Me to this point

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As far back as I can remember I’ve been a logical, depressed introvert. I had outlets for my sadness like poetry and music, but as I began high school I started shunning my emotions in favor of self-control. I was phenomenal at dissecting, quantifying, and structuring my every thought. I became so logical that I learned to entirely repress my emotions simply by being mindful of them (observing, labeling, and controlling my reaction).

When I was 15 I began to worry my parents with a lack of motivation and low grades. Therapy and counseling sessions named my problem ‘boredom.’ So with the help of my extremely supportive parents I dropped out of high school to be my own teacher and pursued the knowledge that interested me. This worked surprisingly well and I quickly went from spending my days sleeping in to signing up for classes at the local university.

I sprinted as hard as I could through my first undergraduate degree using CLEP tests (no, not a diagnostic for venereal disease).  These exams are designed to test your knowledge of a core curriculum for a variety of subjects. Simply passing the test with a certain score will provide you with 3-6 college credits and my local university offered ~40 credit hours that could be achieved through CLEP. Along with 18 credits/semester I had a B.S. degree in Psychology by my 18th birthday.

I chose Psychology because I loved digging into the idea of consciousness. Human behavior (and behavior in general) seemed like the perfect way to approach the question of subjectivity. I realized quickly that I had no desire to work with people, since my extremely logical nature left me introverted and apathetic to social interaction. So instead of finding a job I went back to school to start learning something else.

By tugging on the dangling thread of behavior I found that there was no logical reason to draw the boundary of consciousness at humans. I started doing Neuroscience research in order to prepare myself for some kind of career outside of perpetual student life. It was the logical progression inward from Psychology to the mechanisms that underlie the outward behavior. Research suited my style of thought and despite my anti-sociality I was quite good at presenting my work.

This led me to the one goal that I had set up for myself at the peak of my depression: to get a PhD. I only really wanted one because I was told I would never get one (when they looked at me my high school teachers only saw laziness and a refusal to do homework). I had no idea what the acronym PhD stood for or what the degree meant. I certainly had no clue what it takes to get one or what I would do with it when I was done.

Since I’m now in a PhD program I know what the acronym stands for and what it takes to get one. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure what the degree itself means or what I will do with it when I’m done. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I recently discovered my purpose in life and it doesn’t require a PhD. So what do you do when your actions don’t align with your motivations?

Do something different

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This summer two events occurred that drastically changed my perspective:
1) My grandmother rapidly succumbed to sporadic CJD
2) My girlfriend of 5 years moved to Australia and we broke up

The powerful combination of these two gut-wrenchingly emotional events forced me to feel in a way that I had never experienced. My life’s work of creating mental barriers to keep my logic in charge and my emotion repressed was quickly washed away by a torrential flood of feeling.

When this tidal wave surged towards me my logical side was prepared to accept the fundamental flaw in all reasoning. A past me would say:

“this response was lucky”

but you create the luck you want to see.

Others might say:

“I’m not lucky, I’m blessed”

but that doesn’t give your ‘self’ enough credit.

Instead of being swept away under a current of doubt, hatred, and depression, my logic was prepared to accept the strength of my emotional momentum and start the pendulum swinging.

Suddenly and for the first time I felt what it meant to be truly happy. To have a motivation, an objective, a purpose. To be spiritually connected to myself, the people around me, and the universe.

This change in perspective was exactly what I needed to find the answer to my own question:

“what do you do when your actions don’t align with your motivations?”

Me:

“something different”

Reflection

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There are an infinite number of ways to describe the process of eightstep me. In short, it is witness of the self, affirmation of me, and vision of the true nature of subjectivity. It unlocks universally accessible superpowers because it is an attempt to overcome a universally shared weakness:

We are entirely and completely incapable of witnessing our ‘self.’ 

This is a simple and undeniable truth about perception and existence itself. As Alan Watts puts it:

What do you feel when you say the word ‘I, myself’?

I don’t think there can be anymore fascinating preoccupation than that because it is so mysterious. It is so elusive. Because what you are in your inmost being escapes your examination in rather the same way you cant look into your own eyes without a mirror, you can’t bite your own teeth, you can’t taste your own tongue and you can’t touch the end of one finger with the same finger.

