creating our universe


We learn from an early age how to create the world around us. We learn labels, we learn definitions, we learn classifications, sub-classifications and distinctions. A toddler learns that a tree is called a tree, a cloud is called a cloud, and Mama and Dada are called Mom and Dad. An adolescent learns the difference between rich and poor, strong and weak, nice and mean. An adult learns what class warfare is, what God is, and what antidisestablishmentarianism could possibly mean.

But at what point does this really continue to benefit us?

the death of the senses

There is an economic principle called the law of diminishing returns. It means, in terms that I can understand, that the more we continue to invest in something, the less we get out of it (see Wikipedia for a MUCH more accurate definition). A marathoner plodding along an 18-week training regimen sees more marked improvement in the early stages of training than in the later stages. Early on, his average race pace may drop from nine-minute miles to eight-minute miles in the space of just a few determined weeks, while in the last few weeks of high-intensity training he will see much less of an improvement than that. Granted, it’s still marked improvement, but the point stands: the return isn’t as great.

So how does this apply to labels? To definitions? To distinctions? How do we measure returns on something like learning? The truth is, most people don’t even try. Learning is a wonderful thing – I believe lifelong learning should be a cornerstone of everyone’s daily experience. But after a point in the learning process – for most of us, in our teenage years – it becomes easy to lose sight of true value. So if we really tried measuring the returns on learning, we’d realize that there are things that are more important. Thus, we accrue knowledge for the sake of accruing knowledge. We learn what a tree is but then forget to experience the tree. Think about it: when was the last time you touched, and felt, a tree? Felt its bark, listened as its branches swayed in the wind, smelled its leaves? Go outside and touch a tree. Right now. I’ll wait . . .

Back already? Good. Carrying on. . . as one of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, says, “The birth of the mind is the death of the senses.”

p’u, the uncarved block

Moments in life can trigger the resurgence of this child-like appreciation for the world around us:

  • Having a child
  • A near-death experience
  • A religious experience
  • Emerging from an emotional depression

But it should be natural (shouldn’t it?), as human beings gifted with life on this wonderful earth, to consciously appreciate the universe around us during what we deem mundane experience. During the ordinary moments. To appreciate the universe, not necessarily in the form in which we initially created it, but rather through direct experience. To sense directly, without thought, opinion or interpretation. To simply be.

Much like Winnie the Pooh. Open to, but unburdened by, experience.

winnie the pooh, the tao of pooh


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88 Responses to “creating our universe”

  1. mindfulacting Says:

    Lovely post! The state of mindfulness you describe here is getting more and more recognition around the world as a tool against stress and anxiety, which is great.

  2. whatwouldyoulovetodo Says:

    To be appreciative, you have to learn to still your mind even if just for a moment as we are all too busy living. The benefit of age teaches that its important to put some time aside as the material and oh so urgent things of younger years become not quite so urgent. I enjoyed your post

  3. Kathy Says:

    Thank you for sharing this~~and you’re Freshly Pressed so many of us may look beyond the label of the tree today and really see it.

  4. cartoonmick Says:

    The brain is like a sponge, soaking up everything we learn, the labels etc you mentioned. The more we absorb the more we have learned.

    Maybe it would be easier to measure what we haven’t learned, as opposed to what we have. Don’t know!

    But anyway, why measure? Why not just learn and repay the universe by creating from what we have learnt.

    The world becomes richer from our creations. Therefore, if the world is rich, we have learnt a lot.

    I guess my learning could be measured in the cartoons I create. But why measure ? Why not just enjoy what has been created.



  5. Humans Are Weird Says:

    There’s a story about how Joshua Bell – a famous violinist – was playing for 45 minutes at a subway station in Washington DC as a part of an experiment initiated by the Washington post.

    Only a handful of people stopped to listen, only one recognised him and he only made $32 from the 45 minutes he spent there. He’d sold out an entire concert the night before.

    There’s a lot of beauty in life that goes unnoticed. I’m happy that they’ve Freshly Pressed you and this post to encourage all the WordPressers out there to stop, chill out and smell the rainbows for just a moment, if not many more.

