It’s a fact, you feel good when you forget about yourself even for a while. But self-forgetfulness can be difficult to do by yourself. That is why you consume information whether audio, video, or text. You use substances.

However, this over-reliance on media could stunt our ability to be alone with our senses. Yes, we are toolmakers and tool users, but earlier in our evolution, we only had our hands and mind to use, and we seem to have completely forgotten that those were enough for a very long time. It is important to experience self-forgetfulness and transcendence as organic as possible (i.e., through our bare senses) at least once in a while. It is harder, yes, but the experience is more enlightening, insightful, and freeing. Why? Because it puts us in direct contact with reality. And reality isn’t orchestrated like the story in a film or a book or a song. Reality is messy—a fluctuating arrangement (or perhaps disarrangement) of atoms and photons.

The most noble of all methods of transcendence is what is difficult to do—to just be and use your built-in media—your senses—to devour stimuli from nature. This is done through mindfulness. This is still forgetting oneself via devouring information and flooding the brain with it so thoughts are flushed out. But it is done naturally through senses alone and with no media, unassisted, bare bones. This state can be uncomfortable, but it puts us in direct contact with reality.

This also reminds me of Annie Dillard’s views on walking with and without a camera. She calls the latter being an “unscrupulous observer.”

But there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way, I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.

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Unscrupulous because it is seeing without any preconceived bias. This state allows you to develop authenticity by managing attention.

A more easier form of unscrupulous observation is pure listening with someone talking without the intention of responding (listening can be transcendental).

When I listen to someone talk, I still consume structured or possibly even coordinated information. But there is an unexplainable quality to face-to-face conversations that make them richer than video or voice calls. Yet rightfully so. I am interacting with hormone-releasing flesh, not a radiation-emitting screen. Furthermore, even when it is structured, a conversation is still not immune from the vagueness of reality. It could lead anywhere; countless things could happen. It mimics the messy nature of reality. And yet, despite the mess, if I listen closely, without thinking about what to say back but simply being present with the other person, I inevitably forget about myself. I seem to become the other person, not in that magical wuwu way, but naturally and imaginatively, that happens within my own subjective experience.

Ironically, we couldn’t dismiss that curated information in media makes transcendence easier. The mind needs structure for it to quiet down. Give it form, and it will surrender itself, calm down, and ultimately forget. And this is what I love about reading. Reading feels like listening to someone talk for a long time without me thinking about responding, but in a well-structured and coordinated manner. When I read a good book, I find myself transcend—I forget that I am even existing.