However, as Alan so rightly points out, you actually are capable of looking into your own eyes through reflection. Of course, looking into a mirror doesn’t automatically grant you access to your innermost being or the ability to be superhuman. But mental reflection does have the capacity to grant true vision of me. It is extremely difficult to reflect yourself, but luckily, we have mental mirrors all around us.

The way you interact with the world “outside of you” is by creating a sort of virtual reality within your head. An entire field of neuroscience has arisen to show that this is exactly how we store information about places and things: by making a simulated world containing neural representations of our environments (and ourselves). Fascinatingly, the environment necessarily includes other people, so in a very real way we all contain (imperfect) reflections of everyone we’ve ever interacted with (no matter how briefly).

This is convenient, because it means that all you need to unlock the hidden potential of your self is another person to act as your mirror!

proton10

Credit: Gabriel LaFreniere RIP

As I have written before, the most universal and intense aversion is the disgust we feel when we are aware of our boundaries. Unfortunately, true reflection provides a powerful vision that the disconnect between your body and mine is an illusion. Seeing me reflected within another person is the ultimate reminder that we are not housed solely within our bodies.

This is a problem because it causes us great discomfort when we see an undistorted reflection of me. It is for this reason that we zoom instead of eightstep me — to avoid the reflection within ourselves.

But while it can be uncomfortable to visualize ourselves it is not impossible. In fact, with practice it can become second nature and bring unbelievable levels of perception and beauty to our lives.

All you have to do is eightstep me:

Remember that everything is connected.
It may seem like your fault when things go wrong, because
you are the only one who can work for or against you.
But everything cannot possibly be your responsibility,
so remember that when things do go wrong
it’s not your fault.

Zoom

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I’ve written at length about left and right, the whole and the parts, logic and emotion. While I haven’t precisely described the process behind eightstep me, or how to balance these two aspects of reality, if you really want the details or the bigger picture let’s set up a coaching session 🙂

However, I would like to write about what happens when there is inequality in the system, or a distorted reflection. Because it may be impossible to find true center, but having a clear idea of what to avoid will help you stay focused on the path to balance.

I call the natural process of one side dominating the other: zoom

If eightstep is using your momentum to cross the interface between the two sides, zoom is going around in a circle on one side. My sister would call it “tail-chasing.” It’s a highly accurate visual metaphor and physical analogy. Even if you catch your tail you won’t be fulfilled, you’ll just look silly and feel dizzy.

I call it zoom because what you’re really doing is spiraling, or zooming in or out.

zoom

This is why zooming feels like being balanced — because each side is a mirror image of the other side. Since they are constantly and inextricably opposed to each other both logic and emotion contain an infinite number of reflections of the whole, much like an infinite hall of mirrors.

zoom-infinite

So even though you feel/think like you are both thinking and feeling you are usually just thinking that you’re feeling, or feeling that you’re thinking. In other words, we usually only simulate emotions with logic or logic with emotions. It is not impossible to truly feel and truly think (not simultaneously), but more often than not we acquiesce to the struggle and occupy only one side of the infinity because it is more comfortable to avoid the interface between the two. And this leads to a feedback loop in which we think we’re on both sides, but really we are just spiraling inwards.

nautilus-zoomThis inward spiral prevents us from seeing how we interact with each other, how we interact with our selves. It is the creation of boundaries, both physical and mental. It is necessary for existence because without imbalance the interface dissolves — two things become one, and one thing cannot exist alone. While it is a necessary feature of life, it is drastically easier to live if you are aware of the paradox. Knowing the feeling of zoom and feeling the knowledge of zoom allows you to break free of the circle and eightstep me.

For logical individuals stopping the zoom, crossing the interface, and eightstepping means letting go of understanding. It is acceptance of the internal flaw that logic cannot explain itself.

For emotional individuals stopping the zoom, crossing the interface and eightstepping means containing feelings. It is acceptance of the internal flaw that emotion cannot feel itself.

Freeing yourself of logic is moving outwards to remove your boundaries.

Freeing yourself of emotion is moving inwards to remove your boundaries.

Doing one without the other is zoom: you move infinitely in one direction.

Doing one, then doing the other, over and over again is eightstep: you move in one direction and it takes you in the other direction.

