“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself—we are creatures that should not exist by natural law . . . We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, a secretion of sensory, experience, and feeling—programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody.”
These lines from the first episode of “True Detective” really got me thinking today. Their blunt truth confirms the humbling reality of how small we are – how minute a single human’s impact upon the world really is. A year ago, more than likely I would have thus embarked on an ultimately pessimistic and negative narrative delving into the lack of meaning there is to everything we do as humans, dissecting aspects of daily life that highlight our flaws and pointless issues. But there are two sides to every argument, and certainly more than one outlook to take upon something so deeply involved with the human condition.
The suggestion that our development of a conscience and as such, a sense of “self”, has been somewhat of a burden to our kind is of course perfectly understandable. If it weren’t for the constant reminders and recommendations in media and social circles to “just be yourself” and “know yourself”, we wouldn’t ever question it. Our physical differences and quirks are what outwardly distinguish us from one another, and yet they are also things that we have very little control over. It is because of this “éagsúlacht” (diversity) in our physical appearance that we often feel the need to conform and to be alike in other aspects of ourselves. The notion of identity is often overlooked in favour of the feeling of “fitting in”; doing what everybody else does because it seems to the narrow-minded the only way to achieve goals– goals that are often merely a pre-disposition to achieve further compliance with the “norm”. “Normal” ways of dressing have given rise to the fashion industry; “normal” ways of speaking have left us with dialects and languages that vary hugely even within their own countries; “normal” reactions and responses to everyday occurrences and interactions have led to the segregation of some as “weird”, “out of the ordinary” and sometimes even (extremely inappropriately) “mentally ill”. The combination of all of these social boundaries and outlines with the average human psyche has had such a strong effect upon our consciousness that we no longer understand what it means to be unique, if such a thing even exists. Everything we do or say, whether pre-meditated or impulsive, is the product of circumstance – something we have recycled from our own individual experiences, and chosen to put into context of a current situation.
On the one hand, while each persons’ combination of experience is a unique blend, it is the contextualization of these experiences and knowledge that is expressed in our actions, allowing us to appear “unique”, while essentially drawing on our knowledge of previous situations and actions to express “new” ones. It is this process of analysation and revitalisation of ideas that has allowed the human race to progress though history – learning from the mistakes and reinstating the victories of others throughout our existence – drawing new conclusions from old ideas. While not altogether original in their basic idea, the combination and situation in which they are reinforced allows new meaning and understanding to be derived from these conclusions, and thus influences those in contact with them.
The majority of humans thrive on contact with other humans; whilst not altogether necessary to ensure fundamental physical survival, contact and communication is what has allowed us to develop as we have, enhancing our mentality and intelligence, and establishing us as a dominant life form. We have wrestled our way to the forefront of our consciousness, pushed ourselves to our limits, all the while under this pretence of “self”; trying to establish ourselves as a different entity to the other billions of humans on the planet. The illusion that we are alone in our thoughts and problems is merely an unfortunate consequence of the boundaries placed upon society by older generations that certain things cannot or should not be discussed, or are thought of as irrelevant.
If we are to consider ourselves a by-product of previous generations, hybrids of millennia of human reproduction, I think it is safe to say that we have not done too badly for ourselves, given the circumstances. No, we did not ask to be brought into this world, or to be given our particular appearance, preferences or confused accents, but if we continue as we have done, learning from the past and using those experiences to move reluctantly forwards, then who cares if we’re a little bit similar to somebody else, or like to partake in some of the same pastimes as others? We still have our own individual experiences to draw from – the combination of which you are guaranteed to share with nobody else on this planet. Make of them what you can, because as confusing as it may be to meditate on the idea of the “self”, it is ultimately what each person gleans from their own experiences that make them who they are, and not the experiences themselves. A little diversity is what keeps people moving.