The neuroscientist is talking about the difference between default perception – a kind of cognitive shorthand, a convenient fiction provided by the brain, using a mental construct built from previous experience (on a sunny day the sky is [fill in blank]) in order to deal efficiently with the constant stream of sensory information the brain is receiving without having to analyze each element individually – and the enhanced perception experienced at moments when a fuller awareness is required. In such enhanced perception, moments seem to extend beyond the constraints of measurable time, and minute details are revealed to have previously unperceived levels of complexity and connection to other elements of perception. Perception acquires capabilities of recognition that are almost incommensurable to the default mode. There is clearly a survival benefit to having both types of awareness.
And as i am working in the garden, i am thinking of the people who know plants well enough, after many instances of enhanced perception perhaps, to understand them as sentient beings. And therefore move through a garden or grove as you or i would move through a room crowded with people we recognized and knew intimately, most of whom we truly loved, all of whom we respected (i suppose most people’s rooms today would be quite small) hearing each one speaking to you of its current condition of life in its very particular voice.
And for just a moment – but it feels capacious – in the spangled sunlight of the quiet green space, enriched by all the beneficent molecules these speechless, unambulatory but not immobile beings are releasing invisibly but not imperceptibly into the air around me, i feel as if it might be possible to be who and what we are only and yet come to know a thing worth knowing.