Reflection 240: One of a Kind

March 8, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

What are we but primate mammals with a gift for remembering, recognizing, and recreating (or imitating) situations and sensory patterns we have met before? We call ourselves wise, but wisdom resides first in the ways and beliefs of our families, groups, and cultures, not ourselves. We do our best to learn how to act in everyday situations, and those actions—however skilled—tell who we are.

When aroused from its habitual stupor by surprise, novelty, or concern, consciousness translates our motivated awareness into planning and making a fitting response.  We once thought we were little more than stimulus-response chains on legs, but now we accept it as given that aside from our routine or habitual actions, consciousness can intervene in that chain, allowing us to tailor our actions to our situations as we construe or interpret them. This allows us to moderate our actions in light of our personal experience under the particular circumstances that prevail at any given moment.

As vessels of experience, each of us is unique in the universe. Our genetic makeup is unlike any other. Our childhood learning is our own, as is our subsequent education, our job history, our values and emotional life, the details of our autobiographical memory, and so on. Like our immune systems, our minds are crafted by the lives we actually lead, so are each one of a kind.

When we come to act, it appears we are acting for ourselves alone as motivated by self-interest and and a lust for self-preservation. But if that is the case, we haven’t learned very much from our situated presence among seven-billion brothers and sisters. In truth, when we act, each of us acts for our entire human family. And beyond that, for all species, for Earth our homeland in space, and for the universe that has delivered us to this particular era and location.

If we haven’t learned that by now, for all practical purposes our conscious understanding is foolish if not worthless. Yes, we are individual molecules in the darkness of space, looking to one source of energy or another, ever jockeying for life and position. But if we take life to live life, we are acting on our own without considering our absolute dependence on those around us to give us a place among themselves. We are in this life together, and always have been, back to our original parent in the big bang, the ultimate source of our existential being.

If an Israeli takes water from a Palestinian who then dies of thirst, the surviving Israeli lives at the expense of his regional, planetary, and universal brothers and sisters. Unwittingly, such thievery happens all the time. But to commit such a crime according to a deliberate plan is no better than the U.S. killing and displacing millions of Iraqis for the sake of the oil beneath their feet, or a band of offended Muslim jihadis destroying Buddha statues in the Banyan Valley or capitalist enclaves in lower Manhattan.

When I act, I act for you; when you act, you act for me. When I am conscious, I cannot afford to think only for myself, anymore than you can for yourself. Consciousness is our joint responsibility. By myself as a wanderer in the desert I do not exist. We live our lives collectively, in pairs, families, communities, regions, nations, and our respective planetary populations. Consciousness is a gift to us all—the ability to modulate our actions in light of our understanding of the whole.

If our education treats strangers with different ways of doing and being as lesser creatures than ourselves, it is dangerous to the degree it is incomplete in giving us a a distorted awareness and understanding of the whole.

The charade of the Republican primaries in the 2012 election cycle reveals how dangerous self-centered politics has become in each candidate believing he has the answer for everyone else, and if we would only be conscious in his particular way, we would be collectively better-off. Such arrogant posturing would impose the hopelessly limited and impaired consciousness of one individual on our nation and its world.

The only viable political system must respect and speak to our diversity, not make clones of us all. Policies must be all-encompassing, as good for you as for me. Which is why I advocate the study of personal consciousness before our understanding ossifies as a one-size-fits-all program of mind control.

For myself, I give no one the right or the power to dictate how I am to employ my mind and actions to their liking. That way lies the police state, trickle-down economics, a penal system in which deviant minds are put away in solitary confinement to engage solely with six surfaces made of concrete.

How about you? That’s it for today. –Steve

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