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The Evolution of Consciousness

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Since listening to Michael Neill's podcast, I've been thinking a lot about that space before thought which he identifies (and yes, fully conscious of the irony of thinking about the space before thought!!).

So, says Neill rather tantalizingly, it's that space before thought in which human consciousness evolves.

I've long been mindful of that legal phenomenon of the "rolling evolution": that sometimes social consensus precedes the evolution of law, and sometimes social consensus follows law. For example, social consensus that women should be permitted to vote or go to medical school probably preceded the evolution of law. And now both are unremarkable. But social consensus that discrimination against same-sex marriage was wrong probably followed the evolution of law. When laws permitting same sex marriage happened in Ontario more than 16 years ago, they were controversial. Now, unremarkable in most (but not all) sectors of society. I expect we'll see the same rolling evolution with respect to medical assistance in dying.

Returning to that place before thought: that's where my individual identity as a particular human didn't matter a whole lot. When I was a baby, of course, ME -- as a particular human -- had not yet begun to develop.

And yet, so many of the 70,000 to 100,000 random thoughts that crowd my head daily tend to be all about my particular individual identity!

I (ME ME ME!!!) should not have been treated in that way in the past!! I was an adorable little girl with dimples and blonde hair and blue eyes and a charming personality, a love of nature, a sense of humour, musical and artistic ability, a keen intelligence! I didn't deserve it. I deserved so much more, so much better!!!

And also I (ME ME ME again!! Oh yes, so persistently about ME!! because as David Foster Wallace said, this is "our" water!!) should not have to be fearful about the terrible things that might happen to ME ME ME in the future. I don't deserve 'em!! I am special!! I have been a good sister, a good wife, a good mother, a very hard working college teacher and then a lawyer and . . . yeah!! All of that means I should be entirely exempt from the vicissitudes of human existence!!

Silly isn't it?? It's not my particular identity then or now that matters: it's our shared humanity. If anything.

OK then.

And if universal consciousness evolves, as Michael Neill says, when we spend more time, collectively, in that place before thought: then it seems to me that our Westernized consciousness is more highly individualistic than the common consciousness of less-Westernized communities. Some of which are so much more ancient than our own, and have had so much more time to evolve common consciousness.

But we here in the West have not admired cultures of collective obedience. Where individual "rights" are "suppressed" in favour of the common good. As Western citizens, we have assumed that pursuit of an individual's own best interests will result in the collective best outcomes. We have not particularly valued any suppression of an individual's personal best interests in favour of acting in the best interests of others. American "life, liberty and the pursuit of my own consumerist happiness" used to be somewhat differentiated from Canadian "peace, order and good government". But that Canadian "difference", if it even exists, has been blurred and diluted by the merging of cultures across our common border -- now temporarily closed except for essential trade, to contain COVID-19.

Western nations with Western consciousness find it hard to encourage individual citizens to voluntarily and obediently self-isolate, even if asymptomatic, in order to reduce the likelihood or the possibility of transmission of COVID-19 to others.

Should we decide arbitrarily when to end even mild efforts as social distancing, opt for let-it-rip "herd immunity" even at the cost of thousands of deaths?

Does a robust economy matter more than widespread deaths?

Can there even be a robust economy if there is widespread death, reducing buying power because reducing the numbers of consumers?

And if there could be a robust economy at the cost of such deaths: are such calculations ethical? Or merely expedient?

Is altruism even possible? Adam Smith was agnostic on that topic, but thought that in closely-knit communities (the pre-industrial capitalist village and city in his time, the global community in our internet era) lots of good things happened because people wished to be perceived as acting well.

Yeah. We do. We may resist addiction to the approval of others. But lots of good things happen as a result of even our Western desire to be perceived as good people.

That may be the best we can do . . the best, of course, always the enemy of the good (enough). .

And perhaps our collective Western consciousness, from that place before thought, will evolve. In new and unprecedented directions. With new and unanticipated consequences.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I am special !!!

