The Nature of Life: Are We All Masochists?

I’ve argued in the past that logic demonstrates conscious awareness is non-local to the brain, but I haven’t really delved too deeply into what this implies.  In this article, I’d like to consider some of the ramifications of a non-local consciousness.  As a brief refresher for those who haven’t read my previous article, the problems of strong emergence, the quantum mind-body problem and near death experience reports all lend logical support to the non-locality of conscious awareness.  This implies that our conscious awareness existed prior to our birth, resides outside the flow of time, continues on after our death and is a fundamental component of the physical universe in the same way matter, energy, space and time are.  Working from the assumption that all of the assertions in the previous sentence are true, I want to present some thought experiments that relate to our present existence.

The question that has always nagged me about such a scenario is, why would I ever chose to incarnate here in this physical world, in this particular body, at this particular time?  Why would I chose to forget where I come from and what I really am?  Why would I limit my consciousness to this body?  Why would anyone chose this existence over simply being pure consciousness?  The questions I just posed assume I had some kind of a choice in being here.  If I didn’t have a choice, does this pose an argument against free will?  Could it be that even soul’s don’t have free will?   Given that free will seems self-evident, and that if we don’t have free will arguing about it is completely pointless, I will move forward assuming that I actively made a choice to be here.

I suppose this line of questioning really revolves around my present level of happiness and contentment.  If I were totally content and happy here now, then it makes sense that whatever prior state of existence I came from must be equal to or worse than what I am experiencing as a physical person.  However, if I am not content with my present state of being, then I’m lead to believe that being pure consciousness could potentially be a more comfortable and happy state of being than what I am presently experiencing.

It seems clear to me that taking on a physical body automatically leads to some level of discontentment that I did not previously have to deal with.  I now must feed, shelter, protect and clothe my physical body from the elements.  And because physicality goes hand in hand with scarcity, I must accomplish these feats under the pressure of time and limited resources.  These are obviously some very substantial burdens.  Further, the fact that I have no memory of any past existence as anything other than what I am now adds a large amount of additional fear and uncertainty to my present state of being.

So is being a disembodied consciousness really so terrible a thing that I would actively chose to take on all of those burdens?  When I listen to reports of near death experiences, for the most part, they all say that dying is returning to a timeless state of pure bliss and joy.  To me, these reports just add an additional level of confusion as to why I am here.  If being dead means being in a state of timeless bliss, why in the world would I chose to incarnate here?

Making an active choice to forego pure timeless bliss for a physical existence is an act of masochism.  But let us take this one step further.  If emotional states of being are a choice, then clearly anyone who chooses to be in any emotional state, other than pure contentment, is engaged in an act of masochism.  If this is true, then at some level, we are all masochists!  That would sure explain a lot about the present state of humanity!

However, before I declare all of humanity to be pathologically insane, there is one other thing to consider.  That being, emotional states can only exist as polarities.  In order for a person to know joy, the opposite of joy must exist.  Just as with all other things, to know what something is, the opposite must by definition exist or else no comparison could be made.  Beauty could not be appreciated without ugliness.  Light could not be appreciated without shadow or darkness.  Sound could not exist without silence.  Matter could not exist without space.  If something recognizably exists, so too must its opposite.  The essence of experience is made up of noticing these polarities.

When we consider that life cannot exist without the possibility of death, we can see that choosing to incarnate amounts to choosing to add additional levels of experience to our existence that we would otherwise never know.  By forgetting what we really are, we come to experience the opposite of knowing.  Indeed, for us to “know,” the opposite of knowing must exist.  It cannot be any other way.   So perhaps we don’t have a choice in being here, since in order for the polarities of life’s experiences to exist, life must exist.  And for life to exist, embodied consciousness must exist – and some beings must fill the various roles that consciousness plays in this world.

Perhaps the question is not whether free will exists or not, but a more accurate question would be to what extent does free will exist?  Consider that if life is like a river that simply exists, and consciousness is an external force that can act upon the river, then we can see that it may be possible for us to alter or shape the flow of the river to our desires, but it is not possible for us to completely eliminate the river entirely.  The water exists, and it must go somewhere.  In my analogy, eliminating the river entirely would be “choosing” not to ever incarnate as a physical being, which would be as impossible as making the water in a river disappear.

I hope that be presenting these arguments I can direct the flow of life to a more comfortable place of all of us.  When we understand that death has no real meaning, killing becomes pointless.  When we understand that material things are just toys for us to experience, greed becomes pointless.  When we understand that evil must exist in order for good to be appreciated, loving our enemies becomes a real possibility.

For some more provoking thoughts along these lines, listen to philosopher Alan Watts discuss the nature and meaning of life:

 

  • Sylk

    You start with a conclusion,that you have free will. As Dr. Daniel Kahneman as pointed out, ‘You have all the free will your brain allows you to think you have.’
    One way to think about it is to consider the possibility that you do not operate on consciousness, rather consciousness operates on you, or that what you call you is merely a drop in an ocean of consciousness. The drop doesn’t choose anything.
    Another argument against freewill is more straightforward. If humans have free will, why are so many people fat,why do they drive too fast, fail in school? Why isn’t everyone rich? Why don’t they just fire up that free will and shed those pounds?

