Monday, November 19, 2012

We're moving!

I started this blog a few years ago as a way to start getting my thinking--which is neither theological or scientific per se, but relies on both-- into the public sphere and see if it was making any sense to others and not just myself. In that process I came across Adam Frank who was at the time writing about a better conversation to be had by people involved through religion and science; this is how I eventually got involved with 13.7 Cosmos and Culture, a blog hosted by NPR.

The last three years have been a time of rich development for me as I focused my energies more on working with 13.7 (mostly with Stuart Kauffman) than on this blog. All the while though, the impetus for my thinking and writing through this time has been a vision of human life that's not only larger, but I is even more real than our visions currently in use- whether they originate in religion or science.

For instance, we could ask ourselves, "is human life superfluous on this planet?" How would you answer? 

In pointing to my own answer, I would ask, "does the name "consumer" and our act of showing off our consuming to each other, best describe our sense of being human?" If so, I would point out that Grizzly bears and Peacocks already exist and ably fulfill those roles; so yes, human life would be considered superfluous.

But I think and believe Human life is about something else in this universe, and has the capacity for not being superfluous. And I'm going to be writing about this under a new title which not only names a blog but could very well name a bar that gives place to the ideas we'll be developing together on that blog space. Here's the link:

Some of you I know offline while others of you I only know online. In either case, your conversations with me have influenced me in ways you may not know. I hope you'll check out "the awe & awry" and see if its a place for you to come and help us, as we develop a larger vision of ourselves together.

All my best



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Is Real?

What is real? Off the bat we'd say trees are real. What about unicorns? Also easy, of course not. Okay, let's try beauty- is beauty real? I venture that almost all of us, apart from some who've entrenched themselves in some obscure philosophical deconstruction, would say "of course!" and then point to something they consider beautiful like a matured and majestic oak. (Or if by chance a Chevy van from the seventies drove by, they might point to a scene of a unicorn air brushed into a mural along its side ...please, gag me with a spoon!) 

But wait; this person didn't point to beauty, they pointed to a tree. It's the tree that can be touched and sniffed- not the beauty. If beauty were truly real, shouldn't we be able to dissect a beautiful tree and end up with a pile of cellulose and a pile of beautiful?

And when I think about it, beauty exists more like the unicorn does than in the way a tree does. And if unicorns aren't real how can....

I don't know about you, but I've encountered beauty in ways that are so profound, it felt more real to me than I did to myself...what should I make of this experience? What have you made with your own encounter with beauty?

Here's the thing. In our time, we've come to count as real, only the things that exist in space in the way furniture does in a living room; things that can't be "furniture" then, can't be real. In science culture, adherents to this view call them selves "materialists" so when it comes to our experience of the mind for instance, because the brain is furniture but the mind isn't, the brain is really real and the mind experience is made out to be simply illusory, and any thought other wise is met with a pat on the head for not being "in the know."

Adam Frank, an astrophysicist and a favorite thinker of mine, notes this about the nature of the real: "reality's there; you push on it, and it pushes back."

In other words, you can sit on a couch, and because it pushes back you don't free fall to the floor (which too pushes back). And though comfortably reclined on your couch you could put your feet on the matching ottoman, you couldn't put them on a pile of beauty-- no matter how solidly beautiful you consider your furniture and living room to be.

And yet, when I encounter beauty I encounter something that can push back even though I can't encounter it like I can furniture, and even though Newton's laws about push-back can't be applied. Again; what do we make of this quandary, that something which can't exist like furniture can still be real-- even though its existence is a lot like that of a unicorn?

I think the answer begins with understanding this: All things that exist are real, but not all things that are real exist.

What do I mean. We commonly use the words 'exist' and 'real' interchangeably. But the word existence is specific about its description of reality: it's gotta stand out-- like a pile does. What makes a pile of dirt, exist from its surrounding dirt, is that it stands out from the ground. This is  basic existence: something pile like.

