As a kid I used to lie on my bed, turn my thoughts inward, close my eyes, face the wall and think hard about creation. We probably all do this as kids, when we start to realize we’re more particle than person, floating about an unknown and enormous universe. I thought about the material for creation and where it came from, how far this process all went back, what was before the before. I thought about nothingness. And a feeling would come on that I would start to recognize; a palpable and rare state my body and mind would come into. Every now and then, relaxed and wandering, thinking, I would begin to feel as if I were the middle of a diffused expansion, my head spreading out and floating, buoyant, while my face still felt quite small inside this space. My body seemed somehow tiny and light. The Pink Floyd lyric ‘my hands felt just like two balloons’ somehow does this feeling justice. It was as if I were staring but somehow sightless inside a terribly giant white nothingness. It was a pleasant, float-y, almost cozy feeling. It felt dimensional, like the universe was me and my little pinpoint perspective was actually the entire universe, and we were both being absorbed.
The basic premise of this piece was a two-part question. Where does our true anxiety spring from? And how can we move in this world in a way that is more spontaneously connected? How I approached these questions, however, became a winding way. I am attempting to organize these thoughts in a style that is holistic and far-reaching, ordering topics and information I have been drawn to in a collaged social theory that leaves much room for magic and hope. I wanted to know more about philosophy, about the nature of faith and love and fear. Why do I sense an unease when close to another human being, most times? What are we really afraid of? The premise is the human condition in its entirety, pre-human, human and post-human.
The language of science itself kind of sucks dry the wonder of the universe, but I think the scientists that are actually doing the work are filled with wonder, with imagination. It just gets pushed through academia and pop culture sort of.. unpoetically. We’ve learned so many things since the 1990s’ even, just in the area of science and cosmology. But peering through these theories is interesting because you find more mystery than answers. Everything we’ve learned really points to the fact that we’ve barely poked a hole in it all. The more questions we ask the more the world opens wide. The wonder is everywhere. If you’re outside, look up. Since I was a child in the country I have been thinking about science, philosophy. I was asking myself quantum questions as a child, I just didn’t know it. This pondering and wondering never left. I think of the miracle of life and the terror of death every single day.
I’ve spoken about the Big Bang in these Letterfounder essays before, but the general description rarely deals with pre-Bang. Where did the energy for material come from, what was before the Bang? Even the unmentionable void before made no sense to me. The minerals, dust, liquids, gasses. How did it create matter, if everything before was pre-matter and pre-time (as we know it)? I mean, it’s all so far in our past, what does it matter anyway, but sometimes I think if you put all the pieces together simply, you’d figure out the answer to the universe. Sloppy, blind trust draws you to the appropriate answers or at least wouldn’t that be nice? At the end of the day, science is only a part of it.. How do we mesh science with coping with mortality with believing in a higher power, on top of careers and friends and bills to pay..? It’s sort of psychically exhausting. When do we get the chance?
Opening mysterious doors to mysterious questions frightens some people but it is the only way to explore the terrible fascination that is our burden regardless. Our burden becomes alternately unbearably heavy and unbearably light. We don’t know how big or small the universe is, or if there is more than one, actually. It makes little sense to be hopeless about our afterlife ‘chances’ when we know so little. That’s all I’m saying. The wonder needs to cancel out the dread. The mystery is greater than the sum of its parts.
Imagine shrinking yourself, or shrinking the universe, to see our lifespan in new sizes and perspectives. Or creatively expanding (something has to enlarge if we shrink), it all achieves the same goal of bringing a stretch to our spiritual approaches, a proper feeling of the incomparable vastness that is space. Space. How we float in it. Losing yourself in distance, allowing your mind to float around what you think the cosmos feels like– to have been there, been here, been a part of it all and because of that, to be more amazed than afraid. This is key. How to turn our anxiety into awe. The same amount of energy goes into both. It gets me closer to wondering if our consciousness isn’t simply a mirror-branch of some gigantic awareness beyond cruelty or fate or love; a formless sensitivity that we grow inside of, invisible to senses and sensors.
This gives me some wiggle room to ask questions, to get creative.
I really started to question ‘god’ around the age of 15 or 16. Not just thinking about it, but verbalizing it, talking out loud about how it seemed that no one really knew what happened after. I remember being in art class with Mrs. Sondheim and talking with my friends about philosophy, god and spirituality. She seemed to like our conversation but didn’t take part. It was a nice feeling, an experience self-organized but framed by an adult presence. I dunno. Some people believe in god, some don’t, some are unsure. I definitely had trouble with a dude in the sky. Dying in order to live on a cloud or feel amazing boundless love did not do enough for me to feel like this was all ‘okay!’ I must’ve gotten my doubt from the world and people around me, so I feel there is doubt out there. God has been used as a name for terrible wars, blind rage, used as a dividing line. Not having faith in god slowly began to shut me out of religion. It left me a little confused. But then again, I’ve always found the word Faith to be problematic. That the end argument in religion and spirituality was “you have to have faith.” It always led to this feeling that was almost shame-y. Like if you don’t have it, oh well. That’s a tough one, good luck with that.
Finally, when someone said the word faith, they described what they thought that word meant:
“Faith is eliminating unnecessary thought, trusting that everything we need comes as we need it, whether it is the right thoughts or the right possessions. Faith is being grounded in the Eternal Present. This is the common truth of the world’s religions.”
OK. That links things for me. The word faith isn’t impossible or unquantifiable, it’s not a secret, not without a certain formula. But the formula is complete trust. That ‘being grounded in the eternal present’ is what faith actually is, just more Be-Here-Now stuff. The grounded feeling is Trust, and trust I would say is two things: relaxing your body when it clenches (remembering the present) and, as Suelo said, the removal of unnecessary thoughts. This can be done by labeling your thoughts as they rise; “having a thought about this person, having a worried thought about that appointment tomorrow.” This way you get some space between your body and its thinking. This allows you to ‘be the witness,’ to keep yourself grounded. It is a constant work. Eventually the labeling does remove the fever pitch of being so attached to self-doubt, anxiety, deficiency. Like they say, once you know it, you can never fully un-know it. The other part, trusting what you need will come when you need it, should follow with practice. I’m not so good at this sort of trust! I worry about how much I can let go, about how much I can relax into living.
A large part of what we grow up doing and what guides much religious thinking at the outset is the personal mental image (however vague or undefined or amorphous or fleeting) that we have of what a higher power would actually look like. As children we tried to make ‘god’ look like something in our heads. This image is personal and varied. Mine has changed over the years and it’s hard to define as it is so ‘wispy.’ I’m sure that ‘starter image’ has changed for all of us, in ways. But I believe mine started with images based off picture-book bibles; the white, bearded guy in his 30’s in a robe with longish brown hair. Or the huge crooked finger jutting out of a storm front. I’m not saying you have to believe in god to make a mental image of a higher power, but just that doing so informs our personal spiritual framework, individually. I think people take it a step further than necessary- they have a need to assign a gender or human attributes to this eternal present, ‘god feeling.’ This act immediately triggers our imagination and we build a vague picture in our heads that is different for everybody as to what god looks like, acts like.. In this instance, our creative visualization seems more a hindrance. At one point when I was 9 or so, I gave my gram a big round key chain for her birthday that showed the sun from above the clouds, like a photo shot from an airplane and it said ‘God is Love.’ I liked the image and the statement. I understood that more than a holy figure. As I got older the traditional ‘jesus image’ seemed to fade from my mind entirely, becoming patterns in mandalas for a while, then some sort of big-hipped, dark stone Venus de Milo-ish figure.. I wasn’t afraid to think outside that framework anymore. It took years for that fear to settle in me. It seemed like sinning. Now, my mental imagery of god is like a dense fog bank with tiny lights in the middle, like the universe from far off or the New York City skyline on a rainy night from above. But usually it’s — nothing. Nothing ever really stuck. When I read or heard that visualization techniques are helpful to prayer work and meditation, I felt at a loss. Spirituality for me has been more a sameness in feeling: a trance, a quietude, looking abstractly upon a beautiful scene, feeling the coziness before sleep or staring at the stars.
What could we accomplish if we told our children these things were god?
The stars are probably what started all this searching, for everyone, in the end. The blue or grey sky of day is our canopy of utter, naked truth. But at night that canopy is revealed as an endless, directionless Everything that is filled to brimming with orbs of fire. That’s been the experience of every sighted person on this planet for ages. We have stories and religions, but the sky isn’t talking. I grew up in the country and it is a completely different world than the city, never more so than at night. I couldn’t imagine not having the stars as a child. Or just having 30 or 40. To be able to see clear through darkness without light pollution was expansive and soul-nurturing. Also a little terrifying. I really got lost in them. And that’s when I truly started to wonder. Deeper and deeper. Remembering that the stars are below us too is an example of the spatial, creative imagining that will slowly become the center of this whole piece. It is a way of trying to place myself in space in a new proportion. It suddenly brings all the unknowns closer to the fore, pitching myself in darkness all upside down and backward.. It is a fuzzy, light, very creative feeling, imagining looking through the earth down to an endless starred undersky.
There was a Twilight Zone episode, the 1980’s series, where this couple woke up one morning and discovered the world was under construction. These faceless people were building their homes, shops, the street. They passed an alley that was completely white and void and were told that no one would even look down there that day, so it was left undone (done?). This construction usually took place behind the veil of our perception, but these two had woken earlier somehow, woken into time being created, moment by moment. That alleyway was sort of like the inner, diffused expansion I would experience at times as a child, when thinking hard about creation and nothingness. I was in that alleyway blankness in those moments and it felt like a solid physical dimension. At times I would simply happen onto this space and it would linger for a moment or two, as I tried to understand its origin. Why did it feel so familiar, each time? Primordial, unconcerned with aliveness, just concerned with.. being. I got it less and less as I got older. Was it what I will feel after death?
Now, people get a bit cagey when you start to talk about death too much. ‘Morbidly fascinated’ is the go-to term. It brings visions of some eternal gothic teen shuddering in a corner, obsessed with their own deliciously dark thoughts. Like it was egotistical somehow to think of your own death.. That’s the feeling I get in the ways in which society speaks of mortality. But the truth is the way in which we as adults have organized around our collective knowledge of dying is much more horrific. Hotheaded debates between evolutionists and creationists, wars, insurance, religion, death as the plot for every movie and TV show ever (with all the lead-up violence to boot). What I want to explore is the background fear before. Why can’t people focus up on the change from life to death- whatever that entails, whether it’s nothing, or reincarnation, or heaven, or a consciousness/energy field. Can’t we simply agree that this transition is what we should be discussing? The subject of dying does not and should not include afterlife concepts! I almost get caught up in that conjecture myself; that this fear of death is negated by anyone who has faith. But it isn’t a faith issue, to me. My concern lies in the anxiety of a major life change and how it permeates our actions from the moment we realize our mortality.
My parents left it open for me. We talked about ideas but there was little in the way of ritual. We lived fairly deep in the country and nature really takes place of this issue. They asked if I wanted to go to this Sunday School program for a week every day that some church in the town was offering. I was about 10 or 11. It didn’t bring me closer to religion or god. The kids that went there and I both agreed: “we think you’re weird.” It was a mutual feeling, but friendly nonetheless. We played outside on the jungle gym and got along fine, but I felt different. After a while I realized my parents and other elders around me didn’t really know how or why we’re here either. Maybe that’s not the case for everyone, but I’ve talked to a bunch of my friends about this dawning revelation in their childhoods. It’s a lonely feeling, a part of growing up, the part where true teen angst lies. These are life changing, important moments. Sometimes it strikes like a shock and sometimes the weight of the realization comes on slow, hugging some innocence out of you. But at least my parents didn’t lie to me out of blind fear or questionless faith. I do remember my mom saying once that she was mystified by our creation and sometimes she wondered if there had once been a creator who had since died as well and we were in this post-creator universe, a spark of life that had been designed and then unintentionally abandoned. Scary thought, but it was because we were so close that she could be vulnerable like that.
We can approach our life with spirituality as a framework that works in combination with open-ended inquiry. It does seem like more and more of the world is slowly becoming bold enough to say we don’t know why we’re here, or where ‘here’ is. If anything, each generation that comes up is more removed from the ideas of religion, but moreover, spirituality. So, what, god isn’t real? But magic isn’t either? Why can’t we call this fantastic universe ‘magic’ anymore? What good is taking that out? How do we create significance without magic? We begin to conceive a mythos in our heads to simply survive the storm of adulthood; we try on identities, mix and match and express until we move into a (more) integrated identity. Maybe that’s what a lot of us adults still do anyway, when not given the freedom to be safe and imaginative as kids.. It’s our continuum talking. They say you can’t blame everything on childhood, as if childhood were a stage you went through. But it isn’t. You didn’t exist, then you did. It’s not ‘childhood,’ it’s a starting point on an internal map for us and we trace our finger along this imaginary line over and over in order to apply meaning to joy and fear.
Joy and Fear would be how I define the human experience. Some would say Good and Evil. Others would say Fear and Love. But I think most of us fall within the two states of being fearful or joyful, objectively. The two exist as sort of psychic parameters. I believe if love were an innate drive the world would be in a different state than it is now. I believe everything else trickles down after: laziness, hatred, hope, anger, competition, sedition, greed, impatience, even our reaction to pain. I would say that we fear our pain more than we experience it. We heat up inside our bodies that are always moving independently from our minds and this basic ‘joy/fear’ foundation forms our take on things. I believe interest stems from joy, comfort comes from joy. I do not think these two poles exist independently from our emotional baseground. Some people are more quiet, others, more social, or more melancholy.
This Joy/Fear ‘platform’ should morally take into consideration biological and historical trauma. The mental health continuum and chemical balances are factors that influence getting to any sort of happiness. Hope is having enough support, protective factors and imagination to combat life’s cruelty. Depression, malaise are trickier. Where do they spring from, these slow moving clouds of shifting soul turmoil? I think trauma and biology are factors in creating a state of fearful anxiety, as well as limited access to calm, joyful, relaxed moments when young. The toddler runs to the parent to collect affirmation and acceptance, this builds more strength so they feel they can wander away after, to explore, a little more each time. It never changes. In order to build any sort of self determination we need moments of joy. When you have nothing or no one to help pull you up, those moments may tear away at strength and grow into a general state of fear. Once I began thinking of life with joy and fear as the emotional poles we revolve around, I began to loosely define what Love is, really boil it down to its essence, and it seems to me to be- patient, supportive attention. Not romantic love, but a description of all kinds. When given enough ‘joy’ moments I believe a body learns to naturally crave the energy of human contact. We call that love. Patient, supportive attention that nourishes another being. Simple as that.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This goal of finding a world’s harmony requires sensitive people. Moral people. I almost run from the word moral. It seems hammered with so many suffocating concepts. Right conduct and right speech are sometimes the bane of my existence, interfering with my own innate, innocent responses. Morals are about other people, more than me. I get it, and I went through a lot of words associated with morality. Stewardship seemed one of the best concepts- the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. ‘Moral’ is defined as principled differences between right and wrong conduct within a given society. It is a code of interpersonal behavior considered decent or acceptable, it is the examined nature of ethics. A basic morality in this day and age to me would be: survival needs freely offered. That’s it. To not be able to turn away, as a human, when someone needs physical, survival help. If we could figure this out we would be well on our way, as a species.. We seem to focus on an upper crust day-to-day morality where kindnesses and platitudes are expected; hold the door open, don’t forget to check in about the weekend, but homelessness in America is a real problem. That’s rude. Everyone deserves a home, here on Earth! That should be what we give to each other, from the outset, freely if necessary. Not crammed together on mats on the floor, either. Homes. What’s with the market racket in this sector? Where do our responsibilities lie regarding each others’ physical safety in this life- our moral code at its most obvious? This should be at the forefront of our moral actions as a citizenry. ‘Moral’ is the exact same thing as patient and supportive, when you get right down to it. It’s practically the same as love.
“Structural violence is one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way… The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people … Neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress.”
