I get absorbed in things easily. I love the smell of freshly sawn wood. Concepts like ecstasy. Gyroscopes. Grapefruit. Consciousness.
Consciousness is funny. I’m not entirely sure what it is, which makes it mysterious, like cement.
Take this table. This table is not in consciousness. Not really. I can see the table, and thanks to these words, you can see the table. Maybe not this table precisely, but a table. An oak table with stainless steel legs or a tiger maple table with bow legs and a scalloped edge.
A dining table, end table, coffee table, drafting table, work table, bedside table, refectory table, Pembroke table or pedestal table.
A table from your childhood. A favorite table at your favorite restaurant. A table in a museum upon which a famous treaty was signed. A table, any table.
Yet whatever table enters into your consciousness, it is not in your consciousness or my consciousness or anyone’s consciousness.
The table has its own being. Consciousness is something different than a table. Consciousness can know and know itself, which is a little different than being a table, which has no way to express itself. When I assume that the table is external to my consciousness and that it is merely its shape and quality that registers on my mind as a table, it is because it has its own being. That is, I myself assume my existence, and am reasonably certain that the table that gives support to my hands and books is not actually a product of my consciousness but an impression on my senses and only becomes a table when I assume that its shape and qualities are those of a table. A table with a pretty Tiffany lamp, a potted Christmas cactus, and a cat named Toby.
I search for meaning in everything. Don’t you? I mean, isn’t that part of consciousness? I want you to feel the cosmos in your skin. I want you to taste the salt of your being in the ocean of consciousness that we share as human beings. If we stroll far enough together perhaps we will discover a planet of puppets. Puppets dancing from strings held by soft pretty angels.
You know what’s nice about objects, they never hide. They don’t hide their being. Chairs and tables are phenomena that manifest themselves. That is, after they’ve been created. Designed, sawn, and hammered and glued together. Just like a paragraph.
All consciousness is consciousness of something. It doesn’t just slosh around in the head like a bucket of mop water. Sometimes it’s tin and purple and convoluted like pretzels. A little fiction helps create a spark of life. As soon as an object is provided with a narrative, it becomes a fuller expression of itself, even though it, the thing in question, has no idea what’s going on. We take advantage of objects, but the objects tend not to mind.
Being is disclosed to us in description. The somnolent obscurity of tinted glass might be a panel in a greenhouse or a cherub in the stained window of a French cathedral. What does that say about consciousness? It says that money is an illusion and opinions are strong doses of ourselves shared with a world we barely understand. Therefore, we have escaped idealism, and arrived on a planet in a cloud of electrons.
Consciousness is a plenum of existence. A fullness, like the light of a candle during a power outage. It centers the room and makes shadows dance on the walls. That’s what it does. What consciousness does. It supports a mode of being of which it is not the source. Who knows what its source is? Find the source of consciousness, and you’ve found the source of all being.
Consciousness is large. But it contains nothing. It combines. It connects. It accommodates vision and touch and hearing and taste and is sometimes complemented by drugs, which makes things wobbly, or larger than usual, or at least more interesting.
Is there anything more sweetly logical than a Nevada motel? Here again, consciousness is disclosed to us as a form of pungency, a phenomenon like sandpaper, which is purely metaphorical, or a hairbrush, which is a conversation with hair.
One enters into consciousness as one might enter a motel. There is an expectation of a bed, a bureau with a mirror and a small desk with a telephone and a pad of paper, or perhaps a plug-in for a laptop or smartphone, but most importantly a sequence of events that charm us into believing our lives have purpose, maybe even a destiny, and that velocity furnishes us with ideas of space, borders and boulders and bowling and kites. A bed is in space and has volume and qualities that promote sleep and idleness and journeys into oblivion.
One flips a switch, and a light comes on. One presses a button on a remote and a TV comes on. Is this the work of consciousness? It works like magic, but it’s just science!
Science is to consciousness what holds are to wrestling: sweat and force.
This fact is expressed perfectly by the theory of relativity: an observer situated at the center of a system cannot determine by any experiment whether the system is at rest or in motion. But if you lie on a bed long enough and manage to keep awake you can notice certain details on the ceiling that assume greater and greater interest. For example, I once met a gargoyle from Alabama who hung from a ceiling for twenty-fours straight before anyone noticed that a tornado had just swept away an entire town and that the motel itself had become airborne and blown all the way to Egypt, where it is now a pyramid, with a neon sign flashing vacancy.
Let us look more closely at this dimension of being. We ride a blue and white planet through a seemingly endless universe and existence exists as consciousness of existing, but provides nothing like an answer, or a mailbox, where ontological proof might arrive in the form of a letter from another consciousness on another part of the planet, and reveal news of the immanence of self in self, or the taste of eggnog, or a hole in the subconscious from which dreams emerge, and dragons, monstrosities of scale and flame that join our dance of electrons, or satisfy a grammatical requirement and provide us with a subject and a predicate and maybe a handful of adjectives, even adverbs, adverbs are nice, particularly when they indicate modulation, or style.
I agree with the principles of symbolism. It is true that the exuberance of a brass band can be too much at times, too militaristic in its optimism, too aggressive in its assertions of patriotism. I prefer the Rolling Stones to John Philip Sousa, but this does not assume a blithe acceptance of drums or guitars as a substitute for the graces of riding bareback, I just want a cure for the pain in my neck, and a little seclusion in which to think, and correspond, and maybe take a shower and watch a little TV, or read a book, Satori in Paris by Jack Kerouac, or have a little fun manipulating the parts of my body, and see what happens if I walk funny, or do somersaults on the carpet.
The existence of consciousness comes from consciousness itself. I find that strange. But once you begin to realize that the cage has been left open, anything can happen. The implications are laughing. There is a being in the thing perceived, a fugitive essence which I hope to coax into further expression, even if it means telling a story, making something up, which I do at least half of the time anyway. I like nothing more than to indulge in a profligacy of supposition until the unity of parts that make a thing a thing and not just a toy or abstraction but a real object, a mass which appears guided by a stupor of purpose, a functionality wedded to design so delicately, so harmoniously, that even the bones of the codfish would seem to exist in a kind of dream, and a very ancient sea touch the shore of our creation, our being, offering simultaneously a place to swim, a place to float, a place to travel far and wide and discover ourselves in other places, other harbors, where there is pepper and paper and pepperoni, and a universe conversing with a star.