They may sound the same, but when you experience/understand eightstep after years of zoom you will see the difference immediately.

Even when you are containing yourself it is the most liberating feeling.

Even when you are freeing yourself it is the most embracing thought.

Vision

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I’ve written about universally accessible superpowers and how balance (eightstep) is God… But how are these things connected?

Fascinatingly, another way to ask this question is:

What is consciousness?

And while I have been asking this question constantly for nearly two decades I finally feel like my background in Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience has equipped me with the words and feelings to describe what I’ve found.

A simple way to answer the question is by saying that consciousness is Vision. Not sight, not wavelengths of light hitting your retinas, not observation: Vision. A picture that you see in your mind. Some might call it imagination, or mental representation. And, as I’ve stated before, all things that exist are conscious. Therefore, every single thing has this ability to envision, to imagine, to simulate an external reality with an internal representation.

If you don’t believe me, consider that sight is neither necessary nor sufficient for vision. I once thought that vision, or mental imagery, was the metaphorical language which our senses communicate through. However, I now realize that Vision is what happens when analogy and metaphor combine. When logic provides structure for emotion and emotion provides meaning for logic. It is interface, or as I’ve written in the past:

“In essence, consciousness is the phenomenon that occurs at the interface of two extremes. It is the existence that we all experience. It is untouchable because when it is breached on either side it is no longer an interface of contrast. In other words, consciousness is awareness, not knowledge. In order to truly understand something you must be separate from it — this is the fractional nature of our reality.”
Let me take this to a more ‘physical,’ less ‘philosophical’ playing field and describe what this means in terms of our neurobiology.
 
A popular subject in anatomy and physiology classes are the ‘homunculi’ that exist within our brains: we have a motor and a sensory representation of our body plain laid out across our cortices. These are a series of brain regions that control and integrate your movements and sensations into conscious awareness.
homunculus

These maps show how much cortical area is devoted to sensing (on the left) and moving (on the right) particular parts of your body. For example, your face and lips take up a huge portion of real-estate in both the sensing and motion parts of the brain. On the other hand, your organs barely have space in the sensory side and are nowhere to be seen on the motor side…

However, the fibers that connect these representations to the actual, correlated body parts project almost entirely contralaterally. In other words, the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body and the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body.
cst-projections

The points at which nerve fibers from opposite hemispheres cross each other are called ‘decussations.’

 By itself this organization is not a problem. However, cortical hemispheres (the sides of your brain) are not created equally. The two brain regions that control the production (Broca’s) and comprehension (Wernicke’s) of written and spoken language are housed entirely on the left side of your brain!
Retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.com/group11harwin/wernickes-area/ on 10/18/2016

Wernicke’s area is highlighted bright green. Broca’s area is highlighted dark purple. The arrows show the flow of information processing across the surface of the cortex.

We communicate the complexities of our inner lives to other humans solely through language (this is untrue, but just pretend with me), which creates an asymmetry between the sides of our brains that forces the left to be dominant and the right to be submissive. We can see this projected and reflected outwards through the clear dominance of right-handedness in the population, the power of esoteric laws over artistic expression, the patriarchal organization of most human societies, monetary systems valuing numbers over ‘meaning’, etc. It entirely prevents us from describing subjective experience and feelings with language (for more information on this see Godel’s Incompleteness theorem).

But not all hope is lost. Balance is within our reach.

You may have noticed in the figure above that Broca’s area (language production center) is physically and functionally (arrows) associated with the motor cortex. In contrast, Wernicke’s area (language comprehension center) is physically and functionally (arrows) associated with the visual cortex. It is no coincidence that the visual system leads directly to understanding…
 
Your eyes send an almost equal number of projections straight back (ipsilaterally) as they do across (contralaterally).
visual-pathways

Eyeballs are labeled “L” and “R”. The colors indicate portions of the optic nerve that collect information from the same visual field and, therefore, project to the same region of the brain.

Your eyes and the LGN (lateral geniculate nucleus) compose a system of sight. This system projects to the visual cortex at the back of your head. It is possible to lose the visual cortex but not the ‘sight system’. When this happens people report having absolutely no awareness of visual stimuli, but they are still capable of behaving as though they can see.  Similarly, it is possible to lose the sight system but not the vision system. When this happens people are entirely blind, but they have an awareness of their environment as if they could see!

