Saturday, December 7, 2019

Mermaid's Wineglass

I remember back in graduate school being fascinated by a little plant by the name of Acetabularia. With its dainty up-to-two-inch long stem, topped by a broad sombrero-like cap, it is best known by its poetic nickname – Mermaid's Wineglass. What is most fascinating when you hold this common little green algae from the subtropical waters of the Caribbean and Mediterranean is that, with all of its delicate detail, it consists of just one single cell.


Just one cell. All this beauty. Because of its size it is a most excellent model organism for studying cell biology. Its nucleus always can be found at the rhizoid, the base of the stalk, and only divides once the plant has reached its full height. Nowhere else in nature can one look at the entire complex morphology of life within a single cell large enough to be visible without a microscope.

The caps of Acetabularia may also be exchanged, even from two different species. If a cap is removed, the nucleus sees to it that it is regenerated. In addition, if a piece of the stem is removed, with no access to the nucleus in the rhizoid, this isolated stem piece will also grow a new cap. It was a wonderful little plant to play around with in the lab to visually appreciate the miracle of nature, reminding one just how remarkable each cell of every living thing really is, with its unfathomable number of chemical and energetic processes occurring at every instant, right there in your hand. A good analogy would be a whole automobile made of just one single moving part, with all its various functions operating at the genetically programmed direction of a single nuclear robotic brain within. When you extrapolate the magic of this one cell by 30,000,000,000,000 times, you get the average human body. Even with this great number of cells, there are really only about two hundred different types of cells in our bodies, each with its own genetically programmed nuclear brain directing all the chemical and energetic processes that keep us alive moment to moment. Wow, talk about running on autopilot!

Friday, December 6, 2019

the Inevitable Financial Reset


The top 1% of people own 53.2% of all stocks and mutual funds, and if you add in the next 9%, the rich control 93.2%, leaving the remaining 90% of us with just 6.8% of stocks and mutual funds. Furthermore, that same bottom 90% of us owe 72.4% of all the debt. It is debt slavery. When will the plebs tire of being indebted serfs to the elite few??? Why not Now!

What's wrong with this picture? The stock market, controlled and owned by the super-rich and those that serve their interests, has become increasingly fraudulent and parasitical. The families that own the Western central banks are printing money like never before and handing it over to corporations they also own, sucking the lifeblood out of 90% of the population. The financial system has become a giant black hole, which makes a collapse of all things connected mathematically inevitable. While it’s easy to spot a bubble, it’s harder to predict when it will burst. But a financial reset seems imminent. One thing financial experts do agree upon - when financial markets fight against reality, reality always wins.
 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Healing the Anger


The animus between people in America these days is troubling. I have become so desirous of avoiding confrontation that I no longer read or post anything on Facebook to avoid dealing with uncomfortably stark political differences with friends. Keeping relationships with people is more important than inserting myself into our differences of political opinion. Perhaps I am a coward. Or maybe it is not that important to me to be right. Or maybe inside I am willing to admit that perhaps I am wrong in my read of the world. Somebody is uninformed – maybe it is me! Or maybe I intuitively trust that all things will work out for the good, even if we have to go through some pain to get there, and in the end our differences will settle.

I see the problem largely as one rooted in fear. It is a fear that has arisen because everything we think and believe and take for granted to be real has all of a sudden been thrown into question. Realizing that others see things so differently undermines our whole sense of reality. It occurs to us, if only in a quickly suppressed flash, that everything we see, and everything we think we know may all be an illusion. And perhaps this sudden and disorienting sense of groundlessness, along with our survival instinct, is at the root of why we get so defensive and angry and fight so hard for our one-sided opinions, however arbitrary they may really be. With our fight-or-flight instincts, somewhere deep inside we think we are in a struggle for dear life, trying to survive and preserve our concept of “me.”

Or if we think outside the box and draw different conclusions, we fear being criticized or ostracized by the people we keep company with. To each of us, our current viewpoint - our current movie of waking life - seems irrefutably real. We are all convinced that the way we see things is the way they really are. The illusory appearance that consciousness creates is, after all, very convincing! And yet, no two of us see everything in exactly the same way. Some of us see things in completely opposite and utterly irreconcilable ways. So what really is real?

