Jim Pembroke

Consciousness and luck: The inequality of being you

You’re you. But we, by our very existence, are cursed. Graced with consciousness we use to place ourselves above others, our luck is that we exist at all.

 

 

 

Ever wonder about consciousness? Of course, you do. Arguably, it’s what makes you different from all the other species chasing one another around the planet – you have a sense of me. While there are many theories about consciousness, scientists are yet to settle on one that explains the mystery that is you. We do know that when a kilogram of your brain cells is placed into an empty human skull, inexplicably that folded, grey mass starts questioning its own existence.

“How’d I get in here? Why me?”

Why you indeed. If the 7.5 billion kilograms of human brain tissue being carried aloft about the world could agree, they would surely conclude – the answer comes down to chance. Some brains will be lucky enough to have all synapses firing, relieved that their forebears were healthy and well-adjusted. Others will struggle with flawed strings of DNA, a difficult birth or an ill-fated ancestry of bad choices – just a tough break.

Therefore, if some of those lucky brains start developing a superior attitude, other minds wobble in disapproval.

And when the time comes for brains to be coupled with appendages and organs, a similar randomness takes place. Perhaps the grey matter engages perfectly atop a seemingly perfect body. But most times, connections are flawed, blemishes occur and on occasions, the biped is severely broken indeed – simply another bad throw of the dice.

Mathematicians calculate the probability of you coming into consciousness at all is unbelievably tiny. It would be more likely for everyone in your neighbourhood to pick up a trillion-sided dice and each roll the exact same number, over and over again.

Yet, some less wrinkled brains still thoughtlessly strut around in their strong, quick machines. Like a new Ferrari, they polish their good fortune every day and pour scorn on lesser vehicles. Egalitarian minds shake their heads and use newly-formed mouthpieces, to again point out…

“You did nothing to earn that body. You won it in a lottery. Now, help your brother and sister fix theirs.”

And the wheel of fortune keeps spinning. Some cerebral entities strike it big. They pop into consciousness with wealth all around. But most find themselves emerging into a difficult, even miserable existence. When these unlucky brains question the hand they are dealt and ask for more compassion and understanding, the prosperous ones begin to moan…

“We’re weary of your misfortune. Why can’t you be lucky, like us?”

And thus, conscious inequality becomes more complex, more pernicious. When the unlucky brains or the luckless bodies labour to get by, the profitable ones scold them and demand they work harder to be less of a burden. Other well-heeled minds, surrounded by their inherited wealth and healthy upbringing, try to convince others that somehow they worked hard and earned that good fortune.

When called out, the self-absorbed entities point to some lesser minds that have managed to overcome their disadvantage.

“If you work harder dull brain, you’ll be successful too.”

Followed by, “Look at you, lazy mind. Get up! Be more resilient, like me.”

And then finally, “Screw ’em.”

And thus, the entities with the lucky brains, bodies or lives find a way to keep more than a fair share of the prosperity. There are too many unfortunate ones – how can they all be helped? So, in their deception, the greedy brains convince themselves it’s best to increase their own wealth. They snooze comfortably amid vivid dreams, safe in their fantasy – the best way to help others is to help themselves.

Some brains will be lucky enough to have all synapses firing, relieved that their forebears were healthy and well-adjusted. Others will struggle with flawed strings of DNA, a difficult birth or an ill-fated ancestry of bad choices – just a tough break.

If stranded and thirsty minds complain that their share of good fortune isn’t trickling down, the blowhards howl dismissively…

“You unlucky ones are bludgers. You’re boozers, rorters, shirkers. You chose your life!”

These shrieking tirades come frequently from the privileged, the heartless, the threatened – brain dead to the obvious – that a forced choice is no choice at all.

Lucky or unlucky, good choices or bad, the roulette wheel turns and another essence of awareness bursts into existence. The newcomer clutches its future fiercely when others try to rip it away. But the shrink-wrap brains are persistent – pulling and pushing – and when avarice becomes cancerous, a surgical repair seems only a matter of time. Some political doctoring to decouple the lucky minds from the permanent loop of me, me, me.

Because the thing is, the unlucky minds are also very special – spectacularly so – quite literally a miracle.

Mathematicians have calculated the probability of you coming into consciousness at all and it is unbelievably tiny. It would be more likely for everyone in your neighbourhood to pick up a trillion-sided dice and each roll the exact same number, over and over again.

The odds against you popping into existence are so great, that adding up all the galaxies, all the planets and all the atoms in the universe, wouldn’t come close.

 

Jim Pembroke

Jim Pembroke grew up in Brisbane, Queensland, where he learnt to sail, and got his B.Ed at QUT where he learnt to write, M.Ed at JCU, Townsville, where he learnt to think. He now lives permanently on his boat where he writes too much.

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