In this sense of understanding, does beauty exist? No! If it did, I should be able to see a pile of it over there. Is beauty real? Yes! It has the ability to push back on us. Its push-back though, acts in ways that are entirely different from existing things like couches, or from non-existing things like unicorns.

So then, what if beauty was as real in this universe as any california redwood, even though redwoods exist but beauty does not? What could we make of this understanding?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Intellectual Integrity and Meaning

I'm wondering this morning, what the difference is between the idea of intellectual integrity and the idea of what it means to be human? I know Dr. Pete began this thinking exploration with a particular incident. However, the phrase intellectual integrity on that day stood out differently than I normally see it. So even though I'm going beyond the parameter of his initial post, I'm only trying to go further into his own thinking about Mind. And my own. And yours.

What surprises me is how big the idea of intellectual actually is- it carries a lot more than our typical use which usually only signals tones of being erudite, elitist, or just plain stuck up—both in attitude and altitude. To be intellectual, in reality, simply means that we pretty much carry our sense of being in language. And once we are talking about language, we are implicitly talking about meaning. And communicating; so to be an intellectual organism means that the realm of our existence is language, meaning, and the expressing and receiving of meaningful information—to ourselves and each other; in contrast to fish for instance, which has as a primary realm of existence, water. Or bears, which crap in the woods because it doesn't/can't dawn on them to wonder if someone's going to talk about 'em. (If bears only knew what we were saying about them…would they make bathrooms?)

You could say that intellectual life is a life lived in meaning. The problem with that short statement though, is that our sense of meaning isn't very intelligible. Oh- we know when we experience something as meaning-full, as well as when something is meaningless. In a like manner, we also know when we experience gravity, and when we don't. And I would offer that where meaning and gravity are most alike, is in the way they both exist like "fields", are irreducible to anything else, and in the way we don't understand how they come about in the first place. More, without gravity, mass makes no sense and likewise, without meaning, information makes no sense. However, where gravity and meaning differ--in terms of most consequence to us--is how our understanding of Gravity is more intelligible than our understanding of Meaning.

Riddle: What has force but doesn't have mass or acceleration? Meaning.

For human being at least, (I can't speak for bacteria) meaning has real causative affect; when we mean to do something is to equally say we intend to do something. Or the meaning on the look of your face may incite me to action; you show distress and I move to help out: an effect is caused without Newton's logic there to describe and predict that effect.

We in our beautiful ways of science understand nature in ways we don't understand meaning. Yet without Meaning scientists can't exist, and neither can engineers. And without civil engineers, bathrooms can't exist. There's something more profound to the realm of meaning than Hallmark cards can reveal. To understand intellectual integrity, or what it is to be fully human, we have to have an intelligible sense of Meaning that has an existence in the way gravity does.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

About This Blog (under construction)

This blog is about experiencing ourselves as fully alive--and more importantly--fully human

Toward this end, we're about developing a new context to better envision the living of our lives together; a context that doesn't rely on our contraptions, but instead, relies on the very genius which  makes us human in the first place: our Mind and Heart. 

Contraption:  "Originally a western English dialectical word, probably made from the words, contrive and trap."  (Wiktionary.) 

Clocks rely on traps to change mechanical motion into readable time.  And since Newton, we've been contriving our life together in terms of  machines like clocks.  Which isn't all bad, especially when it replaces a world contrived by superstition and unseen spookiness. Yet despite our success in growing beyond a spooky world, how come our time is marked by malaise, frustration, anger, fear, and "ideology-ism"?  Could it be that the very source of our complaint flows from not feeling ourselves truly alive and truly human? And if this is the case, where is our source stopped? How does a life lived in contraption differ from a life lived from mind and heart?

In other words, we can live our lives via contraption, but 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Considering Intellectual Integrity: A Domain as Real as Biology?

Part two in an experimental series with PJ who writes about mind at: 

We're not just biological, we're intellectual.  In fact, I wonder if we're not  more intellectual than biological.  Maybe, we could say that when ever any species  predominately experiences their living through intellect rather than biology, that species,  potentially speaking, is human in its being.

