Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Million Different Things, ...And Night, Meditation #2

This installment is the second in the final section, ...And Night, of the free serialization of my book, A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World's Happiest Man
.It's concerned with the strange, maybe imaginary, border between our internal and external realities.
David Stone

A Million Different Things: ...And Night, Meditation #2

It’s possible, then, that everything in the universe is within our immediate reach. It’s possible even that everything is stored, inventoried, categorized, even created inside that container of bone we call a skull or connected nearby.

It’s widely accepted among scientists, although just as widely unknown among everyone else, that no experiment has ever proved that there is an objective world outside our senses.

Everything we “know” to be exists only because our senses say so, and our brains assemble and digest a world from the information received.

We compile reality in our minds and accept without proof that the information we have about it comes from somewhere out there. No advantage is inherent in determining that this is fact or fiction. No one can prove it, either way.
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Moreover, no one can show that you and I or any other individuals see the same things in the same way or even similarly. What I see as blue may look like something completely different to you. It’s all subjective.

The greatest challenge to the possibility of there being nothing out there is that, without an external world, we must either connect with each other on some other plane or face the even more bizarre possibility that we are all figments of our own imaginations or even just a single imagination with everything, including the kitchen sink, in it.

Because so many actions seem to occur at a distance, especially while we are not participating, I’ve ruled out the latter. I’m confident, however, that we do connect in ways that are not external. These may not be the only ways, but I have accepted them as virtually proven. We have a lot more to learn, and by the time we get to some of it, the conclusions will be stranger than this by today’s standards.
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Deepak Chopra provided an interesting example in his book about life after death. Chopra discussed phenomena observed in individuals known as idiot savants. Idiot savants are born with mental capacities so limited that, normally, they require lifelong support just to survive.

Learning to tie their shoes or to dress themselves can present insurmountable challenges. Yet, there are well-documented cases in which these individuals have been observed to play a Mozart sonata with no prior training after a first hearing. They capture and recall every note and play them back without, apparently, any special awareness.

Other idiot savants, a set of twins I remember reading about, were able to solve advanced mathematical challenges, such as instantly reporting on which day of the week any future date might fall, even though they could not count to ten or spell their own names.

These are among the most startling phenomena ever recorded, so startling that mainstream science generally disregards them as inexplicable. If the same skills were found in a person otherwise considered to be normal, we’d call that person a genius.

When he or she is an idiot savant, a learned idiot, how can we explain it? Nothing within their capabilities as we know them makes it possible to do what they do. The skill, it seems, must come from someplace other than their insufficient brains, most likely somewhere outside. Embedded memory from another incarnation might somehow have been released.

A skill not interfered with by complex mental practices may grow in ways that aren’t possible for a normal individual. The extreme isolation of one who is severely retarded might be an extraordinary fertilizer for innate talents. To sustain limits on what science will accept, most would insist on an explanation that doesn’t require leaving or reaching outside of an individual’s skull.

The idea of external access, information passing in and out of individual brains to mingle among independently shared pools of knowing is anathema, weird and an irrational invention of the New Age, according to established standards.

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So, discard intuition as the feed we get from something apart from our most evident selves. And let’s also say that we are not able to transfer information between individuals or groups in any nonphysical way. Accept also that we can’t influence matter at a distance.

We can’t reach across the vastness of space, like an electron, and instantly change a condition in some distant corner of the universe. Toss in a capitulation to the insistence that idiot savants must have an internal, undiscovered skills that allows them to play Mozart at a level few of us would achieve after a decade of practice.

Eventually, defenses will have us accepting so many negatives that a truly scientific approach, which must be open to be valid, has been abandoned. Science begins to seem at certain junctures to cosset belief systems as closed as religions, as dependent on assumptions and prejudice. It may seem even more rigidly so, since science, not religion, is charged with asking new questions and honestly trying to answer them.

Science’s shortcomings in these matters turn out to be a pair of its major strengths: reliance on the revelations secured through reductionism and on measurement.

In reductionism, science has found ways to take apart such things as viruses and interstellar gases to reveal secrets in a practical way. A reductionist approach to understanding the influenza epidemic of 1918 rapidly lead to discoveries about causes that, then, brought vaccines that saved millions of lives.

Without measurement, we would still be tied to the superstitions of the past, of an Earth inducing a sun, no, an entire universe to circle around it. Measurement proved that our planet is an insignificant clump of dirt and rock in a magnificent cosmos.

Hard to believe, these days, that people were once killed and tortured because they trusted measurement as a guide to truth or even suggested the possibility.

Both of these methods of discovery have weaknesses that can make science seem, well, ignorant. Reductionism, by definition, can never be inclusive of the broader plane of reality.
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When a researcher, for instance, explores the protein shell surrounding the DNA of a virus, observing and drawing conclusions from discrete parts, he or she cannot include external elements with which the virus is intimately associated in a real world outside the lab.

An illusion is created that each part is the thing itself, not the holistic total, and the thing becomes an isolated factor in a falsely stable world. In reality, nothing at all, anywhere or at any time, is isolated. Everything connects, everything interacts, and in exploring an isolated element, we must be observing at best a distorted and incomplete example.

