Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 5. Awareness (1)
Mt 16:2 He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,”
We have been considering, in fairly general terms, what it means to be a sentient being. We are alive and active; we are sensitive to the things around us… STOP! We must focus on this thought. There are very basic creatures that do not have a nervous system. They can react to external stimuli, but it is just that, purely reaction. We speak of ourselves as ‘conscious’, meaning we have awareness of ourselves and the things around us. We don’t merely react to what is around us (although we do this sometimes) but our consciousness means that not only do we see things, and sense things around us, but we have a sense of meaning in respect of those things.
Pharisees and Sadducees came and asked Jesus for a sign and he replied in our starter verse above, and then added, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (v.3) Part of this consciousness that we have been speaking about involves ‘interpreting’ what we sense or see before us. This happens both physiologically (the working of the cells of our bodies) and psychologically (how our mind translates what we see).
So, for example, when light hits the retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye), cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals which then travel from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain turns the signals into the images that we ‘see’. So we ‘see’ an image of what is before us. Now, depending on what we have learnt in life, our mind reacts to this image. A massive heaving giant ant-heap shouts danger to us. A glass of our favourite drink speaks pleasure to us. Much of what we see doesn’t evoke emotions in us, so my computer screen before me neither creates fear or pleasure, but they do present opportunities to us, so my computer screen invites me to use the computer for a variety of actions, writing, searching for information etc.
Now here’s another twist in this consciousness-awareness consideration: we can choose how to respond to what is before us, so we don’t need to automatically react to something, we can choose to change our feelings about it I need to pray: “Father, thank you for the wonderful being that you have made me to be, a being with this consciousness, this awareness of life all around me. Please help me to be more aware of the wonder of the world you have given us and allow that wonder to be translated into thanks and praise. Help me to be appreciative and positive in respect of this world and this life you have given us. Amen.”