Awareness, etc.

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ScottVal
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Awareness, etc.

Post by ScottVal » August 11th, 2018, 12:49 am

Hello-
I'm sure there have been many discussions about this, as well as countless books and articles written, etc., but I wanted to start a new thread about it. A thread which may have a different twist to it.

It's hard to know where to start. There's this thing called awareness, or self-awareness, or awareness of awareness. I believe that all reasonably mature human beings have it, but not young children. There is a point in one's development when the person becomes aware of being aware. Some people never reach that point (they die as children), or maybe they just don't have the capacity for it as adults.

Then there's the contemplation of existence, which I believe is a related topic. When one becomes aware that one is aware, what follows, I believe, is a feeling of "being blown away," and maybe being accused of being high on pot! There can also be a feeling that it's amazing that I (or you, or the world) exists at all.

One can contemplate the possibility that the world never came into being at all and there's nothing but a black void. And it's not really black, because that's a color. Just nothing. And than that person "comes back" to the world and feels astounded. It reminds me of that episode of "Star Trek: the Next Generation" in which a computer ("holodeck") simulation of the character Moriarti (from Sherlock Holmes) said something like: I am aware of my own awareness, and it astounds me!

And then there is the question of what you do with all this? I believe you cannot "do" anything with it, except contemplate it, or try to ask all the questions in this line of reasoning. I try to spend a little time each day just contemplating these things. I don't believe it should lead to religion or Zen or the urge to meditate, or anything like that. But I guess it's sort of a meditative state.

I'm not even sure whether this is philosophy. Psychology? Contemplation? Maybe Zen after all?

Are there any books about this? I think any book about it would have to be short, because there isn't that much to say. Or maybe there's more to say than I think, because of all the questions to which it can lead. Why am I here? and stuff like that. It wouldn't be about answering the questions (that would be religion!), but about just being in that state of not-knowing (which, I think, comes from Zen).

Several years ago I posted some similar stuff on a Zen forum, and I was laughed at and accused of over-thinking. You know, typical pop-Zen answers like "Bah!" It was fashionable for forum members to talk that way.

I had first had this experience when I was about fourteen, and had that feeling of being blown away, that I (we, the world) exist at all. It's 44 years on, and I'm still blown away by it.
-Scott

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: Awareness, etc.

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 11th, 2018, 4:50 am

ScottVal wrote:
August 11th, 2018, 12:49 am
Hello-
I'm sure there have been many discussions about this, as well as countless books and articles written, etc., but I wanted to start a new thread about it. A thread which may have a different twist to it.

It's hard to know where to start. There's this thing called awareness, or self-awareness, or awareness of awareness. I believe that all reasonably mature human beings have it, but not young children. There is a point in one's development when the person becomes aware of being aware. Some people never reach that point (they die as children), or maybe they just don't have the capacity for it as adults.

Then there's the contemplation of existence, which I believe is a related topic. When one becomes aware that one is aware, what follows, I believe, is a feeling of "being blown away," and maybe being accused of being high on pot! There can also be a feeling that it's amazing that I (or you, or the world) exists at all.

One can contemplate the possibility that the world never came into being at all and there's nothing but a black void. And it's not really black, because that's a color. Just nothing. And than that person "comes back" to the world and feels astounded. It reminds me of that episode of "Star Trek: the Next Generation" in which a computer ("holodeck") simulation of the character Moriarti (from Sherlock Holmes) said something like: I am aware of my own awareness, and it astounds me!

And then there is the question of what you do with all this? I believe you cannot "do" anything with it, except contemplate it, or try to ask all the questions in this line of reasoning. I try to spend a little time each day just contemplating these things. I don't believe it should lead to religion or Zen or the urge to meditate, or anything like that. But I guess it's sort of a meditative state.

I'm not even sure whether this is philosophy. Psychology? Contemplation? Maybe Zen after all?

Are there any books about this? I think any book about it would have to be short, because there isn't that much to say. Or maybe there's more to say than I think, because of all the questions to which it can lead. Why am I here? and stuff like that. It wouldn't be about answering the questions (that would be religion!), but about just being in that state of not-knowing (which, I think, comes from Zen).

Several years ago I posted some similar stuff on a Zen forum, and I was laughed at and accused of over-thinking. You know, typical pop-Zen answers like "Bah!" It was fashionable for forum members to talk that way.

