WELCOME . . . to my first website, which has existed for thirteen years now. It's all about human experience -- the one thing on which either everyone is an expert or no one is. In keeping with its topic, it addresses each reader directly and includes experience-related items and tasks on every page.
Though you and I may never know each other personally, there are three things I nevertheless believe about you:
. . . there is more to you than anyone knows;
. . . there is more to you than the one who knows you best knows;
. . . there is more to you than you know.
The fundamental reason for this site is to explore, express, and better understand that More.
(Leave the close reading of its many sections to those whom life has already placed in these respective areas -- except for the few hardy souls whose custom it is to delve into the unusual and unfamiliar anyway. Now, here we go . . .)
The Significance Of Human Life In Our Time
Dr. Jonas Salk is the physician-biologist who developed the polio vaccine and founded the prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, numbering among its members-in-residence some of the finest research scientists in the world. He was one of the first to soundly relate evolution to the major problems now confronting humankind. His last four books broke new ground, setting forth an overarching framework of methods and practices useful to those working in the disciplines of today. Vast in scope and rare in its intellectual rigor, his view throws open the entire spectrum of human endeavor to the established scientific work of today, which can benefit both the trained specialist and the general reader as well.
"It is necessary that this vision be shared with others, especially with the new metabiological species that is emerging in the creation of a new reality, one fashioned by the conscious choices we make now."
(Anatomy of Reality, by Jonas Salk)
The Gist of Jonas Salk's Later Writings
Investigating the fundaments of growth in the life-spans of yeast cells, mice, fruit flies, and other organisms, while also considering the exponential increase in the world's population, Salk stumbled upon something new and arresting. He began writing about it extensively; in book after book he delved into the matter more deeply than in the one before, each time coming at the subject refreshed and from an enlarged perspective, until his years of research and reflection began to coalesce into a single unifying vision. The titles of his last four books reveal the intertwining themes culminating a life spent in scientific work – Man Unfolding; Survival of the Wisest; World Population And Human Values (A New Reality); and Anatomy of Reality. All of these reveal the intense curiosity and mounting concern at the core of his scientific investigations, and their contents spell out with cogency and increasing clarity the enormous significance of his discovery.
. . . and here is a summary of what he found:
(Reading aloud may help the ear catch meanings otherwise missed by the eye.)
I. That the growth profiles of various species show three different patterns: . . . 1.) Following a long and steady period of growth, the rate suddenly spurts upward, after which the species ceases to exist; 2.) Growth accelerates, then rapidly declines, then accelerates and declines again, fluctuating up and down this way throughout its entire existence; 3.) A lengthy period of slow steady growth is maintained, which spikes upward, and then hits a plateau on which it maintains itself from then on (of the species that survive – and most of them don't – this is the normal pattern);
II. That in the third and normal pattern a "point of inflection" is reached . . . dividing the entire species profile into Epoch A, which comes before it, and Epoch B, which comes after;
III. That this unprecedented point is what humankind is presently passing through and will be for some time to come . . . involving dramatic and oftentimes conflicting shifts from values and behaviors required in the past to those called for now if our species is to continue to exist into the future;
IV. That to initiate the inflection is to trigger a transformation . . . commencing that broad-scale adapting to new conditions necessary to bring about both the emergence and ongoing unfolding of a species whose abiding aim is genuinely pro-survival;
V. That just as Man has reached the point where he can intervene to affect his own genetic inheritance, so also has he reached the point where he can now intervene into and affect his own evolutionary outcome . . . accomplishing the first, as he has, through biological means, and the second, as he is already beginning to do, through metabiological means;
VI. That a new discipline is needed, metabiology, to discern and delineate both the structures and dynamics inherent in the new form of existence now emerging within humankind . . . investigating as we must the crucial formative interrelations in Man between his BEING (the general givens of "Nature" as seen in "instincts" and appropriated through Intuition) and his EGO (the specific givens of personal inclinations as acted upon and elaborated by Reason), and the decisive interactional effects of both of these upon each other and in relation to the "environment";
VII. That this monumental shift – and the accompanying sense of unprecedented change it evokes in those undergoing it – is not "just an idea," but is, so to speak, in our very genes . . . arising, as it does, out of the very substance of Man's unfolding nature;
VIII. That what metabiology investigates is a newly evolved and still emerging part of reality (or of "that which is") . . . having to do with the entirety of Man's cultural experience -- its art, science, religion, philosophy, economics, politics, history, language, literature, and technology – and which, to be fully and rightly understood, must be seen in relation to all the other established parts of the overarching "Anatomy of Reality" to which they all belong, and which, when taken together, constitute the whole known rational order of the universe, whether that be approached as a whole (in macrocosm) or through any of its many parts (in microcosom);
IX. That metabiology should become the ongoing means through which humankind discovers and creates ways to live more wisely and relate more viably to itself, to other species, to the world's environment, and indeed, to the whole universe . . . and, lastly and surprisingly, . . .
