Wednesday, November 17

How to Detect Equilibrium

I've been thinking about water, and how it has no taste.

I mean that's weird right, something that covers about 70% of the surface of the Earth, that is absolutely inseparable from life as we know it, and we are even made of it, or at least 50-60% of us is made of it, and the sense capable of detecting things that we ingest is incapable of identifying it?

I mean, if something was so important, don't you think we would have evolved to notice it? Sure, we can distinguish other substances in the water, like sugar, salt, or alcohol, but the actual water flavor remains elusive.

On a similar note, what does air taste like? Sure, we can detect a lot of poisonous gases, mostly fumes we may have experienced in the wild, like smoke or methane, things that could have been dangerous had we stayed in them for too long, but the air we breathe, moment to moment, is an undetectable phantasm.

So water and air, two substances that we are 100% dependent on, we cannot sense. Isn't that completely counterintuitive? I would think that we would be able to detect both of those, in addition to everything else, not everything else minus those two things.

Granted, we can see and touch water. However, the simple explanation for that one is that we've evolved to fit in another environment, one that is surrounded by air. We can't see air, and we can't feel air unless we move or the air moves. If we were fish, I'd wager we couldn't see or feel water either.

So once we moved on land, and being surrounded by water became a hazard for us, we quickly evolved to sense water by sight and touch, but we remained blissfully ignorant to how water tastes.

Now that I mentioned environment, let's move on to something that isn't a substance. Let's talk about temperature. Can you feel heat and cold? Certainly. Can you feel what a comfortable temperature is? No way. In fact, we don't even have a word for what that would be. Is it warm? Cool? Lukewarm? Nope. All of those indicate some amount of either positive or negative from your base temperature.

So we can't taste water or air, we can't feel motionless air or an ideal temperature, and we can't see air. What does this tell us about ourselves? When we can't physically notice the things that are most essential to us, when the fundamental structure of our perception excludes perceiving the very nature of our existence?

What ramifications does this have? I mean, we can only experience gravity if we jump. So what about space? What about time? Can we ever see, taste, or touch either of those? Would we have to be a fish out of water, or rather a person out of space and time in order to sense those? These yardsticks that we consider intrinsic to our nature, can we only ever truly sense them if we transcend those dimensions?

Leaping from philosophy to psychology, can we ever genuinely experience contentment? Notice, I'm not talking happiness here, but the type of personal equilibrium that is the equivalent of not tasting water. Is that state of being the enlightenment that many have searched for, but few have ever found? Is this what the Buddha meant when he talked about the void?

Does the path to true enlightenment (or contentment, or fulfillment, or whatever word you want to call it) require realizing that everything tastes like water?

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