The Hallway of Eden

29 11 2008

[fiction]

The day that Daniel invited me over to his house was the day that my life changed in ways that I never thought possible.  It was the middle of Autumn, and the wind was blowing the fallen leaves across the ground like a litter of playful kittens.  His house was just a short walk from mine, with no fence between our places.  It was a very big house, with two stories, designed in the old colonial fashion.  He met me at the door, with a flicker of delight in his eyes, and he said, “Just wait until you see all I have to show you.  You’re not going to believe this.”  I stepped inside, and immediately I knew something was different about this place.  The front door had no entryway, and no threshold, and it opened to a hallway lined with doors.  “Welcome to my home,” he said.  He closed the door behind me, and then he led me to the first door on the right.  “Well, we might as well start with the first room, not that it’s better than the others.  It’s just that I couldn’t decide which room to visit first.  So I thought we might as well visit the first room first.  As you can see, this is the Mirand Room.”

 

I looked at the door, and it had a brass plaque labeling it as such.  “What does that mean?” I asked.

 

“Well,” he explained, “we call it that because of the mirand trees.  There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s an easy name to remember it by.”

 

“What are those?” I asked.

 

“Well, let me show you,” he said, and he pushed the door open.  The door opened back to the outside.  I was shocked as we stepped through.  I turned my head to find the doorway that I had entered through, but it wasn’t there.  This was the only door to the outside.  In the distance, I could see my home, but it was different, somehow.  Between our houses was a grove of unusual trees, which turned out to be the mirand trees.  They had a violet bark and teal leaves.  The sky was a soft lavender, and everything seemed brighter than it should have been in the dim twilight.  “Watch this,” Daniel said as he approached one of the trees.  Gently, he stroked the wood, and it followed his guide.  As he continued to work it, he began forming it into a wall, until it merged with the next tree.  Here, he turned a corner and did the same thing, until he had formed four walls, topped with branches and leaves.  Then, he teased it with his finger until a hole opened in the middle of it.  He invited me to come through.  Once inside, he worked the wood until the hole closed, and we sat in our new tree house and talked about all kinds of things for a few hours.

 

“I don’t understand,” I said, “The whole world changed a little when we went through that door.

 

“Did the world change, or did you enter a new world?” he asked, with a raised eyebrow.

 

“I don’t know,” I replied, “Wasn’t that my house we saw?  It looked different, but it was in the same place.”

 

“It was your house,” he replied, “But it’s not the same house.”

 

“So we’re in a different world, entirely?” I asked.

 

“Not really.  It’s the same world…but I guess you’re right.  It really is different,” he thought about it for a while, and then ran his fingers through his black hair.  “Tell you what,” he said, “you go home and have some dinner, look around a bit, and then you can come back and tell me what you think.  I’ll be up at the house when you return.”

 

So I went home, and when I got there the place was the same but different.  It was shaped the same, but it was violet, and it had no front door.  I looked all around for some means of entry, and then a door opened in the middle of the wall, with my Dad standing there.  His skin seemed a little paler, and his hair was darker.  He asked me where I had been, and then he told me to get ready for dinner.  All through dinner I kept watching my Dad to see if he noticed that the world had changed, but if he did then he didn’t show it.  I tried to work the wood table by rubbing it, like Daniel had done, but nothing happened.  My Dad looked at me and asked me what I was doing.  “That’s not mirand, you know,” he said, “I thought you knew that.”  I just shrugged my shoulders and kept eating.  After dinner, I went to my room, and there I discovered that all of my toys were different.  Most of them, I could not figure what they were supposed to be or how to play with them.  After a while, I tired of them, so I decided to go back outside and visit Daniel again.  I tried my hand at forming a door in my bedroom wall, and it opened easily.

 

Out in the dark night, everything was magically just as easy to see as it had been a few hours earlier when the sky was still light.  On my way back to Daniel’s house, I noticed that the crunching of leaves beneath my feet was gone.  There were no leaves on the ground.  He was already standing at the door when I got there.  “So, how did you like it?” he asked.

 

“Very fascinating,” I said.  We stepped inside, and he closed the door.  It was the same hallway that we had been in earlier.

 

“Let’s see,” he hummed, tapping his upper lip thoughtfully.  We walked down the hallway a few feet and stopped in front of another door.  This one was labeled, “Retrocelleron. Room.”  He looked at me and wrinkled his nose a little and said, “This one’s kind of interesting.”  He opened the door, and it lead outside once again.  I looked back, and it was the only door on the whole building.  He picked up a rock and eyed a hill off in the distance.  Pulling back on it as though it were attached to some in invisible spring, he let go of it, and it shot through the air with a zip and landed somewhere on or near the hill.  “Here, you try it,” he said, handing me a rock.  He had me pull back on it just a little, and I could feel some kind of force resisting me.  Even as I held it still, the force increased until I could hold it no longer, and it shot off into the sky.  “It’s amusing, in its way, but it also has some annoying points to it, too,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.  You see your house over there?  Face it directly, then take a step back.”

