No device exists that measures consciousness.  There is no consciousness Geiger counter that provides the opportunity to visit different places and measure their degree of connectivity.  There is no helmet you can strap onto chimpanzees and humans that will measure how aware an individual is of his or her particular situation.

Ken Wilber hypothesizes that meditation engaged in over 20 years provides a leap of two units (on a scale of approximately 7 units) from where you began on the climb to enlightenment.  Wilber suggests where we begin depends on life circumstances, personal history, social context, historical situation and personal choice.  A number of different behaviors or experiences suggest one’s location on the ladder.  For example, Wilber observed that fear dramatically diminishes the longer one engages in the consciousness climb.

Personally, I’m more interested in the nature of the differences among individuals subscribing to different social structures and the hormonal associations with those social structure proclivities.  Measuring how enlightened someone is feels unnecessarily hierarchical and sort of anti-Zen.  Noting the difference between humans 200,000 years ago–hypothetically random-handed humans with no shift in cerebral functioning enhancing speech–and humans today, who are exhibiting varying degrees of random-handedness, sounds interesting and possibly useful.  I’m curious if these subtle shifts in consciousness can be measured.  Once measured, can the information be used to offer useful interventions for individuals in distress?

Marian Annett, Norman Geschwind and others have hypothesized which brain structures are changing to accommodate the transition to speech.  I’ve been playing with the idea that the primary reason consciousness shifts is not subtle.  I’ve hypothesized that we’ve evolved from consciousness to split consciousness over the last 80,000 years or more as surges of testosterone have pruned cerebral synapse and diminished the size and functionality of the right hemisphere while the corpus callosum has shrunk.  My conjectures focus upon the influence of a right hemisphere changing in size while the bridge between the hemispheres is dramatically reduced.  I believe that there have been accompanying changes in consciousness, an emerging of split consciousness, with it being possible to measure degrees of split consciousness.  In fact, we have been doing so for some time.

Psychological evaluations seek to measure percentages of possibilities that a person subscribes to particular tendencies.  I’ve hypothesized that specific personality disorders, such as obsessive compulsive, borderline and narcissistic personality disorder reveal populations that are evidence of ancient cerebral/neurological prototypes.  These evaluations were designed and are executed with no knowledge of the condition or disorder etiology.  I believe they are measuring several variables having to do with maturation rates and timing, hormonal thresholds, cerebral lateralization and corpus callosum size.  Presupposing that we have evolved over the last couple hundred thousand years in a direction that has resulted in specific brain changes altering our self awareness engendering split consciousness, then what tools might be effective at evaluating the various people appearing along this historical arc, or what the neuropsychologists might call a contemporary balanced polymorphism or a seamless gradation of a variety of individuals all making a contribution to a healthy whole?

I’m playing with the idea that humor offers insight into consciousness.

Chimpanzees and bonobos experience humor.  Clearly, it’s a fairly basic humor not unlike what amuses a small child.  There is a hierarchy of humor that people climb as they grow older and they are able to appreciate deeper degrees of connection, subtlety, irony and paradox.  I’m hypothesizing that what we find funny reveals how wide the bridge is between our cerebral hemispheres, how intensely synapse-pruning impacted our less dominant hemisphere, the repercussions of early puberty-impacting synapse production and the influence of estrogen and testosterone levels on our abilities to connect and mature.  In other words, what we find funny directly reflects what we can identify with, identity being integrally related to how split consciousness is.

We may discover, for example, that there is a kind of mental malady characterized by a brain that has barely split vs. another kind where the split is so wide as to be unbridgeable.  This may have to do with the relative sizes of the cerebral hemispheres, the hemispheric bridges or a combination of the two.  One consciousness experience is characterized by an inability to communicate while lost in an undifferentiated, alternative world.  The other consciousness exhibiting deep divisions characterized by constant internal surveillance and self suspicion accompanied by feelings of being totally alone.

A highly refined humor metric may offer insight that other tools cannot easily measure, calibrating a person’s position ontogenetically and evolutionarily.  Measuring split brains and brain bridge sizes, the evaluation would not be recording better or worse, more or less advanced.  The humor metric would be noting the influence that our predisposition for speech has had upon our ability to connect and our awareness of our ability to connect.

Consider that there may be those among us with less of an ability to connect or empathize, but particularly aware that this is the case, accompanied by sensitivity to differences.  Contrast that with another person easily able to empathize, but with little awareness that empathy degrees vary from person to person.  No one of these two people is better than the other.  Each represents very different neurological/hormonal strategies.  I would argue that what each finds funny would offer insight into how they are organized differently.

Though we can’t change our brains once we’re grown, we can dramatically modify our environment in ways that impact our bodies, our brains and our selves.  We might find, after a humor evaluation, that a person represents an ancient cerebral/somatic/hormonal prototype.  We might discover that lots of light (reproducing equatorial diurnal cycles) and a special diet (low in fat, high in protein) would positively impact his or her experience.

In the ways that dreams are evaluated to measure health, so can humor.  Perhaps measuring what we find funny can lead to lives that make it easier to laugh.  It is no mistake that Buddha smiles.


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