Monthly Archives: December 2011

Resolution: Connect with Life with a Capital “L”

I had lunch with a woman whom I hired to edit my writing and to let me know if it made any sense. Among her other criteria was the notion of consistency, and she pointed out that I had seemingly haphazardly referred to life sometimes in Upper Case (Capitalized) as Life, and more often as it is normally spelled, as “life.”

My first response was to think about how I might fix this problem with a global search and replace, thereby rendering my work consistent.

But when I reflected on my intention in capitalizing Life in some circumstances, and then when I began to try to explain it her, I decided that this apparent distinction was at the very heart of what I want to convey.

Along these lines, Eckhart Tolle describes his “awakening”; in the throes of deep depression and anxiety and considering suicide, he had the thought “I can’t stand my life.”

He parsed the words and considered the notion of who the “I” might be that couldn’t stand his “life”, and realized that there wasn’t just one of him—the self, but rather another faculty that was making judgments among a host of conditioned “selves”. His subsequent work is really about the realization that the separate “life” he was judging and hating was an identification with this judgmental intellectual part, but that that wasn’t “Life”. It is a misconception that leads to suffering.

Another way Eckhart Tolle puts it is that he realized he didn’t “have a life,” he was and is Life, which he goes on to explain as the embodiment and manifestation (as are we all) of much higher energies and intelligence than the narrow range of thoughts that we identify with as our analytical minds as “me.”

His example, and the fact that the instruction set for Life (DNA) requires a supercomputer to decode but is based on an astonishingly versatile set of mental constructs (software), is that various vastly intelligent programs run your digestion, breathing, circulation and so on – “you” (your mind which you take as your life) doesn’t run them.

In fact the deeper you look inside, with meditation or simple self observation, you discover how automated and conditioned even your mental processes are, a fact that modern neuroscience is deciphering almost daily. The “self” or “your life” that you take yourself to “have” is a complex amalgam of stories, memories, experiences, warnings and instincts to which you and society have agreed to affix an identity – in my case “Tom Bunzel.”

But this life, in lower case, only exists in the minds of humans who agree, for example, that I’m a writer in West L.A. and for the moment Barack Obama is President of the United States.

Those mental agreements have only existed as long as humans have been conscious and communicated with language.

But Life has existed at least as long as the universe, which our amazing minds have discovered is about 4.7 billion years old.

My cat is Life. She isn’t “Eva” (her “name”), or “my cat” but rather an expression of a confluence of energies and intelligence that we know exists (we know that we “are”) but that any set of words and concepts cannot fully describe or do justice in its “being.” (what it really Is).

When she jumps on my bed and I feel her fur between my fingers the experience is Life happening through me and her—my subsequent reflection (“This is nice”) overrides the experience, if I let it.

My computer, as amazing as it is, isn’t Life—but it is an important part of my life. Like my thinking mind, it’s one hell of a tool.

Some people who need answers in words will immediately ask if my concept of Life with a capital “L” is God. Similarly people inquired of Eckhart Tolle whether his reference to Being as primary before the Ego or the Self is God.

To me, Life, Being, and God are concepts that convey meaning and as such they have power—but none of them exist outside of a human mind the same way that my cat does. And none of them can truly capture the essence of Life…

This was very likely the message conveyed by the living being called Jesus whose birth we celebrated this past weekend. From a deep reading of his story and parables one can gather he too counseled that the “Kingdom of Heaven” could be found within, beyond words or concepts.

Nonetheless the apparent story of his life became the basis for powerful political forces to gain control of nations and ideas. It led to a meaning for God that many people still argue and fight over.

To go back to the dichotomy of life and Life, let’s return to this week, which concludes with a “New Year.”

This again is a concept agreed upon in peoples’ minds—the Sun, Moon and Solar System know nothing of our concept of a new year. It is certainly based on mathematical and astronomical relationships which have been known for centuries, but as many of us reflect upon its meaning, with think about our “lives.”

We construct intentions and resolutions to make our “lives” better, comparing them—and our “selves”– to others and measuring our worth or progress according to the beliefs and conditioning which have shaped our entire “lives.”

