Archive for the Psychology Category

Pace-Maker

Posted in All, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by marushiadark

“Can you hear it?  Hear this rhythm?  It’s the rhythm of time … and life.” ~ Fatman, Metal Gear Solid 2.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this animated lecture called The Secret Powers of Time, by Philip Zimbardo.  I watched it, trying as best I could not to analyze it, but to just empty my cup and take it all in as new information and a different perspective.

The general gist of the lecture is that there are six different “time zones” that people live in and that this has a profound effect on the way those people view the world, conduct themselves, where they live, how their mind works, and so forth.  I won’t go into too much detail about that.  If you wanna know, you can just watch it yourself.  This post is mainly my reflections on it.

From my own experience, I can attest that cities in the southern portions of countries tend to have a much different experiences of time than people in the northern portions.

Let’s compare two such cities: Savannah, Georgia, and New York, New York.  Both are major cities, but the overall pace of Savannah is much slower, much calmer, much more relaxed.  Even the appearance of the city seems to reflect this difference.  Where New York is crammed and full of skyscrapers, Savannah is much more open, with the tallest buildings being scarcely above twelve floors.  The whole city of Savannah seems to shut down somewhere between 6PM and 10PM, with few exceptions, whereas some place like New York is still alive and active during that time; in fact, it’s often just beginning to wake up.

This is just one example taken in brief.  I’m sure if you’ve traveled at all in your life, you can think of many examples like this.  You could probably also notice the subtle differences in pace between some place like New York and Philadelphia, where the change in latitude is smaller, but the relative pace is still proportional.

So a general rule, what Philip Zimbardo said about north-south relations of time seems accurate.

It makes sense from a physical standpoint too, since as you go north, the distance between lines of longitude grows shorter.  You can cover more ground (in a polar sense) in the same amount of time, ergo you are more productive.

But one thing I noticed as Zimbardo was talking is that this is a relative value.  Time is a factor in pace, but so are other things like climate, population, and the availability of resources.  For instance, Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole is a highly efficient machine compared to New York, but the same can’t be said for Albany or Toronto.

Perhaps the most valuable insight in Zimbardo’s lecture is how he highlights the way in which younger generations are geared to think digitally and thus at a faster pace than their parents and grandparents, who are accustomed to analogue.  That every second is precious and waiting is a pain is something I think will only become worse (or better) as time goes by.  Soon, it won’t be seconds we’re counting, but microseconds, especially with the advancement of computer technology wherein computers begin to piece together complex patterns that only the human brain can do right now.

Technology doesn’t make things better, it just makes things faster.  Technology only makes things better where lack of speed and efficiency in accomplishing a task was the fundamental problem in the first place.

The same fundamental problems exist for humans everywhere.  The disparities between the pace of life in the north and south, I think, are ultimately largely a matter of differences in the way in which people have resolved these problems.  How they’ve assessed what their needs are and how to go about acquiring them.  The same can be said of the conservative vs. liberal model, or of the traditional vs. modern model.  Such extremes are only paths and we take a left or a right at any given fork based on what we want or need in any given moment.

I’m sure all of you reading this right now, if I asked you to, could come up with a list of values, beliefs, and practices that you agree with and those you disagree with, and in full assessment of said lists, you’d find that, more than anything, you probably aren’t fully to one side or the other in any of those models I just described.

Some of you may consider yourself pious, religious persons, for instance, yet you don’t dive into the deep end of the pool and live monastically in a convent, eating mush and practicing asceticism.  Do you?

Conversely, those of you who abhor religion probably see the value, either from a rational perspective, or otherwise through intuition, that certain rules and morals like “don’t hurt people on purpose without a good reason” are good and necessary and that, whether you’re aware of it or not, society is living and functioning because of such rules and principles.

All things in moderation, including moderation.  Your pace should change with the circumstances.  When you drive a car, you go one speed in a school zone and another on the highway, and somewhere in between all other times, right?  You adapt your pace with the changes in the road, and you adapt your pace of life, and your temporal focus in much the same way.

So which time zone should we live in?  Zimbardo seems to favor the future, but I think the present’s where it’s at.  When you look out, you see mostly just what is right in front of you in that moment, occasionally glancing to the left and right through your peripherals.  If you turn your head, you environment changes, but your anatomy hasn’t changed.  You’re still looking at what is directly in front of you in the immediate sense.  So I think it must be in life that we remain mostly in the present, while keeping the past and the future in our peripherals.

The past tells us where we came from and how we got to the state we’re in.  The future gives us a sense of where we are, or would like to go.  But the present just is.  And let it be.

Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

Symbols, Part 8: Serpents

Posted in All, Health, Humor, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by marushiadark

“If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” ~ Ross Perot.

That sentiment may be practical advice, but it serves to illustrate how serpents get a pretty bad rep, both in ancient and modern society.

