Category Archives: Consciousness

Weekly Report: The Dope…the Dupe

Posted by Mike

Leon hot air balloon festival 2010.jpgMarch 3: The headline on Time’s frontpage today is “Yes, America is in Decline/No America is Still No. 1.” I never hear anyone ask “Why?”  so I’m asking it; and suggesting that we’d be a lot better off if we weren’t. It might get us off our grandiose high horse of believing that we are the savior of the world. It’s interesting that we’ve been proved so wrong so many times before, but that doesn’t stop belief. Changing firmly held beliefs may require some kind of full frontal confrontation to get people to wake up. Unfortunately, that kind of confrontation generally brings with it a lot of pain.

I find some decision-making rather mysterious. I know, we weigh the pros and cons, look at the possible/probable outcomes, and then make the best, the most rational decision we can make. But what about the emotional factors? And doesn’t the process get quite muddied up with multiple factors, especially when the decision is important and the tipping point can’t easily be got at? Of course we do the best we can with what (brain power, good sense, advice from others) we’ve got. I made a big decision recently regarding major surgery that is not absolutely indicated. As far as I’m concerned the decision is made and I’m going ahead with it; but I need to be aware that there’s a part of me that’s going to be questioning the decision at least to some extent even when they wheel me into the operating room. There are people who are so obsessive that they are unable to make decisions; the bigger the decision is, the harder it is for them. We’re not perfect; we’re fallible. If we need help in sorting out the issues, we need to ask for it. I have a hard time doing that: related to childhood isolation and inability to ask for anything back then. In the work I do I daily make decisions that affect the lives of individuals and families. I do the best I can with the evidence I have available. The evidence isn’t perfect and in some cases there is a degree of subjectivity that must be allowed in or a decision can’t be made. An obsessive-compulsive would never be able to do that job. I’ve learned to make a decision and then forget about it. Fortunately, there are avenues of appeal available if the recipient disagrees. So in general, make the decision, and then let it go; subject to revision if significant new evidence arises and presses for a hearing; but don’t obsessively review afterwards. Life is too demanding, challenging, wonderful and present to be overly tied up by the past like that.

March 4: I woke up unable to sleep last night and happened upon Gus Van Sant’s first full length film, Mala Noche. It’s about events in a brief period of a young male convenience store clerk’s life, in the skid row district of Portland. It’s filmed like the cinema noir pictures of the late ‘30’s in black and white, and the lives of the people it follows is just as bleak. What comes to me as the important overall message for me from the film is that as secure, comfortable middle class Americans, most of us don’t have a clue as to what it’s like to lead the kind of hand-to-mouth kind of existence lots of people experience in this country. That awareness should lead us to a kind of humility, nonjudgmentalness, and a generosity not only of funds but of spirit to those less fortunate. I often make it to the first level , the awareness part, but never seem to make it to the second level of thinking/feeling/acting described above.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write pungent essays in my head. Most of the time I’ve forgotten them by the time I awaken in the morning. Seldom do I later write anything down. When I do try to, it seems that maybe what I thought was so clever and insightful at 2 a.m. wasn’t. I do remember thinking last night about following the news of the conflict in the Middle East. Every morning one of the first things I do is bring up the New York Times on my laptop and go to the Lede blog, updating us on the latest events. Currently of course, the Lede is following events in Libya closely. As I’m reading the updates sometimes I feel like I want to will progress on the insurgents’ part. I expect this desire to be able to “will” a change in circumstances or events is not uncommon. We know it’s not possible, but we want something (that we have no control over) to be so so much, that we would like to be able to will it to be so. Fortunately most of us are sufficiently reality-based to know that’s just fantasy. Occasionally people cross the line. We call them delusional, and they don’t do very well in the long run; reality catches up with them.

March 7: What happened to the 5th and the 6th? They must not have happened. I can’t tell you…but why, why can’t I just let go of my beef with organized religion? For example, the other day coming home I passed a fancy dentist’s office near here, and would you believe, they have this massive statue of Jesus in front of the building, on a granite pedestal, engraved with the writing, “He is our Salvation.” Who do they think they are? Why is it necessary for believers to include the rest of us in their scenario. What if I don’t believe that he is my salvation? I guess from their point of view all of society is included under the umbrella or penumbra of the man from Nazarath. It would be impossible, I guess, for a Christian to say something like, “I believe Jesus is my salvation, but that isn’t necessarily the case for you.” I see that that wouldn’t work; it’s got to be inclusive. It does seem to me, however, given that attitude that a measure of self-righteousness, yea even of judgmentalism toward us poor nonbelievers might just be present. The position of knowing, and “knowing” that the others don’t, seems to be rather arrogant. Of course, you could turn it around on me and wonder if I might just be exhibiting some of those very same uncomely attitudes. You might be right. I do think, though, that I am open to saying you believe what you want to and I’ll believe what I want to and we’re both going to be at least somewhat wrong – but we need to be nonjudgmental about each other. I have more about this topic later, and I’ll just give you a preview: There are mainstream Christians out there who believe in Predestination!

