Fool’s errand

 

the-fools-jester.gif“The arc of the moral universe is a long one but it bends towards justice,” is a quote used by any number of people, the most notable of which was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in one of his speeches. The quote was from a mid-nineteenth century Transcendentalist, Theodor Parker.

But this arc that bends won’t just happen, it has never bent on its own. It has always taken active “benders” to move it towards justice.

Peace and Passive are two words that have often been linked to each other even though Peace requires Active not Passive participation. Peace doesn’t just happen and when it does, it doesn’t come from fear or the need to dominate and control, it comes from positive resolve and intention.

Justice requires positive activism, an activism that promotes a context of positive connection between people and ideas.

I’m using the attribute modifier ‘Positive’ for a reason because both negative and positive create context i.e. the ambient condition in which things exist. Positive and negative motivations can coexist within either context, in fact they can inform each other. But the type of overall context tends to bend things toward one or the other way of being.

This tendency is why some efforts to bring about positive change are frequently thwarted because of negative subtext. For example, when a desire to change something is layered onto an unspoken negative such as a feeling of helplessness (at a loss for what will really work), cynical thoughts (‘they’ could change but probably won’t), or manipulation (if I can get them to change I will benefit e.g. will no longer be in fear or I will get my way) it is doomed to fail at some point.

When I use the word “resolve” I’m referring to the power of intention. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.”

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The typical game of world peace , oops I mean whack-a-mole

I’m suggesting that we stop focusing on the problem and start shifting our attention to what it is we want to create (the ground of being or context for what exists). Tackling problems without addressing the context is like playing “whack-a-mole” at the arcade, it’s a forever exercise with no end goal other than each whack has a momentary and terminal feeling of satisfaction attached.

When you have honestly and truthfully defined what it is that you want for the world you live in and resolve to do what is wanted and needed to create that, the action needed will reveal itself as will the obstacles to achieving it. Do you think the iPhone just suddenly appeared fully functional and ready to transform the world of communication? Obstacles become markers along the road to success when they are included as a necessary part of an intentional context. Great inventors know this as do effective social activists.

Intention toward a context will literally change ones consciousness. For example, if you were to have as your intention to change your negative responses to others, or to events, by actively replacing such things as anger, impatience, or fear with compassion, understanding of differing needs, and calmness/centeredness, your experience of the person or event would shift.

Once the personal context has shifted then one can see the action necessary to shift the overall context.

In short, to focus all our energies on solving individual problems as they pop up without addressing the context in which they are created and sustained is a fool’s errand.

Films on dreams: Dreams, a dialog with the dreamer’s reality

 

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Still from the movie “In a Dream”

There have been a number of films made with dreams as the underlying theme for the story. Such films as Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990), Total Recall (1990), City of Lost Children (1995), The Matrix, the Wizard of Oz, Spirited away (2001) or the 2010 movie Inception have all fascinated us with their take on the dream world and how it interfaces with reality.

Most of these films are disturbing and somewhat nightmarish as though the dream world were something unsettling and that looking too closely can be dangerous which is why many of us don’t want to look at them. But none of the films I’ve reviewed have been so charming as a recent short film currently on Vimeo, titled “In a Dream”.

Dreams can be a useful tool to open ones life to all kinds of possibilities. They can be used to solve problems or open us up to the world around us that we seem to be missing because we’re too focused on our own issues. Such was the story told about a young woman making her way in the world while trying to find someone to share her life with, someone special. She did all the things the modern woman does dating, getting involved in activities outside the job, on-line dating services but the man of her dreams or more accurately the man in her dreams seemed ever elusive.

It was her dream world that brought up the everyday images in her life that were unconscious to her but that eventually lead her to where she needed to be.

This film magically mixes both the world of sleeping dreams with the outer world of the waking dream and leads to a conclusion that leaves the viewer still engaged in its mystery even after the credits have rolled.