 

I did as he said, and I felt that resistive force.  I was afraid that I would shoot like that rock, so I relented, but I found myself hurling toward my home faster than my legs would take me.  In a panic, I beat the ground with my feet to slow myself, and I stopped about fifty feet short of my home.

 

“That’s great!” he shouted, “Now come back!”

 

Determined not to do that again, I walked back.  As we re-entered the house, I noticed that the door was labeled, “Protocelleron Room.”  I asked him what that meant, and he didn’t know how to explain.  Once inside, he showed me that my “room” was called the “Erosion Room,” because order formed in a top-down fashion, and rocks and leaves and such gave way to decomposition.  On the outside of that door was the name “Arosion Room.”

 

The next room he showed me was the Anthropomorph Room, which was my favorite.  Here, the animals could talk.  After spending the night in the tree house (the normal sort) at my house, chatting with an owl and my dog, Daniel left us, saying, “Well, it’s getting late, so I’ll be leaving now.  You can stay here as long as you like.  Whenever you want to explore a new room, you can come and go as you like.  Just stay away from the Evil Room, if you see it.”

 

“What’s that?” I asked.

 

“It’s just something that you don’t want.  Just stay out of that room,” he said, and then he left.

 

“What was that all about?” asked Barney, my dog.

 

I tried to explain it to him but he seemed confused.

 

“So why did he say that you could go into all of the rooms but one?” Barney asked, “What’s so special about that one?”

 

I shrugged my shoulders.

 

Barney wouldn’t shake it.  He always was a bad dog, really.  “I wonder what’s so great about that room, that he doesn’t want you to have it?”

 

“I don’t know,” I said.

 

“You could just take a quick look around,” he said.

 

“I don’t think I should,” I said.

 

“Why don’t you just open the door and just look through it?” he pried.

 

I shrugged him off and walked back toward Daniel’s house.  I just wanted to get home and get some sleep.  I paused to consider the possibility that I was already home, but the incessant chatter from my stupid dog convinced me otherwise.  I entered Daniel’s house, labeled, “Anthroponovus Room,” and I shut my dog outside.  I was going to go straight back to my own “room,” but I stopped to look through a few doors on the way.  One was labeled “Holospectrum Room,” and on the other side the world was alive in wild colors dancing all over the landscape, and the sky was a raging battle of amazing hues.  After watching it for a while, I closed it and tried a few others.  Two or three of them didn’t have anything obviously different about them, and another opened to a world with a horizon that slanted at a sickeningly sharp angle.  Not wanting to venture into that one, I went to the next door, and just before I opened it I saw the words, “Evil Room,” labeled on a bronze plate, like the others.  I mouthed the word.  I had never heard of evil before.  I paused for a shamefully brief moment, then opened the door.

 

Outside, the world was dark, and the hills in the distance were alight like a huge candle!  A low hum began to call out from all directions.  The land was jagged and rebellious, rough and unforgiving.  Seeing that it was exciting, in its own way, I took just one step inside.  I heard a door open in the hallway outside, so I eased my door shut.  I ventured a few more steps.  I looked at myself, and I glowed like an angel.  Carefully, I walked through the dark, amazed by the bright crimson horizon.  When I got to what should have been my house, there was nothing but a fallen heap of a stone building.  It was then, that I began to think that I had made a mistake.  I stumbled within the half-walls, and the hum grew to a soft roar.  I found my Dad in the room that had been the kitchen, but he was just a skeleton.  His eye sockets gazed through me, and his mouth was agape in pure terror.  I recoiled in horror, and then it moved.  It lifted a hand slowly in my direction, beckoning me to come closer.  I stumbled backward and fell on my butt.  Blood seeped from the scrapes on my hands.  It was then that I noticed that I was no longer glowing like an angel.  I was quite a bit dimmer, now.  The roaring sound was getting louder, and I realized that I had made a horrible mistake in coming here.  Hurriedly, I headed toward Daniel’s home, a stone chateau in the distance, dark and cold.  I would throw myself through that door and never come back.  I would say my apologies, bow, scrape, give him all my toys and promise to never, ever, do that again.  The roaring got louder, and I realized that something, a whole army of something was coming for me, perhaps to do to me what they had done to my father.  I made a dead run for Daniel’s house, falling several times and bleeding more than I cared.  When I got to the door, I was relieved to see him standing there.  His face was stricken with grief, and he stood with his hands out to me, warding me off.  “No!  You can’t come back in!” he screamed.  He slammed the door shut, and I was left staring at a closed door, labeled “Life.”

