Of Ego, Reincarnation, Consciousness, and The Universe
plaintext version of this essay
I posit that there is no real ego. a person's identity is completely dependant
on the surroundings and a person's physical body is inextricably connected to
the world and ecosystem. When a person is born they are essentially a blank
slate. Before a person has had any experiences, nothing is yet determined as to
how they will act in life. As far as mental pathways go, instinctive thoughts,
personality, interests, identity, a person is a blank slate.
A blank slate person is easily persuaded and malleable. Blank slate years are
the most formative. A person will grow up instilled with the rights and wrongs,
social and ethical customs, accents, behavioural patterns, political and
religious beliefs and the sense of humour of where they grew up and who they
grew up with.
If you've tried imagining what your life would be like had the conditions of
your birth been different, you probably already came to the answer of "Yes, I
would essentially be a totally different person, had I been born in Ireland."
Now we are seeing just how dependant the ego is on the surrounding world. Taking
that idea a step further, how different are other people to you? Who's to say
that this the rambling homeless man down the street couldn't have been a
coworker, had he not been evicted from his house. Who's to say that you couldn't
have been a pro wrestler,had your pathway in life been slightly different?
Knowing this, if we really want to understand people better, you can't treat
them fully as individuals. People are products of the place they grew up in
and the people they grew up around in the time period they grew up in. You know
the golden rule of "Treat people the way you want to be treated"? Well, that's
because you're always closer to people than you think. Everyone is all made of
the same stuff, and we're all related, so you need to be more understanding when
someone holds a perspective that they literally can't help having. A person's
perspective of the world is based solely on the literal *perspective* they were
born with. We are all the same, experiencing life from different angles.
"So, you're suggesting that everyone is the same?" Yes. I am suggesting that
everyone is actually the same, experiencing life from a different angle, but it
goes deeper than that. To explain my thoughts on the ego better we're gonna have
to talk about consciousness; what it is, how it works, and my own personal
What is consciousness? Well, it's just the ability to think and feel and live
in the moment. I know that I have consciousness because I am currently thinking
thoughts. That's all it takes to know you are conscious -- ask yourself, 'am I
thinking right now?' and if the answer is anything, then yes, you are conscious.
Wow, cool! Now I know how to find out if I am conscious, but how do I find out
if someone else
is conscious? How do I know that my friends aren't
? Well, that's where it gets tricky. You see, the
method you used to determine that you
are conscious involved you
analyzing your own
thought process and your own qualia
, but that's
not really possible when trying to determine someone else's consciousness. You
can't just step into someone's perspective and see what it's like to be them,
nor can you just ask them because if someone lacked consciousness, they
wouldn't know; they would always behave as a normal thinking, feeling human.
Just to reiterate, a philosophical zombie wouldn't do things because they
like doing something, they do things essentially because they are
programmed to do so. Think of a person with no consciousness as a biological
To make matters worse, a conscious brain and an unconscious brain are
completely identical down to a molecular level (I'll write another post
explaining my thoughts on this particular detail at some point). A Voight-Kampff
machine won't help you here. Scientists have not figured out what parts of the
brain cause consciousness, if any. A person with consciousness is
indistinguishable from a person without.
If we can't prove someone to be either conscious nor unconscious, I think we
should just give everyone the benefit of the doubt and say that every human
has consciousness. We have no other information that could disprove this, and
it's more inclusive, so why not? But now that we're assuming all people to
have consciousness, that opens the door to a bunch of other new questions. Do
animals have consciousness? Being able to speak or read or do anything human
isn't necessarily a requirement for consciousness. I guess by that logic, all
animals would have to have a consciousness too. But what about inanimate
objects?? What about the ground beneath my feet, or keyboard I type on, or the
walls around me, or the universe itself? This is where it gets really weird;
Buddhist teachings speak of an eternal and endlessly repetitive life cycle in
which all living things exist. Everytime an organism dies, they are
essentially recycled by the universe, becoming something new. You're living
as a human right now, but following your death, your body may fertilize a tree
that will be chopped down and turned into a coffee table. After a few
decades, you are thrown out, turned to sawdust and finally baked into a bread
for children in concentration camps to eat.
All things in the universe interact, add on to, recontextualize and give
meaning to each other, but never actually categorically different. Everything is
still all part of the same compost pile. Just how people are blank slates
experiencing life from different angles, the same is true for everything else in
We know the saying of 'you are what you eat
', but rarely do we think
about that literally
. You literally are what you eat. You absorb the
nutrients from food and drink and then those nutrients literally become part of
you. The parts your body doesn't absorb is then expelled from the body, this
waste then returning to the earth, decomposing, absorbsing into the environment,
becoming one with the Earth. The nutrients from that waste then go on to
fertilize plants that you will again eat to continue the cycle. This is true for
everything in the universe.
Everything is constantly being recycled to form something new, and best part,
there isn't even anything supernatural about this. When people think about
reincarnation, they think of the soul archons and Karmic scoreboards
all-powerful deities in charge of what happens to people's souls, but those are
just metaphorical interpretations of actual completely observable natural
Reincarnation, in a literal sense is just what happens to you after death.
Instead of a deity deciding your next life, it's nature; taking in the nutrients
from your body, having them absorbed back into the world, and then used to make
something new. The remains of your body and countless others will then go on to
fertilize food for our descendants to then feed upon, become bedrock for a
civilization to live on top of, and trees for our descendants to build a house
with. Just to reiterate: This is constantly on-going. Nothing is static,
everything is fluid, constantly changing, constantly becoming something new.
What to make of all this? What is the takeaway? I guess the takeaway should be
to make sure you're going through this life leaving things better than before.
Everyone you know and everything you see is deserving of the same kindness you
should treat yourself with and you have the power to affect all of it with your
actions. Your current actions will have ramifications on yourself, others, the
world and the universe, so better to leave it better than you found it.