Conscious Self As Telemetry System

We tend to think of the body as a vessel that simultaneously serves and houses the mind.  In truth, the relationship is the other way around.  Our minds exist as survival targeting computers in service of  rockets traveling through time.  We possess a conscious being because it was sufficiently beneficial to survival.   Our ability to think about things other than our immediate survival is anomalous.

Only by living a life without ever truly going hungry could one ever suppose that the conscious self is really in charge.  We only have the privilege of reflection when the basic needs of the body are satisfied.  When the needs of the body require urgent fulfillment, whether eating, sleeping,  or defecating it becomes clear that our conscious  rational self is the servant, not the master.

Even when all physical needs are met, emotionally based cravings and subconscious survival desires subvert our rational mind.  We thus spend most of our conscious time rationalizing instinctual survival behaviors.  Much of our waking time is spent only partially conscious while performing tasks on auto-pilot: Our conscious self only arises when there is something that requires its presence.  It more or less gets shut off during sleep.  We’re not unlike medical holograms in star trek.  The rest of the body turns us on and off as it needs.

In western culture a lot of people seem to believe in having personal fortitude and overcoming personal temptations.  From dieting columnists to self-help writers, they all fail to realize that trying to dominate one’s own will in this way is like trying to plug a running faucet with one’s thumb.  Whenever our ‘willpower’ succeeds in one area, pressure builds until there is a copiously squirting leak in another area.  The more pressure we put on the faucet, the more intensely water shoots out of it.  As personal repression increases, neurotic reactions increase in intensity.

By understanding the subordinate station of our reason and intellect, we have arrived at a beginning.  From there it quickly becomes clear that to live as rational beings we must live in conjunction with our Animal or else be swallowed up by it.   Our sense of identity exists because it was of use to the Animal.   We must satisfy our primal physical selves to be allowed to continue to exist.

Where we repress our desires, we must also plan an outlet for repression.

Where we deny expression of our energies, we must find ways to redirect them.

Where we fail to account for our Animal, it will surge out of the first gap(s) it finds in its containment area.

Faced with ‘unhealthy cravings’ a dieter eats a light salad for dinner.  The will has prevailed, the Animal, unsatisfied, paces restlessly back and forth.  Over the next few days, the unfulfilled cravings translate into increasing levels of irritability in personal relationships.  Finally, the dieter breaks down and has ice cream and pre-packaged chocolate cheese cake for dinner.  During the diet time, the metabolism has gone into lockdown in response to scarcity.  The dieter ends up gaining more weight than ever before.  Their body becomes inflamed, causing even more irritability than before.

The dieter should have asked: ‘How do I satisfy my cravings while still eating healthily?”  They would instead have filled their stomach with wholesome food and healthy fats instead of forcing themselves into self-defeating self-deprivation.  If they really wanted to be effective, they might have googled foods with high satiety indexes so they could feel satisfied for the minimum number of calories.  This way, the intellect succeeds in accomplishing something constructive by cooperating with the instinctual self.

To really have any control, we first have to recognize what our body wants and get it where it wants to go.  Rockets have telemetry systems that direct them to their targets.  We are telemetry systems guiding our rockets to the targets of optimum survival and reproduction.

Only when we fulfill our instinctual drives do we have the luxury of doing anything else.  Fortunately, our intellects, allow us to find many different ways of achieving this goal.

Continuity of Identity and Freedom

We tend to think of ourselves as fixed beings with the same names as long as we live.  Yet we change every moment.   Just a Zen monk never steps in the same river twice, we are never the same person in any two moments.  We are constantly changing entities and we make true decisions rather than just reacting by controlling who we will become.  We are like a river choosing where to go on its way to the sea.

One problem of perceiving our identity as fixed: we fail to realize the danger of others controlling our course.  When a river is dammed or diverted, well worn channels disappear forever under a flood or become abandoned and dry.

Persistent conditioning combined with constant stress and sleep deprivation can wipe a human personality clean within a couple of weeks.  It’s not so much a matter of choice or resistance.  A personality and personal habits formed and sustained across decades are like delicate mineral formations in caves.  Environments that permit aspects of older forms to persist give us the illusion that our identity is permanent..  It does not take much, however, to shatter our continuity.

We come to understand freedom then as a river flowing without obstacles, as a stalactite creeping downwards without disturbance.  An identity allowed to unfold according to its nature, that plans its most desirable course, that maintains its continuity.

Driving Lessons for the Vehicle of Consciousness

We cannot change our emotions.  The perspective of those around us affects our perspective even if we try to resist their influence.  We are conditioned by our circumstances whether we like it or not.  In any given moment we are in a certain state and we can’t do much about it.

If we can’t decide our state at the time we make a decision, isn’t free will overrated?

A lot of people I think stay in the moment, making decisions with only their present state in mind.  Many decide by projecting their present self into future circumstances.  Many envision a future self without considering how future circumstances will affect it.

Real conscious decision making, I think, is best exemplified by anticipating how future circumstances will affect our future selves and how that state will influence further decision making.

Through this way of thinking one tries to influence the future circumstances first.

A Loud person thinks:

In the future, I will go to the gym and lose weight.  I feel right now like I’ll be able to feel like going to the gym when it’s time to actually go.

A Subtle person thinks:

I will spend more time with my fitness-oriented friends.  Their regular company will establish exercise as a norm in my social perspective.  Therefore, I will end up working out more frequently.

Driving ourselves consciously in a meaningful way seems to be an exercise in anticipation.

Like driving a heavy vehicle on an icy road or going downhill on a massive sled, we must anticipate where we want to be and at what speed.  It’s already too late to stop or make a turn where you’re at.  It takes considerable time for our momentum to shift, considerable skill not to under or over-compensate.   We have to take into account how raging winter winds will affect our course.

We might steer today and not be headed decisively in the right direction until a month or longer is past.

When turning the wheel, there at first seems to be no response.  The motion of turning becomes barely perceptible and then the rate of change rapidly accelerates.