The Voices of Consciousness
I have been reading a lot about ancient Egyptian funerary practices. For me it’s not so much about death, but what life is. In that tradition to be alive is to be many things.
There is a nice entry on this on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_conception_of_the_soul).
I can’t say if this list is true or not in the details, but in the concept it is. To be alive is to be many things – and what more true expression of being alive is our sense of consciousness. It is that self-awareness that makes us feel alive. Without it what would we be feeling? Hunger, lust, cold, anger, all passing through and on with no notice or commentary or even the opportunity to question or revel. The passing passions that any creature of appetite or movement could feel. The life of the conscious could never be just sated acceptance, it seems bound up with discontent. The peaceful and placid require no conscious awareness of their state. Consciousness lives on the horizon. It is always a distant, beckoning vista. Turn your head up to the stars, wander away from the crowd, get lost with no desire to find your way back to whatever it was that made you feel dead in the present.
That restless conscious mind is not self-sustaining. It could slip back into indifference, but what sustains it is the greatest gift we have: creativity. The horizon of the horizon. It is not “I think therefor I am”, but “I create therefor I become”. If we examine the fossil record of our species we only become human when we begin to create – the most basic expression being a tool – the most sublime being art. The art of Lascaux and Chauvet speak to us in the ancient language of conscious mind. We see it and we immediately see ourselves, human, conscious, creative, filled with wonder at our world and ourselves. The caves of Lascaux and Chauvet are the birth certificates of the consciousness. Before that we are just the animals of all past animals, no difference at all between us and the horse or antelope. A beast has but a single voice. The voice of day-to-day existence. But when creativity arises the voice of the mind splits, we can now regard that piece of ourselves that we pulled out of ourselves. The manifestation of creativity is there at the tip of our fingers. This other thing that has divided us. We review it, it excites an internal discussion of what we have done, why we did it, is it good, and where did it come from? Will it outlive us? Will it speak to others? Will it remind them of me? What does it speak back to me? Does it know something of me that I do not know of myself? Who is asking these questions? Who are they talking to? How many voices? How many watching perspectives behind my eyes?
So that is what life is. My life. My mind. The internal voices of consciousness. Only a portion of which speaks in words, others, more ancient, speak in pictures like my distant ancestors. They speak in objects of creation. In music. In motion. So many and when each one is awakened, others awake too. One act of creation begets another, a painting creates music, a dance creates sculpture, the artist become more than himself, creation creating a consciousness that gets deeper and wider and more wonderful. A beautiful wilderness that reveals more and more as discovery progresses. And at the end, in death, like the Egyptians, does all that mind disappear? To become an empty skull like ruins in the desert? Or is there some tiny voice of that consciousness that continues? Like the Egyptian ba, a tiny bird with a memory of all that was best in me. Taking flight, onward, beyond the horizon, beyond the darkness.