What happens within us when someone comes at us with judgment, anger, hatred and violence (whether actual or verbal)? How do we react when someone makes it clear that they despise us and consider us to be scum? What reaction does this bring forth? In my reckoning, it usually makes us tighten up and get even more hardened in our recalcitrant positions and hateful of the perceived adversary. But what would happen if we were met at such a moment with genuine (not fake or manipulative, but genuine) love and compassion by someone who sees beyond our surface behavior of opinionizing to the light inside of us, however buried it may be? In my experience, when we are met in such a way, we are much more likely to let go of our hardened opinions, taking a closer look at what we’re doing, and wake up to the reality that we can be all one people, one country, with mostly shared values and objectives, really. That is real.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Loserthink


I am thinking of picking up a copy of Scott Adams' latest book Loserthink, about how we look at the world from inside familiar bubbles, setting ourselves up to fail. Adams explains it is not exclusive just to “losers.” We all do it. Interesting! The problem is not that we lack the facts necessary to understand our reality: that, he explained in Win Bigly, is just part of the way we are wired. Rather, the problem is that the way we train ourselves to think tends to work well inside certain disciplines, but not others.

For example, he notes, it is common that Hollywood stars, many of whom are exceptionally talented and highly trained, fail to understand politics. The worst part is that they don’t know they fail: they act as though their opinions are the only correct ones. That is partly the result of conformity: few conservatives dare to come out of the closet in Hollywood. But it is also a result of loserthink: they assume their expertise in one area carries across to another.

Likewise with climate science, Adams says. To journalists, and even to many scientists, the familiar graphs that predict global warming far out into the future seem convincing. But to anyone with experience in the corporate world, Adams says, those graphs look like every phony economic projection ever used to sell an idea. That does not mean climate change is a fraud. What it means is that it is being sold as a fraud, which is why so many people doubt it.

The problem is that most people who believe in climate change are trapped in loserthink bubbles. (So, too, he says, are some of the climate skeptics.) Thinking narrowly does not make you a “loser,” but it means you are less likely to succeed. In the climate change example, that means you are less likely to persuade others, or you will adopt policies that make everyone miserable without solving the problem. 
 
There is something in Loserthink to shock everyone — which is his point. This book may be a way for many of us to break out of our “mental prisons”. Adams hopes that by encouraging his readers — and those they encounter online — to familiarize themselves with new ways of thinking, from different disciplines, he will help break down the divisions that have emerged in our society which make us all so unhappy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Spiritual Healing


Life is like a river, ever flowing, but the water is never the same from moment to moment. Like a river, we humans too are ever in a state of dynamic flow. Most every part of our bodies is replaced in time. Stomach cells are renewed every two days. Skin cells last about two weeks. Red blood cells stay with us for around four months. And while the liver is completely rebuilt every year and a half or so, it takes a decade to regrow bones completely. Some brain cells, certain cells in the eyes, and some germ cells are never replaced over the course of a lifetime.

Disease can exist within the body and last a long time, but in most cases, it too may be replaced by excellent health. A disease that stays with us a long time is generally of our own creation. We are not victims of bacteria and viruses. Spiritually speaking, the body is following a “blueprint for illness” that YOU are providing.

Each part of the body follows the concept of what you believe yourself to be. The body will always do its best to come into alignment with your thoughts, so it is important to always think appropriately positive thoughts. If you harbor destructive thoughts or are self-punishing, if you often show aggression toward others or get angry and lash out in discontent, your thoughts are drawing illness and negative conditions. Whatever you put out always returns. What goes around comes around.

When you become ill, it is most certainly because you have been harboring negative thought patterns that have solidified into a kind of mental attachment that eventually manifests as a particular kind of malaise. You may seek treatment from a doctor, but it is not the doctor that heals you. Healing only begins when you deal with the original cause (your thoughts) yourself.

To heal yourself, first make a change in your self-awareness, then shift your thought patterns accordingly. Seeing yourself objectively is one of the hardest things to do. A person must be objective to understand how the mind may become distorted from time to time, or how one's lifestyle has seriously gone out of balance.

