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Life — A emerging advent

Let us initially contemplate life as an actuality forming itself, an emerging advent.

Forming ourselves is a vital homeostatic process, and here "ourselves" encompasses the unity of all living entities. Each is not a mere object, but an active, self-maintaining, intentional entity, each living an actual, finite life. We are one with all life in forming ourselves—living from birth to death.

Life denotes a counter-entropic, emergent capacity for self-maintenance in nature. Life began a mystery, emerging from primordial indeterminacy, as embodied form that maintains itself by controlling the mechanisms of matter and energy. Life swarms, living entities, busy sustaining and reproducing themselves. Life grabs stuff and converts it, matter and energy, into meaningful resources that serve life's self-postulated, self-sustaining purposes. Life creates itself through its living forms, each instance of which is mortal, but which together interact continuously with themselves and with the material chaos, cumulatively drawing more and more of the chaos into the cosmos of vital experience. Every life, lived, ended in death, making the sequence of lives profoundly recursive. And through the recursive work of living forms, the universe steadily springs to life. And in doing so, life imbues the senseless universe with its sentience, meaning, and value. We, the omni-human join in that cosmic mission.

Experience—as lived in an immediate present, as our life, the life that each human lives—takes place both bodily, through somatic interactions, and mentally, through interactions involving subliminal and conscious awareness. Stuff happens as we imagine it through the view of the fictitious observer, but our lives take place through our lived experience, which is the seat of our seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking, judging, doing, suffering, and enjoying.

“Lived experience” is a redundant term, but it is useful and perhaps necessary, nevertheless, because much of what people call “experience” merely grasps the afterglow of lived experience, its appearance in after-the-fact awareness and thought. The bullet, ripping through skin and stomach wall, tearing open intestines, splatting through a kidney, and pushing out the back is much closer to the lived experience than the actor's sudden grab of his stomach, eyes budding at the sight of the first blood trickling out, exhaling the perplexed plaint, "I've been shot." But both are mere description. In reality, the experience is actual, instantaneous, transient, irreversible, and transformative—in short, lived. Forming ourselves takes place in the flow of lived experience—that's key to its power and its difficulty.

Lived experience takes place in a vital present facing an indeterminate future, but most discourse about experience pertains to what happened in a determinate past. Education takes place as our important capacities emerge in lived experience, with respect to which even the breathless “Ah ha!” comes after the fact. Persons and publics form themselves by seeking to maintain themselves through their lived experience at the full of their capacities. That fulfillment never results in an attained condition; it is always a sought objective. Persons and publics seek it as the goal, the telos or destiny, of their living effort, something not presently achieved. The effort to realize the possibilities inherent in their present capacities changes those capacities and the possibilities inherent in them, redirecting the effort to a transformed goal, on and on. They postulate objectives and using their inner senses of control to attain them in the flux of their lived experience. The effort exercises and shapes capacities. Thus, forming ourselves takes place through the present pursuit of future possibilities, a self-renewing process that continues until death. Throughout life, persons and publics must continually interpret and adapt their pursuit of fulfillment in the midst of the ever-changing experience taking place. Fulfillment enters lived experience always as a dynamic prospect.

Forming ourselves takes place life long for each and all of us. A Place to Study seeks to serve as a constructive resource for us in that process.