THE AMAZING and RELENTLESS HUMAN DEVELOPMENT OF FOCUSSING
Part One: THE INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT
Human babies don't have sufficient instinctive talents to survive. First we have to learn, and to learn first we have to focus. Without focussing we can do nothing and learn nothing.
These days we encourage focussing from the earliest age to give children a good start in life. We learn to focus with the eyes and ears to read, write, draw and listen; with the body to coordinate and train football and ride bicylces; and with our mind to think.
To learn and remember well, we are often told that we need to concentrate. Concentration is when we consciously and actively focus.
Humans were so successful with our hands, heads and as a species, because we developed memory systems with abstract words and symbols. Humans processed, collected, and communicated ideas quickly and we soon learnt to repeat an amazing amount of tricks.
We already know this, so why am i repeating it? Repetition is when we focus on a memory. Humans focus on and repeat what they know, to confirm it, it gives us a sense of security, to feel we know what's happening.
It is a multi-efficient system. Learnt habitual repetitive ruts are essential and basicly they are efficient. And with every new step the focussing-learning system confirmed itself as successful.
DEVELOPMENT of LANGUAGE
Focussing and focussed thinking separates us from our environment by dividing life into subjects and objects, things which do and are done to. We understand what's happening in terms of relationships. And the words and grammatical constructions we developed to understand and handle the practical world, were very successful in mastering that material world.
Focussed thinking got us out of the cold and hunger. It was a practical and efficient way to learn and develop how to make fire and wheels, and how to avoid being eaten alive. More recently focussing and focussed thought gave us houses of brick, nurses, peanut butter and deep freezers. And all the marvellous inventions and developments and creativity of civilisation, developed from our ability to focus with our senses and our minds. This system of doing and thinking is deeply confirmed in all of us, both individually and culturally, because it gets things done.
Nowadays, we are also using the same word and grammar structures to explain and try to handle feelings, emotions, and life in general ... not so successfully ... but if we are careful and concentrate in an open minded way, we can also express, and slowly build up some degree of of cultural consensus of understanding, in such areas.
Our modern western civilisation has successfully confirmed a few dozen trillion times that focussing, learning, memory and abstract thought, and repeating the habitual ruts of the past, works successfully for our survival.
This practical learning system we have is the same one we use for feelings and emotions. And feelings and emotions also get stuck in habitual ruts.
Focussing doesn't automatically lead to emotionally learnt, habitual ruts. It's only when we think, feel, see, hear, smell, taste or touch something which causes pleasure or displeasure that it sometimes - depending on the degree of pleasure or displeasure - leads to emotional learning.
We repeat what is pleasurable. We avoid repeating what is unpleasurable. Even if the 'memory repetition', is unpleasurable it gives us a sense of direction and a basis to compare, evaluate and guide other experiences. It gives us a direction in life. It gives us something to focus on. And this is also basicly a sensible, efficient and useful way to live.
And so, focussing and pleasure lead to wanting, and wanting leads to focussing.
This is a self perpetuating system. An habitual rut on a new level. A self supporting, self-perpetuating feedback loop. And in itself, this is also not a problem. It merely reinforces the system.
When we want something, we will periodically remember it, focussing on it in an abstract form, until we do it, or get it. Then the focussing may stop for a while - except as a 'self-confirming memory' - till the next time we want it. That's efficient. And even after we invented writing, and could write down lists of 'next things to do', it might have lost it's fun, but it was still efficient and the system worked well ... and it all seems a very sensible way of doing things.
IRRELEVANT SIDE EFFECTS
There are a few irrelevant side effects in the system, but these aren't vital to our physical survival.
When we focus on something specific, we directly inhibit our general awareness of the many other things which are happening now. Selective attention, is the start of a dissociation from the wholeness of our sense of reality.
Focussing on a girl i drive into a tree. But this is not felt as a draw-back to 'focussing' itself, we interpret the problem as a lack of concentration on priorities. Focussed thought has no reason to doubt itself as the most efficient and successful way to sense and understand reality.
We focus on where we're going or what we want. So, focussing is essentially not entirely now, it's a relationship, a direction, a purpose.
Not being now, but being on the way, is what focussing does, it was built that way, it's going somewhere which is not here. And from the perspective of leading a life with a meaning, if we plan our future wisely this can lead to increased opportunities for pleasure. The only problems it involves are about how to do everything we want ...