The wisdom of the generations is fragile, but that which we preserve and value must be based upon observation and experience, not on myth reflecting out unconscious defensive predilections

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Filed under Consciousness, Dreams, philosophy, skepticism, Uncategorized

Stepping out of the Infinite Loop

Posted by David

One aspect of economics that I’ve been mulling over recently is why the dollar is accepted so widely throughout the world. Why does the world still accept it as the reserve currency despite the fact that we really don’t produce much and we don’t provide much of real importance to the rest of the world. Generally speaking, the United States has abandoned its manufacturing and export-based economy in favor of what some refer to as a FIRE economy (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate). Why do so many nations support that sort of economy which is arguably parasitic to the rest of the world?

I’m coming to believe that economic success of a nation has less to do with raw goods and services it produces and more to do with power or the perception of power it produces. And in our days it has much to do with The Bomb. The only thing that props us up is the power that the world perceives us to have. It’s just like football. People want to root for the winning team. No one wants to back a loser. And even if they do, they still want them to win. The United States is the hulky team, bulked out on atomic steroids and the rest of the world knows it.

No longer does our country produce the atomic propaganda of the 50’s “duck and cover” sort of stuff, but nuclear weapons are still a deep part of most everyone’s subconscious mind. When we went to war with Iraq, probably the most successful argument was that Saddam had The Bomb.

Just the other week, we were studying the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:25-34 and we were charged to consider the things throughout the week that most worry us on a day-to-day basis. (This particular section of Jesus’ sermon is about not worrying.) I thought and prayed about the things I worry about. I don’t really consider myself a very anxious person. I don’t really care about locking doors. I expect that my kids will grow up just fine. I’m happily married. My parents are just fine. What’s to worry about? (Honestly, my biggest conscious worry is a bit narcissistic, which is sad, but true.)

However, toward the end of that week I had an intense dream. I was in Seattle at night walking along when there was a great flash and from beneath the buildings, I could feel the wind start up pulling what looked like fierce rain horizontally above the buildings across the city skyline, which was actually debris being pulled into the firestorm of a nearby nuclear blast.

What was remarkable was my reaction to it all. I thought to myself, “Well, I can’t believe they actually did it. They actually started setting off The Bombs.” I wasn’t really worried at all. It was just a matter of fact. “And now it’s time to start picking up the pieces,” was my next thought. I woke up shortly after that. It was certainly a vivid dream, one that wakes one up due to intensity. Was this the answer to our Sunday school homework? Is this what I worry about?

I expect that most people my age and older have this same deep-seated fear.

But there’s really nothing to worry about. The Bomb is in many ways the final archetype of fear. The Bomb may very well be the final manifestation of fear on the planet. It surpasses earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, rape and even war. It is all those and more: pure violence, physical, mental and emotional assault.

But should we really worry about it? No, never.

The human will and the human soul are controlled by fear. Our sin uses fear to control us and make us become powerlusting souls and aggregately power-hungry nations. Fear forces us to spend time fortifying rather than loving others. Fear leads us down the path of self-serving rather than self-sacrifice. Fear makes us point at them rather than ourselves, when the only thing truly to fear is the one God that can send us to hell.

Just before the “Do not worry” section, Jesus states, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

The “eye” of which he speaks is our focus—those things upon which we dwell. If we dwell on The Bomb in our deepest recesses, how great is that darkness. If we dwell on power, how great is that darkness. If we dwell on ourselves, how great is that darkness. In computer terms dwelling on oneself would be the same as an infinite loop, which always crashes a script.

As difficult as it is to do, focus the eye on those things that are marvelous and true. We must not waste our time worrying about those things that might happen. This is probably the most important thing that I have learned so far in my life. Implementation is essential. It takes practice and cannot be done without the work of Jesus in our life. Step out of that infinite loop of darkness.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

– Philippians 4:8

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Filed under Christianity, Consciousness, society, war

Autism – The Inward Flight of the Bright and Stubborn Child

Posted by David
Temple Grandin with Horse

Temple Grandin with Horse

We just watched a movie about Dr. Temple Grandin, the famous autistic woman who specializes in ‘thinking in pictures’ and thinking like cattle. I have read about her before in a book called An Anthropologist on Mars, by Oliver Sachs. It’s a fascinating book.

What struck me about the movie was that supposedly she had photographic memory. Really? In years past, I haven’t believed that people could actually have photographic memory. I’ve thought the phenomenon to be either a lie or just a self-misrepresentation, i.e., one might think that they have photographic memory, but that they are actually just really good either at using mnemonic devices or at visualizing.

When I was younger my dad would say that he couldn’t see things in his head, something I also couldn’t believe. I thought that actually he could see things, but just fuzzy and probably no more fuzzy than most other people. I now believe he might not consciously be able to see things, but that he processes his visualizations differently than I do. He can refute me here.

There seems to be different types of thinkers out there. The types are probably connected to the different types of senses: eyes, ears, smell, taste and even touch. I’d probably class smell and taste together, but maybe not.

Like Temple, I’m a visual thinker, probably because of my limited speech as my brain developed. (I was a stutterer in grade school and secondary school.) Or maybe it is the other way around. My tendency toward visual thinking limited my speech and reading, but that’s a chicken-egg issue not to side track us here.

