185 – State of Humankind …

I am disheartened by the troubling state humankind has reached after millions of years of evolution and ‘progress’ … is it ‘progress to get to be technologically advanced yet ignorant about what we are doing to ourselves and to our world? … our institutions of commerce, governance, religion, education, are dominated by such a level of greed for control, power, possessions, that they are blind … are they really? … to the obscenity of not only what they have created, but what they stubbornly perpetuate. They are the creators, the promoters, the instigators of an economic system based on greed, deceit, division, aggression, conflict, consumerism, nihilistic individualism; they are the creators, the promoters, the instigators of an economic system so destructive and corrupt, that it is overwhelming the natural resources of the earth and demeaning the value of life.

The warning signs of the impending catastrophe this economic system is bringing upon us are loud and clear, yet the increasing levels of consumption, and the exponential population growth it demands, continue their devastating march without a hint of introspection from those leading the parade.

What is it about us, a species threatened by an unprecedented catastrophe of our own making, that the profits of corporations seem more important than the survival of humankind? Have we lost our minds, we, supposedly the smartest creatures on earth?

I believe that the dominance of greed in human nature began to take a hold on us during the called Agricultural Revolution; a time in our evolution when early humans were congregating in increasingly larger populations, which pressed them to make the transition from hunting and roaming, to agriculture and settlement. This transition permitted the buildup and storage of goods, which then became not only a source of relative stability and security, but also of profit and control.

A degree of greed is obviously necessary for survival, but it has become so abnormally dominant in modern man that we accept it as essential to what we deem as ‘economic progress’. This acceptance has made us blind not only to its consequences, but also to be able to recognize it as the root of genocides, the exploitation of the vulnerable, the cruelty toward animals, the obscene levels of inequality that throw millions of human lives into displacement, poverty, despair.

How to even begin to think about a way to reverse the virulence of greed among us? How, when humankind is so prone to avoid self-reflection upon our own History for understanding?

To re-orient human nature toward a different path seems a monumental, if not impossible task … a miracle! … yet science can do it with a single swoop of the Knowledge accumulated throughout its history: In the same way scientists are using the advancements in communications to spread the warning signs of an environment in crisis, they can spread the Fact that, like atoms, cells, planetary systems, we are, each and all of us, constitutive, subordinate, vital, adaptable parts of Nature, and as such, those beautiful theories … like Relativity, Evolution, Quantum, Autopoiesis … they have devised to describe Nature, also describe us. But what is even more important, is that they can re-assert the Fact that the great majority of humankind, the great majority of us, do not want a world dominated by greed, do not want a world that threatens the high levels of ingenuity, dexterity, conscious self-awareness, which have taken us millions of years and an excruciating history to attain, with a world without peace, with a world without compassion, with a world perhaps even without us!

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184 – The Meaning, the Essence of E=mc2 …

From ancient times, poets, sages, saints, philosophers, scientists, cults, the individual human being, have pondered about the existence of a higher Being. We try to understand this Being with names, beliefs and concepts like Nature, Universe, God, Buddha, Allah, Shiva, the Tao, Life, Spirit, Energy, Creator, etc., etc. But the truth is that we do not know with certainty what this Being is, nor how it emerged into existence, into Life. We have assumptions, theories, hypothesis, but we truly do not know. It is a mystery, as profound as the mystery of Life itself. Yet there is a property of this Being we have come to know through science, and this is that energy and mass played, and continues to play, a fundamental role in its emergence and development, establishing a symmetry where energy is a measure of its mass, and mass a measure of its energy (e=mc2). This symmetry provided the stability essential to its evolution into the unfolding complexity we strive to comprehend.

But this symmetry, this equilibrium in which the content of an element is a constant measure of another, cannot be attained without a degree of self-reflection. As any other body or system in our Universe, the energy sources my changing body consumes must be a continuous measure of its exertion. I could not exist otherwise. And whether I do it consciously or unconsciously, this constant balancing act is not possible without a degree of self-reflection.

Self-reflection is the foundation of Life.

What is beautiful about the level of knowledge we currently have about our Universe, is that science has opened windows to the human mind which organized religion has kept tightly closed with dogma. Those open windows let me peer into the behavior and organization of the Being I am a part of: How, for instance, as I emerged myself, it has emerged with the innate urge to adapt and survive; how, as I evolve myself, it evolves, tentatively, yet steadily, toward higher levels of complexity and order; how, as I do myself, it controls yet frees its own creations, imprinting them with a code of rules that must be followed, yet can be bent.

