HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: The Biology of the Spirit |Sherwin Nuland + On Being With Krista Tippett

Well, you just got the word. I’ve been sitting here on the edge of my seat, hoping, ‘When am I going to get to say this word, wonder?’

Wonder is something I share with people of deep faith. They wonder at the universe that God has created, and I wonder at the universe that nature has created. But this is a sense of awe that motivates the faithful, motivates me. And when I say motivates, it provides an energy for seeking. Just as the faithful will always say, ‘We are seeking,’ I am seeking.

We’re seeking different things. I’m seeking an understanding of this integrity of everything, of this unity of everything, of the equilibrium of not just the homeostasis, as the physiologists say, the staying the sameness, but of the closeness that we are constantly coming to chaos. I have had chaos. I’ve had chaos to the point where I thought my mind was lost, which gives me a deeper appreciation of equanimity, not just to continued existence but to continued learning, continued productivity, this kind of thing.

KT: …I mean you really do suggest that the human spirit is something of an evolutionary accomplishment.

SN: I think there is an evolutionary accomplishment of the human cortex, the cortex of the brain, and the way it relates to the lower centers of the brain and the way it relates to the entire body, the way it accepts and synthesizes information, uses information from the environment, from the deepest recesses of the body, the way it recognizes dangers to its continued integrity. And I think that this is precisely what the human spirit is doing. The human spirit is maintaining an equilibrium, and it largely is related to its normal physical and chemical functioning…

Consciousness is only a kind of an awareness of our surroundings, an awareness of our emotions, an awareness of our responses. The human spirit is something much greater. The human spirit is an enrichment. It’s the way we use our consciousness to, I keep using this word, to synthesize something better than our mere consciousness, to make ourselves emotionally richer than we in fact are.

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: The Biology of the Spirit