So, what kind of thinker would my dad be? Certainly, he will need to class himself, but I’ll give it a shot. He’s probably an auditory ‘visualizer.’ What I see in pictures, he probably hears in his head or ‘thinks’ in his head. This might also be what makes him musically gifted…and me not musically gifted. Now, of course, we all cross the borders of these types. We all visualize and we all audiate. But most people excel in one way or the other based who they are and whence they came.

The savant, on the other hand, would be someone who is really good at one particular way of thinking and not good at the others. Something in their early childhood, during brain development, hindered one or more aspects of their character which focused them into another way of thinking and acting. Temple Grandin would seem to be an example of a savant, which makes me think that she may actually have photographic memory, or at least some very heightened ability to visualize something she looked at briefly. But I’m sure even her photographic memory fades quickly, but we’ll need to ask her!

I do recall having a few dreams in my life that were heightened visually. The scenes were so vivid and so detailed, that I remember thinking (during one dream in particular) that there’s no way that my brain could be manufacturing this level of detail. I still remember one of these dreams, but the detail did not remain. It has all turned to fuzz. This does remind me that I do believe memory is beyond the individual. We may be tapping into more than just our lowly brains can muster.

During the past few years, I’ve had the fortunate experience of being able to substitute in some classrooms at our local high school and interact with autistic children. Most of the autistic kids are in distant, deep, and far away in a lonely world. They seemingly have no keen ability, unlike Grandin, with the exception of one of the students who is an exceptional abstract artist. My experience has made me think that the reason some autistic children are exceptional visually is because of the cutting off of the auditory communications with others. By diving inside themselves, locking and throwing away the key, all they have is the visual world that they’ve entered and they lose their ability to communicate effectively with others. They live in that visual world, a beautiful, comfort-filled, yet difficult and frightening place.

In regards to autistic children, there are five interesting factors that I think tell their story. 1) Autistic children are very stubborn and get frustrated easily (at least the ones I know). 2) Two of the highest density locations for autistics are Redmond, WA (Microsoft) and Silicone Valley (smart parents). 3) First-born children are more likely to be autistic. 4) Children of older parents are more likely to be autistic. 5) They are usually ‘normal’ as infants and even toddlers.

The five factors above tell me a compelling story: Autism may very well be a social disease, caused by society’s relentless push toward ‘success’. And it seems to be potentially preventable in some children when young. Smart parents of bright stubborn children shouldn’t push their children to learn too much, or they might just climb back inside their heads and learn that it’s safer inside than out. Certainly, they must be engaged physically, mentally and emotionally. That’s the key. But how to do that seems to be the big question and must be tailored to the individual. Let’s have our kids enjoy childhood and give them opportunities where they can excel. Leading a horse is a lot easier than pushing one. But then again maybe as a species, we just have hit the limit on intelligence and autism is the side effect.

I say all this fairly blindly; my kids aren’t autistic. My 4-year old is very stubborn and wonderful and difficult, but I can’t even imagine what it’s like having an autistic child. The parent must know patience like no other parent.

The most severly autistic boy I know is profoundly stubborn. He’ll throw a fit before he’ll do anything a teacher wants him to do. He can’t talk, he can barely walk, yet he can move a mouse quicker than any 18-year old whizz kid from China. Supposedly, he was a normal 3 year old.

But it seems like it’s generally untreatable once the brain is set in its mold—barring a miracle. The rut in which these people walk is deeper than we can climb down to them. And since it’s partly due to the stubborn nature of humanity, it’s a door they must open to get out. And we sure can’t yell down at them to get them out. That will push them deeper.

The choice of the will is the beautiful story in the Temple Grandin movie we watched. She spoke of doors and going through them. How scary those doors were looming for her. But she kept opening doors. It was her will and her choice to get out and she made it, thank God.

But my favorite of Einstein’s words on religion is “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” I like this because both science and religion are needed to answer life’s great questions. Even scientists such as Richard Feynman, who rejected religion and poetry as sources of truth, concede grudgingly that there are questions that science cannot answer.

-Dr. Temple Grandin

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Filed under children, Consciousness, Psychology, society

The Roar and the Whisper

Sunlight on the Bogachiel River

Posted by David—

It came from a call, wild as a roar and quiet as a whisper in the night. From one hemisphere of the universe to the other an echo resounded and remained the heartbeat of life.

Was it with a bang or was it with a rosy evening in one hemisphere and a husky blue morning in the other that the universe began? Was the light hot like the summer or did it shine like that of Saint Elmo’s Fire—as if water and fire could be one? Must have light travel from one end to reach the other or did it appear from everywhere at once? One thing is certain, the light dawned in the beginning.

I can imagine then all at once that everywhere in the great expanse bubbles appeared, small and large, bubbles of sky and water, each in its own family, in their own tribes, and in His own collections. Not one of the churning, mixing, self-illuminating bubbles were alone, each were moved by the presence of the other. From among all bore life: green life, red life, colored life—for out of life comes life.

