Even in absurdity, sacrament. Even in hardship, holiness. Even in doubt, faith. Even in chaos, realization. Even in paradox, blessedness
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"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage." ~Anain Nin
Ad Infinitum: Mental processing is continuous, not like a computer
"For decades, the cognitive and neural sciences have treated mental processes as though they involved passing discrete packets of information in a strictly feed-forward fashion from one cognitive module to the next or in a string of individuated binary symbols -- like a digital computer," said Spivey. "More recently, however, a growing number of studies, such as ours, support dynamical-systems approaches to the mind. In this model, perception and cognition are mathematically described as a continuous trajectory through a high-dimensional mental space; the neural activation patterns flow back and forth to produce nonlinear, self-organized, emergent properties -- like a biological organism."
Everyone wants to do it: The Art of Public Miracle
In a sort of deliberate, cartoon-like visual language, Miracles & Co. is an ironic and critical exploration of a drifting theology that has spawned cults, rites, sects, creeds, superstitions, and faiths which are the seeds for confrontations and fanaticism. It is no secret in a world where tyranny masks religious faith why the idea of the "miracle" is relevant. The miracle "endorses a religion and exalts the individual endowed with the gift, making him or her a guide, a leader, a Messiah, a führer." At a time when religious differences form the root of serious international and global tensions, Miracles & Co. aspires to de-dramatize the irrational force behind religious feelings and actions, while exposing the accompanying economic commercialization and political manipulation of believers.
I pray to simulacra of self-fulfilling prophecies in the trees: Islanders pray to Jesus image on plant pot
Mexicans have set up a shrine at a plant pot on the grounds of a beach resort on the Caribbean island of Cozumel after an image said to depict Jesus appeared on it following Hurricane Wilma a month ago,
A receptionist at the Occidental Grand resort noticed the image likened to Jesus' face as shaken guests emerged from a storm shelter after huddling for three days while the hurricane hurled rain and debris.
Local media are calling it a miracle and draw a link between the apparition and the fact that none of the 200 guests had suffered so much as a bruise during the storm, which tore up other beach resorts on Cozumel, bit holes in concrete buildings, ripped up sections of highway and flattened trees.
The image stands out clearly as a Jesus-like face on the side of the enameled terra cotta planter -- whose plants also survived the storm despite being outside for its duration.
Dubya, the Obvious: Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War
Maintaining an American security presence in the region, not to mention withdrawing forces from Iraq, will involve many complicated problems, military as well as political. Such an endeavor, one would hope, will be handled by a team different from — and more competent than — the one presently in charge of the White House and Pentagon.
For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins [via metafilter]
From the state that gave us Roswell, the epicenter of UFO lore since 1947, comes a report from an Albuquerque TV station about its discovery of strange landscape markings in the remote desert. They're etched in New Mexico's barren northern reaches, resemble crop circles and are recognizable only from a high altitude.
Also, they are directly connected to the Church of Scientology...
The church tried to persuade station KRQE not to air its report last week about the aerial signposts marking a Scientology compound that includes a huge vault "built into a mountainside," the station said on its Web site. The tunnel was constructed to protect the works of L. Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded the church in the 1950s.
The archiving project, which the church has acknowledged, includes engraving Hubbard's writings on stainless steel tablets and encasing them in titanium capsules. It is overseen by a Scientology corporation called the Church of Spiritual Technology. Based in Los Angeles, the corporation dispatched an official named Jane McNairn and an attorney to visit the TV station in an effort to squelch the story, KRQE news director Michelle Donaldson said.
The church offered a tour of the underground facility if KRQE would kill the piece, the station said in its newscast. Scientology also called KRQE's owner, Emmis Communications, and "sought the help of a powerful New Mexican lawmaker" to lobby against airing the piece, the station reported on its Web site.
Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.
The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.
“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”
Tsunami Remembered: The Day the Sea Came
For the earth, it was just a twinge. Last Dec. 26, at 7:59 a.m., one part of the planet's undersea crust made an abrupt shift beneath another along a 750-mile seam near the island of Sumatra. The tectonic plates had been grating against each other for millenniums, and now the higher of the two was lifted perhaps 60 feet. For a planet where landmasses are in constant motion across geological time, the event was of no great moment. But for people - who mark the calendar in days and months rather than eons - a monumental catastrophe had begun, not only the largest earthquake in 40 years but also the displacement of billions of tons of water, unleashing a series of mammoth waves: a tsunami. These surging mounds of water raced toward land with the speed of a jet aircraft and then slowed as they reared up to leap ashore at heights of 50 feet and higher. They were long as well as tall, stampeding inland and carrying with them all they were destroying. People caught in the waves became small ingredients in an enormous blender, bludgeoned by concrete slabs and felled trees, stabbed by jagged sheets of glass, tangled up in manacles of wire.
The number of the dead and missing is now estimated at 232,000. And while this includes victims from a dozen nations, more than two-thirds - some 169,000 - came from a single place, the Indonesian province of Aceh. And of Aceh's mortal toll, more than half - some 90,000 - came from a single city, Banda Aceh, and its immediate surroundings. This provincial capital was a place of large government buildings, two major universities, a historic mosque, stores and restaurants, a harbor and a fishing fleet. It sits in the northwest nub of Sumatra, where converging sea lanes from the Malay Peninsula, India and Arabia once sustained a flourishing trade in aromatic spices. The location, for centuries so favorable, was a mere 155 miles from the earthquake's epicenter. Banda Aceh was swamped by the tsunami within 30 minutes of the tremor.
The devastation left its own peculiar boundaries. Roughly a third of the city - the two miles nearest the Indian Ocean - was flattened and denuded, with only an occasional tree or shank of cement escaping the sledgehammer strength of the waves. A mile or so farther inland, the destruction was more erratic, its effects less a consequence of battering than of flooding. The rest of the city entirely evaded the water's horrific reach; hours went by before some of its residents even knew the day was anything other than sunny and serene...
That morning, as usual, Jaloe, who was 46, was out the door soon after sunup. His wife, Yusnidar, and their three children, Mukhlis, 15, Mutia, 14, and Azarul, 5, were left at home. Their rented wooden shack - just a 12-by-12-foot space diced into three tiny rooms - was but 50 yards from the Aceh River, near where it meets the sea. Jaloe carried breakfast with him - coffee as well as a bar of sticky rice sweetened with coconut milk and packed in banana leaf. In an hour, he was four miles off the coast, within sight of the tree-covered Breueh Islands. The water was remarkably tranquil. Barely a bird arced across the deep blue sky...
Click of life: Living camera uses bacteria to capture image
A dense bed of light-sensitive bacteria has been developed as a unique kind of photographic film. Although it takes 4 hours to take a picture and only works in red light, it also delivers extremely high resolution.
The “living camera” uses light to switch on genes in a genetically modified bacterium that then cause an image-recording chemical to darken. The bacteria are tiny, allowing the sensor to deliver a resolution of 100 megapixels per square inch.
To make their novel biosensor, Chris Voigt’s team at the University of California in San Francisco, US, chose E. Coli, the food-poisoning gut bacterium. One of the reasons for that choice is that E. Coli does not normally use light - photosynthesising bacteria could have used light to prompt other, unwanted, biological processes.
The researchers used genetic engineering techniques to shuttle genes from photosynthesising blue-green algae into the cell membrane of the E. coli. One gene codes for a protein that reacts to red light. Once activated, that protein acts to shut down the action of a second gene. This switch-off turns an added indicator solution black.
As a result, a monochrome image could be permanently “printed” on a dense bed of the modified E. Coli.
Boo: Can We Cure Fear?
So what can be done about irrational fear? There is no one standard treatment in part because symptoms vary from one individual to the next. A person may feel destined to a given bad outcome and have a greater sense of foreboding because of a certain family tendency. Some people's bodies more easily release the ght-or-ight hormones than others. Time-consuming therapy and the resulting reeducation, to avoid triggering our fears, have been the chief solution to date. Now research also suggests therapy could be supplemented by a simple pill that blocks the reception or production of fear signals or even by a fear "vaccine." The fear research does not seek a traditional vaccine--in which the immune system develops protective capabilities in response to the presence of an injected (inert) disease agent. Rather the immune system might be chemically primed with a shot so that it is as healthy as possible--making the body less susceptible to hyperreacting to threats.
Hayao Miyazaki: Forest Spirits, Giant Insects and World Trees
Representations of kami and the natural world in Miyazaki’s films express an underlying belief of the early Shinto worldview, that is, continuity between humanity and nature. This concept is also encapsulated by the Japanese word nagare, meaning "flow," and leads to the conception of vital connections between the divine nature of the kami, and by extension the natural world, and humanity (through respectful rituals); between post-mortem souls and the living (such as the ie construct, or ancestor/descendent link); and between the inner and outer worlds (as expressed through ideas about pollution and purity). The ancient Japanese did not strictly divide their world into the material and the spiritual, nor between this world and another perfect realm. Miyazaki is very much aware of this in his work, saying in an interview about Princess Mononoke that "I’ve come to the point where I just can’t make a movie without addressing the problem of humanity as part of an ecosystem."
Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into the dense jungle of southern Nepal to worship a 15-year-old boy who has been hailed as a new Buddha. Devotees claim that Ram Bomjon, who is silently meditating beneath a tree, has not eaten or drunk anything since he sat down at his chosen spot six months ago. Witnesses say they have seen light emanating from the teenager's forehead.
