak developing in the blog. Too much with the Before Sunset? My next post is going to be about shooting a deer or something.)