Next I can imagine that a new type of light broke forth, not the rosy light of dawn nor the pale blue light of a misty morning, but white light, bright light, light of the sort which breaks your gaze. The new light began by congregating muted colors. First one popped, then another and another until everywhere sparkled in the great expanse. Early on it was like sparkles in fresh, fluffy snow in the sunlight, but as more and more of the pale light popped into sparks, darkness emerged amid the tiny pinpoints, swirls, threads and mycelia of brightness. These lights forever changed the texture of the great expanse. Eddies, waves and tides covered the heavens. Light danced from one hemisphere to the other. Deep within and among this light river dwelt life, ever-changing and alway the same, ever-seeing and always abounding.

In one special place, so infinitesimal, so humble, and so ordinary, it was decided, that life should take on special meaning. Life was given special breath to speak and special eyes to see and special hands to create. It was right here that this happened long ago, long before memory can reckon. To this life was also given a special sense. This life could love and befriend his Creator. To those wide, fresh eyes, life was most certainly paradise.

Along with this special creation came responsibility, not like that of drudgery, but like that of royal discernment. For this new form of breath who could tell living stories also had the potential to slander. This new form of eyes had the potential to covet. This new form of hands had the potential to murder. A special rule was given, unlike any law of nature, to keep danger away.

But such a regal status for such a lowly form of life was envied by one great and charismatic light. A crafty conspiracy ensued to trick the one who was loved into unfavored status, if that were possible. In perfect freedom, the special creation was deceived. In perfect freedom, the special creation ate death. In perfect freedom, guilt was pronounced.

Immediately, a counter-conspiracy began for the special creation was deeply loved even still—to the horror of the great and charismatic light.

But with death now on the beloved creature’s mental horizon, the creature could no longer bring forth life, but instead could only propagated war, for breath still brought forth the mind’s manifestations. The battle began for power over who rules where the victor rises in the depths of Hell—a battle of words and lies, deceit and lust, bludgeon and fire.

For centuries, this one-time battle ensued. There were those within the special creation who understood the tragedy and foretold the joy. As pronounced, their story came to life when the same roar and the same whisper that formed all of creation from the beginning was born into the body of the special creation—into the creature. The roar and the whisper took on the cloak of death, during which he spoke of the true life to be. Unloved and unbelieved, he was abandoned and in jealousy he was assassinated by those he held dear. And with him, so must die all of the universe too, for all that came from his roar and whisper went with him in his descent into Hell.

But like the Phoenix, out of the ashes arose the Roar and the Whisper, for infinite sacrifice begets infinite life. And from his mouth comes a new roar and a new whisper which conjugates light once again. You cannot yet hear this roar with your ears. You cannot yet see the new light of his voice with your mind. You can only know it through the eyes of hope, for we are still of the Phoenix’s ashes. So fix your eyes, fix your hands, and fix your mind on the Roar and the Whisper, for we are still a special creation. And what we love, who loved us first, will never ever abandon us. “Out of the ashes, arise!”

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 11:43-44

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Filed under Astronomy, Christianity, Consciousness

Whence Comes Morality?

Posted by Mike

In Take Me to the River (or Somewhere Nearby) [NYTimes.com July 30, 2009], journalist and scholar Robert Wright laments about his continuing to have a well developed – yes perhaps even burdensome – sense of sin and guilt despite his years of having given up on the religion of his youth and now being a nonbeliever. He concludes that “natural selection built the conscience, hence guilt, into our brains.” He seems to be somewhat perplexed as to how people without a religious-based moral code to guide them can remain moral creatures, but concludes that “you can be an atheist and feel that there’s such a thing as right and wrong, and that you’ll try to align your life with this moral axis.” He goes on to suggest that, “In fact, I think you can make a sheerly intellectual, non-faith-based case that there is some such transcendent source of meaning, and even something you could call a ‘moral order’ out there.”

When Wright discusses the possibility of a transcendent source of meaning he does leap into the mystical unknown, which he had previously studiously avoided. I have no problem with wondering about the unknown; however, prior to moving in that direction it seems to me that we should acknowledge that Wright’s original premise re natural selection holds regarding human morality. Can we not parsimoniously conclude that it was likely the survival of the most adaptive features of the human that led to the development of our moral sense? Neither the tribe or a much expanded complex society or culture would likely have been able to survive without the refined selection of moral values society in general now possesses, which among other things enables social cohesion. And whether or not we like to acknowledge it, we humans are family/group/tribal animals who would not have survived the way we are now without our intense social dependence. Lions would not still be with us had they not developed the functional-social unit of the pride, and we would not be here without the human family-tribe.

Once we acknowledge that we possess the moral sense (what Wright calls a “moral order“), that we have because it was selected by circumstances to enable the survival of the species as we know it, then we can speculate further about a mystical transcendent source of meaning. Given our fragility as individual humans and even our fragility in groups and our strong need for emotional supports, and given as well, historically, our profound ignorance regarding ourselves and the natural world, it is quite reasonable that we humans would create structures to make the unknown known and thereby increase our apparent, felt security. Part of our ability to organize and construct the world to meet our needs is derived from this innate and doubtless natural selection-driven need to organize and construct, not only the known, but to extend this to all areas of experience, to the unknown – to what is over the next mountain, to why it rains or why we have seasons, to where do we come from, and to what happens after death.

