consciousness is a quantity

In response to the recent posting on ‘how wisdom works’ I received the following comment from a dear friend of mine:

“I question whether people always do the best they can? I think in a lot of cases they could manage a lot better but choose to act badly anyway”.

It is a legitimate question given that we do not have to look far to see people who are behaving in ways that could be better – particularly when they would seem old enough to know better.

Whenever we think or act we are doing so with some degree of consciousness present. Consciousness is essential for existence. If we are not conscious we cannot exist as individuals, nor can we think or act. Therefore consciousness is the basis of all cognitions.  And we cannot take action without some cognitive activity. No consciousness, no thinking. No thinking, no action.

Consciousness or awareness (same thing) is a quantity – some people have a lot of it, others seemingly very little. If our consciousness cup is full and overflowing then the thoughts and subsequent actions will be powerful and appropriate because they are coming from a place of 100% awareness. In that state we will be able to access the full range of our mental and creative potential.
However if our consciousness cup is say, 50% full, then the thoughts and subsequent actions will be 50% powerful, 50% appropriate, 50% successful because they are coming from a place of limited awareness.

A good analogy for this is to think of a 100 watt light bulb. When it is shining brightly without any obstruction or interference the full intensity and power of the light is available. If, over time, the bulb becomes dusty and covered in layers of dirt then it is no longer able to shine to its full potential. Perhaps it now only has the strength of a 40 watt bulb.

Consciousness exists – it permeates everyone of us – it’s simply a question of how much of that full potential are we accessing? All sorts of things can get in the way of us accessing our full potential. The big ones are: unfulfilled desires, stress, fatigue, injury, toxins (eg drugs and chemical pollutants) and distorted memories from past events. They all get in the way of us thinking and acting in the best way in a given situation.

When someone behaves in a way that is inappropriate, it is a function of how much awareness they have access to. They may know deep down inside that there is a better, more evolved way to act. However if in that moment they are unable to access enough consciousness because they are in the grip of a stressed, tired and unbalanced nervous system, they end up behaving in a way that appears ignorant. They may be aware at some level that the tenth dunkin’ donut is not good for them, however if they are locked into a stress response, they might act out of some fear, anger or sadness, only to regret it later.

So, yes, people are always doing the best they can, given their state of consciousness. When we see someone behaving in a way that is not appropriate we are getting a snapshot of their state of consciousness in that moment. Even if they seem to choose to behave in a way that is not great, that choice is determined by the amount of awareness they are able to access. When consciousness is very limited they will not even seem to be making a choice – they will simply be in reaction mode.

Before or after the event they may be able to intellectually reason their way into a more evolved response. However in the moment they are always going be bound by the more fundamental aspect of consciousness. When we look around us we can see that on average, many people could do better – this will only happen if and when they have more awareness.