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Stochastically Enhanced Automatons

This little piece was from the prompt “Cleaning” in my writing group this morning. I am not generally a fan of cleaning! Here goes!

(Be sure to check out the links shown in underlined blue hyperlink color.)

The house is almost always sorely in need of cleaning.

But she doesn’t care. She’s more interested in cleaning the doorways to her perceptions. No matter what Plato thought about the matter, it is pointless to act like humans can divorce knowledge entirely from perception. The best we can do it to learn to disentangle the layers of interpretation from the bare facts. Without the integrated, advanced automatic interpretation features incorporated into our brain/mind, we humans would merely be another species of stochastically enhanced automatons.

But our rational minds allow us to think in a self-referential manner. We can, or we are capable, that is, or knowing ourselves to be both embedded in the fabric of reality, and apart from it. The lion, the amoeba, and the dust mote don’t have the ability to move out of the binding ties of Indra’s web.

See also this link for a beautiful image of Indra’s web.

 

 

A Beautiful, Very Dead, Moth

“Who could look at these pictures and not believe in God?” my Muslim friend asked. My Christian friend had expressed a similar idea as a statement. I wasn’t going to disagree with either one.

Figure 1: Digital Color Photo of Moth Body: The wing was pulled off, stuck onto an electron microscope stage, and coated with palladium.

Indeed! Insects are always interesting to look at in a scanning electron microscope. But the beauty of this dead moth far exceeded my expectations.

I save dead bugs when I see them, for educational purposes. This poor moth had been sitting around for quite a while, before I decided it’s time had come.

Figure 1 shows the moth in question, after I had broken off one of its outer wings, and taped it down to an electrically conductive specimen holder (aluminum) and sputter coated it with palladium to render it electrically conductive. A kindof boring motley brown, but surprising orange and white on the hidden pair of wings.

The moth wing was also surprising in how soft it felt when I broke it off.

If you zoom in to Figure 1, taken with a Olympus Tough Gear 5 digital camera, in microscope mode, you can see that the individual scales have different colors. This camera is currently available on Canon’s website for $500.00. It can do a lot of things. It will also take me a while to make it do what I want! (It’s pretty complicated.)

Figures 2 – 4 show additional views, obtained with my scanning electron microscope, at magnifications up to 6000x. But it is still impossible for me to tell if the “holes” are empty, or filled with a thin film of some sort.

Figure 2: Center of length of the wing
Figure 3: Note scalloped scale edges.
Figure 4: Note lacy structure. Are the holes empty or filled with some thin film?

Figure 5 shows the pointed end of the wing, where it used to be attached to the rest of the body.

Figure 5: The wing at the “shoulder” attachment point.

 

The different shapes of the feathery scales are beautiful. Figures 6 and 7 show how the scales are attached to the underlying shell of the insect.

Figure 6: Detail of how the individual scales are attached to the shell of the insect.
Figure 7: Broken off scale. How like a leaf!

I don’t know the cause of death of the moth. I found it whole, so maybe it simply came to the end of its life span. I’ll never know. But I honor the moth, the miraculous world we live in, and the “ugly beauty” of this plain insect.

Sacred Disobedience

Animals in nature never disobey their instincts. They can’t. By definition, animal behavior is pre-determined almost completely, by genetics and environment. Humans are different. Our essence is that we can overcome these pre-programmed instincts. How was this achieved in humanity? Of course this is one of those unanswerable questions, but we have myths that hint at the deeper truth. The story of Eve and Adam is one of those myths. God told these adult-infants that they were to enjoy all the fruits of the garden, except the tree of knowledge. Now the slightest effort at objective thinking will reveal God’s intent to use reverse psychology to entice Eve and Adam to eat that very fruit. Duh. Self-evident truth. Of course, self-evident truth is not available to the casual observer!

If you are still not convinced, imagine a puppy in your kitchen. You hold up a piece of steak. You call your puppy. “Fido! Here Fido!” You hold up the steak in front of Fido’s nose. “Here Fido! Don’t eat this meat! No Fido! Don’t eat this meat!” Be sure you are using a pleasant, friendly, and nonchalant voice-tone when you say this.

Do you really think Fido is going to walk away, before he eats the meat, or tries to?

God might be infinite and omnipotent, but it would have been self defeating to remove all of the layers and layers of self-preservation instincts from the new beings. God knew his creations, and that’s that. Eve and Adam were set up to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, but no parent is going to tell his or her kids the Truth about this. No. Because then the parental authority that allows the “younguns” to survive infancy will be undermined. Becoming an adult requires the discernment to know when to disobey. Disobeying, whether after proper discerning thought processes, or flawed ones, is the first step toward adulthood, and the promised freedom that humanity is working toward.