A number of stories depict snakes as villainous, conniving, and evil.  Medusa and Grendel’s Mother are classic examples.  Indiana Jones can face down Nazis Occultists but is afraid of snakes.  Interpretations of passages from Genesis and Revelation equated the serpent with Satan.  We refer to liars as “snakes” and to fake remedies as “snake oil.”  And a cursory glance on Google will reveal a number of quotes about snakes (like the one above) in which the general advice is to kill them right away.

It would seem that most people throughout the ages don’t like snakes, nor do they take the time to educate themselves about snakes.

There is practical reason to be cautious of snakes, since a number of species are, in fact, poisonous.  But by and large, they are not something to fear.  Most of the top ten deadliest snakes are located in Australia, and then others such as the boa constrictor or the anaconda do not appear commonly in most people’s lives.  Snakes, like most animals, operate based on survival instinct.  They eat when they are hungry and attack when they feel threatened.  If you leave them be, even the deadly ones, you’ve nothing to worry about.  Snakes are deserving of our adoration and respect, like every other creature.

“I’m fascinated by the concept of snake-handling.  When you read about the Pentecostal snake-handlers, what strikes you most is their commitment.” ~ Lucinda Williams

The Pentecostal tradition of snake-handling comes from an interpretation of the ending of Mark 16.  The idea of snake-handling, in a Christian perspective, is most likely because of the association of snakes with Satan, and that to wield power over snakes is to overcome the power of the devil.

An interesting idea, except that it is believed by a number of scholars that the end of Mark 16 is, in fact, a later addition to the Gospel to make it more like The Gospel of Luke.

Still, the Pentecostals are not the first group to practice snake-handling.  Many people keep snakes as pets and we are all familiar with the late Steve Irwin and his famous handling of snakes and other deadly creatures.  Such traditions of snake handling go back many thousands of years, in fact.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’ ” ~ Genesis 3:4

Genesis 3:1 is the first appearance of the serpent in the Bible.  Here, it is depicted as “more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”  The word “cunning,” typically has a derogatory connotation associated with deceit.  However, it can also mean clever, skillful, sharp, or shrewd.  So the serpent was the most intelligent creature God had made up until that point.  Depending on which interpretation you choose to follow, this may or may not include man and angels.  Lucifer was allegedly the most intelligent being in existence next to God, but he was not a “beast of the field.”  Man also was not a “beast of the field,” but the serpent may have been smarter than man, since it convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

Either way, the serpent is very intelligent, but is it malicious?  Some people blame the serpent for costing us paradise.  Certainly the God of the Old Testament does, since he punishes the serpent by removing its limbs and making it subservient to man.

Others see the serpent as a savior, bestowing on mankind the gifts of knowledge and reason.  If anything, the Tree of Knowledge helped to enable our free will by making us more aware of our reality.  And although Adam and Eve did ultimately get cast out of Eden, it could be said that the serpent never really lied.  God said Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate the fruit.  But the fruit isn’t what killed them, and God still had a chance to change his mind if he wanted to.  So one could say it was God’s decision to cut them off from the Tree of Life that ultimately killed them.

Some people believe that the human race is either descended from, or is the creation of, serpent-like alien beings, equated with the Annunaki of Mesopotamian mythology.  Many of the Biblical stories derive from earlier Sumerian and Babylonian myths, of which the Annunaki are a part.  Certainly the “sons of god” from Genesis and the numerous references to “we” and “us” suggests a pantheon of beings, not just one alone, and the behavior of God in the Old Testament suggests he came to earth quite frequently.  Either way, if there is any truth to the serpent alien story, are they benevolent or malevolent?  Who’s to say?

In Jewish mythology, Lilith – the first wife of Adam – was created at the same time as Adam.  She is often depicted carrying a serpent or sometimes equated with the serpent of Genesis.  Lilith is viewed as different things by different people.

The two most prevalent interpretations are that she is either a woman who got a bad deal for being the first feminist, or a demonic seductress.  Quite an extreme, wouldn’t you say?

Lilith also appears in Babylonian mythology and is often equated with the owl, another creature related to wisdom.  The owl can see in the dark, meaning it has secret knowledge of things that the sun does not reveal.  The owl is also a nocturnal predator.  So again, are we to trust the creature or not?

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.”  ~ Matthew 10:16-17.

Martin Luther King was a minister before he became a civil rights leader.  In one of his sermons, he talks extensively about what Jesus meant by the above passage.  In his view, to be “wise as serpents” is a good thing and means to be tough of mind.  To think things through, to be logical, and self-determinant and to not just accept what so-called authorities tell us, but to instead think for ourselves and be our own judges, our own authorities.  Then, to be “harmless as doves,” is to be soft-hearted, compassionate, and kind.  To see our brothers as ourselves and to bring freedom to all.

The serpent ties these ideas together in another religious leader, Moses.