A good place to begin is to spend more time in self-reflection, expressing feelings of sincere gratitude. The body will always follow the mind's lead, so always establish a healthy image of yourself in your mind, one that corresponds to the complete opposite of whatever condition or illness you are currently experiencing. From this then determine to manifest a healthy image by doing the following:

First, be increasingly aware of how you think about your body and how you think about any illness you might have. You get that which you focus on most. If you constantly remind yourself how much you hurt or how bad your condition is, you are not going to heal. Change the way you think about your body to be more positive.

Next, keep a positive mindset as you go through the day and take action to correct your condition. Tell yourself that you will take the necessary steps every day to improve the condition, then do it.

Next, begin an encouraging conversation with your body. If you commit to taking steps to heal yourself and promise yourself that you will do what it takes, your body will begin to react in a positive manner. Attitude is 99 per cent of the battle.

Be patient. It may have taken a lifetime for your body to express your illness; give it some time to repair and rebuild. Plant the idea in your mind that you are moving in the direction of better health, then stand back and let the body do the rest.

Be consistent and do all the things that will help you heal. Keep a positive outlook and express abundant gratitude from your heart for all the wonderful opportunities you have been given to learn and grow.

Follow these steps to regain your health or anything else you may desire in life. Stop negativity in its tracks and replace it with a positive outlook, then get out of it's way and let the spirit within you do what it can only do to bring you back into healthful balance.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Letting Go


Scientific Caveat


Perhaps the most defining characteristic of a true scientist is a willingness to suspend disbelief and remain open to new discovery, even if it means challenging the existing order of things, alienating colleagues, or even opening oneself up to censure and professional ruin. The greatest discoverers have always been scientific heretics of one sort or another.

Unfortunately, to be a revolutionary in science today is to flirt with professional suicide. Much of most every field of study purports to encourage experimental freedom, but... the entire structure of modern scientific undertaking, with its highly competitive grant system and publishing and peer review system, depends upon researchers conforming to the accepted scientific worldview. The system as it exists tends to encourage individuals to carry out experimentation whose purpose is first and foremost to confirm the existing consensual view of things, or to further develop technology for industry, rather than to generate true innovation.

One must always keep this in mind when the words “scientific consensus” are used to support any issue or measure in the public domain. The climate conversation comes to mind. As with the evolution of every established social institution, eventually self-preservation of the institution rises above public benefit.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Open Wide the Doors of Perception

One of the greatest mysteries of both philosophy and science that has yet to be solved is how consciousness happens... and what happens when it goes wrong. With all our advances we still really don't know how the brain and body give rise to consciousness. Billions of neurons in the brain are working together to generate a conscious experience – not just any conscious experience, but your own individual experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. So how does this actually happen?

We experience joy and suffering; do other animals? Do they have a sense of self as well? If you have pets you have some sense of the answer. And what about plants? And as computers get smarter and faster, will there come a time when your iPhone develops a sense of its own existence?

The prospects for a conscious AI are probably pretty remote because consciousness has less to do with pure intelligence and more to do with our nature as living and breathing organisms. Consciousness and intelligence are different things. You don't have to be smart to suffer, but you probably do have to be alive.

Consciousness involves both awareness of the self and awareness of the world. Think of your brain in its bony skull, trying to figure out what's out there in the world. There's no light or sound inside the skull. All the brain has to go on are streams of electrical impulses which are only indirectly related to things in the world. Perception becomes a form of informed guesswork in which the brain combines these sensory input signals with its prior beliefs and expectations about the way the world is to form its best guess about the cause behind the signals.

The brain doesn't perceive anything directly nor does it interpret the world around it entirely from signals coming in from the outside world. It depends as much, if not more, upon perceptual predictions based upon experience flowing within it. We don't just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it. The world comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from the outside in.

Our conscious experiences of the world around us and of ourselves within it are kinds of controlled hallucinations that happen because we are alive. Hallucinations are a kind of uncontrolled perception. Perceptions could also be looked upon as a controlled hallucinations, in which the brain's predictions are being reigned in by sensory information from the world.

We are all hallucinating all the time, including right now. When we agree about our hallucinations, we call that reality. When someone's hallucination varies enough from the norm, we call that illness. Your experience of being your self is a controlled hallucination generated by your brain. What if you are fooling yourself with your own self hallucination? How would you know?

