Friday, March 27, 2020

Living Water

We see our reflection in the water of life and we are enchanted.

The water of life fills our bodies and we think it is ours, 

but it never was.  It belongs to no one, and to everyone.

And to every living thing that ever was and ever will be.

The water of life flows in a timeless cycle.

We have witnessed it before but can’t remember that.

We will always know it:  it is us, but we only are a small part of it.

We want to possess it, so we fear it will slip away.

Every molecule we are made of is recycled endlessly.

We can be aware of this, but we don’t act like we are aware.

There is no “you” and “me”,  

There is “we” and we are all one thing we call “life”

Friday, July 19, 2019

Water, As We Knew it.

Much (tainted) water has passed under the bridge since the last post here.  The roiling current over the last several years is far too swift to recap, and attempts to describe and analyze our cultural flow are abundant and easily accessed elsewhere.  Throughout changes of all sorts, there is one constant that needs to be continually addressed for the sake of context: the earth doesn't care what humans do.  Since humans do care, to the extent that we craft all kinds of stories and push for their dominance in public discourse, here are a few highlights from the news that indicate a possible pattern of interest.

Recently, we have heard from the U.N. that a million species (presumably, other than our own) are at short term risk of extinction.  We continue to break weather event records, and the pace of setting records is a record of its own.  In the last two decades there has been an acceleration in the instances of billion dollar weather catastrophes from a handful each year to an average of more than one per month.  These include wildfires, droughts, floods, extreme precipitation and extreme temperature related catastrophes. We have seen this two year old political administration conduct a slash and burn campaign for environmental stewardship.  The White House occupant (who is really more of a squatter) has replaced career professionals in key government positions with industrial lobbyists and crony hacks whose intent it is to roll back all manner of common sense safeguards.  Science has become just another opinion.  Yet if you ask a politician for an informed judgment about environmental risks he will say he is no scientist.

Not so long ago there was legitimate speculative consideration over climate change, insofar as its causes, portents and possible remedies.  Now, there is no speculation among those whose only agenda is to observe and report observations.  We caused the change.  The change portends mass extinction.  And, at this point, there is little hope for remedy.  The only speculation that remains is in regard to the speed of our demise.  Data extrapolation inherently tends toward modesty and often understates worst case scenarios.  It is properly in the nature of scientists to hedge a bit; they are trained to stick to the facts.  Essayists and others not constrained by scientific protocols also underestimate calamity either because of a failure of imagination or of fear of criticism.   Outside of science there have always been pearl clutchers, gloom and doomers and whackos carrying signs telling us the end is near.  Their feigned mystical abilities and claims have been entertaining more than alarming.

One thing remains certain through all the stages of discussion about climate: the earth is utterly indifferent.  The planet will conform unerringly to all laws of chemistry and physics.  Air is either breathable or it is not.  Water is either clean or its not.  Biodiversity is foundational to our existence because it is essentially a matter of mathematics and not at all a romantic notion.

What is also a mathematic certainty is the principle of exponential compounding.  When feedback loops are in play, results that would otherwise follow geometric curves become points plotted on an exponential curve.  If we couple the known characteristics of exponential compounding with another branch of mathematics called chaos theory, we observe a cascade of extreme effects which release grossly unbalanced forces upon a delicately balanced system.  Polar regions are perfect examples.  Trapped greenhouse gases raise temperatures that melt glacial ice and expose darker-colored soil which absorbs more solar energy and thaws the soil so it releases more trapped greenhouse gases, and so on, to create a feedback loop that accelerates exponentially.  The resulting change in ph of seawater slows circulation of temperature regulating ocean currents, the jet stream slows along with it and weather patterns stall out, forcing extreme conditions onto ecosystems that co-evolved with a variety of weather conditions.

So, in other words, it's going to get ugly.  This much we know.  But, it will be uglier than we've imagined and it will happen sooner than the estimates we've heard.  The question recurs, what does this mean for humans, specifically, that one human in particular who matters most?  One's self. It means the same fate as that of the dinosaurs and any species before or since that could not adapt to extreme, sudden change.

We have one adaptive skill that other species do not share.  We can thoughtfully design our own excarnation.  Rationally facing the certain demise of our species, one who accepts the implications also understands that it doesn't necessarily mean widespread agony and suffering.  Denial will lead to that.  Acceptance leads to consideration of the terms of surrender.  We now know that we were too smart for our planet.  Our development was based on a story of imagining we were in charge and it simply turned out that we were not in charge.  In this case, it turns out to be a capital offense to base our existence on a false narrative and follow it to its conclusion.

This points to the concluding thought of this post and calls for highlighting the last bit of news relevant to the theme.  The recent push in a couple of states to decriminalize psychoactive substances and psilocybin  mushrooms in particular.  For those unacquainted with their therapeutic effects, psychoactive substances expand consciousness into previously unimaginable realms.  Contrary to the fear mongering images portrayed by the opposition,  these drugs do not make you crazy.  If that is the result, then you were crazy before and you're still crazy after.  At the time of inebriation one can hallucinate all manner of physical and psychological possibilities and for some time after, perhaps for the rest of one's life, vestigial perceptions linger of enhanced possibilities beyond the normal day-to-day.  These natural compounds can be, in the final analysis, our best teachers.

The physical body must end.  But while it is still functioning and is within the control of the mind, it need not suffer toward its end.  If one's life is like a flowing stream, and one's energy is believed to continue on in different forms, then it is fitting that one directs that energy release with deliberation and intention and allow the flow to continue.  We may yet find the wisdom toward the end of our development to prescribe therapies that have always existed right under our noses that will ease suffering on a mass scale.  If a chance is ever presented to discover what psilocybin has to offer don't pass it up. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Brief History of the Future

It may be noted in the far distant future that the arc of existence for the human species was a rather short one.  On the grand scale of earth’s time frame, our kind will be considered a blip.  The question will be, if there’s any creature capable of asking, was it inevitably so?

In the brief period of our development, the human brain has grown into a capacity for enjoying the luxury of mental activity we call “the mind”.  An imaginative brain was certainly a survival advantage in its early stages because it led to innovation beyond innate capabilities.  To beat the odds in the struggle for survival means to flourish.  Within any biosphere, a flourishing species is a threat to balance, and balance will always, ultimately, prevail. 