The Old Testament is hardly the only sacred literature to promote the idea of disobedience. Jesus tells his followers to disobey their cultural customs, which are basically experienced by most people as laws, and “leave the dead to bury the dead,” at the same time he insists that he has not come to change the law. If you are a Christian, or if not, but you believe that maybe those old texts have something to say about the human condition, pay attention here. There’s more than meets the eye.

The self-evident truth is that there must be another way to obey the fourth commandment to honor one’s parents. My personal take on this is that we honor our parents by living our lives in accordance with whichever of their values we can. For example, my parents probably don’t like my theory of how to deal with money, but they were pleased that I chose to become skilled at my chosen profession, and that I used my skills to promote the life of intellect and social justice. Jesus, whom my culturally Jewish parents didn’t study, understood the necessity of disobedience.

Moving on to India, the Ramayana tells the story of Ram, a powerful deity who decided to come to earth as a man to “re-enforce” the religious laws. He incarnated, the story goes, as a king. He married a beautiful woman, who loved him very much. Of course. Duh. But then, the evil demon king kidnapped his beautiful wife. Sita, the queen, remained faithful to her husband, and the evil demon king never forced her to sleep with him, although he invited her every night. Eventually, Sita was rescued and returned to her husband, as the property that most of the ancient laws considered her. But Ram had incarnated for the sole purpose of enforcing the laws, and the laws said that Sita must undergo a trial by water. She did not drown, proving her statement of fidelity to her spouse. But Ram was not satisfied. He feared that the other men of the kingdom would interpret his acceptance of Sita back into his household as weakness, that would undermine the cultural integrity of the kingdom. He made up more tests. Finally, after passing them all, Sita walked outside of the palace grounds, and called on Mother Earth to swallow her up, since Ram obviously did not deserve her as his queen. Any thoughtful person can see that Ram, god and king, the upholder of the law, was a jerk. Plain and simple.

Cultural laws are never perfect for every situation, because laws are always being made in response to particular situations. Being a human means that we must cultivate the discernment needed to know which rules and laws to break, when.

The concept of disobedience being a good deed, rather than a sin, was indeed difficult for humans to grasp. As we look around us, it’s clear that, for humans, blind obedience to cultural norms has taken over blind obedience to natural instinct. But obedience to cultural laws is only an intermediate step in our spiritual evolution. This step has been and continues to be necessary, as Mother Nature was so thorough and redundant in making sure her creations would be able to survive.

For example, in order to ensure propagation of a variety of human societies, Mother Nature endows us with hormones that drive us to find mates who are attractive to us. But the criteria of attraction vary widely. Then we are provided with hormones that attach us to our mates, and their families and friends. Then we are given different sets of skills, making us more and more reliant on each other. We have a very extended time of dependency as we learn what it takes to survive in the climates and terrains that we are forced to inhabit, as we become more and more numerous. Our need for each other must be made strong indeed, to overcome the already robust instincts for individual survival. The choice facilitating urge to disobedience is a latecomer to the game, and struggles for acceptance.

Really, at some point, humanity as a whole will realize that we must give up the entire idea of the “dis/obedience dichotomy,” and substitute a “sliding discernment skill scale.”

Let’s look at a few more examples of teaching stories on the subject of obedience. In Genesis, we find another of God’s attempts to teach humans that blind obedience is not always a good deed. When God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his favorite son of his beloved wife, Abraham is supposed to figure out that he is supposed to disobey. In one way, we can see that the whole point of God telling Abraham to get the hell out of Ur was so he could create a new culture that substituted love for fear, and the first step on the path forward on that was to eliminate sacrifice of one’s fellow humans.

Even many rabbis agree that Abraham was supposed to disobey. But he didn’t get it. Perhaps it was too much to ask. Of course, if God was to find a new prophet, he had to pick someone who could hear him. The words hear and obey are related in many languages. So poor Abraham. He failed this test. And this set up the poor daughter of Japthah to later be sacrificed, which then necessitated the sacrifice of Jesus, as the son of God, so that God could prove that he wouldn’t refuse to do what one of his subjects was willing to do. This time, again God tried to make it clear. No more human sacrifices.

However, we still believe in Holy War. So once again, we can see that we have not come to the end of the spiritual path, or even that short section called “love your neighbor.”

As the great Swami Vivekananda said, had it not been for the horrible demons of sectarianism and fanaticism, which continue to lead to war, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.