I had first had this experience when I was about fourteen, and had that feeling of being blown away, that I (we, the world) exist at all. It's 44 years on, and I'm still blown away by it.
-Scott
That is interesting.
I am now aware of being aware. But I do not remember a time when I became aware of being aware.
Each and every memory I have of childhood is of being aware of what I was doing, and at no
point did that seem to change. I suppose it had to have happened at some point, but I think I must have been very young indeed.

14 seems a very late age to reach that sort of conclusion about yourself.
I wonder if others on the Forum have similar experiences.

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chewybrian
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Re: Awareness, etc.

Post by chewybrian » August 11th, 2018, 11:07 am

I can not recall not being aware of being aware, but it makes sense that this must have been the case if you go back far enough. But, I do recall vividly at the age of about seven becoming aware of my own mortality. When you are young enough, it seems older people are a different sort of being and you don't make the connection to yourself at a deep level.

I can recall playing in the basement when a cold chill and a sick feeling suddenly came over me. The awareness of the futility of my life hit me all at once just as squarely as the feeling that I might be about to die at that very moment. Oddly, I felt like I was the only one to ever have such a feeling, as nobody ever discussed such things, or at least certainly not with children. I've only known that exact feeling one other time, when I was robbed by a man with a knife. Even being hit by a car did not hit me as hard as that realization. Of course, the revelation of that moment never left me, though I often tried to forget about it in the past, and sometimes succeeded for various periods of time.

I think you've hit on something very important which can hardly be addressed in any other venue. It's the "Emperor's New Clothes". We are afraid to open the subject for discussion because we fear it may be too much for us, or, more likely, to spare others the force of it. We often try to run from it, so we must assume they are also on the run. Sometimes the running is obvious, sometimes not. This feeling almost certainly drives a lot of human behavior, good and bad.

On the good side, you might see a mother who sublimates her feeling of nothingness by focusing her efforts on her family. She is first and foremost a mother, and puts her energy there with a sense of urgency and importance which allows her to, most of the time, forget about the feelings of anxiety or absurdity. On the bad side, you might see a crack addict, at the end of a long trail of attempted distraction from a reality he'd rather not face, ironically creating a more awful reality in the process, always then needing to run faster.

I've found great comfort in the stoic dichotomy of control. Some things are in our control and some not, and we must worry about the former and remove worry from the latter, specifically including death or any other disasters which might come our way. I should not attach importance to the price of pork belly futures (unless I am raising pigs, which I am not), nor to the fact that old age, disease and death await me, for the logical reason that these things are outside my area of influence.

I have plenty enough to worry about that is potentially within my control, like my attitude and effort, and the way I treat others. But, rather than running, stoic philosophy encourages reminding yourself of potentially disturbing things, as a way to motivate yourself to live in the moment, and appreciate how many awful things could have come your way, and to be thankful that they have not. I don't know anyone personally who feels the same about philosophy, though I've met people who get the same level of relief from religion, and plenty of people who are running by way of addictions and other distractions.

I think Sartre was on to something, because I feel I can tell the genuine people, who acknowledge these dark truths to themselves, from the 'inauthentic'. The real people have don't have to speak of it directly for you to know that they 'get' it. They display a respect for others, and a disrespect for trivial matters that gives it away. The inauthentic folks seem to be playing a part, and come off overly dramatic about things of little importance, presumably because they attach false importance to these things instead of facing a reality which seems too much for them.

I look forward to seeing other replies on this subject.

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Felix
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Re: Awareness, etc.

Post by Felix » August 12th, 2018, 6:30 am

"Are there any books about this?"

Maybe 'Kinship with all Life' by J.A. Boone.... when you learn to sense the consciousness in other creatures, even insects and such, it can be awe-inspiring as you said. I still find mosquitoes difficult to relate to though, but some biases are hard to shake.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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LuckyR
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Re: Awareness, etc.

Post by LuckyR » August 13th, 2018, 1:04 pm

chewybrian wrote:
August 11th, 2018, 11:07 am
I can not recall not being aware of being aware, but it makes sense that this must have been the case if you go back far enough. But, I do recall vividly at the age of about seven becoming aware of my own mortality. When you are young enough, it seems older people are a different sort of being and you don't make the connection to yourself at a deep level.

I can recall playing in the basement when a cold chill and a sick feeling suddenly came over me. The awareness of the futility of my life hit me all at once just as squarely as the feeling that I might be about to die at that very moment. Oddly, I felt like I was the only one to ever have such a feeling, as nobody ever discussed such things, or at least certainly not with children. I've only known that exact feeling one other time, when I was robbed by a man with a knife. Even being hit by a car did not hit me as hard as that realization. Of course, the revelation of that moment never left me, though I often tried to forget about it in the past, and sometimes succeeded for various periods of time.

