The Impossible Question

“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly I awoke, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”

Thoughts?

Comments?

Do Not Praise

Upwards I climb.

Behind me an endless sea of masks compose the marsh of time.

Moving forward seems to be a process of remembering.

My mind faulters under the weight of contradiction.

I admit to my feeble understanding of this miraculous universe.

But, through my submission – life is gained.

On either side their lay vices;

but between the two,

lies virtue.

Silent Companions

Upwards we strive sweeping blunders aside.
Inside the rings of time,
Nothing but bands of lines.
A root sprouts latches that cling to the land.
Anchoring and lifting the plant until it finally stands.
Winds disrupt the surfaced plant from pursuing its noble endeavor
To ascend towards the sky, while leaves struggle to keep up with the pace.
Underneath the calloused surface exists a labyrinth of circuits; chutes of nutrients synthesizing the necessary building blocks for existence.
They grow fueled by an appetite for personal gain.
Under the loving care of the holy sun,
they discover a passion for life.

For more poems from my book ‘A Two Sided Truth’ click the link for a free Kindle copy:

A Two Sided Truth: An Anthology of A Human Experience

Knowing versus Perceiving Thyself?

People often say they know themselves. Others, are more skeptical to jump to such conclusions. But, what does it mean to know yourself?

Knowing yourself would involve knowing the mechanisms behind your behavior; it would be about the workings of the mind, the internal world, the body and whatever else is associated with our ideas of self.

This might be crudely possible. There are always parts of the mind though that really can’t be put into words, but regardless, what about perception?

If I stare at my dog and my dog stares back at me, what is truly going on? Well, for one and interaction is going on. We each are having an effect on one another. He is watching, or perceiving, me, and I him.

But, neither one of us are perceiving ourselves.

We go around the world observing, our eyes stare out at the world and at ourselves, or at least the parts we can see. My hands primarily are of great importance and usually highly involved in my field of vision, but so are my arms, torso, legs and feet.

But, let us pretend there are no mirrors of reflective surfaces in the world I live in, then what about the rest of my body? I am left to know them solely by touch and their motion.

Our world is becoming increasingly visual, but perception is not just about sight. It is our primary sense we use, but does that mean the others are less worthy of our respect. Moreover, what other worlds or mental, neural representations do these other senses map for us?

So, I guess my question of if we can perceive ourselves can be answered with the most famous answer in psychology, “Well, it depends.” If our definition of perception is visual then, no, we can never truly perceive ourselves. Mirrors don’t really reflect how you actually look and neither do videos, or pictures. There is always something missing from those forms and the forms of you viewed from the eyes of another person.

But, you can perceive yourself through sense of touch, which I would say is our second most used sense.

I’m curious for feedback on ranking our senses. My list would be:

  1. Sight
  2. Touch
  3. Hearing
  4. Taste
  5. Smell

Of course, each person’s answer should vary and there is no right or wrong answer.More interestingly, I am interested if there is some other abilities one might consider a sense, type of sense, or subset of a sense.

Thank you for reading.

Rethinking Time

Time is something we live by everyday, but what really is time? Can we touch it or see it? No, of course not. We use scales and reference points to get a sense for this notion of time. But, fundamentally, time is the of things changing. Without change, there could be no time.

Buddha famously stated that life is constant change, and I continually to agree more and more.

But, before we look more into time, lets think about existence itself.

Rene Descartes was a 1600 French philosopher and is considered the father of modern western philosophy. Descartes was a radical skeptic and on his pursuit of truth he concluded only one thing that he could be certain of, “I think, therefore I am.”

This was a radical thought, but it left out certainty on the physical world existing.

Enter German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant thinks more deeply about the idea of existing and the nature of time. He realized that by saying something exists, you are really saying something exists at a precise point in time. Furthermore, he concluded that if you are existing in time, then there must be some external world that contains the notion of time.

But, how do we perceive time? You might say that we perceive it hours, months, years, and so forth, or in minutes and seconds, or whatever scale you use its really just some interval we choose to denote as “time.”

According to Webster’s dictionary, time is defined as:

“the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.”

Regarded as whole is the point I want to emphasize because this comes back to how we perceive time.

Here is an example. If I ask you want time it is, you might say 12 o’clock. If I say that is wrong and I keep asking you enough times, you might, eventually, say it is “now.” That is the answer I was really looking for. No numbers or quantitative entities.

The real lesson comes though when I keep asking you. You continually answer me that it is now and you are completely right. But, surely there is a difference between your first now response and your last. Likely, inside of you, you are now annoyed and frustrated by me.

