Monthly Archives: April 2013

I Think I Am a Verb


(This is an excerpt from Presence of Mind: Journey to a New Operating System discussing Consciousness as a verb – a concept brought up by Deepak Chopra in last night’s live broadcast with Eckhart Tolle)

For my cat, an object or toy that is of absolutely no interest when stationary, becomes an item of intense examination and attraction when in motion. A hat dropped to the carpet, or a fake mouse tossed across the room elicits a spring into action and energetic attention.

David Bohm, a famed physicist and thinker, whose work attracted the admiration of both Einstein and Krishnamurti, suggested that our study of reality became flawed with its initial focus on things, or atomism.

Echoing some of Eckhart Tolle’s insights into the importance of both the structure as well as the content of thought, Bohm says that “the subject-verb structure of language, along with its world view, tends to impose itself very strongly in our speech, even in some cases where some attention would reveal its inappropriateness. For example, consider the sentence ‘it is raining.’

Where is the ‘It’ that would, according to the sentence, be doing the raining—in the same way we might suggest we are running?

Bohm suggests that it would be more accurate to say, rain is going on. And the same is true of running—the “I” is similarly an assumption.

Expanding on this concept, and bearing in mind the significance of the observer in quantum physics, Bohm goes on to say that our structural view of a separate observer and an observed object is similarly prejudiced by the language we use to consider its meaning.

In reality, according to Bohm, there is only a process of observing going on with whatever the object is – or may be doing.

Moreover he suggests a new experiment with language and thought he calls a “Rheomode” that puts the emphasis on the state of being – or the verb – rather than our structurally predisposed tendency to give primacy to the subject – a noun or a false sense of “I”.

Just rain is happening, running is happening, you are happening and I am happening, all as part of a greater complete Whole that Bohm calls the “Implicate Order,” and of which all of our thoughts and experiences are necessary fragmentations.

Above all, I would submit, Life is happening, and in many instances we operate under the illusion that we are in control. Occasionally, what happens may indeed correspond to our thoughts or expectations and we feel more powerful—the “I” which we assume to exist according to our mental conditioning takes the credit.

But what did the “I” actually “do” if the ego is a purely habitual mental construct? And what does this say about our negative emotions that pummel our inner “I” with rejection, humiliation and shame?

So, now that we also know that our own software mimics the activity of life on the level of genetic code—DNA is based on a set of coded instructions like software that tells genes how to express—let’s examine more closely what that actually means.

If we go back to the simple example of macro code cited earlier, which turns a rectangle red in Microsoft Word:

Sub red()

‘ red Macro

ActiveDocument.Shapes.AddShape(msoShapeRectangle, 93#, 43.5, 117.75, _

141.75).Select

Selection.ShapeRange.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(192, 0, 0)

Selection.ShapeRange.Fill.Visible = msoTrue

Selection.ShapeRange.Fill.Solid

End Sub

What is “happening” here is that based on a user input (click of the mouse), a subroutine (sub) “named red” will “run,” executing this code in the same way the geneticist (Juan Enriquez) said that an apple executes its (DNA) code and falls from the tree.

Two active verbs form the basis of this simple subroutine—Selection, which puts the attention of the Program on the shape whose color will be changed, and Fill, the activity which will ensue based on the coded instructions.

But there is no Subject doing anything.

Fill is happening to the Selection.

It is the result of data processing (happening) just as Life is simply being.

Remember, this is how Life and DNA also “work.”

The difference here is that rather than “data process” with chemicals in our body, for example, like proteins and amino acids, in our macro this simple set of coded instructions works with a property of silicon that puts those concepts into action programmatically, in this case to create text and graphics on a page.

If we examine our own lives and the conditioning that shapes us, it turns out that our automatic functions (habits) work exactly like the macro described above.

If you can “be the scientist,” as suggested by my friend Michael Jeffreys, and observe yourself carefully, as my therapist had me do early on, you will see that changing a habit comes down to three essential steps, as outlined in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.

Each habit has three components – a trigger, a routine and a reward.

Performing an experiment with life –like changing a habit –you find that these steps conform perfectly to a simple computer program like a macro:

First, in a macro, the trigger an “event”–is “On Mouseclick” — the routine has the same name in programming — subroutine — and the reward is getting the desired result—like filling the rectangle with a new color.

