Preserving the Passion in the Brain
(The Mind’s Curiosity Is Ultimately About Itself)
The following recordings are from Jan’s final years, when his voice was diminished and he spoke in a low whisper. Some listeners may find these tapes hard to listen to, or difficult to understand. Thus, as another option, read the transcript below.
Otherwise, turn up the volume and enjoy! Those who carefully listened to Jan during this period consider that he spoke plainly and directly to the matter at hand, “pulling out all the stops,” as he understood that these were to be his last messages to his groups, and to posterity.
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Notes by TK
The nervous system input to the brain must reach the conscious threshold to engender curiosity. Most NS input stimulates only sub-conscious response and regulation from the brain. The brain is mostly a register and reporting mechanism of NS inputs.
The physiological hormonal input excitement wanes with age. So does the brain passion of curiosity. Nothing can be done about the former but can be done to interfere w/ the decline of curiosity and joy of living. The mind’s curiosity is ultimately curiosity about itself—its own working. (42:52) #3129
Edited by SA
As I suggested in a prior talk, consciousness only has one feeling—curiosity. Everything else is consciousness’s registering how the rest of you feels. If you view your body as an empire, a kingdom, then your nervous system performs as though you had couriers traveling through it, recording and then reporting information about members of your army who are stationed all around the kingdom, including its perimeter—your skin, your senses. The nervous system makes continuous reports to the brain, but the majority of those reports never register in consciousness, since consciousness can’t affect many of the activities going on in our bodies.
Life is efficient. I can’t resist taking a side-step to note that human thought is the only superfluous activity that we’re aware of, the only activity that is not necessarily related to survival. You would be hard-pressed to find any other activity not directly related to survival. Read a textbook on biology, and you’ll see that even though many things that plants and animals do are foreign to us, everything that a plant or animal does has a specific purpose in keeping the plant or animal alive. If someone studies a plant long enough, knowing that the purpose of all forms of life is to stay alive, that person can figure out even quite exotic activities that take place inside plants, and see that they’re all helping the plant survive, and that there is nothing equal to human consciousness in a plant’s activity.
Back to my previous point, that the nervous system brings back information to the brain from other parts of the body, and most of it never registers in consciousness—if the information is pertinent to survival, then the non-conscious part of the brain automatically sends out instructions. If information comes from the nervous system that you’re dizzy and unsteady on your feet, then the non-conscious part of the brain will send back information to the heart to increase the production of blood, or send instructions to the muscles in your legs and back to sit down so as to lower your center of gravity. In other words, information from the nervous system may stimulate many parts of the brain, but in order to feed the brain’s curiosity, the information has to get into consciousness.
If you’re getting dizzy, the brain is not curious about your dizziness. The brain automatically knows how to react to such information. I propose that most information fed to the brain by the nervous system triggers the deep, silent activity in our brain of which we’re unaware, but some information moves across a cutoff line into the light, into our brain being conscious of it. That information feeds the brain’s curiosity.
Every emotion other than curiosity is reported to the brain from elsewhere in the body. If you’re fearful of something real, something tangible, the fear comes from the nervous system’s reporting on the thing that is threatening you. Pain informs the brain that there is some untoward pressure, some negative stimulus, affecting your body. The stimulus might be disease inside the body, or it might be that you have been stung or bitten, and the skin is sending back the information.
Other emotions—sadness, love, tenderness, joy—come from information that the nervous system has picked up and is bringing back to the brain. All of those emotions are simply reports to consciousness of hormonal changes going on inside your body. When a man believes he’s in love, there is something going on at a hormonal level that has stimulated that feeling in him. The more that consciousness and thought play a central role in the man’s life, the greater the chance that the feeling of love will enter his consciousness. The man may remark on his feeling to someone, or even write a love song or a romantic sonnet. Still, that emotion, that passion, did not originate in consciousness.
I suggest that the central core of the brain’s curiosity is consciousness’s curiosity about being alive, because if it weren’t for consciousness, we would not be talking about being alive. We couldn’t even think about being alive. Consciousness’s curiosity about being alive ultimately amounts to curiosity about itself, though few people ever realize that.
