Sunday, April 10, 2011

Consciousness Raising Events

Good science education is providing experiences or information that raises people’s consciousness of the universe around them. It expands minds. Opens doors of understanding. Removes the scales from our eyes.

That got me thinking.

What are events in my life that didn't change the world around me, but did change the world within me--my perception of reality?

At this point, I should be clear in what I mean by ‘consciousness raising’. I don’t mean a synonym for enlightenment. I don’t mean anything like Gnosticism or Buddhism.

I think the distinction between learning and realizing is a helpful one. ‘Learning’, as I’m defining it, is the accumulation of dispassionate information--largely irrelevant factoids. ‘Realizing’, however, isn’t the addition of a new bit of information so much as it is that fact being real, personal, vivid, 3-D, palpable, first person, high def--experienced rather than just known about.

In no particular order here’s a list of thing that raised my consciousness (often much later looking back on them). I really, really, really want to hear yours. Please comment. Please message. I am fascinated by this topic (for the time being, hehe).


  • My appendix rupturing: It was there I accepted I shared a common ancestor with the great apes. This has changed much of how I see myself, psychology, my body, religion and who I am. 
  • Puberty: Feels weird to talk about it, but going through puberty was eye opening. I realized then what so many jokes, songs, movies, novels and TV shows were talking about. My body and my understanding of relationships forever changed.. 
  • Running marathons: This has shown me a number of things. It’s shown me how much eating right, resting, and exercise really does affect one’s body, health, mind and mood. I had known that, but with running I could feel it. What I did directly affected what I’d do on the track. Also, exercises has given me so, so much more energy and elevated my baseline mood. Didn’t know there was such a connection with what you do and how you’ll feel. 
  • Morphine Hallucinations: So, after coming out of appendix surgery I was on some pretty trippy stuff (I was really bad off. I have a six inch scar and was in the hospital for 8 days). It’s kind of a stretch to say that hallucinating raised my consciousness, but it does help me understand why people do drugs. I saw: a room filled with cotton candy, a bowling ball, cat/dog headed people, and I got trapped in a mushroom castle. Crazy. 
  • Had a seizure: Just one. I was watching Batman the cartoon as a kid and then suddenly my muscles seized up and I tried to call out, but my parents say that I was just moaning and sticking out my tongue. Haha. That experience helps me relate to people with brain conditions. So weird it happened just once. 
  • Teaching: I can think of a couple of times that I was so keyed up from teaching afterwards that I had trouble sleeping. Those events helped solidify what I want to do with my life. 
  • Kids: There was a time when my employer asked me to do as a volunteer what I used to be paid to do. Accepting the offer even though I felt insulted made me realize how much I really do love working with kids. 
  • Worship: I was radically affected by an experience of feeling what I perceived to be the presence of God. I truly felt at the time that I had my consciousness raised to a spiritual realm. 
  • China: Like no other place I’ve been to, China rocked my world. Everything is different there--toilets, door nobs, locks, side walks, curbs, tonal language (their entire language is one syllable words pronounced in strange ways--up, down, diphthong, flat inflections), pictorial written language (where you have to know ten thousand characters just to be able to read the news paper), they form questions by adding a tag word of ‘ma’ instead of bringing the tone up at the end like we do, the communist government, electronics, drastically different religion, vegetables, smells (When we walk into a store we’re used to smelling synthetic lavender or synthetic vanilla etc. but they have totally different flowers and fruits there so nothing seems normal. You walk into a store and it smells like a synthetic lychee fruit or some asian flower your nose has never experienced. Very weird.) and people just act, think, are motivated differently. The kicker is China is almost a quarter of the world’s population. Also, it was a big deal to me to experience that those 1.4 billion people don’t share my religion. I had known that, but seeing it was different. 
  • Language: Language is shaped by reality, but language also shapes our reality. You’ve heard of these examples--some cultures only have four numbers (one, two, three and many), some cultures only have two words for colors (hot colors and cold colors), and some cultures have something like 40 different words for the different types of snow (based on texture, appearance, temperature, etc.). Those are simple examples, but it can get much more complicated when languages have limited tenses, gendered nouns, verbs that describe whether the event happened once, repeatedly or a process over time. There are tribal languages that don’t have different tenses. That has to affect how they think of reality. Taking a Spanish and Greek opened my eyes to their world and by seeing theirs I saw my own. Words create worlds. 
  • Love: Loving another changes you. You want to be a better person. 
  • Mexico: I went to Reynosa, Mexico in high school to build homes. It was the whole, “I went there to change their lives, but they ended up changing mine,” experience. I had never seen that level of abject poverty before. The family that we built a house for lived in what couldn’t even be described as a shack. It was a accumulation of boards, scrap metal, sacks and tarps. It was dirt floor. They had no electricity. If they wanted water they had to walk 2 miles to a nasty river--the Rio Bravo. They used an out house. They couldn’t even afford the nominal fee the government charged to get a birth certificate so that their child could go to school (he was around ten and had never gone to school). Seeing that affected me. Made me realize that every American is rich. I was rich. Ever since then I have a personal conviction to never complain about things like gas prices or to take for granted the food, water, and electricity that I enjoy every waking moment of my day. 
  • Volunteering at Give Kids the World and going to a special needs foster home: I was probably around ten or twelve when a home school group my family was a part of went on a field trip to a special needs foster home. That was the first time I was around children my age with severe mental handicaps and severe disabilities. We were getting a tour of the facility and I remember the care taker taking us to one room where a young man spent the entire day moaning and screaming. Another room where a girl was nearly brain dead and who had no eyes. If there was any doubt as to whether she had eyes or not the care taker cleared that up by gently cradling her head and lifting one of her eye lids with her thumb. You could see the capillary filled back of her eye socket. That image was burned in my mind as a kid. It definitely affected me and until this day I remember it vividly. Subsequent volunteering at places like Give Kids the World, which give a magical vacation experience to families with children with terminal illnesses, cemented into my consciousness both the beauty of the people that give their lives in the service of loved ones and the level of suffering so many in the world experience. I’ve got it good. Really good. 
  • Tallahassee: This isn’t as big as many of the others, but still worth mentioning I think. It’s been great to move to Tallahassee, figure some things out about myself and see that I can support myself and make a great life on my own. That’s felt great. 
Nature of the Universe