Step one on a spiritual path is for “spiritual” leaders to start acting like spiritual leaders, and tell their “flocks” that humans are meant to creatively disobey. There will always be consequences of disobedience, sometimes extremely painful. But that is a result of the human condition. Learning to think for ourselves is the foundation of living the fullest possible human life.

The Doorway of No Return

This was written in response to a prompt in my writing group Thursday:

A doorway of no return…..

I have also been thinking of the superior philosophy brought to my attention by Vivekananda: “You are all children of bliss!”

How much better to believe this than the horrible sickness of the belief of original sin perpetrated on the West by Augustine, a lie that Jesus never taught, and before him, that the Jews never believed.

I have been wanting to let my fictional wise woman, Merwegon, who I invented for my currently failed “Moses of Kosbar” science fiction book, share more wisdom with us through the channels of my keyboard and prepared mind. Merwegon and her people are beings with two arms, two legs, two wings, who have a whole body language. Sounds for communication come through their mouths, noses, and special tubes on the sides of their heads, and these sounds are supplemented by waves of their wing tips.

Not so strange. Humans do the same thing. When traveling in Italy years ago, it hit me that everyone on the bus must be deaf, as there was so much expressive hand waving, I thought, at first, that they were all using sign language.

Merwegon Says:

Every doorway is a doorway of no return. As you can’t step twice in the same river, you can’t come back through the door you entered. This is self evident truth. If you think about it, you will see that first of all, the you that walked through the door has breathed and assimilated new air molecules, and some of your feather tips have broken away. Perhaps more importantly, either new neural connections are forming in your brain, or old ones are becoming more persistent. Even with neither action nor inaction on your part, the waves of your thoughts, emotions, and actions are ever spreading out from you, as those of every other center of consciousness spreads out from it. Each of us thus affects each other of us. These waves of consciousness affect beings regardless of their level or type of consciousness. The rock affects me as I affect the rock. What bliss it is to know this. It is the foundation for the ultimate understanding of our true place in the multiverse.

Some say the paths of the planets, moons, even stars and galaxies were set by mindless action, on random paths. I say no, I don’t believe so. Usually I, Merwegon, refrain from using the word believe. I prefer to think about things before I flap my communication outlets. Then I can say I think. If it’s only a feeling, I try to keep it to myself. In other words, until I have subjected the content of the impending communication to epistemological scrutiny, I refrain from intentional broadcasting.

Should someone be exceedingly interested in my thoughts, they may simply tune in to the waves of the Akashic Record, and read for themselves. If they haven’t yet developed that skill to such a degree, they have no business knowing my personal thoughts or feelings.

As I was saying, I don’t believe that the planets, moons, stars and galaxies were set by mindless action, on random paths. No. These planets, moons, stars and galaxies have sought out an intermediate stable motion state, on their way from outward impetus given them by The Big Bang, toward the first Black Hole they encounter a gravity pull from. Here’s where the science ends and I am forced to admit my belief. That Black Holes may be worm holes into a new Universe. Our scientists refuse to acknowledge that possibility, even though surely there’s nothing telling us it is impossible, and it would explain a lot of things, were it true.

The real reason that scientists have any foundation on which to stand when stating that all supposedly dead matter is mindless, is to ensure that we don’t have answers to every question. For it is the unanswered questions that drive us to continue to seek.

The Wisest of Souls

“You’re ugly,” Jackie said to the small frog, as he picked it up and put it in his pocket.

“And you’ll do just great!” he mused, to the frog, now cozily riding in the darkness.

***

The table was set. The crystal glistened and the silver shone. Mother and Father sat at the ends of the table. Joan and her latest boyfriend sat across from Jackie and his little sister.

In preparation to serve, Martha uncovered the plate, and let out a shriek.

Jackie smiled as he noted the look of disapproval on the boyfriend’s face. Why his sister couldn’t see those gold diggers for who they were, he’d never understand. What harm could a little frog do? This frog in fact deserved a medal.

But Jackie, wise for his years, decided to let the frog return to her natural habitat.

Joan glared at Jackie. That smirk had told her all she needed to know about the perpetrator of this latest small crime, one of a string calculated by her younger brother to disrupt her chances of getting our from under the sway of their parents’ ways.

Jackie continued his smirk, which slowly morphed into a serious look of superiority. “You’ll thank me when you are 45,” he told his sister. “You’ll thank me.”

Joan continued her glare, then shook her head and reached out to touch the boyfriend’s arm. A little reassurance, she thought. Maybe there’s still hope. Maybe.

