We all wonder what it is. Is it intuition, memory, awareness? No one can really say, even scientists. So we’re each free to interpret this word, consciousness, as we like… as long as we tacitly agree to some parameters. For me, the word consciousness sprang to mind the other night when I was in the kitchen doing dishes, watching ‘ER’ out the corner of my eye, and I heard a voice that took me only a fraction of a second to recognize.
That’s Alan Alda, I thought, as I turned to the TV to see who was speaking. I chose awhile ago to spend some of the remaining hours of my precious life watching ‘ER’ because I wanted, after reading some random article, to see the role in which George Clooney got his big break. He’s an admirable actor for his talents, and an admirable human for his values and actions, in my humble opinion. Anyway, it’s my choice how I spend these precious hours, and he’s pleasing to watch. As is the entire show, it’s good TV. It was indeed Alan Alda, brought on cast no doubt to keep people hanging in after Clooney left the show. (Season Six brought lots of new people on board, and it’s working for me. I’m grateful to know when and how I’m being manipulated, so I can choose whether I want to go along with it.)
With a predictable story arc, it’s clear he won’t be here long. But the point is, in that instant in which I heard and recognized his voice, I thought about consciousness. It’s been years since I heard his voice, a lifetime since it was as commonplace as any voice I knew, when he starred in M.A.S.H. and I heard him every week for years, and still decades later, it was unmistakable, instantly recognizable. It surprised me. Back then, Alda was ubiquitous; today he’s like a madeleine, a few recorded words bringing back with startling clarity a past reality, a lost time. I’m grateful for the consciousness that can string these disparate times together with the instanteous thread of a single voice.
I’m grateful too for the consciousness of ancient trees. Here is the Triangle Tree, with three distinct sides instead of a circular trunk. How do you measure the radius of an isosceles triangle?