Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why are we all here? (The Human Paradox)

In contemplating the human paradox, I discovered my mythos.
What is the human paradox? It is the fact that the unique facet of human consciousness (self-reflection) both helps and holds back our development. For instance, our meta-awareness has allowed us to design technology. On the other hand, it also gives us a sense of detachment with reality, as if we don’t belong or are completely insignificant; this is why we act like a cancer upon the Earth.
So I started to ask myself, why would evolution lead to less then optimal outcome for our species? If we look at it from a functionalists point of view, why would natural selection hand down to us a trait which does more harm then good. If evolution is an unraveling system of ever greater perfection (through optimized survival), then why would it produce something which it is horrible at? I started to search for the answer in the way the mind works and stores information.
Every other life form on this planet, unlike us, is pretty good at understanding their place and roll in nature. So what do humans have on everyone else? The ability to not only acquire new non-survival information, but also transcribe and communicate that information with other humans using verbal and written language. This is the key to our existence as I see; the shared use of information unveils the purpose of human consciousness within the cosmos.
An old Zen proverb reads: “If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, will it still make a sound?” What I enjoy in this saying is how it illustrates the notion that in order for something to exist, it must be perceived; this encapsulates the implications gained from quantum mechanics. This is exactly where I feel human awareness fits into the bigger scheme of things. Our self-awareness allows us to not only perceive, but contemplate that an universe even exists as well. Animals however are not capable of knowing and holding in their minds that they exist in an universe; they lack the proper frontal lobes to contemplate such matters. All animals are basically mechanical entities.
The skill of holding abstract concepts, like that we live in an universe, is exclusive to humans. Take for example the mental state of fear, which is limited to only human consciousness. Fear is defined as anxiety or dread of something, which is represented in the mind. Animals can not hold a concept in their mind; they can only react to a stimulus, and once evaded, the threat leaves their “mind”. If say, I went to scare a cat, once it would run away from my known presence, the thought of me will not enter its head, only if I came back into her perceptual field would she feel any distress. We humans let our past negative experiences color our current mood. That is because we can hold the abstract representation of a hurtful notion, and animals can not.
As this proves, human consciousness is the only kind of known awareness that can essentially hold the universes existence. We are part of the universe that gets to know itself. The other day I was watching a video entitled Street Metaphysics. A young black man in Brooklyn was asking another man about his spiritual beliefs in the street. Toward the middle of the video, the man described his metaphysical system. He explained that human consciousness is the crystallization of cosmic intelligence. At that point it dawned on me. The reason for the human paradox!
Humans are the holders of knowledge for reality. Our clumsy awareness allows for the universe to exist, as we can contemplate it. If we take the tree in the proverb mentioned above as the universe, then we can place ourselves as the perceivers of that tree. Without us, the tree and its sound would cease to exist, as there is no one to realize it.
How does this lead me to my mythos? It affirms my decision to become an educator, either in school or as a therapist. Now I feel my purpose is to absorb and deliver knowledge to others, and hand it down to new generations. But this purpose is everyone else’s as well, for life is nothing but learning and teaching. Whether it be in school, sports, food, or art, human life is just one big exchange of knowledge from one to another.