I should point out that the assertion I have been making since some time after reading Wilber's book, is that our experience is what it is like to be the universe looking at itself from a particular point of view.
I take this to be self-evidently true. The point of view is unique, transient, and usually misconstrued by the viewer to be what the universe really is at that place and time, rather than a construction made to facilitate survival of the particular body long enough to ensure replication of the DNA which created it.
I guess the key to the strength of _my_ point is the recognition of this transience. We each will die, and all too soon [in most cases any way], so the things we take to be so solid, so dependable, are shown to be processes in something much bigger. The _real_ universe, if I may be so bold, is almost completely unknowable to us. It is the noumenon that philosophers like to talk about. Apart from the consciousness that we experience, and the sentience that we can reasonably infer for other animals, and for others like us in distant parts of all the galaxies, the real universe is probably unconscious.
As far as I can see there is no good reason to expect awareness/consciousness anywhere else in the universe to have a much different kind of locus from what we are. Sure the kind of body, number of sensory modes, number of legs, size and type of eyes, antennae and so forth will vary, but UMSITW predicts that sentience and consciousness arise as part of the creation and updating of a model of self in the world, _wherever_ it takes place.
So, reflecting back to richwil's objection:
* the experience is constructed - by the universe at a certain time and location within itself.
* the details and flavour are dependent on the personal history and genetic inheritance of the individual, _of course_, but
* the body is made from the stuff of the biosphere and is part of the biosphere,
* the mind is constituted by memes which are present in thousands or millions of other people - in other words the culture without which the individual does not exist,
* the fate of the individual - each of us - is bound up in the fate of the society which is the community/collective, call it what you will.
So the bottom line is that our individualism is as paradoxical as our experience of being here now. We cannot exist to _be_ individuals without already being inextricably part of everything we think we know to exist. I tend to think that the truest freedom we can attain comes about through seeking to be what we truly are and this entails acknowledging our membership of the biosphere, acknowledging our absolute dependence on hosts of unknown other people who all do their bit to keep our civilisation running, and acknowledging our abject dependence also on the memes - the concepts and values - which make up our thoughts and the constraints on our behaviour. As I see it we have to ally ourselves with the concepts and values we believe to sustain our civilisation and work towards developing and communicating these to the people we live and work with.
Anything else will be self-defeating and a waste of time.
We know what it's like for the universe to be "looking at itself" in that we are part of the universe and we can perceive.
This does not imply that there are no boundaries between people or that boundaries in general are illusory. Of course we do make arbitrary and even false distinctions between things/events we perceive but since when is chalk cheese or torture kindness?
The experiencer is not, ultimately, the universe though it is true to say that the universe as it appears to you is all there is to your experience. There are many experiencers, all perceiving a tiny part of the universe and each having a different point of view.
The view that perception is some sort of direct connection dissolving the distinction between experiencer and experienced is illusory (though i would agree it feels quite real when one is in certain alternate states of consiousness) and is demonstrably false given our limited senses and the various perceptual illusions our brains are prone to.
"What it is like to be the universe looking at itself" is a perfectly reasonable concept and not [necessarily] just tongue in cheek.
For me the basis of the idea stems originally from Ken Wilber's "No Boundary" [Shambhala/Boston/London/1985] in which he makes the case for seeing all the boundaries in and between personalies and societies as being artificial constructions. I think he is right. From this it follows that in reality all boundaries are transient, mutable, and very often completely illusary.
From this it follows that if there _is_ an experience of being here now, the experiencer, ultimately, is the universe.
NB: for the removal of doubt,
xodarap appears elsewhere also under the guise of xodarap_A, Paradox, A_paradox, and Mark A Peaty.