It usually is limited and can be with one thing at a time and requires a lot of psychic effort on one’s part, because the default mode of functioning for humans most of the time is to be unconscious, we are in our own dreams all the time and only come out of that dream from time to time to interact with the world. And this is because attainment of consciousness is an injury, an insult and no one volunteers for it. That default mode of psychic functioning is one in which we are all that matters, we are IT and we have it all, and know it all, and in that economy, it is only me, myself and I, but then consciousness which is a prize of conflict resolved, challenges our egocentric position, and conflict is inevitable when we have to interact with another human being, but when endured and apprehended is the only way that we grow.
But the good news is that once consciousness is attained in one area or with regards to an issue, it is never lost, it remains forever ‘out of the ocean’ so to say. If this is challenging for an individual to attain, one can imagine what it must be for the collective as in a society or a country!!
My grandmother used to describe consciousness or the lack of it with a metaphor of migrating eyes. For example, with regards to child rearing practices, and force feeding those babies and toddlers who would just refuse to eat, I had two of them and trust me it is tough for a mother. The mother sits on a low stool, and straddles the child across her left thigh, she traps the child's midriff under her left armpit, so the child is upside down, and almost face down between her legs, she then covers the child's nostrils with her cupped right hand, this forces the child to open his or her mouth to breathe, when the child does this, she pours in the food usually a corn meal or other liquids into the child's mouth using her cupped hand as a funnel, and the child, so she can breathe gulps this down quickly. To the child it feels like imminent death. She did practice it with me, but then she stopped with my younger cousins and when they would refuse to eat and she was frustrated, she would say, ‘when the eyes were at the level of the knees, I would have force fed you.’ In essence, she was referring to a time when there was no awareness of the dangers –physically and psychologically to force feeding a child. Quite a few children died from aspirating the food being forced into them by well-meaning mothers who didn’t want their children to starve to death, or become malnourished.
I have always liked that metaphor of the migrating eyes and I always wonder how far the eyes have come now in the year 2012, because I know for a fact that they are not yet where they are supposed to be, but they are on their way, and would they ever get there? The answer is that can all the contents of the depth of an ocean be fully known?
It is easier to observe the emergence of consciousness in an individual and a good example is a baby growing up and the mark usually is when the child becomes aware that he or she exists, and roughly measured by first memory, and on an average about age 3 years. And that is just consciousness to participate as a human being with the give and take of living with other human beings. That child still has a big task ahead of him or her of being conscious of a lot of things like, “how do I impact other human beings?” How do others experience me?” Why do I do that or this? Why do I hurt or sabotage myself in this way or that way? What are the great things about me that I don’t know are mine? Why do I like this person and not that person? How do I lie to myself, what are the defenses that I use to avoid pain, what are my beliefs and why? Why do certain things make me anxious and why? And more and more…., it is work of a lifetime?
But the degree of consciousness in the person determines their ability to find joy in life, their freedom from fears and anxiety, from depression, guilt and other limiting factors, because consciousness is like bringing light to the darkness of that vast ocean, and the more lit it is, the better it is to see what is in it and to engage them as needed. And the more conscious a person is the more accepting of differences and tolerant of others he or she becomes.
Humanity is made up of a collection of individuals with their different degrees of consciousness, but since we are social beings, we all have to live together and so the consciousness of the group matters a lot. I have come to learn that when it comes to consciousness 50 years for an individual is significant but for the collective, it is but just about five years, and so the consciousness of the collective will be the mean of what it is for all the individuals in the collective. These have been explained in many ways like “an army is only as strong as its weakest soldier.”
The collective is made up of individuals with most of us in the middle and as such this is the definition of ‘normal.’ I will use the standard deviation (SD) curve metaphor here, most of us are between -1 to +1 standard deviation of the bell curve and so these are the people that society takes as the normal and everyone wants to fit into the middle with regards to ways of thinking, seeing, experiencing, lifestyles, who, what and how you love, how your family is set up and who are in your family, fashion, ideas and religious beliefs, recreation, vacation, who you are friends with and many more and going by the SD curve 68.2% of people in every society fit the frame of the ‘normal.’