Unlike many other constructs we grasp with our minds, balance is not a mythological one; it is fundamental physics.  The mythologies that persist among our species, according to Joseph Campbell, are all defunct and dangerous.  These dominant narratives are driven by two primal, emotional themes: fear and desire.  Despite our advanced cognitive abilities and marvelous technological achievements, we persist with motivations keyed to our pre-historic struggle for survival.  Ironically, by not moving past these base motivations designed to ensure survival, we are ensuring our demise.

Clinically speaking, we collectively exhibit the self-destructive, self-delusional behaviors of addiction.  The object of our collective addiction is our story-based life.

Throughout our short tenure on the planet we have crafted stories that reinforce these base emotional responses of fear and desire and these stories are pushed hard, beyond mere proselytizing.  We use the full weight of our economic and military means to force these imaginings on each other and on a disinterested planet.  Our struggle for survival could and would be over entirely if our stories had evolved along with our imaginations.  We certainly have many examples of sustainable narratives, but they do not prevail over those promoted by the greedy that are modeled on scarcity.  

Story-based life is a definitive aspect of a tribe or cult, and the larger human experience can’t seem to move past its tribal machinations.  Although the dominant culture in our lifetime is essentially that of a warring tribe or death cult, we popularly use labels such as “pro-life” with intentional deception, and recast morality exemplars into schemers for convenience.  The examples of labeling chicanery in use today are too many to list.  It is not merely convenient to re-name things or re-write history, instead of consulting the record, it is the basis for our tribal existence. In all likelihood, we will cling ever-tighter to the myths that have all-but-certainly determined and hastened our fate.  

Because we now prevail in a biosphere that was formerly balanced in all its diversity, we are faced with an inevitable reality: a major "correction" is headed our way.  This much is indeed certain.  But the question remains for consideration, although it will be purely academic, inspired by the fossil record in a million years: was it inevitable that the short-lived human species had to be so urgently self-limiting?  It would perhaps be romantic to think otherwise, but with a strong will to survive and a clever, developing imagination, it's possible we could have gone down a different and longer road.  And, there still could be an alternate course correction we design ourselves.

So, if we catch a few breaks from a biosphere seeking balance, and if we can creatively use new technological tools to craft new, sustainable narratives before they are also co-opted by the greedy, we might have a slim chance at a breakthrough to escape the downhill portion of a short arc of existence.

Making Sense

In the realm we call the human experience, nothing makes sense - including the human need for things to make sense.  A witness to the Boston marathon bombing was quoted as saying that it didn't make sense.  In the coming days, months, or years, it may dawn on her that nothing in her life will make sense, as she nows apparently believes that things must.  (It is understandable if her trauma has left her with only raw observations to share at this early point - only sympathy is appropriate and no criticism is intended here.)

I can hear all sorts of arguments against this assertion.  One argument might take the position that it makes sense when, for example, fitting consequences manifest for good or bad behavior.  For example, a child does his chores and, as agreed, he receives an allowance as compensation for the tasks.  It makes perfect sense - from a limited perspective.  A very limited perspective.

From a much broader perspective, it makes no sense that the parent or the child are even here in the first place; that they have the privilege of being born at all.  They have defied enormous numerical odds that are impossible to calculate just to be able to say they exist.  A mathematician might argue that it makes sense, considering someone had to be born.  That it was this or that particular individual is beside the point, and so the assertion is ridiculous.

Narrowing the view a bit, away from the extreme, it still makes no sense that any given group of indigenous people, who were living lives of many generations in relative balance with the available resources ("sustainable"), should be supplanted by others whose life patterns are the opposite of sustainable.  It would make far more sense, from the perspective of a balanced biosphere, to favor the continued harmonious existence of the former group.  A biologist might argue that it makes sense, because parasitic species, who necessarily consume resources unsustainably, inhabit their niches - if only briefly - and are part of a larger balance.  Parasites appear and disappear in short time frames, but their existence overall is part of the big picture.

This counter argument has some merit, insofar as it assumes the current, parasitic model for the human race is a 'flash in the pan' in the geologic record.  This does make sense, except that the current version of the human race has evolved along with a story that asserts its own divine right to occupy its niche.  This accompanying narrative part makes no sense at all.  An anthropologist or archeologist might argue that it does make sense, because homo sapiens evolved to a dominant position because of their ability for abstract thinking, or storytelling.  Their story must include extraordinary justification for parasitic behavior, because it would otherwise be plain that the parasitic model is unsustainable.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Stepping Out from the "Story of My Life"

 For most of us, “The Story of My Life” is the object of our greatest fascination, our singular occupation, our greatest love.  Nearly every waking moment of every day is considered and even urgently interpreted from a personal perspective.  “Meaning” (relevance to the Story) is sought or projected onto events and objects with evermore experienced and clever insight as we age - until an advanced age may arrive that diminishes that ability.  Until that time comes, why should one be concerned with 'Stepping Out' from the "Story of My Life"?

Each thing within the Story is either attractive or repulsive, by degrees.  There are qualities of both feelings in each thing, and so the opposite labels can be paired into one concept of motion; dynamic force (vs. static, or without movement).  If the degree of attraction/repulsion for a Story element is strong, it is held close to the center of focus in the Story.  In the degree is weak, it may drift toward the periphery, or be edited out of the Story all together.

{If a tone is not in harmony with others, it doesn’t matter if it is sharp or flat, it only matters that it is not harmonic.  Degrees of dissonance are variations in movement from the fixed point of harmony.}

The same bonds of attraction and repulsion between the self and the Story elements also bind the self to Time and Place with the same insistent, firm hold.  Time and Place (Einstein’s term: space/time) is the cherished, but largely unexamined, matrix on which the Story unfolds.  It is the stage booked for the ongoing Story performance, and because the stage affects the performance, it (time/space) is also a Story element. (An interest point of debate is whether there can actually be a 'stage' apart from the 'Story', that it may be only a 'Story element' and couldn't exist otherwise.)