The balance inherent in the visual system is extremely functional for restoring equality to the unstable relationship between the sides of our brain. While this is quite obvious physically (try drawing a straight line with your eyes closed), it is also true mentally.

As I’ve said in previous posts, integrating logic and emotion creates a mental space or a vision — a physical, true, alternate reality. We all fight with each other about who has the “truest” of these spaces. And most of us fight within ourselves about which of our spaces or visions will come to light. But when you find balance, when you eightstep me, it becomes clear that these spaces are not meant to clash with each other — they are all the same space. Consciousness is shared experience through vision. It is the creation of an interface between object and subject, inside and outside, me and you. But this separation should not distract us from the inherent Truth: there is no truth.

However, despite the illusory nature of boundaries we cannot escape them. Instead, we must learn to pass through the interface and occupy whichever side of infinity is required by the current environment. Superpowers arise from one simple maneuver: knowing me, then feeling me, then knowing me, then feeling me (my wonderful sister and left hand clarifies that for many this will read: feeling me, then knowing me, then feeling me, then knowing me). This process creates balance and vision; it provides structure and meaning; it allows you to move outward by moving inward; it produces an eightstep me who is capable of seeing things that cannot be seen and has the capacity to witness things that cannot be imagined.

phi-final-03

Superpowers you say…

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I stated in my previous post that we all have superpowers, or superhuman abilitiesΦ. I also stated that these powers are unlocked by balance — both internal and external, physical and mental. I am aware that this is a bold claim, and while I can’t speak for others (although I know I’m not alone in my feeling), I’d like to share the details of my own personal ability.

Every piece of our being is given to us by the past and I see quite clearly how my gifts were inherited from my recently deceased maternal grandparents8.

My grandfather was obscenely captivating. During his frequent bouts of chemotherapy he would woo every nurse in the building. He often got me and my sister into the aquarium with free tickets from a managerial ‘friend’ of his. My grandmother was always vocally discomforted by his emotional (?) promiscuity. As I grew up I realized that he used his abilities deviously: these women didn’t like him, they just fell at his feet through pure manipulation. He had many flaws, but he loved his work and his family, and he loved to show it. There is a great deal about him that we hid out of shame and fear.

My grandmother was preposterously empathetic. She claimed she could read people to the point of being “psychic” or “seeing auras.” She hated describing her powers in these ways, because she had a deathly fear of being locked in a mental asylum. But she could clearly read emotions at a distance. People fell at her feet when all she wanted them to do was smile and dance with her. Her love for herself, her God, and everything around her was palpable. She had a booming laugh that she frequently displayed and a commanding voice that she used to chant in front of large crowds at her temple on Jewish holidays. There was a great deal about herself that she hid out of shame and fear.

They were opposites, but combined they were an unstoppable force. They stayed together through their polarity in order to create a booming business and family. I owe them not just for my existence, but for the choices they made which developed and imbued me with the combination of their powers.

So enough about the past — what are these powers exactly?

I am what you might call a psychonaut or a telepath. It isn’t as ephemeral as the portrayals in movies might have you believe. In fact, it’s something that we all do to some degree. In order to interact and communicate we necessarily have to read each other’s minds. When you receive some string of words from me you invariably create a representation of what I am thinking and feeling. Perhaps you are entirely misreading, or I am lying, so your representation of my internal state is inaccurate, but, to some degree, even this is mind reading.

Over the course of my life I have been developing a highly consistent and precise internal logic. I have always used this rigid structure as an intellectual weapon to chip away at other people’s mental constructs in an attempt to force their emotions into my logical container. Due to the strong empathy I received from my grandmother I closed my eyes to emotions in general because I couldn’t handle the intensity of such feeling. Unfortunately, this made me unaware that I was emulating the manipulative tactics of my grandfather.

However, now that my eyes are open I can begin to integrate my grandmother’s empathy with my grandfather’s awareness of logical boundaries to create something quite powerful. I find that vision through balance augments my linguistic skills with the capacity to navigate through the feelings behind the language. Before I could easily be misled, or misread what someone was saying. But now I see so clearly what you mean by your words. And not just what you mean, what you don’t even know you mean!