 

“Let me in!” I squealed.

 

“No!” he yelled from the other side, “You can’t just leave the evil!  You can only drag it in with you and contaminate the good!  Then it will all be evil!”

 

“Just let me in!  I won’t bring the evil with me!” I begged.

 

“You already are evil!” he yelled back, “Just look at yourself!”

 

I looked at my hands and they were dark gray and diseased.  My flesh was gross, and my fingernails were gnarled.  Then I heard a large piece of furniture slam against the door to hold it shut.  I slammed myself against the door, but it was no use, and the voices were drawing near.  Had there been more light, I could probably see them by now.  I decided not to wait around for them to come to me, so I ran off into the night and got myself hopelessly lost.

[/fiction]

 

stonysig

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The Art of Paradox

25 11 2008

Paradox is something of a lost art these days. The American mind, I find, has generally been given over to simplistic thinking, such that people either accept blatant self-contradiction without reason, or else they accept only the most straightforward thinking possible. A paradox is something that, at first glance seems unreasonable, but upon further inspection is seen to be true. It is not simply a matter of combining unlikely ideas in some vain attempt to imitate a sage.

The Trinity

The first thing that gets lost in the formation of any cult is the Trinity. The notion that anything can be three, yet still only be one, is absurd to many minds. The problem with this line of thinking is that it seems entirely rational. In fact, it is not at all unreasonable to say that one plus one plus one does not equals one.

1 + 1 + 1 = 1?

Yet, the problem is not in the math of it, but in the underestimation of God. If God were finite, like some mere mortal human being, then there could be no way for a Trinity to exist. However, if God were infinite (if God were God), then three of God would be the same as one God. It is mathematically true that three times infinity equals one infinity. To be precise,

3x = ∞ as x approaches infinity.

So the real question is, “How big is your God?” If he is all-knowing and all-powerful, then he must be of an infinite nature, and the Trinity is possible. Otherwise, he is only a god, not the God.

Predestination

If believing in the Trinity is easy for most believers, there’s one thing that gets completely lost on the American mind, which is predestination. For the Christian who believes in self-determination, the idea of predestination is not seen as a paradox at all, but a contradiction against reality. He looks at the idea and thinks that he controls himself, therefore God does not control him, and that’s the end of it. The fact is that anyone who has ever accepted the idea of predestination has acknowledged its paradoxical nature and never assumed that the will of man were somehow overridden by the will of God. The fact is that the Bible is replete with references to predestination, and that it cannot be fully understood apart from it. However, predestination, itself, is hard to understand. Shall we blow it off as unreality, or shall we try to see if it makes sense in a paradoxical way?

As I’ve said before, if God created the Universe, then it stands to reason that he exists apart from it. If this is the case, then his reality may be of an entirely different nature than ours. Specifically, it may be a higher one. Everything that we see as reality may be as fiction to someone of a higher reality. Hamlet, as a fictional character, was a right physical and natural being within the realm of his own story. When his uncle killed his father, he blamed his uncle, not Shakespeare. People say that God lets us make our own choices, and this is true. No part of predestination denies this fact. Hamlet made his own decisions, within the context of the story. We make our own decisions within the context of ours. However, what part of “all-powerful” and “all-knowing” do we not get, to say that God has no direction in our lives? If we are predestined, it is not to say that we have no control of ourselves, but that God, on some other level, has complete control over the whole thing. Again, the question is, “How big is your God?”

It is the Americanism of Christianity that most reels against predestination. We are independent and self-reliant. We rebel against any notion that we might not be masters of our own destinies. We have, in part, become our own gods. The tendency to usurp God is as old as Satan’s rebellion. There is more to it, though. We do not want to blame God for anything. Job could easily have blamed God for the curse that fell upon him, and he would be right. Satan may have done the deed, but God gave him the license. What was at stake with Job, as is with us, was not whether or not God was to blame, but whether or not God had the right to do exactly what he did. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. God is not a mere mortal that men should judge him. But, then again, how big is your God?

Divine Authority

If the Bible says that there is no authority that is not established by God, that our rulers were instated divinely to give order to our society, then how are we to deal with democracy? Really, this is just another matter for predestination. Every authority is assigned by some person, whether by a Pope or another King, or by the people who are governed. Still, God establishes all authority. Democracy makes it harder to grasp, because we perceive ourselves as the basis for that authority. In reality, God establishes the President of the United States as much as he establishes the King of Jordan. Though people choose the President, he is still established by God. The physical cause appears to be the people, but the metaphysical cause is God. This is the essence of it.

