Consent is a very tricky issue. How do I know if consent is real? How do I tell if what I am consenting to and what you think I am consenting to are different? What recourse do I have to change my mind and take back my consent midstream for any particular action, including a dramatic personal or global event? When all is said and done, what does consent really mean?
One thing I know for sure, which probably seems counter-intuitive at the start: nothing, and I mean nothing, happens without collaboration and consent from friends and foes alike. The fortunate, the damned, the victorious, the suffering, the freed, the oppressed – all must give consent on one level or the other. In order for an event to “break through” from mere possibility into physical reality there must be consent on some level. Can I prove this? Absolutely not. Do I know this without knowing exactly how I know? Absolutely.
In my admittedly idiosyncratic worldview this deeper level of consent is lodged in a realm of reality where the greater good is fully known and understood to be without contradiction. It is the stuff of dreams and daydreams and yearnings. It is not an imposed Platonic absolute but a shimmering, pulsating action that is continuously re-framing and refreshing itself based on the awareness and behavior of all its component parts. Each of us dives into that unconscious or semi-conscious realm many times a day and many more times at night when our usual filters and controls fade into the background or disappear altogether. As we step back and discover the broader framework, we understand how adversaries could come to be perceived as allies for our development and the exploration of our purpose. We are known to each other there – friends and enemies alike – and the greater good is known to us all. From this more expansive understanding where apparent contradictions are resolved, we can agree to take on various roles that ultimately serve the greater good, even if it means taking on the role of “bad guy” or gal for a limited period of time. Actually I may no longer be alone in thinking this way; more and more mainstream scientists, philosophers and ordinary people are sharing a similar orientation to the world.
So consent serves the greater good. For me, the greater good can be described as a resonance of shared well-being; it is not a specific social ideal or destination. It is a destination of feeling and there are infinite ways to get there. The blending of our personal and collective experience helps us carry out this emotional journey. Initially we find that resonance within ourselves and our frequency radiates outward, perhaps attracting and linking first with those of like mind, and then farther outward until we find a place where all – including adversaries or full-out enemies – are connected and smile simultaneously when we hear a hauntingly familiar and mutually pleasurable sound.
Whatever perspective we hold at any given moment, individual qualities combine with collective ones until we find a temporary “sweet spot,” a shimmering tone of unspeakable beauty that all share and all find appealing because the beauty speaks to a part of us that is our common identity.
Alas, such a moment of conscious unified consent usually lasts but a fleeting instant. Sooner or later, however, we learn that impermanence may be our most precious gift of all because we get to leave and return, agree and disagree endless times from endless perspectives! We are not condemned to eternal limitation, nor to reward or punishment based on what we thought was best at any particular time or limited range of awareness. As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.” We dart into and out of understanding the way hummingbirds dart into and out of flowers in search of sweet nectar.
Consent means that we do not have to be, nor can we remain forever oppressed or forever victorious. Even when we feel as if we want to stay where we are forever, inevitably the yearning to experience new challenges would take over and we would be off and running to new adventures. If we learned safety, we would become curious about the experience of those who lack it; if we learned poverty, we would become curious about the experience of those who want for nothing. Thank goodness, nothing in our three-dimensional world or in that invisible realm is set in stone or eternally limited! This is true free will in action, true consent expressed. This is the deepest meaning of the assertion that we can and do live in a “safe universe,” the mechanics of which are described by several metaphysical authors in spite of seemingly contrary evidence shouting at us. Quite literally, in my view, we do get to have it all one way or the other, sooner or later, in time and space or outside of it. We get to know not only what is or was or will be, but also come to know what might have been or might be still. We experience the possible, the probable, the likely, and the actual over and over and over again in any moment or hour or day or century. This is the gift of self-awareness, of consciousness. Consent to take part in the greater good, in the resonance of shared well-being, permits us unlimited experience in unlimited roles. That is the deeper meaning of consent and the reason to stop avoiding or denying our participation in mass events we do not like. Such events give us the opportunity to find out who we are. Another way to put it, as my father liked to say often is this: “All is revealed.” We are revealed to ourselves and to others, as they are to us.
Understanding these deeper levels of consent actually returns our power to us. Sooner or later we must embrace our agency and mastery, even if some of our shared creations make us horrified and ashamed of what we built. The good news is this: just as we can create anything, we can also transform anything – including horror – into a moment of unspeakable beauty when with one voice we say “Aaaaaaahhhh” or “Enough!” We can even fall back in awe momentarily into the silence of the void where nothing at all is expressed externally and where consent thus has no meaning. No meaning, that is, until the stirrings for individualized expression begin again and we look for our new consensual partners to begin a new set of reality plays. How fortunate we are!