But the deeper I peer into the composition and complexity of our Universe, the less I know about the reason for its existence, its symmetry, its creativity, the magnificence and ruthlessness of its power. Yet there is a conspicuous Force that propels its existence beyond the natural boundaries that check its evolution; this Force is Self-reflection. The riddle of Life trying to understand itself; the Force of Life reflecting upon its own force. My mind grows beyond the limits of my own body, and I am set free. I am set free to know what I am, to know why a Force inside of me, born into me and all around me, wants me, incites me to reach out, to overcome boundaries, to know. But this Force is, must always be, a reflection of my limitations.

Energy equals mass times the speed of Light squared. The mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. I am an organization of about 37 trillion cells plus trillions of bacteria. Their combined mass is the measure of the power I have not only to give structure, motion and purpose to my body, but also the power of a mind able to conceptualize an entire Universe, and wonder about its emergence, about its purpose. Body and mind supporting the symmetry that creates me, that gives me life; measuring each other, reflecting upon one another.

The meaning, the essence of e=mc2 is Self-reflection, the foundation of Life.

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183 – E=mc2 and Me …

I have never been good at mathematics. I didn’t even try when I was in school. Although I can understand their allure, numbers and equations always seemed not just beyond me, but beyond the capacity to explain what is truly important to me: the emergence of conscious self-reflection in Life. Fortunately, I am good at seeing patterns and their logic, and so I was able to survive my tenure in the financial industry while sifting for meaning through mostly mathematical theories.

My early realization, and total acceptance, of the Facts that I am a universal component and not very good at mathematics, brought me to the conclusion that the only way for me to begin to understand what I am in the scheme of the Universe, was by applying to my own body, to my own life, to my own experience, the philosophic knowledge we already possess of the physical theories; in other words, making myself an experimental tool.

My interest in Relativity started with Einstein’s ideas and the impact they made, and continue to make in the way we understand our Universe. He fascinated me for the immensity of his insight … a mind able to envision a fundamental property of Nature, E=mc2 … and so, without previous education in these matters, I embarked on a quest to try to understand the meaning of the famous equation. Most books on the subject were prominently mathematic, but I persisted, trying to find between the equations the meaning of Einstein’s insight. And after many, many years of study, and guided mainly by his own description of the equation on the paper he published in 1905: “The mass of a body is a measure of its energy content”, I begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. And my body was my tool to try to understand this.

I know that at the most basic level my body is made of atoms. I also know that atoms are fundamentally small concentrations of mass and immense reservoirs of energy. Therefore, I fundamentally am a concentration of mass and an immense reservoir of energy.

The mass of my body was easy to figure out: It is what has grown out of two cells into a 5.10” tall, 150 lb. organism; it is what I can touch, what I can weigh, what I can measure, what I can play with; it is what breathes and eats, it is what consumes and dissipates; it is what I direct to sit down or walk; it is what hurts and makes me uncomfortable when I injure myself or get sick.

The energy was more elusive. Where, What was that immense portion of me, the measure of which is equivalent to the content of my mass times the speed of Light squared?

I started comprehending what this immense energy is, when I realized that what I’ve been taught to be subjective, immaterial … mind, thought, ingenuity, curiosity, focus, persistence, imagination … is actually physical energy; energy that I can almost touch, it is so real, so perceptible. I am not only the energy I metabolize and transform into the physical acts of motion, action and reaction; I am also the physical energy of thinking, imagining, focusing, calculating, learning, making decisions that can change the direction of my life, and decisions that sometimes can change the lives of others; I am the physical energy of a mind that is practically boundless, immeasurable, yet endowed with a physical, tangible power to make an impact on my own development and, sometimes, on the development of the world in which I exist.

There is, for me, no clearer example of the power contained in a human mind, than Einstein’s encapsulation of one of the properties of our Universe in e=mc2 . But what the meaning, the true essence of the equation is, I’ll try to explain on my next post.

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182 – Destiny …

The greatest challenge of my life is to try to answer the question What is Life, because even if I know that I am one of its manifestations, and that it is manifested all around me and far away from me, I don’t seem to be capable to fully know what Life is. But there are things I do know about Life: 1 – Life has a purpose, which is to recreate itself with a degree of freedom and inexhaustible ingenuity into higher and higher manifestations of complexity and beauty, and 2 – within my monumental limitations, I am one of the lucky ones able to give my life a direction towards a destination, and to strive to reach that destination.

