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  • Vojislava Liversage

We call ourselves conscious

At the risk of sounding like a narrator of a wildlife programme: Let's observe a lioness briefly. She wakes up and stretches her limbs because she knows this will help her move better after being still for a while. She starts scanning her surroundings for danger before she even opens her eyes, by smelling and listening. It's safe - she relaxes. Her stomach sends a signal to her brain that she needs to start planning her next meal. She starts walking in the direction where she believes she will find food. All the while, she is only in any present moment, that's all she is capable of. This "limitation" to her brain's ability means that she can fully focus on her senses and what they are picking up. This is how she detects a potential enemy in a pack of hyenas and makes sure she avoids them. This is how she finds food. This is how she survives.

I have heard it, and I have said it: What's the point of surviving if you're not living? Humans believe in fulfillment, in having a purpose of life. The arogance of our species lies in the fact that we believe that we are the ones - and the only ones - with this special role. Out of all the species that lived and died on our planet alone, we believe that we are the ones. Our preoccupation with ourselves is our limitation. We cannot see beyond our own experience of ourselves and the world around us. And because this individual experience is the only reference we have, of course that we feel special, we feel chosen, we feel uniquely important and alone at the same time.

I, just like the lioness we observed, can only smell with my own nose, can only see through my own eyes. Therefore, what I smell and see is the only reality that I recognise. The difference between the lioness and me is that she doesn't spend her whole life trying to make sense of what she experiences. She is happy for it to just be what it is. Her reality is defined by her needs: she feels hunger so her reality becomes looking for food; she feels tired so her reality becomes getting some sleep; she finds herself in danger so her reality becomes fighting or running to survive.

It begs the question: which one of us is living more fully (if an acceptable definition of living is: experiencing life as it is in any given moment)? I, the philosopher looking for patterns, mystical signs, scientific explanations and spiritual meaning in every moment, or the lioness, fully emerged in her senses - in her experience of her life?

What came up for me after this thinking is that accepting my own limitations sounds like a defeat at first, but when you look closer, it is a gift to self. I take this box of wonders that are my senses, my abilities, my full potential - it is a box full of wonder. I have tried to look outside of this box for more, I wasn't happy to settle for what is in the box. Maybe because I was taught that I, as a human, should be special - and maybe I didn't feel special, maybe I felt like I just am, much like the lioness. So I kept looking and searching outside of my box of who I am, for this special something that will finally make me whole. And all this time I missed many moments of my life that I could only have experienced by using what is already in my box of who I am. It is so simple, and easy, and it has always been there.


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