Picture this: a spinning merry-go-round, spin, spin, round and round it goes, almost mesmerizing to look at. And to keep it spinning is the allure,
isn't it? It's in the very fact that we can spin the merry-go-round that we become fascinated.
The spinning merry-go-round is a fitting metaphor for how our mind-brain works. Because our minds are based upon our brains, they are limited by the
realities of a) chemical forces, which in turn are limited by b) physical forces.
The spinning wheel are the complex dynamic feedback loops that operate between and within the cells of our brain that process our experience.
Predictability is the game. Expectancies are the types of experience we have. Predictability, expectancy, and cyclicality, embeddedness are some of
the complex dynamics that function in our brain, and not surprisingly, in our mind as well.
I see myself, as a kid, with his hand sticking out, spinning that merry-go-round. It's an image that sticks out in my mind, me both spinning it, and
me, paradoxically, sitting in the middle - in the mind - , experiencing the piercing speed of the spins. The image speaks to a duality that many
people experience, but perhaps people who practice mindfulness experience most fully: being both the "spinning" wheel and the cross-legged monk
'sitting in the middle'.
This is a duality, as two parts of the mind, of consciousness, are being experienced simultaneously. One, perhaps caught up in suffering (we tend to
experience this duality at times of mindful reflectiveness, which also happens to arise during periods of stress and anxiety) the moving wheel subject
to the dynamic processes of neuroendocrinology, and the 'sitting mind', the reflective, responsive part of the mind, sitting, watching, accepting.
But this other self is not neutral, but entirely involved, nursing the self, the suffering part, by holding experience with a compassionate gaze.
Suffering, which comes in so many different forms, is all about the lack of certainty. Why does this world exist as it does, torment us as it does,
with questions that offer no endurable solution? We always think we 'have it', solved a puzzle, past a test, reached a point, but under certain
conditions at certain times, were reminded once again of our feebleness, of our situatedness, as organisms, the latest "model" in a complex process
of organic evolution, starting billions of years ago, picking up steam 700 million years....and here we are, debating the nature of reality.
Why would reality do this to us?! We scare ourselves with thoughts and tempt ourselves with theories. Is this thing, consciousness, real? It must be!
It is! It is! But then the harrowing voices of naysayers, philosophers, neuroscientists - especially those ones! inject doubt, give reason for
suspicion; but how unlikely, how unaware of them, you fight back.
Worries can be complex or simple, but they are often-times just a stupid waste of metabolic energy.
Consciousness is real, I am real. I am real, most of all, because I feel real. Descartes said "I think, therefore I am". The man must have
been a big dissociator, as I think the deepest sense of reality is not so much thought, as lived, embodied, sensuous, and enlivened experience ala
I know I am real because I Feel real; and furthermore, I have affective responses to these thoughts of 'feeling' real. Fear. Anxiety. The oddity of
consciousness and mind is the fact that it is inherently related to threat and predation. Movement (which is the origin of the first neurons) and
Sensation are about GETTING AWAY from animals that want to eat you; sensing becomes sensing the environment for food AND threat; thus movement emerges
IN RELATION to sensation. Sensory neurons 'detect' danger, and movement is triggered to get away.
How amazing it is that this process has lead to creatures which evolved love as the antidote to fear! Therapeutic support; empathy; and even sympathy
(a decisive action to help another) evolved.
Life has always emerged in these conditions, with two opposing conditions generating "energy flow"; the beginnings of life are said to have occurred
at deep sea alkaline vents with a PH of 10; opposing this were the acidic carbon rich waters of the early ocean, with a PH of 5-7. The PH difference
allowed Hydrogen to bind with Carbon, and thus, to set the process of organic evolution into action. The most miraculous thing about this process is
how natural it is: an alkaline rich, aqueous environment, with rock (minerals) and a steady source of carbon, will LIKELY result in feedback loops
that generate vesicles, some internal, self-replicating structure, and a "pump" that maintains an electric differential between the inside and
outside of the protocell.
So life goes from "no-life" to life, without any obvious demarcation point. Life just spontaneously arises - and then becomes, progressively, more
complex, until we arrive - living, breathing, acting, ALIVE to OURSELVES creatures.
I always find discussions about the "reality" of consciousness to be disturbing - as something that only an insane, or at least deeply cynical,
removed, and slightly depersonalized consciousness could manage to assert. For me, it just is, and I know it is, act like it is, and in effect, am
consciously involve with how I conduct such a conversation with myself - and with others, as I am currently doing.
Anymore musing beyond that seems to be pointless and wasteful. There is every reason to believe we are a) consciousness and b) can exert conscious
control whenever we seek to "act" upon the world. When we become conscious of our consciousness, we also feel more conscious, more aware, "more
convinced". In fact, there is nothing more unsettling than adotpting the other perspective and then carrying out the above recursive process: this is
not real, I am not real, I am not real!!!? Suffice to say, the emotional reaction is justified, as the thought of yourself not being real is indeed a
lunatic thought. Be scared: shock yourself back into awareness.
But that needn't be the go-to response, as sometimes people 'believe' things without ever examining how their beliefs affect them. This can happen
under the influence of social pressures and socializing. A 'basin of attraction" may form that allows only some types of thinking and reflection
(that is, stipulates a range of thought, and thus, dissociates anything beyond that range) so that making the assertion "consciousness isn't real"
is managed not by honest self-reflection, but through the same bad-boy habits of yore: pretending like you aren't affected by it; or, in fact, not
actually being affected because you have unconsciously dissociated any feeling response to it (nowadays associated with developmental trauma, but in
the past was referred as "schizoaffective disorder"). It's also possible that other interests besides fear, such as applying certain philosophical
biases (no dualism!) and enforcing biological truisms (reduce to the physical!) are both enacted because they provide a certain pleasure to the actor,
created by how we ourselves experienced this topic or a similar subject with an important other at an earlier time.
That was long to take, I apologize. Enlightenment, I feel, is the middle path - a path that is simple, yet complex. Accepting of determinism, yet also
claiming free-will. Bad has good. And good has bad. Enlightenment is an acceptance and embrace of paradox.