Tag Archives: awareness

Everyone is an Artist

Posted by: David

Let’s return to the idea of our minds, our awareness, our thoughts and our inner lives as a force. This force moves our bodies and causes us to act in ways that mirror the thoughts that flow out of our minds. In many ways, these thoughts become manifested in reality, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.

Franz Marc, Füchse, 1913.

Franz Marc, Füchse, 1913.

Art is a good example of this. In particular the work of the Expressionists, Modern and Post-Modern artists, the inner thoughts of these artists are revealed in astonishing ways. The truth of their minds is made manifest in reality. These are direct examples of how the mind’s imagery can be turned into reality.

Sometimes suffering or beauty can be hidden or indirectly available in the artist’s work. The scene might be of pain, yet the meaning behind the artwork is a beautiful statement of unconditional love and sacrifice. Tears are just as easily shed in joy as in pain. The opposite is also true.

Most of us aren’t really that aware of what our minds are clutching during our days and nights. And we also aren’t aware that every one of us are artists. Our minds are made manifest in our work and actions.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

 

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The Tree of Consciousness Sprouts (part 3)

Posted by: David

Nurse Piggy: It’s too late, Dr. Bob. We’ve lost him.
Doctor Bob: Well, he couldn’t have gone so far. He was under the sheet just a second ago.

We all know that Miss Piggy and Doctor Bob (a.k.a. Rowlf the Dog) didn’t really have awareness or consciousness, but their puppeteers certainly made you laugh. What is laughter anyway and are there any other species capable of it? Laughter is most likely special to us because of our consciousness. In most cases, laughter is a spontaneous reaction when our morality or our sense understanding of the world is tested. I think the reason the Muppets’ joke above is so funny to me is because Doctor Bob and Nurse Piggy or so dismally aware of the concept of death and dying. They take death so lightly that they can make a bad joke about the death of a patient. Why does it make me laugh? You’re more than welcome to analyze my psyche if you’d like. I expect that it simply jars my subconscious understanding of right and wrong.

In bringing up the loaded word consciousness, I’ll begin by explaining my usage. I am not using it in a sense such as, “He lost consciousness.” I am using it in the sense that implies having some level of understanding of right and wrong such as, “It was his consciousness that made him a crusader for justice.” Consciousness in this usage implies that there is a complex awareness of the morality of an event or an action.

Previously in Re: Salvation, I implied that there is a curious co-dependence between freewill and justice. Without justice there is no need for freewill and without freewill there would be no need for justice. The same thing applies to consciousness. The existence of morality depends on the existence of  ‘someone’ who can make a choice in the matter. Without morality there would be no need for choices and vice versa. When we make choices, we are basing those choices on some sort of system of value judgments of what we think is right and wrong. Consciousness is simply an awareness of what is right and what is wrong. (Interestingly, In Genesis the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is sometimes translated as the Tree of Consciousness.) Without knowledge of what is right and wrong, humans would still be aware of our surroundings and relationships, but would we have consciousness? Interestingly, Eden was a place where man had choices, yet didn’t have the knowledge of what is right and wrong. It wasn’t that right and wrong didn’t exist, mankind just didn’t know about it.

Most of us would agree, except the deeply antisocial personality or philosophical word-smither, that there exists some sort of right and wrong in our world and that we make choices based both on a deeply-ingrained sense of morality or common sense as well as a socially-constructed criteria of social ethics. And not always do we make the right choices. Sometimes we clearly, stubbornly or brutally make the wrong choice. Anyone who can look at one’s actions even partially objectively will see that sometimes we do what we sense is wrong, usually for our own selfish desires. But let’s not go here yet, the point is that consciousness depends on knowledge of right and wrong.

I doubt that a dog has the form of consciousness outlined above. He knows that if he wags his tail and is cute, he’ll get a dog biscuit or that he’ll have a warm house to curl up in. He’ll probably even have specific affections toward certain people for complex reasons, but I doubt that he understands the ‘Golden Rule’ like we do.

It seems to me like a shot in the dark to guess whether planets or other grander scale systems have consciousness. Most would say that shot is easy and is an unequivocal, “No, don’t be absurd.” I will say that they do not seem to have much choice in their motions, and thus even if they have an awareness, applying consciousness to them is a bit far-fetched. They follow extremely precise patterns and have been so for a long, long time. Even larger-scale systems, such as galaxies, have such beautifully-defined and mathematical structures and they seem to follow very closely to a pattern. Following defined patterns, would seem to indicate a lack of consciousness since the pattern’s lack variation. A lack of variation in pattern may demonstrate the inability to choose. However, one could argue that they do have choice, but they always choose to follow the pattern defined for them. But again, let’s not get sidetracked.

For some reason, we are special organisms in the universe so far as I can see. We seem to have a grasp of right and wrong and have a choice in the matter. Most of us feel a sense of right and wrong. Some would argue that this sense of justice is just complex reactionary forces that are no different than that of a dog. I beg to differ. No pun intended. I believe that we do have consciousness and there was a particular point in our history in which we became enlightened for better or worse. And this particular point was actually the beginning of History.