"It looks a bit like when you shine a torch through your hand," said Tek Bahadur Lama, a member of the committee responsible for dealing with the growing number of visitors from India and elsewhere in Nepal.
[more: watching a mythology develop]
...Perhaps, as Marx suggested, we have adopted religion as an opiate, to soothe the pain of existence. As the philosopher Susanne K. Langer has put it, man "cannot deal with Chaos"; supernatural beliefs solve the problem of this chaos by providing meaning. We are not mere things; we are lovingly crafted by God, and serve his purposes. Religion tells us that this is a just world, in which the good will be rewarded and the evil punished. Most of all, it addresses our fear of death. Freud summed it all up by describing a "three-fold task" for religious beliefs: "they must exorcise the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the cruelty of Fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the sufferings and privations which a civilized life in common has imposed on them."
Religions can sometimes do all these things, and it would be unrealistic to deny that this partly explains their existence. Indeed, sometimes theologians use the foregoing arguments to make a case for why we should believe: if one wishes for purpose, meaning, and eternal life, there is nowhere to go but toward God.
One problem with this view is that, as the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker reminds us, we don't typically get solace from propositions that we don't already believe to be true. Hungry people don't cheer themselves up by believing that they just had a large meal. Heaven is a reassuring notion only insofar as people believe such a place exists; it is this belief that an adequate theory of religion has to explain in the first place.
Also, the religion-as-opiate theory fits best with the monotheistic religions most familiar to us. But what about those people (many of the religious people in the world) who do not believe in an all-wise and just God? Every society believes in spiritual beings, but they are often stupid or malevolent. Many religions simply don't deal with metaphysical or teleological questions; gods and ancestor spirits are called upon only to help cope with such mundane problems as how to prepare food and what to do with a corpse—not to elucidate the Meaning of It All. As for the reassurance of heaven, justice, or salvation, again, it exists in some religions but by no means all. (In fact, even those religions we are most familiar with are not always reassuring. I know some older Christians who were made miserable as children by worries about eternal damnation; the prospect of oblivion would have been far preferable.) So the opiate theory is ultimately an unsatisfying explanation for the existence of religion.
A still night, and thank goodness it's raining. I'm doing alright, preparing to make a leap of faith and leave the job without necessarily having anything else lined up. It's a situation that's a result of a "kill or be killed" environment, and rather than resorting to figurative manslughter, I'm going to claim apathy to the game and walk away with a larger scrap of dignity than most of the mucky-mucks in the whole kooky operation. Y'know, fight the vituperative ambience with disinterested non-chalance. I wrote that just so I could rhyme two French words becuase I'm over it.
Very, very little else is new in the newsworthy sense. The romantic possibilities which were brewing on those two separate fronts are on pause for now, mostly because I don't have time to analyse, much less pursue, the startlingly opposite opportunities. I'm feeling the writing edge slowly, slowly returning after an autumnal hiatus (when I needed it most). It's nice to have words at my dizzy fingertips again, even if they still take their sweet time to emerge at their own convenience. At least they're there.
Otherwise, there's so little of front page import that's underway that this check-in is a pretty light session. I could always descend into gossip or banal details of my glazed-eye saunter through the eleventh month of the year, but I'll try to keep my bloggy head somewhat high above the idle chatter that makes the mundane so mundane. The most of all that claptrap I'll say is that I really need to get some dishes done and rudimentary bacheloresque apartment care completed, but time seems to tick in a way that the matieral world is swept off the clock face by an eager second hand, and suddenly hours have passed and it's time, once again, to be curled with the ratty sleeping bag and succombed to that lovely biological built-in break in the seemingly endless stream of consciousness.
It's almost tomorrow, anyway.
Little silver cup
I've left this empty cup out on the stairs.
We do these things without knowing why,
Maybe I want the cup to be seen, or filled, or drunk by lips invisible,
Who knows what elixer, what mad wine, shall be vinted from on high
In many traditions, the cup symbolizes receptivity-
Now, the cat under the desk ponders the ribbon I've hung for her amusement as out the window, an entire world is awash in a bright, blue day, as starlings flock in movements I cannot possibly understand. I'm thankful for this moment.
Today, we'll laugh and toast the season as frost begins to overtake the year's misgivings and regrets, and the chill wind prepares a feast of newness before us. I'm thankful for the tangy ripeness of change and the rock of friendship.
Tonight, under the stars and amid the dance of winter-teased trees, I will be warm, and quiet, and receptive to the dreams that seep from tomorrow's unknown design. On this Earth, an impossible place, I will sleep folded in wonder that we live at all, and have a time to exist, together. I'm thankful to simply be, for however long and for whatever reason.
Tomorrow is mystery, and I'm thankful for that.
There are so many words for persistence
The question is...
The answer is as simple as stalking a rainbow,
"By and by, Lord, by and by."
You eclipse dualities with the guile of a starling
"There's a better home a'waitin',
Those birds which have written themselves
Leary: DIGITAL POLYTHEISM
The baby boom generation has grown up in an electronic world of TV and personal computing screens. The cyberpunks offer metaphors, rituals, life styles for dealing with the universe of information. More and more of us are becoming electro-shamans, modern alchemists.
Alchemists of the Middle Ages described the construction of magical appliances for viewing future events, or speaking to friends distant or dead. Writings of Paracelsus describe a mirror of ELECTRUM MAGICUM with telegenic properties, and crystal scrying was in its heyday.
Today, digital alchemists have at their command tools of a precision and power unimagined by their predecessors. Computer screens ARE magical mirrors, presenting alternate realities at varying degrees of abstraction on command (invocation). Aleister Crowley defined magick as "the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with our will," and to this end the computer is the universal level of Archimedes.
The parallels between the culture of the alchemists and that of cyberpunk computer adepts are inescapable. Both employ knowledge of an occult arcanum unknown to the population at large, with secret symbols and words of power. The "secret symbols" comprise the languages of computers and mathematics, and the "words of power" instruct computer operating systems to complete Herculean tasks. Knowing the precise code name of a digital program permits it to be conjured into existence, transcending the labor of muscular or mechanical search or manufacture. Rites of initiation or apprenticeship are common to both. "Psychic feats" of telepathy and action-at-a-distance are achieved by selection of the menu option.
If you could make a universe, would you leave a message for its inhabitants to find? Putting the fight between evolution and creationism aside for a moment, a pair of theoretical physicists says it might be worth looking for such a transmission in our universe.
"It's a crazy assumption that there's a supreme being that wants to send us a message," said Steve Hsu, an associate professor at the University of Oregon, admitting that believing in a message involves a leap of faith. "But, if you could create a universe in your laboratory, wouldn't you want to leave a message inside?"
A recent paper that Hsu coauthored suggested that fluctuations in cosmic microwave background radiation found throughout the universe could house a communiqué from our universe's creator. The microwave background is a relic of the Big Bang forged during "decoupling," the early point in the universe's history when matter and energy became distinct.
Are We All Aliens? The New Case for Panspermia
Nestled safely inside the belly of a comet orbiting some unknown star, a microscopic alien sits dormant. Somewhere in this vast universe -- perhaps a place like Earth -- a greater destiny awaits the microbe. A place to flourish, become a nematode or a rose or a teenager.
Life, after all, is tenacious and thrives on change.
Over time, gravity performs a few plausible, but not routine tricks, and the comet is ejected from its stellar orbit like a rock from a slingshot. For more than a 100 million years it slips silently across the inky vastness of interstellar space.
Then gravity goes to work again. Another star tugs at the comet, pulls it in.
A few giant gaseous planets whiz by, their bulks tugging at the comet, altering its course slightly. Ahead now, growing larger, looms a gorgeous blue and brown marble. Water and land. Maybe some air.
Then with the force only the cosmos can summon, the comet slams into the third rock from a mid-sized, moderately powerful star. The alien microbe survives, emerges from its protective shell and spreads like the dickens.
Thus began life on Earth, 3.8 billion years ago.
How do people think when they are insane? What is the stream of consciousness like in a psychotic mind? Even, say, for a minute or two? Since, sadly, I have been there myself nearly twenty years ago I can tell you. The memory of psychotic thinking indeed is quite vivid, I can even now play at recreating it whilst remaining perfectly sane, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone else! In psychosis everything seems to 'mean' something; nothing is trivial; the most innocuous item is quite portentous. And the level of fear is beyond anything a sane mind has ever entertained. it is as if the world 'has a message', as if trivial things have been 'put there' as a sign - in this context it is hardly surprising that psychotics think they are being persecuted by the Mafia or the CIA. Cognitions change with every eye movement; five minutes is a very long time in an acute psychotic episode. The following eye movement/psychotic thought sequence is not atypical: I notice, for example, a dead moth on the window sill - 'a life extinguished' I think, 'like yours may be soon' I also think; I then notice a packet of mints with one left in it ('you have one chance left' I imagine my persecutors saying); then a half onion ('the layers of your mind and character are revealed for all to see' they snidely state); then my eyes alight on Quink ink ('drink you queer'), on painted flowers on the curtains ('your beauty is only painted on'). I turn on the radio, but the first words emitted (in a song) are, 'You can't hide!'. I turn it off immediately and abruptly - but this is curtly 'reacted' to by laughter from the street outside - as if I am being mocked for my evasiveness by some strange all encompassing power that can orchestrate such events. I turn the radio back on - but now the DJ is laughing too. I turn it off again. I cannot get away from the torment. The sound of a car window being smashed rips through the air ('they're breaking through' I fear). The sound of police sirens quickly follows ('help is near'). I relax, And as I relax the 'sequence' seems to stop. My 'galloping paranoia', at least for a few minutes perhaps, is over. Notice that the above is a kind of verbal window on an episode that may last several months in duration! One can see here why patients are in the dreadful state they are on admission: Sometimes every single audible line of a song on the radio can seem 'meaningful' in this way and produce what patients do call 'galloping' of this kind.
