I was a little distracted yesterday and someone kept telling me to ‘pay attention’. So lost was I that instead of getting my mind back to the topic at hand, I got fixated on the idea of attention and started wondering what it was.
I remember reading somewhere that attention is ‘concentrated consciousness’. Does that mean consciousness is a quantity and not a quality? If consciousness is, as some say, an emergent property that arises from the interaction of physical components like the nervous system and brain pathways, then it is very probably a quality. But if we manage to get our head around the idea of consciousness as a quantity, then perhaps it is not very different from what has been called the soul or spirit or jeevatma — an object (however immaterial) that leaves the body behind at the time of death.
Either way, when I am aware of the world around me, and aware of the fact that I am aware, and capable of reflecting on matters pertaining to existence — including but not limited to the question of why I or anything else exists — I am exercising attention.
And speaking of spirit or life force, I think that until such time as science manages to bring people back from the dead, death itself will remain good enough proof of the existence of the fact that something leaves the body when people die. If the human body is a bunch of components working together to create and sustain what we call life, then all that would be required to get it working again would be — for lack of a better word — repairs.
Death due to a faulty heart? Replace and be back to work the next day. Disease eroding your innards? Replace said innards with artificial piping and walk away.
But even though I am oversimplifying, things aren’t quite as simple as that. There is a point beyond which bodies can’t be repaired. Something… call it life force, energy, or atma… leaves us and doesn’t come back. Once the point we consider death is passed, rot sets in and the body grows ever more irreparable with each passing moment.
So if consciousness (which I started writing about before engaging in spectacular digression) may simply be that which leaves us at the time of death. If it is a quality, then it melts away like so many other faculties. If it is a quantity, then perhaps it exists independent of the body it used to occupy.
I think I am still distracted. I have no idea what the text above is about.