Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Empathy and the Consciousness Revolution

How curious that the most obvious thing in the world is the most profound mystery—the fact that we are conscious beings.  Science is clueless as to how the intangible multiverse of consciousness emerges from the wet meat machines we call our brains. 

The different forms of consciousness have different uses and purposes, and are doorways into new worlds.  Memory is a time-traveler and takes us into the past while the precognizer shoots us into future time.  Esthetic consciousness leads us into the subtle harmonies of form, sound, color; the ecstatic lover into heaven on earth; and so on and so forth.   

Besides the normal and the abnormal, there are experiences best cited as supernormal.  I think it helpful to remind ourselves: we need never feel absolutely imprisoned by any one state of mind.  There are always possibilities of change in our mental state.  We’re not trapped by our negative mental states. Breaking out is always an option. 

See for a great example Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind.  He explains how taking an heroic dose of psilocybin transformed him, and taught him that what he once scoffed as an embarrassing cliché—that love is the true essence of our being—was dead-on truth.  

There is one unusual capacity of mind that seems in short supply and is sorely needed nowadays, and in large doses. I’m talking about empathy.  Empathy is much more than being merely very sensitive.  Some folks are indeed highly sensitive—to themselves being hurt, to perceived offenses, to fears and suspicions, and so on.  Empathy is something else; it’s about feeling what the other feels, it’s com-passion or feeling with another. You can’t do that if you’re full of yourself or if you’re overwhelmed by your own woes. 

How to ramp up the empathy we need to connect with people is the challenge facing us.  It’s not enough to  have brilliant technologies for exploiting the material world. Capitalism and consumer society, with the help of science and technology, have set into motion trends that are wreaking havoc on us all.  Planet Earth—stuffed with garbage, plastics, toxins, heat-creating gases, the diabolical weapons of war, violent weather events, rampant viruses, droughts, famine, etc., is on a trajectory toward something truly hellish.

Efforts to reverse this accelerating descent are underway here and there. But they’re   spotty and so far short of effective.   Amid the huge diversity of individuals, we need to sense more vividly our common human cause. We need to exercise our imaginations and try to enter into the world of the others around us.  In short, practice a little empathy.  It’s an amazingly scarce commodity.  It would be the first step in a revolution of consciousness. Myself being a veteran miracle hunter (see my Smile of the Universe, I marvel at its rarity.  And yet, the ability to feel, in one’s own body, the soul of another, is the key to minimizing the disaster we have collectively created that is now gaining on us.  No mere idea, no amount of power or money will save us.

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