X. That individuals working by themselves or in groups are far more likely to become effective "architects of the new reality" than are institutions . . . which are inevitably designed to remain fixed, and are thus much less capable of adapting swiftly to altered circumstances, such as those of the critical moment in which we stand today, which calls for many new understandings and a bevy of changed behaviors.
A Seismic Shift In Human Evolution
When human experiencing shifts significantly, then human life changes. And if that is taking place in our time, it behooves us to take a fresh look at what experience is and entails — and do this not just in our hallowed halls of higher learning, but right in our own backyards, there in the streets and alleyways of our everyday existence — where our lives are lived day in and night out, and thus where we can expect to see and better grasp what our lives are truly made of.
When we re-explore experience, we re-experience the world, seeing things more for what they are and better understanding what they are busily becoming. As it happens, this is what first brought me into contact with Dr. Salk and led to our meeting and later coming to know each other.
How I Came To Meet And Know Jonas Salk
In 1975, four years into a seven year doctoral program and applying for a special grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, I happened upon Jonas Salk's The Survival of the Wisest and was utterly captivated by it. Calling his institute for more material in the same vein, I was referred first to one department, then another, and soon found myself speaking to his polite, polished, and highly professional secretary. Since it was already late on a Friday afternoon, she sensibly suggested, "Mr. Ruyle, if you'd please call back the beginning of next week, I'll see what I can do for you."
Bright and early Monday mmorning, I called. "It's me again, " I said. "Oh, uhh, yes, " she murmured coolly, "Please hold a moment." Expecting to hear a click followed by a dial tone, indicating I'd been cut off, there was instead the empty sound of being on hold, suddenly the sound of another line being picked up and then a voice saying, "Jonas Salk speaking." I was stupefied and speechless! A few icy seconds everything froze, then the voice came again, a good bit stronger this time, "Jonas Salk speaking."
Galvanized into gesticulations and flailing like a parcel-bearing postman losing his footing on an icy sidewalk, I blurted out, "OH! Doctor SALK!!", jumping to my feet in a flurry of stutters and spasms, "I didn't expect to... uhh... and, well, you don't know me from Adam, but... — anyway, I'm applying for ... for this, uhh, grant, and, er... well your book, I think it's just magni—"Which book?", he inserted pointedly. "Oh, certainly ... I forgot to, uh, mention that it's... The Survival of the Wisest." "Go on," he urged firmly, like a conductor nudging along a passenger whose straggling is holding up the whole train. "Of course. Well, there's so much in it . . . and especially... well, for instance that sentence where you--" "Which sentence?" he interrupted, in a tone of rising impatience. Fortunately, the book lay open to the earmarked page that held on it — darkly lined along its margin with an inked-arrow pointing to the tiny paragraph it comprises — the sentence that I now know by heart. I rapidly read it aloud into the phone.
"If the BEING of Man is meaningfully related to what might be thought of as Nature's "purpose," its essential character must be discovered through its own expression, guiding the means it possesses for so doing while, at the same time, influencing the circumstances of its existence and evolution which are revealed by the effects "caused" by it."
The first of two big pauses in our conversation was mammoth and now ensued, its heavy silence broken by Salk's soon saying in most measured tones, "Now would you please tell me what you think that means?" "Well . . ." I murmured, edging into the topic, never having thought of how to express this in any other terms, "that would be, I guess . . . well . . . like trying to design the world's most perfect surfboard while you're using it to ride the waves."
The second and longest pause came next, in which I sensed something akin to a ship's coming about. Then, calmly and softly, "Who are you?", said as if he were scrutinizing scan results of my DNA. I replied, in the muffled manner of one just caught making a shortcut across someone else's well-kept yard, that I was a philosophy major working on a doctoral program in general psychology to develop a fresh approach to human experience — that I was active in theater, and also happened to be an Episcopal priest. "Mr. Ruyle, " he said, with a modicum of geniality missing before, "we understand each other. Not a whole lot of people think this way. Please feel free to indicate in your grant application that we've spoken personally. Should the grant be awarded, we will welcome you at the Salk Institute to share with you what we're discovering at the microbiological level while you share with us what you're finding at the metabiological level."
