Once again a big thank you to Jenya for these beautiful photos! You can see more of them here and they are all for sale in High-Resolution at a great price! Click here to check out the full collection of photos from our recent trip to the Kruger National Park!
Philosophy is easy. Everybody does it. Philosophy simply is thinking. Thinking is easy. We do it all the time. What should I have for breakfast? Corn flakes or muesli? As long as you think in order to achieve a specific aim, to answer a specific question, you engage within philosophy. Perhaps what alienates most people from traditional Philosophy is the fact that Philosophers stick to thinking only, while other areas of philosophy (like medicine, biology, physics, computer programming, anthropology, psychology, art, sport, etc., etc.) all have some sort of practical exercise related to its philosophical base. But make no mistake, all human endeavours have thought as a base from which they operate. Therefore all people are philosophers. Thinking lies at the bottom of just about everything we do.
So what exactly is thought?
Thought involves reasoning. Or does it? Surely thoughts can be random… Perhaps thoughts are ideas. What is an idea? An idea is something that you conjured up while thinking… And so we go around and around in never ending circles.
You can know what thought is as long as that knowing does not involve the act of thinking. Anybody who thinks that they know definitively what thought is, is deluding themselves. There simply is no definite answer.
The philosophy of language runs into a similar problem at some point down the line. How far down the line depends on how much convoluted language you are able to handle, but the problem remains the same: you are using language to talk about language. You are using thought to think about thinking.
Talking about anything else is easy. But talking about language or thought is difficult because the only tools we have at our disposal is language and thought itself. A hammer works well when hammering a nail, but hammering a hammer seems kind of clumsy, doesn’t it?
We claim that the attribute of thought makes us special. Ask any person: “What is the difference between animals and humans?” and most people will tell you that the difference is that we can think (or use reason) whereas animals do not. Some people may start off with a religious explanation of some sort, but ask them if thought also separates us from animals and almost all people will agree that it does. I mean if animals were able to think they would talk, build houses and write books, wouldn’t they?
However, if you were to insert electrodes into the brain of an animal and a human, would the registered brain activity be fundamentally different? Would you be able to isolate thought and measure it? Few would argue against the idea that animals have brain activity, of course they do, and yet they do not seem to think or reason like we do. So what is it that apparently separates us from animals?
It seems obvious and almost self explanatory that thought does not consist of brain activity alone. Perhaps it originates there, and you wouldn’t be able to generate (or receive) thoughts without a brain, but apparently having a brain doesn’t guarantee being able to think. You need a brain and something else. A certain kind of consciousness: Awareness of Self. This awareness-of-self-consciousness describes the non-physical aspect of thought.
A being can be alive and yet be totally unconscious. Similarly we can be conscious without thinking. Life is a prerequisite for consciousness just like consciousness is a prerequisite for thought. Consciousness is therefore not equal to thought. We might be the only thinking beings we know of but we are not the only conscious beings. All around us nature is conscious. It reacts to itself. The insect searches for the tree and the tree searches for the sun. We are however (apparently) unique in that we are self-conscious. Having such brilliant senses the stalking Leopard may be aware of a lot more than we are, falling leaves and broken twigs, but it is probably not aware of itself.
Animals are however more conscious than we are, because they more readily (and more appropriately) respond to their environment. Consciousness is a vehicle for thought, but thought can override consciousness if it becomes too dominant. If self-consciousness dominates other-consciousness (awareness of other beings) thought becomes destructive because thought, a very powerful tool, is then used indiscriminately to ensure only the survival of the individual awareness and not that of the collective awareness.
Thought cannot possibly be reduced to atoms or any other physically measurable substance. It needs that physical substance to become manifest, thinking without a brain might be quite difficult, just like running a computer program without a computer might be quite difficult, but that doesn’t mean that a computer program can be reduced to computer hardware. A computer program, like thought, definitely has a non physical aspect to it. Try as hard as you can, you simply cannot build a computer program with silicon chips. You have to write a computer program.
Similarly our thoughts reside within the physical structure of the brain, but the mind itself is non-physical because the mind is not simply those physical structures upon which it depends, the mind is the relationship between those physical structures. Any relationship needs something physical in-between which to exist. There can be no relationship between nothing and nothing. However, the relationship itself is non-physical.
The famous French philosopher Descartes proposed something similar. He said that there exists two kinds of substances: physical substances and mental substances. He also claimed that they are completely different. Any substance is either physical or mental, but no substance can be both. Although insightful, his view was too rigid, and his famous dictum, Cognito Ergo Sum, (I think therefore I am) is not the ultimate truth, but a hint at the ultimate deception.
“I am, therefore I am capable of thought” is more accurate description of the relationship between being and thinking.
