by Robert Burnham
It's funny how we get born and eventually start to become aware of ourselves in our bodies, with particular parents and siblings, and with our own particular life situation. As a kid, I remember thinking wtf - How did I end up here? Why am I in this body, as opposed to being in one of my brothers’? How did that happen? I also found out that people only lived 100 years or so. What? To pop into the world only to be dragged out again at the end? Bogus!
When I got a little older, I heard about reincarnation but really did not see it as very likely for non-Hindus. Instead, I wondered about getting to live my 100 years in this current period of human history. I concluded that I was pretty lucky since only relatively recently have people had flush toilets. Lucky me.
Nowadays, most scientists follow the tenets of science based upon a material universe and an objective reality (MUOR). Based on this view, consciousness is simply an artifact of our complex brain and our “awareness of being” is an illusion. I thought about this and ultimately it just doesn't ring true. The one thing I know for sure is that I am 100% here. I am not an artifact. In fact, everything else in this material reality could be an illusion, but “I” am not. For I am real. I am fundamental. I am the basis of the entire material reality I experience. "I am that I am." (Sorry, I think that’s Charlton Heston's line in "The Ten Commandments").
Of course this point of view is quite subjective, which in science is typically a "no-no". However, when talking about our subjective experience of our very existence, there is simply no way around it! We are, in fact, the very subject we are investigating.
Of course, in searching for truth, it is best to stay as close to the "objective" as reasonably possible. I learned about probability and biology and physics and set out to find a "rational" explanation of my consciousness (i.e. my existence). Well, to sum up (and as you might expect), no good answers were forthcoming. So, instead, I postulated that if there were a “material” explanation for my experience of “being”, then there must be at least one material precondition, without which it (I) would not have occurred. My new goal then would be to isolate at least one precondition required for me to have gotten born vs. not being born. Or to say it mathematically: "If "x" did not happen, then I would surely not be here. Find any workable value for “x””.
I considered genes, chromosomes, sperms, eggs, the physical material of the zygote vs. patterns of information, etc. Over the years, I did thought experiments and talked with friends for many hours (over a bottle of wine, of course). These discussions ranged from clones and matter transporters to artificial intelligence and brain surgeries. However, in spite of all these investigations, there still has not appeared a single reasonable precondition, without which I would not be here. It's kind of like winning the lottery - but a special kind of lottery where the process by which one would win or lose cannot be determined, even theoretically, by any rational means. It seems then that I (my consciousness) am something not subject to analysis by application of the sciences under our current “material-objective” (MUOR) representation of the universe.
If consciousness exists (and “I” do), but is not discernible or reducible within MUOR, then it must be true that MUOR is incomplete. That may seem odd and perhaps a little disturbing, but “Occam’s Razor” can sometimes draw a little blood.
I guess this conclusion is somewhat borne out by the quantum physics effects where an "observer" (we) must be present for any particular "event" to actually occur. This observation goes against a "common sense" interpretation of how the universe works. In fact, it means that we really have no idea where or how "we" fit in to the universe or what is its relationship to "us". Only that "we", as the observer, are somehow essential to its functioning.
Of course, it may be that the true nature of existence will forever be beyond our ability to understand. That said, my current thinking is that consciousness is most likely some fundamental property of the universe and that material reality as we experience it (space, time, thought) flows out somehow from that substrata. I may write more on that later. Or I may not.
by Robert Burnham
Grief. n. [greef].
1. Acute emotional pain caused by loss of a loved one (especially by death).
2. Drowning in a black ocean of sorrow.
3. The thick strong cord which had bound thee to thy Beloved connects now to but one heart. Still sacred, its severed end drags heavy upon the ground. Its weight, once cherished, now binds thy joy and torments thy soul. It is a burden unbearable and inconsolable.
Connection. n. [con-nek-shen].
1. Slice then this cord of love to become a thousand strings. Allow these strings to find purchase in other beings; to take root in the hearts of what was once other; to grow. Joy and peace shall again find thee and a once-broken spirit shall strengthen beyond measure.
Redemption. n. [ree-dem-shen].
1. Know that thou art not alone in sorrow. Amongst all thy family, and friends, and neighbors, and strangers - no being with the capacity to love is spared the burden of its loss. Great sorrow has opened thine eyes to the suffering extant in our world. Feel the broken hearts of thy brothers; the broken hopes and dreams of thy neighbors. Thus is grief transformed to love; a love which redeems the pain of loss; a love which redeems the very world.