Friday, August 24, 2012

Walk through Churchville Nature Center

When I walk through the Churchville Nature Center, I feel surrounded by trees who are dark, conscious,sentient beings. I feel like a watching me like they're guarding me like there around the menu of them have very dark bark now because it's just me and the trees.  The native Lenape Indians had many of the same feelings when they endowed trees and animals with spirit.

Tree - leaf canopy
Tree - leaf canopy (Photo credit: blmiers2)

As my vision improves, being more aware of space and the relationships that living plants and creatures have towards one another and to myself starts to make me wonder about spirituality and consciousness of life forms.  Serious evolutionary neuroscientists are talking about social organization and consciousness in the animal kingdom, not quite human consciousness to be sure, but a definite sense of awareness and connectedness.  They are even positing a sort of consciousness without a nervous system for the plant world.

Maybe the Indian were right--that we are living in a world of Beings.   This idea is not so far fetched as  you think. On July 7,   the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was signed by a group of leading cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologiests, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomist and computational neuroscientists  at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals.

The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

I think this Declaration of Consciousness can provide the foundation of a Declaration of Rights for Life within the ecological movement... that all life is created with certain unalienable rights. If there is consciousness then it is a grave sin to disturb consciousness.  Maybe the Hindus and Buddhists have it right after all.

I think also, in a very local fashion, to tie the consciousness back to the original human beings, the Lenape, who inhabited this region.  That their acknowledgement of the beings of the animal world helps us who are know living here.  Maybe by being more acutely aware of relationships within the world around me  by my improved vision brings makes me wonder how higher order functions of the brain such as consciousness are impacted by a change in how one views the world.
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