Beings are conscious entities, like plants and animals. We are beings. Human Beings. An attribute of being is having consciousness. Awareness. Nature is conscious because plants, animals and all beings show response to environmental stimuli, they must therefore be aware of their surroundings to some extent. An attribute of a human being is self-consciousness and, more recently, with the rise of empires and kingdoms, a dominance of self-consciousness over other-consciousness.
Being (I am) also always comes before thinking, because consciousness gives rise to thought, as life gives rise to consciousness. Descartes equated consciousness with thought. A dangerous mistake and one of pointers toward a world dominated almost entirely by different ways of thinking. As if thoughts were the final measure of a human being. It isn’t. Consciousness is the final measure of what all beings are, including humans, because consciousness is what allows for thoughts to exist in the first place. Physical brains provide the structure upon which thought operates, but it is consciousness, more specifically self-consciousness, that generates thought.
We are not superior to animals. We simply have a different tool for survival at our disposal. Lions have teeth and claws, giraffes have long necks, monkeys have tails and we have a mind. A lion’s teeth can bite. A giraffe’s neck can reach the best leaves and our mind can think. We survive by applying our mind.
But what kind of survival have we ensured for ourselves?
A world with endless laws and yet endless crimes. A world with endless choice and luxury, and yet there seems to be no end to pollution and destruction.
Do you like this world that we have created? That question is perhaps relative to your position within this world. How fortunate are you and how comfortable do you live within this world?
We have created this world using thought before anything else. For the existence of every regulation and every rule there exists a reason. An explanation. A thought. And for everything there exists a regulation or rule.
Sometimes I like this world and other times I don’t.
At some points during our trip to the Kruger National Park I caught myself thinking how ridiculous this notion of driving around and watching animals really is. How ridiculous is the idea of “nature conservation” when we are anything but conserving of nature.
Upon leaving the park our vehicle was inspected to make sure that we did not remove any plants or animals from the park. All over the park there are notice boards displaying the conservation rules and regulations and at every picnic site there are warnings signs threatening people with fines of up to R1500 for littering or feeding animals. And yet just outside the Kruger National Park Gates there are thousands upon thousands, if not thousands of millions, of acres of land where indigenous plants and animals have been completely annihilated for the sake of tree plantations. Paper manufacturing. Paper for the purpose of recording thoughts. Countless in their gazillions. And the story is the same all over the world. For every acre of “protected” land there are thousands of acres of destroyed forests and decimated habitats. And there is always a reason for it.
So, when I think it about it, I don’t like this world.
But at other times during our Kruger Trip I was simply amazed by the animals and totally caught up within the moment. I was conscious without thinking. I watched Zebra and Giraffe grazing. They were close enough to touch. For a brief moment I had no thoughts to describe the experience, but, for the sake of sharing, one could say I was simply engrossed within the act of absorbing the tranquility of the moment. That is as close as words (or thoughts) can come to describing pure bliss.
During those moments I experienced a sense of pure joy. It’s not that I suddenly changed my mind and “liked” the world as it is. I just simply experienced some of the little wonders (those that are still possible) and I stopped thinking about whether or not I “like” the world at all. In those moments of rare beauty I simply experienced the world as it is and I somehow I felt more alive. More conscious.
Without the endless stream of involuntary thoughts that usually plague the mind, there seems to open a door to another dimension of consciousness present within us all.
It is as if my thinking mind, which is great at writing, recording and sharing experiences, sometimes gets in the way of the experience itself. At those times I do not like the world and I see all its faults. All the destruction. But all the destruction, as vast as it is, is not total. There still exists a lot of beauty in this world. And on those occasions, when I experience that beauty, it is as if, for a brief moment in time, my mind subsides and I am aware of my own consciousness as the source of all love and joy.
We simply cannot think ourselves happy. Happiness lies outside the bounds of the mind because the mind is concerned with survival and happiness has very little to do with survival. How many people do you know that, despite being able to survive comfortably, are very unhappy? It is those things that go above and beyond plain survival that brings happiness.
Here is a profound thought. We only assume that other people also think. But why should we assume that? What makes you think that other people are capable of thinking, like you are? You assume that they do because they are able to talk and verbalize their thoughts so as to share them with you.
Strictly speaking we do not know that other people think. We infer that they do because they verbalize their thoughts, and share them with us, in the same way we share our own thoughts with others. We have only indirect access to others’ thoughts. Strictly speaking the only thoughts we know of are our own thoughts. Language is the way we interact with the thoughts of others, but it is not proof positive that they also think…
Animals may very well be capable of thought, they are just not capable of verbalizing it, thus we assume that they cannot think…
If animals could think, try and imagine for yourself what an animal’s thoughts would be regarding the world that we have created with this powerful tool, the mind. Where once they roamed free, they were first killed in massive numbers and then, those that were lucky enough to survive, were squeezed into ‘parks’ where their movements are now restricted.
