Saturday, November 15, 2008

My newest dawning realization is how often I ascend out of my personality into some larger self that seems fused with the world around me. I notice it most often when I’m driving, especially crossing Wiggins hill, but it is happening everywhere. In those moments I don’t exist--not Melanie--not my personality. I think this has always happened. In fact, I suspect I spend a lot of time being more than ego and personality. I’m just becoming more aware of it.

That John Livingston essay, “Other Selves” gives me a nice way to frame what happens. To be in the personality is to downshift into a baser, grosser, clumsier way of being. Out of a larger identity we downshift into the most limited form. We really should be spending the least amount of our time as individual selves. Only in true survival situations--eat or be eaten--should individual self be necessary.

It would be neat if I could get to a point where I can be this larger self and at the same time also be actively engaged in the world. For now the shifts only take place when I’m alone or not interacting with anyone. To actually engage in the world of human interaction from that higher perspective--what would that be like? What would be possible in the realm of human affairs?

John Livingston speculates that perhaps individual self consciousness is our most primitive form of consciousness:

What is being suggested here is that individual self-consciousness has come to be held in such untouchable esteem within our cultural ideology that we have largely forgotten or ignored the likelihood that it is no more than the most basic, radical, and fundamental form of self-awareness. And it may be not only the most basic form, but in an evolutionary sense also the oldest and most primitive, to use the word much savored by the human chauvinist. I would suggest that this most elementary form of consciousness underlies more enriched and mature forms in much the same way as the ancient so-called reptilian brain is said to underlie more recently developed cortical material. If we must speak in progressive terms, as is the custom in evolutionary biology, then we could see a consciousness of group-as-self as something of a development.

I agree that individual self-awareness is probably the most primitive kind of consciousness, but Livingston doesn’t acknowledge that before individual consciousness there was a fusion with the group and with the environment that existed, only it was purely unconscious. To fuse with the larger environment as conscious beings is a new thing and probably we humans are one of the first species to attain that (not that we’ve attained it yet in any collective sense). But we’ve been fused with the larger environment before.

What could be the benefits of being consciously fused? I guess it would be impossible to harm the environment—you’d be able to sense clearly and actually, rather than metaphorically, how you were harming yourself in the process. But beyond that, who would you become? What would human activity and human culture look like?

I suppose there wouldn’t be too many large acts of disturbance, such as wars and exploiting resources. We’d live locally, of course, and practice some form of permaculture--probably a more advanced form than now exists. There would be much more harmony both human-to-human and between humans and the natural world. We would work with the natural order, instead of fighting against it.

It’d be kind of like when foreign bacteria became an integral part of the human body, necessary for its healthy functioning. We would finally become fully integrated into the healthy functioning of Gaia. We would have settled into our proper global niche.

Now this gets me back to thinking--mightn’t all these people with Asperger-type characteristics be those at the cusp of this evolution? We’re able to shift more fluidly to that larger state of awareness. We’re not identified with the group, which is a vestigial form of tribal unconsciousness.

Geez--now that reminds me I have research I want to do on Aspergers. There are so many lines of thought I need to follow up on.

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