Monday, August 26, 2013

Reduced to absurdity

Many if not most scientists seek to reduce things into smaller pieces and try to understand the interactions between these pieces in order to comprehend the larger system that these pieces constitute. This is no doubt useful one or a few steps removed from the larger system ultimately in question. As you break down the system iteratively however, it's easy to lose sight of the original question or miss the opportunity for a slight turn of the head to significantly alter the landscape and manifest clues lost in reductionism's myopic view.

This missing of the forest for the trees is apparent in the artificial world of my engineering work. Oftentimes I get fixated on a particular detail and then get bogged down working out the components of that detail. After a while, the investment I have in this one approach is large enough to justify continuing it until lest I waste all that effort (sunk cost fallacy). Unfortunately, the complexity increases exponentially as I recurse through the subcomponents. I end up spending 5 hours to create a generalized solution when a 5 minute one-time fix would've done fine. The need for the solution and its details to be comprehensively characterized just slows me down in satisfying my original requirement.

Although engineering is a man-made domain, this problem can apply to the natural sciences as well. The scientific community puts on a pedestal the study of the building blocks, calling physics a "hard science" and sociology and psychology "soft sciences" in an almost derogatory manner. Sure, it is easier to control for variables in the smaller scale, but focus on the minutiae can derail the conversation of the bigger issues in life, the ones that matter for our happiness.

Just as perusing through ones and zeroes on a hard drive won't give you insight on what the computer is doing or supposed to be doing, neither will smashing atoms or mixing chemicals make serious headway in uncovering the workings of our mind and how to act in our collective and individual best interests. In computer programming, you look at the source code written by humans who think like humans in order to fruitfully use, maintain, and modify the behavior of the computer. What if the mechanically interacting particles in materialist science were code compiled from tiers of higher order thought forms? Analyzing to shreds transistors or subatomic particles will only hint at the how of certain processes, not the why. We must take care not to lose sight of the meaning while we chase down the means.

"There's more to life than increasing its speed." -Mohandas Gandhi

The danger of our times is that we're so intoxicated by our progress in understanding the mechanics and so neglected study of the source code of life that we've come to believe life is ultimately meaningless. The concomitant despair of nihilism leads us to use this same progress against ourselves, building weapons of more and more efficient annihilation. With a god like the Big Bang, it's no surprise that we sacrifice life and limb praying to atomic bombs for salvation.

As we look deeper and deeper into makeup of things, we are shocked to find nothing, that is, no thing that is the ground of all things. No elementary particle. Just a vast network of instantaneously interacting and inseparable aspects. This is only frightening to our investment in separation. Recall that the scientific Enlightenment was a reaction against the ostentatiously unifying force that major religions preached about but ironically undermined through their divisiveness. Religions preached oneness but practiced separation. Materialist science dismembers oneness, conflating it with religion. Quantum physics rediscovers oneness and freaks out incumbent materialists still sore from the Crusades and Inquisition.

Perhaps in this hologram of a universe we find ourselves in, we are no longer served by elaborating on the ways the light reflects and refracts to form the images we see. Maybe we're better off questioning the programs we're running, maybe even writing our own. Instead of laboring over the movement of individual pixels on a monitor, let's lay down some words and pictures that move us.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Getting Easier

Things are getting easier. Every day that I continue to keep my promises makes keeping those promises even easier. I'm noticing the good things more because I write about them in my gratitude journal. (I'm using the app.)

I'm getting better at avoiding bad news. It's funny how addicted I was to bad news while I was pretending to be a positive person. On social media, I would spout inspiring quotes while I secretly swam in the sludge of controversy. Despite my restraint from explicitly responding, I fed the trolls with my eyes and mind. It's like I wanted to feel bad and blame the world for it. There's nothing cool about cynicism. The only beneficial use of irony is to reverse a debilitating perspective.

I question the use of writing this because when I was in the dumps, I would hate to read positive things. I would simply become envious or defensive. To my future self who doesn't understand this vibration, who is sickened by the sweetness, let this just be a reminder of what is possible, not an indictment of where you are. See this as a light at the end of a tunnel instead of a train running you over because you're not running fast enough. There is no winner or loser because there's just one of us here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Creating evidence of intelligent life

How am I to be an example of transcending victimization when I take things personally and have to defend myself? The people I was thinking about in my previous post about playing relationships in hard mode all display this defensive, self-righteous characteristic that I am so reluctant to identify in myself.

By not acknowledging someone's sincerity in holding or seeking truth, I will provoke his defensiveness, which will in turn draw out my defensiveness. My perception of my brother's insincerity ultimately prevents me from believing in my own sincerity. I imagine that he enjoys agreement or sympathy as much as I do, and my choice to withhold it from him strengthens my notion that it is in limited supply and that I, too, am lacking it.