Wright does not directly suggest it, but (extending the argument in his article), it seems that believers and unbelievers alike need notion, concept, or belief in the transcendent. Though science has, especially in the past several hundred years, unlocked so many secrets of the organic and inorganic world and radically expanded the “known,” there continues the vast expanse of the unknown that we need to have organized in our minds in some way for us humans to feel safe and secure. Historically over time as the veil of ignorance about the world is lifted by human discoveries, our understanding of reality has become more objective and less subjective and we have increasingly had less of a need to create or maintain explanatory myths. The notion of a transcendent source of meaning is a rather hypothetical construct and has the features of a culturally supported, traditional explanatory myth. It may be that as individuals and as societies we will never have sufficient knowledge and understanding to let go of such myths completely. In addition, the poetics of explanatory myths and our human responsiveness to the deep inexpressible meanings inherent in poetry are hidden features of our myths which ground them so tenaciously in our psyches.

http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2009/take_me_river_or_somewhere_nearby_16376

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Filed under Consciousness, evolution, philosophy, religion

Visualizing Memes

Posted by David

This entry is a plug for Google Trends. Some fascinating trends in the collective consciousness can be found there.

My mother and I were having a discussion. The gist of it was whether or not ‘the media’ was controlled in our country. We weren’t exactly on the same page, but not that far off.

In the past, I would have said, “Of course, the media is controlled by the powers that be. ‘They’ control the media.”

Nowadays, I’m more likely to argue that we are they. It’s the collective perspectives of various groups within the organism of Mankind that drives the information delivered by the various media outlets. The groups of people that are dominant in a particular culture provide the memes that are overarching within the thinking of the individuals as well media. This even goes for dictatorial states, where an individual or an oligarchy runs the state.

So, for example, in the United States, we supposedly live in a bipolar state. There are two main poles: conservatives and liberals. The memes that exist within these two groups, generally-speaking, would drive what the media provides. This is what I have been thinking. However, the graph below as well as many others that I’ve seen in Google Trends are making me rethink this perspective.

The Economy Meme - Search Volume and News Reference Index 2004-2009

There are a number of fascinating things about this graph. But first, I’ll stay on topic. Notice that the search volume index (how often people have searched on the term “economy”) differs widely from the news reference volume. If my theory were true that the general meme within in society drives the media, then these two graphs should mirror each other better than they do.

Let’s look a bit closer at what Google Labs is doing. The top graph shows how often people are searching for a particular term of phrase. This is what I’m calling a general societal meme. The lower graph provides an index describing the news reference volume.  I’m considering this graph to be the Media’s meme. They are definitely different. At minimal, the news reference volume doesn’tfollow the pattern of the search volume index. 

Interestingly, the relationship of the two graphs are not always different on all topics. If you search the term hurricane, they’ll mirror each other along the hurricane season quite closely as one would expect. If you search a neutral term, such as dancing, they will mirror each other slightly, based on an interesting yearly trend.

So, why is “economy” as a search volume index and news reference volume so incongruous? Could it be because the ‘powers that be’ try to control the media? I can’t say. But I now won’t hold so fast to my previous perspective.

The other thing that is interesting to note about the graph above is how people’s interest in the economy changes seasonally. Around July, when summer is in full gear, people are much more carefree doesn’t it seem? And around the time when we focus on Christ and people are freely giving, people could care less about the dollar. Isn’t that the way it should be?

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Filed under Consciousness, media

I’m Just Saying…! Part One

Posted by Mike

June 7, 2009: So this doctor I work with asked me if I am an agnostic or an atheist. Obviously the question didn’t just come up out of the blue; I set it up by what I had said before – but as this conversation occurred several days ago, it so happens that I have completely forgotten how I had done so. You’ve noticed that I’ve referred to her as “this doctor.” Of course that’s not by accident either. That’s right. I’m trying to impress you. Like I know a doctor sort of thing. Yes remarkably I’m a doctor too – but not a real doctor. A PhD who doesn’t teach or do research – what kind of doctor is that? In any case I hesitated before responding – finally said something like You know I don’t like labels – and told her basically that I wasn’t sure what I was – but didn’t think that the labels helped or tell the whole story. After all, when you start categorizing things, you begin to leave a lot of things out. Abstractions are always like that; once you start doing that a lot of important things are left on the cutting room floor that are forever after ignored – to our peril, I say. Not that we don’t have to do it at times. When we talk or write or think we just can’t always deal with the objective and concrete and all the details – or the subjective for that matter – we have to summarize and categorize.  But sometimes – especially with important matters – we need to step back and look at where we’re coming from – maybe go back to the cutting room and take a careful look at what we’ve left out and what’s lying around on the floor that might be important!

I hope you know a little what I’m talking about because clarity obviously isn’t my first priority right now – although to tell the truth, I’m not sure what is. There I go – lying again; but I shouldn’t feel bad about it; we all do it; whether or not it’s part of human nature I don’t know – but we do it. It’s like we’re all sculptors – and in a conversation – if it’s really serious – we cut and chip and sand and smooth – until we get what we want. What we end up with may reflect what we think is really real – or it we may end up with what we think we want the other person to hear. It sounds narcissistic and manipulative and dishonest, doesn’t it? You tell me; aren’t we like that – at least some of the time – maybe a lot of the time. Deep down people are really so vulnerable; we want to be right; we want to be liked. These are really very big orders – and we can’t get either one cheaply, though one of our major problems – as individuals and in society in general – is that we generally try to.