The Big Man's always happy to see ya: Kid From Brooklyn
I would like to take the time to introduce myself to you. My name is Michael Caracciolo. I am the president of a ticket company in New Jersey. However, although I have been in the ticket business for many years, I am certain that I am in the wrong profession. I should be an actor instead. I believe that I possess all the qualities necessary for success as an actor. I am a very conversational person, my voice easily projects, via my six foot six inch 400 pound amplifier! I also sing. My unique background, persona and life’s experience truly qualify me as one of a kind .The material recorded here is ad-libbed, improvisational and spontaneous. It contains profanity which is offered only in support of demonstrating my dramatic intensity and the context of the material. I am certain that after watching it once you will immediately want to contact me.
Philip K. Dick: How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later
So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe -- and I am dead serious when I say this -- do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new. [via metafilter]
In quantum physics, nothing is as it seems. As physicists continue to study the universe they continually run into new questions that shake how humans understand the universe's intricate mechanics.
UC Berkeley physics professor, Raphael Bousso, is trying to break down the mysteries of the universe with a concept called the holographic principle. Physicists stumbled on the idea while studying black holes. It is a concept, which ultimately questions whether the third dimension exists.
"There's a real conflict between the way that we're thinking about the world right now, which is a very local way where everything happens independently in different regions of space and the way that we're going to have to think about it," said Bousso in an interview.
The holographic principle uses the optical concept of holograms to try to visually explain the complex idea. Holograms are most often used on credit cards and are images that look three dimensional, but they exist on a two dimensional surface.
"You have to keep in mind that we're just using that name as a sort of metaphor for something that we're specifying quite precisely when we're talking about how much information there is relative to certain areas... One way of quantifying the complexity of matter is to ask how many different states can it be in? How many things can you wiggle in? How many different ways?" Bousso said.
Isadore Upinsky: On Religion and Mysticism
"The main purpose of most religion is to prevent people from killing themselves for the sheer thrill of it, unless that suicide lends a regime some degree of political credence. The main purpose of most mysticism, however, is to encourage people to completely and utterly annihilate their sense of self in order to view the whole of the Universe--- which is quite possible, literally. They do so in a way that does not prop up human institution, but the creative institutions of love, passion and freedom that humans can so barely grasp these days."
~From "Falling through a Whole"
Send in the Clowns: The Darwin exhibition frightening off corporate sponsors
The Turtle says... "meh."
An exhibition celebrating the life of Charles Darwin has failed to find a corporate sponsor because American companies are anxious not to take sides in the heated debate between scientists and fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution.
Excuse me: All Herring Break Loose
In polite society, flatulence is often a social faux pas—especially when issued deliberately. But in the world of fish, group "raspberry-blowing" sessions appear to perform an important social role.
This intriguing idea comes from scientists who discovered that herring create a mysterious underwater noise by farting. Researchers suspect herring hear the bubbles as they're expelled, helping the fish form protective shoals at night. It's the first ever study to suggest fish communicate by breaking wind.
The study's findings, now published online in the U.K. science journal Biology Letters, reveal that Atlantic and Pacific herring create high-frequency sounds by releasing air from their anuses.
"We know [herring] have excellent hearing but little about what they actually use it for," said research team leader Ben Wilson, a marine biologist at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, British Columbia, Canada. "It turns out that herring make unusual farting sounds at night."
It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
Brokeback Mountain = Chokeback Mountain
The already-famous hot gay cowboy sex arrives fairly early in Brokeback Mountain. Without spoiling any of the cowpoking—and really, not since The Crying Game have genitals played such an important and odd role in a plot—it’s safe to share that it’s really fairly graphic and accurate. For Bound, the Wachowski siblings had to recruit sexpert Susie Bright to coach Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly on their girl-on-girl sex scenes, and that was probably the last time same-sex sex looked so totally right onscreen.
Alchemy and Transmutation: Changing and Creating Things and People
For centuries, scientists and pseudo-scientists alike dreamed of transforming base substances into valuable ones -- alchemy. Alchemists tried to turn lead into gold, for example. It never worked. But now science seems to have developed the tools that will enable the realization of the alchemists' dream. We will be able to accomplish transmutation. We will actually turn elements and materials into something entirely different.
By changing a material's atomic structure, which nanotech makes possible, that material can be transformed into something else, with new properties, some of which have never before been seen in nature. Some physicists have even created a new form of life -- globs of gaseous plasma that, like any other life form, can grow, replicate and communicate. Others have applied electrical signals to quantum dots to create programmable matter such as wellstone iron, which can be morphed into substances such as zinc, rubidium or impervium. By rearranging the placement of atoms, scientists can create entirely new fabrics and ceramics. "Bio-fortification" can create new and more nutritious crops.
But it is not only inanimate elements and other substances that can be transformed by science. Human beings can, too. Many scientists are eagerly exploring how people can be transmutated into some superior form of humanity through the convergence of nano-bio-info-cogno technologies. The hope is not only to improve humanity but to more firmly control human evolution in order to create bodies and brains that are more durable, easier to repair and more resistant to disease, stress and aging. By merging biology and electronics, bioartificial replacement parts for the lungs, pancreas, kidneys and limbs can be created. Artificial muscles can be made out of electroactive polymers. Biogerontology will result in the reversal of aging -- "engineered negligible senescence." We seem to be moving with surprising speed toward what Ray Kurzweil calls "Human Body Version 2.0" -- the new re-engineered human that will eliminate or overcome "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to."
More and more scientists are working toward, not only more and better understanding of the human brain, but transformation of it. Consciousness is becoming an academically respectable field of study, and it includes altered states, religion and spirituality. There is a continuing explosion of research on the brain and how it works, how to access its thoughts and patterns, and how it governs behavior and beliefs.
The blog needed a little bit more time to rest. Some call it lazy, the blog calls it "self-care." To each their meta-own.
Blog takes a breather
The blog is taking Friday off to sleep in, watch the birds, and go have a drink at the jazz bar. It will return rested and ready tomorrow.
Tell me what's on my mind
I'm just now beginning to wake up from bizarre night at l'Hotel Diagnostique, with its rather spartan accomodations at dear price. I've got goo in my hair from the electrodes, and I've taken the day to recover from the magic pill that put me into the proper sleep mode for clinical observation.
It didn't take long once I was in there to become fused to a mass of wires, and in a distant lab room, my sleeping, twitching body was viewed in infrared while my dreams were reduced to squiggles and bits. A tube up my nose monitored my breathing, and electrodes monitored every movement. All went well apparently until about 3AM, when I gave them a dose of who-knows-what in the control room, and the technician was not allowed to say exactly what my body was doing in command unconscious performance. Somehow a night's sleep produced 1,000 pages of data, which will be scruitinized over the next two weeks to see exactly where and why I stop breathing when I sleep.
I tried a CPAP machine on for size, and it actually wasn't that bad. It's likely I'll have to go back and do another study with the machine on, and it was actually nice to see how much breath I could take in with it on, but whether that becomes a fact of my future life remains to be seen. The surreality of the night itself was rather unforgettable, but with annual increase of the patients they see with sleep apnea, my presence at l'Hotel Diagnostique was just another passing face, checking in and checking out.
The Diagnostic Hotel
I'm checking in tonight for an overnight sleep apnea study. I'm a little nervous, and hopefully I'll actually be able to sleep to give them something to study. The suspicion of having sleep apnea has been with me for a while, and I'm hopeful that a quick diagnosis and treatment will be ultimately lead to a quality of life increase.
We shall see. Wish me luck.
Revision Thing: A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies
We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. And we found more weapons as time went on. I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. But for those who said we hadn't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they were wrong, we found them. We knew where they were.
We changed the regime of Iraq for the good of the Iraqi people. We didn't want to occupy Iraq. War is a terrible thing. We've tried every other means to achieve objectives without a war because we understood what the price of a war can be and what it is. We sought peace. We strove for peace. Nobody, but nobody, was more reluctant to go to war than President Bush.
Steindl-Rast: The Mystical Core of Organized Religion
Like every step forward in life... the discovery of mysticism as everyone's inalienable right brings with it a puzzling tension. Those who feel this tension most keenly are people who have long been members of an established religion, with its doctrines, ethical precepts, and rites. They may discover the mystical reality inside the religious establishment or outside of it: either in church or on a mountaintop, while listening to Bach's B-Minor Mass, or while watching a sunset. In any case, but especially out in nature, those who taste mystical ecstasy may begin to sense a discrepancy between this undeniably religious experience and the forms that normally pass as religious. If the religious pursuit is essentially the human quest for meaning, then these most meaningful moments of human existence must certainly be called "religious." They are, in fact, quickly recognized as the very heart of religion, especially by people who have the good fortune of feeling at home in a religious tradition. And yet, the body of religion doesn't always accept its heart. This can happen in any religious tradition, Eastern or Western. To the establishment, after all, mysticism is suspect. The established religion asks: Why is there a need for absorption in the Cloud of Unknowing when we have spelled out everything so clearly? And isn't that emphasis on personal experience a bit egocentric? Who can be sure that people standing on their own feet won't go their own way? These suspicions gave rise to the famous saying that "myst-i-cism begins with mist, puts the I in the center, and ends in schism."