I used to describe types of people by using the terms red-, blue-, and yellow-circuit. For the red-circuit and blue-circuit groups, which are the more physically-oriented people, the curiosity that registers in consciousness is curiosity regarding new experiences. Red-circuit people are the thrill-seekers, the ones who will try surfing on top of a car doing ninety miles an hour down the freeway. Extremely red-circuit people become the Magellans, the Columbuses of the world. Blue-circuit people are the ones constantly seeking a variety of sexual partners when they’re young, and engaging in multiple marriages as they get older. Curiosity in the yellow-circuit group, the geeks, is centered in the brain itself, in what we call learning. You’re not going to find geeks out taking physical risks, and they’re not all that interested in travel. Extreme yellow-circuit people become the Edisons, the Galileos of the world. In most people, there’s a little bit of both types of curiosity, the physical and the learning-centered. Even yellow-circuit people might like to go on vacations, but they are not as driven by curiosity about experience as they are by curiosity about learning.
Scientists are yellow-circuit people whose curiosity manifests in them as curiosity specifically about the physical universe. Scientists are very astute men and women, but their consciousness still never gets to the root of what their curiosity is. Even they do not see that their curiosity is the mind’s curiosity about itself. Curiosity always seems to be about something else. Yellow-circuit scientists are curious about the external world. Yellow-circuit psychologists are curious about the internal world. Neither group sees that their curiosity boils down to consciousness’s curiosity about itself, or that without consciousness’s curiosity about itself, they would not be curious about the external or the internal world.
The religious never get to the root of curiosity because the invention of gods, the interest in the idea of there being a god or gods, is a very weak manifestation of consciousness’s curiosity about itself, a weak reflection of men attempting to awaken consciousness. The widespread, persistent popularity of religion is a yellow-circuit reflection of how very easily ordinary people’s curiosity is satisfied. It’s shocking! I’m being funny, dramatically overdoing it, but it is sad to realize that the whole project of creating a religion, developing all the rituals and teachings, building all the structures, is a direct manifestation of consciousness’s curiosity about itself. It’s sad to see that religion is all it takes to satisfy the curiosity of almost anybody on this planet, and that they never carry their curiosity beyond that first manifestation.
There is something about curiosity, and the passion going on inside the brain, that is directly pertinent to an attempt to become enlightened. I feel it necessary to point out that the older people get, the less interest they have in attempting to wake up, no matter how much passion they may have felt for the effort in their younger years. By the time most people turn fifty—and it may not be until sixty or seventy for a particular individual—it becomes noticeable that their curiosity, their interest in new experience, declines sharply. Their yellow circuit, their curiosity for learning, to whatever degree it was active, also nosedives severely.
The point is that as people age physically, their brains register less and less excitement in life. Some of this is well-known, such as that the older people are, the less interest they have in sex. The older they are, the less food means to them. There are not many epicureans of advanced years, not many gourmets still active and excited about their hobby into old age. Eating may even become a mechanical chore that they carry out just to stay alive.
As they age, people who were once passionately interested in painting, in music, in art, lose what the French call “joie de vivre,” or the joy of living. I should look up the French term for “excitement about life,” which is a more accurate description of what I mean. I’m not trying to give anybody the blues, but I don’t know that the hormonal or physiological changes I’m describing can be resisted. These changes begin to occur for most people several decades before death. Physiological excitement about sex, food, or hobbies begins to wane, and can deteriorate to the point that some people may entirely lose interest in life, but most ordinary people are not aware of the loss of excitement in their consciousness about being alive. If you point this out to them, they may admit it, but they’ll give some reason: “I broke my hip,” or “My arthritis is so painful I can’t think about anything else,” or “I’ve gotten diabetes in the last ten years, and that slows me down.”
I’m not trying to depress you, but if you pay attention, you will probably see that your interest in new experiences, in doing new things, seeing new places, tasting new food—whatever happened to be your red and blue circuit interests in life—is in serious decline. The curiosity of consciousness itself is also in decline. You’re no longer very interested in learning anything new.
