Aware Aware

September 10, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Biology, Play, Society, Unconscious

In psychotherapeutic dynamics, attention offered to the presenting problem goes a long way toward providing an opportunity for the problem to transform.  Clients or patients are guided into an experience of accompanying themselves rather than engaging in a battle.  A paradox is revealed.  It could be concluded that the “problem” was not the person’s unconscious, but their conscious.  Once the patients deliberately choose to not confront or battle the part of them that they feel victimized by, but just let themselves be aware of that part, change is engaged.  The clients learn they can exercise choice.  Then, the clients learn to play.

The same principle is in play on the spiritual path.  Practitioners are provided opportunities to choose to observe rather than engage.  Students are encouraged to be watchful.  If there is struggle, there is the choice to be aware of the struggle.  An emphasis is placed on the ability to choose and the choice to choose to be aware.

Awareness is integral to an understanding of psychological and spiritual models of transformation.  It is also a major factor in social change.

The activist compulsion to bring media to an event is about bringing awareness of an issue to individuals when their focus is on other things or places.  At this scale of societal transformation, we’re still talking about individuals choosing awareness that provides an opportunity for a healing of what has gone awry.  A difference is that the paths of information distribution in a society like ours is controlled by an allegiance to free market philosophy, also called Social Darwinism, which allows those with the greatest resources the ability to manage messages in a direction that will encourage a continuation of their control of resources.  On a societal scale, to provide opportunities for an individual to become socially self-aware, activists seek to bring media attention to their events.

Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene  hypothesizes that all biological evolution necessarily begins and ends at the level of the gene, not at the scale of the individual, the species or beyond.  Dawkins suggests that selection forces cull out useful genes, genes that engender features or characteristics in an individual, and that selection operates at no other scale.  This hypothesis is reductionism at its most extreme.  Usefulness is jettisoned as Occam razor elegance is elevated to the highest tier.  Sociobiological reductionism is an aesthetic where the ideal becomes far more attractive than the real.

I would suggest that the gene is not the overriding super factor of evolution.  In fact, choosing any scale or scales as the location of evolutionary intervention may be too limiting a concept.  Observing how individuals and societies transform at the psychological, spiritual and societal scale, one should consider that awareness might be at the foundation of how biology evolves.

Clearly, this argument does not mean that natural selection is not the foundation of evolution.  But it does mean that evolution is also play.  In just the way that a child plays with the toys or elements he or she has been provided to explore, evolution plays within the confines of natural selection (provided that variation is not random but informed by environmental influences).

I can’t shake the idea that the human experience and society inform our understandings of biology and ontogeny.  Reductionist scientists tend to see it the other way around.  Consider that awareness is not just a cherry on the milkshake of the meal made of several courses but is also the edible table that the complete feast rests upon.  It is unclear where dinner begins and ends.

There is a synthesis in our future.  The thesis is creationism or the belief that there is no evolution and that the Jewish god made the world in seven days.  The antithesis is natural selection in its present form and that there is no god and all life unfolded according to contingent happenstance.  The synthesis has to do with an awareness of awareness.

There is a place where god and contingent happenstance meet and merge.  When deity and chance converge, I call it play.


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