I promised I was going to talk about shifting consciousness this Philosophy Friday, but I’ve realized there’s something else I need to talk about first, namely, what is consciousness?

I don’t claim to be a philosopher. I’ve never studied it, nor even read very much about it. I just think a lot. Quite possibly there is a proper philosophical definition of consciousness, but if there is, I don’t know it, so please forgive my ignorance.

I would define “consciousness” as self-awareness, or the way that we perceive ourselves, or the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are. And I believe that this can change.

As an example, there is my personal story. I used to believe that I could never be an adventurer. Adventurers were almost a different species, those steely-eyed, square-jawed bearded men who sailed around the world, conquered mountains and trekked to north and south poles. I was short, unathletic, and not particularly brave. And not a man.

Then one day my story changed. I met a woman who had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, completing it alone because her six-foot-five, athletic husband was unable to cope psychologically with ocean life and had to be rescued from the boat just two weeks into the crossing. This woman was no taller than I was. Suddenly it dawned on me that the size of my physique mattered less than the size of my self-belief. My internal story changed.

What about our collective story? There are things that we humans tell ourselves about who we are and what we need that may not necessarily be true. Some of these ideas that we have absorbed into our collective self-concept used to serve us well when times were different – for example, that we need to have as many children as possible – but are now ripe to be re-evaluated.

Another example is the belief that we need constant economic growth, but is that really true? If we are not sure whether or not it is true, let’s take a different tack; does this belief serve us well? Does it make us happy? Does it make the world a better place? If not, then would a different belief serve us better?

We are often afraid to let go of the “old” way of doing things, because that is all we have ever known. We act as we do because we don’t realize we have a choice. But we do. We have free will. We might feel trapped by the myth of perpetual economic growth, or the perceived need for more stuff, more money. But these are all things that we have created. And we can un-create them. We have built our own cage, but we also have the key to the door. It is a leap of faith to try a new world order – but starting is the hardest part. Once we’ve taken that first step, and tested it to see if it works, subsequent steps will become easier.

Examples already exist of ways of living that don’t focus on materialism. At the time of writing I am directly south of Bhutan, famous for its concept of Gross National Happiness. Now there’s an idea worth spreading…

…which brings me on to how we get everybody to buy into the new consciousness. But that’s for next week.

Other Stuff:

Another day on the Indian Lake today. While waiting for the wind to help me across the current, I finished the general rearrangement and reordering of the boat. Sedna is now as shipshape as it is possible for a ship to be, without recourse to a chandlery. I feel more than ready to start rowing again now, just as soon as the wind shows up. Hello? Wind? Anybody there?

Thanks for the great comments on my state of dishevelment. Thankfully I now feel much more hevelled. We have hevelment in abundance. I was especially encouraged by the comments from Rico, Matt and Anna.

Doc Klein – good to hear from you! I kept thinking of Asheville when I was listening to “Drums of Autumn”, as it was set in North Carolina. Happy memories. Best wishes to you and your niece.

Dan – your adventure in South America sounds amazing. Very “Motorcycle Diaries”.

Stan – I know what you mean about “Eaarth”. I enjoyed its honesty. No sugar-coating. Just “here’s how it is”, followed by “and here’s how best to deal with it”. Some people might find it depressing, but I quite relish the prospect of change. For sure, we need it!

Photo: Getting shipshape on the Indian Lake

We must believe in free will. We have no choice.
(Isaac Bashevis Singer)

Sponsored Miles: Thank you Christopher Senn for helping Roz to claw back some of her lost miles. Roz is now just six miles short of her previous best distance.

21 Comments

  • getting down to the nitty-gritty now: who has not wondered why, between the Ocean & the Sky? sea craft & ships, make one wiser, tho we drift on wave & wind, the skill is that of keeping course, to fail in that is to have “sinned”.  Here, Winter bites.

  • As it’s Philosophy Friday, and in the interest of balance (yin and yang, and all that sort of stuff), I offer up a suitably dark quote from my self-published fiction book called “A-Version” to balance Singer’s positive vibe:

    Free Will.

    Is it an illusion we hold on to
    as we live our lives, or does it really exist? Ultimately, it may be the
    question itself that is flawed, for what good is free will if we have an
    aversion to all our choices?

