Learning to read

For human beings, the abilities to read and write are marvelous achievements. For the several hundred thousand years that humans were living as hunter gatherers, written records do not exist.

It was only in the last ten thousand years or so that humans began to form agricultural societies. Today, human society is primarily agricultural.

Written records exist only from around the last ten thousand years since the shift towards agriculture. On the other hand, humans have been speaking to each other for a much longer time. Hence, much of the ancient wisdom and records were carried in the form of oral recitations from times immemorial. The ancient Indian scriptures called the Vedas were carried on as an oral tradition for long before being written down.

Until a few hundred years ago, before the invention of the printing press, most people could not read texts. It appears that even those who could read usually had to read it aloud and humans learned to read in silence on a mass scale only recently.

Overall, it is remarkable that human beings have consciousness and developed the ability to read and write. At the same time, in the world of today, it has fooled many about the extent of human knowledge. One needs to keep in mind that the intellect is only one of the human appendages. It is not the be-all and end-all of everything.

Nietzsche described those who overestimated the value of this one particular quality in Thus Spake Zarathustra:

And when I came out of my solitude, and for the first time passed over this bridge, then I could not trust mine eyes, but looked again and again, and said at last: “That is an ear! An ear as big as a man!” I looked still more attentively—and actually there did move under the ear something that was pitiably small and poor and slim. And in truth this immense ear was perched on a small thin stalk—the stalk, however, was a man! A person putting a glass to his eyes, could even recognise further a small envious countenance, and also that a bloated soullet dangled at the stalk. The people told me, however, that the big ear was not only a man, but a great man, a genius. But I never believed in the people when they spake of great men—and I hold to my belief that it was a reversed cripple, who had too little of everything, and too much of one thing.

– Nietzsche

What dreams may come

Dreams are a fascinating aspect of the human experience. They seem to occur when one has temporarily lost consciousness in the from of sleep or in cases of longer losses of consciousness in the from of coma etc. Human consciousness itself is not very well understood and dreams are a still a sort of mystery. It is almost like our we run running simulations on our basic architecture when dreaming.

Also, on a few occasions, one dreams some things which help clarify one or the other thing in real life. Dreams even foreshadow what happens in the future. Also, dreams occasionally show things which happened in the past. On other occasions, one dreams things which are completely unconnected to anything at all.

The ancient Indian scriptures, Upanishads, posit the existence of a fourth state of consciousness (apart from awake, dreaming and deep sleep) which enlightened ones attain. This is the Turiya (meaning “fourth” in Sanskrit) state.

It would be interesting to see what things mankind discovers about dreams.

Consciousness

The idea of consciousness is not fully understood today by human beings. One of the reasons could be that we are using the very tool to study itself. Kant posited that human beings can only interpret sense data using an apriori structure. Since the 1960s, research in artificial intelligence has revealed that an embodiment is a requirement for any level of intelligence to work in, say, a robot. It appears that humans have been pondering about consciousness for a long long time.

There is an ancient Indian idea about the nature of ultimate reality In Sanskrit, it is called brahman. There is a school of thought which states that this ultimate reality is formless and without attributes. This school is called the advaita or nondual school. There is another school known as the samkhya school, who are strict dualists and posit the existence of two entities: a primordial nature (prakriti) and a consciousness (purusha) which gives life to this nature.

It is interesting to think about the idea of consciousness taking into account the modern research in combination with the above and other ancient ideas.