The trouble with measurement is even simpler. Some things are too large, too small or too odd to be measured. In some situations, we don’t even know what it is we are hoping to measure or by what standard. Among modern scientists, the raw conclusion is that, if we can’t measure something by observation, it doesn’t exist, except in a theory that posits necessary factors to complete a larger theory. Much of the quantum world is like that.

Tiny bits of proposed elements or potential matter have never been seen under any conditions, neutrinos being the most frequently cited example. The situation of superstrings gets even worse.

However, when it suits the a priori assumptions of science, we accept theory as fact generally. When it’s otherwise and especially when it gets labeled “New Age,” it’s tossed aside. That leaves only fringe speculators and others outside science to consider idiosyncratic possibilities and to imagine unimaginable frontiers.

Let’s face it. For some of us, imagining and digesting new ideas is the best part. We can run our own experiments without restrictive oversight, just to see what happens. We aren’t bound by the politics of government funding or university rivalries.
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We can, as Buddhists always have, look within ourselves for truth. Our discoveries may be at least as real as the claims of scientists insisting they know what’s out there, and frankly, I think we have more fun.

Here’s why: we are free.

This installment starts the final section, ...And Night, of the free serialization of my book, A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World's Happiest Man. It's concerned with realities invisible in our three-dimensional world and how we experience it.

For a full index, see: Gift of A Million Different Things.

David Stone

Guidance: Words and Ultimate Reality

Guidance: Words and Ultimate Reality

Guidance: Words and Ultimate Reality is the fifteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)

Going Home: Illusions About Reality

Guidance: Words and Ultimate Reality

To know something about ultimate reality, do we have to be able to put it into words? Must insight about conscious awareness be verbal? If either thing is true, we’re in trouble because our languages haven't been very good at explaining even what we think we know so far.

Words are wonderful things. I make a living using them. The structures we’ve built from them, from massive libraries of information down to tiny haikus of wisdom, are staggering, but inadequate.

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Poetry and literary tricks like symbolism have extended the value of words beyond immediate appearances. Mathematics, visual arts and music have filled gaps. Painting becomes more abstract in an arc that claims space no other type of expression tries for. As does music.

Igor Stravinsky insisted that music was not about anything but music. Beethoven, imitating sounds he heard during walks in the Vienna woods, and Mozart, mimicking birdsong, disagree. But if music means something, it’s something more. Otherwise, why did evolution add it, even if only as stitches and fabric?

Communication is universal. We might as well assume it’s essential. People talk and so do cats in their way. Changes in the wind communicate news about upcoming weather. Animals in earthquake zones, it seems, get messages from a vibrating earth. Flocks of birds and communities of ants somehow receive and transmit information to coordinate activities.

Every time we think about reality and talk about what we know, factoring how much of nature we’re guessing about or less should be humbling.

The reality of dark matter and the surprises yet to be found in quarks and other fundamental constituents of matter aren't just exciting mysteries but empty signs signaling all we don't know.
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We’re in a seamless state of reality that interacts and communicates universally. The things in reality that we can’t see are just as connected and influential as the things we do see. Put another way, the seven or more invisible dimension must be interacting with our known three, and vice versa. Blindness is irrelevant.

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” was a favorite slogan written for President Reagan. Anything, it warns, will finally show up. Little did his speechwriters dream that this also applied to that which can never be recognized.

Marry that with theories that more dimensions exist outside our knowing than within it. Interactions must occur.

Maybe some unexplained phenomena, like ghosts and Bermuda Triangles, are incidental evidence of the workings of other dimensions. Ghosts may be our fumbling way of grasping partially accessible realities.

Asked good questions, science gives us answers that change how we see and live in the world. Why do we get sick? Why does the weather change? What holds us on the ground?

We have a history, though, of filling in blanks by asserting facts that aren’t factual. Truth gets political. Figuring out what to ask ought to be worth as many grants as the pursuit that follows.

Here are some suggestions:

• If other dimensions exist, how can we discover and document the way in which they affect us?
• Isolated in three dimensions, are we missing most of what goes on in the universe?
• Are there other animals or plants that experience reality in more than three dimensions?
• Are the other dimensions, in some way, physical?
• Are the questions we asked been big enough?
• What unexplained things might be evidence of ordinary goings on in invisible dimensions?
• Are we highly evolved or just beginning our development?
• Has evolution in three-dimensions reached its limit?

The questions we ask may open up universes of follow up questions, taking us beyond anything the tools we have can explore. Maybe the most important questions are about the tools themselves, what we can reasonably expect them to tell us. Our most effective tool is probably imagination.

Developing more powerful and versatile telescopes, astrophysicists have collected information that frankly dwarfs a culture still debating scriptures as historical records.

Last week, I saw an image of what is now believed to be the oldest galaxy. Traveling light particles completed a fourteen-billion year journey by smudging the lens on a modern telescope. Shifts in the wavelength reveal details about conditions near the birth of our universe.

The most fascinating thing I’ve read recently is about the incubator of suns scientists have pierced the clouds to observe at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy.
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Spectacular information is ignored by a population immersed in television shows and averse to discomfiting discoveries.