In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turns into a snake and Moses is very afraid.  But after working with God, he later uses this same power against the Egyptian priests to liberate his people from the tyrannical pharaoh.

Moses is not the only religious figure to be linked to a staff and snake, however.  In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing, and the son of Apollo (the sun god).  Asclepius is also associated with the 13th sign of the Zodiac: Ophiuchus, the symbol for which is a snake coiled around a rod.  This is the proper symbol for healing, as can be seen on the Emergency Medical Service’s Star of Life, the EMS being an organization that saves many lives.  Interestingly, the symbol chosen by medical institutions is the caduceus, which is a symbol of Hermes, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, gamblers, thieves, and liars.  That should tell you a lot, right there.

Also, I mentioned before that alternative remedies are often referred to as “snake oil.”  I wonder what would happen if it were one day discovered that snake oil actually cures cancer.  Think about that for a while.

All in all, snakes are complex creatures.  Perhaps the real truth is that snakes have two sides to them, like all of us: a dark side and a light side.  One side cold and calculating, the other bright and helpful.  One side seductive and deadly, the other side sensual and enlightening.

Mindfuck #5: We’re All Mad

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality on October 10, 2010 by marushiadark

“Everyone here is mad. I’m mad. You’re mad.  It’s only by chance n’ careful planning if you’re not.” ~ The Cheshire Cat

What does it mean to be mad?  Madness is a synonym for insanity, which is the opposite of sanity, which means to be sane.  The dictionary defines “sane” as “being free from mental derangement” and “having sound judgment.”  But what does that mean?

Typically, when we think of an insane person, we think of someone foaming at the mouth, talking to the voices in their head, imagining that the walls are covered with insects, but there are other types of insane.

No one can know everything, therefore no one can know the whole truth.  So all of our individual realities are limited by our perceptions.  Thus, our realities are subjective and relative, based more on consensus and mutual agreement than objectivity.

Even the scientific method is subjective, since it’s based on observations that are fallible.  If reality is consensual, then the scientific method just says that whichever subjective observation gets the most votes wins the “What is real?” poll.  It’s like the guess the candies game.  You can increase your odds through various methods, such as measuring the size of the candies and calculating their volumes and the volume of the jar they’re contained in.  Maybe your guess is even the closest, or even exactly the right amount, but only the person who initially counted the candies knows for sure.  Science seeks to analyze our universe, yet we are part of the universe, and the very act of measuring it changes everything.  So science isn’t all that different from philosophy or religion.  They’re all just people taking their best guess based on the information they have.  As long as it works for what the person is trying to achieve, then it is effectively correct.

To know what actually exists, we’d have to remove ourselves from reality and view it as a closed, isolated system, which is next to impossible.  Even if we could do that, I have a hunch that the result will simply serve to prove the same conclusions that a few observant people have been trying to tell us for thousands of years.

So if reality is subjective, then no one knows the whole truth.  So how do we know who is of sound mind and who is deranged?

A reasonable person would have to conclude that, if no one knows the whole truth, then we’re all just a bit missed misinformed.  We all shape reality to reflect our beliefs instead of shaping our beliefs to reflect reality.  None of us sees reality for what it truly is, which means we’re all just a bit delusional.  We’re all just a little bit mad.

And if we’re just God in a void playing fingerpuppets, then some would characterize that as having already gone mad, just like how Tom Hank’s character in Castaway created Wilson to avoid going mad; but in a different light, talking to a volleyball is madness too, since it’s not a real person and can’t talk back.

So madness is all a matter of perspective, really.

“The world ain’t what is it seems … You keep that in mind.  The moment you think you got it figured, you’re wrong.” ~ Mr. Rate, Shooter

It’s ironic that those who have a better understanding of what’s going on tend to be labeled by the masses as “crazy, insane nuts.”  You hear all the time about so-called “conspiracy nuts” that say the government has done all these things to its own people.  Are they crazy?  Or do they just know something that you don’t because they have more information than you do?  If they’re grounding their arguments on logic and evidence and you choose to ignore them, doesn’t that make you the crazy one for denying some part of reality?

Not every conspiracy theory is true, of course, which is why it’s just a theory; and new information could come along to change or even debunk that theory at anytime.  But not every conspiracy theory is false either.  To make a blanket statement like “all conspiracy theorists are nuts” is to assume that you know everything there is to know about the government and the people who work for it and what their minds are like, and that based on both your extensive knowledge and mind-reading abilities, you have come to the conclusion that no, the government cannot and never would do something or anything like that.

But the reality is, at least the last time I checked, that government is comprised of people (and possibly aliens) and that humans are fallible and prone to such things as rape and murder and abuse of any and all power.  So what is conspiracy except two or more people coming together to do such things?  What is government conspiracy except those conspirators being in the government?  So the pejorative use of the term is in fact pretty stupid.

