Never before in the history of the human race has it been more important to understand our own consciousness. To be conscious implies being awake and aware of what is going on around us. The sum total of our awareness is consciousness. Therefore, if we are not fully aware of everything going on around us, we are not fully conscious.
It is only through consciousness that we become aware that we are human beings and not animals, plants or minerals. The more conscious we are, the more we see the ways in which a human being differs from an animal. This is a crucial point; human beings are as different from animals as animals differ from plants, and plants from minerals. Think about that! Unless we do become conscious of who we are in the scheme of things, then we lag behind and have much in common with animals.
As we develop our consciousness and begin to experience individuality and independence, it is important that we cultivate concern for others. How aware are we of how others are feeling? We previously explored the concept of loneliness and saw how our feeling of individuality can alienate us from others. Now we must put effort into overcoming this feeling of separateness; effort requires that we use our will. We cannot do it through feeling because feelings can be polarised and mislead us. Our concern for others can only come about through our will, with fully committed intentions. Furthermore, being concerned for others doesn’t mean that we lose concern for ourselves. In this new way of being together, and looking out for each other – and not just our friends and loved ones – we begin to create a new sense of community. Orland Bishop put it perfectly when he said, “How can I be so that you can be free?”
In this way we don’t cause grief for each other – which is what happens when we are only concerned for our own comfort and wellbeing. It is through being conscious that we think of the other person. We think of ways that we might modify our behaviour so that we are both free and both conscious of each other.
Image: Deer in a Field – Albert Bierstadt, 1885