The Foam on Top of the Ocean

“Books on physics are full of complicated mathematical formulas, but thought and ideas are the beginning of every physical theory.”

– Albert Einstein

The Standard Model of particle physics did not predict the existence of the dark matter that constitutes the overwhelming majority of matter in the cosmos. The Standard Model describes heuristically the “foam on top of the ocean”.

– Robert L. Oldershaw an independent researcher in the field of cosmology affiliated with Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts

As the chronology of the previous year slowly winds down, and the chronology of the New Year approaches, I generally find myself reflective in a way that normally escapes detection throughout the course of the year as it unfolds. It’s not that I avoid being reflective during the year as a rule, it’s just that we mark the passage of time…well…chronologically, and as one year ends another begins. The passage of linear time is a convenient way of tracking our progress and measuring ourselves against some sort of constant, so it helps us be grounded in some ways and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’m not obsessed by the idea, but just imagine if we simply considered every single day as just…today. No yesterday, no tomorrow, no last year or next year, just…every single day is today and that’s it. You wake up in the morning or whenever you wake up and whatever day it is…that’s what day it is.

Sounds almost absurd doesn’t it? How can we know how old we are or how to get anything done or plan for the future and blah, blah, blah…right? Of course, you’re right. That’s ridiculous. Well…I hate to break it to you…but that is exactly what we are up against in this universe of ours. Take whatever you want with you and blast off into outer space on a rocket ship with every convenience and infinite supplies of whatever you need to live onboard, and once you get far enough away, there is no day or night, no monthly cycles, no year, no nothing. Every minute you exist you simply exist.

We have built in rhythms which serve to regulate being awake and asleep for the purpose of data processing in the brain, but they are normally regulated by the amount of darkness and light generated by the rotation of the earth, and numerous experiments on humans born on earth show a fairly predictable circadian rhythm pattern. Since none of us has ever been born NOT on earth and raised NOT on earth, it’s not all that surprising that we follow the rhythms of the earth for the most part. The exceptions experienced by shift workers and folks who just plain can’t sleep normally show the rule.

Almost all of our thinking and contemplation and ruminations are engaged in a finite realm of our temporal existence as earthbound beings, and in a completely reasonable and natural manner, most of our thoughts are influenced by the temporal boundaries of life on earth. Even with the advent of amazing technologies which allow communication with the billions of individuals at just about any location on the planet, and now even with folks who are in orbit around the earth or with our emissaries to the cosmos in the exploratory spacecraft sent out into the solar system and beyond, we still have the need to look beyond the limits of earth, the solar system, the galaxy, and out into the vast expanses of the universe.

For centuries, this expansive sort of thinking and contemplation required far greater imagination and insight and creativity to conjure what might exist over the crest of the next hill, on the other side of the mountains, beyond the horizon, across the ocean, or out into the cosmic ether. At this critical juncture of human existence, our instruments of observation of beyond our world like the Hubble Space Telescope, and within the deepest recesses of matter itself like the Large Hadron Collider, while truly fascinating and wondrous in their reach into their respective domains, seem to me to be reaching a sort of threshold…”the foam on top of the ocean”…where all we will have left is what we started out with in the first place…contemplation of what lies beyond those boundaries.

One of the most compelling reasons I think I have invested and continue to invest so much of my contemplation and commiseration with the ineffable aspects of existence in general and consciousness specifically is the sense I have always had that none of the rest of it, as wondrous as it may be, contains the resolution of my deepest longings. Much to the chagrin of many of those with whom I have shared conversation on the subject, I simply cannot accept that my most powerful inclinations toward the subject are not an indication of a path that must exist to reach the heart of my longings.

As my first anniversary of blogging here at WordPress approaches, I sense a surge not only within myself, but within the world itself, revealed in the amazingly vibrant and profoundly living, breathing world of human consciousness within me and all around me. The wonderful sharing and sense of community and fellow travelers here at WordPress inspire me and reassure me that the path is out there somewhere.