The way to step out or set aside “The Story of My Life” is a matter that is pointed to by the question of why is it a good thing to be able to do.  Why is it good to broaden the personal perspective and strive to gain empathy?  What relevance do broader vantage points have when one still has to live life in a personal way?  There's only one stage that matters, and it certainly seems that there is actually only one Story performance happening, and its title is "My Life".  A good playwright allows for intermissions for theatre goers to take a break and perhaps mingle in the lobby.  Doesn't that make the performance a richer audience experience?

Throughout our brief history, numerous key sources of wisdom have indicated that the fundamental purpose of life is to develop the ability to know love, in its myriad forms, and to hold onto and be held by some of those forms.  Eventually, if we aim for it, we may learn how to let go of it in its unified, formlessness.  

A developed loving (empathic) response is to look on life with eyes of compassion, for all of the manifestations of life, whether they are commonly labeled good or bad.  It is to listen for the harmonics which abound in the world.  It is to realize one has a harmonic point to occupy.

Our thoughts move around in our imaginative minds in packages we call concepts.  Concepts are Story elements.  We categorize and arrange them, and rearrange them all the time like tireless interior decorators, or shipping clerks, scurrying about in the cranial living/work space.  The mind is a bustling place made busy by dynamics of dissonance, unceasing movement. 

Contemplation of love, apart from its personal Story relevance, is one way to take a break from the exhausting task of managing the countless thought packages, of performing on stage, of creating and living in the Story.  It’s good to step out and take work breaks as often as the boss will let you.   Concepts demand our attention for maintenance.  Percepts - that which we can know apart from thinking - deserve our attention for the awe they inspire.

Unfiltered perception is another way to set aside the Story of My Life.  These are breaks, or treats we give ourselves and they can become habit-forming.  Earlier, it was implied that advanced age may diminish our ability to find meaning, or make sense of things, but it may rather be simply that we have “Story fatigue”.  We enjoy more and more the developing ability to perceive without the effort of conceiving personal meaning.  Do we lose our abilities for reaction and motion, or do we gain true stillness in the mind and body?  

Sometimes we sense in very old people that there's "nobody home", as if they were on extended holiday, and there may not be a forwarding address.  In our later years, we see the work is done - futile as it was - and we’re ready to give it a rest, and only in that state of stillness may we enjoy the fruit of our labor.

By perceiving the world, as it is, with compassion and in stillness, we can enjoy it along the way and don’t have to wait until we are eventually worn out from our lifelong careers of conceptual work.  

The stage curtain will finally descend and the Story will be over for each of us, but until then, the ongoing performance of the Story of My Life will play out much better with intermissions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A(nother) Star is Born!

Of course you are the Star...
                in the Story of Your Life!
And, you are also president of your fan club.
But, you are also the scathing critic who reviews your every move.
And, you are also the zealous editor who continually rewrites your Story, 
ever polishing each draft, for posterity.

Of course Your Story is a real page-turner, a sensation: bound to win the Award for Best Story of the Year, no, Decade, no, Century!!!  No, it will sweep all the Awards: Best Actor, Best Make-up, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Screenplay adapted from a novel...

Everyone will surely be talking about it for years to come.  No, generations will pass it along, one to the next, with great reverence....  No?  Wait, what?

If the Story of Your Life! is a book, can you set it down now and then?
If it’s a movie, can there be an intermission where you step out into the lobby?
In your Story narration, can there be a break for a few words from our Sponsor?

There would be no words from our Sponsor, per se.  No message that you could work into your Story like a product placement. No compensation for your celebrity endorsement.

A break from your Story would be silence, filled with appreciation for the astounding beauty of the place in which you happen to find your self, housed in a breathing body that cannot be accounted for.  This place comes standard with air, water and sun light! Plus your personal unit has all the upgrades, including five senses and the ability to know love.

It may happen that a great number of days go by without a break in your Story.
Perhaps the first twenty years or more were non-stop Story-telling and role-acting.  This would be  only natural in this age for our species.  

It has happened - much more frequently than not, perhaps - that entire Stories have been played out in their various Epic forms, without a single break.  Each story eventually taking up the full allotment of space on the dash between dates on a tombstone.

It may happen that you selflessly give to another, taking care that the other’s story is crafted in the most comfortable or desirable way possible.  In your title role as the Selfless Caregiver, you create secret lamentations about the Cruelty of Fate, about Unrecognized Genius, and about the Yearning for that Day in the Future when the well-earned Martyr’s Glory will surely come!  Scores will be settled, Just Rewards meted out!  This compelling theme is the basis for a Story that is perhaps the hardest book to set down.  At one point or another, this is everyone’s favorite genre: Oh, the Suffering! Yum!

You, me, and every other living human has this moment.  An instant called “now” to be aware of things not bound within the covers of our Story, and to give thanks for being here and being able to create a story - a story that, as important as it seems to be, is just another story in a boundless universe.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Look at Suffering

There's a very good, old saying that goes: 'Too soon old, too late smart.'  It applies to countless areas of life learning where we might say, "I wish I knew that a long time ago!"   But then there's another good old saying that says: "If wishes were fishes, our nets would be full."

We want to at least avoid the suffering that produced the new wisdom, but it would be much better still to be wise when you're young enough to enjoy using the knowledge.  We each have our pet areas where this is especially true, and the wistful yearning is yet another kind of suffering.

Old timers offer advice from a wiser perspective, but we almost always ignore it and assume our uniqueness will confer immunity from inevitable consequences - which are, again, a necessary measure of suffering.

Why does learning have to happen with suffering?

The question implies that suffering is bad, but is it?

Suffering is a constant reminder that we are still alive.  In this regard, suffering is a most welcome bit of feedback from the world.  When the suffering stops, our ticket gets punched and we're all done here.

Suffering helps pare away concerns that were previously thought to be urgent needs.  Only after we let go of these concerns along the way can we realize these were hindrances to growth.  Nearly all of these 'urgent needs' were/are actually nothing more than forms of desire or fear.