    (here’s a link to the hidden camera that video taped him)

  6. denizsezgun Says:

    as one of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, says, “The birth of the mind is the death of the senses.”

    That explains why we live more unsuccessful lives than animals do. They still rely on senses and instincts while we kill them as our minds grow and improve…

    Thank you for this beautiful post and congratulations for being freshly pressed!

  7. broadsideblog Says:

    Good points.

    I think this is even more essential as more and more people — especially children — “experience” the world only through electronic media like this. Very few consider direct, sensual experience of the world to be of value. And what we do not value, we trash…

  8. creating our universe « livin’ like a freebird | Under The Radar Says:

    […] creating our universe « livin’ like a freebird. Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestEmailLinkedInPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in The Scoop. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  9. shudderingwords Says:

    This was a fantastic post! It really got me to thinking about how I really need to slow down and realize that things are not going to be there forever.

  10. asoulwalker Says:

    Wikipedia and diminishing returns on learning go hand in hand.

  11. kristenmichellebrown Says:

    This post met me right where I am. Great post – thank you.

  12. The Adventures of Sky & Snipey Says:

    Very nice reads…i like simply liked your post. 🙂

  13. Stephanie Raffelock Says:

    All the information and knowledge can be overwhelming. It’s a stuggle to find your way back living fully. So now that I have read your post, I am inspired to go walk barefoot on the grass in my back yard.

  14. lexiesnana Says:

    Learned this as I was taking a dear friend to chemo.Great post.

  15. Grace Vieth Says:

    great post.

  16. Daphne Shadows Says:

    Reminds me of a quote by Oscar Wilde. “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
    If we don’t take in the world and have a genuine experience, how can we count ourselves as having lived?
    I think you put this wonderfully. 🙂

  17. kcvedra Says:

    This brings me to a simple thought of why I just don’t pay attention to details. When I meet someone for example, I’ll only remember the face. I seldom remember the name associated with it. Or I’ll just remember how the name “sounded” like.

    This is because our brain takes in so many things using all of our senses every second we are alive. And as we grow, we both unconsciously and consciously develop a sifting criteria of what we think is important enough to store in the easily accessible memory we have. The rest just goes to our brain’s junkmail.

    Anyway, I like how you mentioned Winnie the Pooh in your blog. 🙂

  18. Lu Says:

    Love Winnie the Pooh! Great post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  19. Things You Realize After You Get Married Says:

    This is an awesome post! Well-deserved being FP!

    This is why I sometimes feel that going to school / or taking a course to learn something, can sometimes take away and impede, rather than help us in developing a talent such as dancing or singing etc. Letting out what we feel within us, without having anything external tamper with it is very hard to do—society always wants to mold us to what fits within the approved scheme of things.

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      That’s why I’ve always liked Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon tells off the prep in the bar.

      Granted, it’s fiction, but the point stands.

  20. andac2012 Says:

    I really like your post , it’s great .

  21. lsurrett2 Says:

    Kudos for finding a place to use antidisestablishmentarianism. Not completely sure all adults learn that word. Wait, what does that mean again?

  22. Domino Says:

    Reblogged this on Time Launch and commented:
    As cliche’ as it sounds to this generation; Drugs, music, and pure emotion bring out the inner child that we all have put away.

  23. Matt_S_Law Says:

    In today’s world we are always rushing. Our parents (grandparents for some of you whipper snappers) probably took time to just sit on the porch in a chair. Today we fill in our spare time with staring at screens and twittering. We should all take some time to be still and be quiet… unplug from the Matrix. This post reminds me that I still haven’t read “The Tao of Pooh”

  24. zachbissett Says:

    “Open to, but unburdened by, experience.” And now I can go on with by day, feeling appropriately enlightened.

  25. Jeremy Truitt Says:

    Well done, just well done.

  26. iRuniBreathe Says:

    It’s been years since I read “Way of the peaceful warrior.” I remember being fascinated by the world around me while reading it, seeing everything through a new filter. Maybe it’s time to read it again, so that I can really feel a tree, rather than just look at it and see leaves.

    Thanks for the reminder. I’m glad you were FP for this.

  27. judmcleod Says:

    stopping and experiencing the world? Could this be the reason the commercials for a beer like Corona have been so effective with the same message of escaping to slow down?

