Here: The meaning of life

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Here: The Meaning of Life by Daniel Campos Fernández is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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Well, I’m just keen to music composition but you want to find here the meaning of life. OK, OK, let me think a bit on it, but be aware what you will get here is only a personal opinion, may be you should work on yours as well.

Right, the answer is that you don’t exist. I don’t exist. Nobody exists. This is but a trick, a joke if you want to use that word. It’s fairly well done, it’s a brilliant theatrical performance, and so you think you exist in the same way you feel swallowed by the TV set when a brilliant movie is being broadcast. But it’s a big fake. In nature, as far as we know there are energy, matter, space and may be time though probably this last one it’s just a human concept -it could be a fourth dimension that, due to any nature’s law, we’re forced to cover in a single direction at a uncertain speed (uncertain for there’s not any reference point).

Now add a new element called “consciousness”, it could be the product of energy plus matter’s interaction, it could be something different with a singular nature deserving a different category apart from matter and energy, or maybe consciousness is the starting point of everything and gets “condensed” into matter and energy by any natural process in the same way matter can be turned into energy and vice versa in an eternal vicious circle. Anyhow that definition is not important at all for this concrete purpose in the same way you don’t need to know the final nature of a spoon to eat a good soup. Sometimes you don’t need to know everything to swallow the whole. The only important thing is that there’s something in nature that we call “consciousness” and its major property is that it is reflexive, that is, it’s able to feel itself, in fact, it’s the feeling itself.

You can split consciousness down into basic elements. A single “quantum” -a single atom, a single element- of consciousness is very different to a usual human experience. Nonetheless you can imagine it for a moment if you make a small effort. It is just a feeling, for instance what you commonly call the “redness” of the red color. It is just a feeling of “red” without any other thought attached to it: no memories, no predictions, no judgments, no preferences, no associations, neutral and even without the concept of neutral, nothing at all but a whole red “screen”. Note that the tricky element here is that the “screen” is the feeling itself, there’s not any feeler feeling it, no watcher watching the scene, that’s why I say consciousness is reflexive. It’s just something that’s happening in the same way a photon -a unit of light- is happening when it cross the space, and consciousness might happen everywhere in the Universe, not only in what we call self-aware animals with a brain. Like a spark, it can exist for a moment and just disappear in the ocean of time from our time-linear point of view. Casual interactions between matter and energy could produce those phenomena everywhere at any moment exactly in the same way that oxygen and a flammable gas can interact to create a brief light, but unlike a flame watched by a third party watcher, a feeling it’s self aware of that single feeling, it’s a single feeling having an inner experience during a moment, with not prejudices, no thoughts, no expectations, nothing at all but its own content, its own information.

Do I mean information is the fabric of all? I’ve got no idea. Take the same approach here that we took for time and consciousness above, that’s not our business by now. Let’s focus back on feelings.

In fact, what you call thoughts are just independent feelings too: memories, rational thoughts, emotions… all of them have exactly the same individual nature the “redness” of red has. Now add in several individual feelings working together. You’ll get a complex system of feelings that feel they can feel. The feeling of being aware is just a feeling itself. What you call “I” is nothing but a feeling, your “self”, your “ego” or whatever you want to call it, it’s just a feeling(noun) feeling(verb) that’s aware.

Now the brain. It’s mainly a tool that’s able to interact with consciousness. No matter how you define consciousness -a separate entity or an interaction of matter and energy- neurons have two capabilities:

1) They can turn on feelings.
2) They can scan feelings and extract information out of it.

Why would nature want to do it? Because animals are complex beings. They’ve got to regulate their behavior constantly. If you study a bit of servomechanisms, you will discover that any servomechanism, that is, any complex system that has to interact with its environment in order to regulate the way it works, needs of a self image where to put parameters and study them in order to make the decision relative to the next step to perform. And consciousness is very useful to accomplish that task. You’ve got a system made up of millions of individual neurons triggering messages, hundreds of neuron networks working independently inside your brain, and they need a common point where to share everything they collect and make decisions out of it. That’s human consciousness: a single point full of feelings created by neuron networks.

There are other methods to gather information. May be there are something that we could call life and even animal-like beings on other planets and they could use different strategies to regulate themselves. In fact you don’t need to watch the outer space, just think on yourself: most of your activities are not conscious, e.g. the way your breath and heart work, your bloodstream carrying oxygen and nutrients to your cells, your leukocytes defending your body, even they process through which you remember things, they way you associate what you smell with your preferences, and so on. You can take a look at plants, too, as they have no brain at all but they can perform a lot of complex activities to survive. Current computers are good examples too.