Perhaps a concrete example of this would help:  Let's say a young child wants candy.  Not wishing to allow a bad habit to form, the parent denies it.  The child feels some desire and, although it may be expressed as frustration, the child now also feels fear that autonomy will never come, so the desire gains urgency and a tantrum follows.  The adult soon consents for any number of reasons, the candy is allowed, and the child is temporarily satisfied.  Let's say this repeats and soon, in fact, a bad habit does develop (a 'sweet tooth').   One day, given the insatiable nature of such things, the child will grow to become a patient of a doctor offering treatment for diabetes, or will be seated in the dentist's chair lamenting an immoderate approach to sweets.  Perhaps the patient is now a parent with a child at home and so a vow is made to stand firm for inculcating better habits.  The vow will be good, until the first tantrum is thrown.

This seems to be a circular pattern, rather than one of growth.  It is not only normal for a child to seek autonomy, but it is developmentally necessary.  Of course, with that comes responsibility for consequences.  It is also a matter of course, that one cannot gain knowledge and grow without suffering.  So, in order for growth to occur and the cycle to be broken, the suffering needs to happen by denying the initial desire and forestalling the sought-after autonomy.  Otherwise, the circular pattern will continue at the expense of growth.

The trick in imparting wisdom is to be able to point out the relative unimportance of desire, especially before fear is allowed to strengthen it.  Often, a good parent will assure a child that, one day, he or she will have the authority in choosing which desires to satisfy.  The assured child will then eagerly grow toward this goal, rather than fear it will never happen.  A wise adult is one who is wise enough to enlighten a child on the nature of desire, before the desire has a strong hold in the moment.  Adults understand that desire is a form of thought that is distinct from our actual, physical needs, which are surprisingly few.  But, understanding is one thing, acting on it is another, teaching it is yet another.

Of course, all of this is laid out in pristine, academic context.  Actual experience rarely follows the ideal model and so gaining wisdom will mostly remain a sloppy business with plenty of suffering.  But, in such times it's always good to be reminded that suffering is only for the living.

Of course, the weather could always be nicer, but you could also be dead.  Life would be more enjoyable if one didn't have illness or didn't lose the car keys, but one could always lose one's life pretty much at any time in any number of circumstances.  The obituaries are universally populated by former sufferers, who, if by some miraculous means could be given a choice to resume suffering, would almost all probably take the chance.

These are odd ways of pointing out that we fool ourselves by comparing the wrong things to one other.  If we think the tea isn't warm enough, it is because we compare it to warmer tea.  Instead, the proper comparison would be to not having any tea, or not having the means to heat it at all, or to not even being physically able to drink tea.

Some have claimed that one should rejoice in one's suffering.  They assert suffering is the means of salvation, like that of Christ.  I didn't hear so much about that rejoicing part in the story of Jesus nailed up on the cross.   Still, his example of suffering seems to stand highest of all, and the key piece of wisdom he was able to impart at that moment was acceptance.  Acceptance is an utter lack of fear or desire for anything other than what is.  Surrender to suffering is the surest end to suffering - while one is still alive - and none of us is going to be here all that much longer, regardless.

It sounds too trite to say one should 'surrender to suffering.'  It might be more helpful to point out that all of our suffering arises from the stories we tell ourselves about life, about how unfair it is.  The 'as ifs' or the 'if onlys' that comprise most of our narratives are the singular source of suffering.  Physical pain is not suffering, it is physical pain - and, yes, it does suck.  But, in all cases, it should be compared with the inability to experience pain, which is death.  (When properly compared, physical pain can be accepted as temporary.  If you are over age twenty you're probably already doing it on a daily basis, certainly so if you're fifty or more.)

Is death that bad?  'Hard to say for sure.  The only clear thing we know is that it isn't life.  And, since death is inevitable, any opinion or statement about it is merely part of another story; a story of suffering.  Stories about death are among the best examples of suffering, for the subject, but more for the listener.

Detaching one's self from the imperative of the narrative, which is to loosen one's attachment to form, is to approach the end of suffering while still being alive.  It is good and right to love impermanent things, as long as one realizes what that means, even while one is enjoying the experience.  The enjoyment is also impermanent, as is the self that is capable of enjoyment.  Although life and suffering seem nearly synonymous, it is only so for the forms of life.  If one's focus is also on the animating energy of life, behind the forms, then suffering has little to hold on to.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

To Be Human

To be human is to be a visitor:

    We inhabit eternity, but we visit a place in time.
       We are formless visitors to a realm of form and space.
          We dwell in unity with all, while we visit a world of opposites.

To be human is to be one who dabbles:

    We are creatures of love, dabbling with fear.
        We give as freely as we receive, still we dabble with greed.
             We are beings of light, dabbling in darkness.
    We are one being, belonging with all that exists,
          dabbling with isolation and loneliness.

To be human is to be blessed:

     We are blessed with an inheritance 
          fashioned by the striving
               of millions of life forms
                    over millions of years,
     on this blessed planet, among billions of planets,
          located in a galaxy of billions of stars,
               among billions of galaxies.

To be human is to wonder.  .  . why?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


We get lost, in the study of trees 

      or deeply admire them

              for their form and substance.

But, to a bird flying through a grove,

       the solid branches define and frame

               the beloved open spaces 

they traverse and inhabit.

How joyful to see 

        that a tree is a gesture of play,

               made by a field of energy 

extending into form and substance,

        and that the tree’s branches,

                 and that the spaces defined by them,

are all one thing; 

         like a tree-idea-bubble with a membrane 

                 which allows birds to pass through, 

                         along with our awed awareness

of its existence.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Images From....Where?

The universe resonates in a bandwidth frequency that corresponds to a point just on the benevolent side of truly benign:   

Like the undulating respiration of a pelagic jellyfish adrift just below the surface, commingled on the retina with myriad shards of shimmering sunlight from water ripples, the modal rhythm of all that exists is a kind of breathing into and out of a dazzling, variable depth of field.  Held and fixed in fascination by vague recognition of a timeless pattern,  a welcoming sense of familiarity abides.  

Looking into the water, or into a fire, or into a flower bloom, fleetingly-distinguishable impulses of this vibrant, dynamic ebb and flow merge together as bursting fireworks weave into and out of one another, blossoming and receding as they descend.

