There are two ways to experience reality: qualitatively and quantitatively. The former is mediated by the right brain hemisphere and the latter by the left. The former is the domain of art and the senses; the latter of science and mathematics. In the philosophy of mind, “qualia” are the irreducible elements of our conscious experience: the redness of a rose, the smell of coffee, the taste of a mint. These are the qualities of lived sensory experience. While they may have neurological correlates in certain regions of the brain, which can be observed to be active when we have these experiences, they cannot coherently be reduced to this activity. To do so would be to discount and deny the reality of our conscious experience, which is patently absurd because there is nothing we can be more certain of than our own immediate conscious experience.
When we think, we abstract ourselves from our immediate conscious experience in order to make sense of the world by manipulating symbols and concepts. We do this most readily through the medium of language. When we think, we are in a virtual world suspended above the sensory world, beyond time and space. In actual fact we enter a second dimension of time. The first dimension is experienced as a flow. When you are in the first dimension, you experience events unfolding sequentially in “real time”. Time is “live”. This is how birds and mammals experience time.
In the second dimension, your sense of time extends into the distant past and the distant future. You are no longer tied to the “animal present”. There are memories and future projections. There is a great store of ideas, patterns, stories, conversations to sift through. And the store is growing all the time. It’s a bit like Tetris. New shapes are continuously falling onto the great mountain of your mind. If you manage to turn them this way and that as they fall, they will fit neatly into the gaps and synthesize with earlier shapes and disappear. If you don’t, the mountain will overflow with rubbish.
We are highly sophisticated creatures. We live in five dimensions: three of space and two of time. The left brain hemisphere specializes in fifth dimensional experience, ie. thinking. The better the thinking, the more you can integrate into your understanding of reality, the less thinking you actually need to do. Your mind is ordered and coherent. Different shapes don’t heap up into a tangled mess but rather mesh together harmoniously, like a well composed work of art.
Then you can leave the fifth dimension left hemisphere with a clear conscience, like when you leave a tidy house to go for a walk. You don’t need to worry about the dirty laundry on the floor or the overflowing dishes in the sink and you can attend fully to the beauty of your surroundings. When you leave the left hemisphere and step into the right hemisphere, your experience of the world opens out in two directions. You enter the live flow of time, which is the fourth dimension. But you can also enter the dimension beyond the fifth, which transcends all dimensions on our plane of reality: the zero dimensional nondual state called Satori.
Immediately given conscious experience mediated through the right brain hemisphere is Zen. Zen is “losing your mind and coming to your senses”. It is entering the flow of the fourth dimension. But it is also, occasionally, entering the wide Buddha field of perfect enlightenment.
Tetris and Zen.
Autumn leaves and a plum.