Musings: An Evolution of a Conscience

Source: Last Days in the Desert

by LJ Frank

“Conscience was born when man had shed his fur, his tail, his pointed ears.” Sir Richard Burton, The Kasidah, Pt, v. st. 19. (1853)

“He who has no conscience has nothing.”  Rabelais, Pantagruel; Prologue de l’Auteur (1534)

Walking across a city street during the late Autumn I noticed a pile of clay soil dumped near a yawning gap next to a bridge and sidewalk, the sight caused me to pause, I then resumed my walking, meditating on ancient humans and the uses of clay such as for writing and building materials; 

Somewhere in the early hours of my ancestor’s existence a picture was drawn in clay, and at that particular moment in evolution eons ago perhaps a question arose about their existence, and through trial and error ideas were formed, words spoken, and I wonder if the very first words uttered by this man or woman was in the search of both a practical and philosophical meaning;

And in the first minutes in which he or she was either standing or kneeling or running after their food or laying on the ground in emotional and physical starvation or exhaustion with cries woven with laughter, shouting, pleading or even accepting through the hollow sound of hopelessness or perhaps something else that would be unimaginable even within a nuclear age, whispering to her or his god or goddess or elder or other entity or merely to him or herself, the question of why, and to seek in a whisper some comfort in a life that was on the edge of physical death every moment they breathed, wandering across unfamiliar terrain in awe of the forces of nature, for boundaries were seeded in the early brain’s survival based on experience, yet in my own mind I imagined there must have been a moment of reconciling acceptance with the question of – to exist or not;

Within an apse or alcove of the primitive brain emerged a thankfulness for their food, a thought was verbalized, perhaps a ritual was derived within the context of their daily nourishment that offered a sense of meaning to their evolving imagination, progressing to greater levels of complexity, for at what point did the human mind hear the first whispering of conscience that inspired, plagued, bothered and unsettled his or her mind to the point of seeking an appeal for guidance, their shaking voice in the presence of storms and waving their clenched fists at nature or falling down, prostrate in aloneness, while the hunger of animals lurked nearby or humans serving each other up in cannibalistic wantonness, was it small ripples of change and or interlaced with towering waves like a series of punctuated equilibriums amid the progression that’s measured in millions of years, and when did the first voice sing a note expressing their conscience beyond their animalistic urge – isn’t the voice one sign of passion with meaning;

As the day merged into night and I walk further down the city street I passed a Gothic cathedral, and voice within nods in hope that I have the ability to converse with myself, being able to utter a prayer to the unknown, whether kneeling in an empty cathedral in all of its hauntingly vague spirituality or being in a temple titled the art museum or library, or following a path leading through a forest or along a beach or simply crossing the street while a taxi driver honks his or her  horn, and still I can’t help but notice how the eyes of people peer above their masks casting furtive glances – sadness, joyfulness, loneliness and smiling eyes, some eyes are dry, others with a tear or two, the cold wind from above rushing down the sides of stone, concrete and glass onto the valley’s walkways, the colorful crowds of people – a tapestry of ambiguous participation, a somber yet joyous masquerade, and still, is my inner voice an imaginative reflection of my conscious humanity;

I look back at the pleasures and excitement of younger days that I knew would fade sooner than desired as I watched a woman in the doorway of a professional office building adjust her nylons over her varicose veins, aging brings with it the want of humor as I knew she could feel it within her breasts, and the professional sign outside her urban industrial designed office suggested the idea that she was in control of her fate, I suspect she knew better;

The diversity of kind strangers, the lights, the music, the seductive fragrance from bakeries mixed with the smells emanating from a bar, while any number of corporate and political thieves work late into the night with the magic wand of greed in a strategic game without empathy, conscience waits in the wings, and as I bear witness to the bleeding in the alleys of lost hope, the measurement of life isn’t revealed by its harshness, gladness, peacefulness, hurt and want of shelter or capital, rather, it’s revealed in the form of compassion that knows the truth of living on a rock whose journey will ultimately end in the extinguishing of the sun, with the question whether darkness will have the final word, and where will the believers’ souls be found once the Earth is vanished and the solar system is no longer or is that also an invitation by our conscience to explore why conscience itself exists, for isn’t the Idea of the Holy seeded there?