Separation Doesn’t Have To Be A Terrible Sign That We’re Hopelessly Compromised

Separation doesn’t have to be a terrible sign that we’re hopelessly compromised. It doesn’t mean we cannot know or believe anything.

Quite the contrary. Learning to accept and work with separation is actually one of the secrets of our success. After all, at the smallest, most intimate levels of our being, we “know” what to do with distance. Our amazingly intricate network of 86 billion disconnected neurons is precisely what makes connecting possible. 150 trillion possible connections exist within nanometers of each other, yet they never touch. And because of that distance, they not only kick off continuous electro-chemical processes that not only bridge each of those myriad divides, but also transform our experience of the information as it passes across them. The slightest variations in the amount of neurotransmitter released… subtle differences in how chemical receptors behave… or whether leftover biochemicals are reabsorbed or left in the synaptic cleft… it all matters. And those intricately shifting combinations can mean the difference between a steady hand and a Parkinsonian shake. Likewise, we can experience (and react to) a simple statement in completely different ways, depending whether we’re in a relaxed state of rest-and-digest receptivity or on edge from a rush of fight-flight stress hormones. Even a minor change in our internal chemistry can mean the difference between joy and pain, tragedy or survival.

Our internal separations aren’t just limitations – they form the foundation of our very human lives. Without the gaps that require a wide variety of connections, the electrical signals passing from foot to spine to brain and back again would have no opportunity change into chemical messages. A signal would be a signal, and we wouldn’t have the need (or the chance) to feel any certain way about that signal. A sunset would just be a collection of colors and contrasts, not a sight that takes your breath away. A stab of pain from stepping on a sharp-edged toy wouldn’t infuse you with the complex mix of physical distress, frustration that the kids didn’t put away their blocks, a sense of pride at what they built earlier that day, and the wave of love you feel for your children. For that matter, with faster electrical signaling, you wouldn’t even have the time to register anything other than the pain itself.

We may not like the idea that we can’t direct contact with anything or anyone, and that we can’t trust our perceptions 100%, but that within that uncomfortable fact we can find opportunities to connect in millions upon billions of different ways, with a seemingly infinite number of possible outcomes. Our minds and bodies take advantage of those opportunities millions upon trillions upon quadrillions of times every day of our lives, bridging gaps and filling in blanks in ways that are uniquely meaningful to us, enrich our experience, and make life more interesting. In a very real sense, negotiating those distances makes life truly worth living.

Does some info get lost? Of course. Not all the data points get through, and even the ones that do, don’t always get picked up or interpreted properly. We don’t realize the skies have clouded over. We don’t feel the soggy ground under our feet, until our shoes are wet. But our systems make up for it with sheer volume of activity, as well as host of varied interactions that keep updating our comprehension with continuous back-and-forth iterating, till our systems get the info they need to respond. Every living moment of our lives, our bodies are in constant communication with conditions within and without, figuring out how to breathe (fast or slow? deep or shallow?) under the circumstances, deciding whether or not to sweat, modulating our heart rate, our digestion, and managing countless other biological processes that keep our internal organs functioning properly. Even when we’re resting, our brains are in constant motion, processing the endless flow of sensory data they need to decode, in order to figure out how to respond. And our conscious minds are so accustomed to persistent frenetic activity, that it takes a concerted effort (and sometimes years of dedicated practice) to figure out how to calm them down. Our entire system is in constant interplay with the sensed world around us – and we aren’t even aware of the vast majority of what’s going on.

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