In every religion, there is this tension between the mystic and the religious establishment.
Om maker: Meditation builds up the brain
Meditating does more than just feel good and calm you down, it makes you perform better – and alters the structure of your brain, researchers have found.
People who meditate say the practice restores their energy, and some claim they need less sleep as a result. Many studies have reported that the brain works differently during meditation – brainwave patterns change and neuronal firing patterns synchronise. But whether meditation actually brings any of the restorative benefits of sleep has remained largely unexplored.
If we accept that humans have a finite individual lifespan, and no one can ever be immortal, then maybe we should keep in mind that our species also has a limit for its span on Earth. Instead, in our optimism we imagine that if we could manage ourselves and the Earth well enough we could, somehow, find ways to cope with a doubling lifespan, or a doubling of population. We assume the extra stress we would place on Earth's ecosystems could be prevented or alleviated by good stewardship or planetary management.
I think this is our greatest error. Consider how the well-intentioned application of the principles of human welfare and freedom that moved us in the... 20th century failed our bright expectations. Cruel tyrannies now reign in much of what we call the Developing World. In spite of modern medicine, in many places the quality and the length of life diminishes as the land dies under the weight of sacred cows and insupportable numbers of people.
Consider also yourself. You might suffer the misfortune of an accident that damaged your kidneys. Not fatally, but enough to cause those wonderful intelligent filters to fail in their task of regulating the electrolytes, the salts of your blood. You can survive, even live a normal life, but only by taking care to monitor your intakes of salt and water. Such a burden powerfully reinforces the wonder at how well our body manages itself when we are healthy.
Words to Live By: How Spirituality Informs Writers' Works
Writers are celebrated for the ways, both obvious and subtle, in which they reach and inspire their readers. Yet rarely do we consider the sources from which authors themselves draw inspiration. Earlier this year, Bill Moyers, Jim Wallis, Peter Matthiessen, and Doug TenNapel—four writers who have long energized diverse audiences with their words—came together for a writers symposium at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, where they spoke about the ways in which spirituality informs their work. Despite their different backgrounds, experiences, and chosen mediums, these four authors share similar concerns at the heart of their creations— whether an essay on politics, a television series on life’s origins, a narrative reflection on our place in nature, or a comic book on dinosaurs.
Secret Scrutiny: In Hunt for Terrorists, FBI Examines Records of Ordinary Americans
The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said.
Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.
Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public. The Washington Post established their identities -- still under seal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit -- by comparing unsealed portions of the file with public records and information gleaned from people who had no knowledge of the FBI demand.
The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. "National security letters," created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.
The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.
late-night noodle soup (reheated for morning)
Ah, the moon wrapped in cloud again,
The Buddha's daughter: A young Tibetan-Chinese woman has an unprecedented role to play
I never met the tenth Panchen Lama, who died at his monastery in Tibet in 1989, but I was introduced to his family in Beijing in the mid-nineties, and recently I went to Washington to see his daughter, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, a twenty-year-old political-science student at American University who likes to be called Renji. She met me at Dulles airport, slightly flustered, thinking that she was going to be late. She had attended a conference on Tibetan medicine that morning, she explained, and had had to go home to change her clothes. Renji, whose mother is Chinese, uses the title "princess." It's on her calling card. The Chinese government-bizarrely for a country that still thinks of itself as Communist-not only permits the royal honorific but endorses it. Renji's role carries certain obligations, among them the self-imposed discipline of wearing Tibetan national dress on formal occasions. She had spent the morning in a traditional chuba, the long robe worn by both men and women in Tibet. Now she was wearing a white knitted top over a black shirt and black trousers. [via metafilter]
Free and Clear? Caution over HIV 'cure' claims
Doctors say they want to investigate the case of a British man with HIV who apparently became clear of the virus. Andrew Stimpson, 25, was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2002 but was found to be negative in October 2003 by Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust. Mr Stimpson, from London, said he was "one of the luckiest people alive".
The trust said the tests were accurate but had been unable to confirm Scotsman Mr Stimpson's cure because he had declined to undergo further tests.
A statement from the trust said: "This is a rare and complex case. When we became aware of Mr Stimpson's HIV negative test results we offered him further tests to help us investigate and find an explanation for the different results.
The idea of achieving some kind of immortality beyond this body sounds like a good idea but having my brain plucked apart by a robot spider has always left me somewhat ambivalent. My feelings about these prospects could be summed up by a well-known remark made by comic Woody Allen.
Allen reflecing on one of his two favorite topics said: "I am not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature
Given the multifactorial nature of depression and anxiety, and the ambiguities inherent in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, some have questioned whether the mass provision of SSRIs is the result of an over-medicalized society. These sentiments were voiced by Lord Warner, United Kingdom Health Minister, at a recent hearing: “I have some concerns that sometimes we do, as a society, wish to put labels on things which are just part and parcel of the human condition”. He went on to say, “Particularly in the area of depression we did ask the National Institute for Clinical Excellence [an independent health organisation that provides national guidance on treatment and prevention] to look into this particular area and their guideline on depression did advise non-pharmacological treatment for mild depression”. Sentiments such as Lord Warner's, about over-medicalization, are exactly what some pharmaceutical companies have sought to overcome with their advertising campaigns. For example, Pfizer's television advertisement for the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft) stated that depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance, and that “Zoloft works to correct this imbalance”. Other SSRI advertising campaigns have also claimed that depression is linked with an imbalance of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and that SSRIs can correct this imbalance. The pertinent question is: are the claims made in SSRI advertising congruent with the scientific evidence?
Really tired today. Will return tomorrow.
extra, extra, imagine all about it
If my life were a newspaper, here are the top stories in today's edition, staring out at you from a vending machin in front of a gas station what you noticed after noticing the haloes around the moon:
Mystics and masters collect and store sacred knowledge and esoteric principles in much the same way as bees collect nectar, although they have the capacity to concentrate and change the nectars when they are gathered so that when the time comes and the containers are accessed, the knowledge that has been concealed will inform the deeply curious and be of value to seekers of truth. By bringing new meaning to old texts, or revising rituals and meditation techniques, great teachers create new bodies of work. Secrets of esoteric understanding are redesigned and couched in new forms. Methods are borrowed from one tradition and used to inform another. Legends are created and masterfully designed nuggets of wisdom are hidden within. As time passes, the truths that once were obvious become obscured. They are hidden, and they wait to be rediscovered.
The temperature of Heaven can be rather accurately computed. Our authority is Isaiah 30:26, "Moreover, the light of the Moon shall be as the light of the Sun and the light of the Sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days." Thus Heaven receives from the Moon as much radiation as we do from the Sun, and in addition 7 x 7 (49) times as much as the Earth does from the Sun, or 50 times in all.
The light we receive from the Moon is one 1/10,000 of the light we receive from the Sun, so we can ignore that.
The radiation falling on Heaven will heat it to the point where the heat lost by radiation is just equal to the heat received
by radiation, i.e., Heaven loses 50 times as much heat as the Earth by radiation. Using the Stefan-Boltzmann law for radiation, (H/E)^4 = 50, where E is the absolute temperature of the earth (-300ºK), gives H as 798ºK (525ºC).
The exact temperature of Hell cannot be computed. However, Revelation 21:8 says "But the fearful, and unbelieving ... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." A lake of molten brimstone [sulphur] means that its temperature must be at or below its boiling point, 444.6ºC.
We have, then, that Heaven, at 525ºC is hotter than Hell at 445ºC.
"It's more than a general dumbing down of America—the lack of self-motivated thinking: clear, creative thinking. It's like you're happy for other people to think for you. If you should be worried about, say, global warming, well, somebody in Washington will tell me whether or not I should be worried about global warming. So it's like this abdication of intellectual responsibility—that America now is getting to the point that more and more people would just love to let somebody else think for them."
The country was founded by people who were fundamentally curious; Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, to name only the most obvious examples, were inveterate tinkerers. (Before dispatching Lewis and Clark into the Louisiana Territory, Jefferson insisted that the pair categorize as many new plant and animal species as they found. Considering they were also mapping everything from Missouri to Oregon, this must have been a considerable pain in the canoe.) Further, they assumed that their posterity would feel much the same as they did; in 1815, appealing to Congress to fund the building of a national university, James Madison called for the development of "a nursery of enlightened preceptors."
It is a long way from that to the moment on February 18, 2004, when sixty-two scientists, including a clutch of Nobel laureates, released a report accusing the incumbent administration of manipulating science for political ends. It is a long way from Jefferson's observatory and Franklin's kite to George W. Bush, in an interview in 2005, suggesting that intelligent design be taught alongside the theory of evolution in the nation's science classes. "Both sides ought to be properly taught," said the president, "so people can understand what the debate is about."