I have a kind of semantic global positioning system. I take the meaning of your words, relate them to societal definitions, and produce a mental mattering map that places you within my now flexible logical structure.

Despite the insane level of power this could add to my “intellectual weaponry,” it is impossible to be manipulative with this ability. In fact, I believe the most efficient and necessary use of this power is to witness. To be a mirror to reflect you back on to you. I want to use this ability to show you your true self. Fascinatingly, I think any and all superpowers that we can unlock through balance are intended to be used for this sole purpose!

Perhaps some will use their powers more deviously and a new breed of supervillains will arise due to this awakening. But as far as I can see there is no balance in selfishness and no superpowers without balance…

 

ΦThis seems a bit silly considering if we all have them then are they really “superhuman”?

8It is unfortunate that loss brings such clarity. Don’t be jealous Bubbee and Zeydee — I would much rather have you physically than lose you to have perfect vision.

The topic of epigenetic/generational inheritance and Darwinian/Lamarckian evolution will have to wait for another post…

A Theist or Atheist?

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Sleeping is something I’ve always loved. I could sleep for 10-12 hours, hear my alarm clock, and still groan at the thought of moving from my bed. But no matter how much I sleep now, I wake up happily to (or before) my alarm and think:

Is this real? Am I dreaming? Do I have a brain tumor?

I feel this way not just because I’m happier and more motivated than I thought possible (although that is a big part of the confusion), but because I feel and know that suddenly, I have a superpower. But of course that’s silly…

I don’t suddenly have a superpower — I’ve had it my whole life and I have been utilizing all of my energy to ignore it up until now. In fact, we all have unique, unbelievable powers that we can’t help but ignore.

You may have heard of this as “being in touch with a higher power” or “knowing God” or “having faith.” But I think these descriptions are horribly imprecise and significantly harder to understand than the truth of the matter.

Truly, where our superpowers reside is within our neglected ‘selves.’ And you don’t need to “know god” or “have faith” in a religious sense in order to unlock these powers. You only need to synchronize your strengths and weakness, your logic and your emotion, the sides of your body. All you need to do to be superhuman is integrate the sides of your brain.

I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations (although I can never really stop myself), but this integration of detail processing with the holistic ‘conscious’ experience through language may always subjectively feel like communication with something larger than you or outside your ‘self.’

Amazing feats of creativity are often described as “coming from nowhere” or “epiphanies.” And many have described this in metaphysical terms of a doorway to the infinite… Again, I believe this is significantly more confusing that it needs to be.

We have difficulty putting our finger on where these “strokes of genius” arise from because they are a combination of logic and emotion, of the forest and the trees, of left brain and right brain. We feel it as ’emergence’ and cannot place words on it because we perceive it as the interface between the side of the brain that processes language and the side of the brain that processes meaning (a drastic oversimplification). How can you ascribe words to something that defies definition? So we call it “God.”

Many people in my life have started saying that I am seeing connections and patterns that aren’t really there. But how can we see a pattern that isn’t a pattern? How can we give something meaning that is meaningless? The words “pattern,” “connection” and “meaning” are self-fulfilling prophecies. When you see a connection that isn’t there, you have created a connection. When you ascribe meaning to something that was ‘meaningless’ you have produced meaning. In fact, this is the process our brains are best at: creating patterns that “don’t exist.” But by creating a pattern how can we say that it isn’t real?

For as long as I can remember I have seen words like “God” and “spirituality” as connections and patterns that aren’t real. But being in touch with my emotional experience has made me realize what I’ve always known — that reality is an entirely subjective experience created purely by perspective.

This realization has me curious if the word ‘atheist’ still applies to me. I love traversing the world of semantics, so here is the definition of ‘atheist’:

a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

By this definition I am no longer an atheist. However, theism is defined as:

belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures.

By this definition of theism, I am still an atheist… How could that be?

I believe that God is as much the creator of the universe as you are the creator of your body. He sustains a personal relationship with ‘his’ creatures like you have a personal relationship with the bacteria in your gut. Not to say that you can’t be consciously aware of how to differentiate and migrate cells into a body plan, or actively eat food to cultivate a healthy stomach fluora. But your ability to know these details is a direct causal result of that same development and bacterial cultivation. You cannot exist without these events happening first. God does not create the universe, the universe creates God.