Visual illusions can deceive the eyes and therefore the brain. All of us can be fooled by a good magician. But how can you be deceived about what it means to be you? Most of the experience of being a person is so familiar and so unified and so continuous that it is difficult not to take it for granted. But we shouldn't take it for granted. All the ways we look at ourselves as a unique self can come apart. The identity of the self in the brain is of rather fragile construction. Even the brain's idea of what the self is is a matter of a best guess, a kind of controlled hallucination.

The way we perceive the world outside is quite different than the way we perceive ourselves. The outside world is perceived as a bunch of objects; even the body is an object, a thing. But we don't perceive the world within us as objects – unless we have problems. We know we have a heart and kidneys and a spleen, but we we don't sense them as objects. Perception of the internal state of the body isn't about figuring out what is there, but about control and regulation – much of it autonomically – keeping our physiological variables within a narrow range of conditions to continue our survival.

When the brain uses predictions to figure out what is going on, we see that objects are the cause of sensations. When the brain uses predictions to control or regulate we experience how well or how badly that control is going. So most basic experiences of being a self or being a body organism are deeply grounded in the biological mechanisms that keep us alive.

Our conscious experiences of both the world and our self, since they depend on the identical mechanism of predictive perception, all stem from this basic drive to stay alive. We experience the world and ourselves with, through, and because of our living bodies. We literally predict ourselves into existence.

There are several implications here. Just as we can mis-perceive the world, we can mis-perceive ourselves when the mechanisms of prediction go wrong. Understanding this opens many new avenues in psychiatry and neurology because we can finally get at the mechanisms instead of just treating the symptoms, especially with conditions like depression and schizophrenia.

What it means to be me cannot be reduced to or uploaded to a software program running in a robot, no matter how advanced. The biological mechanisms that define us depend upon a living, breathing biology. Just making computers smarter is not going to make them sentient.

Finally, our way of being conscious is likely just one possible expression of being conscious. Human consciousness is just one example in a vast array of possibility in a very, very large universe. With the application of quantum thinking, a growing wealth of research suggests that not only do all living things have some form of conscious awareness, but so might all inanimate matter and energy as well. We must be careful to leave the door of possibility open to all manner of perceptual predictions, both on our own planet and beyond.

Understanding the biological basis of conscious experience is one of the great challenges for 21st-century science. As with life, so with consciousness, once we start explaining its properties in terms of things happening inside brains and bodies, the apparent insolubility of what consciousness is starts to fade away.
 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Stories


It is the stories we tell that define us. Our stories relate the way we look at the world. From these we shape our societal structures and our relationships with each other and the environment around us; our stories show the way we do business and educate our young, and how we organize and divide our planet. Our science is not so much the ultimate last word on truth as it is yet another story, shifting with time as we make new discoveries.

Our current scientific story is more than three hundred years old, originating with the remarkable discoveries of Isaac Newton. In many ways we still live in a 17th century mind-set. In this story the universe is a place in which matter moves within three-dimensional space and time according to certain fixed physical laws. It is a reliable place with well behaved and easily identifiable matter. But Newton plucked the Creator from the world of matter, ripped out the heart and soul from matter, and left in its wake a lifeless collection of interlocking parts.

Our current story also arises from the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin who suggested that survival is most likely only for the genetically fittest among us. Darwin told us we came to this life in a random way, that we are predatory, purposeless, and solitary. He told us we were no more than an evolutionary accident and that if we want to survive we must be the best. He might as well have said that we are genetic terrorists and that it is imperative that we dispose of the weak in order to survive. This story idealizes separateness; we have been told for three hundred years that life is a zero sum game, that for every winner, there is a loser. And so that's the way we have come to believe our world really is.

These paradigms – that the world is a machine, that humans have to compete for survival – have led to our technological mastery in our world, but at what cost? On a spiritual and metaphysical level we are desperately isolated. Newton and Darwin have brought us no closer to any understanding of the fundamental mysteries of our own being – how we think, where life originates, what it means to get ill, how a single cell can turn into a fully formed person, and what happens to human consciousness when we die.

The story that we have all grown accustomed to, however, is about to be replaced with a drastically revised version. With new discoveries in the past century, the emerging story suggests that we essentially exist in unity, and are furthermore interdependent, with every thing impacting everything else at every moment. The coming changes and their implications are extraordinary.

