What is consciousness?
And why and how and what for?
The drive to create. That is what it does. It desires. It desires to take chaos and order it. Not to create, then. To recycle. To reconfigure. That is what it does. It takes the data, all the bits and parts, out of storage and it invents purpose from it. That's what it does. It tricks you, it fools you. You are separate from it but it redesigns you. It is the life urge. It is the preprogrammed restlessness that makes sure that when you are happy, satiated, fulfilled, quiet, and done, you will get up and have to do something because to sit still, even (or especially) in the face of contentment, is to die.
But no. That is not consciousness. Lower beings have this drive. Consciousness is not the drive. Consciousness is the awareness of the drive. Consciousness is the power to notice the drive. Consciousness is the tiny bit of feedback you get to have. All of the forces inside and outside that drive you -- like a machine, an infinitely programmable machine that buzzes and whirs and creates and survives -- push you in the general direction of survival. But consciousness is your ability to say, "Wait? This seems wrong. This seems like death." Consciousness is a fail-safe. Because the infinite potential of the human mind, the infinite imaginative power that can solve any problem with enough time and flexibility cannot become complacent, cannot go to the place where the game is won, where the challenges are all met or put aside because to go there is death.
"Get up, get up, get up!" the urge screams.
"But why? I am happy. My needs are met," you say. "There are no more challenges worth meeting."
But this is death. Game over. Win or lose, the brain cannot stop seeking challenge. Why? Because the last impossible challenge, the one more novel experience is death.
Consciousness is the fail-safe, the anti-death. Consciousness is the ability to shrug and say, "Well, I guess I can find one more item for my to-do list. Maybe then I'll be happy for another minute." Consciousness is the ability to pick a purpose when understanding renders inspired action impossible. One more task. One more purpose. One more goal. Until infinity or death. Win or lose, just live.