People like us may interpret this decline as an increase in wisdom. Men might even think, “I’m a little more awake. Maybe I’m not as awake or enlightened as Buddha, but I’m more enlightened than I was when I was twenty-five, because at twenty-five, I was crazy. I would jump off a high cliff into an unknown body of water, and I could have killed myself. I would have sex with strangers. I would drink too much and take too many drugs, and I would think all kinds of crazy things. I’d stay up for days at a time, chew on mushrooms, meditate, and think that I was enlightening myself. But at least now, I’m over that. I know better.”
Do you really think so? There couldn’t be a larger trainload of hog manure packed to the brim than those famous last words, “I know better.” Any time you hear in your head the words, “I know better,” be assured—you don’t. Only your ordinary consciousness would say, “I know better,” meaning, “I used to be so and so, but I learned better, and that’s why I am now the way I am. I am now more settled. I am now more sane.” Any time you hear that in your head, run for your life. It’s hard to say where to run to, but if you can get away from that at all, do so. Run!
I’m saddened to see people lose the curiosity about awakening, the excitement of the effort. I see it drain out of people along with their physiological curiosity. This reminds me of an interesting topic that I haven’t mentioned tonight—the relationship of the excitement of being alive when you’re twenty and the desire to awaken. Because at twenty, or whatever age you were when you first came across the idea—that man believes he’s awake and conscious but it’s an illusion, that man is only dreaming, or at least partly dreaming, because he is not as conscious as he could be—the excitement you felt seemed to be something altogether otherwise, something very special, something quite apart from the excitement of engaging in whatever your favorite hobby was, or knowing that you were going to a party in a few hours and all of your friends would be there.
Your consciousness knows what to make of information being reported from within your body, or information that your body has taken in through your senses, such as that you’ve been invited to a party. When that information gets to consciousness, you experience a type of excitement, but the excitement caused by the idea that you could achieve an awakened, a liberated, an enlightened state of consciousness seems to be something altogether different. I’m not saying that information about awakening is not altogether different, but even if it is altogether different, don’t you find it interesting that along with a decline in the excitement your nervous system feels for the mundane physical side of life, there is also a decline in the excitement you feel about wanting to be more conscious?
I wish I hadn’t started this, because I don’t know how to explain it. We’re back to the idea that consciousness can not ordinarily conceive of itself. All I can do is repeat that ordinary people are generally not aware of what’s happening to them. They weren’t aware of what was happening to them when they were twenty, and they’re certainly not aware of what’s happening to them now that they’re sixty or seventy. This correlates with being mortal, no doubt, because it’s harder for a twenty-year-old to accept the idea of death than for a seventy-year-old. If they suddenly came down with a disease, and a doctor told them, “Based upon statistical histories of this ailment, you’ll be dead in six months,” that knowledge, that awareness, would definitely have a different effect on somebody who’s twenty than on somebody who’s seventy.
Without such as that happening, people are not consciously aware that they have gradually lost the excitement in their consciousness. They are aware of the loss in their body’s excitement. They know they’re not as interested in sex as they used to be, they’re not as interested in food, their bodies can no longer handle alcohol. They’re aware of those things, but they’re not aware that their minds are getting saggy, that their minds are becoming as flat as their taste for food.
It seems a shame that you have to wind down, deteriorate, slowly die physically, but I’ve already noted that I don’t know any way to stop the automatic decline in excitement about the physical side of life. What you can do something about is the decline in excitement in consciousness itself, but you’ve got to want to do something. At the heart of all curiosity is consciousness’s curiosity about itself. People like us are the only ones who had an awareness of that curiosity to start with, and that, you can maintain.
I’ve spent a lifetime maintaining that awareness, and it’s become more fun the older I’ve gotten. To be accurate, it’s become different fun. You’ve got to keep trying to become more and more awake, to become more and more conscious. That’s all it takes. Or else you can just fade into the sunset both physically and consciously. Slowly turn gray, beige, quiet. Wrap yourself in a blanket. Get a recliner. Man, I am giving myself the blues. Of course, I picture all of this going on in your brain. Not just physically, but in your brain. Stop it!