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The dream sequences were well done and were just odd enough to reflect real dreams but not so strung out as to add confusion. Though the film was a little short for me this would make a good story within a film of several stories told around a central theme of dreams and dreaming each adding a thread to the mysterious tapestry of our lives. For the romantics among you who know that your dreams have value to the stream of your every day this film is worth the seventeen minutes it takes to watch.

Great Expectations: The unconscious influence on perception and action

 

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Line drawings of our expectations on the left with reality on the right. Note that anywhere along the line on the right one could compare progress with the expectation on the left and be disappointed and/or angry even though the outcome is exactly as hoped for.

 

Last night I had a dream. In the dream things that I expected did not happen and I started to get upset, then angry, with how things weren’t happening the way I thought they should. In the dream I found myself yelling, “Stop doing that, that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it!” When I awoke I realized that this was a reflection of my unexamined feelings associated with being disappointed with something someone had done. I had been chewing on my judgments of them all the day preceding the dream so it was only natural that the issue should show up in a dream.

The issue wasn’t really about the unexplored feelings however, they were important but something else was affecting those feelings. The issue was really about my expectations for their behavior and it was these that were coloring my inner dialogue. And it was my expectations that were affecting what I was feeling about them.

So what about an unmet expectation was causing trouble in my mind or to put it another way when someone or something doesn’t live up to my expectation of the way they should be, why do I find that upsetting? Whoa, the onus of the problem just shifted radically from “it’s their fault” to “It’s mine”. My expectations are affecting how I see the world and then how I react to it.

There have been many studies about the effects of expectations in fields as varied as science, teaching, marketing, and politics. Expectations affect not only the findings of a scientist but on what they choose to study. They affect a journalist, a jury and a judge on what facts or non facts they choose to believe in and they also affect how a teacher perceives a student that can cause the teacher to either not expect much from a student or to expect more. Our expectations affect how we vote, listen to talk show hosts on T.V. / radio, and the products we buy and all of this opens us to manipulation the kind marketers and politicians use to get us to think their way instead of for ourselves. These real world perceptions also affect the decisions and pronouncements that a politician makes once in office and even affect when a policeman chooses to make an arrest or pull his weapon from its holster.

When I was a Freshman in High School we read Charles Dickens’ book “Great Expectations”. I loved the story but don’t think I really understood how the expectations of both the protagonist of the story, Pip, and the adults and others around him were affected by their expectations and how these judgments of the way life should or had to be ran their lives.

And behind every expectation there lays a judgment, a judgment that anything other than ones expectation is less– less important, valuable, honorable, patriotic, or correct… well you get the idea.

But let me narrow the field a little. In my dream as well as in my waking life I tend to let my judgments get in the way of what I am seeing. All too often I let my labels of what something is or should be affect what it actually is. All too often I will let my labels get in the way of my love for someone or something. This is true for not only how I see others and treat them, but for how I see myself that then will often lead to how I treat myself.

But I will always have judgments, I am like most people a “judgment machine” either judging something “good” (meaning it agrees with my point-of-view) or that it is “bad” (meaning that it doesn’t agree with my point-of-view)– yes I can choose to be tolerant of the so-called “bad” but often that’s just a personal expectation that I hold for myself because I judge myself to be a “good” and tolerant person. See? I’m a judgment machine!

One way that I deal with my judgments that affect my expectations, that affect how I feel about and how I interact with others, is to first become aware that that’s what I’m doing. For example, if I were to have the judgment that what someone is doing is stupid I just say to myself, “I’m having that “stupid judgment” thought again. What this does is to take the thought out of the automatic mode of perceiving the world and allows me then to shift my perspective and to look at myself to see what of myself that I may be projecting onto the event or the person.

Sometimes my judgments lead me to evil thoughts where I play a game in my head of tit-for-tat or an eye for an eye and I spiral down into negativity. What has helped me here is another expectation for myself i.e. that when I notice that I’m playing this negative scenario in my head that I will notice and never meet or counter evil with evil, negativity only breeds more negativity. I can use this negative energy to protest the evil in such a way that it makes some people stop and think about their actions or the actions of others.

