If we think about our lives as a series of events and responses, it’s easy to create a timeline and a story. But to trace the internal journey is to expose an entirely different reality.
There are life events (the external journey), and there is our perception (the internal journey). To reconcile the two, well . . . let’s unpack that.
In Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by Frank Wilczek, there is a concept that the best way to view the internal and external worlds is to explore the idea that they are one and the same. The author won the Nobel Prize for Physics, and he sets up his book beautifully in his preface by saying “There’s a lot to unlearn as well as a lot to learn on the journey to deep understanding.”
He discusses the way a child begins to learn about the world by compartmentalizing and assigning meaning, watching and recording patterns, then ultimately making predictions based on those patterns. This system is how humans have studied nature and, ultimately, other humans’ behaviors in order to create their internal worlds. As we grow, our patterns and histories then take on varied meanings and interweave with emotions to create stories (memories) and even philosophies.
I personally believe that anyone stands to benefit from exploring their life story (commoditizing it … well, that’s for another blog), and I want to explore this question in more depth through the lens of exploring both what happened and what we felt/thought/saw (not necessarily the same thing).
To reconcile the inner and outer, we need to ask how much of our story and our perspective can be traced to the internal world alone. How much truly happens to us? How do we remember and measure our lives against expectations (ours or others)?
As I am exploring my own life story with as much honest detachment as I can, I am realizing that the way I saw the world at various times in my life truly did create my reality by creating my aims within it. Not everything was a response to lack or pain. So much of the change that occurred in my reality boiled down to my burgeoning ability to hold a vision of something more, despite conditions.
In his book, Wilczek introduces the cosmic distance ladder, which refers to how Astronomers calculate the distance to astronomical objects from our planet, intergalactic to extragalactic. The “ladder” essentially means the method in which we measure distances from Earth to, say the sun, will only work to a certain point. As we expand our reach, conditions change, and we need a new way to measure. And this holds true for successive increments of distance. What works for one sequence of measurement will only work to a certain point.
The way our internal journey shows up on the page (or in any self-analysis) may amount to our personal “rungs” of expanding perspective.
There come times in our lives when, regardless of what’s happening externally, there’s a shift in the way we see what’s happening around us and the tools/skills we need to utilize change. That job we hate suddenly doesn’t become so bad when we take more initiative, or that dream we had seems less important now that we’ve clarified our mission. We must step on a rung to get to the next.
Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that there is no ease of living, not that I can tell. The more people I meet and the more stories I hear, the more I believe this. But there is an ability to reevaluate where we are and where we want to go. We can reach the cosmos, after all, if we are willing to understand that what’s worked in the past is just enough to get us here.
Reconciling the inner and outer journeys may mean not only observing what’s around us but also questioning our assumptions as we look back, trying to find those moments or times when the way we measured our lives changed completely. For me, these times seemed to materialize when least expected. Panic attacks arrived when things were peaceful. Growth came when things were most difficult.
It is often mysterious. But one thing examining our internal journey can offer is an invitation to expansion that is only possible when we consider that what we see is not all there is.
Well, thanks, I guess!
Frank was unknown to me until now. I’d never heard of this Nobel laureate, so I turned to a couple YouTubes and conclude I must learn the language he employs in order to go further.