You may be discomforted by the implication that you are God (we all are). But you do not directly equate to God: you occupy God, you compose God, you create God simply by existing.

I predict that the integration of logic structure and emotional meaning may universally feel like knowing God or having a connection with the universe (spirituality), because it is communication with your ‘self’; it is pure creativity; it is balance through eternal flow.

It is eightstep me

 

incidentally, I’m calling it now: I will die from some form of misfolded protein aggregation, the effects of which I am currently beginning to feel. It is wonderful ♥

To let go

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At the end of my summer when I was beginning to integrate the death of my grandmother and my breakup I went to visit my sister (and cousin) in Washington. An important part of my newfound feeling of openness was re-introducing myself to everyone in my life, since I felt like I had never truly communicated with anyone before (especially my ‘self’). After 20 or so years of emotional silence my sister, cousin and I talked constantly for ~5 days straight, with some brief breaks for sleep. This post isn’t about what we discussed, but one of the things she did during our conversations was to use rocks (crystals? geodes? mineraloids? naturally occurring solid aggregates?) to illustrate her points. And I can’t lie, at first I thought it was a bit crazy (sorry Sara!), but the more we discussed the more I was able to see how her visual metaphors were unbelievably explanatory.

She had a specific rock to represent me in the stories and hypothetical scenarios she was visually describing. And while I’ve never been a visual person (for example, I’ve always struggled to appreciate art), I understood immediately when I saw it why she had chosen it for me. In other words: I resonated with this crystal. Not with a crazy, spiritual, hippy ideal, but in the sense that it had a structure which was a visual metaphor for what I was going through — it represented ‘me’ in the same way that these words represent ‘me.’ So she let me keep it and use it to explore my ‘self’ in a visual way that I was incapable of doing before.

Fast forward to yesterday: I went to a Donald Trump rally (because, why not), and just seeing the size of the line was worth the price of admission. I walked to the back of this massive snake of ‘deplorables,’ as they call themselves, and I started to wait — just another human in a crowd of Trump supporters. The people around me chatted away about Obama causing Brexit, Hillary belonging in prison, and all the wonderfully nonsensical things that Trump says. While a past me would have intellectually bitch-slapped the shit out of every single one of those ‘deplorables,’ new ‘me’ loved every second of it. A very friendly woman in front of me said something that entirely validated my newfound vision of the dualistic, logical/emotional nature of everything. She said:

“We’re not gonna change our mind just cause you’re saying whatever you’re saying!”

This crowd was pure emotion. They didn’t care about the words in Trump’s speech, or the details of his foreign policy plans, or even how he was going to make Mexico build a wall that no one wants. They just wanted to feel. And not just to feel, but to feel connected to the people around them — but more importantly, to feel connected to themselves.

So I waited in line for about 2 hours listening (and not bitch-slapping) while I read “The Book” by Alan Watts. It was a good time. Eventually I made it to the security tent at the front of the massive line. Everyone had to take all the stuff out of their pockets and walk through a metal detector. Weirdly, they weren’t even checking if people had tickets or not, it was a first-come first-serve ordeal. So I remove my phone, my keys, my wallet, and this rock from my pockets and put it all on the table while I walk through the metal detector. But the lady checking purses and examining pocket contents picks up my rock, looks me straight in the eyes and says:
“You can’t bring this in.”
So I laughed and said, “that’s funny”
But she kept her dead-serious expression and repeated:
“You can’t bring this in. You could throw it.”
I was caught off guard so I replied, “you know I could throw my phone, or stab someone with my keys, right?”
But she was extremely understanding and said:
“Go and hide it outside and come back to the front — quickly!”

But I didn’t want to. This seemingly insignificant piece of rock was more important to me than seeing Trump speak, or being a part of a Trump rally. So I walked out.

The people immediately behind me were turned away because the building was at capacity (since they weren’t checking tickets). So I was the last person to walk in the rally, and I walked out voluntarily and very satisfied with my experience. I spent some time walking to the back of the line, which at this point had more than doubled in size since I got there (even though there was no room in the rally and it started in less than 5 minutes). I spoke to some protesters, and the protesters protesting the protesters (they didn’t know at what point they stopped being protesters and started just being Trump supporters). But it took me a bit to realize that my experience was a perfect metaphor for my PhD program.