But what, if instead, we could devote just some of our attention to Life—with a capital L?

Begin with the miracle that we exist at all. This is something we take for granted but it need not be, and indeed, if we are honest, it will not last forever. The earth will probably exist for another million years, but none of “us” will.

As Eckhart Tolle also points out , “Life” will go on. Your life and mine will almost certainly end in this century.

For many this notion is stark and depressing, but that assessment is again a function of our conditioning and concepts. Ultimately we know it is true—perhaps with a capital T.

It is my feeling, to the extent that I can bring a space between my thoughts and my “Self”, that freeing ourselves from our identification with our small lives, and beginning to recognize the reality of Life as far greater and grander than what we can know intellectually, is the awakening many are now experiencing.

(It can lead to considerable discomfort).

But a big part of this is the sudden recognition, jarring though it can be, that we control very little and are not in the center of Life itself, but a small part of it—just as Copernicus and Galileo put us on a single orbit within the Solar System, and the Hubble telescope has shown us that we truly exist on the outer periphery of just one ordinary galaxy, among billions.

Our amazing minds—through sciences like astronomy, quantum physics and now neuroscience need to comprehend and experience this same gap, and they are approaching it, as their discoveries in these fields point clearly to the limitation of our true knowledge of reality. We know for example on the quantum level that until a mind/consciousness actually does perceive or become conscious of a subatomic particle (through our instruments), its actual location is not known with certainty but only by its potential (an idea).

This puts Life (as conscious awareness) at the center of our being—not our minds.

On an experiential level we also can sense this with our newly evolved global nervous system, the Internet, and our interaction with software—which is an active, intelligent energy expressing itself through electricity—primitive when compared to Life but amazingly effective and powerful in our lives.

Software, as a manifestation of our own intention and thought, is the closest thing we’ve created to a living consciousness or being. If you reflect on this, and compare it to the fact that your own cells, with their DNA, work the same way, as do the neurons in your brain, it can open you up to a different level of understanding and perception.

But the most obvious way to connect with Life with a capital L is to get out of our cities and look at the night sky as it really is—the recognition that this is real must be absorbed in the gut, not just the mind. Indeed, mentally, we cannot take it in—only in our bodies do we sense that we are truly here amid this infinite swirl of energy and intelligence and that like Life, we are not things, but sentient beings expressing a profoundly sacred set of natural laws.

The very notion of infinity is a function of our minds’ limitation—we know there will always be a larger number, and there must also be a further galaxy—but how… It cannot be known by our thinking mind.

It can only be felt. That is why I use the word “sacred”—because our mental distinction between science and religion is also a misconception. There is only one thing happening—and it encompasses everything—including our narrow concepts of science and religion, and even “God.”

So my resolution is to celebrate being here rather than reflecting on “how it’s going.”

Happy New Year – another “day” of Life.

What Is Software?

It is the core principle of this blog, and the main theme of the book I am completing, that computer software represents something completely new in human evolution, and is in fact a pointer to the true nature of both our species, and reality.

I first became fascinated with software when I needed a job in L.A. and got training in one of the first and most powerful dedicated word processors, the IBM System 6, at a law firm. The manager handed me a series of six large floppy disks, showed me how to load them into the console, and walked away. Several nights later, after completing the tutorial s on the disks, the machine had “trained me.”

So what is the software itself?

Certainly not the floppy disks which I used to learn System 6, nor the DVDs we currently use.

It’s not even the arcane progression of bizarre coded sentences that programmers write to get the results they want when the software “runs”.

Nor is it the series of zeroes and ones that the code is compiled into to make it work within the chips and circuits of the machine in which the magic happens –

Software is the first humanly created evidence of Intelligent Energy. The mental intentions of a (team of) programmers manifests through the code and exchanges information, energy, or mental vibrations with the user and the environment.

Another key aspect of comprehending the meaning of software is to understand a concept that I used to hammer home frequently when I taught people how to use complex software—the essential difference between a program and a file.

A file is a thing—the document I save for this blog is a file.

Microsoft Word, the application I use to create and modify this document is a program – it is an active agent of change, again taking the intention of the programmer(s) and providing a conduit between their desires (to help the user do word processing and in the process, go public and become millionaires) and the intentions of the user (to create a document) through precisely coded interaction.