  • With ever increasing population we need to have a kind of continuing economic growth just to insure that everyone has enough to satisfy basic needs and I do mean needs not wants. Where the system goes awry is when it’s a selfish free for all where everyone tries to amass more than ones neighbor. In this case economic growth does not improve the lot of humankind, it just makes the fat cats fatter.

    The dilemma is how to grow enough economy, food, basic goods and shelter, to meet the expanding population without that growth continuing to enrich a few while the majority of the population goes without. 

  • MAHALO ROZ!   love your words… Gross National Happiness… lets go for that… sendiing energy and peace from Oregon….

  • Has anyone heard of the Hunger Project? They made studies in the 1980’s that said there was enough food on earth to feed everyone and that people and politics are what prevents the end of hunger in  the world. Bravo for GNH Gross National Happiness. 

  • Hi Roz.

    To me, philosophy seems more a state of mind rather than a talent or skill.   A person can can study, and discipline philosophy all their life, and never become a true philosopher.

    Philosophy needs time-out meditation – musing – to function properly and produce reflective quality.

    Adverse conditions, or repetitious – routine – action stokes philosophic insights.   Excellent conditions for you while pondering.   enjoy, evaluate, blog.   Your truthful insights are priceless. 

    You Rock while you Roll.   😉

  • Roz, I have no idea what you were doing at 2 am PT on the Winter Solstice 2004 (10 am GMT) other than perhaps contemplating your upcoming 37th birthday, but I was lying awake, unemployed, worrying … and decided in those wee hours of the morning that it was not more Business-As-Usual for me.  At age 57 I decided to make a significant changes in my lifestyle and career. It wasn’t so much an instantaneous change in consciousness, but an affirmation of what I had been predisposed to for quite some time. I had reached a tipping point, I suppose, and a “butterfly flapped her wings.”  I have never been more happy since that early morning, one in which I did not sleep the the rest of the night.  And since I met you in May 2009, you have given me strength and encouragement to pursue my unknown and evolving path.  Thank you again and again for verbalizing so eloquently, sensibly and humorously what is so obvious.

    On a less philosophical note, is that a plumber’s helper on your seat!?

    Does Sedna have plumbing?  What is there to get clogged?

    There is a boat sturdy called Sedna
    Whose mate she does rarely siesta 
    She has no latrine
    And is very green
    And doesn’t need help from a plummah

    Row plumbly, Roz!

  • I am glad to hear that the ocean has quieted herself and am hoping for fair winds and current to come your way soon. So sorry about the IPod comment, I was trying to find a positive in the negative for you. Of course, my longest time at sea is only 32 days and I had a fully functioning iPod throughout. I also forgot that you were in the midst fof a Gabaldon book! So as my penalty for not properly cheering you up, I sponsored some miles to send you and Sedna some positive energy. I do miss the Sedna tracker to better visualize your progress and the vastness of the ocean, but I fully understand the reason for not having it up this time. Again, thank you for your inspiration! Shana. X

  • Roz,
    Cheers from Emerald Hills! We are getting a solar system installed! The costs have come down and electricity keeps going up. Time for everyone to reconsider solar if they live in an appropriate climate. Every little bit helps. We shall call it our Roz Power!
    Love and hugs, Karen

  • In (part) answer to your question, Roz: No, we don’t need economic growth, but without it we wouldn’t have ipods or cell phones, or any sort of phone for that matter. No computers, either. It’s economic growth that gives us the leisure to follow you on your adventures and allows you to go on those adventures.

    We (at least some of us) know what the problem is. What we don’t know is what solution would work, how to implement it, how soon we could tell whether it actually works and what to do if it fails and makes matters worse.

    Sorry to seem pessimistic, but it’s hard to find any example of a major change implemented successfully without causing other problems – the Mongol invasion of Western Europe, French Revolution, China’s “Great Leap Forward”, Hitler’s solution, India/Pakistan partition, European Union….

    I’m always on your side, Roz; just trying to be realistic. Arousing people’s interest in the problem – as you do so well – is a good start but leaves us frustrated about what we can actually do apart from demanding that someone else does something.