But somehow evolution was able to find that path called consciousness, through a long process of try and error it was able to interact with consciousness. There are other examples, you could have wheels but you’ve got legs instead, it’s “just” the vagaries of a random evolution in a random environment. Consciousness is powerful -look at its power when you feel a pain or craving- and it allows to perform very complex decisions too. That is the reason why it is used, because it allows to survive in a highly competitive environment. But at the same time, it’s slow and resource-wasting, and thus every process requiring constance or quick actions is out of your consciousness, from your breath to your reflexes. If you move your hand away from a heat source, you will notice it, but you will be aware of it after you do it.

And now let me tell you several things:

1) First, there’s nothing subjective in your consciousness, for centuries people argued and ranted about something called “Qualia”, an individual and not directly transmissible experience. But the truth is that there’s nobody experiencing things, the experimenter is the feeling itself, the image itself. And neurons can both put and get information from the field of consciousness, so scientists should just study and learn the way to do it. After that research, science would be able both to create sparks of feelings and then retrieve, read their information. In fact there’s nothing more objective than consciousness: pure information with any content -from simple sounds to complex ideas- that’s self aware of it and sure that it exists.

2) Once scientists have completed the process to emulate neuron’s work, a second experiment could be done in order to determine whether the nature of consciousness is related to the one of matter and energy or not. The equivalence of matter and energy was discovered because the interaction of several fragments of matter to create a new fragment of matter can create less matter than the initial one. That matter doesn’t dissapear, it’s turned into energy. Well, the same can be done on consciousness, once you have a neuron-like machine, it’s matter of looking what happens to the amount of matter and energy involved in the process of creating a quantum of consciousness or the process of reading the contents of quantum of consciousness. If it changes, it means that matter and/or energy have just turned into consciousness, and the three ones, matter, energy and consciousness are three faces of the same unique thing, if not, then the nature of consciousness is different.

3) You’re a bunch of feelings convinced that they’re a single being. If you had no memories, no “ego feeling” repeating the word “I” inside your brain, no reactions to your thoughts (which are nothing but new feelings acting as a feedback created by neurons) and so on, you wouldn’t have what we call a personality and thus you wouldn’t find any difference with your environment, there wouldn’t be outside and inside worlds, that is just a concept, a feeling. Dualism is an illusion.

4) You’re not the actor, you just the watcher. Everything is happening by following the streams of nature laws. Everything you think is not thought by you, it’s just a feeling created by the networks inside your brain. You’re the final product, not the trigger of your inner world. Even “you”, you “I” is just a product of your brain. There are no souls, nobody living here in this universe, it’s just consciousness playing a game called “you”. You reactions are just product of your neuron’s work, and you just feel it as a feeling of “I’m knowing, I’m thinking on, I’m acting on”.

5) It’s natural not to feel that you’re the passive final product of your brain’s work. The feelings you feel -including time, space, order, etc- are created by your brain to say “everything is happening in the right order at the right moment and It’s me who is doing it”. And that generated feeling is the only thing you can feel because you’re the feeling itself, so you won’t ever notice the real time line of things. But everything becomes more suspicious when scientists conceive experiments to challenge your feelings. By measuring brain activity, scientists discovered that you move an arm instants before you make the conscious decision of moving that arm. Brain researchers have discovered in recent times that there are millions of neurons connected in a loop, probably meaning that each decision creates an instant feedback.

6) About the outer world, there’s not any thing in the Universe. “Things” are just concepts, and concepts are just thoughts, that is, categories created by your brain which are useful to live but aren’t real. In the Universe’s there’s only a whole that we split into parts in order to analyze them and make decisions to survive. But the reality is that you’re the whole Universe interacting with itself and believing though feelings that you’re just a poor single been alone in a lost planet. If you don’t think that things aren’t real, just think on the nature of any common object. Use a powerful microscope: it is made of millions, billions of individual particles called atoms. And atoms aren’t real either as they’re made of other small particles like protons, neutrons and electrons, and so on. Things are but parts of the Universe we isolate and classify in our minds. Where does a river start and the sea ends? It’s an illusion. Things can’t be dated either. The actuality is that everything is made up of energy and matter that was born along with the Universe itself and matter and energy are the same thing at the end (e=mc2). Next time you look around in your room, think that both you and your chair, or even your table are as old as the Universe. And taking the opportunity that you’re looking around, note that everything that you know as the reality are things received by your senses, processed by your neurons and then perceived by you in the form feelings. That is, you’re not watching the outside world, what you call the outside world is in fact a mix of feelings in your inner world. Again, inside and outside are just illusions.

