So I’m pretty excited! I’ve been working on self-publishing a book of my writing including some of the poetry that you see here. It will be called Fragments of a Fading Dream and it’s a collection of some of my writing throughout the years on various topics such as dreams, illusion, reality, consciousness, science, love, etc. I am publishing it as an e-book as well as in print and it will be available for purchase via all the major e-reader sites as well as in print on this website and Amazon.com. The cover art is tentative, still working on it… Let me know what you think.
Category Archives: Science
We like for things to make sense, to be in an order we can recognize. Dreams are not necessarily either of those things, which may be why they are sometimes disturbing. Maybe what our waking brain does is to organize the information we receive into an order that makes sense to us and at night when we dream we get a glimpse of the unorganized, unedited version which is why our rules don’t exist there…
Ok so I know I haven’t posted in a while…
I could say that it’s because I’ve been so busy, but that’s not it. Usually I just don’t really know what to say, or if anyone is reading it anyway, but tonight I seem to be in a different kind of mood.
I’ve been thinking about the things we do in private that would probably seem crazy or strange to other people, but have become completely normal for us because we do them all the time.
Ok so here’s one. I talk to myself. A lot. I don’t think it’s that strange since I spend a lot of time alone and have no one else to talk to. I don’t really think there’s someone else there. Sometimes I imagine there is, or I fantasize about conversations with people in my head, but I know they’re not really talking to me. Sometimes I catch myself doing it in public though, but I usually don’t care.
I talk to my cat too. She doesn’t usually talk back though, except when I’m dreaming
I had a dream once that I met a man in a playground with building blocks who knew all the answers. I asked him and he told me everything I wanted to know, but when I woke up, I couldn’t remember.
Oh and I think time travel could be possible, in our dreams…seriously
And I think dream worlds actually exist and that everything that happens in our dreams is real, just in a different way
I usually leave my tv on when I’m at work at night or on vacation so my cat won’t feel alone and I program it to turn to different channels depending on what I would watch if I were there…
sometimes I think I would enjoy being in prison…lots of time to read/write, don’t have to make too many difficult decisions, maybe I’d feel a connection with the other inmates since everyone is in pretty much the same situation – same goes for a mental institution
Oh, I would like to have an hallucination, or hear voices, or actually live in a dream – I have seen ghosts before when I was young, but didn’t get a chance to talk to them, maybe next time
I think that words are very important, that the specific words we use have meaning. There are many ways to express ourselves and the words we choose say something about how we see the world
I think that is it possible that the people we say have mental disorders may actually be seeing or experiencing a different form of reality
I think that characters in books/movies may actually exist, maybe on a different plane or dimension and our view of them is only a glimpse into their lives
I think it’s possible that each of us are characters in other people’s dreams, and other people are only characters in our own dream that we call reality
I’m not sure if I believe in coincidence, or true randomness
I don’t care for conflict, never have. Most of the conflicts in my life stems from people trying to force me to share something before I’m ready. But I have always stood up for my right to my privacy. In school, I used to write extremely small so the teacher couldn’t read what I was writing from over my shoulder…
I only really feel alive when I’m traveling…I think I see myself differently then, like I can be anyone – I don’t have any restrictions on my life – like all the possibilities are superimposed as in a quantum state, whereas when I’m at home, everything is determined, the box is open…maybe that’s the key…
maybe I need to be able to create that uncertainty anywhere – I’ve always loved the idea of being an actress or a spy, so I could be many different people, live multiple lives…
No wonder I’m not satisfied with just one profession…
I’m interested in a lot of things, but I get bored after a while. I don’t remember facts unless they’re of some specific importance to me. I don’t debate things because I know I’m not an expert and don’t wish to be.
I’m starting school in the fall for Consciousness & Dream studies – don’t quite know where it will lead, I just like to think about stuff like that.
I don’t like to do things I don’t want to do, so I do my best not to do them
I like to work and do things that make me feel useful, otherwise what’s the point?
