This blog post will introduce a basic scenario around which I hope to build the story through which I’ll explain my thesis.


Two people are at a table sitting across from each other. A third person joins them sitting at the end of the table between the two. The newcomer challenges the two who have been at the table to individually write down ten things around them which they alone could have noticed. Is it possible to know what your opposite will write down so as not to have any duplicates?

I believe that in searching for the answer to this question we will arrive at a better understanding of what it means to be aware, and the relationship between awareness and Self .

To begin with, I claim that to guarantee that there can’t be duplicates, the third party must know that both list makers know not only about what they are aware of, but also about what their opposite are, and are not, aware of. The third party introduces the game knowing that it’s possible that the lists can be made without duplicates. Here I introduce a set of paradoxes.

From the perspective of the list makers I ask:

  • How can one know that something was not observed if in fact I have myself observed it?

and from the perspective of the third party I ask:

  • How can I know that these two individuals are aware of not only themselves, and the moment in which we found them, but also of their opposites, and the perception of the moment as their opposite sees it, as well?

I hypothesize that the list makers find themselves in a sanctuary. The list makers, assuming that they are in their most simple form, are most likely cognizant of the conversation they are having, and little else. There may be some understanding that there are a collection of other conversations and moments around them, but these are little more than unheralded distractions external to their own bubble. I’m not sure if this bubble has a name, and so I’ll refer to it as the sanctuary. The name is fitting as the intimacy of this level of awareness, and the naivety which come with it can be regarded as a sanctuary from being aware of the collection of greater moments of which the list makers are a part.

The first paradox is really framed as a question of asking where the boundaries of the sanctuary lie. While the initial reaction is to immediately draw the boundaries as they are most easily conceived, I think I’ll be able to show that perceived boundaries tend to limit where as discovered boundaries tend to liberate. The challenge however is understanding the difference between the two not only in the context of oneself, but of the moment and the opposite party as well. It is the lack of rigid boundaries which leaves the question unanswered.

So then given that the individuals who are within the bounds of the sanctuary are not aware of where these bounds lie, then how can any third individual know that they are capable of being aware of each other so as to play this game with the hope that two non-overlapping lists are possible? The second paradox is one which I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through, and have had very little success resolving. It’s something that will hopefully be discovered as I move forward through this process. I think the second paradox is actually the more relevant of the two as it challenges one to have faith that any two individuals are capable of understanding each other and the world around them so as to have benefitted from their interaction. This test is a daily occurrence, and one that I would argue people constantly fail. I want to understand why.

I think this basic scenario gives a framework around which to explore how the aware Self can resolve the paradoxes confronted by the actors.

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