Speaking of stupid, religious nuts are common, right?  I’m sure we’ve all seen the guy on the street holding up a cardboard sign that says “The End is Near.”

Is he crazy?  Only if the end is not near, because that would be a denial of reality.  But the end of what?  And what exactly is “near”?  Two months?  Two years?  Two hundred years?  Two hundred years is very near if viewed from the perspective of human history, but no one would be alarmed or take notice of a guy who said, “The End is 200 Years Away.”

So is this guy crazy?  Perhaps.  It may simply be that he is looking around at the world and misapplying the teachings of his holy book in regards to it.  But it could just as easily be that he knows something that the rest of us don’t.  Who are we to say that God didn’t send him a message in his sleep to tell him to go do that?  Are we so arrogant that we think we know what God can and can’t do?  If God can talk to people and create prophets to carry his message, why couldn’t he make new ones in our own time?  Especially if we didn’t get it the first several times around.

I’ve always wanted to sit down and talk with one of those people and find out just what’s going through their heads.  They could tell me what they know and believe and I could share with them what I know and believe, and hopefully as least one of us will get something out of the experience.

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.” ~ Clarke’s First Law

Another common cliche is the mad scientist who stumbles upon a new truth but is then rejected by his colleagues.

Most of the time, this truth is perverted and abused for uses that are harmful, destructive, and immoral, but that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, genuine breakthroughs are ignored by those of small mind, unwilling or unable to expand their thinking; or by those whose paychecks are on the line, researching something contrary to what that one person discovered. 

Nikola Tesla would be good examples of both.  In fact, he appears in a number of propaganda cartoons, including one with giant robots.

But either way, all these “mad” scientists did was discover something true about the way the universe works.  Whether it’s good or bad depends upon the character of the person that uses it.  The knife that kills can be used to save your life.

Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws of prediction lead us to believe that reality is a lot stranger than we think it is presently.  They emphasize expansion of consciousness and a journey further down the rabbit hole into Wonderland where things get “curiouser and curiouser.”

In a way, we are all arrogant for assuming that we know anything at all about what’s really going on.  Religious minds are arrogant to say that God needs anything from us.  Scientific minds are arrogant to say that they know that God doesn’t exist.  And so on.

We are all mad.  We are all arrogant.  We are all delusional.  Some more than others, but that too is part of the illusion and we cannot say for certain that we know which ones those are.  Pride goes before the fall, and all fall short in the eyes of the Lord.

Mindfuck #4: Infinity

Posted in All, Humor, Psychology, Science, Spirituality on October 9, 2010 by marushiadark

“The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.” ~ Alan Watts, philosopher

The concept of infinity is another one of those doors that I opened up once without actually knowing what it was and then quickly slammed it shut in fear upon realizing what I was looking at. I don’t recall how old I was at the time when I first had that revelation, but I must have been around fourteen or so, because I still held firm to a Christian understanding of the afterlife.

In school, they taught me that when you die and go to either heaven or hell, you go there for an eternity.  One day, I found myself wondering about that.  I imagined myself up in heaven, sitting on a cloud with God and angels plucking at their little harps.  You know, heaven.  Then, I thought about being in such a situation as that forever.  So after all that had been done, then what?  Still the same, with the singing and the clouds and the halos.  Fast forward a million, billion, gazillion years (numbers that I couldn’t even fathom in their own right) and that still wasn’t the end.  Fast forward a million, billion, zillion, bazillion years, … nope.  Still the same spot.

I tried to stretch my mind  to keep going as far into the future as I could.  But intuitively, I knew that, no matter how far ahead I went, the situation would always remain the same.  If heaven was being on a cloud with God for all eternity, then this is what it would look like.

At about that point, I started becoming deathly afraid.  I realized, in that moment, that no matter how hard I tried, there would be no end to it.  It would just keep going and going and going to the point of madness.

Truthfully, words like “infinity” and “eternal” have no meaning until you actually come face to face with the realities they describe.  Only then do you truly realize how frightening the concept really is.

It’s just like how words like “heights” and “hundredth floor” don’t mean anything until you get up there and look down and the threat of imminent death is slammed into your face.  You become like Eddie Murphey’s character in The Golden Child where, in one scene, he drops a quarter into a bottomless pit.  He waits and waits for there to be a sound.  He knows that it ought to make a sound if there’s a floor, but none is made.  After a few seconds, he started to become confused.  After half a minute, he becomes worried.  The longer time drags on without a sound, the more frightened he becomes, as the more he realizes that there is no bottom!

Infinite time and infinite space are linked.  But infinite time is less frightening when one is always living in the now.  Infinite space, however, is another matter entirely.

In art, the principles of linear perspective and relative scale help define a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional medium.  Such depth, especially infinite depth, is merely an illusion on the page.  But the reality of infinite depth is potentially incomprehensible, and certainly very frightening.