One of the incredible things about my childhood is that from the constant oppression of Deceit, Poverty, Cruelty, Hunger Ignorance, Hate, Fear, a curiosity to find Beauty, Knowledge, Happiness, Tolerance, Truth, somehow emerged in me with a force that overtook my life. What is this formidable force? What is this part of Life urging me to do something with my life? What is this captivating curiosity to find out what Life is, what I am? Is this what we call Destiny?

There are two definitions for Destiny in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: 1 – something to which a person or thing is destined, and 2 – a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency. *

There is no question in my mind that everything in Nature is destined with innate degrees of curiosity … it is the key for adaptation and survival … it is how flowers come up with amazing designs to attract pollinators; it is how molecules have come to build the complexity of the double helix; it is how language has attained such a high degree of sophistication; it is how a newborn baby learns to manipulate, to adapt, and to be manipulated by its world; it is how my brain, my organic brain, has come to develop a subjective mind irrepressibly curious about my capacity to reflect upon myself, about what my future … my destiny! … will be.

There is no question in my mind that Life is pre-determined by a relative course of events … the environment in which I was born, the sources of Life from which I was engendered, the forces that have shaped and continue to shape my perception … and that this pre-determined course of events is always accompanied, if encouraged to thrive, by the irresistible power of a degree of curiosity that oftentimes leads us to alter our Destiny.

*Highlights are mine

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181– What do I really Love?

I love humankind. I love the incredible beauty, complexity, dexterity, ingenuity of the human being; its boundless capacity for love, for tenderness, for compassion, for imagining the unimaginable and, oftentimes, making it real. I love its capacity to see patterns in Nature, to feel awe in the presence of beauty, to create out of its hands and mind beauty as never heard or seen before. I love what it can do with its own body, shaping it, making it stronger, healthier, pushing it into challenging environments, making love, slowly, not just to impregnate like most animals, but to feel pleasure and give pleasure. I love its desire to travel around the earth to experience other cultures, other ways of living, other ways of learning. I love its capacity to evolve out of the bonding of two cells, already knowing how to self-organize into the most amazing creature we know of in Nature, already possessing the gift of language, the urge to survive, the need for love, the want for learning, the curiosity to look at itself and wonder about its roots, about its destiny.

Yet I cringe at the capacity of the human being to reach the most atrocious levels of cruelty, intolerance, hate, deceit, destruction; its capacity to kill, not for sustenance like most animals, but out of hate, barbarism, greed, envy, and, oftentimes, horribly killing in the hundreds and thousands without a hint of remorse, but instead with pride in the repugnance of its actions. I cringe at the capacity of the human being to use fear and deceit to incite the destruction of other cultures, other set of beliefs, for the sole purpose of appeasing its own fears.

I do believe that human beings are born with certain inherited, latent capacities … language, sensuality, curiosity, love … but no one, absolutely no one, is born with the capacity to be cruel, hateful, destructive; these capacities are incited through continued and premeditated oppression, brutality, torture, abuse, ridicule, humiliation; and these capacities are more damaging and lasting when incited in the vulnerable and impressionable human mind during the formative years of early childhood.

Yet I marvel at exceptional human beings; those who go through unbearable emotional and physical experiences and, seemingly out of nowhere, muster the courage to turn themselves instead into creators of incredible forms of beauty: Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, Mandela’s untiring search for justice. These individuals have shown us that great beauty sometimes comes from pain.  But they are so few, when compared with the innumerable ones throughout our history who, attaining a degree of power, lash out what was done to them on the vulnerable, the powerless, the innocent.

There is no escape from the Fact that modern human beings are a consequence of a primordial evolutionary process, a consequence of an ascending universal force that has brought into Life the miracle of conscious self-reflection. We are the recipients of this miracle. And so I do believe that the destiny of humankind is not to incite hate and oppression, but to propagate and deepen the knowledge of the incredible beauty of what we have come be, what we have come to possess.

Believing in this is what I really love.

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180 – My Life Meanders between Opposing Complements of Existence

Right  <>  Wrong

Temporary  <>  Lasting

Supple  <>  Rigid

Free  <>  Dependent

Creative  <>  Destructive

Sobering  <> Trivial

Knowledge  <>   Ignorance

Tolerance  <>  Prejudice

Courage  <>  Fear

Security  <>  Danger

Dynamic  <>  Passive

Organized  <>  Chaotic

Self-determined  <>  Pre-determined

Conscious  <>  Instinctive

Open  <>  Closed

Love  <>  Hate

Happiness  <>  Terror

Compassion  <>   Cruelty

Feminine  <>  Masculine

Health  <>  Illness

Pleasure  <>  Pain

Truth  <>  Deceit

Light  <>  Darkness

Soul/Mind/Spirit  <>  Body

Life  <>  Death

Etc., etc., etc.