As individuals on a run of the mill planet in a nothing special galaxy, we may resist the suggestion that we’re inconsequential, reduced by discovery, and yet most of us know very little about ourselves. We’re infants along the scale of change, and the evolution of our universe itself will likely be exposed one day as a tiny wrinkle barely noticed among a much larger something.

We’d be smart to try estimating our actual position, our standing in at least this universe. Now that we’re inventing fewer gods of convenience and those already in play are seeming to melt a little, maybe we can discover the unique role we play in the whole.

It must be unique, original, special. We didn’t simply push our genes through an Earthly ecosystem. We evolved as participants in a massive intermingling of forces. Nothing has ever happened in isolation. Even scratching your forehead has consequences.

We’ve already seen things we can't explain, although undeniably real. In quantum leaps, electrons go from one condition to another without changing into or passing anything else on the way. This is like taking a trip from Milwaukee to Miami without crossing a state line. You were here; now, you’re there. Instantly.
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Particles linked by opposite electrical charges may travel billions of miles from each other while keeping immediate, irreversible relationships. Divorce or cheating is impossible in these situations. When one, for any reason, changes itself, the other, at whatever distance, changes equally.

No time is allowed for the news to be delivered across galaxies uncountable. The other half of this permanent marriage just knows and instantly recognizes the obligations in its bond.

More interesting than the imagining of how entanglement is possible is the question of why the evolution of matter designed it that way. Is everything connected even more intimately than we’ve imagined? Is it possible that the universe is extremely small and that we invented size and scale as tools for helping us sort the chaos?

Maybe balance is a universal imperative, more important than anything else, and these are examples of primary mechanics at work. Distance may be of little consequence, no more elementary than time and easily discarded when not needed.

The most inexplicable events scientists have seen have been observed among the tiniest particles theorized. We know next to nothing about the lives of these bits of nature. Because of their size relative to ours, we take for granted that they are somewhat less well-endowed than our more complicated structures.

Quantum matter is less aware and short on emotion. It's random and chaotic, even if such random chaos can’t explain the organized universe we see. It has rules of behavior, but those are increasingly ridiculous the smaller the pieces get. We may be built on top of Bizarro World, and we’ve learned to maneuver in its craziness without discovering much about it. Maybe.

On the other hand, why not?

Scientists now accept a border between our familiar macro reality and the busy micro reality that’s vibrating beneath and, mainly, speculated about with equations. More powerful telescopes can’t tell us anything much about what’s “in there” because they’re designed only for “out there,” the direction in which we've learned to look at the world.

Microscopes have taken us far enough to show that what’s inside the structures we recognize as building blocks, cells and atoms, is weird and probably even weirder.
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The things making us up may be so strange we don’t even know what to look for. It has already been shown that we can’t see anything we’re not looking for, even when it’s obviously there, and we can extend that to an understanding of how much it’s likely we never see, even when it’s dancing or balancing a quantum hula hoop right before our eyes.

What I’m getting at is, before we can begin to ask the best questions, we need to learn to imagine that we might have deceived ourselves conveniently about the world as it is. We’ve elevated time, for example, to a factor in reality instead of a tool.

Every condition in the ultimate reality of the universe is changed by every action in the universe, complexity exploding as it extends. Action generates order within the chaos that is our steady state No action can recreate chaos. Inaction does, of course, and chaos is unpredictable. Prior conditions are not retrievable or available for do-overs, unless you’re pulling a Mulligan at golf.

Damage is done to conscious awareness when we latch onto strict and precise rules. We begin to think rules are reality when all they are are created regulators.

Our rules are brakes that keep us from hurtling into chaos blindly. Rules create conscious states. Rules need a repository, and we’re it. Rules create false, but useful realities.

We can’t discard the rules or the realities they give us, nor would it be beneficial if we could. But we can learn exercises that help us glimpse what exists when the rules are removed. It's as simple as opening the floodgates on a powerful river. What’s the water going to do now? One answer is that it will look for new barriers to confine and, thereby, redefine itself.
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The rules themselves are not as simple as civil laws that tell us what we can and can’t do. They’re more subtle, embedded and unlikely to be ignored. They tell us to see a certain wave length as green or red. Inherited codes cause us to make large objects out of traces. We’re born recognizing a few visible lines as faces or breasts. Additional rules are learned, mostly unconsciously, as we go through life.

We learn balance. We’re taught the meaning of minutes as we install time into conscious awareness. Distances, too, become useful tools in helping us understand and control the effects of physical actions. We learn to find our way among clumps of concentrated awareness and information that we’ve given names like Joe Jones and Andy Messersmith, dozens at once.

After a short time, we formulate the interaction of groups. We use languages and social strategies. All these are helpful but also hindrances to understanding. If we want to know what we are, which is the most legitimate pursuit of all, we need to strip away what we are not, and that can only happen after we learn to r drop our drawers and open our kimonos, becoming awake as metaphysically naked.

Words are the first things that must be set aside. So, be ready close up this book and get started. Don’t throw it too far away. We’ll be back to it soon.

It's time to meditate.
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David Stone

Guidance: Words and Ultimate Reality is the fifteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Hippie Movement: Can We Bring It Back?