Some people believe that they accept no paradox. In truth, everyone accepts some manner of paradox, because the biggest questions in life have no natural answers that can be derived from the evidence at hand. Life is full of apparent contradiction. Any answer that attempts to explain these contradictions is going to be a paradox. Over-simplifying a paradox does not remove the apparent contradiction, but merely casts it off further down the line of reasoning to a point not yet considered. For example, rejecting the Trinity means rejecting the infiniteness of God (any number times infinity equals one infinity. Anything for which this is not true is therefore not infinity). Reject God’s infinite nature, and he ceases to be perfect, all-knowing and all-powerful. Reject his perfection, and Christ’s death cannot save you. Reject his omniscience and his omnipotence, and he is not God. Then we’re all polytheists or atheists, and we revert to the mythological idea that the universe, life and everything just magically formed out of chaos, all by itself. It’s not that those who reject the trinity claim this end conclusion at the outset; it’s that they haven’t thought that far. So everything formed all by itself, some say. The irony is that they don’t see the paradox of this belief. Life does not, by nature, form itself out of nothing, and disorder does not, by nature, become order by itself. One can twist and contrive the evidence in any manner, but whatever the explanation is it will be a paradox….

Or else, it will be utter insanity. But then, one person’s paradox is another person’s absurdity.

silksig





You’re Already Dead

22 11 2008

I’ve always been fascinated by the apparent similarities between entropy and sin.  I am convinced that there must be some manner of relationship.  The Genesis account of humanity’s fall into sin makes note of thorns and brambles growing in the fields, and that farming became hard work.  Sin entered the world and disorder became the normal way of things.  In the apocalyptic account of the world as it is to be after the removal of sin that the lion and the lamb will lie down together and the lamb will not be afraid.  This would seem to indicate a disruption of the food chain, which is essentially a battle for lower states of entropy. 

The simple fact is that both life and death are processes of entropy.  The only difference between the two is rate and control.  Suppose that before sin there had been a manner of life that was really the opposite of death, not just a slower form of it.  Having that life we would never hunger or thirst again, which sounds entirely like the effect of the bread of life, which is what Jesus claimed to be.  I find great difficulty in imagining anything being beyond entropy, especially living in opposition to it.  However, if true life is the opposite of death, then what we call life is a form of death, and what we call death is really the second death.  Jesus referred to a second death, which I was always taught was Hell.  I have never been told that conventional “life” was the first death.  If all who find Jesus find life, then all who don’t find Jesus don’t have life in the first place.  Hence, the popular idea of life is not actually life, as I would hold.  The difference between a starving man and a man who has starved to death is that the starving man still has a chance to take the life of some other thing to save his own.  Both the steak and the diner suffer from the same affliction of entropy, but the diner casts the burden of his own entropy upon the steak, which carries the load for them both.  In the end, though, this gradual lifelong accumulation of entropy reaches a point where it can be slowed no longer, and we call this point “death.”  If life is a car coasting downhill in first gear, then death is a car coasting downhill in neutral, without brakes.  This being the case, then life and death are not opposites.  We only have a case of death, type one, and death, type two.  God told Adam and Eve in the beginning that the day they took the forbidden fruit would be the day that they died.  Many people read that and think that God was merciful for not killing them then but letting them live many more years.  I am not inclined to believe that he lied in order to control them.  I think that they did in fact die that day and that no human has ever seen true life since then.  So what would happen to a truly living person if we were to run him through with a sword?  We may have cast a great deal of entropy on him, but if his life works in opposition to entropy then we would expect to see him rise from the dead.

This also brings us to the matter of Hell.  I think it is no coincidence that visual references such as fire and a bottomless pit are the familiar ideas associated with it.  Burning and falling forever, combined with being ripped apart, are mentioned in the Bible and are all matters of entropy out of control.  This entropy out of control is also what happens to the body of a dead person.  So what is entropy?  Entropy is divergent.  The heat in a cup of water escapes and fills the room, and then it escapes the room.  Entropy is disorderly.  Design is reduced to chaos.  Entropy at its worst is Hell.  It’s a home on fire.  It’s a man working himself to death performing a meaningless task and then undoing it, again and again.  It is an endless falling, or a flying through outer space away from a point of origin with no end in sight.  It is, in its very essence, sin allowed us in its fullest measure.  I’m inclined to think that Hell is simply a matter of giving us, from God’s perspective, a swim in a cesspool when we refuse to stop drinking from the toilet.  It’s a run through a forest fire because we insisted on playing with matches.