  • Microscope: Seeing an amoeba for the first time collected from the scum pond water near my house was a transcendent moment for me as a kid. There’s a whole invisible world that is all around us. All the time. Right now. Look around. They’re there!! hehe 
  • Plane: I hope you can remember looking out the window of a plane for the first time. You realize how very, very, very, very, very small you are. And how the world is big than you can imagine. Yet also very small, too... 
  • Boat: It’s powerful to go so far on a boat you can’t see the shore any more and then realize that most of the world--70-75%ish--is exactly like that. Dirt and land are the minority exception. 
  • Snorkeling: When I can’t sleep and my mind is whizzing with thoughts I’ll often transport myself to my happy place--snorkeling off of Fort Lauderdale. There’s a whole new world down there and seeing it first hand has affected how I understand the Earth. 
  • Telescope: I was greatly affected by seeing the moons and bands of Jupiter and Saturn’s rings. Eye opening. Also, solar flares in a solar telescope. There’s just something about seeing it live and without a whole bunch of computers and processors; just seeing it with lenses and mirrors. 
  • Limestone quarry: I’ve been lucky enough to go to two limestone quarries. One in Aurora, NC and one near Arcadia, FL. It’s amazing to think about what is below our feet--billions of years of history, countless remains that whisper secrets of the past. It’s one thing to read that in a book; another thing to see the layers before your very eyes. 
  • Dissecting: Ya, it’s smelly and gross, but I unconsciously x-ray under my skin when I look at my body or have an ache or ailment. I owe that largely to dissecting as a kid with my mother’s biology class. 
  • Microbiology lab: I recently swabbed my own skin and then inoculated a petri dish with the critters that were growing on me. Wow. Just to see the different colors and growth patterns of the stuff on you is freaky. Really freaky. But also really neat. We’re never alone!

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Please comment! You can comment anonymously! Please send ideas and topics to research and post on!!!