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What Is Experience Made Of?

Published on November 15, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

If I were interested in learning what some material object, say a redwood tree, was made of, I could examine the tree and through that investigation, see that it is “made up” of various parts (leaves, branches, bark, sap, roots). If I then wished to delve deeper into the substance of the tree, I could explore its various parts and discover that they are comprised of a complex array of cells which are in turn made of unique configurations of molecules comprised of billions upon billions of atoms that are themselves composed of all manner of known and unknown subatomic particles, waves, quantum probability fields, and so on.

But just as we seem naturally inclined as human beings to explore the nature and substance of material things, we can also ask the same question about subjective experience itself. To be sure, we have a seemingly endless number of ways to describe and categorize the vast array of experiences we encounter. We’ve even developed complex psychological and neuroscientific models to explain how these different dimensions of subjective experience appear to correlate with and influence one another. However, the problem with language is that it’s a little too facile in so far as leading us to believe that simply because we have words to describe experiential states, we actually know what those states are.

Sure, I may have many words to describe the myriad things I experience from moment to moment. But what are those words actually made of? What, for example is fear made of, experientially? What is consciousness, memory, desire, sorrow or any other experience actually made of? Just as with the example of the redwood tree, if an answer arises (e.g., “well, fear is made of these particular sensations or thoughts”), can we look again and ask ourselves the same question: “What are those things I call ’sensations’ or ‘thoughts’ made of?”

While there really is no final answer or resolution to this question of what experiences are made of, if I had to offer a word, I would say they are all made of meaningfulness.  But don’t take my word for it; explore the question for yourself, not imposing any set definitions or descriptions upon whatever may be appearing experientially, but simply allowing experience itself to tell you what it is.

Enjoy the lusciousness of this inquiry, the endless free-fall into inconceivability that it is.

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