What is it to be human then?  Is our exploration leading us to assert simply, that Human Being is the one who's connection to its environment is primarily intellectual rather than biological?

I think I stalled in discussing Saul's ideas, because as I set out to actually write about them, I began to realize just how much we lack an ability to see this intellectual domain that we are. We somehow can't yet give it the force of reality we attribute to biology- or physicality:  Physics is a hard science; Psychology is a soft one.  And, what's become so strange to me, is how  we'll go all ga ga over the weirdness of quantum domains, but when it comes to the existence of an Intellectual domain, the best we muster, is to say something like "wow"- our brains are like really cool computers...

But intellectual life is not computing life.  It's something a whole lot more-  both in ability and kind isn't it?

Another question:  which is more real, Brain or Mind?

I was reading some Alfred North Whitehead a couple of evenings ago before going to sleep.  The problem however came when I read this thought and the ensuing excitement revived me for another hour.  His thought was timely and pertains to our questions.  Let me show you:

Whitehead talked about physical reality in terms of its primary and secondary attributes.  So,  for instance, take the color "teal".  Teal's primary existence is some kind of energy wave with a particular frequency (imagine stretching out a long cooked spaghetti noodle on a table, and with your finger make it into a series of "s" shapes from left to right; this is a model of a thing's primary existence as an energy wave).  As such, there's nothing about it to suggest "greenish blue".  The greenish-blue occurs as a secondary attribute.  However--and this is what aroused me-- that secondary attribute doesn't exist unless there is some kind of receiver that can interpret that wave into our color teal!  Objective reality, the way we typically construe it as something that exists regardless of human observation, is in reality, a bland colorless tangle of spaghetti noodle-like waves that doesn't take on color unless there's an "interpretive" interaction.  (So now I'm wondering which is indeed primary in the color teal- its underlying wave? or a meaningful interaction?  But that's another post.)

"Reality as Interpretive Interaction".  This is the first time that I've uttered this phrase, so it's still a bit over my head- but I'm liking it;  I think my new phrase points to the idea that brains do more than compute in a physical environment,  which in reality, is something that exists through a process of interpretive interaction, rather than the Standard Objective Model we've been employing for the last few centuries.

Here's an interesting twist I'll use to tie things up here:  I have no idea what it's like to see the color teal from a purely biological perspective.  My interaction with the environment is intellectual- not biological.  This also means, that I don't know how my brain experiences the wave length of teal, but I do know how my Mind does....   I'm beginning to see why and how PJ is all ga ga about Mind. 


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Considering Intellectual Integrity

My favorite part in being involved with blogging has been meeting and engaging with people whom I would never had met otherwise.  In fact, the favorite part of my own blog is reading all the thought provoking things you guys write.  I bring this up because with this post, I want to connect with a writer I've gotten to know from 13.7 who calls himself PJ here.  PJ is degreed in aeronautical engineering, business, medicine and psychology; he cites the gravitational center in all this as Mind.  It was his sense of Mind that drew me to him, and it was something he recently wrote which serves as the diving board into my thinking here.

So I'm gonna try something new  and link to his essay on intellectual integrity for you to read. And then I'm gonna write through the ideas I encountered as I worked with his thinking.  And if any of you get inspired to write a piece beyond commentary on your own blog, we'll link that into the pile and see where all our commenting with each other goes!

(Oh- and I think this discussion will get me closer to actually discussing J.R. Saul's ideas...) here's the link:

When I first read PJ's piece, I read it I think with the intentions he meant.  However, something else for me opened up in my encounter: I saw how this thing we call intellectual is the means, or the basis, or the environment, of our being human.  I know we customarily use the word intellectual to denote something like cognitive activity in contrast to emotional activity, but in this moment, I saw the concept intellectual stand for the whole place where we encounter our ability to consider in all its forms- whether they originate from feeling or thinking.  In either case, we ultimately encounter reality through our ideas, and ideas whether simple or complex, red neck or elitist, are things which formulate in something that can't be reduced to brain;  In that moment I saw that domain as our intellect.