This distinction between a program and a file is important for many reasons—not the least of which is that when you want to save your work—and especially when you try to back it up—it’s easy to safeguard your “things” — the files – on a second drive, and reuse them later.

In the early days of PCs, it was also relatively easy to save the programs on a drive and move them elsewhere—not you can’t do it because with the complexity of the operating system and the programs themselves (their “Evolution”, if you will), they require a sophisticated block of code called a Registry to function properly, and they are entangled with numerous other settings and blocks of software on your machine, specifically designed to protect the copyright and make the function better, so they cannot be easily moved and replaced.

So applications on the computer—the programs—are of a completely different Nature than files.

They are active agents of change in the environment—and the processes they invoke are only static when begun and completed—while the software is “in use” things are constantly changing—on a page, on the screen, in an email, you name it.

And in a word processor, for example, where the cursor is NOW–is the only place change can be intentionally implemented.

If you’re beginning to get the idea that software is the nearest thing that man has created that is Life-like (in our own image—using our own logic and mathematics), we’re on the same wavelength.

Buckminster Fuller famously said and wrote, “I think I am a verb.” I believe what he meant was that it is vital, when comprehending reality, to understand the essential difference between a thing and an intelligently intentional agent—an application.

Software is a an active agent of intelligent change that we have created that seems “alive” when the computer is turned on. But it is not a thing or a file—it is a being, primitive though it may be, for the duration that it “runs”, that manifests the intention of human intelligence.

There are files and there are applications on the computer—we are not mere files… We exchange energy and create meaning based on intelligence and intention, just as the software that runs in our computers does—and just as our bodies do with the instructions of DNA code.

Yet, so many of us act as though we are things. We are our jobs, our families, our identities—indeed we carry static images (licenses) that identify us for the purpose of “living” in compartments and categories.

But is that our interior experience—if we look closely?

Or are we as teachers like Eckhart Tolle suggest, never static things but instead verbs –the manifestation of Being—and isn’t that what software can effectively teach us as we use it day in and day out?

I’ve speculated in previous entries about whether the software that we create (Artificial Intelligence) will ever be human. To me there are scales of Life and software is a pointer to us of what Tolle writes is the vast intelligence at work within us—coded in part in our DNA—and running applications of immense complexity and depth in our heart (circulation), brain and nervous system (thought and intentionality) and throughout our organs – digestion, breath, metabolism – and all in a perpetual harmony that we unconsciously take for granted.

We have been conditioned, perhaps for the sake of our survival and evolution, to conceptualize our “Selves” as individual, separate things – or files. But what if we begin to see ourselves as programs—as active, complex, living applications and agents of consciousness—manifestations of an intelligence that preceded even the existence of the human species.

Viewed from this perspective, Existence, or “Being” itself is an incredible fact of Life. We live it day in and day out but identify completely, for the most part, with only one insignificant component—our assessments (Good/Bad) of “how it’s going”?

Can our experience with software provide a deeper understanding—that our limited perspective of our selves as individual files is inaccurate, and that we are really part of a vast interplay of an immensely intelligently based set of programs?

But what about stepping back and looking at the Big Picture. If we in fact do for ourselves what Copernicus did for astronomy, and take the assumption of our “Selves” out of the center of what is “happening” – how might our perspective on Life, and in fact the way we actually live, be changed?

Tolle calls this artificial concept of ourselves as the centers of Life our Ego—or the chattering Mind, as opposed to Consciousness or Being itself—the software that manifests as us—of which we are both scientifically and largely even spiritually ignorant.

Do the Math: How the Perfection of Number Points To the Reality of Mind (Part 2)

Biomimicry-Engineering/Nature Burr=Velcro

(Continued from Part 1)

Hofstadter, in his book I Am a Strange Loop, takes issue with futurists like Ray Kurzweil who believe that our artificial intelligence will naturally evolve according to Moore’s law and inexorably lead to a conscious (Turing) machine with fully natural (human) qualities, indistinguishable from another (real) person.

