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Considering consciousness, our own, our connection to that of others and to the universe

By Ed Konderla

What do you see? I used to carry a copy of this picture in my wallet and pull it out whenever I felt put upon by life. It functioned as a graphic reminder of how tough life is for many and that I had an obligation to be grateful for how good I had it and still do. It is always amazing to me that many of us wake up every day believing that the world should be concerned about my affordable health care and insuring I have the correct peanut butter available at the store.

So, what do you see besides the obvious 3-dimensional hell on earth millions face every day displayed in 2 dimensions?

What else do you see or better yet what do you perceive?  Do you perceive the approximately 30,000,000,000,000 individual cells composed of 200 different types that make up her body? All cells that originated from one fertilized egg. Do you perceive the approximate 100,000,000,000,000 atoms required to construct a single cell?

Do you perceive the electrons, neutrons and protons that make up the atoms?  While electrons are considered fundamental, neutrons and protons are made up of even smaller particles such as gluons and quarks. Can you perceive the bizarre world of quantum mechanics? A world that many scientists believe has 10 or more dimensions. This is the world that is the foundation for our 3-dimensional reality, 4 if you include time. It is the world that allows for the biology that is the source of this little girls suffering and pain. That word “fundamental” becomes important to our discussion later so let us define it now:

Fundamental: serving as, or being an essential part of, a foundation or basis; basic; underlying: fundamental principles; the fundamental structure.

You probably can perceive her consciousness. The consciousness that carries her pain and despair. The consciousness that almost certainly is about to slip away from the bounds of her biological self. What about that consciousness? Where does it reside? When does it appear? Is it in her 4,000,000,000 brain cells which comprise .01% of the total cells that make up her body? When those 4,000,000,000 brain cells stop functioning does her consciousness cease to exist? Or does that consciousness somehow bridge the distance between the biological world and the quantum world?

So far science does not have an answer for what consciousness is. That inability to understand consciousness is called the hard problem of consciousness.

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.  It is the problem of explaining why there is “something it is like” for a subject in conscious experience, why conscious mental states “light up” and directly appear to the subject.

You might be able to imagine what’s going on in this poor little thing’s mind. You can see through her eyes, feel her weakness, her starvation, her fear for the reason the vulture stands watch over her. You can feel the weight of her necklace around her neck. You can feel the grittiness of the parched earth and the heat radiating from it. You can recreate the horror of her world in your consciousness almost instantly and it almost certainly causes you to recoil.

Why and how in the hell can you do that? I do not pretend to know.

To a certain extent does it matter that we are conscious? Does it really change anything?  To many, it does not matter. To many, they do not feel compelled to understand or know in order to better inform their world view. In a way I envy them. For people such as myself this adage applies, “If you have to ask the question why I am driven to understand you wouldn’t understand the answer.”

There is a theory that is starting to gain acceptance in science concerning consciousness.  It is a theory that would have been dismissed out of hand by mainstream science not all that long ago. It is the theory that consciousness is fundamental —that the physical universe is a product of consciousness, not that consciousness is the product of the physical universe. It is a theory that says in effect our reality is a thought.

There is no way one could hope to explain in a short article such a complex concept but for me it feels right. I have read a at least a 100 “Physics for Idiots” and “Quantum Mechanics for Morons” and “Consciousness for Drooling Imbeciles” books and articles, plus an equal number of books like the “Bible”, “A Yaqui way of Knowledge”, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. I have read books on Eastern Religions and pagan religions. I’ve read every book published by Joseph Campbell on mythology. In concert with that intellectual pursuit I practiced meditation experimenting with everything from transcendental to past life regression to lucid dreaming. I have taken countless journeys using hallucinogens such as psilocybin mushrooms. However, there was always something missing. The key discovery for me was that consciousness is fundamental. Once I thought of consciousness being the source, not the result, all of the puzzle pieces fell into place and there was the “ah ha” moment. I have come to accept that our consciousness is fundamental and that the perception that we are individuals is a façade.

My consciousness is part and parcel with this tragic little girl’s consciousness. At some fundamental level we are connected. All plants and animals no matter how small or disgusting are also conscious. We are all part of a grand scheme that is beyond our present paygrade to fully understand but which, upon our biological death, we always understand much more than we did before. I now understand that when we die our perceived separation from that universal consciousness evaporates. At some point we, including this little girl, will get back into the game of a biological existence to create another chapter in the journey. So, when I look at this little girl I feel the empathy as humans we feel for our fellow travelers when they suffer and say to myself, “Except for the grace of God go I”. I also see a fellow human’s consciousness about to have the perceived separation from universal consciousness removed. That consciousness will have something to report, it will have a story to tell. Her consciousness will have another chapter added to the journey, one of many.

