Walk outside. The air is fresh, the sun is shining. There are trees whose shadows cut the surface of the grass. The grass textures the earth. The air is filled with light. The world is an ocean soaked in luminescence, filled with shadow and leaves. In the distance cars drive by carving boundaries with their flat and earthy rubber. You are immersed in this space; in this moment this world is all you. In this moment you are both here and not here. Then you think.
As thought enters you become aware; you too are in this world. You are embedded here. In a moment of reflection the shape of this space changes. No longer is the world the only ingress on perception. Now you are here.
This simple experience, awareness, reflection, cognition of time, consciousness of self; it fragments your relationship with the world and embeds you within it. The world changes. As you reflect you become a part of it, you are coherent with it. The world is no longer just expanse. An identity, memory, self emerge. A subject looks out.
Through reflection a new form is created The new form includes you but, it also includes your relationship with the world. Now a body with a beating heart, no longer dependent on the cars in the distance has awoken.
In one moment you are there, immersed in your own experience. However, the ‘you’ is not the subject of experience. The world you perceive is all that there is. Through reflection you come into the world. The salience of the world becomes a shadow with you standing on the edge of the garden.
And the magic happens. Self perception becomes an object for itself. Cognition of self becomes a foundation for self in experience. We recognize we are here.
I can also recollect that I was seeing the landscape… at once I appears… it affirms the reflected consciousness… my reflecting consciousness is consciousness of itself
– Jean-Paul Satre, An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness
As all of this happens the structure of consciousness changes. Awareness shifts. Time moves forward. Each step a transition, from sense of self on the periphery through to self as object with body. Through this change time remains the field in which the transition takes place. The flux the constant through which we experience. Within it experience, the world, and the relations between become a bracket; a moment, transitory and constant.
This bracketing by time contextualizes. It gives substance to self. Without time there are no moments and it is in moments we reflect. Time, by placing a ring around experience, by making significance of memory creates the space in which we have duration as selves.
The bracketing does more than give a place for the self to exist. By being a factor on the creation of self ‘time’ does something else. It reverses the relation between ourselves and the world. As time brackets the self, as the self becomes aware and as the world becomes an object of self a hierarchy forms. The self becomes a central figure of experience. Contained within that experience is the world.
The world now stands in relation to you. You are now an agent, active and autonomous. A person who can act meaningfully on the world. The content of experience, reciprocity between ourselves as agents and the objects we stand in relation to gives us the power of intention towards the world. Intentionality is given meaning and through it the world is tangible, malleable.
The relation to self however, is tempered. As we abstract from the immediacy of the present the mind is articulated to itself and it is limited. We stand now in relation also to ourselves and our bodies. Between the world, our body, time and our minds imagination has space to play and to be constrained.
With the power of our imagination we have created worlds; we have discovered more than we can see, we have ventured deep and discovered how small we are. We have found in our furthest reaches our humanity and imagined our conquests. At the same time we we remain human, with human hands human eyes and most of all the thoughts of humans with human bodies.
Through the power of reflection we may escape the world but, we will escape the world as far as our bodies, bracketed will allow. This is the struggle of humanity. It is the very freedoms which we achieve that bind us. Through our imaginations we are forced into an irony in which self aware and free we are at the same time captive to the world and to ourselves.
Time gives us consequence; it is in a moment of of time that we come to reflect and through reflection we come into contact with ourselves gaining power of autonomy. Those trees, the cars, reflection itself; they take place within the scope of this body. That is the human condition.
The Lord of The Flies
In a bracket of time we reflect, we recognize a self and we stand in relation to the world. But, what of that world? Life is full of people who, in those very same moments are conscious, aware and embedded in the same reality as us. We watch television, we read, we live in a social and cultural context where history and ideas shape us. We use a language imbued with ideas and we take those ideas further.
Are we spectators? Actors? We have power to act and have thought and feeling. Yet we cannot overcome subjection to our our bodies and our bodies the world.
The question is; what is the significance of reflection? Understanding how reflection shapes us, changes us. At the same time reflection frames reality and our understanding of our relationship to ourselves and the world in which we live. It is through reflection that our relation to other minds becomes clear and when a reciprocity of reflection forms we frame a culture.
In ‘The Lord of The Flies’ boys are stranded on an island. They lose contact with the conventions and constructs the civilization teaches. They become rules by instinct and the immediate demands of their surroundings. These themes; order and instinct, who dominate not just the story in which a boy is killed in the struggle between the two. They are the themes of our lives.
The story climaxes as the boys are discovered. As they are discovered they come into contact with a world beyond the bubble that they have come to know. Forced to reflect on what they have become their is a caesura that tells all. Prior to reflection they are lost. Their discovery signifies the social nature of reflection, the contract we have made with the world and with it, ironically again, the the role the world plays in our lives.
The themes in the story are epochal. They are ever present in literature, philosophy and art. And in philosophy the concept of the ‘Noble Savage’ reverses the relation making civilization the corrupter. The concept is apposite. The savage highlights our relationship with the world and with our thought; both as corrupter and savior. For in the presence of both we sit looking into a kaleidoscopic mirror that warps with time.
We stand in relation to a world in which objects, people and ideas frame us. In reciprocity and through awareness we frame them and it is this that embeds us above and within the world. It is not just awareness, it is awareness as individuals in the act of being aware that stands behind every question of the human condition.
Understanding this meta-cognitive act brings us to a point where we can consider more than the self, we can consider truth, history and culture as objects that give us a sense of reality beyond the immediacy that confronts us.
The Leading Idea Behind The HOT (Higher Order Thought) Hypothesis is that a mental state is conscious if one is, in some way conscious of that state
– Rosenthal, Metacognition and higher-order thoughts