We Never Left

Tea party members, bigots, military-industrial complex profiteers, professional politicians and any variation on the species that thrives in a cool, humorless environment wishes the hippie movement had dried up and blown away.

But it didn't.

Just as the mass media raised a warped profile of the hippie movement in the 1960s to help draw readers to advertisers, it moved on when tall tales about the nonconformist, free-spirited consciousness movement no longer put as many cheeks in seats.

The media giants also worried about how established power structures were being unsettled.


In a dark period that set the stage for the counterculture and the flowing of the hippie movement, a young man tries to find his place in the world after the collapse of the American Dream:


What Became Of The Hippie Movement?

Folk and rock music played a soundtrack for the hippie movement, voices growing louder as conviction increased. There was a loop for every taste.

When I think back, the song that seems to have touches me most is America, from Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends. America carries the codes that made the hippie movement possible: alienation, feeling lost in your own country, yearning for something you can't quite define, and those that made it so attractive: intimacy, brotherhood in nonconformity and love for the country we'd been taught about but couldn't find.

See: Traveling Without A Passport

'"Kathy, I'm lost,' I said, though I knew she was sleeping. 'I'm empty and aching, and I don't know why.'"

A campaign continues to denigrate what we did to expand awareness, promote peace and love, and demolish institutional structures that protected endemic racism, sexism and class antagonism.

"If you remember the 1960s, you weren't there" is a viral phrase meant to make the hippie movement seem like a gaggle of drug addled weirdos who passed the decade in a haze of incoherence. They wish.

A while back, I posted this response.

1968: The Hippie Movement Summer of Revolution

The famous Summer of Love was 1967, but as the wave swept out of San Francisco, the Vietnam War claimed more lives and assassinations radically altered the political world. The alternatives hippie styles promoted gathered followers.

In Won't Get Fooled Again, from Who's Next, the group sang,
"We'll be marching in the streets, with our children at our feet," 
as militance gathered momentum.

In the Summer of '68, staggered by the killings of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, insiders who took chances, we took to the streets too, especially at the Republican Convention in Miami and the Democratic in Chicago.

But the reality of hippie life was different than that. That was marketing.

At the core,  hippies in the movement were apolitical. We were into peace, yes, but not in confrontations or according to party affiliations.

We were into love, freedom, mind expansion and alternative lifestyles. We were trying to reinvent or redefine all of them. But I never knew a single hippie who wanted to scream about it. We went about our business in a quiet and mellow way.

Guess what? We changed the world, and you never knew it.

Do an image search for a typical crowd scene in 1958. A baseball game is always a good place to see ordinary people collected in large numbers. Now, look for one in 1968.

Get it?

Where did all the suits in the bleachers go?

Here's a fun twist on an old tradition, pumping ethyl:

We aren't there yet, of course, and a strident conservative force is trying to roll back all it can, but American racial and gender chemistry underwent changes more radical than any in history. Career choices and opportunities for minorities and women exploded. There is still too much inequality, but things are so much better.What The Hippie Movement Changed

While the military-industrial complex has managed to reinstate the dream of a perpetual state of war they hope will stimulate a robust economy, the massive brutalities of another Vietnam have been denied them.

The numb to the rest of the world American public still cares little about the suffering inflicted on civilians in other countries, but at least, the mass media shows some restraint now from promoting war as entertainment.

The uptight morals that saturated culture before the 1960s have been pushed back to minority status. Anti-abortionists, who really are more concerned about what women do with their bodies before they get pregnant than with the fetuses, continue to fight an unpopular battle. Couples living together "without benefit of matrimony" is commonplace as are interracial and same sex couples.

The social freedoms taken for granted today were won by the hippie movement and other initiatives we supported. If you think we lost or gave up, you haven't been looking around much. The fact is, we won. With persistence. And we won quietly.

The Hippie Movement Today

It doesn't really matter, does it, what we call it?

It's easier to stay under the radar when you work anonymously on a better society. But we're here.

Some of it is subtle, a peace symbol here, an institutional win for human rights (like the recently passed same sex marriage laws) there. We're pushing. Quietly.

In 2006, as George W. Bush came to New York City to be renominated, tens of thousands of us marched up Seventh Avenue to Madison Square Garden in protest. So many of us came out of hiding, we had to wait over an hour on the back end to begin walking.

True to form, the New York Times missed most of the story by getting it wrong, and the tactics of the Bloomberg's police were trotted out to illegally blunt the protests. But there was power in brotherhood. It was nice to feel that old camaraderie.

We were there. We still are.

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Further Reading: The Hippie Movement: Counterculture Today

And finally, some flower power:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Polka-Dot Girl by Sonia Clark Foster & Christa Simone Foster

This is a book about love learned from a child, for and about children, gentle and educational. Sonia is a friend of mine, and here is what she says about her new book:

The story behind Polka-Dot Girl:

When Christa was 6, she came home from school one day looking so sad.

I asked her what happened and she said a boy had teased her because

she had freckles. First, I held her for a moment, and then I asked

her if she would like to write a story about it and give it a happy

ending. She jumped up with a smile and grabbed a pencil and paper to

begin writing.

