Friday, October 29, 2010

The Transmuting Phantom and its Ephemeral Existence – Part I

This post is about a chain of thoughts that almost made me let myself run over by a car.

I believe that one must brood upon and create ideas that one may not be otherwise required to. Being the (ostensibly) only living species that possesses the wherewithal to rationalize and philosophize, man is not only privileged but is also obligated to do so. Otherwise, one might as well be replaced by an animal or a robot (which will, by the way, pretty soon develop such faculties).

Coming back to “the” thought chain, it was a progeny of a conversation with one of my close friends. For the sake of this post, that friend shall be referred to as BMP2. The seminal conversation occurred largely in the most unexceptional fashion. However, it led to a major shift in my perception of BMP2. Later on, a retrospect on the outcome of the conversation led to “the” thought chain.

Before elaborating on the thought chain, a short discourse on my hypothesis of life. What is life? It is not, and I don’t expect too many dissents on this, just a corporeal operational system – the living body - inhabiting and serving a customary purpose in a co-operative societal setup. Consciousness. This is a word that is too often used (and even abused) for describing the core essence of life. What, then, is consciousness? It is the reply to this question that I will take a (rather juvenile and jejune) shot at giving.

Consciousness is plainly the cumulation of memories of different experiences. Here and during the remaining of this deliberation, I use the word experience interchangeably with perception of the experience. A new experience might react with, instantaneously or over a longer duration, other experiences in ways that alter one or more memories incurably. For example, an event “a” might be experienced by an individual “X” in a way a-X. Therefore, X’s consciousness is the set {a-X}. With the termination of X, the unique sub rosa set {a-X}, completely owned by and defining only X, ceases to exist. Hence {a-X} perishes with the death of X. This could explain why people write autobiographies. An autobiography could be X’s attempt to share and materialize {a-X} in a perdurable fashion. Such a venture, if successful, would result in sustained existence of {a-X} which is the definition and form of the person X. This points to X’s voyage in man’s eternal quest for immortality.

For a person Y such a set would be {a-Y}. The possibilities and permutations abound. The sets {a-X} and {a-Y} might have common elements. An element of one set might, directly or indirectly, influence an element of the other set. A new element of a set, apart from being added to the set, might alter the already existing elements of the set. In this aspect, such sets are dynamic and inter- & intra- dependant. Now, a lot of challenges and brickbats might be thrust upon this theory. Children, animals, artificial intelligence, nature, supreme consciousness, dreams are just some of the many entities from our immediate milieu, the justification and resolution of which demand a vigorous scrutiny of this theory. However, in the interest of the current context, I reserve such scrutiny for future time. In the meanwhile, I will have to be humoured by the prima facie acceptance of this theory.

Now, “the” thought chain. The conversation contained a particular soliloquy from BMP2 that changed markedly my perception of BMP2. So, my memory of the experience “BMP2” was altered irrevocably in one go. Though this was a drastic and glaring change in my consciousness, it pointed towards changes that often go unnoticed. These numerous, and very often unheeded, subtle metamorphoses occur in my, and for that matter in everyone’s, consciousness every second of our supraliminal existence. This implies a ceaseless modification in one’s consciousness during the course of one’s existence. Such modifications might have a somnolent tinge or might, in other cases, be accentuated.

What does the recognition of such a continuous change connote? Well, a lot. The first idea that germinated in my sciolistic mind was the futility of judging people. My perception of people, of whom I have a perception, mutates every passing moment. I might or might not be consciously aware of such mutations. Also, there is a possibility that after several modifications, I might come back a full circle – arriving at a particular perception of a person that had already existed in the past. In light of the ever-transmuting nature of this phantom, passing judgment on a person based on the prevailing perception is futile, if not wrong. Whether such estimates, an apt alternative to the word ‘judgment’, are required under certain circumstances or not is a different question.

Resorting to the set representation, my consciousness at some time “t” would be {a-Me-t}. Each element of this set is modified, to varying degrees, with each passing moment. At time t’ my consciousness would change into {a-Me-t'}. At time t, I might have utilized element ‘P-Me-t’ to form an opinion on a person P. At time t’, when P-Me-t would have developed into P-Me-t', I would realize that the earlier formed opinion has changed. So, the act of forming the opinion was an exercise in futility.

This thought is replete with logical inconsistencies and gaps. However, if the thought is accepted for a brief instant, an experiment that I carry out on myself with a lot of other thoughts, a liberating feeling surges. Many a knots, intricately wound together by grudges held against others, unravel.

The set representation of consciousness acted as a precedent to another thought, even more liberating. The proceeding thought was far-sweeping in the elements of life directly conflicted by it. This was the thought that almost made me let myself run over by a car. More on that later.