55 thoughts on “Considering consciousness, our own, our connection to that of others and to the universe

      1. I hope nobody would use this article a reason to beat you bloody. To settle old scores? Maybe, but that would be unfair and unreasonable.

        I disagree with some of what you’ve written and said so a couple times and didn’t others. I’m reasonably sure it will happen again. Disagreement between people is natural and inevitable. No two people, regardless of relationship or shared experience, can ever be in complete agreement on everything. It’s not a basis for beating anybody bloody. On the contrary disagreement leads to understanding if we can act like adults even if we can’t actually be decent human beings.

        Who can read this article and doubt your humanity? Who can read what you wrote and fault you for asking a question, a fundamental one no less, and doubt your sincerity? Asking questions is fundamental to the understanding of anything. Otherwise we’re just bouncing electrons around inside our own craniums and living in our own beliefs, biases, thoughts, and filth. We’re more likely to get the wrong answer living in our own head than seeking others thoughts and ideas to answer life’s questions, big and small. You’ve put in the work, the research and the thought, and come up with possibilities if not concrete answers.

        To me, that’s what counts. Good on ya for putting yourself out there with a well written article.

  1. Ed, in a comment in another article (Critical Thinking) two days ago you wrote, “I think President Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread.” I don’t understand how you can reconcile that statement with your message about this little girl. I’m not buying it. Trump is totally uncaring about anything but himself, his wealth, and his ratings.

    1. I look for results in people. Is Trump who I want to be when I grow up, no, absolutely not! But I see in Washington a government completely out of control, a den of thieves if you will. Some Republican some Democrat. I am completely at odds philosophically with liberal thought because it attempts to remove personal responsibility at every turn and replace it with victimization forced on to you like the yoke of control and slavery it is. So the biggest thing Trump brings to the party is he is loyal to no one but himself. His level of personal corruption makes him incorruptible to the thieves in Washington. He shines a big bright light on them. And if your reponse to me is “But Hillary, but Joe Biden, but Obama save your breath.

      1. sigh…That didn’t take long. I put “this article” in italics in my previous comment for just this reason. (Edit: Ed didn’t write Critical Thinking. I was referring to comments from elsewhere but mixed them up with the article. I’m leaving the resto of this paragraph in place in the interest of complete honesty. I was in error. My apologies.) It’s also why I only read a couple of paragraphs your Critical Thinking article. Your definition on critical thinking is fatally flawed and your thinking displays glaring contradictions that you either can’t or refuse to recognize. I’ve seen this before in a lot of friends. It’s who you are so I can’t beat you up for it but I do have a couple of questions that I hope helps me understand.

        You claim that you are “…completely at odds philosophically with liberal thought because it attempts to remove personal responsibility at every turn…” yet you praise a man well known for never taking responsibility for anything but being the greatest regardless of the facts or actual results he claims to be responsibility for. He actively claims to not be responsible. Please, how do you reconcile this contradiction?

        “His level of personal corruption makes him incorruptible to the thieves in Washington.” Isn’t fighting corruption with corruption kind of like buggery to fight for virginity? Please, explain that contradiction?

        “I look for results in people.” What results? Take your pick and run with it. I don’t see any results other than chaos, corruption, thievery from the people of the US, and him being out of control personally. If those are the results you seek then own it or please explain.

        I sincerely want to understand your thinking. I promise to not provide a counter argument but don’t try pointing fingers at anyone or anything else. This question is about how you see Trump and the inconsistencies. This is your opportunity to explain what confuses the hell out of me and probably those who would beat you bloody in comments.

        1. I’m sorry for any confusion but I didn’t write that article. I probably would get far more accolades if I did.

          1. You are correct. My apologies. My only excuse, lame, was that I’m trying to write on two other platforms and mistook a comment with the article.

        2. Many people are linear thinkers and I certainly am not. Many people also look at the leaders they vote for as a personal champion reflecting on their values which says a lot about who liberals put into office. I tie nothing to political leaders. So what Trump is or isn’t at a moral level will never be an issue. What he is darn good at is causing slime balls on the left and even on the right to misstep. I see myself as being in a personal war with liberal thought and the policies it supports and Trump is absolutely fantastic at lobbing hand grenades.

          1. Ed, thank you for your honesty. You still don’t address your inconsistencies in thinking. Demanding personal responsibility, ethical/non-corrupt practices, and actual, not just claimed, results from one person or group while ignoring the lack thereof from our leaders and ourselves is as hypocritical as is possible. How do you justify it to yourself? What’s more how would you justify being like that yourself? The blatant dishonesty is shatteringly obvious.

