Monday, 21 October 2013

The Kingfisher's Song

Painting by Thomas Sheridan

How do we really know, or more precisely, how does one truly begin to grasp what it is like to be inside the mind of another conscious living individual or entity? Should we reasonably believe that our own highly personalised understanding of the everyday consciousness which we experience from the moment we wake in the morning, is any different than the consciousness of our sleep which fills our nocturnal hours with dreams and occasionally nightmares? Furthermore, can we even then, attempt to extrapolate our own customised, and often highly prejudiced cognition on towards the consciousness of that which another human being may also experiencing? We can never be that man on the train going to work during the morning commuter rush, fumbling through a newspaper, or the woman in the coffee shop emitting a barely repressed sigh as she makes your cappuccino?    
Who are these individuals behind the fa├žade of skin and flesh encapsulated every day lives, along with the fleeting glimpses into their behaviour at any given moment as we observe them? What about our pets, the animals we see on TV nature shows, or the fish in an aquarium frantically making their way to the edge of their glass prison to the sight of their owner approaching them at their regular feeding time? How is life for them in terms of how they might experience it beyond the basic needs of their survival? How deep does their cognition go?   
Can we even fathom the various layers and dynamics of the myriad of mammalian and other forms of consciousness residing on this planet? What happens to our consciousness when we sleep? What was our consciousness like as we lay in the womb waiting to be deposited into this reality? What of people in the distant past who may have produced great artistic wonders and scientific discoveries? Do you really know what was going on inside the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci for example? Would his version of a Renascence-era Florentine adapted consciousness be considered abnormal, pathological, or even defected when compared to our own liberalised pre-Enlightenment mentality?  

Is there a baseline of human consciousness? Can there be such a thing as absolute cognitive standardisation, and from this be derived a standard framework of sanity which can be applied across the board to the entire human experience from the  prehistoric to the present? Is a person who has difficulty functioning in modern Capitalist society, but who might well possess incredible artistic ability still be considered mentally disabled? Perhaps to the Banker and the Politicians, but not to the lover of beauty, and certainly not to the art collector or gallery owner who may be getting wealthy from his creative eccentricities. Conversely, would the Banker and Politician be considered insane in world built on creativity and bereft of global finance, or governmental administration? Is the devoted religious individual a lunatic, and the atheist a paragon of sanity?  
The answer is we can't specifically apply a universally quantifiable system of standardisation when it comes to the phenomena of what constitutes a healthy consciousness, nor a baseline as to what constitutes absolute sanity. As the old adage goes. 'We are all nuts when no one is looking.' Concepts surrounding a healthy consciousness and baselines of sanity are subject to endless variables ranging from cultural to social, and even spiritual. 

A German with Jewish sympathies in the 1930s would probably be considered a 'nutcase' to his fellow citizens. Many other Germans at that time would not have been able to come to grips with their friend or co-worker's Jewish sympathies as their own concept of sanity at the time would have be almost exclusively determined by propaganda, social conditioning and most important of all: FEAR. 

The fear of trying to get inside the head of a fellow German who had rejected the tenets of National Socialism due to the possible repercussions of seeing eye-to-eye with this 'nutcase'. Fear of losing their status in German 1930s society as being mentally able, and therefore the necessity to be highly protective of their situation (sanity) in that particular place and time. This would make it a social requirement to impose the label of 'crazy' upon what would be considered in most Western democracies today as basic human decency. The ability to show compassion for a marginalized group considered beyond the margins of society. Their social status at the time would be survival based on the acceptable sanity and maintaining this 'sanity' at any cost with little or no respect for any 'nutcase' who viewed things differently. As O'Brien casually informed Winston Smith in 1984 it was he alone who 'chose' to become a lunatic.   
Such examples serve to illustrate the dynamic range of what is declared sane and insane and it is entirely due to two things. Failure to understand what the experience of how consciousness is experienced for another person, and imposing our version of prejudiced cognition of what it is to be 'normal' (within our social experience) upon another human being. Something no one, not even the skilled psychoanalysts, brilliant neuroscientist and marketing experts can ever truly fully accomplish. Only you know what it is like to you and once your cognitive complexities is autonomous and neurologically sound, they only you can fully know what it is like to be you.   
The reader may believe they have – on the surface anyway – by reading the text contained herein, be forgiven for assuming that they have a conduit into the psychology of the writer, but in reality this discourse remains an arbitrary conversation which is taking place between the author and the readers concerning a specific topic or insight, and is not an in-depth window into the entirety of another person's full cogitative experiences any more that we can fully determine the dreams, hopes fears and inclination of any specific readers of this article. 
Essentially, once Beyond the Pale of the myriad of personae, social masks, and personalities, we are a complete mystery to one other. The ghost in each of our respective machines can only speculate and evaluate the consciousness and cognitive experiences of another human based on garnishing behavioural, social, intellectual and to a degree, economic trappings, coupled with applying crude levels of psychoanalysis via making determinations based on causal observation in everyday situations. Deeper insights may be gained from personal conversations and private interactions but even then, we are only being exposed to the road maps of another persons consciousness. We are not in among the terrain and complex territories of their minds. Therefore, evidence of another person's experience of consciousness based upon our own, cannot possibly gauge what it is for me to fully comprehend what is if for you to you, and 'us' to be 'them', nor you the reader to fully understand the consciousness of the authors of this article. 