Focussing works best for practical things in the material world; but this same focussing learning system works successfully in all it's basic aspects, for emotions, wants and pleasure.
These days we have overcome all our practical insecurities. We don't need the ability to be aware of everything happening in our immediate environment every other minute in order to survive. These days, to get what we want, we need abstract abilities: intelligence, memory, and a degree of concentration.
And we need to be clever and creative with how to infuse life into what, with all the repetitions, becomes a sterile system.
But, there seems to be nothing basicly wrong or critically inefficient for survival, connected with having an emotional content to memories, and thus behavioural habitual ruts, aims, ambitions, and wants.
And focussing and focussed abstract thinking, has been so very successful in our human development. It is so confirmed in all our thinking and learning, that we can't imagine another way of looking at anything, understanding anything, or doing anything.
DEVELOPMENT of MEMORY
The apriori inefficiency with the focussing-learning-wanting system is with the feedback loop, focussing and wanting, when they repeat under their own momentum, in a completely abstract form, in our memory. Often causing the persistent repetition of ideas and their associated feelings, for years, - long after the actual stimulus is gone.
The eternal abstract chatter in our minds has, in itself, become an habitual rut and this leads directly to a lack of actual practical life.
It is because of the ever growing amount of experiences and repetitious memories that humans develop problems as they grow older. Or rather, that growing old is dependant on habitual ruts. Especially when we get stuck and these repeat automatically. Over time, we get lost in worries, vicious circles, fixed behaviour and inevitably closed mindedness.
This is the practical problem modern humans have, we can't stop thinking. And as we get older, we get dull, either contented, maybe happy, maybe bored, or scared, but stuck in our habitual ruts.
But even these self perpetuating thinking, feeling, and knowing habits wouldn't be a critical survival problem, ... if only everyone else confirmed our opinions, ideas and beliefs.
The focussing-learning-knowing system all works well enough by itself for the survival of the species, until the tribes started trying to live in peace together ...
Hunger, cold and being eaten alive were obvious practical existence problems. Our creative focussed thinking provided solutions to our practical survival and our material worries.
Our developing abstract thought came to the inherant questions of "what am I?" and "why?", and we developed beliefs and ideas to ease our newly awakened mental insecurity. We found secure 'raison d'êtres'.
As individuals and as cultures we became dependant on our ideas and beliefs for our sense of security and identity in our newly developing abstract world, - and our physical survival became taken for granted.
In early human culture, beliefs and ideas, united a tribe. In simpler cultures with unquestioned customs, less choice and less contradictions, life was painful, but in different more practical ways, such as hunger and illness, and everyone had the same practical problems. And, everyone had the same beliefs.
And it didn't really matter much if we all believed we were living on the back of the Great Turtle, or, the stars were the children of the sun and the moon, - because for our sense of identity and security, the confirmation of the tribe was far more important than the truth.
Inevitably, our feelings of satisfaction or worry became dependant and dominated by confirming these ideas and beliefs. It's the abstract world – that's how it's built - it's not what we can see and feel, - i don't need to prove that walnuts taste good, try one; or with a fire or wheels i can say - look, it works.
But the only way to confirm thoughts is with another being who understands such abstract thoughts. Our abstract beliefs and ideas - our mental security is dependant on other people understanding and confirming us.
MODERN INTER-CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
It's with transport and mobility since the wheel, and now wings, since individual freedom of education and thought, and since modern medicine, and increased population that now, our neighbours have different opinions, ideas, and beliefs about life.
And nowadays there simply isn't enough mututal confirmation to go around. It's very basic maths!
The reason modern human life is insecure, is because we have lost the mutual confirmation of a social group, a group of at least 30 people who all believe, unquestioningly, in the same things.
Collectively in human culture, any trace of the original animal sense of belonging is long gone; and now, we have even lost the integral, unquestioned beliefs of our tribe. Our beliefs are insecure in a way no humans in any previous culture, have ever experienced, or even imagined, and so regardless of our modern material security, we all still feel very insecure. ...
