191 – Aren’t we among pioneers? …

“One cannot live with sighted eyes and feeling heart and not know or react to the miseries which afflict this world.” Lorraine Hansberry

One of the most significant mass extinctions on Earth was the Great Oxygenation Event (also known in scientific media as Oxygen Catastrophe, Oxygen Holocaust, Oxygen Revolution, or Great Oxidation), which began approximately 2.45 billion years ago and was induced by the appearance of free oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere. Although the causes are not completely clear, the current evidence is the exponential growth of a bacteria (Cyanobacteria) that developed into coordinate macroscopic forms as early as 2.3 billion years ago (approximately 200 million years before the event) and produced oxygen through photosynthesis. The increased production of oxygen set Earth’s original atmosphere off balance. Oxygen was toxic to some living creatures at that time on Earth, and it wiped out most of them. *

The evidence that by disturbing the balance of the atmosphere, we are positioning ourselves … the Human species … to be the next biological organism to cause a mass extinction on Earth, is more and more incontestable by the day.

In early civilizations, man learned to avoid responsibility for his cruel and destructive actions by blaming someone or something else … there was always a vulnerable group, an individual, or a catastrophic event to blame … with the avoidance of responsibility, introspection about the consequences of his actions was blunted – practically obliterated. And thus, in a male-dominated civilization, we have become the cruelest and most destructive species on Earth.

The mass extinction of wildlife due to our exponential population growth, overconsumption, and poaching, is already on its way.

Extreme climate change, melting Arctic sea ice, rising ocean levels, constant conflict, unimaginable levels of cruelty, migrations, severe droughts, fires, flooding, will continue to accelerate under the pressures on the environment of our exponential growth and an aggressive economic system that demands more and more consumption.

There is no turning back from the damage we have already done. There are, perhaps, ways to ameliorate the impact of what we have set in motion. But that we must face the consequences of our actions is not a question any longer.

The survivors and descendants of the mass extinction 2.45 billion years ago were, as is obvious, adaptable, oxygen-breathing organisms from which we eventually evolved. The populations that might survive the mass extinction of our own creation will have to adapt to a rarer, harsher, more volatile environment, and, hopefully, evolve with the knowledge that, as the destiny of a fertilized human ovum is to build … cell by cell … the pathways to the self-reflective mind, our destiny has always been to know that we are building blocks in a majestic and ingenious universal plan. Aren’t we already among pioneers in conscious self-reflection?

*Data taken from Wikipedia

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190 – How can I forget? …

I live in a culture that tells me to forgive, so I can forget the horrors of the past.

But how can I forget?

How can I, if my body won’t let me?

Forgiving is easy:

there is nothing in the past I can now change,

whatever happened happened,

what was done was done.

The main thing is that I made it,

a bit crippled, a bit awkward,

but I made it.

And in every experience I now experience,

in every emotion that overwhelms me,

in every feeling I cannot feel,

in every cruelty I wish I had not seen,

my body remembers,

it is what I’m made of.

There is no horror I can now change.

The past is all forgiven

and forgetting would be erasing a part of me.

 

To forget with intention of erasure is possible,

and oftentimes … for the sake of survival …

we do it unintentionally,

but to intentionally erase the past from our history

is inducing a replay of what we are trying to forget.

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189 – The Universe in Me …

When I think about myself as the communal activity of myriad components in my body, I cannot help but contemplate the fact that I am just a partial owner and operator of my own Self. I am a partial owner and operator because at the moment I was conceived, the driving force of the primordial being most of us understand as ‘the subconscious mind’ was introduced into my life. This being is the one who knew how to generate, organize and build the entire structure of my body out of two miniscule cells; it is the one who knows how to decipher the input my body gathers from the environment and transforms it into the self-reflective mind with which I try to understand myself, make sense of the world, and feast on the boundless reaches of the imagination.