This moment was also very important because it marked the point when we began building our own tree of knowledge. One intriguing part of consciousness is how it relates to knowledge. If we didn’t have knowledge in the first place, we wouldn’t be able to store up understanding of right and wrong. In Part 4, we’ll build on the first three parts in this series as we look at how knowledge relates to consciousness, memory and forces.

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“Doctor, He’s Regaining Consciousness” (part 2)

Posted by: David

In Part 1, we laid out a foundation of how someone initially sees something in our mountaintop scene example: various simple external (colors, shapes, temperatures) and internal (associated memories and emotions) inputs excite communities of neurons to create a vision. But how do we come to see it? This is a piece of the puzzle that will certainly be the most difficult to comprehend, even though right before our eyes we are seeing something right now.

If it is as simple as forces exciting an array or community of neurons that allows us to see, then what if you excite a community of molecules in a brick, are they going to see something? If this could be done, well, maybe. Let’s go down the food chain and see what the less complex organisms may ‘see’ from their senses. This is going to be very hypothetical, of course.

  • Dog: colors, shapes, motion, smells, sounds, etc. (not too much different than us)
  • Lizard: probably similar to the dog but with different emphases
  • Ant: light, shape, chemistry, sound
  • Ameboid: light(?), temperature, chemical shifts
  • Bacteria: temperature, chemical shifts
  • Virus: simple environmental characteristics
  • Water molecule: magnetic variations

I’ve added water molecule because I wanted you to notice something rather interesting. Each of the organisms or semi-organisms listed above reactto their environment and to some degree ‘see’ or have some degree of awareness of their surrounding environment, whether it is simple light or complex dimensional space. The reaction they have to the stimulus is generated because of what they experience (or what may be better described as a general awareness). Is it any different for a water molecule or any other molecule for that matter? If some sort of reaction is going on, even if it is done rotely, then there should be some sort of awareness going on. And since every last thing in our universe reacts to forces, it very well may be that every last thing and collection of things has some sort of ability to ‘see’ or be aware of its environment however primitive that awareness may be.

We can also go up the scale and do the same thing: earth, solar system, galaxy and universe. Now, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that a complex system such as the earth, solar system or the universe has awareness like we do. It is probably the case that awareness types shift depending on their complexity level and the forces that influence them. Since the planets hold their orbits very precisely, it is probably the case that gravity is the most simple force that affects them, so their ability to see might be more like that of a water molecule. However, it may be that even though the force that affects these greater systems is simple, the grand scale of the influence may affect how they see in some special way. There’s just no way to know, I suppose. However, the point is that it is possible that what we consider to be ‘seeing’, or even some attributes that we associate only with life, should be applied to inorganic organizations such as a galaxy.

Another issue not to be discussed in this entry is time. Each of the groups should have a different perception of time, because their snapshots of their environment hold differing sets of data. And time is also dependent on memory. I’d venture to say that modern humans may have one of the relatively broadest grasps of time because of our language and more particularly our writing.

I’ll also mention briefly the issue of deep sleep and passing out. If all organisms and matter have some sort of awareness, why do we go ‘dark’ when we go into deep sleep? Isn’t that a simple example of how we at some moments in time do not have any awareness? I expect that the reason we don’t see anything during deep sleep, is simply because we’re not remembering it. The experience we have in deep sleep or unconscousness is so foreign from our general awake awareness that it doesn’t fit into our memories. But we should return to our topic of seeing and awareness.

From here on out, I’ll closely associate the word awareness with what I am describing as ‘seeing’ above. I expect that most of you would not argue that a dog has awareness of his environment, but that you would argue that a rock would have nothing more than zero-level of awareness. I’m not saying that a rock has a strong awareness of its environment, but it does react to gravity and other forces ever so slightly, doesn’t it?

What if a water molecule is aware of magnetic forces? That still doesn’t explain how something sees. To look at this fairly, let’s go back to the human experience, because that’s what we all can relate to best. So, what is the mind’s eye? Honestly, I have no real good answer. But I will venture to say that it may be a type of force. Yes, that sounds sort of hocus-pocus or like I’m stealing some dialogue from OB1 Kenobi in Star Wars. But we haven’t even touched on forces yet. We’ve talked a lot about matter (life forms and other stuff) and force is the other side the equation, isn’t it? You know, E=MC2, energy (force) equals matter times the speed of light2. But how is seeing a force?

“Cooookies!”

For those of you who watched Sesame Street, you’ll know the Cookie Monster. When he saw cookies, he gobbled them up ravenously. So, let’s blindfold the Cookie Monster and lay a plate of delicious chocolate chip cookies in front of him. Initially, he won’t apply one ounce of directed force toward those cookies. However, once his nose gets a whiff, his mind will remember (consciously or unconsciously) the taste and pleasure of those cookies. He will rip off his blindfold and violently attack the plate of cookies until the last crumb is gone. He’ll probably even eat the plate. It was the smell that triggered his memory, but it was his awareness of the cookies that sent him into wild-cookie passion. His vision was the impetus, the force.

