Everything Is Conscious
The universe knows you. It reflects everything you’re thinking and feeling right now.
In the past year or so, I’ve read a few interesting articles that proposed the idea that all matter is conscious. Now you and I may think of consciousness as being self-aware, and being able to interact with other people and things. I have even watched my kids become self-aware. I read how kids are not really conscious until they hit 6 months. But I have also noticed this sort of steady hum of the world. I am aware of the frenzy of Brownian motion. I see so much going on in the world and I wonder how it could not all be conscious.
Some of us like to think we’re disciplined. We have habits, we pay our bills, we raise our kids, we clean the house. But then I look around me, and I see the matter. The chair I sit in. The walls around me. The air, the light, the TV. It just sits there. It’s not dissolving into some blob on the floor.
We have an entire field of science dedicated to the study of matter: physics. The laws of physics were discovered as humans became more aware of how the world works. We’re new. The laws of physics have been here, all this time, long before we got here.
When I look at my walls, I see discipline. They stand there day in, day out, doing their thing with no complaints. I don’t have to manage the walls in my house. The atoms in the walls of my house just do what they’ve been told to do. I don’t have to tell them to stay there. I don’t have to remind them to stay there. They will be there until some other force moves them. And I have no plans to move them. To me, that’s a real discipline. That’s a discipline I could never hope to achieve.
I see that light has discipline, too. Light wants to be free. The other day I dared to ask the question: do photons ever die? The reply from Google? The estimated life of a photon is about 1 quintillion years. That is effectively, FOREVER. Our brains are simply not equipped to imagine how long that is. That is one followed by 18 zeros. Our universe is estimated to be 16 billion years old, a tiny fraction of the estimated lifetime of a photon. That is discipline, too. We can still find evidence of the big bang in the background cosmic radiation, falling on the earth from every direction in near perfect uniformity. The light that we see now will go on long after the earth is gone.
The proton, one of the constituent particles of every atom, has a half-life of 10³⁵ years. That is also forever in our minds. That is also discipline. Matter and light both have discipline. They interact with each other. They see each other. I think E=MC², and I think still more discipline.
When we become familiar with a task and stay on it, that’s discipline. When we focus on our task, we are exercising discipline. When we entertain and achieve any goal, that’s discipline. Consciousness requires discipline.
I started thinking about this years ago when I read an article by physicists and mathematicians who made a startling statement. In order for mankind to have consciousness, they must derive it from the matter of which they are made. We must derive our consciousness from somewhere, somehow. I won’t say someone yet, because I am not convinced that there is a god, and even if there is, that god is far, far beyond our comprehension.
So I think of everything as being, in some way, conscious and connected. I am mindful of my relationships not just with people, but with things. When I close the door, I close it gently. When I work with my computer, I am mindful of what I put into it and what I’m thinking while I’m working on it. I handle everything with care. I don’t think of myself as the owner of the things within my sphere of influence. I think of myself more like a curator of the life around me. I cultivate the environment in which I live as if it is a reflection of me.
I may leave the decorating to my wife, but I cultivate the environment around me with one overarching directive, my prime directive: If I may err, then I choose to err on the side of peace. No coercion, no threats, no insults, no sarcasm. Just a clear and present intention to be peaceful. If the universe and everything in it is conscious, then I would want to be mindful of what I’m thinking and what my intentions are. If the universe is conscious, then it makes sense to me that the universe is a reflection of me and everything that I’m thinking and feeling.
I’ve seen this pattern over and over again. I have an expectation. I’m disappointed with my expectations. I get angry, and it seems like everything gets angry. Things break. Nothing works right. My computer doesn’t behave. I begin to think that the world is against me.
Then I remember, that if the world was truly against me, I’d be about a millimeter thick. I remember what someone told me long ago, the world is not that small. “The world isn’t thinking of you,” they say, and I continue their thought, now an ancient echo in my head, “the world is a reflection of you.”
If I am angry, the people around me get angry. It’s automatic because people naturally imitate the people around them. If I am sad, the people around me have sympathy for me. If I smile, they smile. If people derive their consciousness from the matter of which we are composed, then it would follow that the universe reflects my feelings back to me.
So I err on the side of peace. If I’m angry, and I flash on punishing someone or being mean to them because I didn’t get my way, then I kind of freeze my mind, stop what I was thinking, and think through all the most likely outcomes, and I can tell you that none of them are any good. I’ve tried this many times and I have never, ever seen a situation where I can hurt someone without hurting myself. It’s not possible. Mankind has been trying to “get away with it” for millennia and look where we are now.
Even if I’m right with my complaint on the behavior of others, and that’s debatable, I will still lose if I hurt someone verbally or physically because they did not comply with my request to change their behavior. Ever hit a wall with your fist? I have. The wall is fine. I’m not. The universe is like that. If you push really, really hard on the universe, be prepared to duck.
Everything and everyone reflects back to me how I’m thinking and feeling. I walk through my days now, mindful of that. Mindful of the people in it. Mindful of the things around me. Mindful that I’m not an owner, I’m just a curator and cultivator. Mindful that I’m a conduit for the love in the universe.