Seeing this led me into two other thoughts.  First, being intellectual is not the same as being a brainiac.  I'm saying that any person who has the experience of conversation within themselves--whether that conversation bounces around the ideas of beer preferences, or the ideas of possible sources of gravity--such a being is an intellectual being.

Second, I saw new meaning when my different way of seeing intellectual was coupled with integrity:  Biologically speaking, when our bodies encounter a challenge to their integrity, they communicate through a means we've learned to call symptoms.  What if we learned to see this domain of our existence--which here I'm calling intellectual--with the same force of reality we attribute our biology?  What would the symptoms look like when the integrity of our intellectual domain was challenged?

So there's my diving board.  I don't mean to make this into an argument about definitions;  I'm interested in considering the real human dynamics beneath the language we use to explore them with-- which of course  involves words; we're intellectual being after all.  I'm just saying that I'm not necessarily married to any of them.

Some of my questions include

Can Mind or its subset(?) "intellectual domain" be considered as real as biological bodies?

What would this look like if we did?

What if truth or intellectual integrity was something more than moral? what if it was something structural or ontological to the human life?

Finally, let me add that between our two posts on Intellectual Integrity, the questions and threads might run different courses, which I think would be a great thing.  The point in this is to see where the exploration leads us.  I'm really excited to see where everyone's thinking goes!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

...On the Other Hand, We're Co-Evolutionaries.

I began writing this post as the one to occupy the space of my last post, but it was the last one that came out. Let's see if I can get it to come out here....

A concept as close to my heart as the concept of Co-creating, is the one of Co-Evolving.  Let me riff a bit, and see what you think.

Our Universe, as we've gotten to know it, followed an arrow of time; as it did, it also grew in complexity.  We call this Evolution.  And we've come to typically think of evolution within the framework of surviving, which is to say simply, the stuff that's here today exists because its forebears survived through yesterday. (Or yester-eon....) I think a prime example of what I'm trying to describe is the Grizzly Bear: when it comes to surviving, it's a tank. Only more elegant.

Sure- when it comes to survivability we have to give a nod to bacteria, or the mushroom, (which has the honor of being the largest organism alive on our planet). But along the arrow of time life doesn't just survive, it grows more complex. So when we link complexity with survivability, we have to obviously consider the Grizzly bear don't we?  I'ts an omnivore and is suited to live in all weather conditions; and when food might be scarce, as it often is in winter, it can hibernate.  I'm sure you might have another favorite choice for the pinnacle of survivability, but your choice would never displace the Grizzly, only stand or swim next to it.  However, you might ask, "what about human being?"

This is where I think things get even more interesting.  As life continued its march along time, In human being, life grew even more complex than the Grizzly.  

In the framework of survival, Life reaches a pinnacle in the Grizzly.  Yet Life continues further into complexity, through the evolution of human being, and seems to be accomplishing something else than what it accomplishes in Grizzly Bears- something else besides surviving:  What is this something else?

Co-Evolution!  I would offer, that the species we call Human Being, is the one species who has a real say in how it evolves.  So what can we say about all this?!

Merlin Donald, a neuroscientist who cross pollinates with archeology and anthropology, points out that the biological platform which you and I live with today--specifically our brains--has been in existence for about 180,000 years.  This means, that our evolution since then, hasn't stemmed from processes of an "at-large biology" alone, but from processes of what Dr.Peter Hubbard, another scientist, who in his case cross pollinates physics based, with social based sciences, would here call Mind. (And- collective Mind- which is what we also call culture.)

In other words, we who are human being today, didn't just evolve, we co-evolved: with Life and each other.  We are involved with the Universe in a joint project....

I'll end here for now with this.  I say in my subtitle that I'm out to create a space between Science and Religion; a space from which we can venture further into our Human experience.  What I'm getting at in this post, is that whichever side of this space you originate, we are bound together by this: In human being, life leaps from inevitability to response-ability. We are, at Heart and in Reality, Co-creators and Co-evolutionaries.