What about all the non-human consciousness on this planet? Do animals go through life thinking about death? Do they know when they are reaching the end of their natural life span? It is estimated that 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. It is also estimated that about 0.02-0.03% of all life on earth is human life, on a population (number) basis. So humans are about 0.1% of the total biomass of animals on earth, and not the other 999.999999.9%. Talk about being speciesist! The cows I eat are not laughing.. We’re outnumbered even inside of our own bodies, with more bacterial cells in our digestive tract than our own. It’s odd to think how concerned we are with our spirituality and assigning heavens and reincarnations to ourselves, but we rarely talk about the spirituality of an inchworm or stray cat. Or when we do it’s when we’re positing that reincarnating as a human is the best thing that could’ve happened to us. I always had a problem with that, too. We don’t seem to think too hard on the spirituality of insects or fish or where they go after death.
In the documentary Edge of Dreaming, Amy Hardie relates waking from a dream where her horse tells her to bring her camera out to the barn. She does so, filming the whole way and finds her horse dead on the ground. Eventually she goes on a quest to explain how this could happen. Stories like this are hard to figure out, as I don’t know this woman personally, could never tell if what she says really happened. But same for most everything I attempt to learn about by researching, not experiencing. It’s daunting when I think of all I have taken at face value simply because someone told me, or because I read it in an article somewhere. Are animals or people sometimes able to relate to us through our dreams? We die without sleep, what is this world we enter every night? It is part of a fundamental duality within us? Some people can ‘wake’ inside dreams and direct them as they wish. They swear the experiences feel just as real as real life.. I’ve not been able to do that. Half of my own life is a mystery to me. What do I live when I sleep? The memory of me? Is sleep how the roots of plants and trees work? Is that our root, does sleep feed us?
I have not experienced anything like telepathy or spirits or non-local consciousness. I have heard many stories of ghosts and unexplainable incidents that friends have had, but I don’t ever know what to do with this information. Is there a world of spirit? Does our self stay somehow integrated when we die? My mum was a very humble lady, but she had experiences that she swore happened to her. My mum said that as a child she could rise from her body, and she would go to the ceiling, where she would look down at herself sleeping. She never dared to go farther than her room, and it faded over time. Maybe it was just her on the edge of sleep doing some creative dream-imagining. As an adult my mom also had a strange occurrence one night where she was able to see through the wall of her bedroom down to our mailbox at the bottom of our driveway. She said she really couldn’t tell if she were dreaming or awake, but she could see an old woman standing near our mailbox, staring up the road in the direction of the western foothills. The next morning we learned that a young man had committed suicide up there, beside a pond we often hiked up to. There were police and an ambulance trundling along the dirt road and she openly wondered about that liminal experience, if that hadn’t been a deceased relative of the young man waiting to guide him somewhere. As I live life and have feelings, some things stick. Some things feel right, make sense. I knew my mom well and she didn’t make up stories for attention. Is there some separate non-local ‘awareness’ that was aiding in this communication?
I have experienced many moments of synchronicity, where I feel like telepathy and just being in tune with another person is the same thing. When you are gelling with someone you are often thinking down the same lines, worrying and caring about the same things at the same time, inhabiting a same space. The only good thing I could think to do with these moments was to use them as ‘bells of mindfulness,’ just another reminder to be present, aware, in wonder, noticing my breathing. It’s how to get more easily fascinated in life. Notice. Breathe.
But breathing stops. I personally have a lot of doubt when I hear someone say they have no fear of dying. I believe they may not think about it much, or when they do they imagine an afterlife, but I sense that they have gotten real good at glancing away from the last moment. Regardless, I bet there is a point where we start thinking we’ve outlived our natural ‘shelf life’ and we begin to wonder when it will happen, more and more, until that anxiety is a part of us and we can’t tell it apart from the rest of the anxieties. It THE anxiety.
The whole nation blabs and barks and hoots and hisses and no one creature ever Really knows what’s in the other creature’s head. We’re all just looking out from inside. It’s like all of earth is trying to experience itself through living things, or as if even god is interested in seeing what will happen next. We tell stories about mortality, heroes, sacrifice. We love stories, they’re how we learned first, probably how we learn best, after direct actual experience. Dr. James H. Billings said “stories unite people, theories divide them.” But we fetishize this story of our mortality now, wrap it up in a market context, dwell on it without truly naming it. Our stories are a shitty glorification of violence; polarizing, indignant, money-driven philosophies. How do you live toward your own death, what does it make you feel? Do you have a hard time focusing on it, does it make you want to think about something else? Yeah. For fuck’s sake, it does. I get it. We do pretty well in ordering the chaos today, most of us, but I can’t get over the feeling that we’re just shuffling shit around, going nowhere regardless. But what good comes of dwelling? Little Joe Gomez said, “Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.”
The world is alive with messages on how to live clearly and consciously but I am growing increasingly frustrated with how little messages there are about what to do after. I’m caught between Earl Mac Rauch’s “Wherever you go, there you are” and Jim Morrison’s “No one here gets out alive.” So, when you’re stuck looking at life from this perspective, it becomes easier to see how we built this mortal fear into our economy, our systems of care, our very infrastructure. It’s easy to see how America’s competitive edge mirrors existential stuckness; a non-diagnosable anxiety that gets written inside our bodies as a background constant. Every day morphs, every day comes at us in mightily different intensities and we’re always sensitive, through it all. We’re always learning something. Maybe not through academic systems, but certainly learning things, every day, certainly on an arc, a journey. Every single one of us is very, very sensitive. Nobody is smarter than anyone else, in regard to this sensitivity. Don’t let the world tell you what intelligence is! We’re all breaking our own truths open, doing the best we can. We’re all just waiting for it to get weird, real, unbearable, unimaginable. That’s why the violence in the world, that’s why the mass random shootings. We know that something horrible awaits us and people attempt to control that by crushing others, then themselves, to be known, somehow. To be absolutely free and furious at that concept. How can we be comfortable knowing we can do anything, at any time? It is much responsibility.
Consciousness feeds on information. Senses take in the world and try to make ‘sense’ of it. The scenes out our bedroom windows change pretty slowly, but the info we get from books, TV and the internet is fast flowing and inexhaustible, constantly in conflict and constantly provoking. Big media invites consciousness down the intellectual avenues of particular mediums which do not exist to fix problems, but only to shine an endless dry light on them, analytical without any true patience or real compassion. You don’t have to Do anything, at this point, just read and watch.
Media molds consciousness now. Media does not push us forward, it makes us into headlines. I keep talking about media in these essays but you’ve got to know I’m really still talking about money. Mass communication platforms are business first and competitively driven. When even media is a money sport you understand that a magazine or newspaper needs a readership to buy the product to stay in the game, paying employees, participating in the economy that we strategize around. Same with the technology that is supposedly ruining the world. The push to buy all this tech is definitely due to a market push. Money tells you what to be interested in (money), keeps products flowing, advertises itself, convinces you to buy and use. Even the way stories are picked, told and sold is to keep a buying audience buying. Very few editors would stick to their morals and print only what they thought mattered if they knew they would be out of a job in a few months because people consume violence (mortal fear). Few publishers would go down without changing the format because at the end of the day it isn’t about morals at all. They too need money to put food on the table, to shelter themselves. All moral philosophy gets lost at the money-media level because of this fact, but we refuse to look at it seriously.
We’ve locked all the good answers and worthy principles up in study books and mainframes, making it all sound very palatable, very explained. But we don’t use it! Collectively, something base and weak takes over and we let our lives be talked away from us. We preen with new knowledge, all the while ignoring age-old fears. How wrapped up in someone else’s message are we going to get? Besides our human existence, what is going on out there, in the sky? We’re such a small part of it all. Is the sun dead, just a soulless ball of burning gases that gave rise somehow to all the souls on Earth? And what rages and burns in the middle of our own planet? Are we sustained from some inner heat more importantly even than the sun? Placing myself next to these questions makes me feel very tiny, but that is the point here! It actually makes me feel a little more OK with what happens to me. My self-importance dwindles when I expand my imagination to think of our planet suspended in space. How does it do that? When can we call science magic? Pushing these questions and this larger picture is a reminder. Why are we infighting?
I sometimes order the universe like this- every particle in it has the same kind of awareness I do. Though the fields of energy may be different, every bit feels itself subjectively. It’s the “I” that I experience before feeling, before any sensing, before language, before thought- just existence. That senseless awareness I believe to be everywhere. Particles are smart, aware of their surroundings. Not nerves, not capillaries- an awareness smaller than that, that runs through everything, organic and inorganic, big, small (oh my god it’s the force). I’ll get into this more when I try to dig into the quantum world and its strange mechanics.
We all- as a human organism- physically experience the world in similar ways. You would think our experiences with feeling safe, feeling hunger, heat, cold would be enough to organize us but we seem destined to categorize ourselves into class and race brackets. When we are together in a crowd experiencing the same thing, feeling same emotions, do we become a linked organism again, though fleetingly? How are our feelings, when combined, more different, more powerful? Can we take notice of this sameness, gather and coordinate more around these points? That said, I think our ‘normal-sized’ crowds are way too large, our cities too massive. We do become careless when we get crowded in one area. We need to be mindful of that balance.
My plan this summer is to worship the sun as a spirit. How it coruscates in my eyelashes, the streaks of small rainbow’d light shifting toward and away from me at the same time. Is that a direction that sunlight moves? Both toward and away? We talk of sunlight beaming to us. But do we also give energy somehow to the sun? I want to know how light photons actuated life. I have taken time to sit in its mottled shadow-play, speak to it, consider it the original idea of god. I have been feeling the warmth it presses on my forehead, how it interacts with the brown water sluicing down the dirty city streambed behind my house, how it gets sliced into colors through the prisms we have hanging in our windows. I think of all the photos ever taken where the sun is in there. That same one object as a part of all our experiences, all its representations in art, in song. It’s all been different examples of this one star.
I have been trying to look for god somewhere in the burgeoning love I have for food. How powerful and out of control this survival feeding is, especially after my survival is taken care of. I feel chills sometimes when I eat food- like a high rushing through my body, that’s how powerful it is. It is my oldest battle and one that concerns what I put into my self. These decisions reverberate around my work environment, my home, bouncing through my energy levels, my happiness. Does this mirror some powerful biological need? The irony of my struggle with my basic building blocks is not lost on me. I sit inside answers that I myself am not properly motivated to reach. The ‘life of the mind’ has a steady hold of me and it has grown stronger over the years as I become more disappointed by feeling the world’s collective anger, by the constant plod of work weeks, months, years, by how the same jokes get recycled endlessly, by how even cleverness gets re-routed into cliche. A lack of freshness is what I’m feeling, a mind bored with mental playgrounds, a mind who craves, at last, mind-blowing trauma and devastation just to understand the vicious finality of passing into death, to grapple properly with that fear-turned-anger.
When I begin to ponder the origins of life itself, to place life equally somewhere in the continuum of universal processes, I feel amazingly small. That is, small, but amazing. I try to break down all the possibilities. Panspermia is the hypothesis that microscopic, extremophile organisms are distributed throughout the universe via comets, asteroids, meteors. Even the Curiosity rover, cleaned and sterilized, carried an estimated 278,000 bacterial spores from Earth to Mars. Organisms like the tardigrade can live, if not breed, in the vacuum of space. This we have observed; they have remained alive for years on the moon from our lunar expeditions. Theories suggest life could have originated off planet, or that life may have the capacity to spring from inorganic matter under certain conditions. But it doesn’t really explain protein forming, replication; the impetus to continue to thrive and divide and grow. Wouldn’t gravity, in the beginning, have ground the life process to a halt?
Abiogenesis is the natural process of life arising from non-living matter. I learned of this word when researching the question as to whether anyone had tried to create life from ‘nothing’ in the realm of science. I wondered if this process we call life could have generated itself somehow spontaneously at some point in the earth’s past. Experiments performed by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey proved that by mixing ammonia, methane, water, hydrogen, heat and electricity, you can create most of the 20 amino acids needed for life in a chemical environment that is designed to simulate early-earth conditions. These experiments don’t prove that life began solely on its own, but do lend credibility to this idea. We are mostly made of carbon atoms. Carbon is 95% of all chemical compounds, is able to form long branching chains and links easily with atoms of other elements. What I struggle to understand is why elements began linking with other elements in the first place. Is this a plan? Is this intelligence? Is it random? Is there entelechy at work here; a force that directs organisms to a self-fulfilled state? How did ‘replication’ begin and how does that tie in to what we call sex now? What exactly is the spark that kept it all going? I can understand the evolution of consciousness, or the evolution of the awareness of consciousness easier than I can the budding process of life.
Professor Dieter Braun and his team from LMU Munich have replicated processes which may have been the starting point for life on this planet. The proposed idea is that simple biomolecules would begin to form more complex structures that could replicate themselves and store genetic information. This could have happened within the rocky pore systems on the sea floor. Biomolecules would wash into these tiny holes, becoming trapped. If heated from one side from nearby geothermal activity they could become breeding grounds for more advanced processes. Charged molecules would move from the warmer side to the cooler side of the pore. More biomolecules would wash in, becoming trapped and concentrated by the temperature gradient. Eventually nucleic acids would outgrow the pore system environment and began colonizing pore systems on the sea floor. Braun performed experiments which validated this hypothesis. These organic molecules elongated, replicated and then formed strands of genetic proto-life that would stitch together cohesively with other strands. I’d heard that life may have originated on the seafloor, but I was interested in how. This explanation was notable, especially because it makes no mention of sunshine. The heat that sparked conditions for life happened (perhaps) very far from the sun’s light. Rather, it seems generated from the inner sun, the core of earth. In this theory, without the core earth heat, life as we know it would not have begun.
Even though I’m trying to break down the science behind the world, I’m not saying that it doesn’t have some ‘higher power’ beginning to it all. Praying is sometimes what I need to do, though I don’t know what it is I’m praying to. It offers a sense of comfort and meaning, helps order some thoughts. In the absence of answers, I never got cold enough to stop thinking creatively, hopefully. To talk to someone/something, even in anger, has helped me at times. At the core of it, I feel like I have power when I dare to question this big picture, when I give voice to my rage. I feel I have somehow exhibited influence on small connections by daring to talk to the void. To tell the void to go fuck itself. To tell the void I’m sorry.
I watched a documentary video where it showed the world through eyes, as they evolved. The images were blurry, light and dark, and then got clearer and clearer over the millennia. Although this scene took maybe 30 seconds, it was fascinating. I creatively shrunk myself, put myself inside the eye organ and imagined it slowly becoming a better and better light sensor, a better scene creator, spreading itself over genetic copies and mutations. We are so vision-biased. Without that, how would you think about your world, your space? This is a thread I will return to. Are we in a chrysalis-like stage of change here? Or is evolution just a way to get better at being more and more conscious? What sort of light will we be able to see with our evolving eyes in the future?
“The way we experience time, we can only see it in memory, we can’t actually go there even though we know there is a place called the past where all this stuff happened, you can’t even point, you can’t show me a direction where the past is. Think of yourself as the leading edge of you, this is you right now, moving forward through time but behind you there’re all these different versions of you going back and back and back. Imagine if you could see that in time, it wouldn’t just be a front and a back, it would be a long trailing thing and it contains all of you, it’s got all these arms and eyes and it moves backwards through the door and backwards down the stairs and it’s getting younger all the time. It would look like a huge snake and it would keep going back and there are lots of these snakes and they all weave together and eventually you get to be one year old somewhere in time, you are, right now, one year old because if you weren’t, you couldn’t be here today and that one year old disappears back into its mother’s womb. And the same thing happens to your mother and father going back into their mother and father and if you take it right back, everybody in the human race goes right back to the same human root and somewhere along the evolutionary tree we’re joined by apes but it’s all still the one thing and the tree is rooted 3 1/2 billion years, in the ocean which is where the first living cell appeared and started to divide. The first mitochondria cell, the DNA cell is still dividing inside your body right now, it’s immortal, it never died, it never went anywhere, it just keeps dividing and making more copies of itself in all living forms.. So what we actually are is this amazing divided single cell which has grown itself across 3 1/2 billion years into a gigantic structure, I see it as an anemone. If you can see the whole thing, if you can see life as a thing existing in time then there’s only this one huge thing that lives on the planet earth and feeds on the forests and feeds on itself, and that’s us, that’s what we really are.”
