Thursday, 3 July 2014


Continuing with my theme of human thinking, and before I go on to Belief, I wanted to do a short redux on the concept of Awareness. This is the very beginning of it all.

This is a far more difficult word than any of the others. One definition I found online was as follows:

Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human's or an animal's perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event.

Which means that even plants are aware. But human awareness obviously is something much more complex and truly wonderful. It also varies.

Unless you are in a coma (and possibly at some levels that's not complete oblivion) you are aware in many, many ways, and this can go from the most basic (I'm hot, I'm cold) to the most advanced (empathy, probably), and everything in between. We have awareness we can't even identify (there's somebody standing behind me, there's a storm coming) and we could go off on quite the tangent here about sixth senses, but I'll do that some other time. 

When it comes to how we function on a daily basis there is quite the difference in individual awarenesses. If you've ever had somebody walk though a door ahead of you and just let it slam in your face, you know what I mean. This is often seen as thoughtless or rude, but at the bottom of it is a simple lack of awareness, an absorbtion in one's own affairs. It may not be intentional at all.

If you've ever been in a near-miss (or a collision!) with a distracted driver you know it very well indeed. 

All of us, from time to time make silly mistakes when we are not paying full attention. That's only normal, and it's just life. But you have surely noticed that some are more self-absorbed than others generally, and on an ongoing basis. It's habitual. 

Then there's that other lack of awareness, lack of critical thinking. It often leads to being duped. 

So, as I said at the beginning, I have written about this aspect of it before, and I won't repeat myself, but in my last couple of blogs I have emphasized how choice plays a massive role in our thinking abilities and the effects thereof. It happens in several stages. There is an initial choice to try harder, to learn, to discern, to assess, to analyze, and to act in the most appropriate way possible. There are choices right from "I'm getting out of bed now" all the way up to "I am going to forgive him". Some choices are contingent on other choices. You cannot choose between two offers unless you first chose to listen to them. You may possibly have chosen to learn a second language years ago for that to be possible. 

It's a matter of debate at which point in your life your first informed choice was made, and obviously different physiological ability in executive skills plays a part, and some people are actually disabled in this area. They cannot be blamed for their poor choices, they genuinely lack the capacity to make the best choice.

That aside, if you are reading this, you obviously do have that capacity. Nobody severely compromised in executive skills is going to be reading this. Therefore, what I am saying applies to you. 

Advanced awareness in people like you and me, is very much a matter of choice. There are no excuses available for your bad choices. Even if you are temporarily compromised by anger, exhaustion, illness, etc., you can look back at it afterwards, and see where you went wrong. You know that you need to put things right. You may have to apologize to somebody - and it may be yourself. Or you may simply need to say "lesson learned". Because if you don't learn from your mistakes (and we all make them) you will not grow in wisdom. Which means you have chosen not to. 

So, how do we increase our awareness?

The first thing to do is really listen to other people. I saw a wonderful quote recently that went something like "We don't listen to understand, we listen to reply" and it's true. We listen just enough to be able to come back with our own thoughts, without really letting the thoughts of others percolate into our consciousness. The thoughts of others are a potential source of worthy data, even if we utterly disagree with them. As frustrating as it can be, we need to listen to opposing opinions, even those that are illogically formed. Because unless we know what others think, however irrational it is, we can never really deal with them effectively.

But we don't just take information in through our ears. Much of people-watching is...watching. What people say and what they do are often two different things, from the most subtle body language to the most egregious hypocrisy.

Then, using all this collected data we have to analyze. All the "why" questions. You'd think this would come naturally, but it's a choice. Too often we go straight from observation to judgement without passing GO.

Parents of young children see this all the time, and my daughter and I had a lengthy conversation about this yesterday. People are so quick to jump to conclusions, and so slow to offer actual help. If a child is behaving badly it's common to get dirty looks and snide remarks from total strangers. It's very rare to get a smile of understanding and support, or genuine advice. Old maids' bairns are the best.

My daughter's friend was told, by a total stranger: "that child is too big to be in a stroller". Observation > judgement. No analysis. No consideration that the child may be exhausted, injured, or disabled. As a matter of fact the child is soon to be tested for autism, is very impulsive, and has a habit of running into the road. A stroller is the safest place on a busy street, as Mom has a baby to cope with as well. This stranger scores a zero for awareness, and probably follows the same direct route from eyes to mouth, without engaging brain, in other situations, as most people tend to at least be consistent in that respect.

So, she almost certainly also offers her unsolicited opinion when she sees homeless people, public displays of affection by same sex couples, people wearing turbans, healthy-looking people using disabled parking spaces, heavy people eating, women breastfeeding, and girls wearing short skirts. Meanwhile she probably texts while driving, and runs into you with her shopping cart in the supermarket.

What's important to her is her own schedule, her own opinions, and her own beliefs.

Beliefs is next.


  1. That 'total stranger' sure gets around... Seems to be everywhere!

  2. Another excellent piece. Thoughtful. Valid. Thank you for sharing. Indeed, awareness is a human form of radar, and very often, for a lot of people, the switch is set to OFF. Minor observation: the other day my wife and I stopped into a local coffee shop, and the person behind the counter had to "Ahem" at a young girl, immersed in her little smartphone world.