  • Roz, thank you for your blog today!!  Your words are very timely for me. 
    Love the photo btw.   Amazing how much “stuff” you have on Sedna.

  • Interesting news on global warming:

    LONDON, July 5, 2011 (Reuters) — Smoke belching from Asia’s rapidly growing economies is largely responsible for a halt in global warming in the decade after 1998 because of sulfur’s cooling effect, even though greenhouse gas emissions soared, a U.S. study said on Monday.

    The paper raised the prospect of more rapid, pent-up climate change when emerging economies eventually crack down on pollution.

    World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show.

    The researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities and Finland’s University of Turku said pollution, and specifically sulfur emissions, from coal-fueled growth in Asia was responsible for the cooling effect.

    Sulfur allows water drops or aerosols to form, creating hazy clouds which reflect sunlight back into space.

    “Anthropogenic activities that warm and cool the planet largely cancel after 1998, which allows natural variables to play a more significant role,” the paper said.

    Natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle after 2002, meaning the sun’s output fell.

    The study said that the halt in warming had fueled doubts about anthropogenic climate change, where scientists say manmade greenhouse gas emissions are heating the Earth.

    “It has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008,” said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

    A peak in temperatures in 1998 coincided with a strong El Nino weather event, a natural shift which brings warm waters to the surface of the Pacific Ocean every few years.

    • Yes, very interesting … REALLY SCARY.  Dr. James Hansen’s NASA GISS team and other climatologists have been studying and writing about it for quite a while.  For those who are not up on NASA GISS work, this should give pause for thought. Sulfur, soot, solar cycles and El Nino temporarily masking the true impact of increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.  Thanks for posting, John!

      Google produced http://bit.ly/rpDCQA

      Asia pollution blamed for halt in warming: study
      NewsDaily.com | 2011/07/05 | Gerard Wynn

      The second half of the article continues:

      Subsequent years have still included nine of the top 10 hottest years on record, while the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said 2010 was tied for the record.

      A U.N. panel of climate scientists said in 2007 that it was 90 percent certain that humankind was causing global warming.

      COAL

      Sulfur aerosols may remain in the atmosphere for several years, meaning their cooling effect will gradually abate once smokestack industries clean up.

      The study echoed a similar explanation for reduced warming between the 1940s and 1970s, blamed on sulfur emissions before Western economies cleaned up largely to combat acid rain.”

      The post 1970 period of warming, which constitutes a significant portion of the increase in global surface temperature since the mid 20th century, is driven by efforts to reduce air pollution,” it said.

      Sulfur emissions are linked to coal consumption which in China grew more than 100 percent in the decade to 2008, or nearly three times the rate of the previous 10 years, according to data from the energy firm BP.

      Other climate scientists broadly supported Monday’s study, stressing that over longer time periods rising greenhouse gas emissions would over-ride cooling factors.”

      Long term warming will continue unless emissions are reduced,” said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at Britain’s Met Office.

      ###

      Seems the study and Mr. Wynn are sending wrong messages and casting doubt in a couple of instances by a poor choice of words. We must be vigilant and critical readers.

      • This report is very well written … http://bit.ly/niblR5
        “Sulfur stalls surface temperature rise” -ScienceNews.org

        This is even easier to understand … http://bit.ly/niblR5
        “Global Warming Pause Linked to Sulfur in China” -Boston University

    • I found the study itself at http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/pnas-1998-2008.pdf

      Reuters misrepresented it.  E.g. the study referred to the named interval as a “hiatus in warming” mitigated (in part) by “short-lived sulfur emissions”.  The news agency turned this hiatus into a “halt in global warming” and dropped the words “short-lived” that qualified the effects of the sulfur, leaving the reader with the false impression that sulfur remains in the atmosphere as long as CO2, and could therefore continue to “cancel” its effects as long as China continued to burn dirty coal.

      Both the study and the Reuters account did the general public a disservice in failing to note that elevated atmospheric CO2 (which continued to rise all this time) causes problems other than global warming, e.g. ocean acidification.

      • Good explanation, Christopher! I just read Joe’s assessement which validates what I was thinking. http://bit.ly/RommAssesses

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