The thing to remember about consciousness, is that while it feels unique, it is clearly everywhere (or possibly nowhere at all, and that’s a thought to bleak to contemplate). The world is either an illusion built up in my mind and my mind alone (from your perspective it’ll feel like yours, but I have no idea who you are, so I might not believe you), or we are all pawing through the same mass of information from our own point of view, and constantly colliding with others in similar circumstances.
One view of the universe is desperately lonely, the other infinitely exciting.
I mean, I realise philosophical decisions probably shouldn’t be made on a basis of which possbility is more interesting, but, well, why not?
Trying to understand fundamental questions doesn’t necessarily get you closer to the fundaments of the universe. The universal laws cannot really be toyed with. What you can play with is perspective. The who that is you is in control of how you see the world. The world that you see is the world that you’re in. So, while you don’t control reality, you do hold it.
You. Me. Everybody.
We bounce around in this place called universe, and we reach out and touch each other. We are at least similar enough to communicate. We are at least similar enough to agree on what the world looks like. We are at least similar enough to feel for each other.
We are emotionally connected to the people around us. Our assumptions about similarity mean that when a friend is hurt, we can cry for them, or rush to help them. We do this because we are the same. We’ve all been hurt. We feel things that aren’t being felt by our own selves. This teaches us something great.
We are the same. We are part of the same thing. Each individual is networked to the individuals around them like an enormous brain. Circuits communicate with each other, transmitting information and emotion. Bringing us closer together, and making us larger than an independent self.
Like an enormous intricate brain, making thoughts and ideas and perceptions out of chains of fiery neurons; we connect, electrify and shape each other.
Your social network is an extension of your self. So is everyone you talk to. We are at odds with each other sometimes. We fail to see the common motivation. We aren’t all compassion. There’s too many people to connect deeply with everyone.
But we get to make a choice. Not just about how we see the universe, but how we see each other. It’s the same choice.
We can see ourselves as isolated and rooted in nothing but self interest and personal gain; or we can see ourselves as part of a larger whole, surrounded by people similar to us who are aiming for the same things as us.
Compete or co-operate. Selfish, or compassionate.
You can be you, or you can be everybody.
But you choose.
Illustration by Jaime