            The comment you just wrote suggests, powerfully, that what you like is that the man’s entire being discomforts and attacks someone with whom you think you disagree. Any baboon can fling poo. Is that Trump’s attraction? He flings poo at people you disagree with? If so, that says a lot about you and your values.

            For the record I don’t have a lot of use for most politicians and office holders who are either Republican or Democrat or their parties. I see the actions of both to be only different tribes with similar values and actions that do not serve, and have not for several decade served, the people of the US who are not already wealthy and powerful. I don’t have a tribe except the normal average people trying to get by and are mostly failing.

            What I respect in people individually and professionally are those who act ethically, reject corruption, are honest with themselves and others, realize that we are all in this world together and must work together like it or not, and understand that being a grownup often times requires we consider someone other than just ourselves and what we take from life. There’s a lots more than that but those are big ones. I have no respect or much use for narcissists, thieves, liars, cheats, hypocrites, and dishonest people. I can get along with almost anyone but I will never respect or trust and am wary of folks like that. I will, however, show them respect like I have with you. At the same time I cannot understand thinking like yours and the claim that you value a man like Trump simply because he “is absolutely fantastic at lobbing hand grenades.”

            Thinking like this says everything about you and nothing about those with whom you disagree.

          2. anyd somehow you also reconcile choosing to live in a socialist country. Square peg….,meet round hole.

            1. I see that as a straw man argument. You have doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, the wrong thing for the right reasons, the wrong thing for the wrong reasons and the right thing for the right reasons. My neighbors work like Trojans. They don’t look for handouts from the government and don’t look for handouts from me and don’t trust the government or the police as far as they can throw them. When socialism means like an American Indian Tribe and everybody contributes for the greater good and defends the tribe you’ll get my vote every time. If socialism means “Covet thy neighbors goods even if you have to steal them and you don’t owe the owner a damn thing” then you lost me.

      2. I’ll stick with the response I offered to Jeff Van Pelt’s roasting of Trump by again citing Caitlin Johnstone’s article:

        Biden Can’t Return Things To Normal, Because Trump Is A Normal US President. That’s The Problem.

        at [ ]

        I can’t stand either head of The Bicephalous Monoparty and the Four Pillars (Totalitarianism for Dummies).

        Excerpted from the Johnstone article (more here too:

        [T]his fabled “return to normality” that Biden is supposedly offering is literally impossible, since normality never actually left. Normality never left, because Donald Trump is a very normal US president.

        Don’t yell at me, it’s true. This is something people who love Trump and people who hate him will be equally vehemently averse to hearing, but it’s just a fact: Donald Trump is a normal US president. If hearing this upsets you your gripe isn’t with me, it’s with reality.

        To be clear, this is not a good thing. Trump has kept the bloodthirsty imperialism, corporate cronyism, Orwellian oppression, neoliberal exploitation and police militarization that holds the US empire together ticking along in basically the same way as his predecessors, in some ways more egregiously and in some ways less so. For all the evils he’s helped inflict on our world he still hasn’t done anything as bad as the two wars Bush launched during his first term, or arguably even Obama’s destruction of Libya and attempted destruction of Syria during his.

        There is much more in Johnstone’s article substantiating this position as well as in Fred Reed’s “Bicephalous Monoparty” article available for your reading pleasure while we all remain under house arrest…

        Enjoy 🙂

          1. In keeping with my belief in the non-aggression principle, I keep hoping that all of Washington DC will just sink back into the bog from whence it came…

            …but then, I’ve always been a dreamer.

      3. You don’t seem to have paid much attn to the news. Trump has added to the chaos and the swamp. That is activity, but not for the good of most of the people. He is a destroyer, not a builder.

        1. The problem is the swamp doesn’t have near enough chaos. They are like termites destroying in secret year after year unseen and unstopped until the house falls down. It is time to pull the house down.

  2. Scriptures says God is ONE, JESUS SAVES. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If God is the head (consciousness), Jesús is the body (the vine) and us, we the people are, collectively, the members (branches).

    Romans 12:5
    So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

    Ephesians 4:25
    Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

    Ephesians 5:30
    For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

    John 15:1
    I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

    John 15:5
    I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

    1. I have many friends that are devout Christians and even worse, Catholics (Just joking Catholic friends). Listen I would never, ever try to dissuade someone from any particular spiritual path. In fact my youngest brother is a minister and youth pastor and I hope he never ever sees this photo. I’m afraid it would just up and kill him on the spot.