Provided you can get around the numerous travel restrictions, in the form of visas and permits, as a human you can still quite easily travel all around the world. But, as an animal, where once you could migrate across whole continents, you are now restricted to national parks and blocked by borders and other arbitrary fences, all over the place. For reasons that have nothing to do with your animal existence, but the existence of the human mind.
After centuries of mass genocide, forced evacuation and totalitarian oppression, as an animal you can still only travel as the companion or possession of a human.
We better hope that animals cannot think, for if they do, I can almost guarantee you that they haven’t been thinking nice thoughts about us.
But I for one believe that this will soon change.
We are experiencing a huge and accelerating change. As a result our ways of thinking are changing. We are changing. Because we have to. But it is not within the thinking mind that this change is taking place. It is our consciousness, our awareness, that is experiencing change and as a result we think different thoughts.
A hundred years ago there was almost no such thing as a human right. Today even animals have rights. In the last fifty years environmental movements have increased in number and size, and exponentially so. The world’s population went from around 2 Billion in 1950 to over 6 Billion 50 years later. Twenty years ago the Internet did not exist. Now everything is on-line and instant.
For tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years, prior to the mechanized steam engine of the 1800’s, our use of fire remained virtually unchanged. A mere 200 years later we are shooting rockets into space.
Everybody understands that we simply cannot rely so heavily upon finite fossil fuels. It has become common sense. More and more people are waking up to the fact that most traditional institutions have, for the sake of profit, cheated and lied to people for centuries. Everybody knows that the world’s largest Banks are bankrupt and that no amount of borrowed money can solve the problem.
There is no denying that a change is taking shape. At an accelerating pace. Because of this incredibly powerful tool called ‘mind’ our environment has been changed beyond recognition within the last few centuries. Maybe even decades. Compare the world of 1950 to 2011!
We are now receiving new stimuli never before experienced by the consciousness of mankind. Our consciousness is reacting and it will give rise to a new thinking.
Just as consciousness gave rise to thought-for-the-sake-of-survival millennia ago, consciousness will give rise to a new kind of thinking that is capable of coping with an all new world. Not new thoughts, but an entirely new kind of thinking. Seeing as we pretty much conquered plain old survival, perhaps this new kind of thinking could be termed thought-for-the-sake-of-prosperity-beyond-survival!
The function of consciousness is to ensure the survival of life. The lion uses its consciousness to hunt the antelope while the antelope uses its consciousness to escape the lion.
As a means of survival our human consciousness gave rise to thought. And it changed the world forever. Neither the biggest teeth nor the strongest muscles ever changed the world the way thought changed it. All human progress came as a result of thought. And now the world is as it has never been before. The Internet exists as true global consciousness. I interact with people I have never ‘met’ before.
You better be sure that our consciousness will react to this global change by recalibrating the tool of thought. But other than actually experiencing this recalibration within the next few years, you will not be able to comprehend it within an outmoded way of thinking.
A new kind of thinking will emerge and I am inclined to believe that it will be in line with what has been prophesied by many ancient civilizations as the ‘return of the messiah’ or the awakening of the Christ principles within the consciousness of mankind.
Think about it. What does the world really need right now? Do we need a better analysis? More explanations and theories to add to the countless we already have? Do we need more rules and more regulations to add to the infinite amount already governing our every move? Do we need more money to add to the billions we already have and trillions that we already owe? Do we need better security and defense to add to the thousands of missiles and millions of guns we already have? Do we need to tolerate more corruptible political leaders while we wait for the one-in-million chance of being blessed with an honest one?
Or do we need a little more love and forgiveness?
Let us get one thing straight. Thought is not equal to consciousness. You are more than just the thoughts in your head. Behind, around, above and beyond those thoughts lies consciousness. If you think you know what I am talking about, stop thinking. Once you’ve stopped thinking whatever is left is pure consciousness. Consciousness is not thought. It gives rise to thought as a means to survival. Just like consciousness gave rise to teeth and claws as a means of survival.
Our current thoughts, analytical in nature, has done its job. We now know how to survive. What we need to learn is how to survive without that survival being at the expense of others.
How do we survive without fueling a billion dollar poaching industry? How do we survive without third world sweat factories? How do we survive without Blood Diamonds? How do we survive without fighting and making war and killing millions? How do we survive without chopping down rain forests? How do we maintain a sense of self without basing that sense of individuality upon separation from others?
Because our current means of survival is in fact threatening our actual survival, you can be sure that consciousness will give rise to a better tool in the very near future. We cannot continue as we have done until now. Not for more than a few years at best.
We are experiencing a shift in consciousness because we are becoming aware of new things. Our way of thinking is being changed. Consciousness is recalibrating its tool for survival. What we need right now is a little bit more love and forgiveness.
We have been way too busy coming up with reasons not too love and forgive. Too continue with this madness is not an option.
Yours in Surfing Love and Life