With our emerging understanding of our quantum reality with its invisible web that we live in, we are going to have to rethink our definition of who we are and what it now means to be human. If we're constantly interacting with not only our own local environment, but with the entire cosmos as well, then our current notion of human potential may be but a hint of what is possible.

Winning and losing lose their meaning if we no longer think of ourselves as separate. No more us and them; we're all “us”. When we redefine what it means to be “me”, we'll have to reform the way we interact with other people, animals, plants, and the world at large. We will need to reconsider how we choose and carry out our work, structure our communities, and raise our children. We may even have to abandon all previous societal creations and imagine a new way to live and an entirely new way to “be”.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Enlightenment


Enlightenment occurs when personal consciousness realizes it is identical with Universal Consciousness. Think of enlightenment as sort of a permanent shift in perspective that comes about through direct realization that there is no thing inside you called “self”. Once you get a glimpse of the truth, it is the most profound transformational event of your life.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Smoke Signals to the Star People


When I was a kid I would travel each summer to southern West Virginia with my family, driving past the giant radio telescopes at Green Bank Observatory. Seven radio telescopes ranging in size up to 100 meters in diameter still stick in my memory as an impressive technological spectacle representative of the emerging space age we lived in during the 1960's. For over 50 years now we have been beaming radio signals into the far reaches of outer space under programs like the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The dream is as much alive today as ever as we await the day when we might establish communication with another life form beyond our blue orb and prove that we are not alone in the universe.

I smile, these days, when I see these technological arrays with their teams of enthusiastic scientists, like the actress Jodie Foster in the movie Contact, still listening, waiting with geeky anxiety for ET's return message. It is not that I have become increasingly skeptical over the years; it's more that I have gained a greater respect for the quarry which they seek to find.

Much of formal orthodox conventional science is in denial about the abundance of life throughout the universe. Our governments and the media continue to have reason to lie to us and hold back our awakening. Most of us accept what we are told about things without much question, satisfied to continue to dream about the future while entertaining ourselves with the distraction of the latest fiction or propaganda presented by modern media. “Is there other intelligent life in the universe?” we continue to ponder. Seriously? I mean, really??? It's more like, “Can you show me evidence of intelligent life on Earth?”

We are not alone in the universe by any stretch of the imagination. There are more life forms than one can imagine – an endless variety of beings, more like us than not who have been coming and going from our planet since long before our history began. Many of them call Earth home. Each of us likely has met or know someone who is alien to this planet, and we don't even realize it. Not only have alien beings been coming here forever, but we've been traveling into space and to their worlds, some beyond our own solar system, since the early 1940's. There is not a major government or major corporation on planet Earth that does not have a space presence with personnel and a vested interest in off-planet trade activities. But that is an entirely different campfire story.

What amuses me with the continued use of radio telescopes is when you consider the many intelligent beings that inhabit our local universe, you must assume that if they can come and go as they please, they must surely be at least a few more years if not a few million years (maybe a few billion) more advanced than us. They are likely to know far more about nearly everything than we do – technology, communication, consciousness, etc. Some may use flying craft more advanced than our technology; some may not need craft at all. If our scientists have begun to manipulate the space-time continuum, it makes sense to image that perhaps some of our space brethren may have gone far beyond our current understanding in manipulating space and time for more efficient travel, at least. While we are generally a warring species on this planet with a savage history and scary advances in weaponry, other beings from far-off worlds probably are not – or they could have wiped us out long ago with little challenge.

I would imagine, for the most part, that any off-world civilizations that have taken an interest in our planet probably observe us with curiosity and likely judge us as rather immature in the larger scheme of things. In fact, they probably view our species with some degree of empathy as rather infantile, spending most of our time sleeping, pooping, and crying. They have probably been very patient, waiting for the day when we are able to reach out telepathically to say hello; waiting for the time when we grow beyond the egotistic individuals we largely perceive ourselves to be, apart from each other and alone in the universe. Why would any consciousness with a galactic perspective have any interest in spending much time or energy to engage with infants?

Using giant radio telescopes in hopes of spotting signals from ET is like trying to talk to star people using smoke signals. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but probably not worth the time sitting by the phone anxiously waiting for ET to answer.

Mermaid's Wineglass

I remember back in graduate school being fascinated by a little plant by the name of Acetabularia . With its dainty up-to-two-inch lon...