    • Enlightened Carrot

      This is a Libertarian site, the definition of Libertarian is that you are a person who believes in free will. Science has dis-proven determinism with the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, take you Churches engraved non-philosophy and shove it up your ass!

      • Sylk

        Dear EC, lack of free will does not equate to determinism, your brain is far more complex than that. And, so far, no matter where I post my observation, no one has answered my question about being obese, driving too fast, failing in school, or not getting rich. All of which should be fairly simple if one can simply choose the alternatives out of free will.

        • Enlightened Carrot

          Determinism, I still argue, is the only chance you have at proving that freewill doesn’t exist, but that’s besides the point. Let me answer you simply, people are obese because they like to eat,people are driving fast because they’ve got shit to do which they are late for, people are failing school because they don’t like to study, people aren’t all rich because not everyone likes being a Lawyer Douche. All the things that you’ve cited are examples of freewill. I don’t understand how you’ve come to the conclusion you have, but it sounds like all that non-sense the church spouts about Yahweh having a set plan for the entire universe, also know as destiny, which in my opinion you can’t be a freethinker without acknowledging the falsehood of their claims.
          P.S. My apologies for being rude in the last post.

  • Sylk

    Hi EC, allow me back this up a tad.
    For the record, I am not religious and do not believe in determinism. (Other
    than given physical laws. I hit my thumb with a hammer, it hurts.)
    If someone is obese and wants not to be, why can’t they lose the weight? Apart from Sumo wrestlers and defensive linemen, I don’t think anyone chooses obesity.
    Further, to offer a reason why someone drives too fast, or fails in school may be entirely true, but it is not a demonstration of free will.
    Without a lengthy neuroscience discussion, suffice it to say that the brain is completely interconnected. There is no place in it that is the starting point such as would be necessary if we had free will.
    Free will implies a driver that operates the brain. There is no such entity. My view of how we work requires nothing more than what is there. Whether one believes in free will or a God, both positions require an unproven ‘operator.’ And since there is no free
    will bundle of neurons, then free will would have to come from something external,
    just like a God.
    I realize people seldom change their view as a result of these exchanges, but it’s fun to talk about.

    • Enlightened Carrot

      If you don’t mind I’m going to use a mathematical example for my explanation. Lets say that you are the number 1. As we all know the Number 1 is made up of ten .1′s but .1 is still one unit. You are failing to realize ,my friend, that not only are you composed of your organs, but your body also partitions your organs. You, as in, yourself, are one whole unit. If you don’t consider yourself together, then how do we go about picking up all the pieces?

      • Sylk

        Sorry about the delay in reply. I’m not grasping your point.

        • Enlightened Carrot

          Comments on the internet tend to be a difficult medium to explain
          mathematical allegories. Allow me to put it to you in laymens terms
          then. You are thinking of yourself in terms of parts. Your heart, lungs,
          and brain(for brevity’s sake I’ll only talk about these three,but keep
          in mind that I mean all of our organs) and you are convinced that these
          parts make up you, which is true, yet the antitheses of this is also
          true, and that is that you are the whole of these parts. Think of it
          like this, you are an apple, you are cut up into slices, the slices came
          from the whole but also the whole is made up of slices. Why do I
          describe this? Well, for two reasons, the first being that if you think of your body as a whole you can disregard the statement [sic],” And since there is no free
          will bundle of neurons..” because the”driver” isn’t one neuron, it’s you
          as a whole. The second reason I describe this is because I’d like to
          point you to what Philosopher Plato made a philosophy in his work “The Republic.” In “The Republic” Plato describes something called the Divide line
          the divide line is summed up easily with this description
          Episteme(which in our tongue would mean knowledge) is built from two
          forms, the first being Noesis(which in our tongue mean Intelligence or
          dialectic) and the second being dianoia(which in our tongue would be
          Mathematical reasoning). knowledge, according to Plato, is the only way we can come to truly understand what Plato would call to noeton(which in our tongue would mean either reality or the intelligible realm).
          There is then a dividing line(hence the name of the concept) between
          Episteme and what, Mr. Plato would have called Doxa(which in our tongue
          would mean opinion.Just like Episteme, Doxa has two forms one called
          pistis(belief) and one called eikasia(Illusion) which make up to horaton(which
          is how human minds interpret their world, I.E. The world through you
          eyes) Now Episteme and Doxa are divided by what I call reason. The only
          way of knowing Episteme is through reason, not just blanket declarations
          like the one you state by Dr. Daniel Kahneman, who ever that guy is.
          Just to leave on a scientific note I’d like to Quote a Dr. Carl Sagan,”
          There is no such thing as an authority, there are only experts at best.” I hope this makes clear my meaning, if not I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. :)

  • Christian

    The fact is nobody has a choice to be born. You are born and after that point you have to live life. You can do it badly or well. Circumstances do play a part on how easy the life will be, but you are still the one making the decisions (free will). I would hope you put yourself somewhere you can help others, discern truth from lies, and promote peace. May Jeshua guild your course through the world least you become part of it.

    • Christian

      May Jeshua guide your course through the world least you become part of it.

      Kinda lame you can’t edit.