So I told her that I think people have a strong need for the religious – I guess I was just vamping to give myself time; if you’re really thoughtful you don’t generally want to talk about these kinds of issues right away with just anyone – unless of course you’re sure about it.  My son is sure – or at least he seems sure. I see a lot of people who talk and act like they’re sure – but you know I just don’t trust them. Most of them are like the categorizers that I was talking about earlier. They’ve got it all figured out; actually what’s  happened is that someone else has told them what to believe and they have bought it  – hook, line, and sinker. It’s really much easier that way – you don’t have to sort out the difficult issues; you don’t have to live with uncertainty – or tentativeness; you don’t really have to think about it anymore; you can relax – because you know. You however probably know by now that I think that’s a lot of bunk. But despite all of that, I do understand it. Being human ain’t easy – so to speak. Let me correct that somewhat; actually, behaving or doing is fairly easy; it’s the meaning that’s the problem – the big picture: what’s it all about; is it okay to waterboard people who get in our way? is it all right to inject bad guys in prison with poison to kill them? is it right to have our young men halfway around the world who are killing and getting killed by people who don’t want us in their country – young men who are going to return home and have lots and lots of problems because they will begin to question why they went there in the first place – what were they doing? And why were they so naïve to believe everything they were told by their elders, whom they were taught and believed at the time that they could trust?

I’ve done it again – and I’d like to apologize; I’ve made this political – and I really didn’t intend to – but things happen sometimes – sort of like they’re out of our control. But then what I’m saying is that I’m out of my control; so that doesn’t sound so good does it? And then again maybe that’s just the way we humans are – at least that’s my take on it right now. And the truth is that my intention wasn’t to make a political statement, but my intention WAS to make a religious statement. So okay – maybe the young man needs to either put up or shut up! When I said that I think that people have a strong need for the religious maybe I meant a strong need for the spiritual. We’re using abstractions again – and clearly we’re in troubled waters; but I’ll try to explain what I’m trying to talk about. I mean that we humans – as I said before – are deep down really very vulnerable and insecure and fragile. Some of you may say that that’s just not true about  you. I admire your confidence, but nevertheless tend to think that it is true. Those people who don’t see it that way just take a little longer to reach that conclusion. That’s a belief, not a fact; I haven’t done any research on it, and obviously can’t say for sure. It’s just one of those things that we all think we “know” for sure – based on our own experience. For some such matters, we can really be dead wrong – and our  thinking never gets corrected. People just tolerate our aberrant notions, never really confront us – and we end up always being in lala land about whatever the issue is. Likely happens to most of us about some things. Most of us have generous friends who allow us our eccentricities in thinking. That’s nice, but perhaps more reality checks would help us all to be more in better touch with what’s really out there and  what’s really happening. 

But yes, I do think that we humans have a strong need for the spiritual. Most of us, if we were fortunate, grew up with somebody or somebodies who served as parents for us. Whatever their failings they provided some nurturance and protection when we were young. We felt relatively safe and secure. As grown-ups, we don’t have them any more. It’s up to us alone – and it’s pretty scary being out here by ourselves. We need security. Obviously we get security in lots of ways – some of which aren’t conducive to health and long life – but several important ones are through community, through our beliefs, and especially through our religious beliefs – and from the “spiritual” aspects of our personal or corporate behavior or practice.

I’m just saying….

“To believe in something is a necessary psychological function. Ignorance is intolerable. There are many theories, but it still remains to be seen what the facts are.”

“What you believe and what you know are different things, and it’s important to keep them separated.”

“The only happiness and security there is, is facing life as it comes and dealing with the realities.”

 –  Elvin Semrad

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It’s All About Me! The Universality of Projection

Posted by Mike

We generally think, when we see something out there and listen to people talking out there (in the real world), that what we are seeing and what we are hearing are really out there in the real world and not that what is actually occurring is within our heads.  Well, actually, the objective events are occurring out there in the real world.  It’s the interpretations of our perceptions that are occurring within our heads – and at times the interpretation does relate more to what is going on in our own thoughts and emotions than to what’s occurring in reality.  Most people are somewhat familiar with the psychological defense of projection, that occurs when we attribute to someone else a thought or feeling that we have because it is in some way unacceptable to us.  I expect that all of us use projection from time to time.  But I am not only referring to that, I’m thinking about something much bigger.  And that is that we interpret our perceptions on the basis of our own biases, preconceptions and our own personal history.  Our interpretation of someone’s meaning, or intention, or behavior is strongly colored by what’s happened to us in the past, and thus our interpretations are at times, for all of us, colored by what’s inside us. 