7) There’s not any difference among you, me, and the rest of aware beings. You just feel as an individual because the particular feeling that’s feeling your inner world is attached to the information stored in your brain. But consciousness itself is a whole single entity. If we humans were able to develop tools to scan consciousness and share that information back in the form of consciousness you could feel everything that another person feels and you could even feel as a different person with a different personality. You don’t believe that? There’s an interesting actual case: two twin sisters were born joined by part of their heads. Doctors couldn’t separate them because that surgery would kill them. Thus, they live literally together, they share part of their nerves, part of their brains, and the most amazing thing is that one day, one of them told the other to stop thinking something she didn’t like. In short, they were sharing the contents of their consciousness through their neurons.

Now, if you don’t like the idea of not being the main actor, just think that your common little “you” doesn’t really exist, you’re not a passive watcher because “you” is just an image, a thought. The real “you” is the whole Universe interacting to create that particular thought. If you’re scared because you don’t have a soul, don’t worry, again it’s just an image, you’re the whole Universe, that’s eternal. Even if you prefer to keep your image of a singular human being, don’t suffer for it because your image is exactly equal to the image of the rest of aware beings, it’s just its particular contents, its information, in a concrete moment which creates the fake illusion, but “you”, that is, the whole consciousness, is eternal too and can “live” both in what you call a living been and inside any other interaction creating consciousness. But if you still want to live forever, be patient, the Universe will create you by chance again and again. There will be periods of sleep that you call death and periods of awakening that you call life. The Universe is infinite, time is infinite, thus, even though the chances to create “you” are scarce it will happen again. It’s just matter of pure statistics: low possibilities multiplied by infinite time means infinite actualities. You can call it reincarnation, but anyway you won’t preserve any memories, they were stored in your current brain, it will be a completely new life, a new opportunity, a blank book to be written with totally new experiences, again and again, without any feeling of your past lives. If you’re afraid of death, remember that you won’t feel anything, and darkness is just a feeling, so you won’t ever be in the dark while you’re deeply asleep. Nightmares and sweet dreams can only happen when you’re aware. You’ll have only peace. And complete peace is utter happiness -no cravings, no unsatisfied desires, no fear, no pain-, so is not too bad. About the Universe, don’t be concerned, it happened once so it can happen infinite times if our current one ever disappears. Before the Universe existed, there was literally nothing to avoid its appearance, so next time there won’t be any obstacle either. Actually there could be different universes living at the same “time” here and now.

And if you want my advice, don’t be too selfish, don’t be greedy and don’t be evil. Do not cause pain to others nor to nature. No matter what you plan to do, it will disappear after you die and you won’t enjoy it anymore, so it doesn’t worth the pain to cause damage to others, at the end, we share this Universe, we’re literally one, we’re the whole, we’re the same unique consciousness, and you don’t want to cause pain to yourself, right? Don’t do it, then. Don’t take your cravings and fears too seriously, they’re just little neurons working on different ideas. Besides you will discover that acting in the right way, i.e. taking care of your environment and the rest of living beings, will bring you help, peace and happiness instead of warfare, suffering and fear for the future so it is the only clever way to act. You don’t need to be afraid of eternal flames if you act in the wrong way, you don’t even need to be a good person, you just need to see the advantages of living in peace and harmony, it’s just matter of being selfish in the right way. And don’t be sad for your past, it’s just memories stored in your brains, they’re not you, don’t be afraid be the future, they’re just predictions made up by your brain. Both are useful whenever you need to plan things, but let your mind be only a good servant, never a tyrant master, just live and watch the only moment in which you exist: the present.

Further references, reading and watching:

Daniel Dennett, a philosopher working on scientific ideas to research in the field of consciousness. Here you’ve got an interesting lecture on Youtube.

Christof Koch, a scientist researching on human consciousness. Talk on Youtube with an amusing accent.

Susan Blackmore, a psychologist working on human’s brain. Some easy experiments about consciousness included in this talk on Youtube.

Thomas Metzinger, a philosopher working in the field of the human’s mind and subjectivity. Lecture on Youtube.

Susan Greenfield, a scientist researching human brain’s activity related to consciousness. More on Youtube.

Alan Watts, a philosopher specialized on eastern philosophy. He devoted his life to be a spiritual entertainer according to his own words. If you’re interested in knowing more about meditation, this is your Youtube video.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, a philosopher born in India who created its own personal and spiritual philosophy apart from the traditions of hinduism and buddhism.  He was used to talk about his ideas through dialogs instead of trying to convince people with his words alone. Here about human’s mind on Youtube.

U.G. Krishnamurti, another eastern philosopher, not related to the prior one even though they met once by chance, with very original ideas. Contrary to many eastern traditions he always denied the existence of a path for enlightenment. It’s a kind of diamond when you really feel like blowing up your mind. He rarely talked in public, but there are some videos on Youtube.

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