I don’t have a favorite of anything, it changes all the time
I don’t believe that anything is permanent, or that I have ultimate control over the future
I think it’s possible that everything we “know” is an illusion
That everything I see could be created in my mind
That if I think it, I can possibly make it real
That belief is extremely powerful
That we create our own reality
And that maybe
Well that’s it for now
Until next time…
The World as ‘I’ Know It
(a poetic interpretation of the Being Human Conference)
There once was a world
and in that world there was an ‘I’
‘I’ have a body and a brain and something called a mind
all of which ‘I’ use to interpret the signals that surround me
these signals tell me that ‘I’ am a human
and that there are millions of others like me
and that they, like me, are human too
and share my world
that they also have bodies, and brains and minds of their own
and that each of these bodies and brains and minds are different
that they interpret the signals around them differently than ‘I’ do
and perceive the world (that we share) differently
can ‘I’ be sure that they really exist
that they aren’t just my mind’s interpretation of the signals that surround me
so ‘I’ learn how to communicate with them
discover some similarities
they are as real to me as anything else ‘I’ know
‘I’ know that our bodies work in a similar way
the mirror neurons in my brain allow me to empathize
to see myself in them; to imagine their experiences as my own
to become their reflection
‘I’ am able to trick my brain, even though my mind knows better
to alleviate my phantom pain
my contextual reality, how easy it is to trick the brain
it still believes the illusion, even when the mind is freed
our thoughts and experiences shape our world
how we interpret the information we have been given
they comprise our chosen deception
they are the filters through which we perceive
‘I’ can essentially “see myself see”
which is awareness you see
but ‘I’ cannot see how ‘I’ see
that is the unconscious me
thus ‘I’ cannot see the unconscious me
due to oversimplicity
you see the conscious me
only knows the summary
to understand the full story
would require many more words
than are in my vocabulary
to understand the unconscious me
would require the entire dictionary
‘I’ have been informed that there is a sense of self
that exists within my brain
that ‘I’ project onto this body
but can also be transposed
onto a different body
to trick my brain
into thinking it is me
how is it that my brain
cannot see the holes in its own reality
these are just simple deceptions
that my mind can see through
but what about something more complex
something like my unconscious me
that my mind cannot fully understand
how do ‘I’ know
if what ‘I’ think ‘I’ know
or is my ‘reality’ just a projection
of my unconscious me…?
It is because Humanity has never known where it was going that it has been able to find its way.
~ Oscar Wilde
We are all human beings being human – a characteristic that all who are reading this share (as far as we know). But what does it mean, to be human? Is it the set of characteristics that set us apart from other beings? What does our ‘humanity’ consist of? Is it just our common biology; that we are not primates?, What is it that about us that makes us distinctively ‘human’ and not monsters (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc…) Does it have to do with our sense of self, our awareness, our consciousness? Could it be the space in between, the capacity to use these tools to create, to imagine alternative possibilities? Or our compassion, our ability to empathize and become a mirror for the experiences of others? The speakers at the Being Human conference sought to provide some insight into this .
We as humans are a conflux of seemingly conflicting dualities; we have the capacity for rationality, but still act irrationally,we have the capacity for logic, but are driven by emotions; we create complex machines to mimic ourselves, yet have little understanding of how our own machinery works, we have the capacity to build and the capacity to destroy, to love, to hate, for compassion and for intolerance, to become architects of greatness or destruction. We live in a world that isn’t exactly as it seems; a world where colors can appear different depending on context alone, where phantom limbs can cause real pain; where a lesion in a particular part of the brain can essentially change who you are; and our sense of self can be easily transposed to an avatar. How easy it is to trick ourselves, it comes as no surprise that we become complicit in our own deception.
We trust in our senses to transmit information, which is the basis for how we perceive the world. The information enters through our senses and is presented to the brain for interpretation. The brain looks for relationships in the information in order to provide meaning, giving it context. The brain relies on experience and history in creating these relationships. Without context, the information is meaningless. Through feedback from experiences, we adapt and create a sense of normalcy consistent with our worldview. The awareness that we have, the ability to ‘see ourselves see’ allows us to see the illusions; to see that our perceptions are dependent on context and experience. It also allows for us to see the possibility of other viewpoints, since other people’s perceptions are based on their experiences; to have compassion for their view of the world.
There are many ways in which we can trick the brain. Optical illusions are easy enough to see through once you know the truth behind them, but there are others. Perceptual sensory illusions aka phantom limbs are another. This phenomenon occurs when the loss of a limb is not acknowledged by the brain, so the brain still monitors the limb as if it is still there. One can consciously know that the limb is gone, but the conscious mind can’t communicate that information to the brain. There is a gap between the conscious and unconscious processes. One consequence of this is that these phantom limbs can cause real pain, which is very disconcerting since there is no limb which can be treated. It has been shown that one way to relieve this phantom pain is to hold up a mirror to the opposite limb and perform actions to relieve the pain while looking in the mirror. The brain accepts the sensory information as seen in the mirror as real even though one ‘knows’ it’s just a mirror. This is one example of the duality between the conscious mind and body. Rama (V.S. Ramachandran) described a patient who had phantom pain in her thumb, but felt relief of her pain while watching her husband massage his corresponding thumb. One explanation for this could be due to the existence of mirror neurons – a cluster of neurons in the brain that fire in response to an action perceived to happen to anyone. For instance, if you see someone get stabbed with a needle, the same neurons fire in you as in them, the only difference is that your skin sends feedback to the brain telling you that it is fine and not to feel pain. In someone with a phantom limb, there is no feedback response, so you would feel as if it had actually happened to you. These cells mirror the cells in another and allow us to empathize, to see ourselves in others.
Thomas Metzinger posits that the self is not a thing but a process and that there exists, a global representation of the self in the brain. In a rubber hand experiment it has been shown that when one’s own hand is replaced by a rubber hand, the visual illusion is enough to convince your brain to think that it belongs to you. And in other experiments through work with a group called Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-Embodiment (VERE) in Israel, this sense of self has been shown to be able to be transposed into virtual avatars and perceiving robots where using an fMRI the avatars/robots were able to be controlled remotely by thought. He also talked about the element of transparency: how we don’t see the neurons firing but only what they represent for us; we are unaware of the medium through which information reaches us. The combination of the self model and transparency create a concept of selfhood. There is a kind of uncertainty as to how information gets to us, it’s as if we are looking through a window without actually seeing the window only what is outside of it.