But, the “nows” aren’t the same, yet we continually perceive that we are living in the now moment. Our whole life we do this. Every moment, we perceive ourselves to be at the forefront of our existence. Of course, then that disappears and we perceive a new moment as the new forefront of our existence. Were we wrong the first time when we said we were living in the forefront of our existence? Of course not! Were we wrong the second time, or the third or fourth time — no.

We have all heard the idea of living in the present moment but physicist Julian Barbour takes it very literally. He claims that each moment exists in its own right and that time is just simply change between these “now” moments. More can be read here:

http://discovermagazine.com/2008/apr/25-3-theories-that-might-blow-up-the-big-bang

I like to think of this theory by reflecting on TV. Most people have seen something on TV and it seems like the people are moving and speaking in real time. In reality though, TV pictures are moving about 24 frames per second. All the motion we perceive is simply small still frames speed up really quickly.

So what though? Let us say that time truly is just a series of “nows” and it is just an illusion. How does this change any part of my life?

This is where I am stuck and where I hope one of you has more of an insight.

Learning & Experience

What am I but a self? But where did ‘I’ come from? Was I born thinking myself apart from the world, or did I learn it through methods of learning like conditioning and reinforcements?

I do believe there to be sufficient evidence to support the notion that we did learn our idea of self and was not innately born thinking ourselves separate from the world. This was the first major divide.

After all, we know for certain that it takes time for us to learn that objects remain even if they disappear from our field of vision. Understanding that objects exist even when we are not perceiving them is a fundamental part to understanding the world. But yet this too, we learn and is known as object permanence.

But how much have I truly learned about the world? I have learned a lot more about the world than I have experienced firsthand. Think of all the facts that you know about the body, the countries in the world, or the solar system, yet you have never experienced many of those things.

Moreover, there are many things I will never experience, nor do I even have the faculties to experience some things that are just too immense. Understanding the complexities of space in the form of mathematics and language is one thing, but to experience the reality of those equations is and entirely different thing.

So, as you go about your daily routine, think about what you know. Where did it come from? Your experiences? Or other’s words and theories and accounts?

 

The Interest of Modern Day Physics

Some interesting take away points from the video below:

  1. The multiverse is in essence a series of geneses.
  2. The Universe is not made out of atoms as we previously thought, but rather made primarily of dark matter that is invisible.
  3. Dark matter is only known due to it’s gravitational effects.
  4. Black holes destroy matter and condense, while white holes emit matter and expand.

 

Individuals

You love your arm. I am sure of it because if you were to lose it, you would be very afraid and upset. The same thing is true for your legs and most all of your body that is vital.

You wake up to the same pair of hands that you have watched your whole life. They are a vital piece of who you are, so is your legs and arms. We care about what state our body is in. It effects our sense of self.

But how often is the connection made that every other person you see feels that way about their body. They, too, call that physical flesh “them.”

What is even rarer is taking time to put yourself behind the eyes of people that pass by normally unnoticed by the conscious mind. But they are not just background noise, but individuals selves that possess a whole world behind their eyes, just like you.

Consciousness & Science?

So, I have been studying for my test tomorrow in my experimental psychology class, and I came across something that happened to coincide with what I had been researching outside of class: science cannot study something it cannot measure. This is simple and intuitive, almost.

Outside of class, I have been spending a great deal of time reading about consciousness. I am a senior year psychology major, and I find that all of my questions come down to this question: what am I? That is, what is this thing that is allowing me awareness and allowing me the ability to think?

Rene Descartes famously put, “I think, therefore I am.”

It is brilliant! Except, it somewhat contradicts with some concepts I learned from Buddhism, which state something to the effect of “I am not my thought.”

These two concepts seem to contradict and much of the literature about consciousness seems to do so.

There is no firm agreement on why physical matter gave rise to this inner world that we live our lives immersed in.

So, the question is: will we ever answer the hard problems of consciousness? I say no because of the simple notion that we cannot study what we cannot measure.

How do we really measure consciousness? Is it the electricity between our neural synapses or the subjective perspective of being aware?

Ultimately, the question is unsolved. So, what does that mean for you and me? It means that we have to make a choice, to make a decision to believe in one way or another: We are all physical. We are all immaterial. We are neither one nor the other. We are both.

I  believe whatever is to be decided should be in alignment with your happiness and your potential as a person.

But the question cannot be ignored, for it demands an answer.