If a thing is perfectly designed and then subjected to the forces of entropy, then it proceeds to diverge from that point limitlessly.  If we start from the middle and attempt to return to that point we must first know where that point was.  What was the perfect point?  The key lies in its intended design.  If a thing was made to be a tractor and I repair it back into being a functional go-kart, then I haven’t repaired it at all.  If the key is in the design then the solution lies in the mind of the designer.  If God intended for us to be one way and we go another way, thinking it better, we diverge from the intended design.  Sin is essentially a divergence from the perfect order or behavior.  People may disagree with each other as to what the best behavior is, or what right and wrong are, but in the end only one opinion counts.  In a mathematical process there is only one right answer and an infinite number of wrong ones.  We can have order, or we can have a great variety of disorder.  We can accept truth, or we can invent a great number of falsehoods.  A building can stand up one way, or it can fall a great number of ways in many possible directions.  There’s God’s way, and then there’s everything else.  Sin is a divergence from his order just as entropy is a divergence from order in general.

 

fractalsig





The Wayward Goldfish

21 11 2008

[fiction]

Friend used to be such a happy goldfish.  He used to enjoy eating his flakes twice a day, whenever Source cast down blessings from above.  Sure, sometimes Friend got a little scared and hid under the abalone shell, but then we all do, sometimes.  Usually, though, he would do his laps around the bowl with me and never worry about a thing.  I’m not really sure what made him change.  At first, he seemed to spend more time looking through the glass, usually at Source, whenever he was around.  Then, it kind of turned into a deep reflection about the glass itself.  He spent a lot of time brooding about it.  While I circled around the bowl, looking for algae, like I usually do, he sidled up next to me and asked, “Are you happy?”

 

“Am I happy?  I don’t know.  Why wouldn’t I be,” I replied.

 

“Well, it’s just that this is such a small bowl we’re in, and there’s such a big world out there.  I’m just certain that if we could get past that glass we would have the whole world to discover and explore,” he mused.

 

Such talk made me nervous.  I tried to lose him with a quick flick of my tail, but he caught up to me and continued with his crazy talk.

 

“What is it with this glass, anyway?” he ranted, “Is Source trying to keep the whole world to himself?

 

“Um, I don’t know,” I said, cautiously, “Maybe he’s protecting us from something.

 

“Protecting us from what?  You can see as well as I can there’s nothing out there to be afraid of.  There’s just a much bigger bowl, and Source, who comes and goes from places that we can’t even see from where we are.  I tell you, he’s just trying to keep us trapped in this bowl, because he knows there’s so much out there…and he doesn’t want us to have it.”

 

I wasn’t sure I liked schooling with Friend anymore, so I told him to leave me alone, and I hid under the abalone shell.  When the lights flicked off, Friend was just sitting there, staring at his wall of glass.  The next day, he was quite agitated.  I saw him investigating the glass with great enthusiasm.  I could feel his earnestness.  “What’s up, Friend?” I asked, “looking for algae?”

 

“I’m not looking for no bloomin’ algae!” he snapped, “I’m looking for a way out of here.”

 

“I don’t know, Friend,” I said, “I don’t see how there could be a way out.  Besides, I really don’t think it’s such a good idea.”

 

“Oh, I’ve had enough of your narrowness, fish,” he replied, “You can stay in your happy little bowl all day eating your flakes, but I’m getting out of here.  I’ve had quite enough of this life that Source has put us in.  Now…the glass goes all the way around, like this,” he said, circling the bowl, “And it seems to reach all the way from the blue gravel to the air.  I’ve tried pecking at the gravel, but all that got me was a mouth full of poop, and I think he’s got glass under there to stop us, anyway.”  He followed the glass up to where it met the air and followed that circle.  “I tried to swim through the air, but it’s just too thick.  It keeps bouncing me back.”  He stared up through the air, thinking about it.  “You know,” he pondered, “it looks like the glass stops just a little way into the air.  Maybe if I swim hard enough, I can push through the air just enough to get over the glass.  Then I’d be home free.  I’d shake the ick of this place off my fins and be done with Source.  I’m gonna’ make a life for myself out there.  I just gotta’ get past this blasted glass!”

 

“Friend,” I whimpered, “please don’t do it.”

 

“Why not?” he griped.

 

“I don’t know.  It just doesn’t seem right,” I defended, but I knew it was a lame argument.  I sank to the bottom and thought about happy things. 