There are at least two general ways in which we distort our perceptions, and they vary in severity, depending on factors that are both internal to us and external.  The most important way we distort is a function of our personal mental pathology.  Those of us who are relatively well adjusted, with minimal unresolved internal emotional conflicts or free-floating emotional residuals are likely to have a lower degree of emotional distortion of our perceptions.  Individuals who are filled with strong free-floating emotions – like anger, fear, anxiety – are likely to be the most vulnerable to not perceiving reality as objectively.  In addition, the more the stimulus touches an area of special vulnerability to us as individuals, areas of special conflict or uncertainty and emotionality, the more we are likely to distort our perceptions.  The second major way that we distort our perceptions is a function both of the stimulus and our special reactivity, and this has to do with the ambiguity of the stimulus.  The more ambiguous the stimulus, the less certain we are as to what is happening out there objectively in reality, and the more we are likely to project our own interpretation on the event or events, based both (obviously) on our own personal history and upon the emotional overlay the stimulus of the objective events elicits within us.

The more we are concerned with attribution of others attitudes, motives and feelings (as opposed to more objective events), the more is the possibility that at least some of our attributions to others are really a product of our own notions, preconceptions, biases.  Everyone has a frame of reference through which we perceive events occurring outside of our bodies, in our own homes and communities, the nation, the world.  Do we often or even ever stop to think that conclusions that we make regarding events and motives are to some degree colored by our own unconscious biases?  I know people who without any doubt believe that every opinion they have about events, personalities, decisions of others is right without question, and certainly not in any way influenced by their own biases and lack of objectivity.

A strong example of false attribution is paranoia, the situation when a person truly believes that others are in some way out to get them, when the subtlest behaviors are seen as clues by the paranoid person, reflective of others’ nefarious intent.  People who are this paranoid generally end up in a hospital under heavy sedation, which if it doesn’t stop the paranoia, at least reduces the person’s energy and potential to cause damage.  I heard a therapist say once that for people who are more intact and capable of some objective reasoning, that the best way to begin to deal with paranoia is for the paranoiac to say to himself, “It’s in here.  It’s not out there!” and to act on those thoughts – to act as if the problems are his own, even if he doesn’t completely believe it at first.  This is likely a tall order for most of us, but can be  manageable, with some external supports.  Over time the individual doing the projecting can begin to sort out rationally and objectively – with some help – exactly what is really “out there” and what is really “in here”; and can begin to look at the motives that must be driving his projection in the first place.  One primary emotional motive is likely fear, fear of things internal that are not acknowledged and not even in awareness. It’s a big order to begin to be aware of our internal fears and where they come from.  Some people would like to think that they can ferret out such things by themselves.  Ironically, it appears that Freud seemed to think that he was able to do this independently (cf.  The Interpretation of Dreams).  He certainly didn’t believe that it was possible for others, and developed a severely authoritarian and rigid system for searching out and resolving the internal conflicts that lead to such things as projection.  Ironically, in recent years there have been many revisionists that have questioned whether Freud was truly able to effectively engage in self-analysis and that he was doing little more than setting up another level of defenses to conceal his own hidden emotional conflicts.

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A Just Universe/Unjust Universe?

Posted by Mike

Is the universe just or is it unjust [or is this title just a vehicle for my musings]? We humans think in dichotomies much of the time; likely too much, as thinking that way abstracts information from the whole of reality and conceptualizes in ways that at times leaves the baby out as well as the bath water. Part of the problem, of course, is that, for us to use our thought processes, it is necessary for us to abstract and conceptualize, using information that seems to us, based upon our experience, most useful. Virtually all of this process of perceiving, analyzing, thinking, retrieving from memory and integrating to current perceptions, and conceptualizing occurs automatically, outside of our awareness. And the process is generally so rapid that we are able to quickly have a perception, then make a decision, then act. At times we do think on things — ponder — consciously using our power of thought to process perceptions, memories, and conclusions so that we end up with deliberate conceptualizations. And these are those that are generally about matters that are more subjective than objective, such as opinions, values, conclusions, decisions, rather than about things that we can touch, see, or hear.

What exactly does one mean by “justice?” It’s an abstract term; you can’t see or touch justice; it has to do with the reasonableness and fairness of outcomes. The word is derived from the Latin “jus,” meaning law, or right. And it means being fair and reasonable. “Just” is defined as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair [Oxford American].”

So, let’s segue back to the case of the universe. If we narrow that down a bit and talk about the “natural world,” it gets us back to the arena that we actually know something about, the earth and its constituents. Immediately I think that the concept doesn’t apply, that the natural world doesn’t operate that way, that “justice” is a concept made up by humans to reflect a feature of human behavior, not operations in the natural world. Maybe, however, if we look at the animal world, at our nearest relatives, the mammals, or even the primates, does justice apply? Primate society is tribal, like human society, and has many features in its social apparatus that are similar to what we see in human society: there is sharing, quid pro quo relationships, dominance, submission, acting out aggressively. But would we ever talk about the presence or absence of justice in primate or other animal relationships? I don’t think so. They are just doing what animals do, sometime engaging in complex social behaviors, but is “fair and reasonable” ever an issue? I doubt it. I suspect that being fair and reasonable is likely unique to humans on this planet. We don’t know for sure. For all I know, pods of whales or dolphins are breaking through the barrier of reflection at this very moment and learning what it is to be fair and reasonable, or already have, for that matter. The concept also has something to do with withholding personal gratification and allowing the other to benefit from the delay. We humans have learned to do this, to disregard personal power in a situation and defer to the other on the basis of “fairness.” [it’s interesting how the more we seek to understand the meaning of words and concepts, the more complex and full of meaning they seem to become – is it possibly because all subjective abstractions have a “deep structure” that is impenetrable, perhaps something like the “felt meanings” suggested by Carl Rogers (?) – language being inadequate for ultimate meanings].