Like a habit, the programming macro lets you run the same program again and again with just one keystroke (trigger)).

The first step toward changing a habit or conditioned response is observation and noticing – and then altering the reward with something that provides the same feeling (fulfillment) but is not self-destructive.

But consider the meaning of this – changing the conditioned responses of your brain (and its structure—neuroplasticity) involves rewriting (or rewiring) internally coded instructions— inner alchemy is reprograming your software.

This ability to mimic life through the coded instructions of symbols or language is why I consider the development of software an evolutionary event in our history.

Incidentally I take this opinion again directly from geneticist Juan Enriquez, who has suggested that we (our species) is now in a position to effect (if not control) its own evolution through our knowledge of DNA sequencing.

But I suggest that this aspect of software—its ability to actively mimic our intelligence symbolically as an active force in the world, and thereby demonstrate how life actually operates, makes it the most significant human achievement since the construction of the Great Pyramid.

Why is Mind a necessary primary attribute of these processes?

If we go back to our macro, a mind needed to “decide” on some level that the rectangle “should be” red.

Or rather, within the activity of a human mind, Redness will happen to the rectangle.

So “whose” mind contemplated the various purposes behind DNA?

The problem here is the again the structure of any sentence, if we go back to Bohm, the very assumption of a subject-object structure for it to be “understood” by our thoughts or language—solely the left brain.

Based on my personal experience (Life) it has become apparent that through meditation, it is possible to occasionally step into a “space” where “I” am not thinking, but thinking is happening within being, and an observing faculty or notices this.

As soon as “I” identify with the observer, the Subject returns to thought, the space and my state changes. Thought happens, the space disappears, and “I” return.

But within that space I can sense that Life happens through me and without “Me.”

As soon as “I” identify with the observer, the space and my state changes.

But within that space I can sense that Life happens through me and without “Me.”

“I am” – but what I am is Life, energy, movement—genetic code running –all beyond and besides my sense of who “I am” as a thing, group of words, set of stories, beliefs or attributes.

Any “thing” that I think “I am” is wrong.

As Buckminster Fuller titled one of his works, “I seem to be a verb.”

Where does that leave me?

Unfortunately, at one point I became isolated and separated from the majority of my fellow humans who live according to an entirely different set of beliefs.

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Creating a New Story (of You)

This video has now gotten about 35 hits on YouTube.  Maybe you’ll like it.

Watching My Self in Action

Yesterday, I was picking up some items at Ralphs when I passed within earshot of the deli counter and heard a guy say, “Yeah, Lakers won by 20 points.”

Suddenly the rest of my day seemed ruined. I was looking forward to a nice nap and watching the first playoff game on DVR. Without Kobe, the Lakers were suddenly an underdog and I suspected they might play really well—and actually resemble a team—but now my mood turned foul.

The game was ruined. I stormed back to the cat food aisle, picked up some cans, and scowled at the unsuspecting clerk near the checkout stand. I grumbled through checkout, took my bag of groceries back to the car and drove home.

Why would “they” do that to me? One random step and the entire pleasure of watching the game was ruined. Sure, there was tennis recorded, the end of a great match with Djokovic and Nadal, and some other playoff games later that evening but I was REALLY LOOKING FORWARD to watching this.

I began to notice the annoyance and had to smile. This was precisely the sort of thing I’ve been working on—seeing how my reactions to essentially neutral circumstances cause my discomfort.

Was the deli guy “wrong” to talk about the outcome? Well he was loud – he could have kept his voice down – after all lots of people do DVR the games. But come on – objectively – he was excited about the game. Who could blame him? “I” could, that’s who.

So I took my nap and got up and put on the game. I tried to excited by the pregame blather and skipped past the “predictions”—after all, I knew the outcome already. The game was RUINED.

So I started watching and the Lakers were playing well. Without Kobe they actually ran a few plays and passed the ball, and they had great energy.

But they were losing. There was no evidence of them building the 20 point lead I had heard the deli guy talk about. At halftime they were down about six points. So I figured why not watch the beginning of the second half and see them build a lead.

But instead, as the third quarter unfolded, it was the Spurs that built their lead up to double digits. A twenty point Laker lead? On the road? What was that guy smoking?

I realized that maybe I had misheard him. Maybe the Lakers LOST? Or would they still come back? Maybe the 20 points was wrong, but I know I heard him said they won – didn’t I?