But mostly I find that I just make these automatic judgments, expectations and decisions without assessing them and that of course doesn’t allow me to be at choice with either the perception or the response to them. This begs the question as to what degree am I really at choice with anything in my life, especially if I’ve allowed most of it to be run by my unconscious points-of-view – those unconscious points-of-view that the sleeping brain presents to us in our dreams in an attempt at trying to bring consciousness to our choices?

Ah, “free choice”, real choice, of what to think, what to feel, or how to act, how much do we really have? That’s a topic for another time.

Does objective reality exist?

 

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Now I want to make everything perfectly clear I AM NOT A PHYSICIST! I also was not a math major. The hard sciences fascinated me but ultimately it was what are called the soft-sciences (psychology, mythology) that attracted me. I say this to make it clear that I have no credibility when it comes to anything that smacks of physics and yet I’m arrogant enough to want to use it as a means of taking a closer look at what’s behind the theoretical curtain of reality that interacts with psychology.

We’ve all been taught about how BIG the universe is and have been introduced to theories about how it came to be e.g. the Big Bang. Seems simple enough though I’ve always imagined the physics behind it all to be much more complex.

Here’s a basic equation describing the Big Bang or expanding universe cosmology        H2=(a/a)2=8 πG/3• ρ–kc2/a2+ Λc2/3* It seems almost too simple to describe something so big as our universe.

And you’d be right if you were to think that because a physicists’ reality never seems to be that simple.

Steven Hawking at Univ. of Cambridge (holding the same chair as Isaac Newton) suggested that the universe has no boundaries—no beginning and no end. To do this, he uses Imaginary Time that runs perpendicular to the past/present/future, “regular” time you and I experience (I know, don’t ask). However, when using “regular time” there will always be a beginning, or T=0.

Abhay Ashtekar, a Penn State physicist uses a model of gravity that allows him to mathematically waltz right up to T=0 and then pass on through to the other side where he says is another universe that is in the process of collapsing rather than expanding like ours. Does this mean that there is a T= minus 0— A previous cause of a first cause, or a first cause before a first cause, or an effect before a first cause? It boggles!

Now here’s a boggle: The London physicist David Bohm believes that objective reality does not exist, that at the heart of it all is a phantasm—a hologram if you will. He argues that at the deepest level of reality everything is actually an extension of the same basic something.

To make this statement he cites the work of the Parisian physicist Alain Aspect who performed an experiment with amazing, some might say magical, results. He and his team discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance between them e.g. one foot or one billion feet between them it makes no difference. But, but… what about Einstein’s nothing can go faster than the speed of light rule?

Bohm says that they are able to do this because their separateness is illusory! They are extensions of the same thing. He uses the following illustration to get a handle on the boggle: Imagine that there is an aquarium with one fish in it swimming around. Now imagine that the only way you can observe the aquarium is via a camera recording the fishes every move. Imagine now that there are two cameras projecting pictures onto two monitors but the second camera is shooting at right angles to the first. If you were to believe you were watching two aquariums and two fish you would see two different movements. But if you were to watch more closely you would see that these movements seem to be linked e.g. when one faces the front the other is facing the side. Because you don’t see them as the same fish its hard to understand the link.

The bottom line is that we are only seeing a portion of the reality and that is what is happening to subatomic particles that are “instantaneously” communicating. At the deepest level of reality the universe is a projection and everything is interconnected.

This sounds like as many theologists’ claim, that everything including you and I are at a fundamental level connected. And the concept that everything is a “projection” appears to mirror what Depth Psychologists have been saying for years i.e. that our reality is but a projection of our own minds.

Science and theology get closer and closer.

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*The Alexander Friedman equation for the expansion of the universe.