"Simmer rain on streets black asphalt,bubble ships on sheets of water..."
Is conscious awareness a product of chemistry, a consensus of synapses connecting the dendrons and axons of the hundred billions of nerve cells we keep inside our skulls?
Or: is the body-brain a sort of organic lens which concentrates (as the organic eye does the physical light) that-which-is-in-all-things until fire catches -- and the light of awareness is lit?
Actually, both views can be "correct".
At times, our conscious awareness is most properly thought of as simply a consequence of physical phenomena. At other times, it is better to consider consciousness to be a consequence of concentrating the quality or nature of what-is.
In the trees of the forests and the rocks of the mountains; in the sun and moon and the stars; in the very fabric of the manifest universe: there is imbued a tendency or potential to evolve in a fumbling, random, yet seemingly goal-oriented* way towards ever increasing complexity of form and organisation -- towards life, sentience, self awareness, conscious awareness and then what?
That is the question.
Can the awareness life enables always evolve towards yet more complexity?
Although it would seem, as Teilhard maintained, that evolution strives towards a "Point Omega, it ain't necessarily so. If you look at the periodic chart of elements, you will see that, at a certain point of complexity, elements not only become unstable, they become increasingly so...
Similarly, the level of complexity we, as humans, have evolved to may be unstable and we may, inevitably self-destruct.
However, just as some physicists suspect that there may an island of stability among yet heavier trans-uranium elements, perhaps there is an possibility for us to evolve to where an awareness of our common humanity is awakened.
On the one hand, that would seem to imply greater stability. On the other, it could also be an interpretation of the dreams of mankind -- i.e., religion.
Whether the human body, its brain and other stuff produce the conscious awareness we occasionally experience, or whether it concentrates and contains a consciousness present-everywhere, the fact remains that a body is necessary in order for conscious awareness to manifest here and now.
Whatever we may experience when we shuffle off our mortal coils, it won't be here or what we experience now. Therefore, questions like "what happens when we die" are futile. The "answers" charlatans might give you are, when you look at them closely, meaningless.
On the other hand, it is quite pertinent to understand something of what, apparently, had to "happen to happen" in order to draw forth these bodies and their associated awareness, from primal slime and into existence upon this planet of ours -- our Mother Earth.
If one understands something of the little we now know of how this Universe developed, seemingly with all the inevitability of a tiny, burning seed, into a great Tree; from a pin prick of utterly intense energy and potentiality into the manifest universe -- a vision, of itself, unfolds, a vision so magnificent that to call it a "Creation" is hardly sufficient.
Before I ramble any further, there is something I wish you could do.
I wish you could go out and look at the night time sky in the Fall -- a clear night, a night without clouds, a moonless night, far away from city lights, a night like those I saw as a child more than half a century ago while growing up in Poosah City.
You would see stars not quite, but much like the stars those shepherds, tending their flocks in the Xmas legend, would have seen two thousand years ago, myriad points of light, glinting diamond sharp against a canvas midnight black.
You would see the Milky Way.
Unfortunately, because of the way we have dirtied our nest, the air is not clear and the diffused luminance of thousands upon thousands of city lights make it rare, if not impossible, to see and appreciate the magnificence of the Milky Way near even small cities.
When I was a child, the Milky Way was indeed a milky Way in the sky -- a band of light, from horizon to horizon. If you looked at it with a small pair of binoculars, the whiteness became thousands upon thousands of pin pricks of light -- stars like grains of sand...the diamond dust of Heaven's Road...
It is a wondrous and humbling experience to see this, especially from the viewpoint of a bright-eyed, fourteen year old with a burning interest in astronomy.
Truthfully, it is more than a humbling experience, it is revelation; a revelation as valid as that any prophet has ever known, or pretended to have.
Seen from a much more distant viewpoint, with more knowledge than that with which we now grasp (or perhaps can grasp) of the Way-Things-Are; could the Milky Way be a "street black asphalt" and the stars "bubble ships"?
Did you know that it is little more than a hundred years since we understood that the Milky Way is in fact a galaxy -- "our" galaxy?
You know, of course, that our "Sun" is just one speck of star, shining among billions of others -- but, did you know that there are at least as many stars in our galaxy that there are cells in your human brain?
For sure you know that the Sun is quite average in size and brightness -- but did you know that the Milky Way is also quite normal in size and shape and that there are at least as many galaxies in the known Universe as there are stars in the Milky Way?
Perhaps galaxies are also "bubble ships"?
In fact, our Universe, in turn, could be but one of many such, bubbles floating upon a River of Time beyond all concept of Eternity?
Enough of star gazing.
The evolution of life on this planet cannot be rightly understood if we do not ask, what is our understanding of how did this planet, this sun, this galaxy got to be where it is now, how it out-folded from a speck of incredible intensity and potential.
[I hope to continue tomorrow on these themes, but I can't garantee it as I am getting a bit over my head with these ramblings and find it difficult to express my thought as clearly as I would like]
* by "seemingly goal-oriented" I mean in the sense like that of a time exposure of a sweet pea as it grows, seemingly reaching up for some to grasp with its tendrils and climbs towards the light.