Deepak Chopra’s joke caught me by surprise. I read many of his books, loved most of them, but for the first time, I saw his sense of humor full blown. Previously, I wasn’t all that sure he had one.

Deepak Chopra's joke about consciousness
Consciousness is what scientists call “the hard problem.” They can’t figure it out. So, some solved the hard problem, declaring that consciousness doesn’t really exist. No joke. It’s an illusion, and Chopra took it as a straight line.

Reading Deepak Chopra’s new book, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, I assimilated a lot I liked, but I didn’t agree with everything.

Some elaborate details made sense where I’d been uncertain, and some got me shaking my head in disagreement. I like books that do that. I’m engaged, and I don’t drift.

In my brain, neurons fire, and my mind swims with ideas, complex and interconnected. That’s healthy. It satisfies.

Listening to Books

An audiobook reader for fifteen years now, I read faster, and I read more. Dog-earing a page when approaching my subway stop is over. I just keep reading.

When the author reads his own book, as Chopra does with Metahuman, it adds nuance to the story.

I laughed out loud on a subway platform, reading Al Franken’s opinion that the easiest job in the world was “Rush Limbaugh’s fact-checker.”

Franken’s delivery was pitch perfect, and I read everything of his that came out.

The Consciousness Debate

But back to Deepak Chopra’s joke. I wasn’t expecting it, and surprise added to the fun.

Digging into the surprising debate over consciousness, Chopra turned unusually aggressive, and I loved it. He’s annoyed by the same intellectual malarky as I am. In league with Deepak Chopra ain’t too shabby.

He singled out two writers, Stephen Pinker and Daniel Dennett. Pinker, in his book, Enlightenment Now, took the standard line: consciousness is an illusion, an unintentional byproduct of actual brain activity.

I read that all the time, and it buzzes me. These days, it resembles religious dogma, and every right-thinking scientist must chime in.

No matter that it makes little sense, and no viable formula exists for physical matter exploding into nonphysical reality. And explosion is no exaggeration. You can say it simply: your brain spontaneously creates the illusion of your being aware and conscious.

Saying it simples makes it no less explosively radical and completely lacking foundation.

Dennett defines consciousness as an homunculus, a fake creature hunkered down in your brain pretending to have real experiences, but you are fooling yourself.

You might be surprised to find that smart people paid well to write and teach believe we’re not really conscious. We just think we are, and that academic hocus-pocus pisses off Chopra and me.

And now, Deepak Chopra’s Joke

Paraphrasing, I hope I do it justice, and I can’t repeat Chopra’s delivery in print. But bear with me.

After going over Pinker’s and Dennett’s arguments that consciousness is an illusion, Chopra pauses and sighs.

This is a paraphrase, but you get the picture.

“So, we are illusions guided by illusions,” he said.

It’s absurd and logically ridiculous. His voiced dripped with jolly disdain.

It was a Deepak Chopra new to me, and I liked it.

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