To illustrate this point, consider the following parable I created.

Imagine a spaceman who travels out into the universe in search of God and meaning and truth and other such things.  He knows that God is greater than anything there is, and this is all he has to go by.  So he travels out into the depths of space until he loses all sight of the earth.  He travels to the end of the solar system, until the sun appears as nothing more than a tiny dot.  By now, he has traveled incredibly far, but space is vast and there’s still so much left.  He presses on to the edge of the galaxy, until millions upon millions of stars are now within his field of vision.  Still he trudges on until the whole of the galaxy now appears within his windshield.  By this point, if he were traveling at the speed of light, it would have taken him over 100,000 years to see such a thing.  In such a time, the ancient cavemen would have developed to the point where they could build ships like his.  And there’s still so far to go.

Our spaceman turns to his left and sees Andromeda, the nearest spiral galaxy, through his port window.  To reach it, it would take twenty-five times longer than it took him to go from earth to where he is now.  Such a trip would be maddening.  As he travels towards Andromeda, it would appear as though he wasn’t even moving at all.  Andromeda would appear to stay exactly the same size and distance away.

But supposing our spaceman took pictures every few millenniums of Andromeda to prove to himself that he wasn’t losing it, but that he was, in fact, showing marked progress in gaining towards Andromeda.  Such might encourage him to stave off madness and press on a little further (never minding how the hell he’s even still alive at this point).

So our astronaut friend has traveled about 2.5 million light years.  The galactic equivalent of moving from one blade of grass to an adjacent blade of grass in a great big universal lawn.

In his millions of years of travel, he’s found no God.  But he’s seen the wonders of the universe through his windshield and has grown quite bored of them.  He decides that he will make a trip to the edges of the universe itself.  Assuming our little spaceman was somewhere near the middle of the universe, it would take him about forty-six billion (46,000,000,000) years to reach the edge.  The significance of such a number in terms of either time or distance is really lost on human beings.  It’s just beyond our comprehension.

Most people can’t even last a single day without going mad from boredom (some of you probably won’t even make it to the end of this post).  If our astronaut friend didn’t shoot himself in the head after 2.5 million years, he might do it in 2.6 million, or three million, or even five million; and that’s still only a fraction of the way to his destination.  Even if he managed to make it as many as a billion years, that still leaves 45 billion more to go.

And we humans think we know what God is?!  God is supposed to be greater than the whole of the universe, right?  To be able to even see the whole of the universe in his windshield, we’d have to travel at least twice that distance, or close to 90 billion light years!

Again, such a concept loses all meaning in human minds.  I could probably take you to the beach and say, “Here’s a billion grains of sand,” and have you line them up end to end.  Now multiply that by ninety (good luck even imagining ninety beaches).  That would make ninety billion grains of sand, but we’re talking in terms of light-years here, not microns.  A light-year is 10^16 kilometers.  To make just one light-year, you’d need like a million, billion, billion beaches.  Yeah, ok.  The human mind can imagine that, right?  No!

So to reach the other side of the universe, you’d need like 90 million, billion, billion, billion grains of sand and … you see where this going.  It’s just too much for any mind to comprehend.

And we’re still not even done yet!

Supposing our astronaut gets far enough away from the universe that he can see the whole thing in his windshield.  Who’s to say there isn’t a multiverse made of a trillion universes, each about 90 billion light-years across and several trillion light-years between them?  At this point, the only way we can talk about such things is through comparison and scale.  To shrink down the universe through a metaphor.

Now imagine the astronaut gets to the end of all of that and sufficiently beyond (say 1.5 times the distance from the center) to see the whole thing in his front windshield.  Is that God?  I don’t know.  It could be.  Or maybe there’s even more to existence.

But for sake of argument, let’s say there isn’t.  Let’s say that after the multiverse, there’s just nothing as far as the eye can see, except when you’re look directly at the multiverse.

Supposing also that our spaceman is a closed-minded, uptight, and arrogant little fucktard who’s not at all impressed with the fact that he’s got the whole of the multiverse in one glance.  So he begins to wonder what’s “out there” in the emptiness of the void beyond existence.  Is there just oblivion or is whatever it is just so far away that he can’t seen it?  After all, he’s seen the universe itself become a spec within his window and that was pretty big.  But he still hasn’t seen God yet.

He continues on and on into the void of space beyond the multiverse.  Only this time, he has no visual reference to go by.  There is no point of light appearing in the distance to mark his journey by, no matter how far out he travels.  Because there is no secondary point, there is no time, since time requires a change in the relationship between two objects in space.  He’s in solitary and time seems to stand still.

Eventually, he looks back behind him and sees that the whole of existence is quickly fading into the distance, appearing now as just a faint point of light.

