The day of the black sun

I wrote this on the date mentioned with the intention of posting it on my blog as soon as I had one (from idea to reality, ten months, hmmm…) Well, I have one now so the forthcoming entries will be ‘old’ ones until I get up to date.

Wednesday 29th March 2006

This seemed like an auspicious day to start my blog, it being the day of the black sun. I am in Antalya, Turkey to witness the total eclipse of the sun. Some people talk of this event as if it was a religious experience. Perhaps I came with too many expectations or maybe I have reached a certain level of equanimity after fifty years on this planet but I felt it was, well.. all right. It is after all just a shadow crossing the earth, on a cosmic scale granted, but a shadow nonetheless.

Actually far greater fun was had after the event. A group of us retired to the poolside to have a few beers and exult in the relief that it had been a clear day and the sight was unimpeded by cloud. A lively discussion ensued where I put forward my many theories about life, the internet and consciousness which I argued was the beginning of all things. Someone then asked me what I meant by consciousness and I had to consider my response.

At breakfast I had the answer for him. I concluded thus;
Consciousness is a continuum like most things. We would not say an ant had consciousness because as far as we can observe it is programmed to respond to certain stimuli. An individual ant doesn’t do its own thing. A dog however we might say has a basic consciousness as it appears to display basic emotions – fear, affection, sadness. It could be argued that this is a more sophisticated responding to stimuli but more importantly, as far as we can tell, the dog has no sense of self. It is this sense of self which defines higher consciousness and is enjoyed by humans alone. It is inextricably linked with language as it is language that allows us to have anecdotal memories and reinforces the concept of ‘I’. As soon as we can articulate this concept we separate ourselves from the rest of the universe and we are doomed to die alone. This is the price we pay for higher consciousness. And it is this sense of self which produces the urge to create art; artifacts state ‘I did this”. No other species has art and culture. Maybe art is a palliative for the pain of separation; an attempt to reconnect with the universe. Art is a manifestation of our creativity and it is our creativity which demonstrates our higher consciousness. So a proof of higher consciousness is any creative act which has no function with regard to that organisms survival.

(As a postscript to this, recent research has revealed that Elephants have a concept of self. A cross was painted on the forehead of an elephant and then the elephant was shown a mirror. The elephant was curious about the cross painted on its head and touched it with its trunk. This demonstrated that the elephant knew the mirror was showing a reflection of itself ergo it had a concept of ‘I’. This would explain some of the behavior of the elephants, such as fondling the bones of their relatives. Such an activity serves no purpose in terms of survival strategies but as a statement of consciousness, as a creative act, it makes sense.)

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