To me the inevitable fallacy of any concept of a “living” artificial intelligence comes as the result of realizing that although computer software as consciousness  is compelling as a metaphor—we are running software (loopy programs in our brains that manifest as a Mind and  cannot be described completely in language)—in Nature this “software” (true Consciousness or Being) represents a scale of intelligence far beyond our own. And what is a metaphor or analogy anyway—merely a pointer to Truth.

As an example, in nature, our limited conception of the universe is as infinite. We also know that a sequence of numbers is infinite and yet the largest actual numbers are still inaccessible to our limited minds—and even our supercomputers.

On the other hand, in Nature the Fibonacci sequence manifests imperfectly but potentially infinitely in living forms:

And as a species, evolving as we have to make incredible tools and products, a field called Biomimicry has emerged – biologically inspired engineering – other examples include Sharkskin inspired swimsuit that pay homage to the higher perfection of Life or Nature in its manifestation of Number in Form (Matter).

Hofstadter goes through every complex nook and cranny of Gödel’s work to basically argue that the only way to comprehend consciousness is through “story” – or by analogy – and just as the linguistic descriptions of mathematical absolutes fall short, so too does story or analogy never completely “explain” or “describe” the true “nature” of consciousness.

Ultimately he settles on one aspect of language as the pointer to reality and meaning—analogy; so keep in mind our issue with the “metaphor” that is the relationship of hardware to software.

Hofstadter’s sense of what is “animate” comes down to the existence of the self-sustaining loops that blow our minds – like the placement of two mirrors facing each other or his example of a video feedback loop of a camera facing a monitor.

He writes, “…an entity is animate [alive?] to the degree that such a loopy “I” pattern comes into existence, since this pattern’s existence is by no means an all-or-nothing affair. Thus, to the extent that there is an “I” pattern in a given substrate, there is animacy, and where there is no such pattern, the entity is inanimate.” (page 360)

Hofstadter’s contends that as systems evolved, for example cells organized into organs like the heart and eventually the brain, when feedback loops manifest as “selves”—at this point organic molecules become animate or “alive.”

Hofstadter still assumes, however, that such organization happened by evolution randomly, even if according to nature’s patterns like the Fibonacci sequence.

But I see it another way. I find the very existence of such patterns evidence of the presence of a quality in nature that science finds “unscientific” but which I consider the “presence of mind” (pun!).

To me Mind is a function of order and indeed mathematics (Function=another pun)—and our ignorance of that in our current culture is the root of many problems.

Indeed the march of science has illuminated the fact that all of nature conforms to such patterns—the subject of an enormous book by James Gleick, The Information, which essentially traces the human discovery of meaning within nature according to what science considers “data.”

But if we open slightly to the possibility, beyond our intellect or conditioning, and consider that perhaps Life is more than mere data — that the animate force behind life (which the Egyptians thought of as the function Phi—the mathematical ratio of the Fibonacci sequence) literally—is Mind—an immaterial intelligence of which we are mainly ignorant—a lot begins to actually make “sense” in a different way.

Consider the possibility that the Pythagorean theorem and the Fibonacci sequence did not originate with the Greeks, its knowledge is far more ancient and was considered sacred by ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians.

As I have noted, in addition to the Pi relationship, the Phi relationship and the Pythagorean relationship of the sides of the right triangle are apparently depicted in ancient monoliths—and the most stark and famous example is the Great Pyramid of Giza.

I became fascinated with this concept when I first read Secrets of the Great Pyramid: Two Thousand Years of Adventures and Discoveries Surrounding the Mysteries of the Great Pyramid of Cheops by Peter Tompkins, which incidentally has an appendix by a renowned Italian mathematician, Livio Stecchini that further probes the depths of these relationships.

The key point here is that the ancient wisdom did not distinguish between science and religion—the awareness of this higher nature of Life as the manifestation of an infinite Mind was sacred—as were many of the rituals that were meant to preserve this knowledge.

Of course, in the vast spans of time since this knowledge was fully flourishing, we are left with mere fragments that are further distorted and ignored by conventional archeology and astronomy—branches of our science that are cut off from religion and philosophy entirely.