Jan’s Daily Fresh Real News (to accompany this talk)
OUTLIER’S WEATHER REPORT:
“IT’S FINE UP HERE!”
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Putting For The Musical Few: The Hum Into Humidity
APRIL 2, 2004 ©2004: JAN COX
The mind can be excited over three things: the universe (science);
what other men do (sports), and what other men create (arts);
the one thing it does not naturally get excited over is itself:
this occurs only in those few trying to escape the present size of their consciousness so as to get to the bottom of all things.
Life makes men’s minds want to tell —
but since most of them have nothing in them interesting to tell —
the men tell about what has happened to them (and collaterally):
life has made men’s attention such that they are able to not notice that
they have been listening to the same handful of events being told about
for the last five thousand years.
Getting-to-the-bottom-of-things requires that there be mentally conceivable things,
and for there to be mentally conceivable things requires that the mind create them:
does anybody catch-on to what is going-on here?
The terms: local and universal are used herein thus:
The local is matters in which your consciousness has a natural born interest;
these affairs are always of a binary based preference:
your consciousness either likes, approves of or believes in the idea or does not;
ergo it is local to you (and to every other consciousness which has an interest therein);
the universal is all of the locals combined — and something more;
no amount or style of study of local matters will lead to any more understanding of things than you have now;
no combination of what your consciousness seems to know about various local affairs will produce a comprehensive grasp of life;
only by pushing your consciousness past all local ideas and into the
indescribable realm of the universal can a man turn that certain corner,
and finally realize what is really going on.
One man who had always been a sorehead, after learning he was dying,
began to speak most favorably about life — which greatly surprised life.
(Who later confessed to just a mite of sarcastic dramatics.)
Those who ask: “Am I all right?” are not all right —
and will shortly resort to heroes and plagiarism.
One man pondered:
“Is the freedom the few itch for physical? — mental? — emotional?
or something else?”
One feature to performing a magic trick is to verbally act as though
you’re not entirely sure of what you’re doing.
Everyone can laugh when things are going well, but when they’re not,
the only ones laughing are the deranged and the enlightened
(and only the former out loud).
Amongst the verbal/mental life of ordinary men is played a variation of the:
Bigger Confusion Theory which silently says that it is all right if your own thoughts confuse you — as long as somewhere down the road you can tell them to
someone else who will be even more confused by them than you.
To be important you must seem important,
and to seem important you either have to have wealth that other people want,
or appear to know things that they want to know;
both are based on an illusion,
but one of them sure seems real to ordinary men.
None but the extraordinarily dense have an extraordinarily high opinion of their self,
and none but the routinely dense have any opinion of their self.
One man offers: “Life could not seem less interested in men understanding what it is doing — which immediately raises two distinct possibilities:
either it also is not interested in understanding what it is doing, or else it can’t —
which would be why it has a few unconventional men always trying to.”
More Regarding Stage Magic.
The more complicated the trick — the more boring it is.
As a new endeavor: one man began searching the world’s literature for a writing of purported important, enlightening thought whose opening sentence does not include the word, “I”.
News That Comes As News Only To The Deeply Dense.
Only nitwits respond to attacks by nitwits.
How REAL Progress Can Move In Directions That Elude Ordinary Sight.
Life told Reality:
“If you think that you’re something — just wait ‘til you see Local Conditions,”
then told Local Conditions:
“If you think that you’re something — just wait ‘til you see Man,”
then told Man:
“If you think that you’re something — just wait ‘til you see More Conscious Man — which requires that you move your eyes from Local Conditions,
and on to the Universal.”
Question: What have you heard Life say to you?
“But that seems unfair: what if Life does not say interesting, important things to you —
what in the world can you do about it?!”
A man to-this-task-born will force Life to talk to him in the manner he needs —
he will force it to — force it to.
Things are always looking up — for those who control their sight.