Life poses two questions people have probably asked for thousands of years that I’ve seen zero progress in answering from any source:
- Why does reality exist?
- What is consciousness? Or, alternatively, why is there a sense of “me” or “I” that seems to exist outside reality?
Regarding the first question, I can’t imagine any way of finding an answer using the tools within reality. It’s weird to ask or even conceive to ask “why is there anything?”.
But today I want to write about the second question. As far as I can tell, some time in the past, no humans existed and no consciousness existed. Some time farther back, no life existed, so I’m confident believing no consciousness like human consciousness existed. Somehow it came to be. I can imagine how motivations evolved to motivate behavior, but self-awareness, I don’t see how it arose.
Some say there is no “I.” If you meditate and pay attention, you notice that your thoughts don’t occur out of conscious intent. You can’t choose to think something you aren’t thinking. As best I can tell, some part of our mind creates thoughts and a different part registers them. We feel like we voluntarily created them, but they happened through a process without voluntary control, as surely as growing fingernails or digesting food.
I disagree that this lack of voluntary control means there is no “I.” It seems to me that there is an “I,” just not in consciousness. If I find myself deciding to read a book, if I haven’t noticed these patterns, I would think the conscious part of me chose to decide. More accurately, the conscious part of me observed the decision and thought it made it.
An “I” decided, just an involuntary part of my mind different than the conscious part observing the decision. The “I” exists and acts, just more like hair follicles growing or pupils dilating. The mind just does it, and that part is an “I,” just not the “I” we normally think of as choosing.
I don’t know if this observation helps anyone with anything. I just noticed it and thought it useful to clarify my mind’s functioning, especially what’s under my control, if anything, or not.
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