And we can only speculate where this ancient wisdom originated. For those of you with open minds, I recommend the Ancient Aliens series on the History Channel and the work of Erik von Daniken.

Do the Math: How the Perfection of Number Points to the Reality of Mind (Part 1)


I have long been fascinated by math but I reached a precipice in school when I ran up against Calculus; I once asked my teacher if he could explain by example what in nature represents “the function of a number”—I was desperate, I said, because I could see the application of geometry and algebra, in which I excelled, but not calculus.

He looked at me disdainfully and said simply, “no.” That’s when I switched to Liberal Arts.

Ironically, my current fascination with computers is the result of their “living” functions—software—which are mathematical algorithms that perform tasks—they are active verbs – and of course the hardware/software relationship has been used as a powerful metaphor for the mind and brain.

But is it merely a metaphor or analogy? That is the essential issue of this post and the entire blog…

I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas R. Hofstadter is a wonderful book, a follow-up to a Pulitzer prize winning best-seller , Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid that seeks to demonstrate the unique qualities of a mind that expresses itself in language, along with the inevitable gaps and paradoxes that result in believing too much in the logic of our spoken and written descriptions of “what is real.”

As a mathematician, neuroscientist and philosopher Hofstadter begins with the primacy of number because whatever symbols you use to represent “number”, certain truths persist.

For example, as Pythagoras famously asserted, the sums of the squares of a right triangle always add up to the square of the hypotenuse.

Remember – and consider – it does not matter what you call these concepts—they are mental constructs that are absolutely true.

Hofstadter, like Leonardo da Vinci, fucuses on a famous set of numbers that are also manifest in nature, and to many throughout history have represented a “Golden Mean” or perfect ratio, also called the number Phi (not Pi).

In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers are the numbers that conform to this ratio in the following sequence of integers:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811

By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. (in the relation of Phi).

If I understand Hofstadter’s key point, it is that the idea of such a sequence of number is primary and causal—and can be described in a different set of symbols, namely the English language as – a sequence of numbers such that each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two

Similarly one can define some members of this “set” of numbers in English as being “prime”, that is, indivisible by any number other than themselves and the number 1.

Okay, and there one can come up with very complex theorems and formulae to “describe” the relationships to ascertain which numbers, as one gets very large approaching infinity, are in fact prime and members of the Fibonacci sequence.

What Hofstadter points out, however, is the discovery of mathematician Kurt Gödel, that when one goes from the primary set of symbols (numbers) to our “understanding” of them represented by language; i.e., though about those symbols, very weird anomalies of logic come up that result in “strange loops”—infinite progressions without resolutions or perhaps paradoxes.

Still, in terms of scale, it is interesting to consider that there are vast Prime Numbers whose characteristics we can describe (indivisible by any number other than themselves and the number 1), and yet which our own brains and even the supercomputers we’ve invented have not yet “discovered”—yet which according to our language, analogies and suppositions must exist…

It was proven by Euclid that there are infinitely many prime numbers; thus, there is always a prime greater than the largest known prime (Wikipedia).

Here is a “prime” example of another such a paradox or anomaly:

The sentence “This sentence has ten words” has ten words. (I am a Strange Loop, page 140)

Here we can see how our verbal or linguistic description of a mathematical truth (which is absolute—see the infallibility of the Fibonacci sequence stretching out to infinity) is inevitably fraught with fallacy and “looping.”

This strikes me as significant to several levels. First if we look at how we use computer software to manifest concepts through software, we first write them out in code (language) and then compile them into a sequence of numbers (zeroes and ones) to express in “reality” (through the physical machine)—displaying on screen and interacting with other users.

To Hofstadter (I think), this paradoxical aspect of language is an obvious manifestation of mind which simulates nature on a very powerful level—by analogy it seems to mirror our own inner mental workings—but it cannot “explain” Nature or for that matter infinite sequences of number.

It can only explain characteristics.

Language, like our inner “I”, is looped and imperfect—with the inherent limitation of needing to be expressed in words, and consequently reducing the perfection of the absolute it describes (mathematical certainly; number) to what our limited minds can comprehend—fragmented, imperfect analogies to reality.

(Continued in Part 2)