Thanks to all those who are sharing this journey with me, and I look very much forward to growing and expanding and sharing with you all in the year to come…full of an endless supply of today…whatever day it is…….John H.

Dissonance within Resonance

While slowly awakening this morning, drifting between brief wakefulness and lapses back into sleep, I found myself suddenly in a dimly lit hallway, searching for a stairwell or exit, when I noticed a television monitor suspended from the wall. Thinking that it might be useful in some way, I went toward it in an attempt to reach the “on” button, and when I stretched out my arm, my whole body seemed to lift off the ground and I was able to press the “on” button easily, before landing gently once again on the floor. As I did, my mind came back to semi-consciousness, and the words, “dissonance within resonance,” repeated several times in my mind.

The dictionary lists a common use of the word “resonance,” to mean “…a sound produced by a body vibrating in sympathy with a neighboring source of sound.” It has also come to mean a quality of an individual or idea, “…to strike a chord or evoke an emotional response by a sympathetic reverberation in another.” Dissonance, conversely, refers to that which is “inharmonious,” or involves “disagreement or incongruity.”

When an idea, or a feeling, or a person seem to “resonate” with us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are totally sympathetic with the idea, completely harmonious with the feeling, or one hundred percent compatible with the person. Certain aspects of the resonance are strong enough to warrant our “sympathetic reverberation,” and subsequent familiarity with the idea, feeling, or person may help us to understand the exact nature of the emotional response, giving us a better idea of why each of them “strike a chord.”

There are times in our lives, particularly in times of great stress, or when faced with perplexing personal circumstances, when we experience conflicting inclinations or confusion regarding our deeper longings or leanings. In psychology, the term “cognitive dissonance,” refers to “…psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes.” When I find myself in this condition, I don’t often know how to respond. Each moment is filled with a certainty about the existence of the feeling, and yet, a chaotic swirl of uncertainty as to how to deal with the feeling.

Sean Scully – “Wall of Light Desert Night” – 1999 – Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The incongruous nature of temporal circumstances in a degree of disharmony with those of the spiritual sort used to be a great deal more daunting for me to comprehend and to address, and there are still times when I am perplexed by the character of the experiences surrounding particular events and pivotal moments. I used to attribute the disharmonious parts to my own inability to bring the circumstances together correctly. It always seemed to me that there was something wrong with ME. I have come to understand that the very nature of life itself is rooted in uncertainty, and that it is largely undetermined, with a few areas of relative certainty discovered in the laws governing the natural world.

The laws of physics are both beautiful and exquisitely mathematical and can be relied upon to predict many outcomes with astonishing precision. However, as well equipped as we are through science to understand the nature of particular phenomena, the interaction of those elements, particularly with the unpredictable intervention of human beings and unforeseen natural events, is far less comprehensible. Certainty is elusive in the wildness of the universe.

In my view, beyond the laws of physics, the dogma of religion, and the world of the phenomenal and predictable, is the realm of the unseen forces that drive life itself. Over the centuries since humans became conscious, intelligent creatures, we have felt this pull toward the poorly understood universe of the unseen–what is often referred to as the universe of the spirit. The degree to which we can interact with it and gain access to it, is at the heart of the uncertainty of life.

Photo Courtesy of h.koppdelaney (flickr)

Of necessity as temporal beings, we often resort to temporal references in order to allude to that which cannot be described in temporal terms. The nature of life, temporal existence, the physical universe, and everything relevant to that existence cannot be described completely in terms belonging only to that existence. We have devised ways of referring to these other aspects of life and existence, particularly as they relate to our very human nature, and acknowledge them as existing in a domain far removed from the temporal–as far removed from the temporal plane as we are from the quantum world of the very small, and the farthest reaches of the physical universe. Although we are, in some important ways, defined by these two opposing aspects, the truth seems to reside between them.

