Thursday, November 18, 2010

From "The Moon By Whale Light," by Diane Ackerman

I'm reading this book that I happened to come across at the $1 book sale at the SF Public Library. It's an incredible book of non-fiction. I'm realizing that I can learn more about human nature by studying the way animals communicate with each other - the echolocation of bats, the dance of a crocodile and especially the singing of the Humpback whales. Here's an thought-provoking passage that I feel worth revisiting again and again:

"... mind is such an odd predicament for matter to get into. I often marvel how something like hydrogen, the simplest atom, forged in some early chaos of the universe, could lead to us and the gorgeous fever we call consciousness. If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, dream, and electric, how does it manage to contemplate itself, worry about its soul, do time-and-motion studies, admire the shy hooves of a goat, know that it will die, enjoy all the grand and lesser mayhems of the heart? What is mind, that one can be out of one's? How can a neuron feel compassion? What is a self? Why did automatic hand-me-down mammals like our ancestors somehow evolve brains with the ability to consider, imagine, project, compare, abstract, think of the future? If our experience of mind is really just the simmering of an easily alterable chemical stew, then what does it mean to know something, to want something, to be? How do you begin with hydrogen and end up with prom dresses, jealousy, chamber music? What is music that it can satisfy a mind, and even perhaps function as language?"

1 comment:

  1. I love this passage. Consciousness of self is a true phenomena, unexplainable in many ways.