Being and consciousness

I can’t really pursue morality in rational science without equating being with consciousness, since consciousness is the only observable part of me, and rational science only admits the existence of what is observable. There’s a huge history around these ideas, and most elite college kids spent so much time thrilling and arguing to the various excursions of twentieth-century authors they’ve been jaded into believing philosophy simply produces no meaningful results. It’s not a coincidence the people who put the ghost back into the machine were writing at the same time Alan Turing was describing intelligent computers.

But morality is the rules of appropriate behavior, and I’m still talking about the assignment of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ on a species level, as if it exists, so I take it to derive from a motive for existence, residing in my being, which science (because it only describes things) describes as my consciousness.

Noah made a speech. He’s ten years old now, and though I’d heard him practice, I didn’t really know what to expect. He’d come in third, in his school’s speech competition, so he was ‘only’ an alternate at the county event, which made him very sad (because he loves to perform). Then someone hit on the idea of speaking for the school’s Variety Show, and of course I was there to see it. I’ve faithfully recorded such performances for both my boys throughout their lives, and have a small video collection of these events.

Noah’s speech is about poverty, and it features my own childhood as an example. Pointedly, it refers to my mother being unable to pay bills and rent. Now, my mother is lying in ‘rehabilitation’ and she’s eagerly looking forward to seeing Noah’s recording. I’ve been concerned about this, because she’s likely to view this exposure of her history as offensive, and our relationship is often rocky as it is.

I don’t know if you’ve been to a fourth grade Variety Show, but it’s not high art, and Noah’s entry was second to last. The crowd was thinning and there was rather indiscreet yawning between acts. The Gangnam Style boys in white shirts and dark glasses left the stage to consistent applause, and the lights darkened for Noah’s presentation.

I had my video camera out well in advance and I framed him expertly from beginning to end. I was surprised at his professionalism. He tested the mike. He waited for the crowd to grow silent. He began clearly. He paused with dramatic effect. My own view was different from the substantial crowd’s, because I stared into my three-inch view-finder and he was framed as if on a tiny movie screen.

Noah’s speech was quite something, distinct in kind and quality from the rest of the show. When he concluded, there was the brief silence often following a performance before an audience that’s truly impressed. Then there was long, appreciative, enthusiastic applause. I kept following him with the camera to record the sounds of cheers and clapping, because performers like that – knowing they were enjoyed. At last, I moved my finger toward the Stop button, and only then did I notice, for the first time ever, I had left the device in stand-by. There was no recording, and Noah’s speech exists only in human memory.


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