Who knows? I watched the fourth quarter in ambiguous delight as I did not know the outcome but it became more and more certain that the Lakers would actually lose – which was not what I “wanted” but I also wanted the uncertainty.

The game ended. They lost. I had to laugh. I had watched an entire game that had been “ruined” for me with even more attention because the “information” I had was completely wrong.

I was still able to get appropriately annoyed by the attention given to Kobe Bryant’s tweets (he hadn’t even gone to San Antonio with his teammates—recovering from surgery I guess) – it wasn’t about Kobe but he was the “star” they had to blather about.

So okay, I got my annoyance, I got my excitement and I discovered that everything I thought I had known was completely wrong.

I had also watched myself going through this entire experience with amazement and some delight, because I hadn’t really gotten caught up in any of it, except the initial ten minutes of frustration that I “knew” the outcome of a game I wanted to watch.

With the game over, I switched to CNN. Now it was time to really watch my self get pissed off.

Why America and Western Civilization are Doomed

Last night my power cord fried and I had to jiggle it to run my Dell laptop–so I needed a replacement (my second since I bought the laptop – they are built to fail). I went on Amazon and within about a minute I had the right model in my cart ready to order for about twenty bucks with shipping, or shipping was free if I found another item that would bring my total to $25.

But like a fool I decided to see if I could possibly buy the item in person (in the “real world”) at one of the following stores: OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, Frys, BestBuy and Staples.

Each of their web sites had both a store locator and an online catalog, but twenty years into Internet, they are still not properly coordinated.

Both Frys and BestBuy seemed to have in-store pickup, but I could not even locate a suitable item on the Frys web site–and in reality at BestBuy it was only available online – actual store pickup is “greyed out” (unavailable).

I found suitable replacements on several of the web sites, but also could not determine for certain if those adapters would actually work with my model and/or whether the item was physically available in the store.

Phone calls to the stores themselves led to decisions as to which button to press on my phone for store hours, etc. and then lengthy hold times for “sales representatives” who were either clueless or could not confirm that a suitable item was available at a price remotely close to the Amazon price.

Phone calls to the “800 number” got me one confirmation that the item I saw online was again not in any of my nearby stores, and another connection to a sweet woman in the Philippines whom I could not understand and who could not locate the model number as I read it to her from my screen.

All of this yielded no results and took about an hour. I could easily spend another two hours driving to Frys and/or the other stores and looking for the item, hoping for a miracle.

(Two years ago I had a “will call” item at Frys supposedly waiting for pickup; after 45 minutes waiting at will call the store manager confirmed that they did not have the “confirmed” item and substituted another).

So of course I will order the item from Amazon and wait a few days and get it delivered without hassle. Whenever possible I no longer deal with a human to fulfill a transaction, if I have the option.

If you multiply this experience exponentially you realize that economically we are doomed—because if real humans can no longer fulfill basic retail needs, then there will be no jobs for humans to enable them to participate in a functional economy.

A great deal of the blame goes directly to the corporations like OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, Frys, BestBuy and Staples who have been unable to put systems in place that serve human needs and can compete with completely automated stores like Amazon that have no overhead and few humans.

There is absolutely no reason why a potential customer should not be able to go to these other company web sites, find the item with the requisite information (will it work with my shit?) and ascertain whether it is actually available at the store down the street, and if so reserve it for pickup and go there and buy it in person.

To expect the potential customer to wade through automated voicemail menus to speak to ineffectual sales “professionals” who also cannot determine this information is borderline insane – to connect them to the Philippines is beyond the pale.

I am not excusing or exonerating mass murderers, but when the media says that they cannot figure out a motive for people who “flip out”, it would make sense to me to blame the reality that people can no longer simply get a straight answer from another human about a basic product or service.

Add this to similar “systems” for courts, hospitals, insurance companies and so on and it is no wonder people are flipping out all over the place.

The complexity of these “systems” and their complete lack of responsiveness to human needs (tell me the truth without putting me on hold or transferring me to the Philippines) would drive many insane, and apparently that is what is happening.

And then, when you look at unemployment figures and economic statistics it becomes obvious that most of the crap being purchased by “consumers” is being bought on credit.

