During this year’s retreat I spent quite a bit of time thinking and studying about consciousness. In particular, I’m doing some work around evolutionary consciouisness, and the place of the human being in that ongoing development. Way too much to cover in a little blog, of course.
So here’s a little tidbit — sort of a doggie treat.
Anyone who owns a dog can tell you that canine consciousness is definitely real. The animal communicates through that consciousness as well as through action and voice. I was working in the kitchen when I noticed Simon sitting over in the corner where his food is kept and served, and where all his treats and chewing bones live. He had just been fed dinner, taken out, and given a treat for a “good performance” on his walk.
But Simon was unhappy.
That alone is unusual; Weimaraners are almost always in one of two states: boundlessly happy or asleep. But I could tell he was brooding just by looking at his eyes. Everything else appeared normal; he was just sitting there. But, oh, those eyes.
I went over to him, talked quietly and stroked his flank for a few minutes. Not that he wouldn’t have snarfed down more food or a treat had it been offered, but all he really wanted was that little bit of attention. When he’d had his fill, his eyes cleared and off he went for his evening nap.
Human concsiousness carries a tremendous responsibility. We seem to be uniquely poised as the part of creation currently charged with “housing” a particular consciousness that no other animal is as yet capable of displaying: we are self-aware. So far, we seem to be using that awareness in fairly immature, even destructive ways. But our evolutionary responsibility is to awaken to the development of consciousness itself.
Dog consciousness, on the other hand, seems to have developed in its own unique way. Dogs have some uncanny (though not to a dog, of course) abilities; they know when we’re sad, upset, angry — even if we’re manifesting complete calm. They know we’re on the way home, usually around fifteen to twenty minutes before we arrive. Add your own observations.
So if dogs and humans and probably most other creatures (and, come on admit it, even cats) have consciousness, what about plants? Science shows that plants respond to music, the human mood, moonshine (from the sky, not the still) … is there plant consciousness? How about trees? Rocks? Water? Air? Galaxies? The Universe?
There, that should stir up a little mental dust.