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  28. alaskasarah Says:

    lovely post. that is how i know i’ve read a good book or watched a good movie – if afterwards, i feel that very thing – a child-like appreciation for the world around me; a genuine curiousity for simple things like trees. wonderful thoughts. i hope that sense comes more natural for all of us.

  29. Words of Conflict Says:

    Ecclesiastes 1:18 NKJV

    For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      Thank you for sharing this. That is beautiful. I’m reading the Bible right now and am very excited about what I am discovering!

  30. Jackson Williams Says:

    Dude. Fantastic post.

  31. Snakehair Says:

    So Taoist, so Buddhist, so absolutely present. So glad freshly pressed is featuring genuine open minds and wise spirits. Namaste to you friend, thank you for a loveeeeelyyy post!

  32. Allison Wright Says:

    I often touch trees. I have not climbed one for a very long time, though, more’s the pity!
    Your image of Winnie the Pooh brought this little rhyme of his to mind:
    “Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone Pie
    A fly can’t bird but a bird can fly;
    Ask me a riddle and I’ll reply
    Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone Pie.”

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  33. Vincent Borgese Says:

    Ah, life is but a balancing act between the senses and sense.

  34. freedlife Says:

    Existing – too busy being busy to experience. Living – too busy experiencing to be busy. Not profound, but meaningful for me. Thanks for the post. It sinks deep into my earth.

  35. angiec Says:

    Oh, bother.

    Just kidding. I enjoyed this post. The book is now on my to-read list.

    Also, there are no trees around where I live. Will a shrub do?

  36. amandajfrench Says:

    I’m reading “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” at this moment & it has really made me focus on just enjoying the present & using all my senses to enjoy what I’m doing right now. It’s great to be reminded that we are spiritual beings having a human experience & if we just plod along, not really taking note of what’s going on around us & experiencing what life has to offer us, then we really are missing the point of being here.

  37. Matt Says:

    I’d have reblogged this – but there’s a lack of the appropriate button – as it links in directly with my blog from yesterday, about the importance of life long learning. One of the key elements of maintaining learning is learning to be present NOW, and I believe that is what you are describing here. Congratulations on being FP 🙂

  38. Büroumzüge Says:

    PS: You’re the BLOG king as far as I am concerned. 🙂

  39. binvested Says:

    What a refreshing post. I know my day will be better for reading it…may even go out and hug a tree! Thankyou for sharing a beautiful message.

  40. HummingsOfTheMind Says:

    I very much agree with your view of how we should be constructing our own versions of reality. I guess sometimes the subjective nature of this view of life is, pitifully, overshadowed by the objective values of modern day learning!

  41. sandietru Says:

    Reblogged this on Oceans In Me and commented:
    We need balance. Balance the use of ourind with the use of our other senses.

  42. philosophirish Says:

    Nicely written. I, too, decry the lack of learning for learning’s sake; through it, we acknowledge the lived reality of our existence, which is, properly, one of organic growth.

    However, the wish to return to the immediacy of nature or the world around us — to somehow bypass the sedimentation of accrued meanings and symbolism that layers the world before we even have a chance to find our way in it as infants — will of necessity remain unfulfilled.

    In short, it’s impossible to “sense directly, without thought, opinion or interpretation”, much as we might like to. It is in the nature of our being to ‘be’ in a world that is always already prefigured and codified in countless ways. We never hear a pure sound, for example. Instead, we hear a ‘car’, a ‘scream’, the clatter of a wind-blown soda can.

    We sense the world as something indelibly marked by — and filtered through — the significances and meanings that go to make up the word as shared. Neither did we create this meanings on an individual basis, from infancy as it were. No, we are ‘thrown’ into them and all we can do is begin where we are, perhaps effect some critical distance and see things from otherwise latent perspectives.

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      It is actually not impossible to sense directly, without thought, opinion or interpretation. It’s called “being in the zone.” Think of an athlete who performs an incredible feat in the blink of an eye: the gymnast who makes a perfect landing, the MMA fighter who performs a brilliant move on his opponent, the runningback who evades tackle after tackle to score a touchdown. They are in the zone, acting without thought, opinion, or interpretation. They simply act.