The "debate," of course, is nothing of the sort, because two sides are required for a debate. Nevertheless, the very notion of it is a measure of how scientific discourse, and the way the country educates itself, has slipped through lassitude and inattention across the border into Idiot America—where fact is merely that which enough people believe, and truth is measured only by how fervently they believe it.
Leary: The Declaration of Evolution
When in the course of organic evolution it becomes obvious that a mutational process is inevitably dissolving the physical and neurological bonds which connect the members of one generation to the past and inevitably directing them to assume among the species of Earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them, a decent concern for the harmony of species requires that the causes of the mutation should be declared.
We hold these truths to be self evident:
• That all species are created different but equal;
• That they are endowed, each one, with certain inalienable rights;
• That among them are Freedom to Live, Freedom to Grow, and Freedom to pursue Happiness in their own style;
• That to protect these God-given rights, social structures naturally emerge, basing their authority on the principles of love of God and respect for all forms of life;
• That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and harmony, it is the organic duty of the young members of that species to mutate, to drop out, to initiate a new social structure, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its power in such form as seems likely to produce the safety, happiness, and harmony of all sentient beings.
Comprehensive: Who Is Lying About Iraq?
Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq by telling a series of lies that have now been definitively exposed.
What makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike. In this it resembles nothing so much as those animated cartoon characters who, after being flattened, blown up, or pushed over a cliff, always spring back to life with their bodies perfectly intact. Perhaps, like those cartoon characters, this allegation simply cannot be killed off, no matter what.
Nevertheless, I want to take one more shot at exposing it for the lie that it itself really is. Although doing so will require going over ground that I and many others have covered before, I hope that revisiting this well-trodden terrain may also serve to refresh memories that have grown dim, to clarify thoughts that have grown confused, and to revive outrage that has grown commensurately dulled. [via metafilter]
Monbiot: Better off without Him?
Are religious societies better than secular ones? It should be an easy question for athiests to answer. Most of those now seeking to blow people up – whether with tanks and missiles or rucksacks and passenger planes – do so in the name of God. In India, we see men whose religion forbids them to harm insects setting light to human beings. A 14th-century Pope with a 21st-century communications network sustains his church’s mission of persecuting gays and denying women ownership of their bodies. Bishops and rabbis in Britain have just united in the cause of prolonging human suffering, by opposing the legalisation of assisted suicide. We know that the most dangerous human trait is an absence of self-doubt, and that self-doubt is more likely to be absent from the mind of the believer than the infidel.
But we also know that few religious governments have committed atrocities on the scale of Hitler’s, Mao’s or Stalin’s (though, given their more limited means, the Spanish and British in the Americas, the British, Germans and Belgians in Africa and the British in Australia and India could be said to have done their best). It is hard to dismiss Dostoyevsky’s suspicion that “if God does not exist, then everything is permissible.”(1) Nor can we wholly disagree with the new Pope when he warns that “we are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which … has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”(2) (We must trust, of course, that a man who has spent his life campaigning to become God’s go-between, and who now believes he is infallible, is immune to such impulses). The creationists in the United States might be as mad as a box of ferrets, but what they claim to fear is the question which troubles almost everyone who has stopped to think about it: if our lives have no purpose, why should we care about other people’s?
I remember a conference in New York City. The topic was social justice. Assembled for the meeting were theologians, pastors, priests, nuns, and lay church leaders. At one point a Native American stood up, looked out over the mostly white audience, and said, “Regardless of what the New Testament says, most Christians are materialists with no experience of the Spirit. Regardless of what the New Testament says, most Christians are individualists with no real experience of community.” He paused for a moment and then continued: “Let’s pretend that you were all Christians. If you were Christians, you would no longer accumulate. You would share everything you had. You would actually love one another. And you would treat each other as if you were family.” His eyes were piercing as he asked, “Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you live that way?”
There was more sophisticated theological and political analysis per square foot in that room than most places. Yet no one could give an answer to the man’s questions. He had put his finger on the central problem we face in the churches today. Our Scriptures, confessions, and creeds are all very public, out in the open. Anyone can easily learn what it is supposed to mean to be a Christian. Our Bible is open to public examination; so is the church’s life. That is our prob¬lem. People can read what our Scriptures say, and they can see how Christians live. The gulf between the two has created an enormous credibility gap.
Spreading Democracy: Greenhouse gas 'to rise by 52%'
Global greenhouse gas emissions will rise by 52% by 2030, unless the world takes action to reduce energy consumption, a study has warned.The prediction comes from the latest annual World Energy Outlook report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that under current consumption trends, energy demand will also rise by more than 50% over the next 25 years.
Spreading Freedom: US forces used chemical weapons during assault on Fallujah
Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.
Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.
Watts: The World As Emptiness
There is a wonderful meditation called 'The House that Jack Built Meditation,' at least that's what I call it, that the Southern Buddhists practice. He walks, and he says to himself, 'There is the lifting of the foot.' The next thing he says is 'There is a perception of the lifting of the foot.' And the next, he says 'There is a tendency towards the perception of the feeling of the lifting of the foot.' Then finally he says, 'There is a consciousness of the tendency of the perception of the feeling of the lifting of the foot.' And so, with everything that he does, he knows that he does it. He is self-aware. This is tricky. Of course, it's not easy to do. But as you practice this--I'm going to let the cat out of the bag, which I suppose I shouldn't do--but you will find that there are so many things to be aware of at any given moment in what you're doing, that at best you only ever pick out one or two of them. That's the first thing you'll find out. Ordinary conscious awareness is seeing the world with blinkers on. As we say, you can think of only one thing at a time. That's because ordinary consciousness is narrowed consciousness. It's being narrow-minded in the true sense of the word, looking at things that way. Then you find out in the course of going around being aware all of the time--what are you doing when you remember? Or when you think about the future? 'I am aware that I am remembering'? 'I am aware that I am thinking about the future'?
But you see, what eventually happens is that you discover that there isn't any way of being absent-minded. All thoughts are in the present and of the present. And when you discover that, you approach samadhi. Samadhi is the complete state, the fulfilled state of mind. And you will find many, many different ideas among the sects of Buddhists and Hindus as to what samadhi is. Some people call it a trance, some people call it a state of consciousness without anything in it, knowing with no object of knowledge. All these are varying opinions. I had a friend who was a Zen master, and he used to talk about samadhi, and he said a very fine example of samadhi is a fine horserider. When you watch a good cowboy, he is one being with the horse. So an excellent driver in a car makes the car his own body, and he absolutely is with it. So also a fine pair of dancers. They don't have to shove each other to get one to do what the other wants him to do. They have a way of understanding each other, of moving together as if they were siamese twins. That's samadhi, on the physical, ordinary, everyday level. The samadhi of which buddha speaks is the state which, as it is, the gateway to nirvana, the state in which the illusion of the ego as a separate thing disintegrates.
I'm wearing happy pants...
...Mostly because the Universe seems to be a giant listening device. Really. I've been asking for a breakthrough which will lead me out of my current job, which is in an abusive and hostile environment. It seems, without jinxing anything, as if there is great progress on two front, and both are radical departures from my current grind. I won't stop looking, however.
Also, after experiencing a number of painful financial setbacks, by car got a ding in a parking lot, for which I'll receive a $400 mea culpa check. I'm happy to live with the ding in order to make a car payment or two from it. That is seriously good news, which seems to relate to a universal law of karma; all good things come in balance. For each blessing from the cosmic, there is a little sacrifice one must make in tribute, a kind of quantum TINSTAAFL.
And suddenly, after a long drought, there seems to be opportunities for a minimum of companionship and a maximum of romance on two to three front. In fact, it seems that I'm being presented with choices. I need mellow in this department, and it seems as if these opportunities meet that base criteria. No use getting hopes uppity at this point, but there is an apparent warming trend poised to meet the cold front. And one knows meteorlogically what happens when the twain meet, so umbrella is in position.
So, I'm feeling optimistic for the first time in a while, and that's a good thing. I won't let myself be lulled into mediocrity by this uptick, however... I've got to keep working at it and be diligent, and prepared to face obstacle and challenge. At the very least, all this goodness it quite flattering. So, thanks, Universe, and thanks to all those who have been pulling for me. Keep pulling.
It was a great surprise to discover that the vigorous brain activation of REM sleep occurred at regular 90-minute intervals and occupied up to 20% of sleep. This fact alone invalidated the belief that sleep was caused by and associated with a cessation of brain activity. Other facts supported the idea that the brain was continuously active during sleep. The early cerebral blood flow studies of Kety and later Sokolov showed only a 20% reduction in cerebral blood flow during sleep. Because blood flow is correlated with neuronal activity it should not have been a surprise to find that almost as many neurons increased their firing rate at sleep onset as their activity decreased6. Even during NREM sleep, when consciousness may be totally obliterated, the brain remains significantly active.
Fritjof Capra: What Matters Most
I began with the observation that our social institutions are unable to solve the major problems of our time because they adhere to the concepts of an outdated worldview, the mechanistic worldview of seventeenth-century science. The natural sciences, as well as the humanities and social sciences, have all modeled themselves after classical Newtonian physics, and the limitations of the Newtonian worldview are now manifest in the multiple aspects of global crisis. While the Newtonian model is still the dominant paradigm in our academic institutions and in society at large, I continued, physicists have gone far beyond it. I described the worldview I saw emerging from the new physics—its emphasis on interconnectedness, relationship, dynamic patterns, and continual change and transformation—and I expressed my belief that the other sciences would have to change their underlying philosophies accordingly in order to be consistent with this new vision of reality. Such radical change, I maintained, would also be the only way to really solve our urgent economic, social, and environmental problems.
