If the human is defined by ways of knowing and communicating, and particularly by self-consciousness, how would we define a set of humanoid creatures (including jazz musicians) who know and communicate in unconventional modes, and who are self-consciousness about this, in contrast to other human beings who categorically deny such forms of communication. And if “the species” were to “evolve” beyond a conventional human capacity to recognize such forms of communication, would it become something other than human? I’m not suggesting evolution from a place of superiority over other creatures; rather I’m imagining a kind of switch-back through which humans can be reconciled with other animals. Also, I would like to suggest that all humans communicate in various non-conventional ways, but that some individuals and groups suspect alternative modes, some are certain of them, and some vehemently deny them. It’s the spectrum of self-consciousness that interests me here.
In conjunction with eccentric modes of communication, we might imagine a wide-spread shift toward consciousness of consciousness as mind/brain very widely distributed over space, time, embarrassed etc. (Judith Butler). A self-conscious hyperconsciousness (Timothy Morton). Something like a universal mind, but not with the spiritual baggage of that term (Om), or something like VALIS, but not tethered to external agency or the culture of science fiction (PKD).
I don’t imagine such self-consciousness emerging as a set of rapid genetic mutations, but as a form of genetic expression, regulated by environmental factors and internal chemicals, though that’s a specious distinction. When we reflect on the fundamentals of ecology, physiology, or the mass media (more than a decade after the decade of the brain), we should take for granted that brain chemistry is affected by the environment.
Neuroplasticity refers not only to changes in brain function but changes in the rate of change. (My source here is Reuven Feuerstein, an Israeli psychologist who changed the IQ’s of traumatized children, decades before “the decade.”) So perhaps we might see a change, a sea change, in the rate of change of self-consciousnesses about non-conventional communication. Certainly language and technology could be part of the mechanism of change, but the effect might be something quite different from either, as we know it.
While I don’t see human beings as a savior species or transformer gods, I do think human consciousness could be raised rapidly, and with salutary effects. And I fantasize that animals and plants are helping us to figure it out, as charismatic species colonize the Internet and vegetation seems to be advancing on various fronts (Richard Doyle). Climate change may not be reversible and sustainability may be a fantasy, but perhaps cultivating “gracious relationships” (William Jordan III) has some intrinsic and lasting value.
Image: Afro-Cuban Messengers, from Culturebox.