As Beau Lotto stated, the brain is presented with uncertainty because we have no direct access to the physical world other than through our senses. The brain can only rely on experience to provide meaning. It is the awareness of perceiving that allows us to choose how to interpret the information that is presented to us; which experiences to use as filters what lens to use to view the world.
David Eagleman’s talk reminded us that everything we do is beyond the scope of conscious awareness. There is a gap between the conscious and unconscious mind. The conscious mind is just a summary of what the brain does; an abstract representation. It is in this conscious/unconscious gap where uncertainty lies. When we try to observe these unconscious processes, we find that we don’t quite get it right, that we don’t really know how we do the things we know how to do. We cannot observe ourselves accurately, the act of observation can change it/ruin it. The conscious mind cannot observe the unconscious, it does not have the tools, so the act of trying to make sense of it simplifies it to a point where it doesn’t work anymore – conscious interference.
When you think about the awareness that we have, the ability to ‘see ourselves see’ as Beau Lotto put it, it allows us to choose the ways in which we perceive. Allows for us to, in Richie Davidson’s words, ‘envision alternative possibilities’, which I think opens the doors to imagination and creativity. Each of us share a common biology, a common form, but have vastly different histories and experiences through which we view the world, thus creating many completely different worlds. Through our awareness of this process we are able to have compassion; our bodies are made with mirror circuitry built in, giving us the ability to empathize with others. Our conscious minds create an image of the self in our brains and along with our senses, through which we transmit information, allow us to develop a sense of selfhood and choose the world in which we live. The ultimate uncertainty is that life has no blueprint, no guide and in that uncertainty is freedom. Freedom in not knowing, freedom to to make our own choices and the capacity to envision alternative possibilities.
Richie Davidson is the Founder and Chair, Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison http://www.investigatinghealthyminds.org/
Beau Lotto is a Biologist and Performance Artist http://www.lottolab.org/
V.S. Ramachandran is the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego http://cbc.ucsd.edu/ramabio.html
Thomas Metzinger is a professor of Theoretical Philosophy at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz http://www.philosophie.uni-mainz.de/metzinger/
David Eagleman is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine http://www.eagleman.com/
Make sure to check out my previous post which is a list of books by the presenters from the conference where you can find more information about some of the ideas presented here. http://www.ladylxa.com/archives/327
On a related note, I just finished David Eagleman’s book of stories “Sum”. Very interesting and goes along with the idea of our ability to envision alternative possibilities. It is a series of 40 stories that imagine 40 different scenarios for what the afterlife is and provides context and meaning for the world as we know it. And each and every one could be a very real possibility!
culture is the shared interpretation of information.
what if no one person exists
all aspects of the mind of god
all parts of the hologram that contains the whole in each
one aspect of the whole,
we surround ourselves with ‘people’ who are similar to us, who share the same worldview, who interpret the world in a similar way to us
what if there are no people, there is no one else
maybe the purpose is creativity, to create our world
i think therefore i am – i cannot be sure about you
how do i know that you really exist, that you share my world
that you are not just in my mind
a trick, an illusion
how do i know if i see you as you really are
or is what i see only a projection, my interpretation of the information of you
So I’m going to San Francisco this month, and this is my excuse! There’s a Being Human conference entitled The Science of Human Experience on March 24, 2012. The panel of speakers include scientists, artists, poets, philosophers, and others whose work relates to the human condition. They will be discussing current research and theories on various aspects of human nature and what it means to be human. Visit their website www.beinghuman2012.org for more info or to register. Books by each of the featured speakers are listed below. I’m going to pick up a few of them before the conference and I’ll post my impressions. Also book reviews, etc. coming soon!
Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D.
Founder and Chair, Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
[amazon asin=1594630895&template=iframe image][amazon asin=1572249684&template=iframe image]
Author and Founder, The Baumann Foundation
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David Eagleman, Ph.D.
Neuroscientist, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine
[amazon asin=0307377334&template=iframe image][amazon asin=0307389936&template=iframe image]
Paul Ekman, Ph.D.
Manager, Paul Ekman Group, LLC
[amazon asin=0805083391&template=iframe image][amazon asin=1883536367&template=iframe image]
Anne Harrington, Ph.D.
Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University
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Prize-winning International Poet, Translator, and Essayist
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Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
Professor of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Founder, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society
[amazon asin=1572249684&template=iframe image][amazon asin=1604076585&template=iframe image]
Beau Lotto, Ph.D.
Neuroscientist and Artist, Founder of Lottolab Studio
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Hazel Markus, Ph.D.
Davis-Brack Professor in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
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Thomas Metzinger, Ph.D.
Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
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V.S. Ramachandran, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California-San Diego
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Founder, Jewel Heart, Tibetan Buddhist Center
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Laurie Santos, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology, Yale University
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