There is, in my experience, an inexplicable resistance to exploring this aspect of our nature. Even in consideration of social norms, personality, previous experiences, and other influences, my sense of being compelled toward other like spirits is often mitigated by my own reluctance to acknowledge my connection to the ineffable. Temporal events have often complicated the circumstances surrounding the attention to the spiritual nature I perceive in myself, but at no time has it been sufficient to dissuade me from attempting to understand and expand my comprehension of it. It seems very unlikely to me that my most powerful urgings toward the world of the spirit, so vital to our humanity, could be mistaken. The sense of connection I feel is too profoundly affective to be a mistake. There must be a way to connect without complicating, to engage without reluctance, to pursue my powerful spiritual inclinations without turning the world upside down. This blog continues to be a record of this pursuit.

….more to come

The Versatile Blogger Award

Many thanks to http://patricemj.wordpress.com/ for including me on her list of fifteen bloggers here at WordPress.com for being…well…versatile. Dictionary.com describes the word “versatile” like this:

ver•sa•tile
[vur-suh-tl or, especially Brit., -tahyl] – adjective

1. Capable of or adapted for turning easily from one to another of various tasks, fields of endeavor, etc.: e.g. – a versatile writer

Based on that description, it sounds like being versatile is a good idea, and anyone who has read Patrice’s blog knows that she is an enormously talented and versatile writer. No mystery there. Her narratives are not only superbly written, heartfelt, and passionate, but they also reveal the character of her personal humanity, which is loving and generous and compassionate. Anyone who is NOT affected by her writing is simply not paying attention.

The person who is “Patrice the Writer,” is courageous and bold and articulate and astonishingly refreshing in her unique approach–one that I aspire to emulate. “Patrice the Person,” is someone that I admire greatly and I am especially glad to share the planet with her. Patrice has been generous in her characterization of my blog as being worthy of the attention of others, and I am grateful for her support and encouragement, but I actually think she simply enjoys tormenting me, as her brothers did to her growing up. Thankfully her approach to the task does not include spit, but even without the inclusion of spit in her method, I too have developed a deep and abiding fondness for her.

There are a few conditions for this award:

1. In a post on your, blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, Add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

7 random things about me

1. Although you probably wouldn’t even notice me in a crowd, in small groups I seem to be taller than just about everyone. (6 ‘ 3”)
2. I lived in Germany for two years in the late 1970’s.
3. I was the biggest baby my mom had out of eight children. (middle child)
4. Camping in the forests and mountains is my favorite vacation choice.
5. When I was in high school, I fell thirty feet off of a painter’s scaffold to the wooden floor in the gymnasium while hanging decorations for a dance.
6. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I hosted a poetry discussion group on ThirdAge.com
7. When I was in college I met and conversed with Truman Capote.

These blogs all have something to offer beyond the average…Enjoy!

http://islandsontheroad.wordpress.com/ – Life and love on the road in America

http://justmarj.wordpress.com/ – In her own words, “a wanna-be writer with an offbeat personality and social skills bordering on esoteric.”

http://gideonjagged671.wordpress.com/ – Gideon Jagged is a novelist, essayist and all-round smart guy.

http://mindscienceandcreativity.wordpress.com/ – A new voice on the scene with fresh insights

http://modernartists.blogspot.com/ – A pop culture wiz with a keen sense of style

http://mooselicker.wordpress.com/ – His goal is simple, to get you to think. Whether you agree or disagree is irrelevant

http://jonelfernando.com/ – living a full life isn’t about having possessions, it’s about gaining and maintaining human connections.

http://jaggedwriter.wordpress.com/ – Striving every day to make her dreams come true, and never forgetting the dreams that got her there in the first place.

http://futuristicallyyours.com/ – a group of 26 of the brightest futures, ranging in ages from 18-29, write REVERSE self-letters, as in their future-self (their age advanced 20-30 years) writes them, their present-self reads them.

http://yellowvoices.wordpress.com/ – a woman with a passion for art currently working at the bottom of the food chain in the fashion industry.