The Last Common Universal Ancestor, or LUCA, is proposed to be the most recent organism from which all life on Earth is descended from. Estimated to have lived 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago, it was proposed by Charles Darwin in his On the Origin of the Species in 1859. He wrote, “I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed.” LUCA didn’t compete with itself or try to split into different lifeforms. For hundreds of millions of years, cells freely exchanged genetic material.
“All that we know about LUCA is based on conjecture, and the most promising recent research has been in figuring out what proteins and other structures are shared across all three domains of life: the unicellular bacteria and archaea and the multi-celled eukaryotes, which are where all plants and animals evolved from.”
It seems that at some point LUCA simply outgrew this way of life. Some cells may have become genetically independent, able to move and live without help. Almost as if LUCA were the original garden that some cells fell out of! This rise of independence seems to have emerged at the same time as a significant increase of oxygen in the atmosphere. This new way of life has been doing its survival of the fittest routine for the last 2.9 billion years. Are we an example now of survival of the fittest? That sounds so prehistoric. Surely we can do better. We have to couch survival in morality.
Are we all the same creature, when you get right down to it?, dragging ourselves up from the bottom of the sea to the land where we feed on life? Over 98% of our DNA has fairly recently been found to be non-coding. Scientists don’t know what most of it’s there for because it is not encoding protein sequences. It’s sort of mirrors how we don’t really know what’s going on in the ‘in-between spaces’ of our universe. The mystery is everywhere. The ‘immortal jellyfish,’ T. dohrnii, can revert back to its polyp stage when it’s gets old and begin its life over again through a cellular process called transdifferentiation. This is the only organism known to do this on the planet. Flatworms can grow a new tail or, if need be, a new head and brain. Some starfish can reproduce asexually through fission or autotomy. Bacteria divide asexually by binary fission; after copying its genetic material, the cell divides into two nearly equal sized progeny cells. What I’m saying is life is wacky.
“DNA contains all of the genetic information necessary to construct cells, to integrate them into an organism and to maintain them. RNA translates this information into specific instructions for assembly. RNA differs from DNA in that each RNA molecule is only a single strand of nucleotides, and is much shorter. The RNA is an inverse copy of the gene, like a negative film image. Encoded in it is the information which will be decoded and translated to make the proteins which form the basis of life. Our physical being is an assemblage of thousands of proteins of various types.”
-Richard C. Brill
Evolution is the ability to keep track of genetic information, pass it along and adapt to a dynamic environment. Is this what makes life life? Gerald Joyce of the Scripps Institute defined life as a self-sustaining system capable of Darwinian evolution. All well and good, but what about viruses? Viruses have screwed up people’s understanding of what life is more than almost anything else. Viruses are strands of DNA or RNA packed inside protein shells- they lack cells and metabolism- but they do have genes and they can evolve.
I start to believe that if we took away language, took away civilization, took away sight, took away breath- we would still be something, and know it. Being, based on feeling, sense, attraction, repulsion, excitation, as sensitive and natural as vacuums filling and magnets pulling. We could let go of smarts and fall into free, floating survival: buoyant, joyful, unmarked by confusion or dissent.
As it seems life did not originate inside the sun’s rays, some organisms on earth still do not depend on sun energy. In 2006, bacteria found in South Africa were discovered to have been untouched by the sun for 20 million years. Photosynthesis wasn’t used here, instead the organisms harvested natural radioactivity to create food for themselves. Some microbes use sulphate and hydrogen gas generated from geological processes as nutrients to live.
“Elysia chlorotica, a bright green sea slug that looks like a leaf, eats sunlight like a leaf, but is, in fact, an animal. Turns out E. chlorotica maintains its vivid hue by consuming algae and pirating their photosynthesis genes. It’s the only known instance of a multicellular organism co-opting DNA from another. When you get down to biology’s smallest scales—our cells and our genetic code—it turns out, we’re not so very different. It’s the astounding convergence of life at its most fundamental levels that enables extraordinary feats, like an animal stealing photosynthesis, to be possible. There are other animals that really do photosynthesize, through symbiotic relationships. The classic example is coral. Likewise, the spotted salamander uses algae to solar-power its embryos as they develop inside eggs. Among the handful of animals who’ve gone green, however, solar-powered sea slugs are special. They’ve figured out how to cut out the middleman and do photosynthesis entirely for themselves, by slurping up algal chloroplasts—jelly bean-shaped photosynthetic organelles—and plastering them along the walls of their digestive tracts. Thereafter, the plant-animal hybrids can live for months eating nothing but sunlight.”
Our nonliving sun creates aliveness. Dead cells slough off our bodies all the time. The roiling reactions inside a compost pile can raise the temperature so much that it will spontaneously combust. It’s a circular ghostly bio-power that winks in and out of existence and heat. When we get into it, it’s difficult to agree even on what life is on a fundamental level. Sometimes I think of the earth as if it were an ovum, complete with its own molten sun-yolk core. Galactic clouds give birth to stars; our sun was born. It grew and grew, and how? What is at the center of our galaxy’s spirals? A super-gravity full of other dimensions?? We take in earth, make earth, we are earth, come from it. We depend on sun energy and water. We’re 60% water. When we die we literally seep into earth to join water, or we evaporate and hit the ceiling of the sky, raining back down upon the human race. Is water some holy answer too? Everything we need for life is within our immediate environment except light- that comes from so far away.
I have had the thought at times, that we’re just meaty plants with invisible roots, free for a while from the Earth root. Like we are actually seeds and our ability is to grow inside time, need time just as a plant needs soil. Timeless forever is knocking at our skin and we will slip back into that bigger reality after our bodyforce stops buzzing. If this were true, the joke would be that we’re constantly pushing away eternity by a skin’s breadth- that’s how literally close we are to it. It’s comforting, in an imaginative sort of way and using our imaginations much more creatively regarding mortality is the whole point here. Creative thinking, imaginative miniaturization. More names for ways to simply recognize the spontaneous order that is already there, if we could feel safe enough to trust and innocently question. Creativity will get us right, get our stories to link us back to our nature again, link us to science in a way that feeds our soul as much as our brain. Creativity is what we are, what we come from! Earth has been very creative.. We need spontaneous and instinctive agreements regarding social dynamics and social equilibrium, finally. We just need to get a few more things set in new stone. Our talking points are off; we’re angry with each other when we should be grieving with each other. More on this later.
I look to plants with their blind, insistent growth and how they trace latticework, reach around corners, searching but perhaps not as blindly as we think. Plants can recognize themselves within space; roots change direction before hitting obstacles, seek out water. There have been studies showing that plants respond to voice, or perhaps more accurately, vibration. They react to it. It would be next to impossible to survive on Earth without plants and trees, so closely are we in this symbiotic relationship with them.
“Author Michael Pollan states that ‘so much of our difficulty in understanding plants traces to the fact that they exist in a completely other time dimension than we do. They seem still, they seem inactive just because they’re moving in a different scale than we are. They have analogous structures. They have ways of taking all the sensory data they gather in their everyday lives … integrating it and then behaving in an appropriate way in response. And they do this without brains, which, in a way, is what’s incredible about it, because we automatically assume you need a brain to process information. And we assume you need ears to hear. But researchers, says Pollan, have played a recording of a caterpillar munching on a leaf to plants — and the plants react. They begin to secrete defensive chemicals — even though the plant isn’t really threatened. ‘It is somehow hearing what is, to it, a terrifying sound of a caterpillar munching on its leaves.’ Pollan says plants have all the same senses as humans, and then some. In addition to hearing, taste, for example, they can sense gravity, the presence of water, or even feel that an obstruction is in the way of its roots. How plants sense and react is still somewhat unknown. They don’t have nerve cells like humans, but they do have a system for sending electrical signals and even produce neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin and other chemicals the human brain uses to send signals. ‘We don’t know why they have them, whether this was just conserved through evolution or if it performs some sort of information processing function. There’s a lot we don’t know,’ Pollan says. And chalk up another human-like ability — memory. Pollan describes an experiment done by animal biologist Monica Gagliano. She presented research that suggests the mimosa pudica plant can learn from experience. And, Pollan says, merely suggesting a plant could learn was so controversial that her paper was rejected by 10 scientific journals before it was finally published. Mimosa is a plant, which looks something like a fern, that collapses its leaves temporarily when disturbed. So Gagliano set up a contraption that would drop the mimosa plant, without hurting it. When the plant dropped, as expected, its leaves collapsed. She kept dropping the plants every five to six seconds. ‘After five or six drops, the plants would stop responding, as if they’d learned to tune out the stimulus as irrelevant,’ Pollan says. ‘This is a very important part of learning — to learn what you can safely ignore in your environment.’ Maybe the plant was just getting worn out from all the dropping? To test that, Gagliano took the plants that had stopped responding to the drops and shook them instead. ‘They would continue to collapse,’ Pollan says. ‘They had made the distinction that [dropping] was a signal they could safely ignore. And what was more incredible is that [Gagliano] would retest them every week for four weeks and, for a month, they continued to remember their lesson. That’s as far out as Gagliano tested. It’s possible they remember even longer. Conversely, Pollan points out, bees that are given a similar dishabituation test forget what they’ve learned in as little as 48 hours. Pollan says not everyone accepts that what Gagliano describes is really learning. In fact, there are many critics with many alternative theories for explaining the response the plants are having. Still … ‘Plants can do incredible things. They do seem to remember stresses and events, like that experiment. They do have the ability to respond to 15 to 20 environmental variables,’ Pollan says. The issue is, is it right to call it learning? Is that the right word? Is it right to call it intelligence? Is it right, even, to call what they are conscious? Some of these plant neurobiologists believe that plants are conscious — not self-conscious, but conscious in the sense they know where they are in space … and react appropriately to their position in space.”
-Public Radio International
Plant perception is almost what I hope for humans. Reacting to our environments the way we are supposed to, naturally, intuitively. Changing direction when we feel a wall, or unsavory energy. I believe we are forced into environments that don’t naturally agree with us, and then are told we are lacking or odd when we express dissatisfaction. I believe we know when we are comfortable and feeling relaxed, but we do not get the time within the workweek as it is to adequately defend that instinct, don’t have the time or energy to cultivate this side of ourselves nearly as much as we need. This lack of time and autonomy stresses our systems, forces us into emotional confines and prevents us from exploring our sensitive selves the way we know, in our hearts, we could.
A new theory called Dissipation-Driven Adaptation, proposed by Jeremy England, is that the springing forth of life “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”
“At the heart of England’s idea is the second law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of increasing entropy or the ‘arrow of time.’ Hot things cool down, gas diffuses through air, eggs scramble but never spontaneously unscramble; in short, energy tends to disperse or spread out as time progresses. Entropy is a measure of this tendency. It increases as a simple matter of probability: There are more ways for energy to be spread out than for it to be concentrated. Thus, as particles in a system move around and interact, they will, through sheer chance, tend to adopt configurations in which the energy is spread out. Eventually, the system arrives at a state of maximum entropy called “thermodynamic equilibrium,” in which energy is uniformly distributed. A cup of coffee and the room it sits in become the same temperature, for example. England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which provides a powerful description of life at the level of genes and populations. ‘I am certainly not saying that Darwinian ideas are wrong,’ he explained. ‘On the contrary, I am just saying that from the perspective of the physics, you might call Darwinian evolution a special case of a more general phenomenon.’ Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, but until recently, physicists were unable to use thermodynamics to explain why it should arise in the first place.”
The laws of thermodynamics describe the relationships between thermal energy, or heat, and other forms of energy, and how energy affects matter. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed; the total quantity of energy in the universe stays the same. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is about the quality of energy. It states that as energy is transferred or transformed, more and more of it is wasted. The Second Law also states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state.
“Self-replication (or reproduction, in biological terms), the process that drives the evolution of life on Earth, is one such mechanism by which a system might dissipate an increasing amount of energy over time. As Jeremy England put it, ‘A great way of dissipating more is to make more copies of yourself. You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.’ The chemistry of the primordial soup, random mutations, geography, catastrophic events and countless other factors have contributed to the fine details of Earth’s diverse flora and fauna. But according to England’s theory, the underlying principle driving the whole process is dissipation-driven adaptation of matter. Besides self-replication, greater structural organization is another means by which strongly driven systems ramp up their ability to dissipate energy. A plant, for example, is much better at capturing and routing solar energy through itself than an unstructured heap of carbon atoms. England argues that under certain conditions, matter will spontaneously self-organize. This tendency could account for the internal order of living things and of many inanimate structures as well. ‘Snowflakes, sand dunes and turbulent vortices all have in common that they are strikingly patterned structures that emerge in many-particle systems driven by some dissipative process,’ he said. ‘He is making me think that the distinction between living and nonliving matter is not sharp, said Carl Franck, a biological physicist at Cornell University.”
This makes me wonder if our existence as we perceive it isn’t as different as we thought from non-living matter. If they are two branches from the same process, a ‘life’ after dying seems more possible. Such keen attention has been paid to consciousness, but is consciousness just another version of entropy? Is there a wholly different consciousness after this one?
The human form has been noted to be fairly inefficient, as if we have spent a billion years evolving in the wrong direction. Plants conserve energy much better, but maybe we look at the conservation of energy as the way to be when it’s really not. We move around and require much food and water to maintain our human processes, but Jeremy England’s model of evolution sort of fits the bill here, too- we are inefficient and that meshes well with the theory of dissipative adaptation. We use lots of energy. And ha! maybe our attempts to blow each other to apart with nuclear weapons is a more natural push than we thought. Just to be clear, I am not down with that idea, but I couldn’t help the thought.
Dissipation-Driven Adaptation seems to explain some of the innate, amazingly patterned shapes we see in nature. Not so much a hand-directed origin, but a constant energy dissipation, or diffusion. Here on earth, life is full of seed patterns, what we call geometry, morphogenesis, reaction-diffusion. Pine cones, snail shells, our own bilateral symmetry. This model underlines a way of transferring energy evenly, one might say unifyingly. The elliptical circles of orbits trace egg-shapes. The circumference of a sphere is a circle, and the sphere seems to be the most ubiquitous shape observable in our universe- planets, stars, moons, sound waves, light propagation. But much of earth’s processes are seemingly chaotic. Is that merely an example of growth we don’t know how to measure yet? And is our measuring always going to be somehow too subjective?
“Defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, pi, or in symbol form, π, seems a simple enough concept. But it turns out to be an “irrational number,” meaning its exact value is inherently unknowable. Computer scientists have calculated billions of digits of pi, starting with 3.14159265358979323…, but because no recognizable pattern emerges in the succession of its digits, we could continue calculating the next digit, and the next, and the next, for millennia, and we’d still have no idea which digit might emerge next. Pi seems to crop up everywhere, even in places that have no ostensible connection to circles. Pi appears in the physics that describes waves, such as ripples of light and sound. It even enters into the equation that defines how precisely we can know the state of the universe, known as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Finally, pi emerges in the shapes of rivers. A river’s windiness is determined by its “meandering ratio,” or the ratio of the river’s actual length to the distance from its source to its mouth as the crow flies. Rivers that flow straight from source to mouth have small meandering ratios, while ones that lollygag along the way have high ones. Turns out, the average meandering ratio of rivers approaches pi. The slightest curve in a river will generate faster currents on the outer side of the curve, which will cause erosion and a sharper bend. This process will gradually tighten the loop, until chaos causes the river to suddenly double back on itself, at which point it will begin forming a loop in the other direction.”
Perhaps we’ll never be able to deal with just how dynamic nature is, resisting efforts in classification, labeling, understanding. With pi’s decimal digits flying off into a senseless forever, the sphere- a dense point of pressure with equal compactification and no sides- is growing chaos’ true form: a hovering intelligence bound just as thickly to its center as it is to the aether in all directions. We can’t blame god for how random and cruel life seems, because god doesn’t have a brain like that. God is in it all and a part if it all, miniaturized and suffering with us, laughing with us, acting as a witness to events forming spontaneously in the universal surprise-process of perpetual entropy. And the best way to get at it is right in front of you. There is no distance to god, no maleness or femaleness, no guilt or depression.