  3. How many accusing the photographer have ever walked past a beggar and not helped?

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

  4. Boo boo boo boo boo. This article is one big giant piece of garbage the funny thing that he told me is that he read all these books Barb Barb Barb Barb Barb and he managed just to stay the same exact thing that everyone else has been parroting ba ba ba were all connected blah blah blah the truth is we’re all hostages and we all have Stockholm Syndrome because we are brought here against our will and we have to kill things in order to die or else it’s very painful for us so if we don’t cooperate we suffer so we’re out here just doing what we’re told because it hurts to disobey and we’re all just a bunch of Puppets like iron filings on a plate standing up in obedience to the invisible force of the magnet placed beneath the plate and what does this invisible force one it wants blood it wants you to gnash your teeth and to bear your claws and to beat and blodgeon and to murder whatever you can as much as possible there’s even little flies buzzing around for you to swat for sport

  5. The key discovery for me was that consciousness is fundamental. Once I thought of consciousness being the source, not the result, all of the puzzle pieces fell into place and there was the “ah ha” moment. I have come to accept that our consciousness is fundamental and that the perception that we are individuals is a façade.

    Hi Ed – nice article, and nice personal touches. Bravo.

    Re: Consciousness is fundamental. Yes indeed. I have zero doubt about it, based on direct personal experience. Such experiences are beyond the ken of science, or the mental dimension in general. Therefore they cannot be conveyed well, if at all. It’s one of those things you simply must experience for yourself, in order to know it.
    And that experience will be more real, more powerful, more ‘love’ and more ‘home’ than anything you will ever experience as ‘real’ in your normal life. Nothing else comes remotely close.
    And like you said, once it is seen and known that Consciousness is the Source, all the puzzle pieces fall into place. It is a wonderful and amazing thing to experience. It changed me forever.

    Re: “…the perception that we are individuals is a façade.”
    Yes and no. ‘Not One, Not Two’, as the saying goes. The connected Oneness that everything actually is can be understood as a result of the same Source Consciousness working through literally everything and everyone. Source Consciousness maintains all Form and animates all Life. When the self-imposed veil of egocentricity melts away, the oneness of connectivity appears directly to the unobstructed mind. It is a life-changing moment.
    But, what also becomes apparent is that the master plan includes that there shall be a multiplicity of Form, an infinite variety of manifestation. Source Consciousness appears to want to work through an infinite variety of forms, expressing Itself in every imaginable way, reflecting every unique aspect of Itself back to Itself. You & I are just two more of those reflected Forms. At least one fundamental purpose of our existence is to be a unique, outstanding individual, generating and reflecting our uniqueness into our world, as well as reflecting it back to Source Consciousness. So don’t dismiss or undervalue your uniqueness and individuality. It’s one of the main reasons you are here!

    I find it fascinating that nearly every comment here doesn’t address any of these issues. Instead, nearly everyone is highly disturbed and judgmental, and subsequently focused on virtue signaling
    about the photo you included. I suppose this gives some idea of the preferred level of consciousness of most people on this chatboard.

    1. Your comment was a breath of fresh air. I have resisted religious thought my whole adult life although I have always seen religion as pointing to something. I felt science would be my best bet at building a picture and at some point would reinforce religious thought. Science would discover what was “true” without the cultural influences and religions use as a civilizing force. I’ve “been” and done many things in my life and one truth I’ve seen a thousand times is “everything is easy once you know how” and this has become one of those,”Damn, now why was that so hard”. I still have many questions and one is how does our “individuality” fit into the scheme of things. Religions that teach reincarnation often seem to portrait your need to return as almost a form of punishment for failing in your past life. “If you screw up you are coming back as some fat guys toe jam.” For me personally I am very comfortable having questions to be answered. I’m enjoying the journey and if it takes a couple of billion years to incorporate all of the lessons I’m cool.

    2. I have recognized that uniqueness for a very long time and either respect it or hate it. The American Indian Warrior philosophy I follow says you must take a stand. In effect if you don’t you fail to learn. Mistakes are mandatory. Being wrong is mandatory and at some level everyone is your worthy opponent. So I have lived in the paradox for so long I can’t remember not. With great sorrow comes great joy with great failure comes great learning. One of the things I always experience while using psilocybe is that knock you flat on your ass oneness that causes it all to makes sense, at least for a little while, and not only accept it but to love it. My email is . Drop me a line so we can continue this discussion. Before too long the wolves will get the scent and be on us like stink on.

  6. Ed, I have that same picture in my office that I have saved all these years. I guess I saved it and carried it with me for a similar reason. Such a tiny human suffering in a way that I believe touched many hearts years ago and of course still does today for those who take the time to think about it. Thank you for sharing it. I quess we are kindred spirits in a since because we both treasured a photo for 26 years that illuminates the deep sorrow and horrific evil that exists on our planet.
    Pictures really are powerful.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. A time or two we’ve had friends visit and they were shocked by the poor, handicapped beggars on the streets and found it depressing. My response was, “You need to be depressed because in the states you pretend that because you don’t see them they don’t exist. You are now getting an object lesson”.

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