 

With a quick flutter, he zipped to the surface and jumped into the air.  He landed back in the bowl with a loud bloop, did a quick circle around the bowl and made another run at it.  I heard him thud against the glass somewhere in that air, and then he fell back inside.

 

“I almost made it!”  he was all over himself.

 

“Keep your scales on,” I barked.

 

“You shut up,” he snapped.  Then he made one heroic effort and threw himself into the air.  This time, he didn’t come back.  Startled, I circled the glass, looking into the world out there to see where he was.  I thought he’d be swimming around, having a good time, but he was nowhere to be found.  I saw an orange thing outside, near the bottom of the bowl, fluttering about, but the angle was bad, and I couldn’t really see what it was.  It couldn’t have been Friend, because I don’t think that he would have been foraging for algae the moment he escaped.

 

After a while, I forgot about it and rested under the shell.  This was all too much excitement for me.  Source appeared in the evening, like he usually does.  I think he was upset about something, but it doesn’t really matter.  Nothing ever seems to be a problem for him.  I begged for flakes like I always do, and he gave them to me.  I miss Friend.  Still, the flakes are pretty good.

[/fiction]

 

goldandsilversig





Three Universes

15 11 2008

We consider ourselves members of this concrete 3-D world (4-D, if we consider time a dimension, or 25-D if we follow String Theory), but when we boil it all down, we really are not. Everything we see, hear, touch; everything we experience must be related to our brains from the sensory organs, and it must be reconstructed within the confines of our sculls by a fancy neural network, which we familiarly know as a brain. The experience doesn’t happen if the signal never gets to the brain, and the experience doesn’t match the event if the brain reconstructs it incorrectly. I would argue that the mind, which is the theater of all experience, happens in the brain, arguably, and is not bound by the concrete rules of the physical world.

Think of what it takes to convey my own idea to you: I experience the thought in my own head, but I can not extract that thought and put it directly into your mind. Instead, I must translate the idea into a language, and convey that verbal construct through a series of computers to you. You must then see the visual pattern, translate it into language, and use that language to reconstruct an approximation of my original idea. That we can communicate at all is a marvel. If I tell a story, I can assure you that there will be a great deal of difference between your mental experience of the story and my own.

The mind is an abstract thing. This becomes exceedingly clear when we sleep. Our dreams tend not to have the order and law that the physical world has, so our experience is quite different from reality. Likewise, a fantasy prone individual may hardly even see reality for what it is, but instead experiences a fabrication.

It is easy to say that experience is nothing and reality is everything, but what is experience? The fact that there is only one brain among billions that contributes to my experience would suggest that there is more to my experiencing than mere cerebral function. The other six-billion brains out there function quite nicely but do not give rise to my experience. In theory, if this is a physical world only, then no human brain is unique enough to give rise to my very unique experience.

So my mind, which is the experience of a thought, arises from the physical actions of some brain cells, but it is not, in itself, a physical thing. Yet, it is my mind which is the single most important aspect of myself, for without it, I am no more “me” than I am “you.” I am not the guy next door, because my mind does not arise from his brain. Within this fantastic little universe is where I do all of my experiencing. No experience happens outside of it. When I experience a real thing, what I experience is my mind. When I experience an imagined thing, what I experience is still my mind. If I lose my ability to remember anything, I still have my mind, even if I do not realize that I am still thinking because I can not remember doing it even a millisecond earlier. Yet, I continue to experience. If I were cut off from my senses I would be trapped within a universe all my own, but here’s the kicker:

Even when I’m awake and in touch with reality I am still trapped within a universe all my own. No one can plug into my brain and share my experience.

This is the inner universe. The “real world” is a thing that stands alone, based on concrete principles.

When a person invents an idea, then manipulates the physical world to create that imagined thing, the final product is not, itself, the imagined thing, but a near approximation of it. When someone discovers that physical thing, they experience the mental representation of the thing when they see and feel it, but they do not experience the thing itself, directly. This is the barrier between the inner universe, as I call it, and the physical world.

And if, perhaps, there is something bigger than the physical world out there, something that is to our physical world what our physical world is to our minds, then there might naturally be a barrier to that one as well. In order for it to be fully understood in our physical world, then to be understood within our minds, it must take on a physical reconstruction in the likeness of whatever is out there, and it must walk around on earth in a tangible way, or we could never understand it. It is the only way that we can personally know the one who exists outside of our “reality.”

Therefore, if there is a God, and that God created the universe, it follows, then, that he stands outside of it.  For him to be known within it, he must be manifested in a physical way, perhaps in the form of a human messiah, or perhaps in the form of a talking burning bush.  If it stops there, then he has not reached us.  If we see his human form and fail to recognize him, then he has not reached us.  If we are told of his human form, but we fail to believe it or imagine it, then he has not reached us.  The physical manifestation must be internalized and accepted, just as one might internalize and accept a common everyday object as truth.  It’s a two-part deal: he offers, and we receive.

