Who hasn’t got an itching desire to know who they really are? …I mean, to really, really know.
I remember starting my PhD in biology back in 2005, charged with a deep enthusiasm to change the world, to help in someway. Three and a bit years later and somehow I had slipped through the net. Yes, I now had the shiny certificate, a strange hat and a large book at the back of my cupboard, but something was missing. Something big. The best way to describe it is, I knew that I didn’t know. What was I supposed to know?…that I didn’t know. Deep friendships, loving family, exciting knowledge at the forefront of science…no, something beyond all of that hadn’t been satisfied, even after having got to the end of the mammoth task of completing the dreaded thesis (to which I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to my old supervisor and post-docs in the lab).
Have you experienced this? I’m guessing that it’s not just me. I call it the void. You feel, ‘I’ve been cheated‘, and yet as you frantically turn in this direction, and that, you can’t put your finger on the culprit. My feeling of ill-ease was verified during my next 5-year post as a travelling sales person, wherein I had a birds-eye-view of some of the biggest fields in the life sciences. As fascinating as the research was, when I looked into the eyes of those whom I was trying to convince to buy our products (I wasn’t very good), oftentimes I wasn’t bowled over by an illuminating glow of enthusiasm.
Had science become dry and mechanical, or was it always like this? How about other walks of life; how did they compare?
So, I went on an adventure to try and find out what was going on…where was that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? It’s funny looking back, because it certainly wasn’t a matter of just hanging up my sales boots, getting on the open road and getting high on life…rather, this ‘inner journey’ constituted a painstaking series of years, whereby I was trying to surrender to a path whose destination or whereabouts I had no clue. Anyway, suffice to say…I went on an adventure.
I won’t go into the intricacies of how I ended up going from being a Richard Dawkins groupie to a shaven-headed monk travelling around Indian villages, but I will say that it gave me a perspective of science and life in general, which I never would have thought conceivable just a few short years ago.
And it all boils down to a question…perhaps like me, it has passed you by unnoticed…for others, perhaps you think you’re in a psychologically-safe position by ignoring the question. And for the remainder, you’re either fully right, or you’re fully wrong.
The question is the one that I’ll explore in this blog. It is this:
Consciousness…err, what is it?
Are you an epiphenomenon of your brain, or else what actually are you? I had planned to make this blog into a logical flow of ideas…but as usual my random style has taken over, and so who knows what subtopic the next post will dip into!