Evolution is the underlying theme of my novel Free Ralph! An Evolutionary Fable.
This is the third in a series of essays exploring that theme, published
in Sevananda's Co-Options newsletter.

Can We Measure Consciousness? Yes, We Can!
Clues to Evolving Consciousness Are Everywhere – If We Pay Attention

by Stephen Wing

Scientists measure the progress of biological evolution by examining physical evidence such as bones and fossils. But solving our current global crisis depends on conscious evolution – a different animal altogether. Can we measure consciousness?

Quantum physics now echoes the ancient mystics in describing consciousness as an infinite field, mysterious and subtle. This vague force is measurable, however, when we bring it into focus in the form of attention.

I measure my own evolution, for example, at the kitchen sink. Our faucet has a button which switches the flow of water to the water filter and back. If I am paying attention, I make sure the button is in the correct position before turning on the tap. If I hold my glass up to the filter for a drink and water falls into the sink instead, I am following the robotic programming of those primitive twentieth-century humans who took for granted an endless supply of running water.

Our future depends not on saving a little water, but on becoming conscious of ourselves as members of the community of Creation, responsible for wise stewardship of precious resources.

Like many of us, I take pride in recycling things I once thoughtlessly tossed in the trash. Besides preserving natural resources, recycling requires far less energy than manufacturing from raw materials. My awareness is evolving when I turn the bottles upside-down in the store to make sure I pick a recyclable one – in Georgia, #1 or #2.

But recycling trash is not the final destination of human evolution, only one stage. I enter a new stage when I understand that recycling takes more energy than re-using, and choose a refillable bottle. The current popularity of bottled water reflects an evolutionary stage where humans realize that water is the healthiest choice, but don’t yet understand that the planet’s health is as important as our own.
If I can’t buy what I want in a recyclable or re-usable container, the next stage is deciding whether I can do without it: placing the well-being of the planet not above my health, but above my habits and self-indulgences.

“Recycle, re-use, and reduce” each represent a measurable stage of conscious evolution. But all involve tangible substances like plastic, paper, aluminum and glass. I enter a yet more advanced stage when I consider my use of the intangible resource of energy. Because I can’t see it – except after the fact, in the form of numbers on my bill – minimizing the power I draw from the grid or the gas I suck from the pipeline requires a higher level of attention.

Turn your lights out some night and walk through your home with senses alert. You’ll hear your refrigerator and air conditioner, sounds normally beneath your awareness. You’ll see tiny colored lights indicating appliances drawing power and ready for use. Your computer might be shut down, for example, but not your monitor. By paying attention, we can determine when we’re using energy and when we’re wasting it.

At a broader scale, conscious evolution can be measured by counting votes. This month when we go to the polls we will demonstrate how far we have evolved as a nation in the last four years.

But voting in a new set of leaders only demonstrates an entry-level awareness of our responsibility as citizens. For democracy to function as it was designed, the voters must stay involved throughout the political process, letting our leaders know at every step how they can ensure our support in the next election. If we elect Barack Obama and then sit back down on the couch to watch TV, as we have done in the past, we are handing our country back to the corporate lobbyists who have controlled our democracy and our economy for too long.

This election is an opportunity for the United States to take an evolutionary leap forward. But it’s not Obama’s opportunity. It’s our opportunity.

 

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