Our astronaut begins to get worried.  Like Eddie Murphy from the Golden Child, he is becoming more aware of the infinity before him.  He starts to sweat now at the thought of there not being anything else out there.  What if he goes to far and loses sight of the multiverse behind him?  How will he knew which way to go to get back?  He could be lost in the void for all eternity, too late to reverse his foolish and prideful decision to soldier on.

At this point, he has two options.

The first option is to admit to himself that he is afraid and will turn back in fear, returning to the multiverse.  He will have to admit to himself that reality is an island in a void and that God is the sum total of it all and that meaning and purpose are self-defined.  He will then return a changed man and have a new-found spiritual awareness.  He will appreciate the universe for what it is, having seen every last bit of it and realizing that there never was an end point at all.  He will feel at one with anything and everything there is.  He will then travel to planets of lesser minds and cultivate them with this profound spiritual wisdom.  Both he and they will be much happier for it and he will live out the rest of eternity in peace.

The second option is to continue on into the void and stay there for all eternity, living in abject nihilism.  Since he will have existed for billions of years, he will no doubt have done a lot of thinking in that time and have unlocked all the mysteries of existence.  This may be why he chose to carry on, because nothing in reality fulfilled him.  So if there is nothing left for him in the universe, he will go on to create his own, using what he has available: his thoughts.  He will divide himself and enter the realm of dualism and separateness where he is a fissure of mind, a fragmented consciousness, a veiled awareness.  He shall either be the most enlightened soul in all existence, or the maddest.

Persistence of Memory

Posted in All, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2010 by marushiadark

“God is Santa Claus for grown-ups.” ~ Unknown

People of faith often believe that, when we die, if we are good, we’ll get eternal happiness, and if we’re bad, we’ll get eternal punishment.  But does that sound fair to you?  Does that sound like the invention of an all-knowing, compassionate being?  Or does that sound more like a bedtime story you’d tell to kids?

Hey, kids, you know, if you’re really good, Santa Claus will bring you lots of presents, but if you’re bad, he’ll bring you an icky lump of coal instead.  And he can see when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake.  In fact, he won’t even come until after you’re in bed.

You know, there’s a reason they call it eternal rest and sleeping like the dead.

It doesn’t seem right to me that God should give you an eternity of something based on the actions of a fraction of a fraction of that time.  Given all the hype about God, I think he would have more sense than that.  I mean, even our own limited and fallible human institutions know that people change over time and that reward and punishment must be in accordance with a person’s recent behavior.  For some, it may takes moments to change, for others decades, for some maybe even a few hundred years, but that’s still nothing compared to eternity.

Based on the laws of karma, I do believe that you receive some sort of reward or punishment after you die, but I hardly think it’s eternal.

“Death is rest for the soul.  Who was it that said that?  If the body did not die, and the fears borne in the mind just continued to pile up, the world would be nothing more than an eternal prison.” ~ Ziggy, Xenosaga Episode II

The law of conservation of energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred.  Even a cynical empiricist who worships the scientific method must admit that if consciousness is energy, then it retains some form even after the body has died.  It might not be in exactly the same state, but it still continues to exist in one state or another.  And what does that sound like from a spiritual perspective?  Reincarnation, perhaps?

Reincarnation is simply the conservation of consciousness between one lifetime and the next.  Many religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Christianity teach that this is what happens to you when you die.  The body decays and the carbon, water, and other components go back into the environment.  The mind goes offline and reawakens in some other body, like transferring documents from one computer to the next.  And the soul just remains as it’s always been, in the position of the observer.

The concept of reincarnation can be scientifically verified.  In fact, some people have already tried.  Maybe you’ve heard stories and news reports about young children being taken to certain places and having knowledge of those places and certain events relating to them that no one has mentioned to the child and which the child can’t possibly know otherwise, except through some sort of metaphysical transfer of information.  That would be a way of proving reincarnation to someone else, but there are other ways of proving it to yourself.

“‘How can I tell,’ said the man, ‘that the past isn’t a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensations and my state of mind?'” ~ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Ever since I was young, I’d always gotten along a lot better with adults than I did people my own age.  I think a number of people can probably say they feel the same way.  Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve conversed with people much older than myself and have come to realize that there are people ten, twenty, even thirty years older than me that act like children.  I don’t really count myself particularly privileged, at least no more-so than those individuals.  So what accounts for this?

When I was in college, I took an introductory course on Psychology and learned about the various stages of development that the human mind goes through.  Among them was the concept of Generativity vs. Stagnation, more commonly known as the mid-life crisis, in which a person looks back on their life and feels that they’ve done nothing but waste time and miss opportunities.  I was only about twenty at the time, but I felt as though I’d already had several mid-life crises over the course of my lifetime.

Some months later, I began to do a great deal of soul searching and starting to become aware of the fact that this wasn’t the first time I’d been here on this planet.  All in all, I’d been here at least five or six times that I can recall (possibly even more than that), which would mean that I’m a fairly old soul.