    Yes, YOU are.

    And yes, each of us are.
    70 days ago
    Call me crazy, but I do think altruism is still possible, and it will be seen/experienced and felt (is being seen/experienced) in small ways throughout our current challenges. And it's not so much the matter of deaths... people are going to get sick and many will die no matter how vigilant we are... it's about preserving our sense of humanity and compassion in the midst of this and doing all we can to ensure that the spread is controlled in pace with our ability to RESPOND (no one should feel sacrificed), rather than react, so that the least damage possible is done. There will be all sorts of casualties... human and economic... some which we can anticipate, and others by which we will be surprised, but my hope at the end of it all, and why I choose to be part of the recommended solution rather than part of the problem, is that we as country/world remain able to respond compassionately to the losses and provide a hand up into a new future... that THIS: "perhaps our collective Western consciousness, from that place before thought, will evolve. In new and unprecedented directions."
    71 days ago
    Wanted to append a link to an article run March 25, 2020 in the Washington Post:
    "Hospitals consider universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients"


    71 days ago
    Many interesting ideas. Lot to think about.
    72 days ago
    Some great questions and observations. Its stands to reason a dictatorship ruled country can quickly bring its citizens under control and stop the spread of the virus like in China. But the free wheeling permissive countries will simply be in trouble as people exercise their rights to gather, to go out, to ignore the self isolation orders because they feel well. We have our first community spread cases. Saskatoon has the most cases in our province, a hotbed of returning winter travelers. Regina has closed their off leash dog park areas whereas Saskatoon has left them open. We look across the river and see hoards of people walking their dogs and not distancing themselves from each other as the dog walkers are a close knit community. Police are getting complaints of people not isolating themselves. So in spite of the threat of a $2000 fine for not self isolation after returning from a trip it is not deterring some.
    We have been watching lots of movies on Netflix. We made a quick trip to Costco where they were out of sanitizers and TP (in spite of limiting to one per person!) My Mom and sister both admitted it was not a pleasant tip with most people being silent and trying to keep their distance. The food court tables were taken up and no one was getting anything. They let people in slowly, one at a time and the line up kept their proper distance apart.
    Meditation tries to obtain longer spaces in between thoughts. Not eliminate them. It is in those spaces the magic happens. It is the total relaxation and releasing stress that leads to healing. For Qigong it is getting into that void and moving the chi -life energy through the body to heal. Releasing the energy blocks that have led to illness. Stress has been proven to cause illness. So any way you can get rid of it helps. Alternative healers know this and so many of them are generously offering free group meditations, practices, etc. They are really stepping up.
    Wishing you good health and safety.
    72 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    This epidemic is both terrifying and fascinating. What if universal healthcare started to seem like common sense to everyone, and the end of irregular work? Unemployment benefits, paid sick leave, pensions, interest free student loans for all. Better still, free education.
    72 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/25/2020 9:22:35 PM
    It makes me wonder too,

    DS who is amazing says mortgages, bills, etc should be stopped for now. No need to pay till later. If you don't need to pay there is no need to go out to work. No need to be in the line for help no need to be without food.

    Everyone can stay home, the amazing people giving their all in the hospitals can take a rotational rest and not have to look after the people who decide to congregate anyway and expect to be hospitalised.

    I live for today, not looking back unless to remember good things, not looking forward ... just right now....

    Ahh it is good :)
    72 days ago
  • GABY1948
    You always give me so much to think about!!! But that's GOOD....I'm just slower than I was before!!!
    72 days ago
  • NANCY-
    I have enjoyed this slower pace, it reminds me of my childhood. Stores were closed and families gathered more. The economy has it's place... but there is no economy without people. Folks are leaving NYC to the shores of Long Island and Connecticut to escape the virus. What they do not realize is that they may be (carriers) spreading virus by moving to a new area.
    It takes a village, but some in the global village are a bit self-centered.
    72 days ago
    72 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    72 days ago
    Does a robust economy matter more than widespread deaths?