As much as I want to "teach" friends all these insights verbally, I know from experience how futile that is as long as I don't embody these words myself. I've been spouting ideas I don't even believe at people waiting for them to lead me into the territory of ideas I wish were true but am afraid won't work.

"Wait, Master. It might be dangerous. You go first."
I will not wake up if I merely mime the actions of a virtuous person. I will not wake up if I ask others to act virtuously first. I am the miracle I've been waiting for, and I blaze my own path despite the missteps I am bound to make along the way. I am the evidence of intelligent life I've been looking for in this otherwise barren universe, and I create meaning before there is evidence to support it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tired of Hard Mode

I'm afraid of angry people. My excuse is my past, which was filled with violence. Yet, I find myself drawn to victim stories, which is but the other side of anger. Although I avoid the mainstream news, I still get bits and pieces of it from social media and more particular news feeds, and from these filtered sources, I seek out comments that may anger me or support my righteous indignation at some injustice.

Tonight, I read about rape culture and was comparing levels of victimization. Women versus blacks, or women in rape culture versus queer men in hyper-competitive macho culture. I want to diminish the differences between the oppressed classes to establish solidarity against oppression itself. I also am tired of the patronizing "You don't understand me" rhetoric that keeps us all so separate. No, I don't understand how we can cooperate if you insist that I'm subhuman and must change the way I think and act in order to crawl out of the mud of a zombie culture. How about having a little faith and forgiveness?

In such a way, I've placed myself at odds with a class of victims. I've become a victim of a victim. And isn't that what we all are as long as we believe that attack is possible? My fear of angry people draws me to stories of people being angry at each other and at me. I need that rush of fear and indignation to keep me feeling alive. It's funny because I'm so frustrated and annoyed by people who have the same addiction to that "argh!" feeling but in a slightly different form and with different characters playing the oppressors. I passive-aggressively wish to scream at them to stop being so aggressive.

It's me who needs to stop being aggressive, to stop reacting to stimuli by running away or cowering. I make real the offense when I defend. I am unforgiving when I shut my ears to others' complaints.

I've been told by counselors to avoid angry people. I resist their advice because it feels like failure to let my life be controlled by fear, to be unable to conquer my reactions to their outbursts. I want to beat this game on hard mode. On the other hand, I could be masking an even bigger fear of happy, successful people. Perhaps my self-loathing will only allow me to befriend those who I'd compare favorably with lest a successful person get to know me deeply and be dismayed by my ineptitude. If I really want to beat this game, I should conquer my fear of the successful rather than my frustration with failures. I could do better curbing my envy in the company of winners than trying to increase my tolerance of angry haters.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Meaningless world

The world I perceive has no meaning except what I ascribe to it. It looks like things are good or bad, but this is really just me judging the world according to my prior conditioning and experiences.

I went to the club last night for an NYE party. I've been trying to train myself to enjoy the club scene because I've never felt like I fit in and it still bugs me that I feel like a wannabe after all these years. Instead of letting loose and enjoying the party, I anxiously scoured the dance floor for people who would play a role for me in my story of being cool.

It was humbling (or humiliating) to so helplessly revert to such childish social comparisons. These judgments come from an insecure past that I keep alive because I'm convinced of their truth. Ultimately, though, how absolute can one ego's perspective be? This form I take, this life with its history and learnings, is just one out of many in a long line of attempts to survive on this planet, and even survival is an arbitrary perspective that the ever-changing universe seems indifferent toward.

Meaning is not out there. I write upon the world what I think it means and then lament that the meaning is so full of meanness. I describe the world as uncaring and competitive when it is in fact meaningless. Letting go of my meanings scares me because I believe I would become nothing without them; I would have nothing to live for. I'd rather have a cruel world than nothing at all. Sensing the meaninglessness of the world, I then seal myself in opposition to it by calling meaninglessness itself uncaring and a cruel joke.

But obviously, the world is still here regardless of whether I give it any meaning. It would make sense that I drop the need to attribute to it any good or ill because even calling something good means bad must also exist, albeit elsewhere, and that will just upset me. Maybe when I erase my graffiti on the world, its challenging complexity will dissolve into a simple "this is".

As I look at the dance floor and the social arena, I see classes of people keeping people in and out of their cliques. I see competition for status at the expense of others' feelings. Actually, I'm just upset that I see a meaningless world, and these perceptions are just masking my upset and the scary meaninglessness. I am becoming aware that the world is beyond my complete understanding, and that's okay.

Note: This is an exercise in A Course in Miracles, lesson 12.