Worth taking a look.

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Christa loved her freckles until everyone started calling her Polka-Dot Girl. Soon she doubts her own beauty and the strength of her friendships. Will she be able to connect the dots and realize the power of love?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Million Different Things, ...And Night, Meditation #1

This installment starts the final section, ...And Night, of the free serialization of my book, A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World's Happiest Man
. It's concerned with realities invisible in our three-dimensional world and how we experience it. For a full index, see: Gift of A Million Different Things.

David Stone

A Million Different Things: ...And Night, Meditation #1

Rambling on…

That’s what life is, you know, a ramble. I changed my thinking a while back about how all that apparent motion goes. Like most, I’ve thought of my life’s course as passing along a trail, following a thread with a lengthening segment left behind. Over time, we meet others, read books, smell flowers, sing songs, throw rocks and let our imaginations drift with the clouds.

Appreciating exposure to the world experienced in our journey is the primary flavoring of a joy-filled life.

One perfect July morning, I sat by myself on a usually ignored section of lawn near the rear of a motor inn outside Hershey, Pennsylvania. I’d driven from New York to meet my family the night before. My wife would be arriving in Harrisburg at midday on a train. It wasn’t often that I had the opportunity to kill a summer hour or two, idling the way I did as a child, browsing a sunny Saturday morning with nothing more to do than just be myself.

Wild Grass I
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In a small ravine on adjacent property, the fields were left to grow wild. The departure from trimmed to natural was abrupt. Wild grasses grew high and had acquired a stilled rhythm set by rain and wind and passing animals. A scattering of flowers flourished among the weeds. At the far edge, a hundred or so feet away, a small forest of immature trees bathed in the sun.

I was beginning then to consciously absorb more of the complex beauty I so often saw around me, and I’d started watching for signs and messages in nature. That morning, a colony of white butterflies danced in singles, duets and triplets, wandering freely over the top of and occasionally diving into the tall grasses.

White Butterfly on White Shasta Daisies, Oregon, USA
White Butterfly on White Shasta Daisies, Oregon, USA

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One advanced closer and fluttered crazily over the mowed area. I pulled out my small camera and took a picture, fairly certain that this tiny, rapid object would be lost in the resulting photo when I fed it into my computer. I didn’t much care about the quality of the image I froze. I wanted to capture the memory as a reminder of that moment when I had nothing better to do than enjoy this slice of nature.

A couple of years later, I was no longer thinking of the world as a trail to be walked or anything that came to me. I realized that I, like everyone else, lived at the center of my own, creative universe, and that the movements were all mine. I went to things, and when I didn’t, my world slowed and waited. My options were limitless. No one ever saw such a cupboard full of possibilities.

This revelation gave me a new perspective on how I thought about my ramble. So far, what we capture as modern humans is a three-dimensional universe that our brains anchor with an invention referred to as time. We then create what we perceive as a time-space continuum, a motion forward into which we all gather.
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Others can debate my conception, but words can only substitute, more or less effectively, for truth. We all do our best to describe our experience, telling and retelling our stories to ourselves and others. This is mine.

Over millenniums of human evolution, we have learned to accept that, “What you see is what you get,” to put it up the vernacular. There aren’t any invisibles. This is it. And we’ve always known that a rock is a rock, and a tree is a tree. In the same way for everyone.

We all looked at the same stuff and came up with similar conclusions after exploration and discovery. Sooner or later, we thought we’d find out enough to explain it all. God’s good, green, brown, white and blue creation would have an encyclopedic rendering anyone could study. Once we knew all this, it was only a matter of learning how to use it or manipulate it to make life better for all, whatever that might mean.

Now, we know that these three, common dimensions can’t be everything, not even the majority. The most widely accepted theory among physicists posits eight additional dimensions. Some suggest many more. We already recognize height, width and depth and that they are held fast by time. Even accepting the presence of more, we don’t know what they are. We don’t even know what to look for, which may be the main reason we never see them.

Depending on our profession or passion or even faith, this puzzle introduces an array of considerations and concerns. If the unknown thrills you, you’re in luck. After every major discovery, questions proliferate. There’s plenty of mystery still to explore.
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But if the unknown appalls or frightens you, you might scramble for arguments that discredit the implications of what we are learning. Some have religion to hold them in place or continue to embrace that “It is what it is” point of view.

The simple and overwhelming truth is that our species has barely started our quest to discover reality. It’s anyone’s choice about how we wrestle with mystery, but struggle as we may, we still have centuries of eye-opening adventure accelerating ahead of us.

Explorers, a few centuries ago, knew where the water was and the mountains and the plains. Curiosity drew them for a closer look, some to uncover secrets, others to gather riches. As a result, we no longer know as much as we once did, and even when we know a lot about something, like distant mountain peaks, spiral galaxies and space dust, we’ve only started contemplating vehicles to take us near enough to touch them.

All of us here now are in our moment, and in this time, we will never set foot on Mars, let alone star clusters twinkling at us from light years away. Or will we? Are we any less exotic than what is being revealed by space probes, like Hubble, searching the farthest corners of our universe? Are we made up of some different kind of stuff? The surprising answer is that, no, we are not. Our universe and everything in it seems to be made up of identical materials in a variety of compositions.

