We say, we “fall asleep.” We imagine a vertiginous scene, leaning over a precipice. Just a moment’s loss of attention, and over we go. We see this as a kind of death.
A conflation of self-consciousness with life? There is an expectation that attention and reflexive self-awareness are identical, or at least that we cannot attend un-selfconsciously.
An alternate image comes to mind, falling awake.
To attend, we are present. Being present requires a suspension of self-awareness. Otherwise presence is divided. Without the reassurance of self-consciousness – a habit established and furthered by our conditioning – we feel a precariousness, akin to the vertigo of losing consciousness. As we catch our selves approaching attentive awareness we are prone to draw back.
When we are in immediate danger, when our survival is at stake and our habitual projections break down, we can also feel a vertiginous pull. We might confuse this feeling with fear. Fear arising from our perception of danger.
Are they the same? Is this wrenching disorientation a symptom of fear? Or, are we experiencing a reorientation with our surroundings as a result of attention breaking free of self-consciousness’ preconceived schema of built-up projections?
What does this say about our normal expectations?
Such moments are marked by an overwhelming matter-of-fact presence, breaking through our veil of comforting projections. This is not frightening itself. It may lead to a suspension of fear, providing an entrance into awe. An awareness with a shifting character. Both immediately present and out-of-the-way. Unlike normal self-consciousness, this awareness does not intrude, hastily attempting to paper our attention over with our accustomed host of expectations. Instead it appears heightened, clear.
Could it be that falling into unconsciousness is not a fall into a death?
Could it reflect how we may fall into life?
We bring our habits of analysis to everything.
Analysis acts, as it should not surprise us, to pull everything apart.
This habit, bedecked in all the trappings of reason, we treat as a magic talisman. We turn reflexively to analysis, expecting its spell to save us. We treat it as an incantation, expecting this chant to make us well, make us whole.
This goes on all the time.
What if the “brain,” that nickname we have for all that animates bodies and gives us thoughts and recognizes perceptions, functions more as a receiver than as a processor? A radio of sorts.
I have my own experience of reception as an example, but the most compelling evidence comes from creatures with small brains and big intelligence; Cuttlefish, Octopus, Parrots, and Crows.
I grew up immersed in Big Brain Propaganda. The Ladder of Creation stapled to Darwin’s insights intended to bolster our inflated self-images.
Even my earliest interest in non-human intelligence put so much store on the size of certain Cetaceans brains.
Cetaceans are intelligent, no question. But how can we account for a mollusk, not far removed from a clam or a snail, that can run the equivalent of an LCD screen on its skin and work out puzzles to vie with human toddlers? Or, Crows! Did I mention Crows? They’re what we used to call “Birdbrains.”
To see the brain as simply a processor. The brain as only a processor, loses sight of so much that has been swept under the rug.
A hunch, not a theory. Its details sketchy. This notion does seem related to this topic, falling awake. This essay itself is an example of how a kernel of insight appears as a faint signal, to be teased out of… somewhere. It certainly does not feel as if “I” hatched it my self inside these few pounds of warm custard coddled in my skull.
So much of our predicament is connected to the confusions we’ve fallen into. The kind of thing a receiver with too much processing capacity – and storage – would fall into. An extra layer added on-top-of, in the sense of getting-in-the-way-of, our operating in a manner that has worked for so many other creatures. This, another way of looking at how our incoherence of thought has arisen and proliferated.
Interact with a living Cuttlefish. Watch its strategies of deception. Remember that the entire concept of deception, that others have perceptions that can be distorted to gain an advantage – an active deception – is a form of awareness. It is something we humans value highly. We consider deception to be a shining example of our own cleverness. Looking in a Cuttlefish’s eye is to recognize a formidable intelligence.
We have been shaken, our capacities rattled by an echo-chamber effect. We have little of our capacity to receive left available to us. We “train” our children, and our selves, to ignore it when it does appear. What remains must function while bombarded with disjointed echoes as this added layer of self-awareness imposes itself, dominates us, to maintain its existence. “Ego thinks, therefore Ego exists!” A circular logic that maintains its supremacy through acts of sheer, desperate Will. Will acting to suppress anything that might show us the delusion of accepting a mere illusion and allowing it to command us.
At best, we do everything twice. The body, whatever remnants of our capacity as receivers, trying to get things done while Ego keeps butting in with its commands to bolster the illusion that it is in charge.
Falling asleep is often the only time many of us are momentarily free from this harpy.
So here we are with two operating systems. One capable but impaired and distracted. The other delusional and without the powers it thinks it has while busy sabotaging whatever actual strengths our organisms might otherwise be able to bring to bear.
No guidance system has access to all it would need to be able to avoid conflicts within the complexity of all that is. Perception, projection, physical situations and emotional states are all intertwined and inseparable. Perception only appears to be objective. It is always masked/masking projections that evade our awareness. Our old friend, Jung’s shadow.
We exist within a series of potentially transparent projections. They would be transparent to someone else. To us they are completely opaque. If we were to take any rationalization for hate, for example, and substitute “I” for “them.” What was a thinly veiled projection could now be seen as a deep insight into our evasions. If only we could come down off our ramparts of defensive fear and aggression long enough to recognize it.
This psycho-drama persists as we turn to the same threadbare strategies over and over again. No matter how many times they only make things worse while we studiously ignore unpleasant realities that don’t fit our preconceptions. We feel the discomfort of having our edifice of illusions challenged. We stop at this brink.
Whatever holds or increases our resistance is counterproductive. Compassion needs to build outward from within. It can only become stronger as we become stronger. We can only get stronger as we drop these crutches, relying on illusions of what power can do for us.
Our incoherence regarding the nature of power has come about as a result of our overtaxed receivers’/processors’ confusion. Unable to sort out how strength actually works. We remain trapped in defensive machinations.
We rely on some version of this platitude, “A gun in a knife-fight always wins!” Our ultimate rationalization for every escalation of power.
Our confusion lies in what we consider “winning.”
For us today, at the curling edge of a major call on so many outstanding bets, it appears that winning has actually destroyed just about anything that may have had any true value. We’re left squabbling over the rubble.
The gulf between the actual state of the world and our perceptions demonstrates how destructive this misunderstanding of our “equipment” has been. It is still so hard to see past this illusion that power wins.
A receiver finds messages in whatever fields it is tuned to.
A processor/memory device can only spin speculation. Then work up its trusty resolve to, “Stick to the plan!”
What if we fall awake?