Some might argue that God could short-circuit the process by directly manipulating our minds.  This is true, but I feel inclined to think that he has given us sovereignty over our minds.  I might say that the inner universe is my own personal kingdom, the rights of which are respected even by God himself.  It is my very identity.

snowysig





Rats

15 11 2008

[fiction]

Two rats grow up inside a box and know nothing of the outside world. One rat believes in something beyond his cardboard confines, and he imagines it to be something like a much larger box, with more rats and better food. Neither rat has any concept of light, and so its idea of the outside world is a very dark one.

The second rat ridicules the first rat for pondering the matter. She says that there is nothing beyond their cardboard prison, and she considers herself the more intelligent of the two for relying on the concrete things that she can smell with her nose and scratch with her paws.

One day, the first rat dies, and the human observer that they did not know about opens the top of the box, and a ray of light is cast from above, onto the poor dead rat. A hand reaches down and lifts it through the hole in the ceiling, and the hole closes after it.

The second rat is left sitting in the dark, dazed and bewildered. At first, she believes that the other rat may have been right. As time goes on and the memory fades, her children and their children have more and more difficulty accepting the story, until it is ultimately disregarded as a myth.

Then, one day, another rat has a thought. It begins to wonder if there is anything beyond its own four walls….

[/fiction]

leafysig





The Persistence of Memory, or lack thereof

8 11 2008

I have a rule, that any idea conceived within the first ten minutes after awakening in the morning must be summarily dispatched to the recycle bin of my mind.  So many ideas that seem impressively insightful just after leaving that dream state generally turn out to be the wildest absurdities.  I remember one morning, chuckling to myself in the shower as I considered a lawyer joke from my dream, only to become acutely aware, gradually, that what I had thought was funny made absolutely no sense at all.  However, I will break my rule today, because what I hit upon yesterday within the first ten minutes not only relates to sleep itself, but also remains plausible to me even now, mid-afternoon and seven cups of coffee later.  There’s this certain nagging question as to why we dream eight times a night, yet infrequently even remember one.  In theory, a thought is a thought, whether done in a dream state or awake.  Yet, we retain very little of what happens when we are under the influence of the sand man.

I think I know, now.

A single brain cell has one simple function in life: to receive signals from other brain cells and to make a decision to pass it on or to sit on it and forget about it.  Like motor and sensory neurons, every brain cell omits a certain amount of noise, which is to say that it occasionally emits a signal that came from nowhere, much like a blogger sitting at a computer and feeling bored.  It says, “I’m bored.  I think I’ll call a friend or write a letter,” and then sends a message about nothing.  The recipient then has a choice to acknowledge this as a desperate attempt at self-entertainment and ignore it as idle chatter, or make something out of it and spread the gossip to the next neuron in the grapevine.  The same is true for both brain cells and other neurons.  They must make a distinction between chatter and meaningful information.  Where brain cells and sensory neurons diverge, however, is in their forgiveness of their neighbor’s intrusion.  If you were to stab yourself with a pin and leave it there, it would hurt more initially than it would a few moments later.  It would hurt even less the next day, unless something happened to bump it and cause a new flood of sensation.  The sensory neurons that had the misfortune of getting stabbed in the butt by your pin would be signalling all the same, whining and complaining about their predicament, but their neighbors would, with time, learn to turn them a deaf ear.  “Really, who wants to listen to whining all day?  We know you’re in trouble, and we already alerted the authorities.”  They then turn up the radio to drown out the incessent complaint.  This is a good thing.  Imagine being persistently aware of every touch and every sensation all the time.  One might go mad.  With sensory neurons one can remove the stimulus, such as to remove the pin, and the whining ceases.  Eventually, the neighboring neuron notices and turns down the volume on the radio, and once again becomes more willing to hear the words of his friend.  With brain cells, this is where the similarities end.  Some brain cells never turn down that radio, and they never become good listeners again (Some brain cells can be so unforgiving).  This is the essence of long-term memory.  Something happens.  A stimulus is received.  Certain cells are affected by that stimulus.  Those cells respond by altering their propensity to pass that signal to the next cell in line.  If it’s only a quick little signal, then not much happens.  If the signal persists, then the cell grows tired of it and becomes less likely to care.  Then the way information passes through the brain becomes (somewhat) permanently altered.  A memory is formed.  To make a memory last, the only trick is in the exposure time.  The longer one thinks about a thing, the more impact this has on the response of the neurons involved.  Hence, cramming for an exam the night before means forgetting everything by the Saturday night party that week.  The geek who invests time in the matter, thusly forfeiting his dating privileges, is the one who remembers the material long enough to become the manager over the guy who crammed the night before.  There is no substitute for time.  One needs to expose those brain cells to an idea for a long enough time to make them adjust.