http://fasterthanlight.me/ – Gaming, media, technology, and philosophy.

http://derekbang.wordpress.com/ – Amazing photography and a deeply spiritual philosophy

http://spl225.wordpress.com/ – Great blog about books and Libraries and everything literary

http://boggletondrive.com/ – a totally unique graphic comic blog

http://workmadeforhire.wordpress.com/ – everything you could possibly want to know about negotiating

Writing About The World Within

Recent contemplation of the many facets of our inner experience as sentient beings has stirred my heart and mind to reflect more deeply on the foundations of my interest in the subject, and sent me into the archives of my own ancient writings, which I store in a large overseas shipping trunk from my travels in Europe many years ago. Within the stacks of folders, books, papers, correspondence, and photographs, I pulled several pen and ink drawings I made to illustrate some early writing efforts, and found several that struck me as clearly anticipating my interests, in ways that now seem quite amazing as they sprang from the visions of my inner life at that time. The one at the top of this entry was actually an illustration of a particularly vivid dream experience that haunted me for weeks after the dream, until I forced myself to sit long enough to release the dream’s vision on to the paper.

Even today, I find the intense imagery of that vision startling to contemplate, even as I consider the simplicity of the rendering, executed at the ripe old age of seventeen. Lost in what felt like an infinite maze of confusion and near-total darkness, I remember an overwhelming sense of panic which preceded the scene depicted in the drawing, grasping furiously at each of the doors along the corridor, feeling my way along the walls, barely able to discern the thinnest edges of the structures around me, until I had expended a monumental effort requiring an enormous strength of will, and with a burst of energy, running down toward what felt like a faint brightening in the distance. As I approached the crest of the curved surface, I was able to see over the walls to discover an endless maze on either side of the corridor, and paused momentarily to reach out toward the light.

In volume seven of an anthology of English Masterpieces edited by Maynard Mack, Leonard Dean, and William Frost called, “Modern Poetry,” the authors suggest that there is a:

“…contrast or conflict or disparity felt by any intelligent, sensitive person today between experience measurable or describable in the terms of physical science, and that immeasurable meaning–of whatever sort–which permeates experience in the form of value…What modern poetry seeks to do with this contrast between the measurable and the immeasurable facets of experience is to dramatize it.”

I began seriously considering the act of delivering my vision of my inner life through poetry as a necessity while still in high school, and was fortunate to have those tendencies encouraged and channeled into writing poetry through a marvelous encounter with a writing assignment. English classes were notoriously uninspiring in too many instances throughout my educational experiences, but in my third year, I was asked to illustrate several poems submitted for consideration as candidates for inclusion in the school literary magazine. Once engaged in the process, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the idea of expressing the world within through words and images, and ended up drawing again from a dream image, (see above) watching the world from a window overlooking a city street, somehow able to view both the world above and the world below simultaneously. The drawing now seems crude and a bit disjointed to me, but essentially capturing the experience of the dream. I felt as though I was floating above the scene, looking at myself in the window, alternately appearing back inside my body looking down at the people passing on the street.

As the seasons passed, and my writing rose and fell as a priority in my life, the poetry always remained, lingering sometimes in the silences, and at other times, spilling out in the chaos of my emotional roller-coaster of a life. Poetry has been described in numerous ways by a variety of scholars and experts, but for me, the process of creating poetry is best described as the creative expression of sounds and images, deliberately arranged to communicate the experience of being. In the interest of illustrating this idea, I present one of my original works entitled, “A Momentary Lapse of Finitude.”

A Momentary Lapse of Finitude

As I approach, you turn
As if alerted by
A sudden noise,
Though I am silent.

An exchange of photons
Ignites anticipation.
Familiar images explode in memory.
Pulses quicken in response.

Words of explanation fly
Across the air.
You bat them away as they arrive,
Awaiting a comfortable resolution.

We step awkwardly into
Uncertain sunlight,
Dancing between flickering
Shadows and unspoken thoughts.