      Granted, this is only an aspect of it. I believe it is possible (and I know people who have) to eliminate unconscious mental chatter. Intellectual knowledge can take us amazing places, true, but it can only take us so far. Once we have mastered something, once we have learned all we can, it’s time to forget all that shit and just do, just experience, just be.

      And it’s quite possible. It’s just very, VERY hard to sustain.

      • philosophirish Says:

        Hi Jeff and thanks for the reply. The conditioned responses that you point out are certainly worth consideration, but I think that these ‘muscle memory’ actions are mechanistic reflex-like responses, honed through habituation.

        Sustaining such momentary responses would be impossible to achieve. Indeed, a life comprising such behaviour might even be equivalent to ‘living’ in a comatose state, with only the most rudimentary of physical responses, no reflection and nothing that could be described as ‘meaningful’ in your life. A vegetative state like this might be sensorily immediate, I suppose, but life lived at the level of a reflex action: who’d desire that?

        I might point out as well that ‘unconscious mental chatter’ is something of a contradiction in terms. ‘Chatter’ presupposes something heard and thus consciously experienced, but the unconscious is, by definition, un-conscious, impossible to consciously perceive. However, the unconscious is a powerful though implicit presence in our lives and it can’t be turned off or eliminated.

        More generally, I see what you’re getting at with your piece, but I think that the desire to avoid consciousness and awareness of being in the world is, at best, an ideal scenario to hanker after prior to a night’s sleep…!

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      I absolutely love it when people challenge my views in an educated manner, so thank you for commenting!

      I understand why you would take the athlete example to the level you did, but I’m not ruling out the capacity for conscious thought. Being “in the zone” is a hard state to maintain, yes, and I have a feeling we would become exhausted if we tried to do this at all times, but I do believe there is a level of awareness we can achieve that the vast VAST majority of folks are not at – and, sadly, likely will never reach.

      Note: I get your point about my use of the word unconscious. Technically, it’s not correct, but my point is that “unconscious mental chatter” is really mental chatter that the conscious, educated, thinking human is really not aware of. We get lost in our thoughts and are only peripherally aware of what is going on around us. That’s more what I mean when I say unconscious. It is happening literally all the time and it takes people away from direct experience.

  43. lola Says:

    good and nice posting

  44. aunaqui Says:

    “Thus, we accrue knowledge for the sake of accruing knowledge. We learn what a tree is but then forget to experience the tree.”

    I appreciate this post (your words of insight and wisdom) more than words can convey. It really hit home for me.

    Thank you VERY much.
    Aun Aqui

  45. Rina Says:

    Reblogged this on Potatoes..

  46. Call Me Kathryn Says:

    What an incredible post!

  47. philosophical11 Says:

    I think this “law of diminishing returns” is a matter of perspective. The runner who gains marked improvement after a long time training is gaining improvement at a higher level. A level not available to the beginning trainer, and that level of improvement means the difference between winning and losing the race.

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      You’re 100% right. But it doesn’t change the bare-bones fact that even though the runner is putting more effort in, the overall time is not improving like it was in the beginning. Yes, he is training at a higher level, but he won’t see improvement both in body and time like he did in the beginning.

      I’ve run two marathons and a bevy of halfs, so I understand where you’re coming from.

      • philosophical11 Says:

        You are right about the “bare-bones” fact of his running time, as you put it. I think those little improvements have a lot of value though, they are what separates the master from the novice.

  48. TTTFanSarah Says:

    Very intteresting post. I think this concept is something that we all are aware of subconsciously, but we need to be reminded from time to time. In my own life, I am going to school to be a vet tech because I love animals. However, I spend so much time filling my brain with information about dogs that I sometimes forget the value of spending time with the animals themselves. This is very similar to your tree metaphor. Thank you for the reminder to “stop and smell the roses” so to speak. I’m going to find a tree now…

  49. 5oh9 Says:

    Reblogged this on Mystic Inspirations.

  50. rastelly Says:

    We lie here under endless Skies,
    faceing that space
    between truth and lies
    the air catches fire
    as the sunset dies
    we wonder

    if hell is a gateway
    and heaven is just a consolation prize.

    what if the world truly is perfect,
    and it’s we who are flawed.