I presented my thesis carefully and concisely, and when I paused at the end I expected Schumacher to agree with me on the essential points. He had expressed very similar ideas in his book and I was confident that he would help me formulate my thesis more concretely.
Schumacher looked at me with his friendly eyes and said slowly: "We have to be very careful to avoid head-on confrontation."
The history of neoshamanism is bound up with the history of psychedelic drugs in the 1960s. Carlos Castenada's hoax was accepted uncritically because it provided something that people were looking for: a mythic framework for tripping, a worldview that gave their experience a context and meaning. Government propaganda against psychotropic drugs was countered by raising the point of shamanic use of those same drugs. Unfortunately, the myths of "progress" and "the Enlightenment" combined those ideas seamlessly. Yes, shamans used psychotropic drugs; that underscores the uselessness of religion, and the basic foundation of religious expression in delusion. Shamans became denigrated as some kind of sacred addict.
These "plant allies" in shamanic cultures bolster the shaman's abilities. They allow new, inexperienced shamans and those uninitiated into the mysteries of consciousness to experience those states the shaman specializes in. Sometimes the state is described as a kind of symbiosis between the shaman and the "plant ally." The altered state of consciousness is considered a melding of the practitioner's human consciousness, and the entheogen's plant consciousness. Very often among entheogenic, shamanic cultures, the entheogen they use is apotheosized as a god in itself. [via bruce eisner]
Perhaps the most intriguing and important conflict throughout human history has been the continuing struggle between the forces of authority and those individuals seeking freedom to follow their own exploratory impulses. The forces of authority, aware that their power over others rests on maintaining the status quo, have throughout the ages attempted to restrict social change by controlling or suppressing the flow of information. The seekers of social change and individual freedom, on the other hand, have always attempted to spread new information as widely as possible. Compare, for example, the jealous guarding of information by ancient rulers, emperors and church authorities with the command of Jesus to his disciples to "go out into the world and spread the Gospel." In the area of spiritual wisdom and spiritual technologies, this has meant that throughout history those in positions of spiritual authority, those in control of the spiritual technologies, and who seek to maintain power, have attempted to keep the spiritual technologies secret. Thus they have perpetuated the tradition of spiritual "mysteries," known only to a small circle of initiates, passed down to selected individuals who will perpetuate the tradition and maintain the secrecy - and the authority - of the spiritual technologies.
On the other hand, the seekers of change, wanting to spread information as widely as possible, have always sought to tear away the veil of secrecy that has hidden the spiritual mysteries. Thus, one central impulse throughout history has been to find ways of systematizing and simplifying spiritual technologies to make them more easily taught, and to provide access to the core mystical experience to as many people as possible. As an example: for millennia, the mysteries of how to attain states of spiritual ecstasy was kept secret, passed down in monasteries and mystery schools from master to pupil.
But then, as Dr. Herbert Benson observes in The Relaxation Response, by the twelfth century... it was realized that this ecstasy could be induced in the-ordinary man in a relatively short time by rhythmic exercises, involving posture, control of breath, coordinated movements, and oral repetitions.
In many ways the western rationalist, materialist scientific tradition of the last five hundred years can be seen as an attempt to systematize and make accessible to all - that is, to democratize - these mystical experiences. Power to the people
Unplugged: The Simulation will be shut down
Just when you thought the perils of bird flu, terrorism, bio-engineered viruses, grey goo and pathological AI were enough to be getting on with, thank you very much, Kurzweil brings back an old chestnut to put somewhere near the bottom of your list of worries. But whatever you do, try not to be boring – the fate of humanity might depend on it.
[An] existential risk that Bostrom and others have identified is that we’re actually living in a simulation and the simulation will be shut down. It might appear that there’s not a lot we could do to influence this. However, since we’re the subject of the simulation, we do have the opportunity to shape what happens inside of it. The best way we could avoid being shut down would be to be interesting to the observers of the simulation. Assuming that someone is actually paying attention to the simulation, it’s a fair assumption that it’s less likely to be turned off when it’s compelling than otherwise.
For John Halpern to study the effects of peyote on American Indians who use the hallucinogenic cactus in religious ceremonies, observing from a distance was not an option. Halpern lived on the Navajo Nation reservation for months at a time and participated in prayer ceremonies. Earning their trust and cooperation would have been impossible if he refused to ingest peyote, he said.
"It never would have happened if I hadn't done that. It's one of the ways they take the measure of a man," said Halpern, a psychiatrist at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont, just outside of Boston. A 1994 federal law allows roughly 300,000 members of the Native American Church to use peyote as a religious sacrament, but Halpern set out to find scientific proof for the Navajos' belief that the substance is not hazardous to their health.
After five years of research, Halpern and other McLean researchers did not find any evidence of brain damage or psychological problems in church members who frequently use peyote, which contains the hallucinogen mescaline. In fact, they found that members of the Native American Church performed better on some of the neuropsychological tests than other Navajos who do not regularly use peyote.
Rumi: What goes round...
According to his most authoritative modern biographer, the Persian scholar Franklin D Lewis, "while Rumi seems slightly out of place in the company of Ginsberg, and seriously misunderstood as a poet of sexual love, it simply defies credulity to find Rumi in the realm of haute couture. But models draped in Donna Karan's new black, charcoal and platinum fall fashions actually flounced down the runway to health guru Deepak Chopra's recent musical versions of Rumi."
There is an additional layer of paradox and absurdity here: although Rumi lived and wrote in central Turkey, he is almost unread in his homeland and there is no accessible modern edition of his work in contemporary Turkish. According to Talat Halman, the leading Turkish Rumi scholar, whom I went to see in Istanbul, "Rumi is certainly not the bestselling poet in Turkey - far from it. For one thing, his poems have not been translated as extensively as they should have been, and the translations that exist are not poetic enough. People here simply don't have the patience to read a huge book like [Rumi's masterpiece] The Masnavi."
Happy 1708: The Phantom Time Hypothesis
The Phantom Time Hypothesis suggests that the early Middle Ages (614-911 A.D.) never happened, but were added to the calendar long ago either by accident, by misinterpretation of documents, or by deliberate falsification by calendar conspirators. This would mean that all artifacts ascribed to those three centuries belong to other periods, and that all events thought to have occurred during that same period occurred at other times, or are outright fabrications. For instance, a man named Heribert Illig, one of the leading proponents of the theory, believes that Charlemagne was a fictional character. But what evidence is this outlandish theory based upon?
It seems that historians are plagued by a plethora of falsified documents from the Middle Ages, and such was the subject of an archaeological conference in München, Germany in 1986. In his lecture there, Horst Fuhrmann, president of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, described how some documents forged by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages were created hundreds of years before their “great moments” arrived, after which they were embraced by medieval society. This implied that whomever produced the forgeries must have very skillfully anticipated the future… or there was some discrepancy in calculating dates.
Verses on Returning to Horsepasture River
The pools of the river reflect this world
As I write these few words
I'll post something cosmically chewy tomorrow. In the meantime, here's the top five mental memes of the last week:
The speed of light waves in vacuum, 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles per second), and denoted as c, remains the absolute speed limit for transferring matter, energy, and usable signals (information). However, a wave property known as group velocity can surpass c while still complying fully with the theory of special relativity, since it is not involved in transferring information, matter, or energy.
Bonus points to everyone whose heads do not automatically a'splode!
As a legal noose appears to be tightening around the Bush/Cheney/Rove inner circle, a shocking government report shows the floor under the legitimacy of their alleged election to the White House is crumbling.
The latest critical confirmation of key indicators that the election of 2004 was stolen comes in an extremely powerful, penetrating report from the Government Accountability Office that has gotten virtually no mainstream media coverage.
The government's lead investigative agency is known for its general incorruptibility and its thorough, in-depth analyses. Its concurrence with assertions widely dismissed as "conspiracy theories" adds crucial new weight to the case that Team Bush has no legitimate business being in the White House.
Nearly a year ago, senior Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) asked the GAO to investigate electronic voting machines as they were used during the November 2, 2004 presidential election. The request came amidst widespread complaints in Ohio and elsewhere that often shocking irregularities defined their performance.
According to CNN, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received "more than 57,000 complaints" following Bush's alleged re-election. Many such concerns were memorialized under oath in a series of sworn statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations conducted in Ohio by the Free Press and other election protection organizations.
The non-partisan GAO report has now found that, "some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."
Absinthe: The Mystery of the Green Menace
Absinthe was first distilled in 1792 in Switzerland, where it was marketed as a medicinal elixir, a cure for stomach ailments. High concentrations of chlorophyll gave it a rich olive color. In the 19th century, people began turning to the minty drink less for pains of the stomach than for pains of the soul. Absinthe came to be associated with artists and Moulin Rouge bohemians. Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Van Gogh, and Picasso were devotees. Toulouse-Lautrec carried some in a hollowed-out cane. Oscar Wilde wrote, "What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?" Soon absinthe was the social lubricant of choice for a broad swath of Europeans - artists and otherwise. In 1874, the French sipped 700,000 liters of the stuff; by the turn of the century, consumption had shot up to 36 million liters, driven in part by a phylloxera infestation that had devastated the wine-grape harvest.