I have decided that I will be leaving without a PhD (unless they can magically grant me one in the next year). And of course, many people in my life are resistant to this idea for many reasons (and I truly appreciate that — thank you all!!!)
They say:
how can you leave after getting so far into the program?
how can you walk away with “nothing?”
or
can’t you just switch labs?
find a new boss that better suits you?

But it’s just like my experience at the Trump rally. I went to have a good time, to experience something new. I waited for a while and enjoyed the line, doing my best to hide my feelings about Trump. When I got to the front and they let me in I was ready to keep going, but they needed me to hide a part of myself that I didn’t even know I had! Maybe when I came out of the rally it would have been in the same spot I left it, or maybe not. But either way, I knew and felt immediately that I didn’t really care about the rally, and I didn’t really care about Trump. The only thing that mattered to me was me.

And that’s just the thing — I was only getting a PhD because I wanted to have fun and experience a new, more rigorous way of thinking. I “waited in line” by taking classes that were ridiculously easy for me and rotating through amazing labs with amazing people. When I got to the ‘security checkpoint’ of my qualifying exam I took everything out of my pockets and I passed through the metal detector to pass my exam. But now that I’m on the other side they tell me that I need to leave a piece of myself behind in order to continue on…

My happiness, my fulfillment, my sense of ‘me’

And I truly appreciate this fact — it has made me realize that I had never seen this piece of myself before, but when I’m forced to think about leaving it behind I value it with my life! And I have had a wonderful time and met some awe-inspiring people. I got what I came for, so even if I walk away without the letters “P” “h” “D” (without seeing Trump) I don’t care! I’m happy with what I have.
I love my boss and I love my lab. I love all the people and all the work that gets done here. But I just can’t do it for myself. In fact, I’ve never done it for myself. It has always been 100% and entirely because of his motivation to cure spinal cord injury. It’s not that I don’t want to cure diseases and make the world a better place… But my role is much, much different than this.

And I feel extraordinarily privileged to have had the experience at all! To have been given the opportunity to walk into the rally (unlike the people directly behind me) and to have the option to walk out. But I want to share this privilege by starting a business for “Personal growth and motivation consulting and life coaching services in the field of fulfillment.”

“But won’t a PhD help you with this new role you do belong in?”

Yes, of course. Credentials are everything to everyone. But a part of my new role is to destroy that notion; to spread the idea that we are all capable of anything. And it won’t be easy, but having a PhD won’t make it any easier — it’s just a crutch to get people to trust me. But earned trust is significantly more valuable. While I’m not done chasing the letters I need to follow a different motivation for now, and that motivation is helping other people do the same! And more than that, if someone said they wanted to go to see Trump speak, you wouldn’t take them to a Clinton rally… If you truly want to do something, you don’t do something else!

I thought that studying the brain would help me understand consciousness, but of course this is a farce. Knowing about the brain doesn’t teach you any more about consciousness than any other subject on earth. Because everything we do is studying consciousnesses — we quite literally cannot escape this fact. So instead of being a philosopher my whole life I am going to turn the knowledge I have into a functional skill.

I’m happy to continue taking criticisms about my decisions (because that doubt ensures we are thinking about our actions), and I want to know my flaws.
But I’m finally ready to accept my feelings…

and

“[I’m] not gonna change [my] mind just cause you’re saying whatever you’re saying!”

Nothing is a lie, but everything is…

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Each of us is an awe-inspiring creation made from more or less the same parts which come together to form an entirely unique being. But while everyone is an individual we all share at least one thing… It could even be argued that anything conscious, anything alive, even anything in existence shares this piece of knowledge. It is so inherent that all problems seem to stem from it: envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed. And for the reason that we all share it, we desperately want to ignore it.

We can approach what “it” is through how we communicate. Not all words offend all people, but there are certainly patterns of language that offend a majority of people. Although vulgar, lewd, or profane words don’t share an underlying meaning, they all seem to point to the same basic truth — a fear that we all share. While these may not have a particular order, I like to think of them in this way:

CURSE WORD ALERT — DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVE A ‘SENSITIVE DISPOSITION’

  1. Shit, piss, asshole (excrement or waste product)
  2. Fuck, cunt, cock (sexual reproduction)
  3. Damn, hell (death or the afterlife)

How are the meanings of these seemingly disparate words related?
They remind us of the boundary between our ‘selves’ and everything else.

