Thursday, January 05, 2006

Holding time

At the end of his book A History of the Mind, Nicholas Humphrey writes: "For it is consciousness, with its power to make the vanishing instant of physical time live on as the felt moment of sensation, that makes it LIKE SOMETHING TO BE OURSELVES -- and so sweetens and enriches the being of the external world FOR US." (his emphasis)

Surely, this is the miracle of consciousness: that it takes a vanishing instant and holds it in mind. And a succession of vanishing instants that it holds in the mind as an event. And indeed an entire lifetime of vanishing instants that consciousness holds in the mind as a self.

There is a collective aspect of consciousness too. Storytelling allows moments of held sensation to be transferred from one person to another, and from one generation to another. The invention of writing made possible the dissemination of stored instants of sensation far beyond the limits of spoken language. And now, with the googly universe of the internet we have achieved something very like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's noosphere, a shared consciousness of humankind that exists independently of any one mind, but which potentially exists as an extension of every mind. This blog unites visitors from as far away as Australia, Fiji and Japan. A myriad of vanished instants of individual sensation -- fished from the unstoppable river of time and held firm, made available to all to sweeten and enrich the experience of being human.