My Life is like the flow of a river meandering between a spectrum of the opposing complements of Existence, as I choose, oftentimes consciously, but mostly by instinct, which side of the spectrum to lean towards to, which one to move away from. There are times when I take measure of the power of a side, which one is strongest, which one weaker, which one can change my life, which one just the course of a day. There are times when a side has the power to overtake me, even if I don’t want to … prejudice, for instance, instead of tolerance … and there are times when I have the power to overtake them … courage, for instance, instead of fear. There are times when leaning towards a side makes me feel ugly and scared, while moving towards the opposite side makes me feel beautiful and happy.

It is uncanny and utterly fascinating to be able to look back into my past, recollecting, examining the decisions I made or those that were made for me; remembering the push and pull of opposites on those decisions, how they shaped me, how I shaped them, how they led me into corners … as when I was enrolled into a school controlled by religious dogma, or when my father would made me stand for hours with my face against a corner in his room as punishment for being a child … or how they opened doors to new horizons … as when I followed my mother’s example to look for beauty in the midst of chaos, or when I gathered the courage to leave a world intent on constricting the mind, for a world where Knowledge was readily available.

This capacity to examine events that have shaped my life, and to remember, oftentimes vividly, the strength of the forces behind those events, have let me delve into the world of the primal instincts that urge me to survive, to bond, to engender, to learn, to love; and into the world of the spirit that endows me with the power to manipulate those urges, and the wisdom to know when to let them conquer me. This capacity, although not a given, but a privilege, makes me realize what a wondrous creature I am; it gives me insight into the ingenious force that created me from the bond of two minuscule cells, already having the power to envision a path between the opposing complements of Existence, and to choose.

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179 – I Am One of Their Ascendants

The way I think, the way I speak, the way I breathe, the way I walk, the way I love, the way my body is organized, the way I understand and perceive Reality, the way I produce the energy to power my constant transformation, all are the result of the ongoing evolutionary process in which I am embedded; the ascent of an amazing species that, amid a relatively propitious period in the planet’s own evolution, has populated every inhabitable niche on the surface of the earth, and was born to the awareness of self-awareness.

Through this ascent, the human brain has come to develop the complex neuronal connectivity that endows me with a high degree of intelligence, dexterity, a level of inquisitiveness rare in Nature, and the awareness of my own awareness.

But the insecurity, fear, trauma, abuse of a dysfunctional upbringing, and the oppression of an educational system heavily tilted towards dogma and indoctrination to control the young, vulnerable mind, stunted the development of my intelligence to be able to understand and perceive the world that exists beyond the limitations of my organic senses. The combination of these two harmful factors forced the natural defenses of my body to numb not only my feelings, but also my empathy; the wisdom of Nature to halt the complete annihilation of my rebel mind, allowed me to feel nothing, to care for nothing. It has taken me a lifetime to get my feelings back, to awaken my compassion.

It is heartbreaking to realize that I am not an exemption, that the history of my upbringing is accepted as ‘normal’ in most of our cultures.

But the force of a legacy passed along in the lessons of flourishing civilizations and the wisdom of great thinkers, eventually overcame the traumatic events of my upbringing, awakening in me an insatiable need to understand what I am.

I was born with the soul of a rebel, the hunger of a questing mind, the capacity to perceive patterns that sustain the creative order of Nature. And so in my quiet ways I fought any so called ‘authority’ wanting to dictate, oftentimes forcefully, the way I think, live, love, and understand Reality. And so I devoured books, especially those that opened my mind to new horizons and dared question the status quo. And so I learned to love science, philosophy, poetry, music, especially classical music, because they fed my uncanny capacity to perceive balance and beauty out the chaotic world we have created.

My rebelliousness, the hunger of my mind, my capacity to perceive patterns, have taken me, as someone said, to places I would not know how to get to. They have helped me feel my participation in the magnificent order, equilibrium, and astonishing beauty of our Universe; they have helped me clearly see that I could not have attained a highly evolved level of perception without the heritage of innumerable generations of thinkers, lovers, dreamers, rebels, pioneers, wanderers, visionaries, untiringly seeking knowledge through the mysteries of the mind, tenaciously wanting to unravel the Source that engenders the boundless creativity and beauty of the evolutionary process we call Life.

I am one of their ascendants.