The air swirls around us.
My heart leaps as you laugh.
Your eyes sparkle as you
Forget to guard against joy.

I can barely breathe
As we embrace on parting.
The universe collapses into
A momentary lapse of finitude.

© 2001 by JJHIII

Human Brain, Human Mind, Human Consciousness, Human Spirit

[image credit: St. Jude Medical; North East Vision Magazine]

I recently reviewed a publication I received a while back from Scientific American entitled, “Mind and Brain,” written by Gerald D. Fischbach, who served as Chairman of the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School from 1990 – 2000. The complexity of the human brain as described by Prof. Fischbach is truly fascinating. The intricate workings of the brain’s many components–the synthesis of chemical and genetic functions, the coordination of the many physiological functions and systems, the neural networks that manifest intelligence and make awareness, perception, and differentiation possible–are indeed miraculous!

Fischbach reminds us:

“Mind is often equated with consciousness, a subjective sense of self-awareness…but there is no a priori reason to assign a particular locus to consciousness, or even to assume that such global awareness exists as a physiologically unified entity. Moreover, there is more to mind than consciousness, or the cerebral cortex. Affect depends on the functions of neurons in the same manner as does conscious thought.”

In my prior posting I mentioned the suggestion by Annie Besant that “the mind is only the struggling part of the soul, working in this brain for the purposes of the soul’s growth.” If, as Besant suggests, the soul or spirit is manifest as consciousness, brought into the world of matter through the mind, and made useful by the neurological functions of the brain, we can begin there to formulate a connection between the existence of consciousness and the existence of the human spirit.

From the earliest inklings of consciousness in our ancient ancestors, to the current levels of modern consciousness, the gradual expansion of our awareness and intelligence has delivered us to the most dynamic epoch in the history of human existence. Although we know that without a nominally functional brain, with at least the basic cognitive functions intact, we cannot “interface” with the world of experience, it is my belief that the source of our consciousness–the foundational element to which we are connecting–is not currently accessible to us as a comprehensible temporal phenomenon. Understanding consciousness may require a “quantum leap” of comprehension, and perhaps, a leap of the imagination as well.

The human mind is not simply the result of genetic tinkering over millions of years of adaptation, but may be the natural consequence of mental functioning which provides us with a framework for comprehending the world in which we think and therefore exist. That which we refer to as “mind” is also an abstraction used to allude to our conscious awareness, but it involves a great deal more than a nominally functional thought process. Without a brain there is no “awareness,” but even with a brain, there may not be a “mind.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist wrote that “There is a persistent and clearly defined thrust of animal forms toward species with more sensitive and elaborate nervous systems. There is a continued heightening; a rising tide of consciousness; which visibly manifests itself on our planet in the course of the ages.”

The brain’s cognitive functions provide the foundation for the unfolding of conscious awareness, but utilizing brain functions as a means of achieving awareness does not make the brain the indisputable source of consciousness any more than utilizing a functional antenna makes IT the source of radio wave transmissions. The transmission must first be invented and initiated by the mind.

Could this simply be a matter of an ever-increasing complexity producing life forms with comparably better-equipped cognitive abilities, or could it be that with greater cognitive capacity, we are able to access increasingly higher levels of consciousness?

…..more to come…

Liebster Sharing

Many thanks to Trish at creatingreciprocity.wordpress.com for including me as one of her choices to receive the Liebster Award. It’s a wonderful gesture on her part and worthy of reciprocity. So here is a link to her blog:

http://creatingreciprocity.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/go-raibh-mile-maith-agat/

There are not enough people in the world spreading such good will and thoughts to lift up their fellow travelers as Trish does on her blog, and I feel fortunate to share the planet with someone like her.

Here are the guidelines associated with the Liebster Award:

1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.

2. Pass the award along to five other bloggers (see below) who have less than 200 followers. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Post the award on your blog.