People often ask me how I know all this, how I came to realize that I’d had past lives and that they took on the particular characteristics that I claim they did.  Well, let me put it to you like this.

I know that there is a lot of New Age emphasis on the Power of Now, as made famous by Eckhart Tolle and others, and that along with this comes the realization that there is no past or future.  But for sake of argument, let’s assume that there is a past.  Most people would think it reasonable to say there is a past.  But how do you know?  How do you know that you weren’t literally born yesterday?  How do you even know that there was a yesterday?  How do you know that, when you woke up this morning, it wasn’t the beginning of time and you simply discovered you had all these thoughts in your head from the very beginning?

When you play a video game, it’s all a programmed illusion that begins as soon as you turn the game on.  That is year zero.  Yet when you turn the game on, you are immersed into a world and a body that has history, or so it believes.  In rare cases, such as Assassin’s Creed II, you get to know the character from the time of their birth; but usually you just wake up one day to find that you are now in a situation and that you have thoughts and ideas in your head about who you are, where you are, what you do, and who your friends are.  Time began at that moment, so all the so-called past is really just an illusion.

Do you think it’s reasonable to suggest that the same could be true for us as well?  That time could just be an illusion and the past merely accounting for discrepancies between our present condition and our memories?

But let us suppose that the opposite is true.  Supposing there really is a past.  So there’s a yesterday and a last year.  Why would your birth, then, be the beginning of your consciousness?  Genetic memory and the 100th Monkey Effect can explain where behavioral instincts come from, but not memories and wisdom of things that neither you nor your ancestors experienced.  For that, you’d need reincarnation.

So how do I know that I lived a past life?  Simple.  I remember something about it, the same as I remember something that happened yesterday or last year.  How do I know it’s memory and not imagination?  Well, how does anyone know that what they experienced yesterday or last year was real and not simply made up?  You feel it in your gut that this is true and accurate and what really happened to you.  That’s how.

“Now if you’re thinking, just now, ‘Why me, oh God?’  The answer is, God has nothing to do with it.  In fact, God is never in France this time of year.” Dorleac, Count of Monte Cristo

Reincarnation is tied with karma.  What you do in the past effects your future.  Even if you get away with something in this lifetime, there are higher forces at work that will see to it that you make up for it next time.  Just like in playing a video game, if you fuck up and die, you retain the memory of what happened and that can effect future outcomes.

That’s probably also what Déjà Vu is, too.  If you feel like you’ve experienced something before, it’s probably because you have.  You just hit the restart button and decided to play over from your last checkpoint.  Like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, when he keeps trying to find the right words to say to his coworker.

So if you find yourself thinking, “Why me, oh God?” the answer is, it’s always been on you.  Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people and to young children?  It’s probably to teach you a lesson for something you did in a past life.  For instance, in one of my past lives, I was a really shitty parent.  So God decided to grace me with a bad father.  Not as bad as I had been, but enough that I could understand what it was like from the receiving end.

In another past life, I was a cruel Templar master.  So God decided to set me in a time and place where the Templars ruled as the sort of cruel masters that I had been.  He set me on a path to learn about the New World Order from the perspective of one of their slaves.  If I am truly the observer and the creator of my universe, then it stands to reason that such things as The Da Vinci Code and Assassin’s Creed were also created by me as tools for my benefit.  The entire history of the world has been constructed and uploaded into my mind to serve as context while I progress through the game of life towards my objectives.  It’s only logical.

It’s a lot like Alice dreaming of the Red King, who’s dreaming of Alice, who’s dreaming of the Red King … From your perspective, I’m the illusion and the whole world is created for your benefit and lesson.  So life becomes a dream, a shared dream (like in Inception), in which we all create and grow and experience together.  And when we die, we simply wake up somewhere else, with only the memory remaining.

Mindfuck #3: I Am

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2010 by marushiadark

“No matter what ya calls me, I am what I am an’ tha’s all I yam.” ~ Popeye

Very little thought is given to the way in which we use words, especially in reference to ourselves.  Often times, we place a great deal of our identity into things that are not us.  We equate who we really are with an object or concept that is not who we are, but rather something that we have.

For instance, people often say things like, “I am black” or “I am Christian” or “I am a redhead.”  Oh really?  That’s what you are?  Are you sure you don’t simply “have black skin” and “have Christian beliefs” and “have red hair”?

Such behavior is not inherited; it is learned.  We aren’t born identifying with things around us.  That line of thinking is socially conditioned into us.

Would you say that you are your car?  No, that’s ridiculous.  You’re very clearly not your car.  You have a car, but you are not your car.  A car is simply a vessel that you move around in.  You just attach yourself to the vehicle temporarily for the purposes of travel, carrying heavy loads, and doing other such tasks that you wouldn’t be able to do without it.