By the early 20th century, absinthe was becoming popular in America. It found a natural reception in New Orleans, where the bon temps were already rolling. Breaux's own great-grandparents were known to enjoy an occasional glass. But the drink was drawing fire for its thujone content. "It is truly madness in a bottle, and no habitual drinker can claim that he will not become a criminal," declared one politician. The anti-absinthe fervor climaxed in 1905, when Swiss farmer Jean Lanfray shot his pregnant wife and two daughters after downing two glasses. (Overlooked was what else Lanfray consumed that day: crème de menthe, cognac, seven glasses of wine, coffee with brandy, and another liter of wine.) By the end of World War I, the "green menace" was made illegal everywhere in western Europe except Spain. No reputable distillery still made it.
Krauss indicated that man’s speculations about other dimensions has a long history, going back to at least Plato’s allegory of people trapped in a cave who must watch the changing shadows on the wall in order to interpret the real events taking place in the world beyond their direct view. This speculation has carried on through science fiction, art and literature in the 20th century, and has culminated in the recent scientific fascination with the idea that the universe may contain as many as 10 or 11 dimensions of space, arising from string theory.
“One thing that has connected man through the ages is his imagination...it is the world beyond our experience where we are digging deep into our own psyches,” Krauss writes.
Raging Chimp: Bush's Increasing Mental Lapses and Temper Tantrums
Senior aides describe Bush as increasingly “edgy” or “nervous” or “unfocused.” They say the President goes from apparent coherent thought one moment to aimless rambles about political enemies and those who are “out to get me.”
“It’s worse than the days when Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s began setting in,” one longtime GOP operative told me privately this week. “You don’t know if he’s going to be coherent from one moment to the next. What scares me is if he lapses into one of those fogs during a public appearance.”
Aides say Bush, who has always had trouble focusing during times of stress, is increasingly distant during meetings, often staring off into space during discussions on the nation’s security and other issues.
waking dream pt. 2
(This will conclude the recounting of yesterday's incredibly bizarre and detailed dream. I've been thinking about it all day, trying to preserve the detail and storyline as best as I could as I navigated the various distractions and illusions that a day make).
We emerged slowly from the car as our eyes focused on the scene... all of these people walked about from one portal to another, emotionless, hairless, and all in tight black garments. A few stopped to stare, as the rest of the crowd kept going. A loud voice over the crowd was saying "Sunday-outside-day" in a 'cheerful monotone,' and we started to ask for help. Ask for anything, but all the people did was stare and point. Down the same road we came in on, we say a line of people walking toward us, in black from head to toe, carrying something shiny. In a rush of movement, a group of people came from behind a building and grabbed us, and they (there were many) were wearing masks of many kinds. As the rushed us of, one whispered "shut up and follow us quickly or this could end very badly." As we were dragged off, the slow to respond crowd seemed to say in unison "Ruffians!"
They got us away from the crowd, and pulled out other masks and put them on us. They said that they, that is the police that were coming, can't recognize and thus won't interfere with anyone wearing a mask. We asked how they got there and they said that they didn't know, but said they'd been there for a long time and have no memory of life outside of this place. They know that this isn't their home, and their language is full English while the city speaks a very minimalized, clipped English. The leader of this group, a tall scruffy fellow, then asked if we knew Helen.
Of course this was a great surprise, as it was Helen who followed us down the hole. We said yes, of course, and they said that they all have a memory of Helen but don't know who or what she is. This presented some immediate questions:
*We somehow have complete memories of our lives before we went down the hole, and these people don't.
The group also didn't recall exactly how they got into the city. We told them about the beach and the ladder and the wall, and they appeared dumbfounded. As we talked, the police (Cyborgs, the Ruffians informed us) walked by us as if we were invisible. We told them of our friend who went back to try to find the hole, and they said that if he's outside of the city, they have no idea how he'll survive. As to how they survive, the Ruffians live in a half-built structure, and have infiltrated the city enough to regularly pillage their food, which they decry as "piss-poor." Yet the mask trick really works, and they are universally avoided whereever they go. They haven't tried, nor do they feel they would have any success with talking to the city dwellers. The leader said something to the effect of "It's as if they're drugged out of their mind and are terribly slow to react. They don't seem to have any desire to do anything independently, yet no one tells them what to do. They do nothing. They're only half alive, and to try to wake them up seems pointless."
(It seems as if I've forgotten the tail end of the dream, which I guess is up to me to finish at some point. There's a lot of loose ends to tie up. Perhaps what I'll do down the road on the next rainy day is combine these entries or rewrite them when I'm not half-asleep and completely bereft of literary flair. As I've said, this dream really happened and I'm trying to recount it to the best of my memory. Who knows, maybe I could turn this into a rather intriguing novella-thing?)
...that I said that I would finish telling you about the dream I had this morning, but I'm falling asleep at the keys and will wrap up the surreal reverie tomorrow morning.
The increase in consciousness and life force is seen as the purpose of evolution What is it that makes one form of life more advanced than another? From one point of view, we can say that some beings are literally more alive than others. This 'aliveness', that the French philosopher Henri Bergson called the 'elan vital,' has manifested itself more powerfully within them. We can see the whole evolutionary process which has taken life forward from amoebi to human beings as a process of 'vitalisation', by which living things become progressively more animated. As living beings become more 'vitalised' the intensity of their consciousness increases; so another parallel way of looking at evolution is to see it as a process by which living beings become more and more conscious.
Thus, we can say that because the 'elan vital' is relatively weak inside them, plants only have a small degree of consciousness, which manifests itself in the way they react to changes in their environment; while animals like sheep and cows are more conscious than, say, insects, because they have a much fuller awareness of their surroundings. And we human beings, as the latest products of the evolutionary process, are more 'vital' and also more conscious than any other animal: we're the only animals who have self-awareness, for example, the only animals who are conscious of death to any degree, and also the only animals who are conscious of the past.
The 'elan vital', or 'life force', is inside us all. It's the vital energy which we give out as we go about our daily lives, which we expend when we think, when we work, when we use our senses to perceive what's happening around us, and which we also need to mantain the healthy functioning of our bodies. It's this energy which is recharged inside us when we sleep, which drains out of us when we've been doing too many things and our senses have been overloaded with external stimuli, and which also passes out of us when we die. The Chinese word for this 'life energy' is Chi, and acupuncture and the exercises of Chi Gung and T'ai Chi are based on it, while in Sanskrit the word for it is Prana, and it's the principle underlying the exercises of hatha yoga. Strangely, even though everybody
It's very important to look at the 'elan vital' in both these areas, in connection with evolution and in connection with ourselves, because there's a very close relationship between the evolutionary process as a whole and the personal evolution which can take place in our own lives. In exactly the same way that evolution as a whole can be seen as a process by which living beings become more and more 'vitalised', we can also see personal spiritual development as a process of making ourselves more and more 'vitalised' as individuals.
waking dream pt. 1
(I'm, just waking up, so please forgive the lack of verbal flair as I try to describe this dream)
The end of this world, and all of its laws and orders, began simply enough with a cold snap. Rather, a series of them, with snow in the middle of summer. Some friends and I were in the midst of a week long hike on the Appalachian Trail, and this made our ordeal quite trying, as we certainly weren't dressed for the freakish change in weather. Passing hikers were beginning to swell mysteriously in number, with larger and larger packs stuffed with survival gear, and they had warned us that turning back was a bad idea, as the sudden snaps were causing society to break down... one element crying over the 'end times,' another up in arms over a catastrophic environmental collapse. As this talk had really started to bother us, and with the density of those fleeing society going up the trail, we decided upon another route back, and began to forge our way. We somehow didn't just want to abandon hope for society just yet, and we were ill-equipped to survive the cold. It's about then that we came upon the house.
The house was completely overgrown with kudzu, long since abandoned and it didn't look much like a tourist attraction either. Our hope was to possibly find some food and a battery powered radio, so something that could tell us more about what was going on. As we explored the vacant and musty place, there was a creak on the floorboards and this rather large, rugged woman with piercing eyes had pinned my friend against the wall. She didn't look like she had lived there either, just another like ourselves who had stumbled upon the place. With my rather strong and equally rugged friend pinned against the wall, the rest of us (I think there were two) stood in stunned silence. She kept asking him "Are you here about the hole?" repetitively, and didn't seem satisfied by his dumbfoundedness. I made the move to get to my pack, which had a large knife. With extreme care, I got the knife out and crept breathlessly back around through the rooms until I had the point of the knife pressing against her down jacket. As my hands were shaking from this sudden, uncharacteristic burst of survival-mode would-be violence, I informed this woman that there was a large knife at her back, let my friend go, we'd just left the AT to get back to civilization, and what exactly is this hole you're going on about?
The grip on my friend, whose head had turned cherry red, immediately withdrew, and without flourish she turned to face me. It was clear this woman knew some kind of martial art, for she moved faster than my eyes could track, despite her girth. She asked how she could believe me, and I motioned to the packs. My friend was coughing, choking, and she said that she'd better get him some water, with the gaze of those piercing eyes not abating a whit. After getting the water, and as my friend drank wordlessly and rubbed his neck, myself and the other nameless friend listened as she told us that she, too, discovered this house as she was doing some kind of "deep woods exercise" when she not only stumbled upon the house, but also the "hole."