Outer space, as we call it, is a screwy idea. There seem to be objects settled at unimaginably remote distances from us. Millions of lifetimes would be required in reaching any of them, but is this true or just what we’ve conveniently decided is true? Is it just the easiest way we’ve learned to describe the vastness around us, or is it built from fact? Just as I arrived at the wisdom that we move and space and time do not, I’ve realized that our universe, at least in the moment we experience it, may be small. The phenomenon that changed my thinking is quantum entanglement, a strange situation with qualities unreconcilable within a universe of vast distances.
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Simply put, or as simply as I am able to put it, here is what has been observed. If you have no familiarity with the basics of quantum theory, please accept for the moment that there are structural elements of matter much smaller than cells and atoms, most so small there is little hope of our ever seeing them. Quanta are marked by electrical charges, positive or negative.

Participating in the active, underlying structure of reality, they collide and split and generally perform actions that maintain the Earth on which we walk. Please, assume also that the absolute we all “know” is that the speed of light is the maximum speed possible in our universe. Nothing can pass light in any race, and everything else gets measured by this standard.

Simple so far? It won’t get any worse.

Take any electron, a common bit of quantum matter, and imagine it split in two, as if, say, by a tiny ax of extreme precision. Now, we have two electrons, one with a positive charge, one with a negative.

These energetic particles, separated from their origins, spin off into space, like teenagers left without supervision for a summer. They vibrate separately for centuries, traveling many trillions of miles away from each other. Maybe they want to visit totally different sections of our expanding universe before it collapses. Anyway, after separating to enormous distances, something, anything, in space reverses the polarity of one of the electrons.

It doesn’t matter what causes this because the effect never varies. No matter how far apart those once twinned electrons have moved, no matter how many eons have passed, when one twin changes from positive to negative, the other does exactly the opposite. Instantly. There is no chance whatsoever that even light as a messenger could get there in time to order the other twin to change. It always happens by some mechanism that belies the notion of distance.

Scientist hustle to creatively explain this quantum entanglement in a way that preserves space and time, not so much unlike religious fundamentalists cobbling together an explanation of how
Earth can be six-thousand years old in spite of the evidence. Without space and time, universally accepted physical laws fall apart–as I believe they inevitably must, once the egos let go.
Allen, Justin
16 in. x 20 in.
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Isn’t it simpler and more honest to admit that, maybe, our universe is not large, maybe we have every bit of it in our immediate grasp, and that vastness is just the most plausible explanation for now, a story we use to explain reality in the most coherent way we can?

We need newer, better stories and, especially, ones that don’t require the advanced learning the most widely accepted ones do. What are now secrets of the universe must be understandable by anyone, if not in words, in spirit. We need better stories with greater accessibility that allows us to change the world.

This installment starts the final section, ...And Night, of the free serialization of my book, A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World's Happiest Man
. It's concerned with realities invisible in our three-dimensional world and how we experience it. For a full index, see: Gift of A Million Different Things.

David Stone

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going Home: Illusions About Reality from Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness

Going Home: Illusions About Reality

Going Home: Illusions About Reality is the fourteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)

Going Home: Illusions About Reality

There must once have been at least a jiffy of wholeness, a twinkle in the cohesion of seamless belonging. Every cell may contain the residues in its universal library. Our desire to rejoin seasons every step, pushing against the gravity of reason. It’s a contest engaged in that fateful instant when cells snapped and began honing the skills for precisely executing divisions.

We talk about methods for merging with God or a Godlike essence and not necessarily after death. Christianity has us locked in some place by a God that migrates across many identities, from savagely vindictive to all-loving, and New Age believers visualize rejoining an all-powerful “Source” (dodging the iffy divinity terminology) from which we emerged in physical form.

Forget the illogic of yearning like a wilting flower to be returned to a place we must have voluntarily departed... Few systems of belief depart from this framework for explaining reality. Everyone seems to agree we’ve separated from an idyllic space and are driven in the purest way to return.

Without arguing against the basic idea, maybe we can examine the urge itself, take a look at the father without contaminating him yet with the choices of his offspring. What makes us, in the midst of real abundance and evolutionary success, eager to get the hell out?

Keep in mind that time is a tool of reality without enough truth to get all the way down to the foundation. The claim of “nothing new under the sun” has real scientific arguments behind it.

Not to say reality hasn’t been re-imagined and structures built that are different. Recycled is new only to the unknowing. Nothing requires past or future. No trail has been laid behind us and none waits ahead.

We are here now, as we’ve always been, playing in the present, again and again and again, without going anywhere. We keep shuffling the deck for one more hand, the difference between reality and poker being that, in a card game, everything doesn’t happen at once.

Poker, then, is impossible without the invention of time.

Comfortable as we are in a real world of three dimensions yoked into illusions of sequence (time), it may be hard to imagine swimming in a pool instead of a stream. But, give it a try. Give your imagination a chance to edge closer to the truth.

The universe is filled with something or other throughout its endless, interwoven fabric. Even empty space is filled. When we lower the temperature of matter to 0 degrees Kelvin, that is, the absolute removal of all heat, we find the zero point field still powerfully charged with energies. Mysteries in the emptiness abound.