Part of my intent here is to reinvigorate the wonder we have lost for our world, to immerse imagination, to treat imagination as a phenomenon for change. To uncover some of the old ways of knowing ourselves and our environments, to allow the simple things I witness everyday to move me, like the light snow that dusted the sidewalks yesterday afternoon, or the random snips of conversation I hear while riding the bus, or all the amazing forces on this planet that I have learned about and stored away. Back in seventh or eighth grade in science class our teacher showed us some liquid mercury he had, passing the vial around the classroom. With his back turned, a few of us opened the vial up and dribbled some of the metal onto our desks. I remember watching the silver droplets roll back and forth between the open pages of my science book, seamlessly separating and coalescing. It was fascinating to see metal look and move like that, closeup. This was another example of the world working in ways that were potent and awe-inspiring.
Another day, years later, while walking over the bridge from Lewiston into Auburn I stared at the sharp ripples the wind made on the pool of river water below me. The wind was like fingers, sending long, separate skinny lines out across the expanse of still water; wind-wrinkled ripples darting toward me. I could briefly see the precise shape of the invisible wind. Something we cannot see moves about us from so soft to so forceful.. I know the sun heats air which causes it to move, warmer air goes up and colder air comes down. But the perpetual movement of air is mostly very subtle; vacuums constantly forming and disappearing. To be touched and moved by this force has been our experience for as long as we’ve been on this planet. How long did it seem a mystery, and alive? And why doesn’t it anymore? It’s barely thought of. To what degree does having a science that labels the mechanics of matter become almost irresponsible in and of itself? The thought of wind is inside us. Yesterday I watched a video of a man filming a tornado coming toward his neighborhood. It took out trees, telephone poles, his neighbors’ house. He just kept filming until it all went black and his house blew down. It was as if he was gripped by the immensity of this force in a way that paralyzed him. I heard the sound that they describe tornadoes making; a sonorous, deep hum with crashing all around. This is all wrapped up in our mortal fascination, our mortal terror. It’s about feeling much smaller than nature, a deep perspective shift.
I place me in the universe, wondrous and concerned. I am not interested in the terrible influence of economies or careers. I never wanted to be an academic or world traveller. I wanted to sit in sunlight and ponder, feel filled up from the exchange of natural forces, from the tingling excitement of interacting with people. We all hang and spin and orbit, shine, rustle and wither. Why don’t we look at ourselves from above, create the witness to this mystery? Or why can’t we shrink down, look at the world inside and shift the focus of molecules around us? We can exert force upon the world at will. How rare is that, in this cosmos!? What inner potential are we capable of when we correctly follow the tilt of our own devotion and desire?
Magnets are another example of marvelous interaction that are so everyday they’ve long ago ceased to seem amazing. But sitting and feeling two magnets invisibly repel one another with palpable force can be a commanding experience. I play with that push and pull and it seems more than science, more than trivia- it feels meaningful. Magnetism is unique because it is actually a life-size example of the workings of the quantum world and is one of the four fundamental forces (more on this later). Magnetic objects are able to attract and repel other magnetic objects because they generate magnetic fields. The core of our earth also generates a geomagnetic field. How can this innate attraction and repulsion I see in our planet be a blueprint for guiding our actions? Does this force take away from randomness, chaos? Have we become too intellectual to even feel these forces anymore? A magnetic field is what an electric field becomes when an electrically charged object starts moving; magnetism is intrinsically tied to electricity. Permanent magnets can only be fully understood as a quantum mechanical effect. At the microscopic level, electrons orbit atoms and molecules, vibrating but staying in place, staying in this relationship. Objects are filled with binding energy, with magnetism. Most particles have a property called intrinsic magnetic moment, and any particle with an electric charge is actually a tiny magnet. We ourselves are magnetic, the human heart has an electromagnetic field that even at a few meters away is detectable by modern scientific instruments. We actuate a magnetic field by being alive. I’ve seen amazing videos of ferrofluid, fluid that spontaneously forms geometric seed patterns when magnetized. A few issues back I mentioned the study that shows bodies may already be ‘hardwired’ when it comes to political party affiliation, could this be another way that we are acted upon when we think we are acting? Do our bodies literally attract or repel one another, to varying degrees? Are we bodily attracted to and repelled by different ideas, philosophies, reasons? This could be another system of order, more sensitive than our current lifestyle allows us to touch. This would, in part, be a form of creative miniaturization. Seeing these subtle forces as bigger than ourselves. Allowing ourselves to trust in the way we sway.
“The speed of an electromagnetic wave comes directly from a fundamental consideration of electricity and magnetism. When James Clerk Maxwell calculated this speed, he realized that it was extremely close to the measured value for the speed of light, which had been known for centuries from detailed astronomical observations. Later, Maxwell realized that light was an electromagnetic wave and thus part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The longest wavelength waves predicted by Maxwell’s theory are longer than 1 meter, and this band of the electromagnetic spectrum is known as radio waves. The shortest wavelength electromagnetic waves are called gamma rays, and have wavelengths shorter than 10 picometers (1 trillion times shorter than radio waves). Between these two extremes lies a tiny band of wavelengths ranging from 400 to 700 nanometers. Electromagnetic radiation in this range is what we call “light,” but it is no different in form from radio waves, gamma rays, or any of the other electromagnetic waves we now know exist. The only thing unique about this portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is that the majority of the radiation produced by the Sun and hitting the surface of the planet Earth falls into this range. Because humans evolved on Earth in the presence of the Sun, it is no accident that our own biological instruments for receiving electromagnetic radiation – our eyes – evolved to detect this range of wavelengths. Other organisms have evolved sensory organs that are attuned to different parts of the spectrum. For example, the eyes of bees and other insects are sensitive to the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum.”
“To me, energy is information – I think you can make that bold a statement. ”
Part of me lying on my bed as a kid, curled up and imagining what the very beginning of time looked like, was really my first effort into trying to reason with magic, to see magic. To creatively realize hope by trying to freak myself out as starkly as I could. I’ve always been like that. That naked horror has us all in check, makes us kill and destroy. It is in our blood and it takes a bit of inner fire to burn through, but it is possible. Keeping your eye on the amazingness of your own consciousness keeps you from becoming blind to it. Revel in what senses you have, allow your mind to flex and freak, create space inside. We keep referencing back and back and back, to nothing-beginnings. Absolutely nothing is where we say we come from! Science says it. And then we keep from laughing as we solve for complex equations. No physics that we can form existed before the supposedly violent creation of the universe, so we just don’t think about it. It becomes ridiculous trying to sort it all out, saying we understand it. I get the desire to math it out, to try to unravel it, but we don’t stick the original mortal horror into our national conversations. But its absence rings out like a void. I’m not talking about other countries here, I’m talking about america. I don’t know other countries but I have a pretty good working knowledge of this one. And we push it away. Silence takes over, god takes over. That’s great, but it’s about what we should be doing for the world at large, in the meantime. It’s everything before we meet our maker. That’s what gets glossed over. Our moral lens needs to be refocused because if we can’t get our own world right, we’re not going to get outer (or inner) space right.
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there-but why is the past so different from the future? Why do we remember the past, but not the future?” In other words, why does time go forward? Is this connected with the fact that the universe is expanding?”
-L. P. Hartley
When I wore a watch I would sometimes think about it, knowing it told me what we call time, but also that each part of the watch came from somewhere inside the earth, which came from somewhere out in space. It was made of ancient, timeless material and somehow that hit harder than thinking I was. We deal with time through the inexorable pull of years and as an imaginary thread inside our thinking with a beginning and end. We know that we exist inside and then outside of it. That IT goes on without us. We deal primarily with Euclidian time, an expressible but creatively imagined ‘river’ of time that we attempt to grasp in three and sometimes four dimensions. The big bang, for example, appears as a singularity in “regular time,” but when visualized with Euclidian time, the singularity is removed and the big bang functions like any other point in space-time. That allows for the existence of time that is pre-big bang. I create it just by thinking of it. We strategize but do not really know what time is. We measure it through entropy. Scientists wonder why entropy was so low in the past, why the universe was so ordered at one point with all its energy compacted inside such a small space. Everything breaks down here. I think for a lot of people it does, of every class and skill set. With our finite thinking, with all our worried and fervent prayers and our confusion, we simply don’t understand the origin of why we’re here. And not even the big bang theory can explain everything correctly. There are huge gaps that I find we fall into. But be that. Be constantly amazed that we’re here. Funnily enough, the dread is on the same axis as the wonder.
Science attempts to break down and explain universal processes. It diffuses everything with methodology but doesn’t know how to thrill you. Magic attempts to reveal the significance in life. Magic makes connections, but more importantly, looks for them. It hones attention as well as imagination. When looking at the world in a magical way you concentrate on what interests you, pulls at you. You are a point of force, willing idea-energy into moments in time, into action. I think that ‘looking at the world magically’ is simply a metaphor. Just as our will and attention can design and build complete cities, so can our creativity and imagination supply meaning and numinosity to our lives. That magic can be there all along, or not. You can make your decisions in life with facts only, but most people work between facts and feelings. We like to see the sights, to learn something abstractly in order to get to some new perspective. I don’t look at trance states the way I used to. I don’t do 11-day meditations, I don’t sit in the woods and starve myself for visions. The trances I get into are day to day; temporary, liminal states that I enjoy and come out of quickly. Just a bit of transition helps. A spontaneous emotion different from the way you are supposed to act. Childlike states. The world doesn’t allow time for this much, after adulthood! But this reflective practice is how we continue to learn about who we are.
“Everything that exists, from stars and galaxies to the light we see them by, must have sprung from somewhere. We already know that particles spring into existence at the quantum level, so we might expect the universe to contain a few odds and ends. But it takes a huge amount of energy to make all those stars and planets. Where did the universe get all this energy? Bizarrely, it may not have had to get any. That’s because every object in the universe creates gravity, pulling other objects toward it. This balances the energy needed to create the matter in the first place. The energy of matter is exactly balanced by the energy of the gravity the mass creates.”
Matter has positive energy. Gravity has negative energy. In the beginning, the original solar system had negative energy. The sum total of matter in the universe can cancel against the sum total of negative gravitational energy, yielding a universe with near zero net matter/energy. The universe is made for free, which is interesting because we charge to live here. Everything in the known universe rotates on an axis and orbits something else in space. Earth is rotating on its axis at one revolution per day. For those of us living in the United States, that is almost one thousand miles an hour. Earth orbits the Sun at about 67,000 mph, or 18.5 miles a second. The Sun, Earth, and the entire solar system also are in motion, orbiting the center of the Milky Way at 140 miles a second. It will take about 200 million years to make one complete orbit. Most bodies within our solar system spin counterclockwise. As our solar system bounced around and formed, the objects within followed the bulk majority, fitting themselves into this orbiting pattern. The Milky Way itself moves through space. Our galaxy belongs to a cluster of nearby galaxies, the Local Group, which are moving at 375 miles a second toward the Virgo Cluster, a giant cluster of galaxies about 45 million light-years away. I list all this again simply to feel moved. Somehow in the imagining of all this space and movement I have shifted the perspective of how I normally think. It involves me in complexity, in layers upon layers of size and motion. It allows me to feel carried away while realizing the awesome truth of stillness.
Creative imagining is definitely a part of a scientist’s skill set, because just what we observe isn’t nearly enough to explain why we’re here. Dark matter is the name we give to most of the great unknown. It must exist to account for the gravity that holds galaxies together. Without this theoretical substance, galaxies would not have been able to form. The universe is also expanding in an accelerated fashion, something not thought possible without another hypothetical power- dark energy. Gravity pulls inward on space-time, but this proposed invisible agent pushes space-time apart, sort of an anti-gravity. It is thought that the sum of all dark matter makes up 23 percent of the total contents of the universe. Dark energy comprises an estimated 73 percent. This leaves 4 percent of our universe made of ‘regular’ matter. This is probably the best way I can think of to really grasp the paradox of ‘knowing’ anything at all. We theorize with limited senses with limited range in a cosmos we can’t even realize 95% of. This is why I laugh when we talk about going to Mars when we commit genocide, and rape and murder one another here.
“Although ordinary matter carries a small percentage of the universe’s energy, it influences itself and its surroundings much more palpably than dark matter, which just passes through the things we can see and touch.”
A mysterious invisible substance passes through us all the time. Interesting. Could this be the full breadth of time itself, could it be a spirit world? I think it’s strange that so many people explain away all these unknowns and say there’s no god. It’s as baffling as believing in a god that has a personality that thinks and reasons in the same ways we do. I think they mean there’s no purpose. Life does seem purposeless, seems that cause and effect simply play out endlessly through eternity. I agree that it seems pointless. But if there’s a spirit realm I think it is a place that doesn’t act upon this world but from where things are ‘known.’ It’s all I’ve got. I definitely can’t believe in the creator that the church has posited. It’s all too judgy, too human, too full of us.
“He spends billions and trillions of dollars trying to get to go to space! God has put you here already! Earth hangs in the middle of space. You’re trying to go where you’re already at! Your hanging right in the middle of space. You’re here!.. Silly shit!”
A particle is a very small piece of matter which has a definite mass and volume however small it is. It also has its own properties, like electric charge (an electron). A wave is a disturbance originating in a particle which makes it oscillate. The disturbance then travels from particle to particle. It is widely accepted that matter exhibits the properties of particles and waves. Einstein wrote: “It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.” This is just another way of saying we are made of pure light, that that potential exists within us at all times. At our core we are at the same time matter and light. Wave-particle duality addresses the inability of classical mechanics to predict the behavior of quantum-scale objects.
The speed of light is the maximum speed of the transfer of information over distance. But in quantum physics particles break this rule with apparent ease. We have learned that if you attempt to measure the properties of quantum particles, that action causes the rest to change as well. So it seems that one particle of an entangled pair somehow knows what action has been performed on the other, and we don’t know how that is possible. Separating the pairs makes no difference in the change that happens to the measured particles’ opposite. Feet or miles, they change right along with the measured particle, at faster than light speeds. This is where the quantum world gets funky. Evidently the universal speed limit of light doesn’t fit here and that has baffled scientists. There have been all sorts of logic-defying experiments made with quantum particles. In Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Nicolas Gisin moved pairs of photons in different directions along optical fibers. When the two photons reached the ends of these fibers and were forced to make their own decision on where to go next, the photons consistently mirrored the others’ movements.
In quantum mechanics something can simultaneously exist and not exist; the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics allows it to travel along all paths and exist in all possible states simultaneously. This superposition is changed if a particle is measured by some means. Again, the act of measurement instantly forces it into just one path or state. Physicists call this a ‘collapse of the wave function.’ I’d call it a lapse in faith. But I’m right there, lapsing as well. Do we collapse into some other state at death? I picture shutting down and moving into a world full of much more possibility. This is my hopeful hope, that there is a ‘me’ that is not jessy that senselessly knows itself as it always has, but is not attached to humanhood. Sometimes when someone says my name it doesn’t feel familiar to me. It’s a feeling of displacement, disembodiment. In ways, I’m not attached to jessy. That’s a form and a certain history, but my immediate perception feels new and fresh, a curious outsider. It’s only when I start talking to others that I feel myself being defined. And it’s not always a great feeling.
The Heisenberg uncertainty principle defines a limit on how precisely the position and the momentum of a quantum particle can be known at the same time. This uncertainty principle arises in quantum mechanics simply due to the matter/wave nature of all quantum phenomena. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems and does not mean only a process in which a physicist-observer takes part, but rather any interaction between classical and quantum objects regardless of any observer. It is a basic result in quantum mechanics, typical experiments routinely observe aspects of it. This basically states that we cannot know the quantum world fully. There aren’t hard and fast rules here, right, left, on, off.