There are many blogs worth sharing here, but in the interest of being consistent, here are five choices that I would recommend under any circumstances.

http://asjellis.wordpress.com/
Stories to inspire and delight.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

http://organizationalchangesolutions.wordpress.com/
A man with a plan and seeking solutions for creating positive change in the world.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
http://threewolfmoonward.wordpress.com/
A young person who is already looking like someone who is going to change the world.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
http://patricemj.wordpress.com/about/
One of the most compelling unknown writers on the planet, with a generous heart and a penetrating intellect.


___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
http://jennifermhartsock.wordpress.com/

In her own words, she says it best:
“I write about life struggles and my thoughts on finding answers. I don’t only crave knowledge, but also the journey of enlightenment, and by this I mean the evolution of the self. I don’t belong to any religion, and I am not an atheist. I offer how philosophy, science, and sociology have their respective roles in everyday life. I offer a taste of creating beauty from rot, and understanding this beauty for what it is: love.”

Thanks again, Trish!……John H.

Exploring Below the Surface

A recent article in the New York Times, (“Decoding the Brain’s Cacophony” by Benedict Carey-Published: October 31, 2011) reports on research by Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which suggests that the functioning of our left brain hemisphere is responsible our familiar view of ourselves–an interpreter–and that what we view as our “coherent self,” is a construct of mental processes that are, in large part, unconscious:

“We are not who we think we are. We narrate our lives, shading every last detail, and even changing the script retrospectively, depending on the event, most of the time subconsciously.”

In his most recent book, “Who’s in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain,” (Ecco/HarperCollins) Dr. Gazzaniga addresses his ideas at length, and presents a strong case for resisting the urge to equate all of our behaviors and explain our humanity by “studying neural circuits:”

“Can brain science tell exactly where automatic processes end and self-directed “responsible” ones end? Not now and not likely ever, Dr. Gazzaniga argues in his book. Social constructs like good judgment and free will are even further removed, and trying to define them in terms of biological processes is, in the end, a fool’s game.”

Dr. Gazzaniga says our inclinations to be generous or loving, ruthless or responsible, are not properties of brain function, but rather a “strongly emergent” property — a property that, though derived from biological mechanisms, is fundamentally distinct and obeys different laws, as do ice and water.”

Writer Benedict Carey reports Dr. Gazzaniga’s contention that with all the benefits of research in neuroscience, the tendency to draw conclusions, particularly in a courtroom setting, may be premature:

“Brain-scanning technology is not ready for prime time in the legal system; it provides less information than people presume. Brain images are snapshots, for one thing; they capture a brain state at only one moment in time and say nothing about its function before or after. For another, the images vary widely among people with healthy brains — that is, a “high” level of activity in one person may be normal in another.”

Carl G. Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, wrote extensively about our unconscious nature, concentrating his formidable intellect in the pursuit of understanding the psyche by exploring the worlds of dreams, art, mythology, world religion and philosophy. In what may be his most important work, “Symbols of Transformation,” (from his Collective Works, Volume 5) Jung described his idea of a “collective unconscious:”

“The psyche is not of today; its ancestry goes back many millions of years. Individual consciousness is only the flower and the fruit of a season, sprung from the perennial rhizome ( perpetual root) beneath the earth; and it would find itself in better accord with the truth if it took the existence of the rhizome into its calculations. For the root matter is the mother of all things.”

Jung’s theory points to a much larger view of how our conscious awareness may rely on numerous layers of unconscious processes, whose influence and effects come through a synthesis of our cognitive functions, including sense perceptions, the process of recognition, evaluation, intuition, feelings, instincts, and even dreams, which Jung says warrant inclusion on the list:

“…because they are the most important and most obvious results of unconscious psychic processes obtruding themselves upon consciousness. The dream as such is undoubtedly a content of consciousness, otherwise it could not be an object of immediate experience. For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us.” – (from “The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Collected Works, Vol. 8”)

Expanding our views of what might be contributing to our humanity through consciousness, beyond what we discover through cognitive neuroscience, as amazing and important as this work can be, requires an exploration below the surface.