That never came to be, because the NIH informed me shortly thereafter that since the grant was to be awarded for the year 1976, they were "assigning priority to projects with a Bicentennial theme." No matter. Our link was maintained anyway, for Dr. Salk called me a few months later so we could share information; and we met in person when he came to Atlanta to address a large gathering at a conference entitled, "The Human Prospect: Revolutions to Come." There, he kindly autographed his World Population And Human Values: A New Reality, inscribing on its title page the sigmoidal curve depicting the growth profile he foresaw for the human species.
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What A Few Others Have Said About Life
"We are not here to do what has already been done."
"Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
"Life is the continuing intervention of the inexplicable."
"I thought I was learning to live, I was only learning to die."
"I think we have two lives: the life we learn with, and the life we live with after that."
"My life has been the poem I would have writ, but I could not both live and utter it."
"A difference which makes no difference is no difference."
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A question for you: Are thought and action two different things — as many people believe — or is thinking an action too? You decide! But the way you choose to view this will greatly affect your life; because in whatever way we make sense of things, we come to adopt and live within the sense we make.
The sense man makes in turn makes man.
If that is something you don't understand,
do not "understand" it into something you can.
For to turn to face what you don't understand,
is better than to turn it into what you can.
And why should that be so? Because then you just may come to know it for what it really is. Example: While still in his teens, Einstein asked himself, "What would the world look like if I rode on a beam of light?", and broke through to a whole new understanding of the universe in just that way. It was worth it, wouldn't you say?
Of the countless realities there are, the four greatest I know are God, the universe, life, and human experience. And the significance of the latter is that for all human beings, the first three can be known only through it.
[The two evocative photomontages are the work of Jerry Uelsmann, a renowned photographer and friend of many years, whose fine works are in the private collections of museums around the world. Links to Jerry's site and works, along with those of others presented in these pages, are found in the credits section listed on the Conversations page of this site.]
* * *
A Book Thirty Years In The Making
What began as a trade publication in 1983 . . .
In the 1970s, I undertook a lengthy graduate studies program "to find a fresh approach to human experience," which turned into a seven-year doctoral program . . . and the many outcomes to which it led. What I estimated might take two years turned into seven. And when all the reading, researching, reflecting, and reformulating of Psychology, Philosophy, Art, History, Literature, Science, Religion, Politics & Economics was finally finished and translated out of "dissertationese" (the only species of writing ever developed not meant to be read), it showed itself as a book.
Coming out first as a paperback published by Seabury Press in 1983 , the book originally looked like this. (See review in side panel for the full review in Atlanta Journal/Constitution.) But that press was sold to yet another, Winston Press, a few weeks later, and its list was subsequently acquired by Harper Collins in San Francisco, where, after the copies of its original run had sold, it fell out of print.
And that is where things stayed for several years. Until through an incredible coincidence it was brought to life again as a Back-in-Print edition of the Authors Guild.
. . . was brought back into print through the Authors Guild in 2005 . . .
With a fresh title rightly expanded to its fullest extent, a preface to cite the significant cultural changes that had since intervened, the total removal of an outdated section, and the addition of recent works to its annotated bibliography, everything was noticeably streamlined, bringing the book's true aim into the limelight and fixing it there.
It is a book to help people be. It doesn't sum up anything but seeks instead to open up everything. It addresses each reader directly as the distinct individuals they actually are -- seeking to better acquaint them with their own uniqueness.
If you put all of its chapter headings together (found here in capital letters), it makes a sentence: "Just Between Us, To Be Somebody, In A time Like This -- Making A Life, In The Ragged Raw Real -- takes Seeing The Soul, Sensing The Spirit, and Moving On To More."
It is something meant for any and all, but especially for those who are truly ready to reclaim their bodies, recover their souls, and re-enter the world.
. . . and has finally appeared in an e-book version as well.
This first page summarizes what led to the book's being written.
And this second page addresses why a fresh overall exploration of human experience is necessary in our time.
These two pages became the preface of the Authors Guild edition, found in the right hand column under: "The book's Preface, Table of Contents, and Opening Chapter."
* * *