Tuesday, July 21, 2009
An Awareness of Awareness
Looks like the sun is inside this cloud, but actually it was on the other side of the sky.
Once upon a time, people believed only our species possessed subjective awareness. Eventually, as we paid closer attention, we had to finally admit that animals, too, have minds that can be aware of themselves. Initially we only conceded that animals closely related to us could be sentient, but the list has grown by leaps and bounds, now including even one-celled animals. In recent years we have added plants to the list of sentient beings. I just read an article about Venus flytraps and the way they plan to "hunt" their prey. A few years ago NPR did a creepy story about vines and how they "sniff" out the plants they want to strangle. There was an accompanying video on their website. Most recently physicists have even added subatomic particles and DNA to the category.
These "discoveries" are no surprise to me. I believe that sentience pervades the multiverse. Like many of my Pagan brothers and sister, and lots of indigenous cultures, I think rocks, trees, clouds, stars, the sun and the moon - even dirt - are sentient. The sentience of dirt is more subtle than our brash human sentience - of course! But it's there. I sense it, I do.
In fact I've been thinking, especially since Jake died, that the life force itself has its own particular sentience, that it finds a way, as Jeff Goldblum said in the movie Jurassic Park. Part of life force sentience is a survival instinct. Life wants to keep on keeping on, no matter what. I think that's why even when people (or dogs) are old and sick and feeble as can be, there's still a struggle of sorts when death comes to tap them on the shoulder. Life force sentience is determined to hang on as long as possible.
My theory du jour is that there is a struggle even for people who lay down for a nap and never wake up, or keel over in mid-flight, or just die suddenly and "unexpectedly." We may not see the struggle, but the resonance of death is equally traumatic for the living, whether death was "peaceful" or not. Our shock and sadness is a symptom of something we've intuited about the process of dying. After death, everything calms down, but that passage through the gate - whoa! It's a struggle. Maybe the soul is trying to break free while the sentient life force is trying to hold on. Do you think?
My mother thought of the life force (well, specifically sexuality) as a kind of bully, controlling us through hormonal surges, and though I understand what she was talking about, I don't see it that way. I think life is a precious existence, well worth all the sturm und drang of it all, including the final battle.
Life is good (and it knows that). Carpe diem, y'all. Cheers!