The Story of Consciousness

city story book.png

sto·ry

/ˈstôrē/

noun

  1. An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

  2. An account of past events in someone's life or in the evolution of something.

  3. A widely ciruclated rumor.

  4. A lie, a falsehood.

  5. Legend, romance.

  6. Matter, situation.

  7. A set of rooms within a space between the floors of a building.

So many stories… Photo by Sindre Aalberg

So many stories… Photo by Sindre Aalberg

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
— Maya Angelou, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

Just like the floor of an apartment building, a narrative is insular to itself.

Once a story is created, its parts exist in perpetuity: no matter how many times you watch MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, that movie will always begin in black and white. Dorothy will alway cry when she’s captured by the witch; and inevitably her ruby slippers will take her home. Complete and encapsulated with a beginning, middle and end — a movie, TV show, or book of fiction can be flipped through and reviewed with discretion. And while the reader may be affected by the narrative insofar that the narrative is provocative; the narrative does no physical harm to the reader. Just as in a dream, the suffering is real only within the confines of the story, where it must feel real in order to be purposeful. The reader/dreamer/audience experiences whatever befalls a character through identification with them; and to this end, despair can be gulped down like cold coffee, passions tasted like a ripe strawberry, and victory sipped like champagne.

Sebastian reads.jpeg
It’s not real, it’s only a story.
— Sebastian, The Neverending Story

At its root, story telling is an exploration of consequences. When we go to the theater to see a “play,” we watch the actions and reactions of the story play out on a stage from a comfortable vantage point. From our seat in the audience we can view “mistakes” as narrative forks in the road, without which the story would be boring. When characters make choices, whether they are “right” or “wrong,” what follows are the dominoes of inevitability, the stuff stories are made of. The hero or the villain mounts his horse in a reactionary effort, and across this battlefield of changing fortunes various players are poised to act in their own best interests — each with a different perspective about what serves their needs. Along the way, more dominoes await the “right” mistakes to nudge them into motion.

What better tool than the arc of a narrative to form opinions and catalyze growth? When we have a complete narrative arc, we can examine mistakes and know that if only another choice had been made, everything would have turned out differently. The arc is effective because it imitates the storyline of our own lives — our lives being complete with beginnings, middles, and ends…

Some of the most satisfying stories are the ones where favorable outcomes are found even though the worst mistakes have been made. This idea that we can put the pieces back together, or rearrange them to make something new and better out of the thing we have broken pleases the human mind to no end; because all to often this does not happen in real life. The primary lesson of the manifest world is that you cannot put the cat back in the bag. When the “milk is spilt” and the “dye is cast,” what’s done is done; so it’s quite logical that we generate fantasies to exist in contrast to what cannot be undone. What’s more, we canonize real life happenings of magnitude — whether horrible or wonderful, in order to celebrate, glorify or horrify the significance that these events happened at all. And yet I still marvel at the existential purpose of a story. After all, while they might exist inside a physical object like a book or a DVD, stories are intangible, whether they began as fact or fiction.

puppeteer.jpg

Let’s look at the phenomena of fiction for a moment, and imagine someone like Tolkien or Martin of Rowling, alone in their study dreaming up worlds and pounding away at the keys. As a storyteller, a spinner of narrative, one is tasked with becoming many. In order to create the identities of the heroes, the villains, and everyone in between, a storyteller must embody these characters and fracture themselves into the witch, the dragon, the princess, the boy, the crone, the king, the scholar, the barbarian — fleshing each archetype with its own substance and point of view. Once completed, a narrative reveals the interwoven threads of perspectives playing against each other… and once again we see evidence of the hologram of consciousness expressing itself: one consciousness cloaks itself in the form of many, for its own entertainment, curiosity, edification, and satisfaction. Another beautiful example of the polar relationship between one and everything.

prism.jpg

And whether or not we are storytellers ourselves, or simply consumers of content — we each live within the story of our own lives. Simultaneously, we also live within the story of human beings, the story of the earth, the story of the solar system, the story of our galaxy… the story of the universe exhaling. And we go on gossiping and making up stories within the stories of our lives to pass the time. And again my wheels start turning and I find myself wondering like the rest of you, what is the point?

The pattern of this behavior is the point. Stories are the trees that bear the fruits of consciousness, as consciousness continually replicates itself. Consciousness cannot help but be what it is. The point of the story, is the story. The way I see it, a story feeds perspective and curiosity — two old friends that often walk hand in hand together through the valleys and vistas that range emotions and experiences. The value of a story comes from its very intangibility — the information it conveys. Combine intangibility, perspective and curiostiy and what have you got? The calling card of consciousness. As conscious beings we are constantly generating stories, whether they be from our dreaming minds, the lives we are living, or the gossip we share. We cannot help but constantly imagine a spectrum of possibilities, so we tell ourselves stories in order to learn from our mistakes, relieve anguish over what cannot be undone, and explore our flights of fancy...

The existence of stories demonstrates the mechanism by which the manifest world reciprocates the unmanifest, and precipitates more consciousness.

Fractal_tree.gif

P.S. Here’s an interesting tidbit from Vonnegut on the shapes of stories. Notice the waveform! It’s all about the ups and downs, baby!


The Ripples of Inevitability and Consequence

Today I would like to speak to another aspect of evidence within our universe of the holographic nature of things: cause and effect. The dance of the physical across the expanse of time. Most people do not think of physics as a manifestation of consciousness, but to me the two are integral to each other. At the end of the day, nothing can be truly be separated from anything else. We see small morsels of the whole here and there and think they are their own things; but really they are but bits of the pattern that consistently and seamlessly generates reality and our experience with it. The nerds of Silicon Valley are not far off in suggesting that all of this is a “computer program,” but don’t take the metaphor on its semantical value alone. Words are temporary things, arrows pointing to a distance horizon. The trick is to see the big picture beyond the words.