So who are any of us in any situation to quantify another person's mental state as being less healthy than that of our own? More importantly, are we missing out on something far more profound that this 'unwell' person may be in possession of a hidden wisdom, realisation or vital insight we can all benefit form if we chose to listen with uncritical ears.     
Consider the Kingfisher. Generally considered one of the most beautiful common and widely distributed birds with it iridescent plumaged, large head and perfectly adapted evolutionary design which allows this impressive little bird to leap from a riverbank branch, and plunge into the depths of a river to catch an insect, minnow or trout fry. Patiently this bird waits along the water's edge scanning any possible movement below the waterline which may indicate prey is there for the taking. Once a potential meal is sighted, the Kingfisher essentially enters into another form of consciousness – an aquatic adaptation of itself so to speak. The bird from the riverside branch is now using its wings to swim though the water compensating for the refraction on the surface of the river or stream which gives a false impression from above of the actual location of the target (in space and time) which the Kingfisher has sighted from above. The precision, gracefulness and genius of the Kingfisher's adaptability is undeniable. However, this marvel of nature which leaves us is awe, was a result of an initial 'madness' 'dreamt up' (and this is a very important point fundamental to the message in this article) millennia ago.   
At some point in the evolutionary past, one Kingfisher - perhaps in the form of a previous subspecies of the same or similar type of bird - realised that a potential untapped nutritional resource was available under the surface of the water and took a leap of faith, or more likely. 'madness' into order to improve the survival chances of its genetic repository by attempting to exploit protein-rich prey from within the aquatic domains. In other words, this humble colourful little bird had to conceptualise a shift in its own consciousness which required the Kingfisher to make the evolutionary leap to the magnificent, highly-adaptable and efficient creature it has become today. The risk paid off. The 'madness' of the initial 'dive' improved the survival rates of the species as a whole.   
Now imagine if it was possible for a Kingfisher to communicate with an Osprey, a larger bird of prey which pulls larger fish from just beneath the surface of the water, in a conversation with a Kingfisher concerning its method of hunting. Yes, the Osprey would be aware that just below the surface there are fish, but has no idea what is down there in among the watery depths. The Kingfisher on the other hand, would know the advantages of taking the plunge, but would find it difficult (if we were applying this scenario in human terms) to describe the animals, plants and insects it has experience of below the surface in such a way the Osprey could comprehend it. The Osprey would find it strange, absurd even as it could not place itself into the experiences of consciousness that the Kingfisher experiences. Now let's bring in a third party into this dialogue, a Condor who lives high in the mountains... how could the Kingfisher ever begin to explain to the Condor that below the surface of a lake or river is a whole other world. Could the Osprey act as mediator between the Condor and the Kingfisher?  
Taking this one step further, consider the consciousness of the human who is having a shift in cognitive perceptions outside what we presently refer to as as 'normal', 'sanity' and 'rational'. Are we correctly identifying this person as being lost in a condition of madness, or are we robbing a Kingfisher of their evolutionary risk of experience and potential? Are we robbing our entire species of the same when we discard other people are being 'away with the fairies'. Perhaps something far more profound is at work and the time has come for humanity as a whole to take the plunge into the realms of consciousness where the artist, shaman, seer, eccentric and savant are already familiar with. We have given the scientist, the politician and the banker due respect and power within this society and look around you? Is the world we reside in a place of happiness and security for all? Perhaps it's time for all of us to get a little crazy, we might rediscover something we lost a long time ago and start listening to the Kingfisher's song.   

Thomas Sheridan is an independent alternative artist, author, satirist, musician, public speaker, broadcaster and researcher currently based in the West of Ireland. His illustrations have appeared on the covers of newsstand magazines, books and websites worldwide. 

The Anvil of the Psyche is considered a vital manual for personal and social survival in a world controlled by greed and false hopes. Thomas' writings and interviews have evolutionised people to build a firewall around their own psyche and not to be lured into handing over personal independence to an exterior collective or guru. As a result, his NO CONTACT EVER AGAIN philosophy applied to controlling individuals and groups has made Thomas an enemy of mind-controlled death cults and neo-Nazi fringe groups.  Thomas has also been featured in several films and documentaries. 


  1. This article was perfectly impeccable. Thanks for your profound efforts and insights. I feel super inspired at the moment. Keep the good work.

  2. just lovely Thomas. You keep getting better and better. . .and you were already brilliant!

  3. Nobody does it better... ;) Fack this though, I'm off to the gym. Later '5ir Sheridan' ;) Great post, and I'm not even asslicking. ;)