By Eh’den (Uri) Biber
Why am I writing this series, and why awareness is not as straightforward as most of us perceive it to be.
Awareness is a wonderful buzz word. From a very young age we are being expected to “be aware” of what’s going on and to be able to react accordingly, even though most of the people who are trying to make us “aware” have no clue what true awareness is. Blind to the beauty of true awareness we convince ourselves that we might not understand reality but at least we are aware of it, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Fast forwarding to “information security”, which is a domain in awareness that includes technology. There have been many discussions in our community about this topic: some people claim that information security awareness training is a waste of money and others claim it is a crucial element in making organisations secure.
Dear friends, I am well aware (funny statement) that many of you who will continue to read this article will soon sense an urge to stop and dismiss it for multiple reasons. To those who stop – I embrace you with love, and I understand you completely. If you will decide to continue on reading, all I can promise you is to be honest with you as much as I am honest to myself, and as you might soon learn that’s a much bigger statement than it seems.
And with that said, it is now time for my own reflection.
I remember “the good old days” when I used to wake up every morning feeling “aware” and assumed like everyone else that “this is it”. I lived my life via my mind, computers and knowledge allowed me to keep on being blind to my blindness, and everything made sense, or so it seemed – until Rephael was born.
Rephael, our third child was different. It took us 3 years to admit his severe autism, and it took much longer for me to stop trying to fix him, to realise that I am hurting him via my attempts to “cure” him, to recognise that I am not really aware to how he perceive the world. Worse than everything else I was hurting Rephael, regardless how hard I tried not to. For me, it reached a point that I decided that I rather die than continue hurting him. That led me to my quest to understand awareness, to become a fully aware human being. At first I tried the psychological path, then the neurological path, then the biochemical path, and even a spiritual path. While each of the paths gave me a glimpse of understanding none of them felt correct, none of them were giving me the understanding I was seeking for. None of them made me aware.
“The path you will choose is not the chosen path” (Tao Te Ching)
Hacking from a very young age has led me to come up and perform many crazy ideas, most of them were related to technology. However, “Being a fully aware human being” is without any doubt both the most sane and insane idea I ever had. Sane because who doesn’t want to be fully aware, but insane because I can assure you I had no idea what that meant. If I did, I’m pretty sure I would have run away from it as fast as I could. You see, there is a reason why most people are unaware and why most of us spend most of our lives doing everything possible not to be aware, but that will be discussed at a later stage.
The art of noticing
Let us start with a definition:
Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human’s or an animal’s perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event.
According to this definition of awareness, awareness is noticing. You notice a smell thus you are aware of it. You notice the waves of the sea, you notice your partner is getting upset because you don’t close the computer and go to bed, you notice that the message you just received in your mailbox and tells you that you won 5 million dollars, and you notice that it doesn’t make sense. Awareness is the art of noticing.
The first question you might want to ask yourself is awareness sufficient? If we follow the definition above an awareness of an individual to information security (or to the risk it poses) does not guarantee an ability of that individual to respond correctly, or even to understand what’s going on. I might notice a bad smell but I will not know what to do, I might notice a big wave but I might not react quickly to it and surf it, I might notice I’m upsetting my partner but I might not close the computer, and I might notice the message I received seems strange but still click on the link in it.
The next challenge that is rising via the definition of awareness is the fact that it talks about “events, objects, or sensory patterns”. If you investigate on each of these terms you will discover that there is a personal meanings of each individual which is a result of previous experiences of that individual with the world around it. The meaning of “events, objects or sensory patterns” are always being experienced in a subjective way by each and every one of us, a personal interpretation of the experience we have, which in many cases is a result of our interaction with other individuals who were unaware to their lack of awareness to these experiences. I might notice the smell but since I never identified that smell before I will not know it is a smell of gas, I might notice the wave but since I’m afraid of waves I will try to stay still and not surf it, I might notice my partner getting upset but as my culture tells me life is all about me I will find excuses to ignore her (good luck sleeping on the couch tonight darling) and last but not least, I might notice that email I received and notice it doesn’t make sense but since winning a lottery is a dream I always had since childhood I will click on the link.
Last but not least awareness is not a binary value of “1” or “0” but a vast, multi-dimensional experience that creates a real challenge for anyone who will try to evaluate the level of awareness of individuals. To complicate things even more, what some of us consider to be a ‘0’ might be ‘1’ to others, and what we consider to be ‘1’ might be ‘0’ to others. I might notice the smell of gas but I might be a bit cold and it will not smell as a major leak, I might notice the wave but I might think it’s too big for me to surf (while a trained surfer will jump on it with no fear), I might notice my partner getting upset but since I believe I must finish working on my article I will assume she will get over it if tomorrow if will buy her flowers (and while she might notice my efforts she will think it’s too late and too little), and finally, I might notice I received a message of winning 5 million dollars but since I don’t care about money I will ignore it.
As you can see from the examples I made above, awareness by itself cannot provide the ability for individuals to respond with ability to what they are noticing. To do so, individuals needs to reach a different type of awareness, which will be the subject of the next article [edit - the second article called "Making Sense" is now published].
I will leave you with a simple suggestion – try noticing for one minute the fact you are breathing. Concentrate on it, focus on it, close your eyes if you can. Notice the parts of your body that are involved in the act of breathing, notice the movement breathing creates in you, notice the air flowing inside and out, notice the change in energy that occurs due to the breathing, notice how it makes you feel. Isn’t it funny how we are unaware of the most basic activities that keeps us alive?
Until next time,
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