It’s a compelling thought that breaking down separations of church, state and culture will produce a peace we crave. But is it a well-founded hope? Does it actually make sense? Is rejecting separation and joining together with everyone “as one” actually the thing that will save us from our fragmented state?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. After all, as we’ve seen on the past 100+ pages, we are – on the most minute scale of our anatomical structure – separated from our world in millions, billions, even trillions of ways. The nerves that promise to connect us to the world beyond our skin are up to one meter long. And the synapses which process the signals once they cross the even wider distance from sensation to brain, are divided by clefts that cumulatively add up to hundreds of thousands of miles worth of distance. Even the most rudimentary mathematical calculations reveal the scope of the distance we must cross to construct the world of our sensing. And along the way, data gets dropped. Sensations don’t completely translate into perceptions. Our physical distances result in time lags and gaps in understanding that both help and hurt us. We’re walking, talking lessons in limitations, and we don’t even realize it.
The fact of our separation from the world we think we can directly connect, is not the easiest idea to embrace. We love our proximity, our connections, our direct experience with the world around us. The idea that the most intimate manifestation of our connection to the world around us – direct contact via our senses – cannot exist, makes people understandably nervous. When I floated the idea to my friends about a year ago, the very idea sparked discomfort, unease, even outrage. How dare I say that we cannot possibly be in direct contact with anything?
It’s a challenge, to be sure. But our discomfort doesn’t change the fact that, by our very construction, we’re riddled with gaps that keep us always at a distance from everything and everyone in our lives. We’re even separated from ourselves.
So, what do we do with that information? Do we simply dismiss it? Do we tell ourselves that it’s just an exaggeration that has nothing to do with us – really? Do we shrug our shoulders and say “Yeah, whatever…”? Or do we take a closer look and find out how on earth we manage to live our lives as fully as we do, in an essentially fragmented state?
I believe if we look closer into our innermost “micro” processes, we can relate what we learn to our larger “macro” lives. We can find plenty of correlations between the transmission of sensory data across neural networks and the ways we interact with our world. And what we learn about how our neurology negotiates microscopic distances, can shed light on how we might work more effectively with the separations that fill our larger “macro” lives. What better use for all this, than to take a lesson from our internal systems to better understand and engage with our external world – and each other.