Therefore, you must also realize that our economy simply cannot support the purchases with the meager salaries of retail workers—and well playing skilled jobs are no longer being created.

The best paying jobs are in fields like law, finance and “entertainment” – none of which create anything of real value. You can’t eat (or survive) on divorce, money or movies.

The other “stuff” being created is technology and software, which simply adds complexity without solving the human needs of workers – it merely makes them more “productive” – or not.

And the stores that employ these remaining unskilled retail workers also cannot compete with the automated systems that actually fulfill orders (like Amazon), and certainly not in sufficient numbers to enable them to hire more unskilled employees and pay them enough to buy the shit being offered and advertised—and not with real money that these unskilled workers actually earn—only on credit.

So these “companies” lay these unskilled workers off, or increase their hours without overtime and cut their pensions and medical benefits to compete in a “free economy.”

How is this being addressed by our “economic experts”? Well we are simply doing “quantitative easing” – which is an Orwellian term for printing money to buy fake bonds to prop up a rigged stock market that makes a few people feel prosperous enough to buy more shit.

And of course these dollars being “spent” represent no real value being created, that is if you even have “real dollars” – chances are you are “spending” electronic pixels on your screen or smartphone that simply change other electronic pixels on computer screens in “banks”.

(Remember, real “banks” used to provide real capital to real companies to build real products and provide actual services to real humans. Those days are apparently over – banks today do “investment” which means they lose massive amounts of fake dollars to enrich a few humans no one ever sees.)

I do not have children, but if you think this is sustainable for another generation, much less more generations, you are delusional. All we are doing is creating more shit, shrink-wrapped in plastic that is killing our real oceans and poisoning our real water and air.

And the real humans who are supposed to consume this useless shit cannot afford it and don’t really need it.

And the consumers who are the basis for this entire “system” are granted more credit to buy more of this shit, and go into more debt to consume it because they are no longer qualified to produce actual goods that would have the real value to pay for it.

Therefore, they need to take substandard retail jobs, if they can find them, at wages competitive with similarly unqualified and substandard workers in the Philippines.

To solve this “situation” we have a “government” that argues about abortion, gay rights and prayer in the schools.

I rest my case: America and Western Civilization are doomed.

Absolute Relativity: Thoughts for April Fools Day

One of the joys of April Fools Day is getting “punked” – sometimes. Three years ago a web site sent me an email congratulating me that a video I had posted had gone “viral” – I thought I was famous for about an hour before an email from a friend revealed the “truth” — and deflated me once again.

The key to the experience is that the rug of “knowing” is pulled out from under us. So much of our existence is lived on bedrock of certainty about things, which when revealed as illusion, can be terrifying…. Or, upon further reflection, quite liberating…

I remember feeling relatively “safe” before the financial crisis of 2008 hit. Then, suddenly I feared that the savings I had accumulated would be rendered worthless and I would be destitute. I was certain that I was entering my father’s nightmare of hyper-inflation and anarchy…

Obama’s election temporarily appeased me but watching the news continued to fuel anxiety. I dealt with it as best I could until I found myself in an Eckhart Tolle discussion group, led by Michael Jeffreys.

Eckhart Tolle is the author of the Power of Now, and I hoped that by being “present” I could alleviate some of the demons that were haunting me.

When Michael asked a simple question he turned to me for the first time (we didn’t know each other) when he asked, “So, can you accept not knowing?”

Our eyes met and I realized that this was a core issue for me, and I shook my head fiercely and emphatically “no”. That was really the beginning of some amazing insights.

I had to confront the fact that I had bought into the (unquestioned) belief that I should and ought to “know” many things – how to earn a decent living, plan for the future, take care of myself and loved ones, and so on.

I should be “in control.”

And yet, right then and there, I had to admit to myself that I had to surrender – that ultimately there were many many many things I did not and could never know.

“I” was quite literally the April Fool.

Michael and I have had many conversations since about what we can and cannot know and as we delve into issues of philosophy and neuroscience, and “who” we really are, many certainties are peeled away, layer by layer.

This struck me yesterday when I saw the trailer for an upcoming documentary , Holy Rascals, on Facebook. There was a rabbi and the film maker, apparently a Christian, and with them was the subject of the segment, Prasanna.

In the conversation they explored what you could know, and the rabbi, after citing his “identity” as a Jew and a teacher admitted that as Prasanna suggested, there was only one thing he knew absolutely – for sureand that was that at that moment he existed.

