A quick map of consciousness

Origi­nal post: http://​​bear­lamp.com.au/​​a-quick-map-of-con­scious­ness/​​

Prior knowl­edge: Many maps lightly held, Leaky con­cepts, Boundaries

Map and ter­ri­tory: mind to re­al­ity – To be pre­sented alongside the caveat, “what is good?”

(Well “good” is in the map, not the ter­ri­tory. This di­a­gram very quickly be­comes a mess, but be­fore that hap­pens, let’s talk about reify­ing the parts of this model to see if it’s use­ful)

To me right now, it seems like con­scious­ness is the lad­der be­tween the map and the ter­ri­tory. In the di­a­gram, on the left is a thought, sug­gest­ing that “this is an ap­ple” on the right, pic­tured is a red ap­ple. When the at­ten­tion points at a red ap­ple, the con­scious­ness is filled with a map of declar­a­tive defi­ni­tion that la­bels, names and con­cludes that this is an ap­ple.

Con­scious­ness seems to be a la­bel gen­er­at­ing ma­chine. Some­thing fun­da­men­tal about brains is that they map the ter­ri­tory. They quest to­wards map­ping the ter­ri­tory.


This brings us to the ques­tion of – how do I have a good life. I have 3 strate­gies:

1. [con­tent] Look at differ­ent apples

2. [map] mod­ify so that there are more pos­i­tive opinions of apples

3. [re­la­tion­al­ity] ap­pre­ci­ate look­ing at rot­ten ap­ples if that’s what’s to look at to­day.


If I look at dead ap­ples all day, I’m not go­ing to auto-mag­i­cally have a great day. On the other hand if I look at great ap­ples, I’m go­ing to be im­pressed and delighted. The ap­ple could be re­placed with beau­tiful art­work, nice sun­sets, tasty food, nice mu­sic. What­ever strikes in the heart of de­sire to be at­tended to. Im­prove the con­tent is a rea­son­able and helpful strat­egy some­times.

Some­times it’s not the con­tent that’s the prob­lem. Maybe there’s noth­ing wrong with ap­ples but they make me puke. Then I can try the map.


If ev­ery time I see an ap­ple I re­mem­ber that one time I bit an ap­ple and found half a worm, maybe there’s some work I can do so that I don’t keep think­ing worms when I see an ap­ple. Even sun­sets are ir­rele­vant when I’m too busy on my phone. If art galleries re­mind me of my ex, mu­sic re­minds me of screech­ing cats (not in a good way), food re­minds me of how fat I am (and how I can’t take care of my body). Maybe the work to be done is in the map. Some­times with more and less force, the map can be trained to be less mis­er­able when pre­sented with stim­uli. Usu­ally the good stuff is found by pass­ing through the un­com­fortable, not avoid­ing it.

Some­times I can’t shift the con­tent. I’m liv­ing in the de­vel­op­ing world, some­times sick­ness and suffer­ing is visi­ble. Some­times it’s a very real aware­ness that if I’m not care­ful it could be me. That’s where the 3rd method comes in.

There’s parts of the map that start to re­late to other parts of the map. That’s what I start to call “re­la­tion­al­ity”.


I look at an ap­ple. It re­minds me of the time I bit into a worm. How I re­late to that con­tent is flex­ible. I can feel bad about be­ing dumb that time, or I can look at it and laugh about how ridicu­lous that was. Maybe think­ing of worm-ap­ple-gate is my minds way of warn­ing me to be care­ful it doesn’t hap­pen again. That time I went to see the sun­set and could not get off my phone, I was up­set about some­thing, maybe I’m be­ing re­minded to be kind to my­self, now I know bet­ter. Screech­ing cats – Hilar­i­ous! Food makes me fat, but it’s re­ally re­ally good food. So tasty! Maybe the ques­tion of bal­anc­ing good food and liv­ing!life is worth con­sid­er­ing.

I have a chance to see how I’m re­lat­ing to the con­tent, and I can travel to differ­ent maps.

How? Slowly.

That pro­cess of “travel to differ­ent maps” needs to be done in the way of be­ing that trav­els all the way down the lad­der. If I brute force the at­ten­tion to move el­se­where, my re­la­tion­al­ity is “brute force”. My map says, “I gotta brute force my way around here” or “that’s not im­por­tant” and my con­tent be­comes all about the things I avoid. Sure I can brute force my con­tent to be but­terflies not ma­chine guns, but that’s not go­ing to sub­stan­tially change a map with trou­ble brew­ing. I can’t always con­trol what I see. but I can work to­wards re­lat­ing to those ex­pe­riences bet­ter.

This post has been quick and dirty. I hope to build on it later.

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