Digging more into how our observation of quantum experiments actually shifts the way particles behave, something called the double slit experiment attempted to randomize the observer effect. “The double slit experiment deals with waves and particles: When scientists fired streams of electrons through a barrier with one slit in it, the particles that hit the screen behind the barrier did so in a band that matched the shape of the slit they had just passed through. When they fired streams of particles through a barrier with two slits in it, instead of seeing two bands on the screen behind the barrier, what they got was an interference pattern, which is a wave function. The particles were not behaving as expected at this quantum level. Even shooting electrons through one at a time produced an interference pattern. When scientists put a measuring device near one slit to measure what was happening, it got wonky. When they observed the moment of change, the electron went back to behaving like a particle. The very act of measuring and observing changed the behavior at this quantum level. So, when a camera observed the electrons, they acted as particles. However, when no equipment was used to observe the electrons, they acted as waves and particles simultaneously. So what’s the reason for this? Does the electron somehow know that it is being watched? That was the only “logical” reason that scientists could come up with. Much skepticism and controversy followed. Then in 2002, a group of researchers set up the experiment in a way that the electron could not possibly receive information about the existence of an observing instrument. The setup was on a much smaller scale: a single photon was emitted and an interferometer that observed the wave-or-particle behavior was either inserted or not inserted. In order for the photon to ‘know’ if it was being watched, that information would have to travel at 4 times the speed of light, which is impossible. The Results: The photons acted like particles 93% of the time that they were observed. In scientific experiments, a 93% success rate is as conclusive as they come. Meaning- observation can (possibly) affect the outcome of life-size events. After all, you and everything you know are composed of these microscopic particles, so why couldn’t something large be influenced as well? It would be the sum of a seemingly infinite amount of pieces of matter acting as either waves or particles.”
Is this the universe being aware of itself, almost self-conscious? That seems wonderful to me, almost playful. Our own interactions are not invisible to what we are interacting with. It’s almost as if our experiments are being watched, or that the experiment and experimenter are linked, either during the measuring, or at all times. I keep feeling states where I just barely glimpse a knowing, a whole other way of reasoning and seeing, a mere breath away. Thinking of these ‘observed’ scientists also sends me into a spatial shift, as if the scientists were inside a giant glass beaker, or under a humongous microscope. And then life starts to seem like a comedy show after that; I’m more enamored with it. But that’s just side-knowledge. It doesn’t put a dent in the way the world mass-processes its own information. That’s much more disconnected. The gorilla in the zoo knows it’s being watched. Why wouldn’t we care about his sense of awareness more?
Quantum tunneling refers to the quantum mechanical phenomenon where a particle tunnels through a barrier that it should not be able to, at least within the realm of classical mechanics. A barrier placed in the path of a tunneling particle doesn’t slow it down. The particle moves through the barrier at greater-than-light speeds, no matter how thick the barrier. Anton Zeilinger at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information describes quantum entanglement and tunneling as an “effect operating outside of time and space.” I’m not sure what this means. It sounds like something other dimensional, or being able to operate inside a new awareness, using unknown senses. Or perhaps, reverting to an original, ancient sense. Maybe the double-slit experiment suggests to us that our moment-to-moment life processes keep co-creating both our histories and our futures at the same time. Is the dimension of time a wave pattern? We are in flux, cementing reality out of possibility (or being cemented by it) for as long as we’re alive, living out an intrinsic duality that pushes in different intensities in every individual.. And then maybe we collapse into one state, for a time.
The Casimir effect begins to describe this multi-state phenomenon. Quantum particles are predicted to spend some time as a combination of other particles in all possible ways. “Vacuum energy is an underlying background energy that exists in space throughout the entire Universe. One contribution to the vacuum energy may be from virtual particles which are thought to be particle pairs that blink into existence and then blink out in a time span too short to observe. They are expected to do this everywhere, throughout the Universe.” (-wikipedia, vacuum energy ) Not quite sure if I understand if virtual particles really spring forth from nothingness, or if they exist only theoretically in math equations, but in the end, that’s what they’re saying happened at the big bang moment anyway. Something came from nothing, compacted or not. The entire framework of the universe is essentially unknown, flashing toward us in delayed, shining, alien framerates. How can we be bored by this, unchallenged, unexcited?
“Time and space cannot be defined separately from each other. Rather space and time are interwoven into a single continuum known as spacetime. Events that occur at the same time for one observer could occur at different times for another. The theory of special relativity is “special” in that it only applies in the case where the curvature of spacetime due to gravity is negligible. In order to include gravity, Einstein formulated general relativity in 1915.”
-wikipedia, special relativity
The current understanding of gravity is based on Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In everyday life, there are three familiar dimensions of space: height, width and depth. Einstein’s general theory of relativity treats time as a dimension on par with the three spatial dimensions. Things move about the universe at the same time, plus the universe’s mass movements as viewed from a distance, through a passage of time. It’s another sort of creative miniaturization. In this framework, the phenomenon of gravity is viewed as a consequence. It curves around things invisibly, it has shape and walls and pull. NASA’s Gravity Probe B mission has confirmed this. The theory of Relativity is the notion that the laws of physics are the same everywhere. We here on Earth obey the same laws of light and gravity as someone in a far off corner of the universe. Different viewers will see the timing and spacing of the same event differently. Einstein’s theory is divided into special and general relativity. Special relativity came first and is based on the speed of light being constant for everyone. All observers will measure the speed of light to be 186,282 miles per second, no matter how fast and in what direction they are moving. Mass, too, depends on speed. The faster an object moves, the more massive it becomes. No spaceship can ever reach 100 percent of the speed of light because its mass would grow to infinity. This relationship between mass and speed is often expressed as a relationship between mass and energy: E=mc^2, where E is energy, m is mass and c is the speed of light. The formula implies that any small amount of matter contains a very large amount of energy.
Einstein went on to generalize his theory by including acceleration and found that this distorted the shape of time and space. The basic take-away in general relativity is that spacetime is a dynamic entity, not a fixed framework. Everything in space is moving, no point is fixed. He also discovered that spacetime curved near a massive object, and this curvature is what we experience as the force of gravity. It is difficult to picture the curved geometry of general relativity, but if one thinks of space-time as a kind of fabric, then a massive object stretches the surrounding fabric so that anything passing nearby no longer follows a straight line, like if Earth was bowling ball in the middle of a trampoline. This is why satellites are not orbiting the Earth, they are falling around its curving gravity as at the same time the Earth rotates; the satellite is falling towards the Earth, but keeps missing it in this arc of gravity. This is the real reason astronauts float inside spacecraft- they, and the vehicle, are in free-fall. It isn’t because there is ‘zero gravity’ in space. Gravitational waves were also predicted by Einstein and found relatively recently. They are ripples in the curvature of spacetime that move out from their source as waves.
Every particle in our universe (including photons) moves through something called the Higgs field. Within this interaction, particles acquire their mass. Different particles interact with the Higgs field at different strengths which is why some particles are heavier (have more mass) than others. Photons move through, but do not interact at all with the Higgs field.
“The Universe has changed a great deal in the 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang, but the basic building blocks of everything from microbes to galaxies were signed, sealed and delivered in the first few millionths of a second. This is when the fundamental quarks became locked up within the protons and neutrons that form atomic nuclei. And there they remain, stuck together with gluons, the carrier particles of the strong force. This force is so strong that experiments are not able to pry individual quarks or gluons out of their particles for long before they recombine quickly to produce new particles.” (cms.web.cern.ch) “An immense amount of matter and energy were built up in an infinitesimally small point at the moment of our universe’s birth, and the laws of general relativity that govern large bodies and systems in the universe are no longer appropriate on such a small scale. Instead, quantum theory, which deals with the quirky properties of the very small subatomic particles in the universe, takes over. Traveling to the beginning of it all, at least our all, requires some way of reconciling general relativity with quantum theory.” (scienceline.org)
In particle physics, the strong interaction is the mechanism responsible for the strong nuclear force, one of the four fundamental interactions of nature, the others being electromagnetism, the weak interaction and gravitation. Effective only at a distance of a femtometer, the strong force is approximately 100 times stronger than electromagnetism and over a thousand times stronger than gravitation at that range. It ensures the stability of ordinary matter. Quantum physics by definition means that some quantities in nature come in multiples of discrete values (where you count, not measure) called quanta. This principle has successfully been applied to all of physics, except for gravity. This is the motivation for the search for quantum gravity. The way most particles and forces work is described in conjunction with the Standard Model of physics with one big exception: gravity. Gravity is very difficult to describe microscopically. This has been one of the heftiest problems in theoretical physics- to come up with a working quantum theory of gravity. Scientists have had to become dimensionauts and conjurers. In the last few decades, string theory has emerged as the most promising crazy candidate. Elementary particles are zero-dimensional, imagined creatively as super small points in space, and in string theory, there are proposed particles that are one-dimensional, extended objects. Strings. These strings vibrate and can be open with two endpoints or closed like a loop. They interact with one another, but are not woven together. Differing vibrations produce different particles: electrons, protons, etc. Now linked to an academic area called M-theory, string theory attempts to provide a unified explanation of gravity and particle physics. It has been called a possible ‘theory of everything,’ a mathematical model that cohesively incorporates the fundamental forces of matter. In physics, M-theory attempts to unify all consistent versions of superstring theory, five in all. It really starts to sound like a sci-fi novel. M-theory is also thought to encompass a multi-dimensional reality.. That’s just scientists doing magic, as far as I’m concerned! M-theory posits that there are 10-11 different dimensions, of which ours is one. This is how far out we get just trying to explain how ‘things’ work! I love it.
Loop Quantum Gravity seeks only to discover a quantum theory of gravity. It does not try to explain Everything, it does not predict extra dimensions. According to the Loop Quantum Gravity researchers, a theory of quantum gravity must explain space and time instead of being plugged into an already-existing space-time universe, like string theory. Loop quantum gravity looks at the smooth fabric of space-time in general relativity and tries to understand whether, like regular fabric, it might be made up of smaller fibers woven tightly together.
As you miniaturize into this quantum world you see that everything we know utterly breaks down. Looking around at this size, we see through our philosophies, see through our religions, see right through our bodies. This is why it’s hard for me to be an atheist. I would simply have no idea about where to begin with that. I remain stunned at the complexity of this world, at the mystery whirling about this universe, at the immensity of my impressive ignorance. Most of this science I couldn’t even explain to someone outside of this paper, it’s just a measly attempt to convince myself that dying isn’t so bad. That’s all it is. But there’s a good case to be had here, as to whether or not the mystery is continued, after life.
“Everything has its wonders. Even darkness and silence.” -Helen Keller
I’m finally sitting in a proper cafe, writing. Do you know how long it’s been? How hard it is to have a simple coffee shop in this town stay in business? There’s not even enough coffee shop culture to hate…. It’s dead as hell in here. So. The Cupcakery is where it’s at, lately. It’s good just to get out. I’ve been cooped up inside for 3 weeks where we saw about 5 feet of snow. It’s not claustrophobia, just a slow moving tiredness that takes over when you’re not thinking about it. You’ve got to un-pattern. When you fall into behavior ruts, pull out of them. If you haven’t been around people, get around them. Switch up your environment- if you’re always around people, get by yourself. After about 5 minutes of doing a new thing, you no longer feel the fear of this new thing. Something I’ve learned. Some people plug away at the same task until they’re bored and frustrated. Why? Walk away. Come back later, with fresh insight and new strength. Just remember to follow through. These choices are part of creativity. It’s not just art, it’s how you approach your life. “Before language existed this image was a feeling inside of me.” (Emma Parker) This is a great quote from an artist about how we apply meaning. There is an area of thought that is before any inner monologue, that is completely pre-verbal, that hearkens back to times when we were pre-verbal. It is within this liminal playground that I would like to focus. An intermediary between reason and passion is what I believe we need to strive for as a model. A sort of spontaneous order, completely dynamic, effortless. A depoliticized democracy, more kinesthetic than verbal. Visualizing. Doing. Recognizing that healthcare, housing and food issues are The paramount concern. The first step toward a democracy that works efficiently and thoroughly. That’s it. Those are your real human rights in this world. We can’t even get this right. We use language to help us label, categorize and therefore manage our emotions. We use it to identify obstacles and communicate, to solve problems. But sometimes I think the worst thing that ever happened to our species was the written word. Is this the one thing that makes us so different, on this planet? Did we learn too much, become too self-aware? Words needlessly complicating a simple existence until we believe more in the language than the concept. We don’t experience language literally first, we feel it. Me yelling “Whoo-hoo!” is to make me and you feel excited, to ‘get into it,’ to show enthusiasm. Most people do not use language in the grammatically correct way. This is good. People use language to express feelings and most people feel their way through language. Letters and words cannot encompass the breadth of human emotion. So even within language there is this ‘spatial awareness.’ You don’t get me literally, you have to feel me. You feel me? That’s what that means. It’s like your soul is trying to get out, say ‘hi,’ make a point, make someone believe in you. In the struggle to find the perfect word we have slowly forgotten to properly feel. Feeling is painful – beautiful. And feeling is beyond words. Symbols of communication and symbols of life, like cash, have divided us; we fight for scraps while the real flesh of life passes by. In a world full of symbols, people who are good at following blueprints have benefited. People who are not challenged or interested in this system have died. Slowly. Surely.
“Nacirema is the name of a fictional country in Ronald M. Green’s role-playing game aimed at explaining to undergraduate students the fundamentals of John Rawls’s theory of justice as fairness. In ‘The Rawls Game,’ Green asks the students to take on the role of Nacireman citizens. Acting from unrestrained self-interest, the citizens vote on a series of public issues and attempt to find solutions that do not require anyone to be forced to act against their own will. The goal of the game is to show that the only way to obtain social fairness is to ignore one’s own individual circumstances (race, sex, religion, income, etc.) when making deliberations that affect public life.” (Wikipedia, Nacirema) Nacirema is of course American backwards, and looking at our own country as if it were completely new to us is the point of this exercise. We look at other cultures through this colorful anthropological lens but when we use it outside of academia, the only thing that is created is distance. We’re not a game, we’re not a clever story, we’re not examples, not problems, not behaviors, not lists. We are grace and balance, we are deities filled with wrath, we are points of very old light. It’s this sensitive awareness that I feel our culture cuts from our being, as we learn to travel in block and grid forms and schedules that suck at our will and bellybrain wit until we are lost in the confusion, our emotions flooding, pooling up and shrinking away. The only true revolution available is a re-structuring of our access to services, places, experiences. How to help each other with that. To expect what you need to survive for free is the right feeling. It’s everyone’s secret desire anyway. Society is wrong. Nature may be brutal, but so are we. We just let it take longer. Nature is spontaneous and democratic in an adaptive way that we have been cut off from. And nature is free.
Sometimes in traffic I see a bad move made on someone’s part and then the angered reaction from another car, and then I feel nervous because of it.. I see how we send these invisible signals around town all the time through road rage. We’re in transit but the ripple effect passes from car to car, impatience to impatience, down the road. We’re communicating, there is emotion and vibe. These little anger actions get carried miles away in just minutes. On the other hand, a calm patient driver can make others slow down, react better, save lives, actually. In this manner patience can also be relayed, networked. Communicated. This mindset is less about leading and more about sharing. The Kuramoto model equation successfully explains how thousands of fireflies will sometimes sync up in patterned light displays, or how crickets and frogs communicate via cyclic sound. Is there more math behind spontaneity? Is right living a self-sustaining call and response with the physical world, a rhythm? “Believe it or not, even traffic congestion/flow often results in spontaneous order. Spontaneous order emerges naturally in systems in which the individuals communicate with each other in some fashion and make small group-adaptive changes based on those signals. What’s fascinating is that these individuals need not be organisms, and the signals exchanged can be much simpler than a cricket’s chirp.” -The Annenburg Foundation
Christopher Knight, the North Pond Hermit, until just recently, lived without human contact in the woods here in Maine for 30 years. He stole from camps to survive which made a lot of people feel unsafe, but I wondered if he’d have insight into the mortal condition, coming from that extreme perspective. In an interview from prison he said, “I did examine myself. Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.” Did this hermit collapse into a wave function for years?? Living in the world without being known, without anyone defining himself for him. He also said “I’m not used to seeing people’s faces. There’s too much information there. Aren’t you aware of it? Too much, too fast.” That’s probably 30 years alone in the woods talking but I knew what he meant in an instant. We’re so pre-verbal, pre-language still. So immediately and directly sensitive, raw, trying to pretend we’re not when everyone knows we are. What a constant game we play!
“From bird flocks to fish schools, animal groups often seem to react to environmental perturbations as if of one mind. In the presence of strong predatory pressure on the group, collective response may yield a significant adaptive advantage. Here we suggest that collective response in animal groups may be achieved through scale-free behavioral correlations. We found that the range of such spatial correlation does not have a constant value, but it scales with the linear size of the flock. This result indicates that behavioral correlations are scale free: The change in the behavioral state of one animal affects and is affected by that of all other animals in the group, no matter how large the group is. Scale-free correlations provide each animal with an effective perception range much larger than the direct interindividual interaction range, thus enhancing global response to perturbations.”
