One aspect of this – usually low key – daily round is that it takes place in a context which is perceived by each one of us on a highly selective need-to-know basis. In its own way the runner bean knows about warmth and light, about soil chemistry, and about the need to waggle its leading shoot until the necessary support is found. The bat knows about echolocation. The young urban human male knows about particular body decorations and modes of comportment required to achieve the endorphin fixes flowing from togetherness with its fellows and reproduction of its species.
It is unsatisfactory to use humans as exemplars since human perception is warped by a gross anthropomorphic twist – by what possible logic can it be deduced that there is something different in kind about a flabby primate with a slight edge on the others in terms of the size of its nervous system?
Let us, all the same, reluctantly concentrate on this particular life form, since it is the one which we can most conveniently access, and let us at once concede that its particular central nervous system has just recently unquestionably flipped over the brink and collectively gone critical in a way which has profound implications for the whole set-up. This is another matter, though, to which we will return.
The young urban human male. As he clings to a rubber knob in his rush hour underground train he mostly perceives other human bodies – rather than the wide open spaces between the atomic nuclei of the rubber knob – or of all those bodies if it comes to that – the complexities of the carbon chain or of the organic chemistry which takes place all around him. He does not see the clouds of electrons, now waves, now particles, now here, now there, now gone. He does not see that not so long ago in the ephemera of time the borrowed components of those precious bodies were dispersed in more than one super nova explosion, fortuitously leaving behind their counterparts crushed into a neutron star; he does not see the components and all their counterparts disappearing backwards into a singularity.
Yet these are the basic realities of this unlikely scenario. The temporary rubber knob and the temporary body are no more than a flash of wriggling ornament on the outside of a wholly different cake. An extremely odd cake indeed, to put it in the mildest of terms.
The young human male does not need to know all these things, although his personal access to the collective human central nervous system now gives him the power – when circumstances are right – to know all of them, and a great deal more.
Whether he knows them or not, though, there remains the matter of his daily round, of going through the biologically necessary motions. He must demonstrate to his superior an appropriate recognition of the pecking order; he must demonstrate to a suitable young female that he possesses the normal genetically and environmentally controlled sexual proclivities; he must feel variants on pity, anger, solidarity with his fellows; even envy and self-seeking have their places. He must, in short, act like a satisfactory complex machine interfacing in a sophisticated manner with other complex machines in their assigned specialist slot.
As he goes about his business the young human male would indeed be well advised not to place too much stress on the empty space of which both his superior and the young human female are mostly composed, about the ephemera of the time frame within which they both exist, and about the endorphin shots which keep them (and him) moving. Yes sir.
Otherwise his own endorphin shots will risk being of a circumscribed nature. In some way or another he needs to fit into some social circle or another, and this means treating prescribed behaviour patterns more of less as if they matter. And even on a desert island the animal still needs to be fed, watered and rested if it is to survive for long.
The question is, now that this animal can catch a glimpse of a more real reality, is all this daily round business worth bothering about? Here the animal appears again. It thinks it is. It likes its endorphins.
More importantly, though, the animal perceives the numinous in a great variety of forms – in a symphony, in the sunset, in the Muslim God, the Christian God, a thousand gods, in silence, in the swallow’s flight, everywhere and in everything.
Despite the off-putting anthropomorphisms, hypocracies and undue certainties which crowd to the point of near-suffocation round the animal’s perception of the numinous this perception is too universal and too profoundly engrained to be a socio-biological quirk arising from the format of its nervous system.
If there is any key to the problem of why for aeons the daily round should have been imposed on us in our multitude of billions, the sense of the numinous has to be a pointer to the area in which it is to be found. And now is the best of all times to set forth on a quest for this key, when a life form has at last clawed its way up to achieving a means of establishing the real nature, as opposed to the need-to-know nature, of the ooze from which it struggles.
One thing for sure is that as life emerges from its long childhood this is a time for a radical rethink, and by radical I mean radical.