Every other “truth” was relative; namely it was a thought and essentially an assumption.

What was interesting is that so much of what we think we “know” has been taught to us by religion and other institutions; but these are all easily revealed as relative truths based on concepts. Even our name is a thought or idea. There is only one thing you know for certain. You are here now.

Whether through sophistry or direct argument, it can be demonstrated that everything besides the fact that you exist is ultimately a “relative” truth or idea.

Michael does another exercise which is to try to locate physically where in your body “you” reside. Many of us immediately point to a spot behind our eyes – ostensibly our brain. That’s because our idea about who we are – the sound in our skull – thoughts – are so compelling and real. (The key to this exercise by the way is to actually do it, and become quiet – not to think about doing it). You may well discover something surprising….

But of course you could be comatose or lobotomized and still “exist.” Your breathing, digestion, circulation and other functions would still “operate” – in fact so would some parts of your brain.

(As Eckhart Tolle suggests, it is a much higher “knowing” intelligence that truly controls those functions).

And you might even still dream… But as Eckhart Tolle also points out so well, “you” are what notices the thoughts that seem to define you – and that becomes your conditioned sense of self.

From the time someone calls you by name and you experience yourself as a separate being, this “concept” is reinforced over and over again until it becomes “second nature”.

Of course, the ultimate illusion of Descartes, that it is our thought that defines us (“I think therefore I am”) is the basis of all of our science, but it is quickly reversed upon any true self inquiry.

The “I am” that we think we are seems to be a “thing” – but the knowing is, as Eckhart Tolle calls it, “no thing.” It is rather a sense of “being here right now” – the only absolute thing we know.

Many of these other “concepts” seem incontrovertible based on our experience and survival – for example, if there is a cliff and you walk off it, you will die. Taking this as a “relative” truth and testing it for yourself can have dire consequences.

(Your absolute truth, your existence, may come to an absolute end).

So as we become “educated” and conditioned we gather within us a storage unit of such relative truths that we are ever more fearful to test through our own experience.

For example, going back to my own experience, the safety of saving money was a deep truth taught to me by my father which I held sacred.

Suddenly this truth was exposed as very relative – as long as money is “valued” then it can provide me with a measure of safety – but it can be quickly devalued as was threatened by the banks’ collapse in 2008.

(It is interesting to ponder that some civilizations like native Americans had no “concept” of property or owning land, which made Sitting Bull sign treaties he simply did not comprehend; of course when those contracts were enforced by the people who had thought them up, his relative and absolute reality ended.)

And indeed my father had the relative safety of a stable economy pulled from underneath him by the Nazis in 1939. It was the main reason he indoctrinated me with this fear – to keep me safe.

And like the cliff I assume will kill me, in this case the financial cliff fear may keep me safe for a while—but seeing that ultimately it is an unknown is the only way to stave off immobilizing fear.

But isn’t an admission of what we don’t know even scarier? It was at first – that’s why I shook my head so fiercely when Michael asked me that question.

But “digging deeper” as my friend Michael likes to say, it is actually quite liberating to recognize the true vastness of what we do not know, and drop the burden of illusory control.

It is stepping off this cliff, literally not figuratively, that can lead to a much richer existence, because it frees us from the thoughts and conditioned fears that truly imprison us.

I was watching a NOVA special on the meteor that hit Russia last month, and if I focused on this, as watching CNN would have me do, I would be terrified every morning when I got up.

Like the fear of a financial crash, the fear of a meteor hitting is a thought. Another thought can also make me realize that “science” thinks this only happens every 70 years, so I am “relatively safe.”

But the only absolute knowledge that I have is that all of these thoughts are relative truths, noticed as thoughts and ideas by the only “me” that truly exists – that which notices all of this.

I can certainly gauge other relative truths, and I will do so – such as when I turn the faucet, there will be water to drink.

But as the folks in New Jersey and Staten Island discovered recently, even that relative truth–that we take for granted so much of the time, can instantly be disrupted.

So we know that our time as “being here” in this physical form is limited and quite tenuous, and yet here we are. So while we’re here, the only absolutely essential response would be awe, and gratitude.

Everything else is a thought – many conditioned – many leading to relative fears. Let them go.

Happy April Fools Day.