Awareness comes first. Within awareness, a world emerges by way of our senses, a world in which we interact. We experience this world; we have sensations, feelings, and thoughts — pushing and pulling our behavior to gain energy, survive, keep life going, while avoiding pain or damage. Our world then moves to a different level. As humans, our superior ability to conceptualize allows us to label, sort, evaluate, and communicate our experience. This ability leads to feeling the push and pull toward and away from the symbols. These have personal meaning; stories are attached to them. The same emotions that we feel toward immediate threats and rewards are now attached to symbolic threats and rewards. We are “imagineers” able to envision an alternative world; we can change and mold our environment to better suit us. This is living.
What do we need to go on living? What can end our lives? Each of us is unique — ourselves a point of view. The interplay of experiencing needs, wants, and vulnerabilities shape our unique behavioral patterns; a sense of self forms. We interact with others and encounter their uniqueness; we feel emotions in response to their differences. Our conceptual ability allows us to make meaning of our patterns and theirs. We form a concept that represents us as distinct from them. This feeling of separateness encourages us to fight for life, go on living. It pushes us to take care of our particular organism and helps us create a story from one point of view. More and more labels, concepts, and abstractions coalesce; the stories flow forth. Our stories are biased and skewed because our perspective is so immediate, subjective, and powerful. The knowledge of other perspectives is much less clear; it is filtered and indirect. We find it very difficult to ignore our perspective or our needs, wants, and fears. This is living.
We are aware of many of our actions before they happen; we feel in charge, like managers operating equipment, but as us there is only life freely flowing. Life is an amazing flow, manifesting itself in myriad ways. We are participants blessed with awareness of life, blessed with a sense of being — “I am.” It feels like life is happening to us rather than as us. We conceive a very real world ‘outside’ that is distinct and separate from us, but we are inextricably parts of a whole. While the whole emerges within awareness, it feels without. Others experience a world out there too. Aided and enflamed by language, stories, and experimentation, consensual stories develop about the world. We feel compelled to know this world, to understand it, to manipulate it as if from outside it. Where did life come from? How does this world work? What is it made of? Our exploration reveals that it is far bigger than we ever imagined — and tinier — made up of stranger and stranger bits and flows. These constituent parts are not solid; are they even real? Are they bits of stuff, or are they more akin to thought? We know thought can create a world, but can bits? All we know is life is, and this is living.