There are thin realms of what we talk of as potential stuff and inexplicable dark matter, but never a true void. The rule we were taught in science class remains: reality is always full. This rule had to be drilled into us because it put the lie to intuitions we’d believed forever.

In what storage bin, then, do we wedge our constantly created histories? Where is the past kept? Because if there are expired seconds, minutes and hours–in other words, history–that storage area must be more massive than all of present reality by factors impossible to calculate.
Using the known lifespan of our universe, we’d need room for about fourteen billion years of jiffies and adding more without interruption.

The past has no real existence and is preserved only in memories in pitifully scant quantities. History is selectively, after reconstruction, laid down in reengineered cells and enhanced by records. Even the memories selectively retained are known to be unreliable.

The past, just like the future, is a child of imagination, not physical reality.

We just have this. Try to get used to it. It’ll enable you to tell better stories, and it has more promise than you can imagine. Think about it. Beliefs about pasts and futures may be more barrier than opportunity.

What we’re craving through our religions and secular beliefs is, was and always will be right in front of us. We have everything we’ve ever wanted or will want already in our permanent sandbox.

Here and now. We should be having more fun, but we have a very hard time seeing the truth.

Our vaunted senses are far too limited to sort through the density of information ceaselessly being fed to our brains. Some of it seems, to us, too preposterous to consider. We made up time as we made up shinguards and lampposts, tools that help us negotiate what would otherwise be darkness and danger. Now, like a houseguest with nowhere else to go, time refuses to back off and insists on continuing to mislead us.

It seems we have a hard time appreciating anything we don’t understand. Leonard Cohen wrote, “You who must leave everything you cannot control. It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.”

Cohen was arguing for hope in countering the isolation of individualism. Knowing always begins with belief and knocks it down on the road. Our success in nature has depended on our being smarter than anything else. Our challenge now is to become wise as well. We haven’t gotten far enough to justify all the facts we claim. Clearing them out, like centuries of pollution, will be a demanding exercise in exposing reality.

All the worthwhile arguments these days are about a single thing: what is the best way to talk about reality? What brings us closer to the truth?

We need this conversation as a gimmick because, insult to our intellects that it might be, we don’t have the capacity or the interpretive skills to understand the fundamentals upon which we’ve built our mockup. Our mockup is sort of a toy, but we’ve begun to take it seriously, big boys that we are.

Reality is elusive. Reality is always in motion. Tides are not limited to what washes up and back in our oceans. Tides, currents, eddies invest everything with timelessness, refusing the requirement of a moment.

We can’t say what we want to about reality because it changes before the words leave our lips. Hard core truth today is fluff tomorrow. No test can tell us what the future will hold.

Life is fortunately full enough of surprises and scrambles to avoid monotony. Predictions about reality based on what has been help but do not inevitably tell us what will be. Predictions, however, might tell us what we will think about it when we’re there.

David Stone

Going Home: Illusions About Reality is the fourteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Up, Out or Beyond Evolution from Amazing: Truths about Conscious Awareness

Up, Out or Beyond Evolution

Up, Out of Beyond Evolution is the thirteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)

Update: Now you can buy the book:

Up, Out or Beyond Evolution

For most of us, a realization that there may be no God and that the whole shebang we’re living is a meaningless hodgepodge is as demoralizing as anything else percolating through the shrouds in those lost hours between midnight and dawn.

Often, it starts with a passive awakening to the illogical and even embarrassingly silly realities most of us learned in childhood. An enlightened man, born in primitive times, rallied a following among the impoverished classes with a promise that they’d be delivered after death to a slimly described, but certainly better, world earned by their suffering.

Then, God–this messenger’s father or partner, depending on the tradition–let him endure hideous torture and public crucifixion, after which no one seemed especially perked up about his having gone to a better place to sit in judgment with his or as his own father, something like that.

Detail of the Last Supper, c.1986
Detail of the Last Supper, c.1986
Andy Warhol
14 in. x 11 in.
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The horrible death of Jesus was explained as an act of his taking all of humanity’s sins on himself and being sacrificed as a sort of proxy, cleansing us with a gift of eternal life, should we remain righteous and loyal in spirit, which, of course, we find next to impossible.


Making up stories, even fables, is one of the convenient things our brains do automatically in giving us cohesive realities. Some stories are more cogent than others, but objectively, whether it represents a deeper truth or only a hopeful fantasy, that one’s more of a doozy as it extends into modern times.

The tale of profound and righteous enlightenment, crucifixion and resurrection should be a hard sell in today’s market. In the days when illiteracy was common and superstitions filled in the empty spaces of knowledge, it probably hadn’t much appeal either. However, taken up by bands of itinerant mystical preachers who understood the power of combining community with eventual salvation, it had legs.

It still seems doubtful that many bought the story whole. After all, illiteracy doesn’t mean ignorance, but like many a club with loopy bylaws, members may go along just to get the benefits.

The benefits were a powerful coalescing of the disadvantaged in communities of mutual self-help. The poor, discarded and disenfranchised banded together in often secret congregations of worship. To go with the promised salvation, they were also able to abandon the pagan gods who hadn’t been generous.

