Consciousness – What is it?

Consciousness – What is it?

 

I am aware that I am conscious. I have an awareness of self, feelings, sensations and awareness of the world around me. I think. I have memory and imagination. It is wonderful.

It is also sometimes terrifying. I am writing now. I am transferring thoughts in my mind into words into sentences that (hopefully) make sense. I am aware that I really do not know how I am doing this. I am not in control.

That is fine when I am writing. If the words dry up I take a pause. If I am speaking in public and start to think about the process it fills me with dread. What if I am standing there and the words dry up? What if my mind goes blank? What if I cannot remember what I want to say? The more the fear grips the more your mind tightens up, your throat constricts, your fear wells up.

I’ve been there and done it. I’ve also, as a teacher, got used to standing in front of people and allowing my thoughts to roam, the words come and I am relaxed, free and quick witted. As a Headteacher I stood in front of halls of adults and spouted forth, cracked jokes and relaxed. Practice makes perfect.

I am a conscious being. I find it hard to understand this consciousness.

What do I know about consciousness?

I know that it is the result of the fantastic neuronal net, the most complex thing that we know of in the universe. I know that this operates with a range of neurotransmitters, there is acetyl choline, nor-adrenaline, endorphins, dopamines and such. I can even explain how they operate. I can diagrammatically show how the wave of polarisation travels up an axon, dendrite and jumps a synapse. But that does not explain consciousness to me.

For me the universe is full of wonder and awe, things I want to know more about, galaxies, big bangs, quantum mechanics, quarks and string theory. I am enthralled by polyverses, string theory and the idea that all matter might be nothing more than space coiled up in a further unfathomable six dimensions. WOW!!!!  Isn’t science wonderful? But the greatest wonder of all must surely be our own consciousness.

We are not at the end. We are at the very beginning. Newton, Einstein and Hawkins are the new boys on the block. We have only just begun to unravel the mysteries. I am astounded by how far we’ve got so quickly. The speed is incredible. My grandma watched the first biplanes take to the air and crawl across the sky while standing on a dirt road where horse and cart was the most common mode of transport. They did not have electricity in their house and television had not been invented. The world we now live in was science fiction to that young girl.

Trying talking about quantum theory or DNA with a religious fundamentalist or creationist. They’d prefer we were back in the Dark Ages.

I want to know more about my mind and consciousness. I don’t want to snuff it out in the vain hope that I will wake up in another universe. I don’t believe that. That’s too far-fetched for me.

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