Endpoints of the Yellow Brick Road: Consciousness

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” If you don’t know it, don’t do anything because you can’t…

Or, as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld memorably presented this epistemological quandry:

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns—there are things we do not know we don’t know.

Take taking a breath: if I raise my shoulders with every inspiration all the way to my earlobes, so that they interminably gobble-up & regurgitate my neck with every breath-cycle, this takes a lot of effort. It also doesn’t give me much benefit. Maybe I’m a resilient fellow who is also oblivious, so I breathe this way during a whole day without obviously suffering any debilitating consequences. Nevertheless, over the days & weeks, such a habit becomes expensive. It is a continual investment with negative returns; a pocket with a hole in it. So I ought to give it up, yes? I ought to cease & desist before my trapezius solidifies under chronic duress and cements my shoulder-blades as earings for ever after. And desist I most certainly will, provided that I know what I am doing. But if this utterly exhausting habit be subconscious—one of Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”—then I have no say in the matter.

Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will rule our lives & we will call it ‘fate,’

wrote Carl Jung. Or we won’t call it anything at all & instead just persist in insensible breathing, like bedlamites.

So recognising a pattern brings with it the possibility to change it. Until then, I have no prospects. Consciousness is a necessary condition for change. The fun part is that it’s often a sufficient condition as well—it’s often all it takes. As experiments in quantum mechanic demonstrate, the observer changes the system.

Becoming cognisant of a given habit is always the first step towards changing it. And it is often also the last—a point which conveniently corroborates our conception that the Yellow Brick Road is really a circle. So my job as a Rolfer™ is to help people take this all-important step. 

Paso, pasito, PASÓN! 

If I had a good Rolfer, she would point out to me that I were respirating like a maniac. Then, if I were reasonable, I would try something different. I might even clap cause I was happy.

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