Friday, March 28, 2014

Red is red.

In college I learned about Jurgen Habermas' concept of the lifeworld. As I remember it, the lifeworld is the sum of everything we've learned in life, from birth to the present, about how the world works. It is a universe which encompasses what can be deemed objective-truth, mostly things we understand but do not have to think about, because they are just given. It is the overarching context that all of us draw from as conscious human beings. While it's acknowledged there are universal aspects of the lifeworld, Habermas was interested in how personal lifeworlds could be infiltrated by information which would set them apart from other cultures. The more I read the more complicated the concept seems to get, and Wikipedia is weaving a web that is trying to entangle me beyond my scope. So we have this knowledge-universe, which, upon preliminary examination, may seem obvious; things like red is red, or food is necessary to live, or everyone eventually dies. Children tend to ask about these in the 'Why?' stage and we do our best to explain, realizing that until that moment, we hadn't really thought about it for a while either...they're just truths that we've come to accept.

I've opened a larger box than I intended to, but what I'm trying to wrap my mind around is that, for as much effort as I put into trying to understand why I am who I am, and what my lifeworld has determined as given, I'm baffled by the possibility that I also have an unconscious existence that could be influencing me in ways I'm unaware of, or at least locking away some of the answers I seek. The aspects of our shared lifeworld can be analyzed and theorized up and down by those who find that to be their passion, but my unconscious mind is a mystery even to me.

Though it didn't originate with him, Freud popularized the idea of the the unconscious mind. By his estimation it is a repository of collected experiences and memories, specific to individuals, that manifest themselves in dreams, thoughts which seem to have no origin, and skills that take no thought to perform, i.e. riding a bike (once learned that is.) He might assert that Jason Bourne was able to kick-so-much-ass-without-knowing-why because of his unconscious retention. His ability to act, after the name of my old Karate Dojo, was "Mushin," Japanese for "no mind." But, obvious, super-hero-like abilities (and analogies) aside, what in the heck role does my unconscious mind play in my daily life?

From the browsing I've done re-familiarizing myself with it, researchers widely agree that we cannot access unconsciousness through introspection. And because of this, I find the possibility that memories and experiences could be locked away, without an obvious key, disconcerting. In my darkest days, when I'm feeling the most doubtful that I'm doing things right in life, it'd be nice to take a stroll through fields of forgotten memories that might impart new opportunities for insight. But for now, as I've been, I will keep trying to see things as clearly as I can...then ask why I see them that way, then I'll go to sleep, because that shit is tiring.

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