It seems that the previous owner had either dug or uncovered a large hole just outside the garage, and Helen (for I believe that was her name) had been exploring it, and widening it. Here's the kicker: this seemingly endless hole had some very odd properties. After Helen's first short exploration of the hole, she emerged to find upon later inspection, that all of the numbers on her driver's license had completely been jumbled, rearranged. She then began to experiment, by lowering any object, even a handwritten note, just into the darkness of the hole and pulling it out, finding that even numbers that she had handwritten came up in totally different orders, or completely replaced. Terrified as she was curious, she'd been here for days, and that's about when the mid-summer cold snaps and ice-storms started.
We stood and peered into the gaping hole as thunder and snow collided curiously over an August day in the Appalachian mountains. We did several experiments ourselves, and what she had told us, which sounded utterly incomprehensible, appeared irksomely valid. Thus, with improbable weather and all, and in a rather spontaneous decision, we decided to go in. What, with the end of the world going on, did we have to lose by exploring a tunnel that seemingly had little regard for human numbers?
I led the way, with a flashlight in my mouth, with my two friends behind and Helen at the rear. Utterly dark but consistently wide, the tunnel seemed to get steeper. I called for us to stop and asked Helen how deep she'd gone, and she had somehow left us, far underground. My friend whom she'd been behind suddenly started to freak out, as the rope which we were all holding and was tied to a beam in the houses garage had lost all tension. The panic heightened as we tried to climb back up, but the loose rock and the steep incline made this near impossible, and we all feat that we were slipping to that mysterious abyss. As we struggled, I smelled ozone, and little blue sparks began to bounce off the tunnel, which became more and more frightening as the light from these faint sparks seemed to show that we were far deeper than imagined. I grabbed my friend's hand behind me. Suddenly, a rush of light...
We landed with a thud. It seemed forever until we could open our eyes, maybe because of the sounds around us. It seemed all too impossible. We didn't want to see, but I cracked my eyes slightly enough to see that yes, we were on a beach. Not far from the ocean. There was nothing remotely civilized in sight. We reeked of ozone, smelled as if we'd bathed in electricity, and our hair was in fact singed. Wordlessly, we walked through the dunes, trying to get a sense of where we were and why we were there. There was a light on the evening horizon, a glow, and to that glow we trekked, in silence and in absolute confusion. I suppose that we were trying to be stoic. We came upon a high wall, with a roughshod ladder. We scaled and descended.
The city was broad and sprawling, immaculate and without character or nuance. It was also very quiet. We were walking along a thoroughfare, looking for signs of life, yelling for help or understanding or anything, which a whirring noise came from behind and some kind of riderless car stopped, and a door opened. No one was inside, and I hopped in, at this point completely oblivious to the concept of loss and without care. I assume that I was bewildered, as one would be if the could walk through their own dreams. One nameless friend joined me, but the other refused, said he would go back to the beach, try to find the hole. As the door closed, I yelled "Find us!"
The car asked, in garbled English, "Where-you-need-go?" Neither of us knew what to say, so the car after some silence replied "Default." I'm not sure I wanted to see what Default was, and we sped through the grid-arranged city and came upon a portion where people were on the streets, milling about, appearing rather cosmopolitan. Without getting much of a good look at the scene, my friend yelled "Here!" and it kept going, and I yelled "Stop!" and the thing spotted immediately, throwing us up against the glass. The door opened, and we, in our smelly hiker gear, stepped out, without really thinking about what we were going to say and how we were going to say it to the curious crowds which had begun to gather and stare...
(I really have to get to work now. I'll finish this when I get back tonight. I swear I had this whole dream this morning, and I'm only filling in tiny little details. I didn't do anything too crazy last night and didn't fall asleep watching Logan's Run. I just have crazy dreams.)
Johfra: Unio Mystica
Galleries of the artist's masterworks [via metachat]
Parallel Universes: More Reality Than Science Fiction
As Woody Allen once put it, "There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is how far is it from midtown and how late is it open." Since the discoveries of the new physics, the question of the existence of parallel universes–worlds which exist side-by-side along with our own–has taken on renewed interest well beyond mere speculation.
Today, probably more than in any other day, we are facing a revolution in our thinking about the physical universe–the stuff that you and I are made of. This revolution, brought to a head by the discoveries of the new physics, including relativity and quantum mechanics, appears to reach well beyond our preconceived vision, based as it was on the concept of concrete solid reality. The new physics points in a new and more abstract direction- -a direction indicating the need to unify our picture of the world.
Noonan: A Separate Peace
I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it's a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with "right track" and "wrong track" but missing the number of people who think the answer to "How are things going in America?" is "Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination."
I'm not talking about "Plamegate..." I'm not talking about "Miers." I mean . . . the whole ball of wax. Everything. Cloning, nuts with nukes, epidemics; the growing knowledge that there's no such thing as homeland security; the fact that we're leaving our kids with a bill no one can pay. A sense of unreality in our courts so deep that they think they can seize grandma's house to build a strip mall; our media institutions imploding--the spectacle of a great American newspaper, the New York Times, hurtling off its own tracks, as did CBS. The fear of parents that their children will wind up disturbed, and their souls actually imperiled, by the popular culture in which we are raising them. Senators who seem owned by someone, actually owned, by an interest group or a financial entity. Great churches that have lost all sense of mission, and all authority. Do you have confidence in the CIA? The FBI? I didn't think so.
But this recounting doesn't quite get me to what I mean. I mean I believe there's a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and tough history is coming.
People crave not only more computers, but also inner rapture, peace and justice. We yearn for a fusion between the finest forms of humanism and the deepest essence of spirituality. We aspire for an outburst of rational humanism and spiritual wisdom—a common vision that can shape a more harmonious and integrated planet. As espoused by the sages, philosophers, and scientists of both East and West, this visionary fusion can foster a global renaissance of inner meaning and social values. Some social observers believe that the faint glow of this phenomenon can already be seen on humanity’s horizon.
This new, integral, spiritual humanism represents a synthesis between the Enlightenment of the East and the Enlightenment of the West. And what is the most important step to achieve this lofty goal? To establish spiritual practice as the cornerstone of human culture. Hence, it is not enough to simply popularize spiritual (and pseudo-spiritual) ideas as is done today through the ever-growing self-help marketplace which often spread ideas that represent religious dogmas or arcane, mythological belief systems. It is also not enough to preach the noble ideals of humanism. Instead, sincere spiritual practitioners will have to initiate an authentic, spiritual movement which can spearhead the integration of spiritual humanism in society.
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are Copyright 2005 by theodore "jay" joslin and joyous jostling studios. Thank you, Wanderer, for All.
i am jay joslin: a spirit-fed mountain hopping lover of everything, an ordained lefty-veggie-homo, and bon-vivant go-go dancing with all the messenger mockingbirds of morning.
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Eclectic Music for Mountain Folks
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Keep it even,
"Not all who wander
You contain everything
Everything contains you
If you desire the Infinite,
look no further than the window.
Ten Considerations for Being Well n this Goofy Universe
0. If you find yourself
wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor. 1. Always be of service to
the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being
of service to your becoming Whole. 2. You will be called upon
to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never
turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in
their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night
that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to
share . 3. The rewards of being
true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met
with nothing. 4. You’ll also see that
knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own
struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but
yours is the power to choose it. 5. You’ll find that some of
your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s
okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them
I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I
tried it on. 6. Your growth will be a
mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you
strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing
minutes. Don’t count on second chances. 7. In those times when
everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t
forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are
a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle
to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re
having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic
flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that
there’s a little of each one hidden in both. 8. Respond as best as you
can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any
situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF,
leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in. 9. Whatever you’re doing,
celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got
when you’re done. Magic lives in the action. 9 ½ . All matter is energy.
All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short
time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came.
Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy
that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a
sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore,
why be bored? 9 3/4 . Choosing to live in
the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling
obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to
continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there
with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences. 10. The Universe itself it
not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered ,
butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So,
whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as
best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy,
unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.
0. If you find yourself wonderstruck, don’t forget to return the favor.
1. Always be of service to the whole and the Holy. You’ll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being of service to your becoming Whole.
2. You will be called upon to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in their darkness, and you’ll find that when it’s your turn to be in the night that there’ll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to share .
3. The rewards of being true to yourself are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met with nothing.
4. You’ll also see that knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but yours is the power to choose it.
5. You’ll find that some of your choices could’ve been better, or at times were downright stupid. That’s okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I tried it on.
6. Your growth will be a mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing minutes. Don’t count on second chances.
7. In those times when everything collapses around you, and what’s left won’t go right, don’t forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament you’re having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that there’s a little of each one hidden in both.
8. Respond as best as you can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any situation and being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF, leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in.
9. Whatever you’re doing, celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what you’ve got when you’re done. Magic lives in the action.
9 ½ . All matter is energy. All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short time in this shape until we’re reunited with the expanse from which we came. Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore, why be bored?
9 3/4 . Choosing to live in the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to continue. It’s one of the few risks I’d recommend not taking, right up there with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences.
10. The Universe itself it not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered , butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So, whenever things just don’t make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as best you can, because that’s what you get for choosing this goofy, unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.