Sparks erupt from a source fire, ascend and fade into the dark. Obeying draft currents, they filter down from the sky as ash introduced to the soil.  The soil beckons a fallen seed to burst with a re-formed spark of life into the soil community.  It becomes and thrives into maturity by converting, storing and releasing vast amounts of the sun’s radiant energy.  The sun, "our" primal ball of source fire sets in motion all of the biosphere’s chemical choreography.

The soil is an organized energy system, like the complex of cell colonies in a jellyfish or any other energy form imbued with the spark of sentient life.  Each cell is coded for operation with relational intelligence corresponding to the intelligence in all other cells.  On the molecular scale, they are locked in a binary dance of positive and negative electro-chemical charges.  It is a composition of movement just on the artistic side of mathematical.  

Linked structures of molecular charges are altered by electro-magnetic waves of various frequencies.  Molecular charges are also altered by a host of introduced chemicals that catalyze reactive forces.  Reversed polarity on any scale ripples in all dimensions, toggling particle-charges, rapid-fire along the way.

Every imaginable thing, and every imaginable non-thing, is necessarily present in an infinite universe - a limitless set.   This must include the birth and simultaneous death of an infinite number of universes.  Of course, the mind cannot go very far in this direction and retrieve anything meaningful to relate.

Are all these exuberant imaginings autonomously conjured?  Or, might they be perceptions revealed by a universe that resonates in a bandwidth frequency that corresponds to a point just on the benevolent side of truly benign. 

With all mustered sapience, triangulate your position and bearing from the dual beacons of fact and fiction, of sense and beyond sense, of matter and energy, and enjoy the voyage.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Close your eyes and reflect on how you came to be here.

If you come up with
a means of transportation,
or the day's progression to this point,
or a recollection of family lineage,
you have a long ways to go.

Amid billions of stars,
over billions of years,
here YOU are - right now.

You are an artful presentation of 
an amazingly-crafted arrangement of matter,
a temporary form of pure energy.

The very same energy
that spawned the stars
billions of years ago.

That you can sense
color and sound,
smell, taste and touch,
should absolutely vault your mind
back to the beginning,
...and forward the beginning. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stillness, Beyond the Story

Several perplexing questions have circled round in the human mind for a long time.  These big questions pertain to the nature of reality, of God and of the human being.  

These questions have not so far produced certain answers in the usual sense, and they are not likely to in the future, but they do seem to all point in the same direction.  The following thoughts are written in an attempt to shed some helpful light on the knowledge that lies in that direction.  

Some of these thoughts may be inconceivable, or may be objectionable to the intellect or to the emotions.  The purpose here is not to assert an argument, nor to proselytize a belief, nor to arouse reaction of any kind.  Paraphrasing Lao Tse, whether understood or not, things are as they are.

.  .  .  .  .

By all appearances, the human being has been on earth a very long while and has developed into the sapient life form we know today by means of an organic, evolutionary process.  (This statement does not preclude the existence of God, it just allows the matter to be more nuanced than a creed or bumper sticker.)  Despite our desire to see ourselves as being special, we are not substantially any different that any other organism, except for one, key trait.   

While we do emerge, reproduce and recede in the pattern of other living things, what sets us apart is our ability to think.  In this case, that means the ability to create and communicate abstract concepts.  Conceptualization is our competitive edge in a challenging environment and it the reason for the proliferation of our species.

When this ability was still fairly new, humans first created concrete, strategic concepts to prevail in conflicts with the environment and with each other.  As we developed, and our consciousness grew to include abstract concepts which are the foundation of language.  With language came stories, which we could use to explain the challenges of the mysterious.  We began to hear the little story-narrating voice in the head and wondered whose voice that was, and conceptual deities were born.  Abundant, conceptual narratives (stories) have been created ever since for all aspects of experience.  Our story-crafting trait has been labeled: the ego, the false self, me, the little voice in the head, etc.

Along the way, humans have co-evolved with stories; we are necessarily the only story-based species that could inhabit this planet during the period of our tenure.  We have all but eliminated any hints of potential, competing narratives.  

Through stories, we embarked on a distinct, self-evolving path of development.  By means of our technological innovations in agriculture, science, medicine and the arts, we have accelerated evolutionary pace by a quantum leap forward and our numbers have burgeoned.  Objectively, this resembles organic urgency.  Within the organic complexity of humanity, our urgency has agency; it is a purposeful expenditure of resources because it has portent.

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All stories are necessarily subjective creations, despite any impassioned claims to the contrary.  The Word of God is a valid metaphorical concept; the metaphor’s connotation lies in the direction pointed to by the perplexing questions described at the outset.  The difficulty lies with a growing number who are turned off by the metaphor’s denotation, because it is a parochial, heavily-edited canon of far-fetched concepts.  

The story of God and humans has co-evolved a long time, and it now seems its face value-acceptance is in decline, as overall church attendance numbers indicate.  However, the urge to know the connotation behind the metaphor is stronger than ever, it's just that the obscuring, conceptual (denotative) layers are losing their simplistic relevance and should properly fall away, in a manner of speaking.  Indirect, prescriptive forms of this urge for knowledge are giving way to a desire for direct experience.

The only possibility for truly objective knowledge is that which can be known firsthand, through direct experience, apart from all conceptualization.  Any attempt to conceptualize experience - even the most spare and calculated description, devoid of any interpretation or judgment - is one step removed from direct experience.  This makes all the difference.

With the first added thought, direct experience just crossed over into conceptual representation, which is subjective, and which is the same as the essence of human nature: a conceptual (self-)representation that is one key step removed from objective reality.

These written words are also conceptual representations or abstractions; recall that they are offered as an attempt to shed some helpful light on the object of sought-after knowledge of reality - which is only knowable through direct, first-hand experience.  No matter which words are used here, all are inadequate conveyances for certain meaning; they can only serve as direction indicators.  In this inquiry direction, often the most helpful use of words is to say what reality is not

Our stories, our beliefs and our identities have been commingled for millennia.  Because one’s identity is invested in (and derives from) one’s story, it is an urgent matter that one’s story be accepted by others; it is the means for belonging to a group, and so it is a perceived matter of survival.  