Then, what about the outliers, the -1 SD and the +1 SD? Society calls them many names— abnormal, freaks, sinners, immoral, devils spawn, infidel, stranger, boogie man, nerd, retards, primitive, cannibals, and all those prejudicial terms that I will not dignify by listing here.
But by going with that SD curve of human distribution they are just outside of the middle, that is all there is to it!!! There is no need for us to fear them.
But then the fascinating thing is that these are the people who bring new things to society. They are the ones who because of who they are, or what they are born with are able to dip into that ocean of unconsciousness where all of our treasures are stored and bring up new things and the result is that all of humanity benefit tremendously from those things that they bring to us, but they pay the price of being called all those names above by the rest of us, and most of the time they are alienated by the middle 68.2% and by their own need to conform and be part of that in-group.
And when the new thing is first introduced, the 68.2% violently rejects it—they laugh at it, ridicule it, harass the host or inventor, threaten, imprison, burn at the stake, make laws against it and many more and we all know these, history is full of them, but then slowly and gradually, the merit is seen and slow acceptance begins. Why do we do these horrendous things to someone bringing something potentially beneficial to us all? Remember, the attainment of consciousness is an injury, because it forces us out of our comfort zone and creates huge anxiety in us.
The other good news is that conflict is inevitable and in spite of ourselves and much as we don’t like it and fight it, we grow. An outlier brings something new to society, we fight it for a while and then we are able to see the merit of it and we join with it and we are all elevated. Some of us refuse and stubbornly so and we pay a prize too. A funny example is when Electronic Medical Records (EMR) was introduced at my work, which requires computer literacy and the ability to either type or pick very fast, an 80 year old colleague spent two weeks learning to use the computer for the first time in his life and he became proficient at it, while another colleague, some 25 years younger refused to use the EMR and with righteous indignation up and quit the job! These were the two extreme reactions, most of us whined and bellyached but got on board and four years later cannot imagine how we did it before the era of EMR.
Most people born after 1985 may not be able to imagine a world without computer technology, but if those of us born before then are going to be honest, we have ridiculed that geek or nerd in our class and yet, it is people of that tribe who have brought us the gift of the cyberspace.
Nelson Mandela once said that Democracy is not a perfect form of government, but it is the best that we have so far, for governing a group of people who have agreed to live together as a community, and for each member to have a voice. There must be checks and balances and there has got to be oppositions to any form of government as these are the conflicts that will continue to challenge us to higher consciousness and evolution, because democracy without opposition and checks and balances deteriorates into dictatorship
I voluntarily migrated from my country of origin to live in a country where democracy has had over three hundred years of practice and I have studied the history of this country and has watched as collective consciousness evolved or using my grandmother’s metaphor, I have watched those eyes migrate up from the knees, and where are they now? Probably still at the level of the hips, but they are moving up and democracy in this country with the participation of most Americans this year, has chosen to move forward with a person’s right to have access to comprehensive health care in a developed country, to love his or her object of affection, with a woman’s right to the health and integrity of her body, and to upholding the fundamentals of what the USA is about, a land of immigrants where there is opportunity to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, gender, religious beliefs as well as for those 68.2% called ‘normal’ and the -1 and +1 standard deviation called the outliers. After all, once upon a time, it was illegal for people of different races to get married and even as recently as in the 1950s, a couple was prosecuted in the Commonwealth of Virginia for this, but today, we have a product of such a union as the president of this great country.
I like where the eyes are now, and I firmly believe in humanity that it will continue to evolve and hopefully in my life time, will get to the level of the belly button.
Feasts of Phantoms a novel by Kehinde Adeola Ayeni -- ISBN 978-0981393926 Available at your local bookstore, a host of online booksellers and directly from Genoa House.