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Roger Wolcott Sperry

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Prior to the advent of brain, there was no color and no sound in the universe, nor was there any flavor or aroma and probably rather little sense and no feeling or emotion. Before brains the universe was also free of pain and anxiety.
--
"Evolution of the Human Brain" (1964), p. 2

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry

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I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It's difficult to describe because it's an emotion. It's analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the whole universe: there's a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run "behind the scenes" by the same organization, the same physical laws. It's an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It's a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion. It could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe.

 
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Attention involves seeing and hearing. We hear not only with our ears but also we are sensitive to the tones, the voice, to the implication of words, to hear without interference, to capture instantly the depth of a sound. Sound plays an extraordinary part in our lives: the sound of thunder, a flute playing in the distance, the unheard sound of the universe; the sound of silence, the sound of one’s own heart beating; the sound of a bird and the noise of a man walking on the pavement; the waterfall. The universe is filled with sound. This sound has its own silence; all living things are involved in this sound of silence. To be attentive is to hear this silence and move with it.

 
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There probably is no more important quest in all science than the attempt to understand those very particular events in evolution by which brains worked out that special trick that has enabled them to add to the cosmic scheme of things: color, sound, pain, pleasure, and all the other facets of mental experience.

 
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But if ether is nothing but an hypothesis explanatory of light, air on the other hand, is a thing that is directly felt; and even if it did not enable us to explain the phenomenon of sound, we should nevertheless always be directly aware of it, and above all, of the lack of it in moments of suffocation or air-hunger. And in the same way God Himself, not the idea of God, may become a reality that is immediately felt; and even though the idea of God does not enable us to explain either the existence or essence of the Universe, we have at times the direct feeling of God, above all in moments of spiritual suffocation. And the feeling, mark it well, for all that is tragic in it and the whole tragic sense of life is founded upon this — this feeling is a feeling of hunger for God, of the lack of God. To believe in God is, in the first instance... to wish that there may be a God, to be unable to live without Him.

 
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The primary challenge of this cosmological transformation of consciousness is the awareness that each being in the universe is an origin of the universe. "The center of the cosmos" refers to that place where the great birth of the universe happened at the beginning of time, but it also refers to the upwelling of the universe as river, as star, as raven, as you, the universe surging into existence anew. The consciousness that learns it is at the origin point of the universe is itself an origin of the universe. The awareness that bubbles up each moment that we identify as ourselves is rooted in the originating activity of the universe. We are all of us arising together at the center of the cosmos.

 
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