    Can there even be a robust economy if there is widespread death, reducing buying power because reducing the numbers of consumers?

    And if there could be a robust economy at the cost of such deaths: are such calculations ethical? Or merely expedient?

    Thought provoking questions. To #1, I say . . . mankind’s survival means more than the economy. Certain free world leaders do not see it that way. Afraid I don’t understand that. To me, the economy is definitely a concern, but FIRST we have to deal w/the critical health issues confronting us.

    So many patients and only so any ventilators, for example. That is going to force a choice. Who gets what? Is money going to ‘talk’ in these situations? I don’t know. Guess it remains to be seen.

    And what about the people who are taking advantage of this situation to make $$$? They are out there!

    Ethics . . . that is a huge consideration! I guess situations such as the current one reall do give focus to the ethics of each individual.

    Pondering all this for sure.

    72 days ago
    My DH gets distressed every time I bring up end-of-life issues.

    He's not feeling well. So, me being me, and knowing there are no advanced directives in place .(.. assuming ones wishes will even be possible to follow ... cannot put one on a ventilator as desired when there are no ventilators to be had ... or the system has determined that you're not in the group they've decided to serve given the limited resources available ...) asked him point blank: "So, if you need to be hospitalized and cannot breathe, do you want to be placed on a ventilator?"

    Is there such a thing as ruthless compassion? As you mentioned: ... our Western desire to be perceived as good people. Or, am I simply brutally direct as others have described me. I'd like to think not. There's that Western desire to be perceived as a good person.
    72 days ago
  • BJAEGER307
    Food for thought today. Not sure how to answer any of the questions, but something definitely will think about today.
    72 days ago
    Lots of interesting ideas here.

    Sometimes ideas put forth by the current administration are just to get a dialog going.

    It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

    72 days ago
    That's a lot of big words and thoughts today, woman!
    Thanks for making my head hurt while I ponder this.
    Specifically there is a politician in Texas who felt grandparents would gladly make the decision to brave the virus for the sake of letting the economy open up and not jeopardize their grandchildren's economic future.
    I think their emotional future is as important and it would definitely be jeopardized if we "un-quarantined"!

    Quite a world out there.
    72 days ago
    72 days ago
    In our travels, we've seen many countries where it seems almost oppressive to have that community-first and conforming mentality - where groups of people walking through a train station almost look like robots, not humans, because they are so similar.

    But in times like these, that notion of a greater good above self is so much more important than our individuality.

    I keep thinking of Star Trek (The Wrath of Khan), and Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one."

    72 days ago
    Listening to The Current on CBC this morning and an interview with an ER physician at St. Mike's in Toronto who is having to deal with raising anger in the patients he is assessing. With some success he is getting them to space" through deep breathing exercises. He lays it out to them; if they wish to be seen they have to calm themselves first, if not they are asked to leave and come back when no longer belligerent.
    We are very privileged to live in so called free countries but as someone compared the response to COVID as comparable to the response of citizenry to WWII, our feelings of civic duty have a long way to go. It has to begin at the top , our leaders. If they are not serious and responsive then the public will see that as an opening to flaunt the rules of public health.
    72 days ago
    Hmmm, thought provoking as usual! I think we as individuals are very important and ***I*** DO matter. The collective good is also important. Balance in all things, but balance is a slippery, hard to grasp thing!
    72 days ago
    72 days ago
    Much food for thought, here... pondering. Especially this question: "Is altruism even possible?" We'd like to think so. And yes, we want to be perceived as acting well... we may even (for the sake of our souls) want to actually BE acting well. But some questions of what acting well might be are hard to answer!

    So... pondering, soul-searching... very appropriate in troubling times! These are indeed times to try men's souls.
    72 days ago
    72 days ago
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