Conclusion: The universe is neither just nor unjust. It operates on what we call “natural laws”; I guess we would include the laws of the physical universe (physics) and the law of “action and reaction through time.” It may not be just, but it operates with regularity, with occasional bumps that man has not yet been able to predict or control; bumps on earth like hurricanes, vagaries of the weather, volcanic eruptions, slidings of techtonic plates. There are obviously bumps out there in the solar system and within the galaxy; but I have no expertise to be able to speak of them. Though there may not be justice in the natural world, there is regularity and consistency generally speaking, and we can take comfort in that. There is no comfort for the wildebeest fording a river full of crocs or for a late flying robin in the North, finding itself with no food to eat and freezing temperatures. There certainly is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, for creatures besides humans, but it is not because the world is unjust. It is because it is the way it is, nature is consistent in its gifts as well as its withholdings.   To a large extent, we can count on it remaining so for a while.

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Diffusing the K-Bomb (part 6)

Posted by: David

Practically-speaking, I’m not sure if the K-bomb can be diffused. Turret lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas, USA.But when it explodes, you don’t need to be destroyed by it. We’ve all already been hurt by it. It’s been sputtering like a pot of rice left on high for quite sometime. Let’s define the K-bomb a bit better before we look into how to deal with it.

In Part 3, we saw that knowledge is a force and make no mistake it is a powerful one at that, more powerful than anything human hands have made. Knowledge parades itself around as truth, but it is not. Knowledge is our human projection of what is truth. We tangle our own perceptions of truth, our own choices of what we think truth is into our knowledge. And because of this, our knowledge becomes tainted. It is no longer truth. And since knowledge is paraded around as truth when it is not, it becomes a lie.

Lies are always self-detonating. My lies have come back and exploded in my face. That’s the way lies work. Remember the fire triangle: heat, oxygen and fuel. Lies work the same: heat, untruth and truth. Just add a spark.

In Part 5, I said that thoughts can be packed tightly in rationalizations or even social systems. I should be a bit clearer on a topic as important as this, because thoughts are what K-bomb is composed of.

The warrior must justify his actions. Every human is a natural warrior. We are warriors in defense of our egos. We must keep our ‘self’ alive and strong. It’s all about me, right? Some of us fight with actual physical means: fists, guns, swords, and bombs. But most of us fight with words, ideas and thoughts. In our local circles, we may cut emotional supplies that feed our friends and family to combat a hit taken from others. Toward outside circles, we develop cliquish techniques, social standard, religions and massive governmental and economic structures that are meant to protect our local and collective egos. And we have been doing this since day one when our consciousness first sprouted.

Clear as Mississippi mud, right? The point is that we justify the thoughts that disturb our consciousness by in various ways. I really don’t want to get into examples of how this happens. When you have a thought that disturbs you, see how you justify it or what you do with it. But when we justify these thoughts, we shove it places: maybe into an ideology, a political platform, a concept of what is socially normal, or the simple philosophy that says, “Well, I can’t do anything about it, so let it be.” Every philosophy, human social system and human government is a structure meant to contain and support the K-Bomb.

How do you diffuse the K-bomb if we can’t use psychoanalytical techniques, drugs, friends, society, philosophy, or even religion for that matter? It may seem like your hands are tied. This is the ultimate dilemma of mankind. It’s the Catch-22 of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And the dominoes have been unstoppable since the first flick.

As a Christian, I believe that the K-bomb is why Jesus came to the earth. He was the ultimate intervention for this problem. He came to transform us with God’s love, truth and mercy. Jesus lays some diffusion techniques out as clear as a bell in the Sermon on the Mount.

But since you may not be a Christian, it is essential that I explain the concept behind it. Basically, our internal lives are essentially no different than our external lives. The only difference is that our will is inside us, not external to us. Out of the will come our choices and our choices are manefested in our reality. What begins inside us manifests itself outside of us. The force we talked about in Part 2 is initiated by the will and the dominoes begin with the flick of our will and fall outward. Because our will is burdened with weight of consciousness (the knowledge of “good and evil”) we become slaves to that consciousness. How exactly we become slaves is not something I completely understand. I can only see the results in my life to know that it’s happening. It may be that since we understand that evil exists and we inherently fear being destroyed by it, we develop means to protect the self or the ego. Ironically, in doing so, we bind ourselves to that process indefinitely. We become slaves to production of the K-bomb.

So, how do we get free from banging on the ironworks of the K-bomb? The species of man had to be set free from this. We were all bound. No one had the key. It had to be an outside intervention. Of course, as a Christian, I point to Jesus.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

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