Friday, April 03, 2015

C is for Consciousness

April A-to-Z: must-read books

Neuropath (2008)
By Scott Bakker
(1967-) Ontario

People have read Neuropath, plot-wise a horror story of sorts, and said it changed their whole perception of the human mind and that it was a very creepy experience. When I read the book, it was a profound joy.

The story is creepy at times, yes, but the meat of this book is not contained in the plot. It is in all the state-of-the-art testimony from the neuroscience community which Bakker shares; the tidbits of scientific learning which suggest rather unarguably that we human beings are extremely mistaken about what we human beings are.

And while he presents most of this testimony in rather a poor light, that we should find these discoveries disturbing, it is possible (and more appropriate, I suggest) to view these discoveries from a much more joyful perspective. For, to know thyself is extremely empowering. To know thyself, or rather, the genuine nature of the human brain, especially within the greater context of the nature of life itself, is to understand the amazing thrilling potential of the human being and our potential effect on the universe, and to understand the great hurdles that have detained us just inches from the starting block of conscious evolution, and to manifest great capacities for pity and forgiveness, and to see much deeper through the veil of illusions which blanket our society.

What Bakker may not realize, is that these discoveries are not new. Poets have described these precise realities for hundreds of years, but in different terminology. As someone who was able to access those poetic ideas only after indulging in introspective self-discovery at great length, it is always joyful to find consolidation in literature, but what a find indeed, to see that the science community is now agreeing wholeheartedly with ancient poets. Now if only they realized it. If only the population at large would realize it. What great change might that inspire?

This is a must-read book for anyone who, like Neo from The Matrix, feels innately that there is something not quite real about the world, or perhaps, about yourself.

A passage:

“The world is on the brink, Goodbook. I’m simply the first to cross over.”
Thomas knew what he was talking about, but for some reason found himself pretending otherwise. “Brink. What brink?”
Neil wasn’t buying. “Is it the kids?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are they the reason?”
“The reason for what?”
“The reason you moved back to Disney World?”
The confusion, the double-take disorientation, evaporated, and Thomas suddenly felt focused, the way only whiskey and outrage could make possible. “You’re drunk, Neil. Leave them out of this.”
Disney world was their pet term for the world as understood by the masses, one papered over with conceit after comforting conceit. A world anchored in psychological need rather than physical fact. A world with a billion heroes and happy endings, where the unknown was irrelevant and confronting your own weaknesses was the breakfast of losers.
“You know, I find it hard to remember what it’s like living with one foot in both worlds. To know, on the one hand, that paternal love is simply nature’s way of duping us into perpetuating our genes—“
“It’s not duping… Look, Neil, you’re really starting to piss me—“
“Not duping? Hmm. Then tell me, why do you love your son?”
“Because he’s my son.”
“And that’s an explanation?”
Thomas had glared at his friend. “That’s the only one I need.”

“Evolution wouldn’t have it any other way,” Neil had said. “It takes a lot of commitment to raise a child to reproductive age.”
Thomas tossed back his shot, clenched his teeth in revulsion and dismay. What the fuck was going on?
“Because you love your kids,” Neil continued, “you expend tremendous resources on them, you train them, feed them, protect them, you would even die for them. You do all the things that your genes just happen to require, and for reasons that have nothing to do with the harsh realities of natural selection.” Neil frowned, leaned back into the cushions. He hooked his toes on the coffee table. “And that’s not duping?”
“They’re just different descriptions of the same thing,” Thomas said. “Different angles.”

Neil reached out to pour them two more shots of whisky. “I guess you have no choice,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“To rationalize. To set up shop in Disney World.”
Thomas shook his head. “Look. Neil. All this stuff was great in college. I mean we were soooo radical, even in Skeat’s class, mopping the floor with lit majors, freaking people out around the bong…” A pained grimace. “But now? C’mon. Give it a rest.”

Neil was watching him carefully. “That doesn’t make it any less real, Goodbook.” He gestured to the TV, where lines of Muscovites stretching out into a haze of grey snow shared the screen with talking heads and warm studio lighting. “Just look. It’s ending, just as Skeat said it would. No virulent pandemic, no mass environmental collapse, no thermonuclear Armageddon, just mobs and mobs of people, hominids pretending to be angels, clutching at rules that don’t exist, feeding, fighting, fucking…” 


S. L. Hennessy said...

I love Neo from The Matrix so it sounds like something I'd find interesting.

Good luck with the 2015 A to Z Challenge!
A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy

IntrepidReader said...

Your posts have a way of making me want to run to the library and borrow them all. This one I find especially intriguing because of it's relevance to us now.