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The Ambit of Comprehension

They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586).

“Noble thoughts” – that is certainly a meritorious ambition! Probably the definition of “noble” is subjective save a small number of defined universal properties.

For most of my conscious time on Earth I have wrangled – to no definitive conclusions to date – with three things:

1 – What is truth? 2. Who am I? 3. Why am I?

I characterise my youth as a mental escape from many physical and emotional harms. In adulthood much of my attention has been concerned with attempts to understand the world and my place in it, through the lens of an emergent set of properties arising from the various developmental handicaps precipitated by early life events.

Thinking is the single aspect of my biology that can render my personal agency in the world. Consequently, I tend to employ it as a proxy for true comprehension (though I have yet to define “true comprehension” satisfactorily). In my youth, thinking saved my life. In my adulthood, it is my companion.

I’ve apprehended this only in hindsight, through inspection of memories. These imperfectly log my perception of my emotional and spiritual evolution. This comprises a set of quite different modes of thinking united by one conspicuous factor: each is a form of story-telling. I parse the world into narrative morphologies, implying thoughts to be the molecules of comprehension emerging from the atoms of faith. “Messages to my future self” is one such story – where I enjoy the notion that my young self sent messages and MayDay signals to my future self, and from time to time I receive those and send replies back to my younger self.

Over the years, I have oscillated between conscious fugue and energetic attention in sympathy with my capacity for sustained focus. Perhaps each cycle is a step closer to a set of answers for the above questions. I do not know.

There is no universal yardstick by which I measure my hurdles against someone else’s. That said, I’m pretty sure that a large proportion of the human race is generally doing its best day to day, wrestling with the same things, albeit in a myriad different cultures and paradigms. That matters to me because in the absence of a definitive measure, I can only compare and contrast to distill insight from my perception of others’ experiences.

Sometimes I idly wonder if attaining a deep connection with Another Person would yield greater comprehension. But in dozens of relationships, one of which was a marriage, I’ve yet to understand how to achieve that depth of connection.

So I am another voice in the desert echoing in my own head. Where I spot some island in the fog, I will sometimes build a sextant and a boat; in parallel asking myself if I should be building a lean-to, or a bridge.

I do not know what is more fundamental: the act of building, or scanning the horizon.

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