We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, March 15. 2007
Candidates for Best Essay of the Year: What is reality, and can we know it?
OK, it's a cold, sleety, soon-to-be blizzardy night in Yankeeland. Stoke up the fireplace or the wood stove, and ask the wife or hubbie to bring a keg over to the computer because this piece by Lanza in American Scholar (to which I recommend subscribing ) - h/t, A&L Daily - will take a few minutes to untangle and absorb. It is either an exercise in solipcism, or else very cool and fun. Lanza is a Professor of Medicine.
It's about consciousness and the real world, which is a subject which tends to require a touch of alcohol - or should I say ethanol, these days? Is reality a biological epiphenomenon?
It begins with this quote from the great Loren Eisley:
and ends thus:
Go ahead and read the whole thing.
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Delightful barmaid's you have at Maggie's. Now I'll go read the piece...
Mercy--hefting them beer barrels looks like great exercise--
Cool article, so I will forgive you your rather low taste in females...whatever floats your boat!
Liked these quotes
"As Emerson wrote in “Experience,” an essay that confronted the facile positivism of his age: “We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and distorting lenses which we are or of computing the amount of their errors. Perhaps these subjectlenses have a creative power; perhaps there are no objects.”
What we interpret as the world is brought into existence inside our head. Sensory information does not impress upon the brain, as particles of light impress upon the film in a camera. The images you see are a construction by the brain. Everything you are experiencing right now (pretend you’re back on the subway) is being actively generated in your mind—the hard plastic seats, the graffiti, the dark remnants of chewing gum stuck to the floor. All physical things—subway turnstiles, train platforms, newspaper racks, their shapes, sounds, and odors—all these sensations are experienced inside your head. Everything we observe is based on the direct interaction of energy on our senses, whether it is matter (like your shoe sticking to the floor of a subway car) or particles of light (emitted from sparks as a subway train rounds a corner). Anything that we do not observe directly, exists only as potential—or mathematically speaking—as a haze of probability."
"You may question whether the brain can really create physical reality. However, remember that dreams and schizophrenia (consider the movie A Beautiful Mind) prove the capacity of the mind to construct a spatial-temporal reality as real as the one you are experiencing now. The visions and sounds schizophrenic patients see and hear are just as real to them as this page or the chair you’re sitting on."
Made me want to go re-read a book that sparked my interest in the biology of consciousness, religious experience, Julian Jaynes' "Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" He may have been discredited by now, but I read him in college, and loved the way he looks at the evolution of human consciousness from one where people heard the gods speaking to them, were unself-consciousness thru the gods becoming silent as people developed self-consciousness.... Of course others, like Oliver Sachs took this further...
Anyway, thanks for a good link.
As usual I have had my nightly quota of grog (brandy), please keep that in mind. (addendum, after many interruptions and dinner, I may have to take more responsibility for my words, damn)
First off, hat's off to Robert Lanza. A lot of information, condensed and written well, in a relative short essay. Well done by him.
While reading, though, I was constantly thinking back to earlier days, "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramhansa Yogananda, "Don Juan" in Castaneda's series and, laugh if you like, but for a Northeast touch, Baba Ram Dass and his "Be Here Now." Other examples abound. The central theme in all was 'Live right now' or 'Carpe Diem', which I would modify to "enjoy the instant." The past is indeed, and the future is dream, or hope/faith if one prefers.
I think Mr. Lanza adequately addresses the theme of solipsism. "It is not my consciousness or yours alone, but ours." We are all sharers of the tent, as isolated as we may feel, we all inhabit the mega consciousness that makes what we see, real.
Now I have experienced a couple of things, while straight as a stone, that illustrated, for me, our connectedness with the other. Similar to the "wave-particle duality" which I admit is among the most mysterious of things I do not understand.
The only thing I 'question'. Making the big assumption that we are it. If the earth were gone, and all of us with it, (as will happen in a scant 3-4 billion years) the universe would still be there, or would it not? I mean, well you know what I mean, does the universe really only exist because we look at it? I just can't buy that. Time/space as learned spatial interruptions, sure. But the very universe?
Confused by wave-particle? Have some more peyote, my son, and it will become clear as day.
If a tree falls in the forest... What's the old joke about the guy who hits the philosopher with a stick, or something?
I don't think Lanza is trying to say something mystical or religious (although he is), but that our construction of reality is "bio-centric."
Yes. BTW, I met Ram Dass a couple of times.
Like wow, man, like really deeply spiritual, you know Actually, Richard Alpert is/was a good fellow. He has a web site - I ought to post it on blog: http://www.ramdass.org/
And then I go over and see this from your friend at Synthstuff.
Well I wondered what happened with the capcha - I can't post a link, but go to synthstuff and scroll down to the doubleslit experiment. What a coincidence?
I saw that yesterday, but didnt post it because I followed his links and they seemed to discount the importance of the experiment.
Sheesh. Have another joint, a couple more shrooms, a couple more beers, relax, and just enjoy the great beautiful unity of being. Be Here Now - at Maggie's, of course.
We discovered peyote before we invented the internets.
Ram Dass is very wise to settle in Maui. Holly from the lostgirls.com just put up a very interesting post up called "Life Inside an Ashram" in India. It is a bit of an eyeopener. especially the the part where she catches an eye virus. Read on....
-What about this eye virus that’s going around? What’s the cause of all the people at the ashram getting sick?” one student challenges.
Swami responds by asking everyone who has not yet gotten the virus to raise their hand. When over half of the students do so, he shrugs as if his point has been proven. “People get sick because of karma or else everyone would have become ill.”-
Her article on spending a month at the ashram is here, scroll about half way down,
well, don't get me wrong--if rammed ass has found peas, i'm all 4 him--
as the great sippican once said over on the althouse blog, "oh, the huge manatee!"
Buddy, finally, something with which to disagree. I have not, particularly, (at all really) kept up with "rammed ass" for many years. He may have weakened us, in the overall. And now, considering where we are, he may be a detriment. But I do not think of him as a harmful person, his influence is minimal. But of course it is the incremental that is deadly.
Could be an interesting discussion on nuances, but I am just the common thinker, not made for the real stuff.
But, we are the real stuff--if numbers count. And you're right--i shouldn't sneer at ram dass over my own chagrin at ever having pretended to understand eastern mysticism (a long time ago).
But Buddy do we really want too make it all about the numbers :-) No, I don't think so...but OTOH we see the results everyday of the elite thinkers. Wanting to rule our lives, weaken our individual freedom's and telling us how best to live. We might even have one as President in a couple of years.
I responded as I did because I was a little taken aback by the tone of your 'R..A..', unusual for you, ya know. I think there have been very few that have understood eastern mysticism, least of all me, of course. It is a different culture where it is practiced, different mindset. Much like Islam. Alien to me. No room to move around, hell, no room too make a fool out of yourself. I would have to have been beaten into submission. But then when you don't grow up free you don't know what you are missing. Sorry, no sense here, minds' all over today.