Most of these were members of Jewish minorities under Roman Rule, but poor gentiles were welcomed too. In a medieval world dominated by powerful armies, the underground Christian societies thrived.

The diaspora spread west with a speed and often in the face of cruel opposition that suggested a density of conductive material–that is, poor people–throughout the empire. There was fertile ground for a meek shall inherit the Earth approach. A willingness to forestall satisfaction is proof there was little hope for it in the present.

Christianity won in an unsettled cradle of civilization where emerging ideas about life destabilized rival communities and transferred control of belief systems to institutional powers. A huge gap existed between the values and practices of the ruling pagan and rival Judeo-Christian faiths. Other systems were in the fray. Animism still lit hearts. Rival messiahs stepped up with differing messages.

The record is spotty, but there are claims that Eastern faiths leaked into the West. Some contend that Jesus himself went, not to a wilderness, but to India where he learned to meditate.

Out of this, Christianity arose powerfully and became accepted as the standard and enforced explanation about reality. The institution had centuries of internal struggle and warfare ahead, but a faith that insisted that true happiness could be acquired only in a supernatural setting became the narrative guide for the rest of the Western world.

How’s it going two-thousand years later?

Pretty well. Christian nations no longer gouge each other at God’s behest. Jews and other minorities are no longer as consistently persecuted and are generally allowed to go about freely in public life.

Christian values as they are now recognized inform governments and civil societies. That every one of us is brother to all the rest is a common sentiment. Genetic paths are mingling as never before.

Statistics show that we are more at peace than at any time in the history of the world. Charities and political coalitions dedicated to well-being abound. Respect for the rights of what are assumed to be all of God’s creations, especially the attractive, domestic ones, has grown as we’ve learned about the emotions and senses we share.

The cost? Displacement from nature and a deferral of desire.

What benefit could be so potent that we’re willing to wait for it, settling for less today in exchange? Evasion of the severest cruelty in nature, that is, a common death, is what we’re after.
If being alive is what we’re about–and, of course, it couldn’t be anything else–death is more our enemy than any foreign nation or serial killer. We’re willing to live less for the sake of living longer. The evidence is everywhere. Our attention to safety is bloated. Before we throw ourselves into anything, even crossing a street, we need to be sure the move is safe.

It’s not hard to imagine that, somewhere in the web of interlocking times, emerging conscious awareness among clans brought attention to the fact that everything in nature, at some point, dies. What we call living was exposed as a push-pull between physical being and nonbeing in which nonbeing always wins.

Any evolutionary individual, now more aware, must have recoiled, observing unstoppable death wrecking nature, objectively, for the first time. Guidance and belief systems emerged, powered an insistence that humans not be part of the mess out there percolating with death. Gaining acceptance probably was no more difficult for advocates of eternal life than it would be for any warden promising a jailbreak.

Still, even aware of the rules governing safe conduct, we cheat all the time.

We seek the thrill of a carnival ride, tempting death for no gain. We rush into intercourse without condoms or other safe sex strategies. Passions override knowledge. We speed on highways with seat belts dangling free behind our shoulders. Car manufacturers have had to position safety as a luxury, not a commonly desirable feature, due in equal measure for all, to help it enhance sales.
A competition continues over command in our lives. Will it be our original nature, urging us to respond to the most invigorating desires, or the evolved one, our conscious awareness, telling us what is likely to be successful? A match between in the moment and the forces of deferral.
But how does the versatility of religious faith get into the game? It doesn’t really in any elemental way.

In Brownsville Girl, Bob Dylan sang about a friends’s belief that people didn’t do what they believed in. Instead, they did what was most convenient, then repented. That’s what religion does. It provides an artificial framework that helps us pretend we’re not who we are.

Religion, philosophy, physics–all of that, every code, every belief, every bit of shared knowledge–all are ways of talking about reality and how we handle it.

Religion lifts us above the fray when we need it, joining us with a familiar higher power, which, after all the huggermugger, is really the entity running the show. God’s rules seem more pure. In other words, less contaminated by nature.

We hear about being “raised up” by God, of moving toward a higher consciousness, or, in the New Age, a higher vibration. That these seem to mimic, awkwardly, the actual structure of nature, without connecting the threads, exposes a wisdom we must all have at a cellular level.

Ignorance is extremely hard, maybe impossible, to fully engage. Even as our self-aware personalities struggle to locate and keep a fix on some “better place,” a less logical, but much older awareness insists on structural ground rules... evidence that we’re still evolving.

Evidence exist that the wisdom deepest in us, the information that causes realities to adhere against chaos, rules the universe. No matter how we translate our experiences, we dance with the Lord.

If thinking or believing were actions as powerful as some are preaching, we’d have believed or thought our way successfully into eternal life, long ago. You can’t think or believe your way into some impossible personal reality. Only knowing and, from there, going with the flows carries us deeper into the subtle mechanics of nature.

We’re just starting to get a view into that contraption. Progress will accelerate when we learn how to know it without having every fact about it.

David Stone

Up, Out or Beyond Evolution is the thirteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)