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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Skin, the outer cover



The other day I was peeling off the sheaths covering a cob of corn. For no reason, it became a mystical experience – the mystery of its design and beauty. I almost felt guilty boiling it, leave alone eating it. The overlapping sheath, the arrangement of the pearls inside and the silky tuft require more than genetics, physics and chemistry to be explained.

Today, I was peeling a cucumber admiring its beauty with similar feeling. Later in the day, I was reading about the color of human skin as an immutable reality.

All these are covers. They are covering something essential inside. The cover (sheath, cover or hide or skin) is the limiting structure, margin between one individual life structure and its surroundings. It sets limit to the contained. It separates. It separates one from the many and from the whole.

We must look deeply and look past the separation our “skin” creates between what is inside us and inside the “cover” of others. As was pointed out several centuries back, a pocket of air inside a pot is the same as the air outside. Break the pot and see the wholeness of the interior landscape.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Information and Consciousness

While reading Roberto Calasso’s book on The Unnamable Present, I was thinking about collective consciousness and group knowledge. It is amazing that there is no proper definition of information as applicable to consciousness. There is no acceptable definition of consciousness either. Calasso’s comments made them clearer for me.

To me, definition of information must state that it is the content of consciousness. Calasso points out that information is discrete, refers to individual fact and can be digitized. Consciousness is continuous, global and an analog. Just like what we know about recorded music in the modern world, digitized music is crisp and clear, sanitized. But, does not have the nuances and subtle noises of the original which gives the full flavor.

“Information by encircling thought, basically suffocates it…” says Calasso. Yet, without bits of information based on experiences and perceptions woven into memory, there will be very little or no content for thought. Consciousness is the light that shines by itself mysteriously in a living body and also lets us know we are alive and make us aware of our own  thoughts.

What do I mean by “group knowledge”?

When I saw a group of birds flying in formation, I noticed that two birds from the rear of the formation came over to the front to take the lead. This is a well-known observation and I have seen it many times, particularly when we were sailing in the waters of the Galapagos.

I asked myself: “ is group knowledge activating individual minds”? Birds do not have language to think “I have to go and relieve those guys in front” etc., The birds in the back probably do not know the concepts of back and front as we do either. But they must have some neural representation in their brains to know that they are in a cluster of “many” with some of their kind  visible in the field of vision (which has to be presented as in front, if they think like us). Why not call it “group knowledge” or “group mind”? If so, that should be able to affect the “individual minds” of members of the group and their knowledge. This group mind transcends the individual mind and affects it. The individual mind does not make the group mind; but knows it and operates through the group mind.

Is this similar to Universal Consciousness (Brahman) inherent in and influencing individual consciousness? As the famous Upanishad (Kena 1:6 )  says: “Brahman is not the mind that thinks, but it is that by which mind thinks”.