The Universe and You

Is the universe conscious of itself? We should know this.

Our planet is a product of a universe of exploding stars. We are organic creatures made of the stuff of our planet. Like our planet, we are a product of the universe.

So far, true.

We are a bundle of organized sensory receptors (among other things). Using these sensors, we have evolved to detect light (electromagnetic radiation particles/waves), sound (vibrations and traveling longitudinal waves), scent (volatilized chemical compounds), and anything that touches our body of sensory receptors including tiny invisible particles moving around us, like air. These sensations are acknowledged in the control receptor (brain). The brain has decided that all this sensory input is good, ensuring our continuance.

But what of consciousness? Is it more than the interpreter of sensations? We have given it a name and I wonder if that is why it ‘feels’ separate from the sensory input.

Is consciousness really a thing? (See Dan Dennett’s “Illusion of Consciousness”) If consciousness is not “awareness”, then we can stop here. Nothing more to say. However,

Dictionary result for consciousness

/ˈkän(t)SHəsnəs/noun

  1. the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings.”she failed to regain consciousness and died two days later” synonyms: awareness, wakefulness, alertness, responsiveness, sentience “she failed to regain consciousness”
    • the awareness or perception of something by a person.plural noun: consciousnesses“her acute consciousness of Mike’s presence” synonyms:awareness of, knowledge of the existence of, alertness to, sensitivity to, realization of, cognizance of, mindfulness of, perception of, apprehension of, recognition of “her acute consciousness of Luke’s presence”
    • the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world. “consciousness emerges from the operations of the brain”

I heard a guru say, ‘If you are not aware, you are not alive.’ And the ever popular French philosopher Rene Descartes quote “I think, therefore I am.” In this context, awareness is life. Is consciousness the same as awareness?

What matters is whether consciousness exists at all. If consciousness is a thing, then
in as much as we are a product of the universe, our consciousness is a product of the universe – even if we cannot define it.
Repeat: Consciousness is a product of the universe.

So, what becomes of the bit of consciousness housed in our bodies after the body is used up and returns it’s borrowed elements to the earth?

That is the question that pains us; the one that makes “cowards of us all” as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.  He describes how we feel as we “grunt and sweat under a weary life, but that the dread of something after death, that undiscovered country, from whose born no traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others we know not of. Thus, conscience does make cowards of us all.”  

Life is not easy, in fact it can be ‘brutish, nasty and short’ (Thomas Hobbes). All life struggles to survive, yet we fear the end of being conscious of it. Here today, poof, gone tomorrow; Blinking out of existence as we know it. The experience suddenly cut off; winking out forever frightens us.

Yet, we humans have done a good job at telling comforting stories of rebirth, resurrection, past lives, heaven, etc., because it is painful to think of this world without us…rather ourselves without the world. Were these stories made to reveal that consciousness is all one big thing, that you never really die? Is it that your share of consciousness is borrowed from the universe for a fraction of time then returns to the universe when your bundle of sensor receptors tire out and return their elements from which it came (from dust to dust – Ecclesiastes 3:20 )?

Could it be that our stories of resurrection, heaven, and rebirth are comforting euphemisms for consciousness never dying – that consciousness was never really ours, but the universe itself taking a peak at its own existence using our eyes and other senses as it’s mirror? Does our intelligence, our consciousness belong not to us, but the universe?

I wish I knew.

Peace

Its just another Day
It’s Just Another Day, Artist dPomeroy
Advertisements

Humanist Humorist

I am a humanist, but I would love to be a humorist. I believe Humans are rare and odd creatures. Our world is in turmoil. People are being murdered, hungry, enslaved, mistreated, and by no other than our own hands. There is nothing new here; this state of being has always been so, evidenced in our short history on the planet. Now, the horrors are communicated globally at breath-taking speeds.

To counter the ill will, hatred, and despair, I have been thinking, instead, about what delights us. The art of humor: distinctly human, cultivated over generations; sometimes used to communicate complex ideas, other times to relieve tension.

The art of making people laugh with words is one talent I wish I possessed.  I love a good joke and a well turned phrase.  I am especially fond of the paraprosdokian: a figure of speech in which the latter part of the phrase changes the direction of the original meaning in a manner that surprises.  Here are some of my favorite examples:

  •  War doesn’t determine who is right…only who is left. – Bertrand Russell (? maybe)
  • Do not argue with an idiot.  He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  • I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening…but this wasn’t it. – Groucho Marx 
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.

If you have a good one, please share it with me.

Peace.

 

Huong’s Peace Mural

In my last entry, I mentioned that I was going to visit the Peace Mural exhibition in D.C.  I went.   My call to action:

                                                                                      GO

Here is a person with something to say.  If you live in the area or will be visiting for the inauguration, take a side trip to see and participate in this “piece for peace”.  

As I entered the space, I was awestruck by the colorful tapestry of canvases and panels.  As I drew deeper into the space, I began to weep at the powerful images and because of the sheer number of them.  I wandered to the second floor.  There were panels and canvases in process, still wet.  I smelled the paint.  The artist Huong, a slight woman, came around the corner and approached me.  She shook my hand and began talking about the project.   I began to cry again.  She hugged me! 

Huong explained that she was a teenager in Vietnam during the Vietnam war.  She said that it was the American Youth protesting the war that inspired and ultimately saved her from that war.  Yet the horrors of it lived within.  This project, 15 years in the making, is cathartic – and it is magnificent.  GO.  Themes include: Voices of Children, Voices of the Troops; Mothers in War, The Peace of all Nations, The Flag at War, The Displaced and the Disabled, The cry of Refugees, and The Tortured.

If you cannot make the exhibition, go here:  http://www.huong.org/ 
If you are interested in the peace movement, go here:  http://www.peacemural.org/