I think you've hit on something very important which can hardly be addressed in any other venue. It's the "Emperor's New Clothes". We are afraid to open the subject for discussion because we fear it may be too much for us, or, more likely, to spare others the force of it. We often try to run from it, so we must assume they are also on the run. Sometimes the running is obvious, sometimes not. This feeling almost certainly drives a lot of human behavior, good and bad.

On the good side, you might see a mother who sublimates her feeling of nothingness by focusing her efforts on her family. She is first and foremost a mother, and puts her energy there with a sense of urgency and importance which allows her to, most of the time, forget about the feelings of anxiety or absurdity. On the bad side, you might see a crack addict, at the end of a long trail of attempted distraction from a reality he'd rather not face, ironically creating a more awful reality in the process, always then needing to run faster.

I've found great comfort in the stoic dichotomy of control. Some things are in our control and some not, and we must worry about the former and remove worry from the latter, specifically including death or any other disasters which might come our way. I should not attach importance to the price of pork belly futures (unless I am raising pigs, which I am not), nor to the fact that old age, disease and death await me, for the logical reason that these things are outside my area of influence.

I have plenty enough to worry about that is potentially within my control, like my attitude and effort, and the way I treat others. But, rather than running, stoic philosophy encourages reminding yourself of potentially disturbing things, as a way to motivate yourself to live in the moment, and appreciate how many awful things could have come your way, and to be thankful that they have not. I don't know anyone personally who feels the same about philosophy, though I've met people who get the same level of relief from religion, and plenty of people who are running by way of addictions and other distractions.

I think Sartre was on to something, because I feel I can tell the genuine people, who acknowledge these dark truths to themselves, from the 'inauthentic'. The real people have don't have to speak of it directly for you to know that they 'get' it. They display a respect for others, and a disrespect for trivial matters that gives it away. The inauthentic folks seem to be playing a part, and come off overly dramatic about things of little importance, presumably because they attach false importance to these things instead of facing a reality which seems too much for them.

I look forward to seeing other replies on this subject.
To me this is a very enlightened concept. It is very difficult for the mind to contemplate itself, but this seems to be an important marker for the type of mental capacity that the OP is searching for.

I distinctly remember the moment when I understood mortality (in the sense of how aging happens). Namely, it was my experience that when I was injured or sick (<100% physical capacity), that I would recover to 100%. One time in my early 20s I only recovered an injury to 95%, no matter how long I took it easy and lengthened the "recovery" period. Bam, it was like a flash within my mind! 95 becomes 90 which becomes 85 etc until you hit zero and you're dead.
"As usual... it depends."

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Felix
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Re: Awareness, etc.

Post by Felix » August 13th, 2018, 1:27 pm

The key is to distinguish between self-awareness, being aware of being aware, versus being aware of what your senses present to you. That is, in order to realize that one's true nature is awareness, one must transcend subject/object awareness. This is the goal of meditation, which is really just the practice of being aware of being aware, which breaks the habit of becoming what you sense/think you are, which almost everyone has been trained to do from a very young age.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Thinking critical
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Re: Awareness, etc.

Post by Thinking critical » August 14th, 2018, 7:52 am

Interesting indeed, I vaguely remember contemplating existential questions when I was about 9 years old after the loss of a family pet (she was my best friend growing up in a small rural towm). I recall struggling to fathom the fact that I would never see her again which lead me to ask my parents questions about heaven and death. I was fortunate that my mother was very honest and transparent in that she told me that some people believe in god and heaven and others don't. I will never forget the logic of my reasoning in that I compared the idea of god and heaven to Santa and decided heaven was not real.
This lead me to question my own mortality and I remember for a long time trying to imagine what death was like and what it must have been like for my dog to experience life as herself, did she feel the way that I imagined she felt about me? Were the emotions I saw in her eyes and felt in her touch real or was I projecting my feelings for her back onto myself.
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ScottVal
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Re: Awareness, etc.

Post by ScottVal » August 15th, 2018, 2:56 am

Nice replies, cool. Lately I've been pondering, and doing some reading about, non-duality and that sort of thing. But whether you believe in duality or not, you can still say that it's astounding that the world, the universe, exists at all.

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