I don’t usually censor stuff and this picture may seem a little funny in the way I did it but I have no intention of accidentally surprising people on a blog. I think the image, while fascinating, can be a little shocking if unprepared. So, if you don’t mind seeing the original image go ahead and give this one a click.

I found this critter on the side of the road not too long ago during a long bike ride. When I glanced back to find that it was staring at me as I rode, I truly had some kind of “holy fuck” moment. It’s one of those things that makes you realize your own mortality. You question your own potential and you realize you have some serious limitations as a result of your physical existence.

To explain why I have posted this picture I must first say that I’ve read a couple of interesting books recently. The one I’m reading now is called Decoding the Universe by Charles Seife. To summarize what I have read so far, it’s about the definition of information and how it is stored (a computer hard drive, DNA, a black hole, etc.) and how it travels (light, heat, speech, Morse code, etc.). The previous book to that was about about Buddhism called Turning the Wheel of Truth by Ajahn Sucitto. I was particularly interested in the following passage:

“As long as there is ignorance, actions tend to become automatic, compulsive, idiosyncratic, related to “my way of seeing things” rather than to the needs of a situation. So ignorance colors our consciousness with programs, or habitual drives that orient around self. These habitual drives, or programs are called sankhara. Just like a computer program, sankhara can be active or latent. And in much the same way, they sit in our “hard drive” as potential for action. They are energies that carry the codes of action (kamma), and which generate activities of body, speech, or mind. When they are active, they support thoughts and emotions and bodily reflexes; having done so in accordance with love or fear or determination, they are then stored as latent programs ready to fire off again. So sankhara are headed by volition, the impulse to do. We’re always creating. When we speak, we create words and concepts. And the result is we create ourselves in our own or another person’s mind, and so it is with our action” (Pg. 66).

So, you’re probably still wondering what this has to do with a dead coyote on the side of the road. There is a lot to be said about the quote but to stay specific to my post, I guess it’s the possibility that we as living objects may simply be information processing machines that respond to the world around us. We sense the world, we interpret our senses, and then we respond. So, are we just a combination of fur, flesh, and bone or are we something more? Like in my last post, where I asked if the boat was still a boat; is this coyote still a coyote? And if so, how long will that definition stand?

I find the idea of creation specifically the most fascinating part of the whole thing. All living things create (breath, movement, sound, waste) but humans as conscious beings often tend do do this differently. In my last post I ended with the question “does any of this even matter?” Perhaps it doesn’t really matter what the definition of a boat or a coyote is but the fact that we can recognize and distinguish between the two is totally important. We can see a dead coyote on the side of the road and decide to write a blog post about it. We can decide that it’s gross or fascinating. We can ponder our own mortality. We can consciously create a mental/physical response to it!

We do this all the time. We decide to censor something if we interpret it as offensive. We can decide to buy a product (or even choose not to) because it fits with our personal lifestyle. We look at art, we process it with all the knowledge and feelings that are inside of us and we spit out our interpretations in the form of ideas, emotions, conversations, essays, and even more art.

Maybe the act of creation is what separates the living from a pile of flesh. So what does it mean that humans are conscious creators? Perhaps this just means that all of us are artists.

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