In modern times, (a few thousand years) with the cultural meltdown, the same old beliefs which were so clear and dear to us, and central to our poetic interpetation of life, the ones which gave our tribe identity and security, the ones which over time, in free thinking countries, developed into a mutiplicity of new creative ideas and opinions ... Nowadays our most cherished beliefs are exactly the ones which lead socially, to division and insecurity.
And the endless need for confirmation of our identity, can cause pain and suffering in a way that no animal or early human could ever imagine.
We are troubled by curious questions like "Who am I?" and "How can i be authentic?". We compare oursleves with "influencers" - the few lucky individuals, who have public respect and feel confirmed (or appear so) in their popular image - and then wonder "How can i be my own individual?".
So this relentless search for confirmation, is yet another self perptuating system. But with the modern multiplicity of beliefs, there simply isn't enough mutual confirmation to go around, and there never can be.
Our modern liberal thinking to socially integrate and contain the diversity of beliefs, - rather than infallible rulers forcing a consensus of ideas, - is a great step for civilisation. But, respect for someone else's beliefs is only a shadow of the mutual confirmation of the group.
In the present cultural meltdown, our culture's continual and exclusive over emphasis and training for focussed sensing and focussed thinking, - with its inevitable development and dependance on beliefs, ideas and opinions, - leads directly to division on a social level, and, due to the lack of confirmation, it leads to worry or dullness on the individual level. It is all inevitable.
A COMPARISON of the REPETITIONS
The cultural 'self-perpetuating repetitions' function in the same way, as the personal individual ones, but they have a different momentum.
On an individual level - (emotional, behavioural and psychological repetitions) - there is an obvious increase in velocity as we grow older and memories accumulate, till a point where the repetitions are self perpetuating, habitual, materially secure, and either satisfying, stressed or bored.
On the cultural level, since civilsation began (and probably since mammalian life existed), the increase in velocity has been exponential. The speed of doing and creative thinking is increasing, the repetitions are still accelerating ... and i have no idea what will happen next ... but it seems like chaos.
And i see a clear way out of the chaos from a completely different perspective. And the fact that i can describe our human development without hardly mentioning it, shows how irrelevant it has been … up till now.
All the time we are only looking at life from one perspective: focussing. We have forgotten how all other animals and early humans, needed to use all their senses, to perceive all of the world (or as much as possible), in order to survive.
And in the modern world, our culture's emphasis on focussing and learning is ocurring at an always increasingly young age, with an almost exclusive development of seeing and hearing through focussing on words and small pictures. This is simply and directly overwhelming our broadband abilities before they have even started to develop.
We don't know how to do anything without focussing. Our culture only teaches us to develop our focussing abilities. We've completely forgotten nature's balanced use of our sensory abilities.
Some religions try to outwit the focussing system, by focussing without intention and dispassionately. Others focus intensively on a higher universal energy, often using repetitive phrases or abstract rituals.
I believe many people of faith and practice, experience mental effects which i could call broadband thinking; but most of these people have a preconditioned belief that the senses lead to dukkha, (understood as suffering), or the devil. (See The Basic Misconception that the Senses lead to Worldly Desire). And so most, close their eyes, listen for peace in silence, and breath without smelling. (See how people meditate and Mindfulness of Breathing and the Sense of Smell).
It seems only few ancient cultures, (if we interpret their practices from my viewpoint), recognised the possibility of using the senses in their broadband capacity. In Taoist and Zen literature, it could be meant by the term 'just sensing', but this isn't specific, this could also mean focussing with the senses without thinking.
Modern civilised human cultures do not even vaguely recognise it. Our culture hasn't even got a name for what i call the broadband senses: seeing, listening, and smelling. Without a name we can't expect any psychologists, poets, or prophets to have even thought about it, or started researching any of the side effects it may have.
The value of focussing is paramount, of primary importance, otherwise no animal would ever have got out of the mud and slime. But the success of a species was dependant on using all of their sensory abilities.
This is not a new thing to believe in or do, it's a very old one. And its something that's availiable to people of all cultures – it's something which could unify all cultures.
It must have developed previous to, and be the physiological basis of focussing. I suspect plants have 'chemoreceptors', for smelling and tasting the air. I know every amoeba has chemoreceptors and a sensitivity to light and vibration. And please continue with the other pages, - but we can see that it's at the very basis of life, and all other creatures have it, but we've lost it.
Development from Version One - Chapters 2 and 9 - Back to INDEX