If you didn’t follow this flimsy, yet-possibly-true argument, I’ll lay it out in succinct words: All things in the universe have some degree of awareness and the awareness that these things have is what we call force. I’ll add that no forces are left out, whether it be the driving force to eat delicious chocolate chip cookies, or the gravity that holds a planet in its orbit. All forces may be derived from awareness. And it’s not magic. It may just be the way our wonderful universe works.

The awareness that humans have is probably very different than that of a planet or a hydrogen atom. The reason is choice. The earth can’t choose whether or not it goes clockwise or counterclockwise around the sun. But we can choose whether we go right or left when we hit the sidewalk. Some may argue that we don’t really have any choice—that we are preprogrammed—but I choose not to believe that line of thinking.

This takes us to our next topic where we differentiate between awareness and consciousness. Let’s leave that for Part 3.

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Memory – Beyond the Individual (part 1)

Posted by: David

A biologist friend of mine once explained how he thought birds were able to migrate so far and so very precisely each year. He not only thought that landscape features actually triggered their memories, but he also thought that the landscape itself held the part of the memories of the birds. How is that possible?

First, we must understand that no individual in any species is an independent agent. Each individual is a part of a community, a collection of individuals. They are also intricately related to their food sources, their predators and environmental characteristics. Even the minerals, rocks and atmosphere are in many ways part of that individual. Or it might be better to say that each individual is a part of a greater living community. This biologist was saying the same thing for memory in birds. Memory is not only stored in neurons, but also in chemical, auditory and visual triggers outside the brain. Those triggers might be other organisms, or even landscape objects, such as the coastline or Mount Shasta. Even though a hummingbird has a brain the size of a pea, it can migrate precisely to the correct location each year, simply because a hummingbird’s brain is not the size of a pea, it is the size of all of its memory triggers, which may indeed include the landscape itself.

An example of this would be your right hand. By itself, it would have no idea how to get back to your mouth with a second bite of food, but in conjunction with your arm, mouth, body, eyes and brain it can make that motion quite easily. You might argue that hummingbirds aren’t like your hand, because a hand doesn’t have a brain the size of a pea, and that a hummingbird is more like red blood cells going out and returning to the heart. Like a red blood cell, a bird travels a defined pattern and there’s no real memory occurring there. Okay, that comparison may be correct. However, rather than not being memory at all, the memory that a hummingbird employs may just a more primitive form of our own.

Primitive Memories vs. Complex Memories

Humans may also have memories much like hummingbirds. Primitive memory types allow us to do our daily tasks. You don’t have to think too much to remember how to walk or ride a bike. Understanding how these simple memories work may help us understand how less complex organisms remember how to do things.

In humans, highly complex memories may have their triggers stored in the intangible, such as words and sounds, or in the tangible, such as places, people or smells. These triggers can alert in our minds complex scenes, visions and thoughts that in no way relate to our present location. They can be as powerful and vivid as a post-traumatic stress syndrome event or an hallucination in which the person cannot differentiate his physical surrounding from the memory.

But this still doesn’t explain what memory is. Above, I spoke of triggers. You smell a certain type of cooking and you are flooded with a memory in a great aunt’s kitchen years before. Or a hummingbird sees the coastline and adjusts its wings to the left. How are these triggers activating memories? Could it be that inside the brain, there are just great arrays of triggers upon triggers conjuring up a memory? Sort of. Here’s an example.

A Mountain of Triggers

Let’s say you’re looking at a view from a mountaintop. The colors come into your eyes and excite a particular set of neurons. Simultaneously, the wind and temperature of the air excite a particular set of neurons. You see and feel the beautiful landscape. You might even have a particular emotion going on because of someone you’re thinking about. Now you use your camera and take a picture of that scene and go home. The next day, you look at the picture and the various cues in the picture trigger a chain reaction of neurons in your brain. The same or similar set of neuron is activated giving you the vision of the mountaintop scene. Now that this particular community or relationship of cells is activated again, the relationships of cells are reformed, the memory is ‘burned in’. The next time you look at the picture, the community of cells will be activated through a cascade of triggers, and there you have it, you see and feel the scene from the previous day.

If this is all true, then we may be gaining a dim understand of what memories are. Memories may simply be complex communities of triggers. And, what’s interesting to me is that the relationships between those triggers may extend beyond the local individual that is experiencing memory. Our memories might literally be in a photograph.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

One important question begs to be answered. This is the whole consciousness/awareness issue. How does our mind’s eye work? We may be able to have memories, but how did we see them in the first place and in the second place? It’s probably just magic, right? I expect not, I don’t particularly believe in magic. Magic is just an illusion. We live in an orderly universe. We may not comprehend that order, but it has a particular order. Magic is what tricksters do.

I suppose I’ll get into the whole awareness/consciousness thing in Part 2.

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