    When a wound never heals,
    what if this is just how happieness feels?

    Perhaps it is we who should learn to enjoy it,
    Perhaps it is we who are missing the point –
    Perhaps we are not to assume that there is one –

    P.S. Long live the Taoist Pooh!

  51. deliveryfolktales Says:

    Some great stuff to think about. I probably will on my next long drive! haha if you wanna know more about my long days, check out my new blog 🙂 much appreciated thank you 🙂

  52. Nina Says:

    Reblogged this on Nina's Garden.

  53. observingvessel Says:

    Very well said, sir! 🙂

  54. starsfromheavens Says:

    Love how you present this topic. Numerous encounters in my life have highlighted this mind over senses (conscience) issues. Lesson learned: I have intended to not argue nor debate anyone who speaks from the mind instead of the heart. They have their own world, and I have mine 🙂

    The problem is when people who actually speak from their mind claim that they speak from the heart. A sensitive opponent can actually feel/sense the source of those words.

    Anyway, just a thought 🙂 Thumbs up anyway!

  55. The Prophet Says:

    I am right now re-reading the TAO OF POOH and you mentioned it here I love when things of that nature, don’t you ?

  56. Justin W. Grover Says:

    Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint on the topic!

  57. Says:

    Great post.

  58. thinkingcowgirl Says:

    Yeah hug that tree! You’re definitely on my wavelength…you FPer (jealous!) no, congratulations really. I also love ‘Turning the Mind into an Ally’. I’m living the slow life. You may get some enjoyment from my post a million tiny wings….sending the love out there 🙂

  59. noviinternet Says:

    I like your post, and I like Winnie the Pooh… I have many similar ideas but I write in Serbian, so I cant share my ideas with you 😦

  60. jaydesaz Says:

    fantastic … brought tears to my eyes…i wish i could appreciate the small joys lil more …but this competition to succeed …to fullfill never ending desires…the insecurities of failing

  61. Ellie Says:

    Wow, I love blogs that make us think! You’ve found another follower. We should always strive for excellence not perfection, which is unreachable.

  62. UfoBloggaren Says:

    there is no musts only inprinted musts , nice post =)

  63. agjorgenson Says:

    Thanks for a great post. When i took an art course they taught us to look for the colour of the sweater in the shadow of the jaw, and suddenly I saw red in jaws, green on highways, and warm wood on my pen. To look, to see, to live…

  64. endlessdreams91 Says:

    Reblogged this on endlessdreams91.

  65. gelolopez Says:

    Reblogged this on Musings of a Demented Little Boy and commented:
    “But it should be natural (shouldn’t it?), as human beings gifted with life on this wonderful earth, to consciously appreciate the universe around us during what we deem mundane experience. During the ordinary moments. To appreciate the universe, not necessarily in the form in which we initially created it, but rather through direct experience. To sense directly, without thought, opinion or interpretation. To simply be.”

  66. deborahbrasket Says:

    Love what you say here, especially about the uncarved block and really feeling what we see and experience. I write about the uncarved block in one of my posts “Walking Among Flowers” about how experiencing the beauty and color of flowers can be like an assault on the physical senses. Something that tears you apart and opens you up.

  67. Frank Colella Says:

    I love what you’re saying here, but I think you’ve missed an important distinction.. the brain is not the mind. And, contrary to popular belief, the mind is not even in the brain… the brain is an excellent slave, but most of us have let it become the master! Pooh’s quote should be: “The birth of the brain is the death of the senses”… or, more precisely, the death of our knowledge of how to create our world, consciously… CHEERS!!

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      Good point, Frank. Way of the Peaceful Warrior, from which I drew that distinction, actually says something similar – except they reverse the distinction that you’re saying. Regardless, yes, most of us have let it become the master, whether you deem that “it” the brain or the mind. I like the last thing you said, too. “the death of our knowledge of how to create our world, consciously.” Good stuff!

  68. retroatalier Says:

    So true and right on time, thanks!

  69. “Much like Winnie the Pooh. Open to, but unburdened by, experience.” | unlike this Says:

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