Mother nodded to Martha, a signal to finish serving the dinner. The aroma of the roasted birds was wafting its way to all of their noses. Golden roasted birds, a small heap of skinny green beans, and a mound of shredded carrots graced each plate.

Jacob walked around the table, filling the wine glasses. Of course Jackie and his little sister got theirs watered down.

But the boyfriend was still not looking pleased. Jackie’s smirk returned. He couldn’t help it. Wisdom in an eight year old was of course not fully developed, even in the wisest of reincarnated souls.

Character: Defined

Just what is a character?

Are you one?

Are you also a hero?

A person?

An individual?

What about a self?

A soul?

Are you a soul? Or do you HAVE a soul?

What about the person sitting next to you?

What about Pollyanna? Is she a character? A person? I think she’s an example of one of the intermediate forms known as a FIGURE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FIGURE is a “character” meant to emulated. Pollyanna is disgustingly optimistic in cases, but if we look beyond the surface, her father had taught her how to do this. Her optimism was not presented as “natural.”

Yesterday, Karen Bota, founder of the Mid-Michigan Word Gatherers, organized a FREE writing conference. I had offered to share my gleanings from my recent readings inspired by Amelie O. Rorty’s article “A Literary Postscript: Characters, Selves, Persons, and Individuals” in the academic philosophy conference proceedings she edited.

If you would like a copy of my slide show, please download it by clicking on this link.

Character-Defined

After the writing conference yesterday, a few of us went to hear / see Bob Dylan. Why do people go to rock / folk concerts anyway? For most people it’s to have a more vivid experience of the songs we love than can be obtained through a recording. Bob Dylan doesn’t really care about that. He’s going to put on the show he wants to, how he wants to, and decades of fan disapproval (documented if you look around) aren’t going to pressure him into “pandering to his audience” and playing even a single song from his early career in the way we listened to it then.

One of the articles I found about one of the songs he played said that Bob Dylan is the last word in the artistic Modernist movement. After contemplating this, I see that modernism carries with it the idea of the character, which is much more modern than a hero. Characters have more choice of action, even if they obviously don’t have total free will, than heroes. Even as Joseph Campbell notoriously told us that “We are all the heroes of our own lives,” I have never liked the idea that humans NEED heroes. Why can’t we agree to build a society where superhuman features are not a necessary prerequisite for getting a reasonably happy and productive life?

Another aspect of the Modernist movement is that endings are ambiguous. That is a reflection of life in modern times. In the old days, every story of every person didn’t have a neat, tidy end. But the stories that were thought to be worthwhile to preserve were those which did. This morning, I see that the ambiguous story ending is simply another aspect of intellectual honesty, which allows the stories of everyone to be told, up to the present moment, whether it feeds our need for certainty (usually not) or helps us to gain maturity by learning to tolerate ambiguity.

The way we tell our stories influences how we see ourselves as humans, and the way we see ourselves as humans influences how we tell our stories.

Over time, this self-reflection from story to person and back again morphs, and morphs again. We are able to see new possibilities of how to approach our own lives.

The stories we told ourselves in prehistoric and early historic times tended to have a clean ending with a lesson that most listeners would agree on. People lived in the collective consciousness and didn’t see themselves and each other as individuals whose lives were influenced by decisions they made. People saw themselves as stepping into pre-made roles in their groups, and doing what was to be done.

Joy Arises from the Very Ground We Stand Upon

A few months ago, I decided to memorize the Chicago Address of Swami Vivekananda. I’ve been letting his spontaneous words of upliftment on the root causes of bigotry, fanatacism and violence diffuse into my mind.

I’ve also been “channeling” a fictional wise woman that I created for the Moses of Kosbar novel that’s going nowhere fast. But I have been enjoying channeling Merwegon. Maybe you will also ponder her message from this morning. It was an attempt to use the language of Vivekananda and the knowledge of Merwegon. See what you think!

Sisters and Brothers of Kosbar!

Joy arises from the very ground we stand on, if we can but learn to tune ourselves to its wavelength. Those who curtail our actions can only fail miserably when they try to contain our thoughts. Rather, the thought patterns of all beings who experience consciousness are concentrated, filtered and rebroadcast at the time of the cessation of their bodily processes. The resultant thought fields rush to fill the cosmos, resonating with the ready along their way.

Brothers and sisters, please remember that the good and the true will overcome the forces of chaos in the end times. This must be the case, as the good and the true are an emanation of the real, while what we perceive as evil is simply the system noise of the fundamental functions of the eternal transformation of consciousness into energy, energy into matter, and their reversed analogues.