At this point, I need to add that the brain works in cycles.  A person never experiences a thought just once.  The moment a signal enters the brain, some of it cycles back around and starts it all over again.  Further downstream, the signal gets processed a little, and a little of that signal goes back to the beginning and starts the process all over again.  The signal gets further processed and better understood, and yet a little more of that signal gets sent back to the beginning to do it all over again.  The reason?  Imagine having every thought for no more than one hundredth of a second.  What was that?  I think I just had a thought.  Oh, well, it’s gone now.  There would be no remembering it.  This process is also known as echoic memory, because it keeps bouncing back, like an echo in a large room, until it eventually fades away.  If a thought spends enough time in that echoic memory, then it is more likely to induce a change in the long-term memory.  It stands to reason that the brain cells involved in echoic memory are more forgiving, likely to listen to their neighbor once again, if he earns their audience.  The long-term cells, though, are more likely to make a more permanent change of attitude.

So, what’s up with dreams?  Why don’t we remember them?  I think of the mind as being like a top.  Initially, a person must physically make that thing spin to get it going.  Once spinning, it runs in circles, on its own, becoming ever slower and slower.  At no time after the person lets go of it does it spin any faster than it did to start with.  In fact, every second that lapses sees it spinning slower than the second before.  This is important to consider, because the brain also works in cycles that start with an initial input of energy, beginning with a sensation.  The cells involved become less and less interested in the matter, until the whole thing dies out.  When a person sleeps, they are, quite literally, shut off from the outside world.  The brainstem actually serves the purpose of paralyzing a person, to prevent signals from entering or leaving the brain.  If this fails, then the person might walk or talk in their sleep, or never get to sleep at all.  Conversely, if this fails to turn itself off at the end of sleep, one might become temporarily trapped in a paralysis, which often is accompanied by hallucinations.  Yes, this actually happens to people.  So when a person is asleep, the brain is parted from the world of the living.  No input comes, and no output goes (generally speaking).  Without any further stimulus, the upstream neurons on the pathway have less to gossip about to their neighbors.  They still have old stories to tell, and they still have a few to invent, but the stream is never stronger at any point during sleep than it was while awake, just like the top, which spins ever slower with each second.  Oh, the brainwaves never stop.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  In fact, they seem to get stronger at times.  However, the meaning gets lost.  The brain cells play a season of reruns, and their audience (other brain cells) only watch with mild amusement, having seen it before, only in brighter colors, on the big screen, back when it was more interesting.  One could imagine a bunch of loafers lounging on a porch, and one of them says, “Hey George, why don’t you tell us the one about the three-foot rainbow trout?”  wherein George begins his story, and someone picks up a stick to whittle idly, perhaps to cope with the mundaneness of it all.  It would be more interesting if George were catching that unlikely trout right then and there, for the first time, but this is not a world where much happens.  The radio is broken and the television never got decent reception anyway.  So a town of brain cells sits around and chatters at each other, and no one bothers to write anything down.

The problem is in the lack of input.  You could close your eyes and plug your ears, but you’d never be without sensory input.  However, for anyone who has lied awake at night, unable to sleep for the thoughts that they could not shake, there comes a different sort of input.  A person can shut out the outside world, mentally, yet still have an internal source of input that can keep the brain working in an active state.  Normally, the sensory input from without is the fuel that drives the thoughts of the brain, but there seems to be another driving force that comes from within.  It’s that will of a human that motivates a person to sit down and do something creative or go out and change the world.  It’s the ability of a person to be innovative and do something different.  It’s what drives a person to actually read what’s on the computer screen, rather than simply staring at it, complacently.  This internal input, the ability to start a thought without having the object of that thought or any relevant stimulus, has to have a source, just like sensation needs a thing sensed.  Otherwise, the internally-generated thoughts are no better than dreams, and they would not generate memories.  They might not even generate coherent thought.  Just like the top needs the hand that starts it spinning, the thoughts need a force from beyond the mind to get the ideas rolling.  Otherwise, it’s just sleep.  If it isn’t the direct result of physical stimulus, then it’s the result of something else.

Something else…something that goes beyond the physical.  Internally-initiated thoughts are generated from the spirit.

I came to this conclusion between 5:45 AM and 6:00 AM, while slapping water on my face.

shadowsig