Consciousness… Isn’t that the one pesky, little friend we love to hate?
Consciousness keeps you awake at night, when you do something wrong. Even if you convince yourself that you’ve done nothing wrong, years later your consciousness returns, as strong as ever, at the worst possible time to nag you about it.
Many of us have wished a lot of times, that we didn’t have any consciousness to bother us. That we could do wrong without this bothering us.
Having no consciousness is the beginning of psychopathy, so as much as I hate mine, I’d love to keep it right where it is.
Where does consciousness come from?
To a big extent our consciousness comes from the fact that we are social animals who reward cooperation in a more extraordinary way than other animals do. Chimpanzees, our closest relatives are way behind us in this regard.
In fact, Charles Darwin, the 19th-century scientist famous for studying evolution, thought conscience is what makes humans, well, human.
Scientists think that consciousness developed in the times when humans resorted to hunting for survival. Humans who cooperated together could hunt big game and keep their group easily fed for weeks. Individuals who didn’t help were left behind. Hunters kept tabs on who helped them.
Katharina Hamann, an evolutionary anthropologist from the Max Planck institute in Germany shares her experience with an experiment involving children and chimps.
Groups of chimps and groups of children were put in a situation where they had to work together to earn a reward.
When the human children worked together, they shared the reward equally three out of four times. The chimps did no such thing. Scientists think that this is the trait that helped us develop as a social species.
When humans help each other and share, this causes good feelings in us. When we do the opposite, this causes feelings of guilt and fear for our reputation.
According to Christianity “Man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary” (GS, no. 16).
No matter if you believe in Jesus or not, it’s always better to keep your consciousness clean.
I wish you fewer mistakes in the coming year, improved relationships with your peers, and a happy, clean consciousness.