The pinnacle of creation – The human brain

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Sunset is approaching on a balmy autumn afternoon in Northern California. My eyes are drawn to a maple between the red-draped houses that seems to be on fire in the last rays of the sun.

A huge falcon takes off from the red maple and stands atop a slender tree a few hundred yards away. I pick up the binoculars and am amazed at its size – it’s a majestic red-shouldered hawk, over two feet long. For 20 minutes, the binoculars give a close-up view of the magnificent raptor, its head swiveling as it scans its surroundings.

Fifteen minutes after sunset, Jupiter appears in the eastern sky. A few hours later, as the largest planet in our solar system shines brightly to the south, I observe at least two of the four Galilean moons with the binoculars. They evoke fear at midnight like the falcon at sunset.

During the two brief meditations, the familiarity of her backyard dissolved into mindfulness in wordless beauty and endless mystery. To leave the mind-numbing flood of the known in its own backyard is a wonderful thing, which has nothing to do with self and ego.

Stillness of thought, newness of perception, sensitivity to mystery, and all-encompassing impersonal love are signs of a spontaneous exit from the stream of the known.

Only human beings have the capacity on this planet for such apperception, even as man is decimating the Earth and destroying humanity. Indeed, direct perception has become essential to sustaining and growing as a human being in such a fragmented and divided world.

Neuroscientists and philosophers who insist that “our perception of the world is only a creation of our brain” are simply wrong. The brain does not need to automatically filter present experience through prior conditioning, or even through words, images, and knowledge. Our minds can “come back and become like children” for at least a few minutes each day.

Anthropologists and philosophers used to say that the human brain is “the pinnacle of creation”. You don’t hear that phrase anymore. The decimation of the Earth by man and the philosophical way of blurring the difference between humans and other animals makes such an idea seem antiquated and arrogant.

The specious past specificity of the human species has been replaced by a thinly masked misanthropy and a twisted and distorted attempt to erase human difference and ignore what was once called “the enigma of man”.

These days, we often come across such silly things as: “It is natural, as humans, to think that our species is somewhat special. By many objective measures, however, ants are much more important to life on Earth than we are.

And this: “Over tens of millions of years of evolution, ants have figured out how to grow in surprising numbers without exhausting the world around them.”

The ants haven’t “understood” anything; they evolved, like all other animals and plants (including Homo sapiens) by natural selection. To attribute human abilities to them, without asking why we are impoverishing the Earth, adds to human confusion and does nothing to solve the human enigma.

How can a sentient species that is causing the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on Earth also have unlimited spiritual potential? What is the solution to this puzzle?

The idea I am proposing is that the human adaptive strategy, which essentially consists of consciously separating “things”, mentally manipulating them and building worlds, is the evolutionary development that gives us the ability to become aware of beauty and of the sanctity of life.

Rather than consciously understanding our cognitive abilities, and thus putting higher thought in its place, we operate blindly from conditioning, which prevents direct perception.

Despite man’s destructiveness, evolution has apparently invested heavily in the human brain. After all, it took billions of years of favorable conditions on Earth to produce an organ of such complexity.

The question is: is there a cosmic mind that cares that we destroy this jewel of a planet with our remarkable brains, and the loss of our spiritual potential to a directly proportional degree?

I am not suggesting that there is a separate God, much less a personal God, as Christians believe. Just that potentially intelligent life is not a random, meaningless phenomenon.

Chimpanzees, killer whales and falcons, let alone ants, do not have the ability to be aware of the movement of their own mind and therefore to still the thought in their brain, and in doing so, to feel the breath of the sacred .

Evolution has crossed a threshold of neural complexity with the human brain. The same mastermind that caused climate catastrophe and the sixth extinction sits silently beneath countless stars and planets.

The attentive and silent brain is the self-aware universe and the unknowable intelligence that permeates nature and the cosmos.

Martin LeFevre

© Scoop Media

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