Cool, how can we do that and not just when we’re being threatened? How can we use all the instinct of our natural world and all the brain power of our inner worlds to return to a useful, completely innate democracy in action, one that is relevant to life, not the (completely unreal) symbol of money or transference. I was listening to Sinead O’Connor this morning. The song “Germaine” is a recording of Germaine Greer speaking. It’s one I’ve listened to before, but today I heard it in a new light: “I do think that women could make politics irrelevant via a kind of spontaneous cooperative action, the like of which we have never seen. Which is so far from people’s ideas of state structure and vital social structure that seems to them like total anarchy. And what it really is is very subtle forms of interrelation which do not follow a sort of hierarchical pattern which is fundamentally patriarchal. The opposite to patriarchy is not matriarchy but fraternity. And I think it’s women who are going to have to break this spiral of power and find the trick of cooperation.” She’s asking for the same thing. What is the ‘trick to cooperation’? Why would that feel like total anarchy? Now, I don’t want to make it just a woman game, excising men out of the picture isn’t what I want to focus on. But her point- this spontaneous cooperative action is precisely what I believe our culture needs to cultivate in its citizenry, or the citizenry need to cultivate in culture. Either-or.
Julian Jaynes posited the bicameral mind theory. It is not widely accepted, but as an evolutionary phase it’s really interesting. It states that our ancient human minds, until around 3,000 years ago, were wired differently. We weren’t Aware that we were conscious, we were simply Conscious. Our two brain hemispheres ‘heard’ each other differently in times of stress and ‘fight or flight’ reactions; we did not perceive these thoughts in our heads as our own, but believed they came from outside us- from a god/goddess/spirit voice. Playing around with this idea is fun. Is this how tribalism worked, effortlessly and instinctively, guided with strange inner voices intrinsically woven in with our personalities? Even if the biology doesn’t support this theory, it still seems like this is how early humans would have witnessed their own thinking, as an internal, sometimes cluttered and mysterious monologue that began to develop more and more focus, more and more self-ness. It may have felt like something outside of their control (hell, it feels outside of my control), so feelings of a deity thinking and moving through them may not be so far-fetched.. It may have been terrifying, as well as beautiful, all the while contributing to our spiritual conceptualizing. I write this at the peak of a lunar eclipse, a blood moon, in September 2015. I search and search for more knowledge, more reason, more answers. I can only show interest, passion and good intentions. I think things are a roiling mess with just a bit of order thrown over the top like gauze, a glaze. I’m left with a different philosophy now that I’m not even sure of yet, that grows and grows.. This theory involving how we perceive ourselves within the spaces we inhabit, physically, emotionally, how we seek resonance. A theory of something apart from eyesight, separate from visual learning, that extends the ‘belly-brain’ narrative from letterfounder #125.
A sports writer once described a basketball player’s focus on the court as “a glaze of panoptic attention.” I liked this phrase and it has to do with what I’m talking about. Not a point of focus but a smooth, sensitive dispersion of local awareness. It would be like living life inside the mind of an athlete in the middle of a sports game, reacting fully and appropriately in a completely fluid situation. This, I’m afraid, needs to happen inside our political sphere, our media-info world as well as our own personal interactions. All equally important, all connected to a deep, moral anchor that is about balance in relation to each other and the planet, that is almost prescient.
The 3D posters you had to relax your eyes to see? That way of using your eyes is also a part of what I’m talking about. Not that you can walk around like that. Well, actually, you can a little. Maybe try it, see what you learn and feel from doing this. I read somewhere that you can look at a person between the eyebrows (like at their 3rd eye) and it still seems like you’re looking at them in the eye. Almost like you’re trying to look in the ‘center’ of them, and feel them from there, feel their vibe, their mood, their energy. I talked about plant perception a ways back in this essay; a slow moving sensing that I would say is akin to a ‘systems thinking’ approach. Slow but very directed and concerned with optimal survival. If we could see ourselves from above, moving around, leaving trails of intent and desire behind us as long as we live, we just might try to brighten the spaces we inhabit most often. Following a feeling of abstraction, like the creative line your life makes behind you, like the universe shrunk and floating beside you helps to enhance creative awareness, sensitivity, potentiality. Instead of solving the math problem of your life, you’re writing a poem with it. You trust in your own importance, in the good quality of your decisions. You don’t worry what others think, or at the very least, you consciously rebel against that worry.
The Overview effect is a palpable shift in perspective from those who have been in space. It has been described by people as what I would call another example of creative miniaturization without having to do the imagining. These astronauts have seen the thin layer of atmosphere that holds the immense vacuum of space at bay. They have seen exactly how the Earth hangs, seemingly suspended in the midst of this outer environment. They have been miniaturized and in this way you naturally hold things in higher regard. We need to somehow do it down here more often. See things as if from a created (even imaginary) distance, assimilate and order the knowledge inside based on this perspective. It is a cognitive shift. Migratory birds and spawning fish know where they’re going through sun navigation, sight navigation, olfactory cues and magnetic field detection.. It isn’t as innate as I thought and they get better at it with age. But this is amazing body intelligence. Animals process some information in their lives much better than we. But they also try to eat one another without asking. It’s like they are these great examples of the best and worst of humans and that scares as well as enthralls us.
“As a bird flaps, a rotating vortex of air rolls off each of its wingtips. These vortices mean that the air immediately behind the bird gets constantly pushed downward and the air behind it and off to the sides gets pushed upwards. If another bird flies in either of these upwash zones, it gets free lift. It can save energy by utilizing the air flow created by its flock-mate. As each bird flaps its wings, the trail of upwash left by its wingtips also moves up and down. The birds behind can somehow sense this and adjust their own flapping to keep their own wings within this moving zone of free lift. ‘They trace the same path that the bird in front traced through the air.'” (Ed Yong, Steven Portugal) That’s why geese fly in V’s. That’s how sensitively animals adapt to conserve and use energy! We are so far from that in our most used social and technological models. There is a sensitivity and grace in this intricate awareness of our basic spatial relation to each other and our immediate environment that I believe we are much more capable of. It would allow us more patience, more empathy, alleviate basic anxieties and self-doubts. Allowing yourself the right to be where you are is first. Sometimes I have felt embarrassed to be in a space, nervous for no good reason. Just ungrounded.
We need a blind democracy. Blind justice is a fucking myth. We are more visual than anything else, when it comes to how we apply meaning, like, dislike. It’s time we just admitted it. It’s not wrong, or bad. It’s just how we react that is wrong, bad. Fear-based. So visual and trying to act like we’re not. Instead of focusing in, like we’ve been taught to do, try fading out. Seek and search like your feelings were fingers.. See, but don’t see one thing. See it all, relatively. Not just one person. People. Try a few different perspectives first. We are the 3D poster, we have to relax our eyes, think abstractly and decide what is actually needed, what is truly important. There is grace there. That is where it lies. You can almost taste your insight, your initial reaction to a place or thing, before that first impression is lost. Mindfulness is going back to that initial feeling and taking the time to explore your connection to it. This is how you figure out what you like, what you want, who you are, what you can offer. The way our face can feel when a hand is near, even with our eyes closed. Taking in information and processing facially is our most immediate vehicle for communication. A host of instincts come from processing the facial expressions of others. We are probably addicted to it, actually. When we seek to get high we call it ‘getting faced’ or talk about not being able to feel your face. It’s almost a searching for an end to all the sensitivity in your head. There is a coordinated energy originating from our sense of vision, smell, taste, hearing, touch. Most of these sense organs are right there in front of you, exhibiting expression and demeanor. In life they talk about your face ‘betraying’ you. This isn’t betrayal. This is your emotion beaming out from inside you. There’s so much power there and I believe we freak out about it, think too hard on suppressing inner expression. We don’t listen to our core, gut brain. Try closing your eyes, feeling a space that way instead of taking it in visually. This is tied to your visuospatial sketchpad and the peripheries of your own senses. Holistically combining sense and thought energy in a fluid, unfolding process. Using your entire body and mind to make decisions, to interact, to move through life. A small number of blind people actually use echolocation to locate objects around them by using mouth clicks and listening for the returning echoes. A study that mapped the brain regions used in this process found that the part of the brain used for sight, not hearing, was utilized for this activity. This was interesting to me; that these people using echolocation were using their brain’s ‘visual’ center, listening to echoes and using it to create a mind’s eye mental picture. Part of what interests me here is a sort of bio sonar. We take this to mean sound, but I mean a sonar that is more spiritual– utilizing sensory integration to get a ‘feel’ for not only where you are at a given moment, but the feel and soul of a space and the people inhabiting it. That’s what guides your actions, your respect, your decisions on what to put out there. Based on your heart, your body, your awareness. Mapping out locations on multiple levels using intuition. To recognize yourself in a space, but also to sense the space that your thoughts are creating, where you exist emotionally at any given moment. Echolocation used to be called ‘facial vision,’ a poetic term for feeling, perceiving, face first, an environment. Having to be completely open to the sensory experience because you were down one sense already. Daniel Kish, who is blind, calls human echolocation ‘perceptual mobility.’ For some reason it helps me to posit instinct with a sort of blindness. Or sight that is diffused with other sensory data. Was this like my new philosophy- properly recognizing our force within a given space? How do we see something, hear someone? Where does feeling for them become relevant? How is it added to the information we let in? How does that invisible tension ease, when does it thicken?
“Through fMRI, we can determine which parts of the brain are activated during sensory perception. In blind persons, we can see that while they are only receiving tactile information, their visual cortex is also activated as they perceive to see objects. This type of sensory substitution is only possible due to the plasticity of the brain. Brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to adapt to a changing environment, for instance to the absence or deterioration of a sense. It is conceivable that cortical re-mapping or reorganization in response to the loss of one sense may be an evolutionary mechanism that allows people to adapt and compensate by using other senses better.” (Wikipedia, Sensory Substitution)
I only quote this to put my brain inside this paradigm more fully. When we see, what are we perceiving? We completely miss objects right in front of us if we’re not looking for them, and sometimes when we are. I believe it’s the same when effecting policy. This blind spot is widened by our profit economy. Vision is closely tied to perception. Out of sight out of mind kills people, everyday. Can we see this? Or is it out of sight? An object is visually the same for two people but their perception of the object can often be very different. How do we build a country up inside regulations without seeing the gaps where people constantly fall through? Not that the trick to life is literally blind democracy but I want this creative miniaturization to place us properly inside our social roles, where the be-all, end-all is simply life, where we see us scurrying around our busy lives in all our frailty and impermanence from a different vantage point.We treat our own kind as if they were from another species.. Refugees.. Once we get how real human rights works, then we’ll be able to envision the best ways to care for our planet. I think the responsibility has us all freaked out. It is too much, I agree. But here we are, so we’ve got to. Life is the hard answer, not the hard sell.
The pineal gland/parietal eye is located between the two hemispheres of the brain and toward the lower center. It is not isolated from the body by the blood-brain barrier system; it has profuse blood flow, second only to the kidney. The pineal gland has retinal tissue composed of rods and cones (photoreceptors) inside its interior lining. It doesn’t work like an eye, but it is light-transducing. Melatonin, produced by the pineal gland, affects sleeping, waking, trance states and has the ability to entrain biological rhythms. I couldn’t find conclusively that the pineal gland secretes DMT like I’ve been hearing. The pineal gland is called a third eye. It is located dead center in the brain so I suppose this correlates with in-between your eyebrows. But the way that the gland senses light, in a sightless way, sort of fits in with this ‘spatial awareness’ way of living. Life is all days and dreams and the pinecone-shaped organ in the center of our minds defines for us somehow which is which. When it comes to human potential, it’s hard to figure out what is legit research and what is personality-infused conjecture. Sometimes everything seems possible, the dream and the reality. That’s a good day. We tiptoe around the knowledge that we can be witness to both at the same time.
We force our society to examine its own culture in the wildest of ways. Bill Nye debating a Creationist I suppose is great fun, but the core concept is that that Creationist wants or needs to believe in intelligent design. Shucks, that’s what I want, I just believe also in evolution. They can bend the rules of science or thump the bible as hard as they want, I wouldn’t consider being rude to them based on what they believe. I hate the highbrow’d morally superior air of disdain that people become so good at conveying, just to let others know they are smarter than someone else. But more sensitive? I don’t think so. That’s the real equalizer. My whole thing with science is that science has proven how little it knows, actually, about itself, where we are, what the universe is made of. All that room for mystery and people are just like, “Nope. There’s nothing out there.” Elon Musk just said there’s a billions-to-one chance this reality is base reality. But he wants to colonize Mars. I can think of nothing more idiotic than this, wile people die from poverty and war here on Earth. I slowly start to see that people who believe in science shit all over people who invoke a higher power. Science has somehow become tied to atheism and I just want this puzzle of life to be holy, feel holy, hopeful, creative, inspirational. Are these words really all that dissimilar? But folks just break it on down- the big bang banged and life creeped up and it’s just a rocky, barren process which will end in heat death or start all over again. I tend to see it differently. I try to expand out, I try to shrink. I think there are energies out there that we simply do not know how to measure. I see the desire for intelligent design as analogous to the scientific desire for a ‘theory of everything.’ It’s not really the facts that are important, or the lack of them. It’s that darned desire. That’s going to be our lifesaver, the energy we gather around, build upon.
Intelligent Design is called pseudoscientific. But if a person were feeling life, trying to figure all of it out on their own without the benefit or hindrance of science, a spirit world seems almost necessary. We look around at times and just think “Why? Why is this all here and why am I here to feel it?” This is what generations of humans have been thinking for thousands and thousands of years. Believing that some biological systems are too complex to have simply grown from simpler beginnings, does, on its face, seem to have validity. But it depends on where you want to blow your own mind, on the miracle of the creation of life, or at the possibility of M-theory with its multiple dimensions and universes. At some point you just hit a wall of not knowing what to believe in, of not even understanding if believing in anything is valid because no one’s telling us, and that is what’s so terrifying.
I believe that if I remain open I might have this revelatory experience and this keeps me dreaming, hoping, trying things out that run contrary to the order of the mechanized world. I have that moment in my sights, behind the scenes. Is that faith, long-lasting at long last?? I sun-doze, wander, listen to leaves shaking, stare at the moon, play music, make moods, miniaturize, walk barefoot, eat ice cream. I have a flit of a feeling that I am shown things, the right things, in order to make some sense out of life. Is this a belief in magic, or confidence? Or the other way to think of it is, I’ll never have read enough, learned enough, to make sense of anything. That I’ll always be lacking. But that’s not the way I go. I need to strive for some implicate order. There seems to be so many ways to order things. Irreligion is a disregard for religion altogether. Polytheism is believing/worshiping more than one god. Pantheists believe that Nature and God are one and the same. Naturalism is a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted. Panpsychism and, in part, Integrated Information Theory view that consciousness, mind or soul is a universal feature of all things. There are an estimated 4,200 different religions in the world today. This is interesting to me because it’s another way of looking at things in other sizes and perspectives. So many different ways of trying to explain our lives here! 4,200.. And we argue about them, clamor for recognition, turn them into competitions! We need to have more open discussion regarding our societal fears around dying and how this knowledge is processing itself anyway within our cultural discourse, our institutions, our entertainment industries. My answer is here in this informal essay. I’m talking about it. I stepped out of my box a little to mention that it feels lame talking about mortality, a bit like bringing sludge up onto the deck of a boat. A little immature, really. But here I am, wondering if our lives are mapped out for us so that we continue to avoid this fundamental truth.What discussion will come from these words? How do you combat mortal fear, work with it? It is time, I believe, for a change in our thinking that involves grief. Grief and anger are both intrinsically tied to fear. We are good at showing our anger, most of us, the world at large. But we aren’t great at trying to articulate our grief at loss, being wrong, being hurt, seeing loved ones die, seeing war atrocities through small, lit-up screens, feeling our bodies begin to break away from us as we grow older. Grief. Anguish. Wailing. I am more and more convinced that the lack of this part of our emotional continuum is slowly and surely destroying us. It is wrapped up in how we distrust ‘human nature.’ It is tied to massacres and genocide. It is tied to how we translate our mortal fear. Whenever we feel we’re not good enough, whenever we’re embarrassed to be in our own skin, whenever we feel we don’t deserve good things. That fatalism is built into our existence and we have a hard time extricating ourselves from its lifelong hold. I don’t think we can, actually. It’s us, through and through. We just have to recognize that we are good enough, but it is our existing on a limited time frame that makes us feel unworthy to enjoy ourselves or to speak our basic truths. We must stare this fact in the face and make a moral effort to seek quality in the face of it. I am not sure how the world can process its grief regarding the mortal condition. With defiant courage? I do believe people want to be spoken to in a very real and honest way even if it’s filled with impatience and bad ideas. We have gotten very tired of being preached to in a journalism-accent. Moreover, people with good, peaceful ideas for the world are very often boring as hell! Personalities move people- loud, colorful energy. We see this via the media storming but it’s just one side: fear-laden, violent imagery and semi-cathartic revenge television dramas and crime shows. How would an open process of grieving appear to mainstream America? How could we get that out there, without a flurry of downvote activity and sneering internet contempt? The crowds inside the web are just as angry and closed off as the crowds of live protesters. Things get too volatile real quick. But that’s actually grief talking in the form of rage. One of my answers in this essay is about needing to grieve.
