Consciousness enables human beings to exercise volition or will. Consciousness gives humans the ability to guide events and circumstances, with the self as a kind of stage-manager. At least that is the mechanism as described by science.

Yet we always feel the awareness but never the control. Even when we decide to do or say or pursue something, even when our effort is successful and satisfying within the definition of what we are attempting, there is always an element of happenstance, of serendipity at best — or, when things don’t work out, an air of futility and regret. Consciousness is certainly the proverbial two-edged sword. Why is it usually the one side we are aware of at any given moment, the one side that haunts us even in our felicity?

This is not to say that a perpetual melancholy dominates our lives. It is only a keen sense of life’s fragility and impermanence, even in the midst of day-to-day accomplishements and the enjoyment of blessings. This keen awareness is a stumbling-block to those who enjoy social relations and worldly pursuits. It is interpeted as pessimism. Perhaps it is the undefined prerequisite to being a solitary, the mark of personality that identifies the solitary. But it is more than a morose cloud or pessimism. There is a psychological breakthrough here — dare one say ontological breakthrough.

The insight of the solitary is consciousness and awareness applied in a thorough and unambiguous fullness. It penetrates the facade of society and culture (and, potentially, self) to see nature, self, and universe as they are. It is the transformation of a raw physical capacity into a wondrous ability of the mind or soul to be aware, to distinguish, to be separate — and yet to be nothing but a piece of it all, nothing but a part of a whole.