Sunlight And Shadow: Being Outside with Your True Inside
Life and the understanding of life is so spatial. Even today, some psychologists are big fans of the 18th century’s Immanuel Kant and his insight that a big job that our brain accomplishes for us is giving us the categories of time and space so that we might make sense of experience. And even with that big brain boost, do we always make sense of our everyday experience? For my part, I really wonder if we do!
I do know one thing that I am learning in my life: wherever I am, there I am. Or that other German, Martin Heidegger, “Dasein,” “Being there.” Or as I like to say, “Just be there, baby.” The “there” is an adverb of place and space, and the “be” is a verb that covers us 24 hours a day in whatever we do or maybe even think. Be late, be early, be tired, be mad, be happy, be behind, be sad, be thoughtful, be considerate, be-be-be!
My thought with you today is that although we have all the be’s to be, how often do we get the time or encouragement to understand what it is to just be? Hopefully, in a good philosophy class, you do get to think of the be (though there will be distractions so that your brain will spend some time on getting that “A” rather than the “BE”). As usual, any thought worth exploring comes with sooo much shadow and sooo much sunlight. Just so you know, I see more of the sunlight in “being there” than the shadow, so you are thinking with an optimist. Still.
For our question of ‘be”, we have lots of places (see- so much spatial stuff) to seek. Religion, particularly with the Buddhist notion of mindfulness, concentration and deep commitment to a talent or interest (flow), being totally in love (Plato in the “Symposium”, my default reading suggestion for young lovers, thought true love looked a lot like madness at times – I do hope that you have known that feeling sometime in your life), a great sleep, or sitting in the sun, your face totally enchanted by its heat and all is as it should be in the world. Our true “be” moments usually find us very close to beauty and joy.
But “be” moments and places in our lives can also be that exact opposite in deep suffering, even unto death. Such deep fear and anxiety and even physical suffering assault countless numbers of us. Teen suicide, living in poverty, illness and epidemic, the suffering of Syria and Afghanistan and Ukraine, the millions of refugees-to just imagine one moment of their anguish in their 24 hour days! Our hearts wonder how they can do anything but break for humanity.
To “be” is the total surround of you inside a moment, without movement, like listening to pure music coming out of the best surround speakers ever made. Be it the kindness of distraction or just the need for human escape, we do also live lives outside deep moments of fear and awe, what we may simply think of as the everyday.
Shadow or sunlight, I know of know better place to be than in the everyday at least when the social structures and geopolitics of life make that more possible than less possible. Here at OCCC, as student, staff, faculty we share this intentional space of learning and growing together. Said it before and will keep saying it, grateful, grateful, grateful.
Right there, (in space somewhere) beside the “be”, is the “free”. Good ole’ Kant again who saw inside us to our very core, and there he saw freedom and the moral choice we make day in and day out. Isn’t learning and growing and being about our everyday choices? Don’t worry, I won’t answer that for you – you have the free choice of your own answer. But if being and freedom live side by side on the inside and influence and relate to our world that is the outside, we have some pretty good partners in sorting out our life and its understanding.
Just a short list of some sunlight to balance any of your shadows in being here and who you are:
1. Be outside a lot! Green and sunlight and just being around anxious civilization go a long, long way toward our well-being.
2. Be inside a lot! Even when outside sometimes. Be self-reflective of the choices you are making, not as good or bad, but as ones that keep you closest to your “be” and “free”.
3. Talk and dialogue about not just ideas but about feelings and behaviors of what it humanly means to be in this world and to ask about our human freedom.
4. Breathe. 3 times in, hold for 4, exhale for 6. And again.
5. Walk and move, let your mind follow you quietly. Wherever you walk, there you will be, so you can’t get lost.
Here’s to not having a bee in your bonnet, but a “be” in your heart!
Professor Immanuel Morrow
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