There are conversations popping up lately organized under the term Death Cafes, where people intentionally gather to talk about death, dying, mortality and positing it as a healthy thing to do. These started in London in 2011. I have no idea if they are effective or if I’d like them, but it seems like a good idea. The biggest stumbling block in discussing death is the label – morbid. But life gets pretty morbid for people, and to denounce this curiosity seems evasive. Scared. I’ve talked about living in the moment but what about after the last moment? That’s where the lump in our throat lies. Stories and movies were all about ‘happily ever after’ and really, that is how forever was defined for us as children. Finding a partner and walking into the sunset. Philosophies slowly began to not-do-it for me. They all talked about the processes of life and living. I wanted a philosophy for our dead time. I started reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but after my own mother died I was inconsolable. It hadn’t helped. Words didn’t help. Reincarnation as a concept felt dumb. Even if that is something that happens, people getting any reasonable comfort from that are funny to me. That’s still a huge change. I’m still different after- I doubt that I remember myself. And that would still be where my fear lies. No matter what happens, we should agree that death is the biggest change we’re ever going to go through, or the final one. What a common factor! That’s huge. Why aren’t we huddled into raceless masses speaking, whispering, crying, laughing about this incredible experience? Born to a world floating among a trillion roaring stars, to be witness to that immensity and then to fold over and rot out. Why all the silence, or the guts-n-glory sensationalizing? Usually people don’t go out in a hail of gunfire. They die with their hands clenched at their sides in an agonizing heart attack, wrecked in a smoking car in the middle of some road, they die dry-mouthed and labored breathing after 6 months of stage 4 cancer, they die from their body muscles atrophying from ALS, or quietly after a final stroke-caused coma. Why wouldn’t that instantly equalize us? If we were ever to come together as a species, a human race- then it would be around this. Properly dealing with the true preciousness of every life on this planet would in turn correct all of our models of care. Sound impossible? Then step back, because you can’t dream hard enough. We’re all peering out from inside, we’re all brand new every moment. How do ‘we are all one’ and ‘everyone dies alone’ reconcile with one another, finally?
“It’s important that we remind ourselves of the magnitude of this mystery…that all the things we see around us as solid, unchanging and inert, are actually oscillating fields of pulsation, and that in a very real sense (whatever “real” may mean) they only become “things” when we perceive them as such! This has been repeatedly demonstrated, using accepted scientific methodology. From this perspective, one can begin to perceive the world as a vast interlacing network of discrete fields of oscillation, which become “things” as they interact with the pulsations of our perceptual senses, which are also subtle vibrational fields. An increasing body of scientific evidence suggests that the material world is held together via resonance– That mysterious property that determines how subatomic particles orient and bond with one another, as well as the massive oscillations of gravitational fields in galactic interactions. As we witness audible sounds exciting inert masses of sand and water into dynamic forms that mimic living organisms, we can begin to visualize the hidden mechanisms that animate our world.
There are experiments of scattering grains of sand or salt over a square of metal that is then bowed, using a cello or violin bow (or attached to a speaker producing different tones). By generating sonic frequencies you will happen upon a resonant frequency. When this is achieved the sound level increases dramatically, as energy transfer to the plate is much greater at resonant frequency. The sand shifts into series of increasingly complex geometric patterns. You can find ’em on youtube. The reason this happens is how vibrations interact with the metal surface and its shape. Chladni plates are pieces of wood or metal that can be made to vibrate. Resonant patterns, or harmonic frequencies happen here when a vibrating object hits a natural frequency and creates something called a standing wave pattern- still points of interference between two vibrating frequencies. A standing wave pattern is not actually a wave, but rather a pattern of a wave. Any other frequency other than a harmonic frequency will not result in these patterns. Sound can reveal inner organization. I wonder if this is applicable to the universe at large? The earth itself has a tone, a hum. The earth vibrates. It’s like being in the efficient upwash of a feathered friend’s wing flap. Here is this ‘spatial sweet spot’ again, inside a frequency this time. How can helping one another out look as effortless as this? This is the sort of instinctive model of care I think we should be striving for. It won’t happen inside a market economy.
“The old saying that no two things can occupy the same space at the same time is correct when applied to matter, but it does not apply to waves. Indeed, an infinite number of waves can occupy the same space at the same time; furthermore, they do this without affecting one another, so that each wave retains its own character independent of how many other waves are present at the same point and time. A radio or television antenna can receive the signal of any single frequency to which it is tuned, unaffected by the existence of any others. Likewise, the sound waves of two people talking may cross each other, but the sound of each voice is unaffected by the waves’ having been simultaneously at the same point.”
Sound is another palpable, invisible force, as alchemistic to me as wind or magnetism. It may be our simple destiny, what we were meant for, to resonate with sound in a way that is restorative. A lot of me believes that sound is IT, the changer, the identifier, the thing to aim for. Sound is atoms vibrating. My voice is a collection of atoms vibrating. Sound travels through air, solids, liquids. We have the ability to will atoms to vibrate. What a great power! Music and tones move people nearly inexplicably. The concept of kenosis is the emptying of oneself so you can be filled with spirit. What if spirit is a hum, the aum, the ability to vibrate? I used to make my body tingle at will. Give myself goosebumps, shivers, by thinking about it. It sort of tired me out after, so I wondered what I was raising, if anything. It was kinda thrilling. I just put it on the back burner as a question mark. What do you do with that? Is that a certain willing of energy? It starts in my chest/abdomen and radiates out. In line with this theory, I help organize a singing group in my town. It’s hard because it seems not too many people feel comfortable connecting like that. I was introduced to Kirtan, a repetitious call and response chanting circle with lyrics sung mostly in Sanskrit, by my friend Rachel and while I don’t feel pulled to any one religion, the act of singing like this immediately felt meaningful to me though the words were unfamiliar. This allowed me to feel, not think. Half of it was almost an opening to a wider or older meaning, and half of it was the grounding vibration of live voices together carving out a space in real time which smacked of being genuinely relaxed. The act of singing, or moving, acts as a bleeding edge entrance to real real life. Sometimes research and facts and figures just don’t produce enough meaty plot to produce inspired searching. Something relatable is lost and all the math is used to oppress, all the technical know-how is used witlessly. At that point you need to go somewhere to feel again, to sense. I become the immediate, positive effects of singing, of following my interest and desire with singing. Me doing this helps me be better with people.
There’s some relevance here to how we socialize and spend our time. I like to think of resonance as something attainable by everyone. We figure out what suits our needs and speeds. There are no goals here, just a river of awareness to dip our toe in and out of. ‘Holloways or ‘desire paths’ are the trails cut through a field or green space, often contrary to the laid walkways because the route is more direct; ‘Instinctive Travels.’ These physical harmonic frequencies are exactly how we feel our souls within a space. We simply know it when we feel it, it’s tried and true, it’s more about immediate sense than distanced planning. It’s hard to always listen to your body. It feels like you’re constantly rebelling, constantly in opposition to what societal life is telling you to do with your body, where to spend your time, who you spend it with, no access to privacy, etc. Listen to your internal harmonic.
Some of the ways to work this ‘dying problem’ is to learn the difference between unattached and detached. Unattached and detached are two very different things. Zen gets a little made fun from the outside because it seems too calculatingly devoid of ‘heart.’ But as I understand it, that is DEtachment. Being detached is not feeling your life. Being UNattached is not letting the forces that are out of your control dictate your mood and life trajectory. You are unattached to the detriment, the malaise, the hopelessness of clinging to feelings once they are over (or you are over them). It’s like gripping on to life but not being sewn into the lining.. Holding relationships lightly is probably the biggest problem for us humans. To love but not co-dependently, not unreasonably. When practice-in-action is going on you can’t even tell because it just makes sense, things are moving along naturally and there is an absence of anxiety. When practice-in-action is happening, we’re too busy living truth to think about philosophy. Nothing mind-blowing there. The fact that we are not at this point after ages of knowing about our mortal condition just hits home the fact that we are legitimately too panicked to organize around our fear. Not brave enough, too tired from work.
I do not have children, but I know many people that do. Do they just say to their child, “No one knows why we’re here, or how we’re here,” when asked about the origins of the universe? Isn’t that the simple truth, more so than our various creation stories? Is that too much to say to a kid? Even while they’re living through the fact? It’s like having a child is also putting a death sentence on them, an awareness-sentence of their own mortality. They’re gonna get it anyway. It’s like how sometimes I wake in the morning and I’m thinking other things and then remember I’m going to die someday. It sometimes feels unexpected, almost unreal and then very real. Like, “Oh.. Yeah..” Unfair. But that doesn’t mean I blame being born. I love that I was born. As we grow up, who is showing us the power of patience and conflict resolution, how to be peacefully human? This is where it all starts. People are so easily swayed! Trusting in your gut is hard because sometimes it makes you seem too contrary, too in opposition. Sense enough to stop when you feel like you’re running in circles with someone. Sense enough to pick and choose your friends, to speak up when you see someone being wronged, to smile at people more. These are resonant frequencies. Be brave enough to slow down, to sleep long enough, to brush your teeth, to feel your body, to eat as you need to. Body intelligence is not something the modern world fosters! It’s hard to do on the job. Start to recognize how much of your personal freedom you give up to live a life someone else set up for you. In what ways can you redefine it, take it back, revitalize it? Body intelligence is a weird, wonderful thing. Putting your attention in the area of your belly either by focusing or exercising is one of the answers here. But listen to it. Is it calm? Riled up? Move in response to its signals. Our bodies are made to move and be relatively physical. When a culture forgets this it begins to lose it’s intrinsic intelligence.
But intrinsic intelligence isn’t a market item. It feels like the world has been built by pissy little children who selfishly didn’t consider the arc of every. single. life on this planet and thought: this is what unites us. Mortality and our keen awareness of it. Our reactions to it, culturally. These pissy little kids just blew up about gods and land and perceived power and jobs and freaked out all over the place! If they had given more thought to speaking on our collective anxiety, really started untangling the fear, then our world would be gentler right now. More world-like.. Being OK with dying. Living magnanimously in the face of dying. You have to let the whole slice of your life go, your whole soul-slab needs to be put gently back down just as you were starting to really know yourself. That’s the fucking rub. It’s rough enough knowing that there is such physical pain in the ways in which we die. It’s abhorrent, terrible to think about and we have to understand the dread, possess it, dig into it. Religion is taught to us by people. Gods do not come to us sharing knowledge. We have stories that we believe and we tell these stories. People listen. Children learn. It’s a gigantic responsibility but this is where the future of the world starts and it just rolls out from there. How are we interpreting moral behavior? Who’s doing the teaching? How are we learning about ethical action? People are going to need to share what they love, their ideas for better futures, their life in specifics. Not mimicking what other philosophers and politicians have said, but communicating their own inner searches for moral positivity, for good answers that involve heart and hard challenges. Facebook is huge, people want a platform, I’m surprised by how many- but within its parameters it doesn’t seem to take long to standardize an entire issue, to get real bent out of shape, to get stunningly reductive. The net connects us globally but the good messages are getting truncated, the topics themselves become headlines only and all the responses become rote, rote, rote.
A new long-term plan is in order. I believe in a peace that will take a full generation to become realized. Change that is too fast becomes violent and violence is (still) not the answer. We need to posit that whatever happens after life should not be interfering in any way with how we organize to help each other now! How can that get in the way of faith? If you have strong faith, great. If you don’t, great. No big whoop. Moving the fuck on… Evil as a societal concept doesn’t mean a lot to me at this point. ‘Good’ I think is just a patient, supportive attention. Do that as much as possible, and that is ‘good.’ But ‘evil’… It scares me when anyone uses it when talking about people and the world. It relates too strongly to biblical, supernatural forces. A bit too Walt Disney. What holds us up are our different interpretations of faith and religious meaning. We built our political empires around these beliefs, they’re scattershot across our bills and coins, around this original realization of life and death. You can tell it’s fear-based from how angry we get in negotiating through it all! I’ve taken care to show here that I’m very much for a plane of awareness after death, and that science simply shows us how much more we don’t know than do. Don’t monetize religion, don’t worry about becoming obsolete. It’s all invisible stuff anyway. Let’s not kill each other over invisible stuff. Whatever’s on the other side, it will take care of us or not. In this life, it’s pretty obvious that we should be taking care of us.
“Why when there’re so many of us are there people still alone?” -Tracy Chapman
I firmly believe that people are always trying the best they can and if they are harming people they are hurting just as much inside. I guess this viewpoint isn’t for everyone, but I believe it to be truth. Even when they are failing and falling, pissing people off and being mean.. That somehow they are doing what they need to do and are getting some weird emotional need from it, as well as equal suffering. The Hermetic Principle of Correspondence states “As above, so below.” Working within the realization of what the lack of loving attention creates: mad, sad people. Impatient people. Again, it’s not about people being different levels of smart. It’s about we’re all the same level of sensitive, asll the time. Acutely sensitive. That’s us. How do you work ‘sensitive’ back into our core identity? Why do we refuse to see people as this same level of sensitive? The same level of sensitivity in cops, kids, businessmen, models, cashiers.. Why do politicians dare say shit like ‘welfare fraud’ as if people fucking want to be on welfare, or use this shitty, debilitating economic system in the first place? As if it were a sensible answer at this point, instead of a dog-biting-tail equation that only solves for x (money). We slowly learned to hustle as we discovered that the world (and time) hustles us. It’s not because there are too many people. It’s because of how we render services. It is a massively inefficient, unfocused joke of a system constantly at war with itself because people have agreed to look at the money before peoples’ lives. And it’s absolutely immoral. We slowly began organizing around the belief that businesses and organizations were the things that held the most sway over our survival. And it’s holding us back now. We have to let it go. We have to just start calling bullshit on it more. We seem almost afraid to. Wouldn’t it be more logical than calling bullshit on each other..? We get so mad at each other when we’re cast in the shadows of citizen-blaming politics. That’s what they want! A feedback loop of that. Cornel West said “The fundamental question of any democracy is what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable.” I grow more and more frustrated when I listen to people speak of new field advancements as at the same time people worldwide are warring and starving. It’s a human rights atrocity to move forward in any area until our collective health and safety is assured. Until we mend our differences and amend our duties to each other, we are literally living off the genuine fear of others like a vampire or parasite might. Settling into a new perspective while restructuring problems openly and critically takes a new set of imaginative tools. Designing the world as you see fit is hard work; there’s a lot to consider. But it isn’t just up to the people in power to have a vision for our culture. Maintaining an equilibrium when dealing with all the horror and beauty in the world is not impossible. We have each other. Creating things is not as important as living creatively. Living creatively keeps you happy.
“Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz and first published in 1932. The technique involves the daily practice of sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. During each session, the practitioner will repeat a set of visualisations that induce a state of relaxation. Each session can be practiced in a position chosen amongst a set of recommended postures (for example, lying down, sitting meditation, sitting like a rag doll).” (-Wikipedia, Autogenic Training) Transcendental Meditation has gotten a bad wrap in the millionaire Hollywood set, but is actually a useful technique for releasing anxiety and increasing focus through word repetition and consistent practice. I mention these two techniques because they both involve short periods of time, usually twice daily, where you are intentionally grounding yourself and listening to your inner landscape. This seems a very doable arrangement in the modern world, where much time has been taken from us in order to organize a faceless profiteering sector from which we are far removed. If you’re not going to do the whole rebel and live in a van thing, then at least you can gain more of your life and power back through intentional practice. Sometimes though, at home on a day off, my middle fingers are stretched out like they were points on a weather vane as I tell the whole shitty world to fuck off. It’s nearly as empowering as meditating. Anger’s not going anywhere, don’t think it is. But you can get it out safely. Anger is energy. Speak your truth with that energy. We are funny. We are overwrought. We can be led off-base through simple conversation by someone with a strong personality. Don’t. Say what you think. Disagree. Be direct, even terse. Just don’t be mean. We are frightened at simply appearing contrary. State what you are feeling, state what you imagine doing. Your belly will feel better for it. So many people just don’t. So much imagination stays suppressed and imagination is what changes the world. ‘The world’ needs to state its plain and simple truths. I believe we think this is too selfish, but that’s not where we are selfish.We are selfish with our doubts, our shame, our paranoia. We as a nation are selfish as consumers, but we’re all still denying ourselves true, nourishing ego. Moments where we believe in our strength, in self-care, in the length and breadth of our patient, supportive attention, our graceful power.
Meditation and mediation are a dynamic combo. Meditation is a trusting in the moment, relaxing into accepting immediate nowness, to let go, let go, let go, because that will be our biggest personal task. We need to get OK with putting everything back down and stepping away, finally. Properly. There is an old proverb about the safest place for a fly is on the handle of the fly swatter… This is like dealing with the cutting edge of the moment. Right there, right in original fear’s path. I place my attention on my breath and label my thoughts as ‘thinking’ or ‘having a thought about this’ and ‘having a thought about that.’ When I’m being here now I’ve found there is no room for fear. Odd. It lasts seconds, but fear and the moment have a very hard time existing simultaneously. They’re like their own anti-particles. Those scant seconds help me live better, find more trust in my soul. It’s a fine, shimmering space that should be cultivated more in our society. It would largely untangle depression, I believe.
Mediation- between the head and the hands, between two people, between a culture and an individual.. Mediation is a technique to solve problems, to intervene, to arbitrate. If schools taught students how to mediate problems in life, as if that were the biggest subject to focus on, not math, not science- but how to get along and resolve conflict peaceably- then I believe we would’ve found another key to living in harmony on this planet. If the peace were purposely built in, intentionally woven into our educational models would our business and media models follow suit?
I’ll never forget back during the post 9/11 anti-war protests, when I was living in Portland. I’d be down in the square every now and then. They were protestors in Monument Square pretty much anytime night or day for a while. I never wanted war. I questioned why no one in the media was really answering why we were attacked, just talking about freedom and firemen. I felt really talked down to, really foolish just for asking questions. A jeepful of young men were driving by the square over and over, taunting the anti-war protestors. I finally broke and jumped up on a concrete post as they drove by and screamed at them, “You couldn’t handle the reality of what you’re supporting!” or some shit. I never do this, but I got real mad. Immediately a man put his hand on my leg and said something like “It doesn’t do any good to get angry.” And I apologized and stepped down. He was right. All it had done was provoke those men into screaming louder. They got excited by my anger. That man was like a witness to my rage in that moment, and it helped the way I protested. I started looking for samenesses, similarities, good moments, conversations with the counter-protestors.
“Bodhichitta is our heart—our wounded, softened heart. Now, if you look for that soft heart that we guard so carefully—if you decide that you’re going to do a scientific exploration under the microscope and try to find that heart—you won’t find it. You can look, but all you’ll find is some kind of tenderness. There isn’t anything that you can cut out and put under the microscope. There isn’t anything that you can dissect or grasp. The more you look, the more you find just a feeling of tenderness tinged with some kind of sadness. This sadness is not about somebody mistreating us. This is inherent sadness, unconditioned sadness. It is part of our birthright, a family heirloom. It’s been called the genuine heart of sadness.”
Bodichitta is a state of mind in zen that is reaching for wakefulness (‘liberation’) for the practitioner as well as everyone else. But what I like most about this quote is that undefined suffering that IS a part of our birthright. We are born into dying, born into this cycle. This anvil of fact is what we break our lives upon, as we go through each new experience. We know it isn’t going to last! For us not to admit this as part of an everyday struggle is ludicrous. And instead we’ll paint politics together with entertainment and bash our faces against that for 40 years. Power is nothing, money is nothing, it’s a couple of decades and then you’re out of it. How about, there is no secret cabal, there is no illuminati, and if there are, you have to admit they’re idiots. It’s been one of my secret thoughts that if there are people who are clandestinely meeting and planning how rich they’re going to be, that their secret meetings must revolve around some shit they found out about jesus and that it was just a made-up story, some shit about the First Council of Nicaea or whatever, and that you better get it while you can ’cause they don’t put no stock in faith anymore! The design of competition is woven inside and around us. You don’t need a lot of reason to take it up, to get lost inside it. School and life pushes you into that direction fast, fear of homelesness sort of slows your soul searching. Inside this paycheck to paycheck model it becomes a lot more difficult to look at people around you as deserving of respect from the get-go.
I’ve put this article in a previous issue of letterfounder, but it always sticks with me and feels relevant here:
“Sometimes when I talk about Radical Acceptance, I like to tell the story about Jacob, a man who at almost seventy and in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s disease attended a 10-day retreat I was leading. A clinical psychologist by profession and a meditator for more than twenty years, Jacob was well aware that his faculties were deteriorating. On occasion his mind would go totally blank; he would have no access to words for several minutes and become completely disoriented. He often forgot what he was doing and usually needed assistance with basic tasks—cutting his food, putting on clothes, bathing, getting from place to place. A couple of days into the retreat, Jacob had his first interview with me. These meetings, which students have regularly with a teacher while on retreat, are an opportunity to check in and receive personal guidance in the practice. During our time together Jacob and I talked about how things were going both on retreat and at home. His attitude towards his disease was interested, sad, grateful, even good-humored. Intrigued by his resilience, I asked him what allowed him to be so accepting. He responded, “It doesn’t feel like anything is wrong. I feel grief and some fear about it all going, but it feels like real life.” Then he told me about an experience he’d had in an earlier stage of the disease. Jacob had occasionally given talks about Buddhism to local groups and had accepted an invitation to address a gathering of over a hundred meditation students. He arrived at the event feeling alert and eager to share the teachings he loved. Taking his seat in front of the hall, Jacob looked out at the sea of expectant faces in front of him … and suddenly he didn’t know what he was supposed to say or do. He didn’t know where he was or why he was there. All he knew was that his heart was pounding furiously and his mind was spinning in confusion. Putting his palms together at his heart, Jacob started naming out loud what was happening: “Afraid, embarrassed, confused, feeling like I’m failing, powerless, shaking, sense of dying, sinking, lost.” For several more minutes he sat, head slightly bowed, continuing to name his experience. As his body began to relax and his mind grew calmer, he also noted that aloud. At last Jacob lifted his head, looked slowly around at those gathered, and apologized. Many of the students were in tears. As one put it, “No one has ever offered us teachings like this. Your presence has been the deepest dharma teaching.” Rather than pushing away his experience and deepening his agitation, Jacob had the courage and training simply to name what he was aware of, and, most significantly, to bow to his experience. In some fundamental way he didn’t create an adversary out of feelings of fear and confusion. He didn’t make anything wrong. We practice Radical Acceptance by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside us with this kind of unconditional friendliness. Instead of turning our jealous thoughts or angry feelings into the enemy, we pay attention in a way that enables us to recognize and touch any experience with care. Nothing is wrong—whatever is happening is just “real life.” Such unconditional friendliness is the spirit of Radical Acceptance.”
Labeling your thoughts is a strong technique to pull my mind out of crazy uncontrollable thinking. To recognize thinking for what it is; an endless train of chaotic processing that quite literally keeps you from the eternal moment-to-moment true unfolding of existence. I keep trying to make sure people see these subtle energies as the energies that literally change the planet.
In exploring how energy organizes us almost unconsciously, I have found myself acting out the very rituals I was planning to do, without even realizing it at first. To spread meaning through my life by seeing my days in a more magical light is really easy, and makes me happier, more at peace, more satisfied with my time. Once when me and Lynn were exercising, I looked at what we were doing and laughed. I had been talking to her about enacting some rituals, about doing simple tasks with more meaning and intent. We were in the living room listening to swanky dark music on the ‘net. She was on her back doing stretches, I was marching in counterclockwise circles around her, singing or chanting, just waking up, having fun. We were covered in these rainbows from the prism hanging in the window. I saw the sun worship, the search for resonant frequency, the rhythm in motion. We were certainly displaying some weirdo ceremonial resolve, as if life was taking care of it for us; we were ‘in the zone.’
There are pop-magic theories that out-of-body experiences are as easy as this: just imagine yourself doing it and that is real enough. The very act of attempting to astrally project bends your mind enough that an ‘in-between state’ becomes possible. There is a compilation of people’s’ experiences about trying an astral convergence in Antarctica (astral Antarctica) and all these people picked out a particular spot on the coast and picked a specific time, from all over the world, and they projected their will, their imaginative astral bodies to this one spot, and then wrote their account of it. The intro I found was a very engaging, simple explanation of how one can attempt to creatively imagine.
“Astral travel is easy, think of Dr. Strange…The more people participating, the stronger and larger an astral ‘gravity well’ will begin to form in the general area everyone’s trying for, and after a few minutes (with watches synchronized) getting started, it will get easier and easier to find ‘the place.’ Just sit and meditate on what that area of Antarctica probably looks like, keeping in mind the others supposed to be there too, and it will begin to come to you. Astral travel is something living things have been doing for tens of millions of years, at least, ever since REM sleep was invented, maybe longer, back to the beginning of life on Earth. So the machinery is there in all of us for this sort of thing – it shouldn’t be too hard. Most of it is ‘imagination’ anyway – imagination is a real door into the Inner Planes, and you don’t have to go into any more of a trance to get into that state than you do for reading and enjoying a good book. The willing suspension of disbelief is what is required. Whether a full-on out-of-body experience also occurs or not is really irrelevant – and it can occur when one is not aware of it. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t seem to be flying around the room in a disembodied state! Bi-location is good enough and we all do that when we cogitate deeply on anything, or concentrate on places, people and things not nearby. The occult ‘how-to’ books make the whole thing sound far more difficult than it really is.”
I tried this with a friend. We were down near the banks of the Androscoggin River on the evening of December 20th, 2012, the night before the supposed end of the world. We weren’t really taking the date seriously (although a part of me feels ready for absolute weirdness at any time), but we gave astral projection a try, standing there in the cold. We each went to our own places, just a little experiment for a few minutes that we could talk about after, that was of note. It made us remember that moment. We always will. It manifested meaning. Again, it’s just living life in this creative and experimental way that I believe brings us to better self-awareness, responsiveness, more hope, more calm. This is because you can’t learn everything through learning. You’ve got to be playful, you’ve got to look for answers out the corner of your eye. It takes a tricky belief to think of thought energy as real energy.. It sounds new age’y, but when you look at everything in the world that we’ve created as having been the product of thought first, the distance to that belief ticks away.
“Will is that which changes thought into energy.” – Paramahansa Yogananda
I was hiking this past weekend and got into that hiking rhythm; a way of walking to conserve breath and energy. It’s not about looking around or ahead, but on the next spot that I had to step. I did this to be careful, yes, but also to not overheat or get stumbly. And suddenly, although still tired, my movements became very steady and balanced. One rock to the other, breathing, coordinated. This is a physical example of the perception I am talking about. I got ‘in the moment’ so I wouldn’t have a heart attack! It made being in my body better, it made me listen to my body more. This is all still simply about being present, but as a physical function, not intellectual exercise. There was a sort of rhythm in it all. Not a time signature rhythm, but a flexible outpouring that was about trusting in the next move; a fluid bravery.
OK. The idea is coming up with the plain-speak in figuring out the human race’s- the world’s- immutable rights based on an open-faced moral principle. E=MC2 as a social code, not a physics equation. People dealing with people, it’s all so damn relative. I think some of the problem is the body horror feeling- the soil that we will return to, the air, the shit. It’s like we know we’re worm food and a part of us begins to self-sabotage. Telling ourselves we’re not good enough, staying in horrible relationships, falling into addictions, being mean on purpose, losing our temper. It sometimes feels more real than trying to pretend to be in a good mood. I don’t know.. I feel pretty inwardly optimistic most days, even with all this staring me in the face. I don’t know where that comes from, but I’m glad it’s there. I’ve done a lot to try to put into action the things that make me happy in this life. I think people are so afraid to do that in fear of disappointing someone else. If I’m not in a good place, I won’t be able to help anyone else get to a good place either. This is why it’s OK to take a sick day when you’re not sick, to pull away from someone who is just asking more than you want to give, to say hi to someone you feel drawn to, to simply feel worth it, to let your mind wander and dream, to take breaks when you’re bored or irritable, to not be pulled into conversations you don’t want to be in. This is called self-care. This nourishes your soul. All the technology and creature comforts in the world really won’t make you understand how to flow through the energy of your days any better. That’s an inward science.
“Science looks at the universe, doesn’t see itself there, doesn’t see mind there, so you have a world in which mind has no place.” -Alan Moore
My mom died within six months of being diagnosed with cancer. I felt death and dying as a part of my own genetic imprint. Her dying felt like me dying, in ways that seemed physical. Things became less important, I didn’t take care of myself, I felt like I must have cancer too, with every little twinge in my body. People were looking at birds and deer as Mom’s spirit saying ‘hi’ and I was so over that bullshit. She was gone and she wasn’t talking. My hand was on her chest as she breathed her two final, drowning breaths and then stopped, eyes open. I closed her eyelids and they didn’t stay closed. That’s why people rest their fingers there for a moment, to keep the eyes closed. It informed me, shocked me. I was her son as well as a scientist studying her dying process. It made me sort of quietly crazy for a year or more. There are parts of those six months that I just don’t remember that well. It was all terrible and I couldn’t get away from it. There was nowhere to go. My aunt talks about traveling the cosmos when she passes, that she’s tired of this earthly place and she wants to be free of her body. I believe you naturally want to figure out the ways to let go, because you can’t bring it with you. But mebbe I just think about it too much. As I write these zines I always feel like we are mostly the same inside; same fears, hopes, Everything. Very, very similar.
“Before you judge others or claim any absolute truth, consider that you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum. As you read this, you are traveling at 220 kilometres per second across the galaxy. 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not “you”. The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star. Human beings have 46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato. The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum.”
-Neil Degrasse Tyson
Just as the quantum world works in ways that we cannot comprehend yet, so are our senses blind to most of the processes going on in the universe. I find an unreasonable inspiration in this. So much room to work with, so much room to hope and imagine. In conclusion, I just wanted to share all this not-knowing with you because it’s such a great vantage point, such a great place to start to build strength. I just wanted to share the amazing super-sensitivity that is inherent within the natural world; our world. I wanted to raise questions as to where life comes from and what life actually is, shine a light on the ways in which the miniature world defies physics, and to posit time itself as the original living process of growth; our god whose movements are strange to us.
“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life–daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
Basically, a thoughtful observation leads to insight. If you watch closely, listen closely, smell, intuit, touch, feel- you get the world. It’s never as small (or big) as when you are completely engrossed in your doings. Caring. Exploring. Creative miniaturization works both ways. Shrink you or shrink the universe. The microcosm is oneself and the macrocosm is the universe; within each lies the other. It requires dreaming and building from those inspirations toward a thoughtful reciprocity. Once we take seriously the fact that we are capable of caring for one another without a profit mechanism we will pull the doom out of the future. We inhabit that sensitive spatial awareness without knowing it a lot, too. Are we capable of scale-free correlations, when it comes to organizing our ourselves? Is ‘acting as one’ possible, when we finally put away all our money games? How? Well, do you have a certain emotional baseground? Find out what it is and find the beauty there. The realness, the un-phonyness. But most importantly, the tone, the sound, the spontaneous patterns. What moves you, naturally? This is beyond culture and philosophy. This is you listening to yourself now.