In an interesting riff on the insanity defense, my friend Douglas George ("Mailbox," April 14) comes down on one side of a presently unanswerable question. I am here to present the other side.
Douglas argues that what we call "consciousness" is the accidental byproduct of a meaningless evolutionary process. And since evidence now shows that it takes the brain only a half-second to generate a thought that none of us can really be in control of our thoughts or actions. What causes the brain to generate these thoughts? Douglas proposes an inner "robot."
I want to suggest a radically different approach to the underlying question. I propose that "consciousness" far from being an accidental byproduct exists a priori. That it forms and informs matter, be it a rock, a flower, a dust devil or a brain. That it, not some cellular-level mindless robot, generates and is the awareness and the thoughts and emotions flowing through us. This force, I propose, never rests and is endlessly creating. It forms our dreams, our desires and our fears.
It seems we have woken to find ourselves in a classroom. There's no teacher in charge, no principal down the hall. We are teaching ourselves and what rules exist we make up together. Our task, I would suggest, is to assume ownership of and take responsibility for the astonishing gift that flows in a unique way through each of us. The class is a kindergarten class. Each of us is learning but progress is painfully slow. And here, Douglas and I seem to agree: Tolerance, patience, forgiveness, a cookie, the wedge of an orange and an afternoon nap are all helpful.
Doug Ingold, Arcata