Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Neuroscience’s Will

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There’s something pretty amazing i wanna share about Neuroscience.

Before we go into the topic, let’s take a scenario first. Let’s say you are thirsty and you want to drink some water. You have decided to get up, go to the kitchen and grab a glass of water. From your point of view, did you just make a conscious action? You may say yes, because you think you have CHOOSEN the decision whether to grab a cup of water or not. And that represents free will in action – You can simply choose to drink or not to drink.

However, from Neuroscience point of view, many things are pre-determined. In an experiment by Benjamin Libet, he founded out that our actions were always first initiated by our subconscious mind and then only translated to conscious actions. For example, my subconscious mind is already giving out instructions to my body to execute the action, 500 milliseconds before i consciously extend my hand to reach the glass. The reason why i have the feeling of consciously choosing my actions is due to retrospective point of view (which means contemplating back the past that happened split seconds ago).

Do you clearly remember your experience of brushing your teeth before going to bed last night? You probably won’t remember the experience. This is the case of our mind going ‘auto-pilot’. Since this is just a simple task, our subconscious mind automatically gives out the instructions to our body and paste a little note to our conscious mind saying ‘this body is going to brush his/her teeth’. That’s how we thought we have the conscious experience of choosing. The truth is, we are in ‘autopilot’ state and there’s not much choices to make.

Nevertheless, our conscious mind has the right to ‘veto’ the instructions given out by our mind. Conscious mind attempt to be a “Quality Control” to all the “tough” decisions made by the subconscious mind by giving ourselves more alternatives in considerations. Have you ever come across a situation where you are stuck between two options? Subconsciously, you want to get yourself a BMW for a car but consciously, you know you only have enough money for a Toyota. But then you may think, if you could work a little harder and be a little more thrifty, you may be able to get a BMW instead. And that’s how our mind clashed.

In other words, our subconscious and conscious mind will clash over tough and complex decisions such as buying a car while we will go autopilot on simple and easy decisions such as brushing our teeth or drinking water.

In Buddhism, emotions is said to be an illusion. All forms of emotions are unreal, except for happiness (you need to separate happiness with satisfaction). Emotions are something which is expressed spontaneously and instinctively by our mind in order to protect ourselves for survival purposes.

I’m sure you will have experienced certain situations where you got really pissed angry and on the next day, when everything cools down, you will feel it’s kinda unnecessary to get angry at silly things. It is simple – our subconscious mind unleashed the anger, and your conscious mind question the outburst.

That’s why according to Buddhism, in order to be enlightened, you need to control your mind instead of letting the mind control you.

Case in point – my subconscious mind is lusting over Crisis Core : Final Fantasy 7 now and my conscious mind could not overpower my subconscious mind! My body, a form of transportation for the almighty brain, is being manipulated to grab the PSP over and over again. I gotta go. My body needs to move away from the computer. Talk soon. =P


Written by elan85

March 26, 2008 at 12:54 am

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