Perfection, unlike joy, arises not from the ground we stand on. The perception of perfection results within the concentration of matter called the brain. All perceptions, visual, auditory, and those of both longer wavelengths and denser energy fields, are inherently perfect. Only perfection allows description, and description births perfection. You may wish to think about this a little longer. It might not mean what you first think.

The apprehension of the simplicity of perfection reveals the perfection of simplicity. We are but channels for the evolution of the hierarchy of the levels of the signal processing guardian system. This guardian system allows us to see what matters. This is not a tweak to our signal processing system. This is the essence of our mind. We choose to take as axiomatic that we have, together, one mind. We also have individual small minds, that are where the initial signal processing is performed.

Our guardian system allows us to access freedom of thought. We save our enemies because of how we have freely evolved. We give charity to those who ask because of how we freely evolve. We choose to save our enemy because we choose to become someone who saved our enemy. How much easier will we then find it to choose to become someone who gave charity to those with empty chairs and empty tables?

Real Spirituality Bears Sweet Fruit

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?

Many people are totally confused about this.

Religion  literally means binding back. On the whole, being religious means binding oneself to a learned cultural pattern that is founded on the efforts of believers in some set of revealed truths. Religions provide a rather poor quality ready-made moral compass based on a set of conditions that no longer exists the moment it is formulated.

All religions started with and have spirituality at their root, but in all cases, the transformation into a “marketable product” reduces the freedom inherent in the founder’s spiritual insight.

Real spirituality is liberating. Rather than being based on a report of how reality works, spirituality is based on experiencing the world through a lens of understanding that, ultimately, everything is connected and interdependent.

Real spirituality provides the only reliable moral compass.

The person who is spiritually motivated understands that they can never insulate themselves from the pain of others, no matter how far away.  The person following a real moral compass may wander or “tack.” This is a necessary consequence of the spiritual aspect of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

In both the Old and New Testaments, a criterion is provided for those who wish to be able to distinguish between real and false prophets.

“Know them by their fruit.”

What is fruit in this sense?

The effects of the prophet’s teachings.

Do the teachings uplift and liberate humanity, or hold us back to the old patterns of the extremely uneven division of resources that came with “civilization”?

Real spirituality bears sweet FRUIT, when evaluated in the most inclusive frame of reference imaginable.

People who are predominantly spiritual in outlook eschew belief in favor of personal experience. Real spirituality encourages us to go beyond whatever world we find ourselves in. Real spirituality challenges us to recognize the world beyond our senses (or technologically enhanced senses.)

BUT real spirituality does not require a belief in a separate spiritual world. Real spirituality provides a continually enriched understanding of what reality is.

As a certain spiritual master is said to have taught: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

A way to look at that teaching is to realize that every “great truth” has “great lies” associated with it.  Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize winning physicist said something to the effect that:

The opposite of a great truth is another great truth. The opposite of a mundane truth is a lie.

Swami Vivekananda said that all religions are true. Swami Vivekananda gave his CRITERION for that statement. His criterion was that all religions have women and men who rise to the most exalted levels of serving humanity.

And Swami Vivekananda called out the falsehoods of the so-called religious, those who teach intolerance and persecution of the other. He rightly called out the falsehoods of those who even confine themselves to promoting any uncharitable feelings toward their fellow humans.

The way many established religions promote ideas of specialness (holy or sinful) has as its inevitable consequence the promotion of uncharitable feelings toward others. Uncharitable feelings toward others are the most important fertilizer of discord in the multi-cultural society that prevails over the face of the earth.

As Rabbi Akiva said: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.

This teaching can only have its intended uplifting “fruit” if we understand that it refers to the visible world, as well as the “spiritual world.” This is the best of spiritually guided religion. Akiva used his spiritual understanding of the unity of humanity to call humans to respect each others’ rights to exist. The founding fathers of the USA also gave voice to this idea, even if they did not back it up.

 

What about atheists? They have the advantage of not teaching their kids that their non-conforming neighbors are going to hell.

The problem with many vocal atheists is that they are so dogmatically atheistic. Richard Dawkins, for example, who wrote Consciousness Explained, has been justifiably mocked as having written “Consciousness, Explained Away.”

Dogmatic atheists could be lumped in with Fundamentalists, into an overarching group called “Certaintists.” Where does faith leave off and false certainty take over?

As Osho says: Doubt is the greatest gift.

Certainty leads to arrogance.

Confidence is different. Confidence is founded on experience. Experience is the foundation of the personal reality of each being. Experiences are interpreted as they happen. Thus confidence is sometimes misplaced. Certainty is always misplaced.

The ignorant often have trouble distinguishing justifiable confidence from arrogance, which is never justifiable.