Most of human history is composed of narratives that were violently forced into acceptance by prevailing groups or by dominant individuals.  Common themes emerged and were woven into the same story fabric until it became a single, prevailing narrative that asserts an elevated, if not deified, status for our species.

Very little of recorded human history actually corresponds to objective reality.   The small group of historical individuals held to be enlightened by direct experience with reality is comprised of some who were systemically persecuted and some who have been highly revered.  In several cases, elaborate religious narratives have been promulgated in their honor, and wherever these stories met with resistance they were forced into acceptance with prevailing violence and/or synthesized with previous stories for easier acceptance.  In some cases the narratives include strong enticement for acceptance, such as reward in the afterlife.  Notwithstanding, the original insights from first-hand knowledge are the object of the perplexing questions mentioned above.

Despite our naive, perennial desire to create a story with fairytale characteristics for ourselves, reality continually intrudes.  In the past, these problematic intrusions were episodic, but overpopulation of our species and the subjective distortion of our co-evolving story has forced the issue.  

An emerging organic pattern of decay that we find deeply disturbing is increasingly apparent.   For many of us who are firmly caught up in the story, this seems inconceivable and denial needs to be fortified.  Some of us prefer simple distraction rather than consider the implications at all, while still others desperately search for solutions within the bounds of the story.

The human story is based on the flawed premise that we were somehow put in charge of things on the exoteric level.  From this mythological basis, we have been busily inventing  ill-conceived solutions to misperceived problems to forestall the inevitable recognition of, and reckoning with, reality.  

Our species is not responsible for anything other than its story, and this much is a significant obstacle because it is still mostly beyond our present ability to even recognize it as a story, let alone attempt to create a more sustainable plot line.  Our story is us and we are our story.

The linear nature of a story means there’s no going back to re-write earlier chapters just because the plot may take an unexpected and disconcerting turn.  Stories have beginnings and endings, and so if the human story was in book form, which chapter would we would likely be writing now?  

For the steadfastly-rational, who would be skeptical of the idea that anything valid and reliable can be known from intuitive sense, venturing beyond this point is somewhat like walking on thin ice.   From here, one will have to engage words more loosely, in the manner of engaging poetry - allowing indicators to indicate.  Patterns for organic development reveal some analogs with which the unknowable might be intuited.  

The question may then arise, “Is there any hope for the human race?”  It depends on what is meant by the question.  There never was hope for the happily-ever-after ending we might wish to create.  In other words, “hope” is a concept, and the future for our version of conceptually-filtered reality is waning.  An agonizing sense of loss is an understandable and appropriate reaction to this scenario because, of course we should be deeply attached to all things human; how could it be otherwise?  “Gains” and “losses” are compelling concepts, and we like the one much better than the other.

Another compelling concept is "time".  If we could just have a little more time.....maybe then....

Individually, we hope to live a meaningful life which includes a feeling of connection with others and of following a personally rewarding direction that is genuine to our natures.  Collectively, our hope is probably not so different.  But, there is very little that is genuine about either our collective or individual directions.  In this case “genuine” means inhabiting a nominal investment in the human story while remaining open to experience of the timeless, formless, essential nature of reality.   “Genuine” is a balance between inward-and outward-directedness.

Without a genuine sense of being a reverent witness to much that is mysterious and miraculous, any feelings of reward on the personal level will be temporary, at best.  We are driven by dysfunctional, unsustainable myths and so we are disconnected from others, from the planet and from our true natures.  Our story has an imaginary, and lofty, arc of indeterminate length and it is incompatible with a finite planet.  

If hope rests within the bounds of an unsustainable story, sensing the approaching end of the story naturally elicits a feeling of great despair.  Widespread ineffectuality, malaise and other environment-related symptoms are to be expected - and are developmentally appropriate on the scale of species evolution.   The story could not have gone any other way, and the end necessarily follows after the fullness of the story has played itself out, just as seeds ripen as the plant withers.

Hope does exist - in a sense - elsewhere.  The “hope” we are looking for will be found in an unimaginable, new (non-)form, outside of our story.  It can be presently found in knowing that the forms of life we perceive all around every day can also be sensed at the level of their essential nature; a quality of interconnectedness and animation that is distinguishable from the conceptual, holographic representations we must normally respond to. 

The religious-minded might call this 'walking with God', but that seems a limiting and confusing reference for others.  Also, for the religious-minded with a working concept of heaven: any imaginable scenarios labeled “afterlife” are necessarily still within the story bounds, and so are necessarily excluded from a non-conceptual realm.  Speculation about the End Times, or the Hereafter is utterly pointless and counterproductive.  However, the non-speculative present moment is a supremely worthwhile point of focus. It is our responsibility to acquire the ability for that focus.

It is perhaps the most enticing challenge for the human mind to attempt to conceptualize the non-conceptual, but the ever-futile effort always yields the same result - an inadequate substitute that often leads to confusion or argument.  There is a singular, all-pervasive source for inspiring reverence, and though it cannot be adequately named, still, it may be helpful to try to imagine an infinite, unified, realm that is somehow as all-embracing and sustaining as we once knew amniotic fluid to be.

An impulse, independently felt by many, has been articulated (often rather awkwardly, often with apocalyptic gloom) that indicates an approaching evolutionary threshold: not viewed as an abrupt, tragic end to the story of our species, but rather a transformational opportunity. Understandably, this notion meets with a great deal of skepticism.  

There are myriad, precedent models (analogs) for a similar, transformed stage of organic development, perhaps most familiar among seed-producing plants, or among some insects that undergo metamorphosis.  Even changing forms of physical matter, such as that of water changing its form in reaction to radiant energy, might be a somewhat instructive model.

Although there is no historical or physical evidence to prove it, it is perfectly logical that the human being should harbor transformative potential.  Clear, scientific evidence could not reasonably be expected to exist for this claim.  Our species' transformative potential could not mimic another's, but it can be indicated by examples of others.  An incremental stage toward transformation is happening at this moment, by one's consideration of the very possibility.

Organic development occurs as a reaction to environmental forces; until there is a developmental need for transformation, there is no developmental need for it, nor even for an indication of it as a potentiality, ergo: this present indication of it means there is an approaching need for it.  