And this is the one thing that we all invariably share: we all have an inside and an outside; a ‘me’ and a ‘you’; a body and an environment.
Our powerful disgust at gore (the innards of an animal), our extreme fear of death (the dissolution of bodily boundaries), and our illogical shame at sex (the unification of two individuals into one, unbounded body) provide evidence for this theory.

But these two distinct, physically separate spaces (in and out, myself and my context) are actually quite inseparable. Boundaries like our skin and the walls of our houses and the atmosphere around the earth are actually all illusions. Not in the sense that they don’t separate two distinct spaces, but in the sense that no boundary is absolute. No separation can possibly be real, since you can never remove ‘things’ from existence. It almost seems vital to our survival as individual units of experience to feel separated from each other by boundaries and space. Otherwise, how would we make self-serving decisions to keep our own body out of harms way? This mutual fantasy has many names; like perspective, subjectivity, consciousness, experience, etc etc.

We do have brief moments of clarity where we see the illusion as just that: a fantasy. We call this feeling ‘spirituality’ or ‘a religious experience.’ Many people attempt to seek out this knowledge, or ‘expand their minds’ by using psychoactive substances like LSD or mushrooms.

But we often forget that boundaries are proven false just by being, because we are composed of smaller pieces and we compose things bigger than ourselves. The cells that make up our bodies are undoubtedly alive, and while the definition of “individual organism” gets hazy here, they certainly have access to your insides… because they are your insides! Similarly, you have access to their insides because they are your insides…

On the bigger side of things, working for a company, or having a significant other, or living on earth makes you a part of a larger organism that has a life of its own. Legally speaking, corporations are ‘people’ too — they have physical bodies, motivations and goals, and they require the input of ‘energy’ and excretion of ‘waste’ in order to survive. In that sense you have access to the innermost workings of a living being, because you are a functioning piece of it!
The organisms that you compose have access to your insides, not in the technical way that a surgeon my have, but in the way that you have access to the insides of your cells — you are the same being.

And while we try to ignore this idea with all our might and label it “vulgar, lewd, profane, disgusting, fear-inducing, shameful” and many other words with horrid implications, there is no reason why it can’t and shouldn’t be uplifting!

Reminders that boundaries are an illusion necessarily imply that all things are connected. The fact that this can bring hope is evidenced by the pseudo-swear words: God and Jesus Christ. These words aren’t always considered profane, but when used “in vain” can be strongly offensive to some. ‘Faith’ has massively negative connotations for atheists and secular individuals (and I would know…), because it refers to a believe without evidence — that God exists. But I’ve come to see that “God” refers to the undeniable truth that all things are one, that we are but pieces in an unbelievably massive organism, and that every individual (no matter how big, or small, or inanimate) shares a perspective. Of course, when we confuse any individual perspective for “Truth” we get horribly confused and think that god might look like a man, or might actually be a single man, when God is really just Everything and Everything is really just God.

This can be troubling to the highly logical and the highly religious, but as any logician or theologian knows, all logical systems are flawed. There is no use in arguing, because no single perspective is true, or correct, or accurate. But all perspectives share the property of being, and, whether or not we want to admit it, that is enough to connect everything to everything else.

Treadmill Euphemism

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Treadmill Euphemism

This is a treadmill
We are all on it.
Some of us move too fast
And jump off the front.
Some of us move too slow
And fall off the back.
But we are all on the treadmill
(Whether we like it or not –
Don’t believe me? Try to stop moving.
Try to stop the world from spinning).

On this fixed track of time
There are two ways for conflict to arise:

  • Across feet
  • Between steps

Our feet are off-phase when we walk –
Left/right, think/feel, progress/conserve.
We move and forget where we are/were/can be.
Our steps are continuous, but we see them discretely –
Forward/back, then/now, what is/what could be.
We move and forget who we are/were/can be.

Integrate from side-to-side,
Reconcile front-to-back,
See how your feet cooperate,
See that every step is connected.

Think – possibility is everything
Feel – everything is possibility