Cause and effect — an idea so basic we take it for granted. You strike a pool ball cross the table, and depending on your speed and angle, you may or may not sink it in a pocket. Every time we take to the city streets in our automobiles we encounter the stop and go rhythm of cause and effect affecting our commute through the virtues of a traffic jam or a chance fender bender. Run a red light, and watch your insurance increase. Tip over a cup coffee and a hot mess spills across the table. Drop a glass and it shatters. This fundamental aspect of physical existence that is cause and effect provides consciousness with a never-ending scientific inquest of trial and error for the simple fact that it endlessly generates data — “What happens if…?”

Now, let’s extend beyond inanimate objects colliding in space/time to breach the cause and effect of actions and words from sentient beings. Some would call this karma, but I’m all about the ideas beyond the words so let’s set that word aside for now. If termites gnaw at the fibers of your house for long enough it will fall down. Kill all the wolves in a given region and watch everything about that ecosystem change. Whether it is the polar dance of predator and prey, or subtle social, cultural, emotional encounters between humans: experiences and communications within and between species have lasting impacts not just on the world around us, but within us — informing our attitudes, beliefs, and subsequent actions. Why does anybody do anything? Because of whatever happened previously. Each moment is a pearl giving birth to the next pearl on the strand, the next ring on the tree, as consciousness skips from one morsel of spacetime to the next gathering data on its sojourn through the cosmos of itself.

...time is one spreading ring wrapped around another, outward and outward until the thinnest skin of Now depends for its being on the enormous mass of everything that has already died.
— Richard Powers, "The Overstory"

Everything happens in sequence, and sequence is integral to existence. Pay attention and you’ll find it’s quite fascinating to watch yourself slide through the monads of moment to moment existence. Of course, there are predictable rhythms to any given day — thumping along in an ebb and flow, pulling you to do, urging you to say. Like the moment you wake up and get moving, for instance. Or your first meal of the day, where the chewing is followed by swallowing and what’s started is inevitably finished. And then there’s the getting dressed, that transformation from naked to clothed. And of course, the inevitable conversations you have with people you encounter, conversations often built on previous encounters, in themselves their own microcosms of consequence…. X followed by Y followed by Z… all of it adding up to relationships and understandings, feeding and furthering your awareness, your future actions; beginnings and endings, conflicts and retreats.

Have you ever said something you knew in advance that you didn’t want to say? Only have it drawn out of you as you watch in horror as its impact ripples over the other person and bounces back to into your chest like a Volkswagen of regret? Success and regret have been my most powerful teachers, and beholden to cause and effect the same way everything is. But it could not be otherwise because this is how consciousness grows/explores/expands. We need to get the feedback from a source outside ourselves. Everything in nature is looking for this kind of contact. Butting heads is just another exercise in polarity.

We have moments of conflict, and we have moments of serendipitous success; and both serve the purpose of experience — and anyone who’s every been very lucky or unlucky will tell you that it was all a matter of the right things or the wrongs things lining up in sequence to create a perfect storm of fortune. You know what else is a serendipitous sequence of inevitabilities?

The waveform of movement is always, essentially, circular. This may seem overly obvious until you realize (and I mean, really realize) that circles (as well as spherical, cylindrical and toroidal shapes) are literally everywhere — wheels, pullys, the sun, the planet, the shape of flowers, fruits, the trunks of trees, the stems of flowers, seeds, and stones worn smooth by the constant movement of water across their surface…. fuck, twist your hair into a bun and what have you got? A sphere made out of a spiral. I ask myself, why this shape? Why are circles so integral to everything?

Why is the best way to mix something to stir it???

Circles are conducive to movement because they are a product of movement, just as our entire solar system is a product of movement. Planets formed into spheres because they were/are in a constant state of motion.

Just like our universe.

I’m saying these things because we get caught up sometimes in the relative illusion that life is static. That our lives are “going nowhere,” and that “time is an illusion.” Time is not an illusion. Not only is time integral to physical reality, it’s also a medium for the growth of consciousness. There can be no understanding without time, because time allows the space for things to happen and consequences to play out, which paves the way for consciousness to reflect and draw its own conclusions.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
— Star Wars

In many respects, its more accurate to think of time as distance travelled. And I’m not just referring to the relative time/distance you travel to the work each day — I’m talking about the movement of the whole; that’s what time is. This movement of the whole of the universe is what makes everything possible, because everything is playing out in sequence, across the span of space time. The history of what came before this moment. The unknowing of what’s coming next, and the curiosity that propels consciousness to experiment, take action, discover and slip into the next inevitable empty moment.

Curious consciousness witnesses experiences. Consequences are a function of cause and effect. Movement is a function of polarity.

Change = Movement = Consciousness

Change = Movement = Consciousness

Without polarity, you cannot know anything, because to know something is to know it by comparison, to know what it is not. What’s more, a strong argument could be made that without fundamental polarity, there would be nothing to know to begin with — since polarity creates and drives the move and spin of the known universe, and life (and eventually human consciousness) evolved from the dust of this physical phenomena. Polarity creates everything out of nothing. Polarity reduces everything into nothing, which brings us to this:

“He who knows the secret of sound, 
knows the mystery of the whole universe.”

— Hazrat Inayat Khan

Read More

Manifest/Unmanifest

Manifest/Unmanifest

Here again duality is at work because something needs the symmetry of nothing -- absolute nothing in order to be something, and infinite vice versa. However, the nothingness of the unmanifest is very special because while it is absolutely non-physical, this void cannot help but brim with possibility simply because it creates the space for possibility to appear. As a field of pure potential, the unmanifest plays a integral role as an underlying springboard for physical existence.

Read More