There is no prophesy here, only an analysis from observations of organic patterns.

Human transformation is necessarily unimaginable; prior knowledge would be useless at best, and it would derail earlier and present stages of development at worst.  Even if a caterpillar had consciousness, it could not possibly imagine entering a chrysalis and emerging with a mastery of flight in a three dimensional world.   If it could somehow know of it, it might not strive hard enough to be ready for its transformation because it might instead think it will be ‘taken off the hook, regardless.’(i.e., "Salvation!")

It is important to note that not all organisms with transformative potential cross the threshold into the next stage of development.  Even striving is no guarantee of success for pre-conscious beings, but in their case it does even the odds to those of chance.  

Human striving includes an important and advantageous distinction over that of pre-conscious creatures: a higher degree of desire.  In this case, “desire” is meant as a creative force, not meant as wishing for personal gain or gratification.  The closest concept of this might be indicated in this way: desire equals striving, plus reverence.   The Latin root, reverentia, indicates ‘to stand in awe of’.  Further, 'awe' indicates deep humility and deep love.  To fully utilize desire, one must first know reverence, otherwise one is left only with wishing and ineffective, egocentric striving.

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As noted above, humans have held a competitive advantage for development to this point by virtue of our capability for abstract conceptualization.  It seems paradoxical that this is also now a potential disadvantage or barrier for further development.  Indicators point to habitual, subjective thinking as being our approaching evolutionary limitation, just as it was formerly our means for emerging from pre-conscious level of development.  Fully living in a story necessarily entails a story ending.

It is intuitively sensed that we have fully inhabited and nearly exhausted the conceptual world of form.  In a manner of speaking, the linear trajectory of our developing, collective thought patterns is losing momentum and spiraling toward a circular pattern.  As a caterpillar consumes the last of the leaves on its branch a cocooning impulse arises.

It is our cherished ability for conceptualization (again, the ego, etc.) that has been as protective and necessary as our skin, which now must be regarded as something like a hardening chrysalis shell.  It must be transcended all together at some point if it is not to essentially serve as a crypt.  

The essence of our transformation is that of dissolution of, and detachment from, form, and a surrender of the urgency of conceptualization.  What follows is a reemergence into a reality that is as unimaginable to us as becoming a butterfly would be to a caterpillar.  Creating a conceptual relationship to existence was our task, transcending that creation is now our aim.  Concepts will be as irrelevant and unsustaining to the human mind as chewing on a leaf would be to a butterfly, which now is only sustained by nectar.  

There is a component to human transformation that is not mysterious: striving to fulfill one's responsibility to engage the stillness of reality, beyond the story.  There is also a component that is mysterious and the religious term for it might be "grace".  Since it is mysterious, and could be seen as a gift, there is no point speculating further about its nature - it is not our responsibility.
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Everyday engagement with the world naturally incites reaction from a subjective point of view.  However, for one who is pre-occupied entirely with a subjective perspective, within a small-scale field of time and space (a smaller story), the result is likely to be complete ignorance of any impact of rapid and profound change on a larger scale, unless some objectivity filters through.  The frog in the pot of water illustration applies here, wherein the frog cannot know the stove has been turned on and does not notice the water gradually warming, all the way to boiling. 

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Indicators for loosening our attachment to form might be sensed by the advent and recent ubiquity of two-dimensional screens (TV, computers, camera phones, tablets, etc.).  These are sources for ready-made, visual conceptualization and these have led to the suggestion that great exposure to these media impoverishes the imagination.   It may be so for that aspect of it pertaining to generating original ideas, but it has greatly enhanced the collective ability for visual fluency.  Creativity is a generative asset, but generative capability is not as urgent now as compared with a time when our species was 'coming of age'. 

Linguistic fluency leaped forward with the invention of the printing press.  Visual fluency has been increasing since the invention of the camera, and has taken a huge leap forward thanks to electronic visual representations.  Viewing the iconic image of the earth rising over moon's surface, we sense the organic wholeness of our planet.  Now, with computer graphics illustration we can accurately visualize DNA strands being replicated on the molecular level by specialized cell structures.  Billions of people can now glimpse vivid images of distant galaxies provided by the Hubble telescope.  

Visualization is the ascending cognitive ability and it will be the paramount instrumental means for further development. Verbalization has been key to development thus far, but its pre-eminent value is waning and further reliance on it will present as an obstacle to overcome, because it heavily relies on concepts that are easily misinterpreted and more often, simply insufficient. 

Words are losing their capacity to convey sufficient meaning in a world that reveals increasing depth and complexity. Widely-shared images convey instant understanding, or in some cases misunderstanding, but the potential for mass synchronicity is the fundamental truth of the medium.  There is a developmental purpose to the compelling nature of the electronic screen; it is a craving for the stuff of visualization.

A growing number of individuals now find greater existential reward through virtual experience as an avatar in artificial and simulated life games, to the extent that their outward engagement with the physical world is diminished; the term “cocooning” has worked itself into the vernacular with interesting coincidence.

Much of human life experience that, until recently, involved direct engagement with other life-forms is now becoming, or soon will become, available only as remote or abstract experience: from food production and procurement, to various forms of commerce, to making social connections, to education, to warfare, etc.  Linguistic-based institutions, both social and political, are decaying into polarized and contentious involvements, slowing from inertia toward the default state of systemic dysfunction.  

Increasing numbers of previously-unconnected people are mobilized via handheld visual screens for dynamic social involvements, such as demonstrations and flash mobs.  New forms of shared culture, conveyed in memes, are instantaneously transmitted around the globe, irrespective of geographic or political boundaries.  While some conceptual aspects of human interaction are more disintegrated than ever, the emerging image for humanity is one of non-conceptual (virtual) unity.

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If the countless, global and satellite networks we have created for energy transmission, communication, and transportation could be represented with connecting fibers, the image would be like that of a dense, web-like, energy-charged fabric wrapping around the earth.  In addition to the density of this network fabric, the frequency spectrum of human-generated electromagnetic waves grows ever-broader.  