How about when you play a video game?  We often refer to the character as ourselves.  We say “I did this,” “I moved that,” “I shot the enemy,” and so forth.  But we are not the character.  The character is simply an avatar – a vessel – that we attach ourselves to by way of the controller in order to move about the digital world and do things like fly, shoot lasers, etc.  If you’ve ever been on a forum, you know that the little icon to the left of your post is also called your avatar.  It’s not you, either.  It’s merely a temporary representation of you that may not have anything to do with who you really are.

So what about your body?  Do you identify with that?  Your body is just a collection of cells that grouped together to form a collective unit.  It has more in common with a pixelated video game character than anything else, and your mind would then be the controller.  If you lose a few cells, do you necessarily stop being you?  If you lose an arm, a leg, or a kidney, do you stop being you?  No.  At least, you don’t have to stop being you.  It’s your choice whether or not you let such physical changes affect who you are.  Ultimately, all that really changes is what you can do with your body, but that doesn’t change who you are.  Even if you die, who you are will continue to live on in some form (even if it’s just a memory).

You are no more your body than you are your car or a character in a video game.  Who you are is the person in the driver’s seat, pushing the controls that make the body run, and your mind is the steering console.

“I think, therefore I am.” ~ René Descartes

During the early 17th century, a French philosopher by the name of René Descartes speculated on the basic principles of existence.  He wanted to know what was actually real, or at least what could be proven to be real.

There are two basic ways in which something can be known: empirically or logically.  Empiricism has to do with observation through the senses, while logic has to do with mental reasoning.  Descartes began with the simple observation that there are times when the senses appear to fail to accurately depict the world around us.  For instance, you see something out of the corner of your eye, but it isn’t actually there when you go to check on it with your full vision.  It is a mistake in observation.

Descartes reasoned that, due to the inaccuracies of the senses, it is suspect as to whether or not they can be trusted at all, so he rejects them entirely.

This establishes the notion that any and all physical things observed are potentially nothing more than mere illusions, fabrications of the mind.  It also leaves Descartes with nothing but logical reasoning, and all of that is just a fiction in the mind.  There are no perfectly straight lines in nature, no perfectly three-sided objects, no perfectly round objects; such things are mental short-hands of our own invention.  They do not actually exist.  They are illusions as well.

So then what does that leave?  Nothing, really.  Or does it?

If everything is merely an illusion, then there must be something that is being disillusioned.  There must be some observer of the trick.  Descartes himself referred to these illusions as the act of some demon.  But if there was a demon, the demon must have a victim to play his tricks on, even if that victim is simply himself.

Descartes’ method does not really give us much detail as to the qualities of the observer, just that there is one and that we can be 100% certain of this.  For all anyone knows, the world could be completely accurate as we observe it, or we could be a free-floating consciousness in a void without a body; but it can never be proven one way or the other what the actual nature of reality is.  So everything besides “I am” or “I exist” must be taken on faith.

This tends to piss off a lot of empiricists and scientists that rely heavily or even exclusively on their empirical observations.  Such a conclusion would pull the carpet out from under their feet by establishing the fickle nature of even their most basic assumptions.

“And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’  And he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ … This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations. ” ~ Exodus 3:14-15

Scientists aren’t the only ones pissed off by this conclusion.

Among those that believe in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, there is much time spent worrying and debating over pedantic little details like “Is God’s name YHWH or YHVH?  Jehovah or Allah?” “Is Jesus, Yeshu, or Yeshua the correct name of Christ?”  “What color was Jesus’ skin?”  “Is it sinful for me to take only the bread and not the wine during communion?” “If I eat meat on a Friday, am I going to hell for it?”  “If I forgot to say PBUH after Mohammad’s name, will God hate me?”  “Do I need to wash my hands before prayer?”  “If I have a cheeseburger, is God going to punish me for not staying Kosher?”

If your focus is on minor details like that, then I’m sorry to say that you have missed the forest for the trees.  Without seeing the bigger picture, these little things are rather irrelevant.  If your car doesn’t even have wheels, what does it matter if the dashboard lights aren’t working?  Even if the engine worked perfectly, you’re not really getting anywhere, now are you?

All three faiths respect and defer to Exodus and to Moses.  So if you claim to be a believer of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, there’s really no excuse for not knowing and understanding this particular passage.  God spells out rather clearly here as to who and what he is.

God is.  It’s as simple as that.  Most everything else is just minor details.

You are.  I am.  That’s as much as anyone can ever truly know for sure.  If it turns out that there is no God and we’re just a consciousness in a void; then by definition, you are God because you are the creator of the whole universe, since you are the one creating the illusion.  You call the shots, so why would you cast yourself, or anyone else, into eternal torment?  Why would you make yourself perform rituals and subjugating acts of worship?  You are the God of your own universe.