Day 73: The Tales We Tell Ourselves
I promised I was going to talk about shifting consciousness this Philosophy Friday, but I’ve realized there’s something else I need to talk about first, namely, what is consciousness?
I don’t claim to be a philosopher. I’ve never studied it, nor even read very much about it. I just think a lot. Quite possibly there is a proper philosophical definition of consciousness, but if there is, I don’t know it, so please forgive my ignorance.
I would define “consciousness” as self-awareness, or the way that we perceive ourselves, or the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are. And I believe that this can change.
As an example, there is my personal story. I used to believe that I could never be an adventurer. Adventurers were almost a different species, those steely-eyed, square-jawed bearded men who sailed around the world, conquered mountains and trekked to north and south poles. I was short, unathletic, and not particularly brave. And not a man.
Then one day my story changed.
I met a woman who had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, completing it alone because her six-foot-five, athletic husband was unable to cope psychologically with ocean life and had to be rescued from the boat just two weeks into the crossing. This woman was no taller than I was. Suddenly it dawned on me that the size of my physique mattered less than the size of my self-belief. My internal story changed.
What about our collective story? There are things that we humans tell ourselves about who we are and what we need that may not necessarily be true. Some of these ideas that we have absorbed into our collective self-concept used to serve us well when times were different – for example, that we need to have as many children as possible – but are now ripe to be re-evaluated.
Another example is the belief that we need constant economic growth, but is that really true? If we are not sure whether or not it is true, let’s take a different tack; does this belief serve us well? Does it make us happy? Does it make the world a better place? If not, then would a different belief serve us better?
We are often afraid to let go of the “old” way of doing things, because that is all we have ever known. We act as we do because we don’t realize we have a choice. But we do. We have free will. We might feel trapped by the myth of perpetual economic growth, or the perceived need for more stuff, more money. But these are all things that we have created. And we can un-create them. We have built our own cage, but we also have the key to the door. It is a leap of faith to try a new world order – but starting is the hardest part. Once we’ve taken that first step, and tested it to see if it works, subsequent steps will become easier.
Examples already exist of ways of living that don’t focus on materialism. At the time of writing I am directly south of Bhutan, famous for its concept of Gross National Happiness. Now there’s an idea worth spreading…
…which brings me on to how we get everybody to buy into the new consciousness. But that’s for next week.
Another day on the Indian Lake today. While waiting for the wind to help me across the current, I finished the general rearrangement and reordering of the boat. Sedna is now as shipshape as it is possible for a ship to be, without recourse to a chandlery. I feel more than ready to start rowing again now, just as soon as the wind shows up. Hello? Wind? Anybody there?
Thanks for the great comments on my state of dishevelment. Thankfully I now feel much more hevelled. We have hevelment in abundance. I was especially encouraged by the comments from Rico, Matt and Anna.
Doc Klein – good to hear from you! I kept thinking of Asheville when I was listening to “Drums of Autumn”, as it was set in North Carolina. Happy memories. Best wishes to you and your niece.
Dan – your adventure in South America sounds amazing. Very “Motorcycle Diaries”.
Stan – I know what you mean about “Eaarth”. I enjoyed its honesty. No sugar-coating. Just “here’s how it is”, followed by “and here’s how best to deal with it”. Some people might find it depressing, but I quite relish the prospect of change. For sure, we need it!
Photo: Getting shipshape on the Indian Lake
We must believe in free will. We have no choice.
(Isaac Bashevis Singer)
Sponsored Miles: Thank you Christopher Senn for helping Roz to claw back some of her lost miles. Roz is now just six miles short of her previous best distance.
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