The chemical composition of biosphere within this sheath of interwoven energy strands is undergoing tremendous change just in the last few decades.  Imbalanced concentrations of carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus (including their various compound forms) are growing greater than at any known point prior to the anthropocene (the era of noticeable human impact on the environment). Human-produced toxins, synthetic and natural, are permeating the soil, water and air in hypertonic levels in a growing number of various ecosystems.  

These are significant, profound and irreversible changes that may be productively considered, or denied or ignored.  Regardless, it seems the rate of change in biosphere chemical composition could be plotted on a geometric, if not exponential, curve.

For one deeply-identified with the human story (which is largely the same as the personal story), these notions either cannot exist because they are inconceivable, or they are abhorrent because the story isn’t supposed to go this way.  For others who can shift perspective to include some objectivity, above and beyond the human story, some sort of transformation certainly seems desirable, if not yet plausible.

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How does one come to terms with, or approach, transcendence of conceptual-based reality?  

How does a salmon get the urge to swim upstream and, for the first time in its life, leave the water to jump up a waterfall?  It is speculative to say, but it could well be that the same source for instilling such a compelling, and seemingly unnatural, urge has made possible this present exchange of ideas as a preparatory step.  In other words, you might have found your way to this point by desire.

If jumping into the air for a fish can be seen as something of the opposite of swimming in water, then transcending conceptual existence must also be something of its opposite.  The opposite of conceptualization is silent, non-conceptualization.  Stillness, or mindfulness might be better terms.  

By its nature, thinking is a noisy, compelling clamor of internal, interpretive and narrative activity.  Thinking is non-stop story-crafting.  Stillness of the mind is simple - but not easy - because of our deep conditioning to accept the noisy activity as being normal, or even essential.  

Deep, empathic engagement with others, and/or, with the arts are two excellent ways to quiet the habitual, noisy activity of the mind.  For various reasons these may not be available to all, and so there is another means that is more universally available.  

By observing any natural object, such as a rock or a flower, it can be sensed that it exists in stillness, and the vestiges of that same stillness exist in the observer's mind from its pre-conditioned state.  Stillness in the mind resonates with the stillness in the observed natural object.  This resonance introduces one to reverence: stillness is indeed awe-inspiring and not at all a boring, or threatening absence of stimulation.  

Recognition of still existence, first of natural objects, is the goal; “recognition” means to know again.  This is not new learning, it is remembering or dis-covering previous (since obscured) knowledge.  “Remembering” suggests the return of a part to the whole.

Quiet observation will be anything but quiet at first.   The conditioned, noisy mind will interject all manner of narration, whether descriptive, argumentative or just distracting.  This is natural and worth noticing; that ability has been a key survival trait in order to develop this far.  

To develop further, one’s mental activity can also be observed from an objective viewpoint as something that also exists, just as the rock or the flower exists.  With intentionally-objective observation, persistent thought habits soon lose urgency and relevance, and tend toward the trivial and amusing.  Truly worthwhile and creative thinking can find room to flourish once the limitations of habitual, often circular, thoughts are recognized.  

While sitting comfortably with body awareness, conscious, rhythmic breathing helps relax the grip of the world of form.  It is possible, through loosened attachment to form, to sense the essential existence in stillness of things, apart from their physical descriptions.  

Thoughts of any sort arise out the same background stillness, it’s just that they jostle one another and crowd together and obscure the stillness of the mind.   Thoughts regain urgency and take hold of the attention if they cause reaction of either resistance or attraction, so they need only to be given recognition - because they exist.  

Once thoughts are known for the existing word-form-entities that they are, they can be spread apart a bit to notice the spaces between them.  The attention’s “depth of field” is then refocused through those spaces and beyond them to awareness of a vast, non-conceptual space of stillness.   

With refocused attention and deepened awareness, the experience of knowing stillness - from a state of stillness - becomes simply an acquired ability, like any other, and it is then always readily at hand (even noticeable in the vividness of a car brake light in an otherwise-frustrating traffic jam).  It may be noticed that this first-hand experience of reality is often accompanied by a sense of recognition and belonging.

When this opening occurs, and raised consciousness, or expanded, objective awareness is present, and if you are with others it will flow through you and encourage potential for the same in others.  If you are engaged in any of the arts it will manifest in the music or the visual medium, etc.  and it will be known by others who will feel held in stillness by the experience of perceiving the work.

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As the salmon positions itself below the falls, ready to make its jump, it is not asking itself if this is possible.  It is not crafting a story about success or failure, or life or death.  It has no conceptual ability, so there’s no mental noise to transcend.  It, too, exists in stillness - just as you do - the main differences are that you have conceptual ability, a habit of living in a story, and greater capacity for desire.  

There is some degree of desire in the forces that inform the fish as an animal, compared to the flower with even less, and to the rock that is not informed with desire.  The human is informed with the greater degree of desire, which again includes the capacity for reverence.  Observing animals gives one a sense that, in the stillness of their existence, they have some nacent capacity for reverence, especially in those in closest association with humans.  Anthropomorphic musings - or- intuitive sense observations?  It must be up to the individual to determine; persuasion to accept an idea as a belief is a ridiculous and shallow aim.

In its striving, the salmon uses the current to jump out of the current.  Sentient beings have the responsibility (to their species) to strive up to their desire potential.  The sapient human being has the responsibility to strive by consciously using desire to transcend Desire.  

As the salmon reaches its source destination, its responsibility is discharged and its striving is over.  Our striving is also to move beyond striving.  We are already using conceptualization to transcend concepts, even at this present moment.  We will develop awareness of our attachment to form and we will use it to loosen and transcend attachment to form.  

We want to again know love, before it became attraction.  Our desire is to re-member being before it dis-integrated to become beings.  We strive to know light before it became the sun that warms us with us with beckoning.           

 Most, if not all of the above ideas are neither new, nor necessarily original to this post.  Albert Einstein pointed out long ago that the thinking by which we have created our problematic situation will not be the same thinking that can solve our way out it.  Jesus offered the helpful pointer of being in the world, but not of the world.  Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Buddha is his smile.

 With the direction perhaps now better indicated, this is about as far as words can take us.  Still, further exploration of all these ideas and more can be found in many places.  Here are few links that could be explored:,, and  Also look into the deeply rewarding work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.