How Experience Works

Imagine that you are having an experience, for instance, the reading of these words. It is not possible to separate how you have the experience from the experience itself, because "experience" denotes, at least, what happened plus the way that it happened, as you remember it. It is not only possible, but really interesting, however, to imagine the elements of an experience as though they were separate, especially since they are variable. If you read this sitting down, for instance, it will always have been read seated, but you can imagine different ways of reading it, for instance, while standing.

If you imagine that you are also on an urban rail car with a bunch of people around you, jostled by the car's movement, occasionally looking out the window, thinking alternatingly about what has just happened and what might happen next, you can see the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the myriad variables that are packed into "experience". All factors have an impact on the other variables, a few of which are recorded by your memory, which is far from comprehensive or exact, as you will only be able to recall a few of the factors that you noticed and embodied as experience. You are imagining every time you encounter anything, creating a fiction of inseparable thought, feeling, sense that becomes part of your "soma"--the biological and intangible complex that is You, and which cannot be recalled in a way that is identical with what happened, despite having been profoundly shaped by it. Precise representation is not possible, at least because comprehensive re-presentation of all relevant factors is not possible in a system as complex and dynamic as experience. Memory is notoriously unreliable, and assertions are always experimental proposals, no matter the authoritative terms in which they are couched. Just being conscious of something guarantees a selective frame through which experience will be filtered, in which meaning will be assigned and beliefs created, and on which behavior will then be based.

This makes consciousness itself, at least fundamentally, a process of fictionalizing and embodying reality. Overlapping sub-categories of this fictional consciousness, other ways of selectively imagining reality, may involve fantasy, narrative, rationality, and many other ways that experience may ordered, become understood, and emerge again as belief which drives behavior. The Scientific Method, for instance, emerges from a rational narrative in which theories (informed guesses) about reality are reduced be experimental elimination until only facts remain in the form of processes that others can verify. But no way of configuring experience can escape the system in which it operates and by which it is delimited. Even the entire, tremendously powerful catalogue of facts derived and categorized by rational thought, no matter how exhaustive, cannot approach the scope that consciousness as a whole encompasses: imagination turning experience into meaning by working through fictions to discern and creatively apply what is literally and metaphorically true to life.

It is helpful to think of "mythology" in this way, and "myth" as a narrative which configures consciousness as though a particular way of thinking were operational in the world to which a mythology applies, all the while explicitly promoting consciousness of fundamental fictionality, or mythicity. In this context, the phrase "The Myth Of Science", for instance, does not suggest that science is false, which is demonstrably not the case, but suggests that Science operates within fictions, an example of which might be the myth of its own supremacy in defining Truth. Working with Science mythically allows consciousness of a fundamental ambivalence in knowing anything, an epistemological humility which then makes the true mission of science more likely to succeed. If one is aware that framing a process as scientific makes all outcomes sound authoritative, then it becomes more straightforward to conduct scientific work authentically, dividing experience into the reproducibly factual and the unreproducible and falsifiable with less chance of making the latter sound like the former.

When I began by suggesting that you imagine having an experience, I wasn't inviting you to do something novel. I merely suggested that you become conscious of the way that you have always experienced everything.


Content and design copyright Brandon WilliamsCraig ~ Wheeled by Wagn v. 1.18.1