—Let’s start with a basic assumption, our axiom: We can consciously know anything, or, we can at least know that we can’t know it.
—An age-old philosophical question goes as follows: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
—More generally: Does the world exist if I am not there to experience it? Is there a world beyond my ability to perceive it, beyond myself and my perceptions/cognitions/memorizations?
—More fundamentally, we might ask it as: Am I God?
—That’s pretty arrogant to ask. Of course the tree makes a sound. Who do we think we are that the entire universe’s functioning revolves around whether or not little ‘ole me is paying attention?
—Let’s ask the question this way to really see the absurdity: If I am punched in the mouth while I am taking a nap, will I still get a fat lip?
—Right. So, in the philosophical stance that there is indeed a universe beyond that which we experience in ourselves, we can rest assured that there is information out there to be found, i.e. we can know things, i.e. we don’t just make it up as we are going along. We can be unconscious of information without destroying it.
—If we believe we can safely be unconscious of things, that the things we are NOT currently in the process of understanding stay there, stay the same, or at least change by a logical, intelligible method . . . if we believe this, then we are freer to choose what information to know and what to go ahead and remain unconscious of, unaware of.
We are freer to decide what to ignore.
—After all, if ignoring something changed it in a significant way, we might have to take that into consideration before dismissing information.
We don’t. The tree will make a sound. Don’t worry.
—The world throws a lot of information at us, much more than we can process, in fact. So just to start with, we are unconscious of many things. For instance, we don’t willfully ignore the color of every car that passes on the street or the melody of every song playing from every car radio or pedestrian’s headphones or over every shop’s or store’s intercom.
—Sadly, we might even ignore a beautiful sunset or a beautiful person while sitting in traffic or getting our morning coffee at Starbuck’s. We are unaware of very much. Unwillingly. Perhaps if we can choose to become unaware of some things, we can have a little more room in our minds for that pretty girl, that strange song, that sense of wonder or fear or sorrow that has been haunting us and we don’t know why.
—If you want to blind someone, the easiest way is not to put them in the dark. That involves controlling a lot of things, like . . . the sun. The person. Photons, etc. It is much easier to just shine a bright light at them. If their eye is seeing more light than their brain can organize, then all they can “see” is unintelligible chaos. It’s too “bright”.
—Well, maybe all your worries are too bright.
—Maybe all your anger is too bright.
—Maybe all your misunderstandings and expectations of the world are too bright.
—If your mind is trying to be aware of more than it is capable of being aware of, it may end up not being aware of anything at all.
—Choosing to be unaware of things may sound bad. Who wants to be blind, right? But when there is too much light shining in your eyes, you shut them. You “blind” yourself. Anesthesia “blinds” us to pain. The saying goes, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” and another one is, “Ignorance is bliss.” Our ears can only hear certain frequencies, outside of which, we are deaf. They are also not as sensitive as they could be. It’s the same with our other senses. If evolution wanted, we would have ears capable of hearing sounds far fainter and in many more frequencies than now. Nature seems to think that limiting the amount of information we can perceive, essentially blinding us to much of the information around us, is a good idea.
—The problem is that our eyes themselves, along with the other hardware we are born with, filter out a large percentage of what they “see” automatically, either by simply being incapable of sensing or by built-in filters, like simply which direction we point our eyes or ears. The software we are born with filters out another percentage of the information around us. But, there is no hardware or software mechanism to tell us what fears or hopes or prejudices to ignore. It is the function of our conscious mind to determine what are phantom fears, what are unrealistic hopes, what are unwarranted prejudices.
—We are the filter. Understanding this is a step toward actively managing out awareness in a way that doesn’t involve just adding more and more information to worry ourselves with. If we are a filter, then our objective is not to be more conscious of more things, but to be more conscious of fewer things. So, then, it becomes apparent that jamming random facts, dynamics, experiences, impulses, etc. into our mind is counter-productive. We shouldn’t be trying to know more. We should be trying to know less. We should be trying to filter out static inputs that use up the precious consciousness we have available and that push out other inputs which we may decide are important to us if we took the time and conscious effort to examine them.