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178 –A Touch of Wonder …

One day, reading in the living room I hear a thump in the enclosed patio. I run out afraid a bird has hit a window. I am right. A little hummingbird lays unconscious on the cement floor just outside the patio.

I carefully pick it up, weightless and limp but alive; it is breathing. I hold it in the palm of my hand for what seems a long time. Then, abruptly, it opens its eyes … did not move … just lay there, catching its breath.

It fluffs its feathers as if shaking off whatever knocked it down, and straightens up. I can feel its tiny feet as it stands on my hand, looking around, checking things out.

And then … and then … the wonder:

The little hummingbird flies up like a tiny helicopter to the level of my face, and hovers there, staring straight into my eyes, looking at me with those tiny black beads, one first, then the other, as if wanting to remember.

I cannot help but smile; I am making eye contact with a tiny miracle.

Then it takes off, like a little jet plane, out of sight in seconds, leaving me awestruck.

I take a deep breath realizing I hadn’t been breathing. This little miracle took my breath away, making me feel the joy of being alive with the intensity of a moment I will never forget.

Moments like this compensate, and make me forget … not erase … the moments – especially those that hurt others –  I created with my stupidity and my mistakes when I was trying to survive; learning that Life is not always wonderful, but that it is constantly offering me its wonders.

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177 – The Universal Language …

Upon genesis, everything in Nature is infused with the self-propelled universal process of Becoming: Self-organizing, bonding, self-generating, adapting, self-perpetuating, transforming. This process is written in the ovum and the sperm that created me. And from the moment those two cells became One, a Self was infused with the process of creating what ‘I’ will be.

Not knowing that I have known from the start, I instinctively followed what everybody else has followed before me; creating the language through which I instruct every cell I engender within me, with the common makeup of the human species, and with that makeup, my cells recreate and recreate the uniqueness of me until the day I die.

This language … this intimate conversation between what I create and what creates me … is the most important thing there is; my life depends on it.

This language … this conversation … is how my body unfolds and creates my mind; is how species are created and evolve; is how solar systems form and bind together; is how spiral galaxies keep myriad stars spinning in a synchronized dance within their arms; is how billions/trillions of galaxies, and all their contents, create a Universe that can engender me, like everyone else – unique – yet Oh, so common.

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176 – The Saddest Thing …

Anyone who has witnessed the eyes of a human being at the moment of death, can attest to have seen the departure of Life from the body, leaving in place the indescribable unknown we all must face in our return to where we came from. But experiences like this, instead of reaffirming how encompassing, transient, fragile and implausible Life is, only reinforce the illusion of our sense of individuality, our distance from each other, our separation from the natural world, thus veiling the reality we have not been able to grasp – refuse to grasp – that we are immersed in an environment that connects us all as participants in the unfolding of the organism we call humankind.

Life is energy in motion; never at rest. It has its own sparkle, its own impetus, its own power to constantly self-renew. We are immersed in a living atmosphere in which we participate in a constant process of consumption and dissipation that perpetuates self-renewal. But when this process cannot be sustained, when the power to self-renew is no longer there, we die – of old age, injury, disease, lack of oxygen, starvation.

Our consumption and release of energy sources make a relative impact on the atmosphere that supports and dictates our lives. But because we have made Consumption a god to service a few … it is the measure of success, the measure of happiness, the measure of power, the measure of control … and since this god demands a growing number of consumers to unendingly consume, we have runaway population growth. We have populated every habitable niche on the surface of the planet, and our level of consumption, our intake and release of energy sources, is altering – rapidly and severely – the chemical balance of the environment in which our lives depend.

Our current world population is at seven and a half billion. And with the worldwide number of daily births at 360,000, which more than doubles that of daily deaths at 151,600, * we are projected to reach eight billion by 2023. The chart below shows clearly the speed of our exponential growth.

Population
Years passed Year Billion
1800 1
127 1927 2
33 1960 3
14 1974 4
13 1987 5
12 1999 6
12 2011 7
6 2017 7.5
6 2023 8
United Nations Population Fund 2011 estimate. Two last lines are updated with current information.

The beneficial environment that for millennia has supported our evolution cannot sustain this kind of growth, and it is already showing signs of distress. We are watching these signs, stupefied – they are so ominous some of us prefer to be in denial.

What do we think Life is? We take it for granted because even if we know how implausible it is that we are alive, we are that implausibility. We are the most beautiful and ingenious creature we know of. And so, to see that for the benefit of a few we are destroying ourselves by destroying what gives us Life, is the saddest thing.

*Source: Population Reference Bureau & The World Factbook, 2011 Estimate (Central Intelligence Agency)

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