And even though my relationship with this primordial being is what has given me the physical experience of a unified Self traversing through Life, I only have the heavily dogmatic teachings of organized religion to explore it. Because for the most part, science claims that the primordial power of our instincts is a ‘self – less’, spontaneous phenomenon. But how can something as complex as the brain of the human animal, in which trillions of synaptic connections create a mind that tries to understand itself, can be something spontaneous, something that happens by chance? And so, I must rely solely on intuition:

The being we call the ‘subconscious mind’ is the universal force manifesting in my instincts, desires, fears, needs; mandating me to become, self-organize, bond, self-generate, adapt, self-perpetuate, and yet endowing me with a degree of freedom to transform myself and, perhaps even the world. The being we call the ‘subconscious mind’ is the Universe in me, and I am made to see it.

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188 – Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? VII

 

Update on my ongoing quest to answer what I believe are the most profound questions posed to the human mind. These questions are the title of the beautiful Gauguin painting shown above.

Where do we come from?

 Like cells created by the self-organizing, self-generating, self-transforming processes of our bodies, we are created by the self-organizing, self-generating, self-transforming processes of the phenomenon we call Life. But Life is just the progression of a phenomenon that, amid trial and error, creation and destruction, inexorably evolves toward greater levels of complexity and order.

And because for us the progression of this phenomenon is self-evident and relatively measurable, its self-determination tangible, its power to create and destroy explicit, yet it continues to remain beyond our comprehension, some call it God, Allah, Shiva, etc., etc. But we tend to create deities when there is something we cannot comprehend.

And although the evolution of this phenomenon is the cause and the reason of our existence, what it is, how it might have been engendered, what its purpose might be, we cannot yet comprehend – perhaps we never will.

What are we?

 I do not know. But what I do know is that we have evolved into one of the most beautiful and complex manifestations of the phenomenon we call Life; that we have grown self-conscious of our insignificance in the scheme of the Universe and our significance in the scheme of the atomic elements; that we are participants in the universal mandate to Become, Self-organize, Bond, Re-generate, Adapt, Self-perpetuate, Transform; that we are co-creators and promoters of the constant renewal and perpetuation of Life.

And although we know that there are physical laws that regulate our internal and external environments, we also know that we possess a degree of freedom to transform ourselves and our world. We are sources of transformation.

Where are we going?

 Limited by our internal and external environments, yet pregnant with the possibilities of a degree of freedom to transform ourselves and our world, we forge ahead until we no longer can; at which point in our existence, we begin the inexorable return to the environment from which we emerged.

But in equal measure to what we have imagined,

what we have created,

what we have destroyed,

what we have taken,

what we have given to the world,

we may re-emerge upon more complex levels of existence.

Think of Einstein – how his ideas live among us, opening new visions and challenging our understanding of Reality; or Darwin – how his theory of Evolution lives among us, stimulating research in the origins of Life; or Mandela, or Gandhi – how their courage lives among us, inspiring pacifist rebellion against the destructive tyranny of unaccountable power; or Socrates – how his method of inquiry lives among us, stimulating the intellect to the study of itself; or Gauguin – how his profound questions live among us, daring us to wonder and find answers. These individuals live among us in the progression of our evolutionary processes, in the greater reaches of our perception, in the heightened insights of conscious self-reflection; they live among us, challenging and transforming our understanding of the unfolding phenomenon from which we emerge, helping us move forward in the transcendental process of Becoming. And because of what they accomplished with their lives, we are more daring in our visions of the future, more curious about our origins, more aware of what is right and what is wrong, more self-conscious about the struggles and the wonders of existence.

WHERE DO WE COME FROM? Out of a self-generating, self-organizing, self-transcending Being whose unfolding we call Life.

WHAT ARE WE? Self-conscious sources of transformation.

WHERE ARE WE GOING? Into the future, but in equal measure to what we do with of our lives.

 TRANSCENDENCE IS A MEASURE OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EXISTENCE.

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187 – There is an Order within Me …

Out of trillions of cells that make up my mature body, about 96 million die every hour … every hour … and my body, every hour, creates other 96 million to take their place. This self-balancing feat preserves the number of cells needed for me to be a functional, dynamic, thinking, inquisitive, determined, mindful, introspective human being.

This precise dance between death and renewal within me is done without my awareness, yet it is what keeps me alive.

My body is made of many types of cells; each type highly specialized not only in what it is to do, but how it is to do it.

Although I am educated enough to know a bit about the creative evolutionary process of the earth which has taken eons to bring us to be what we are today, I cannot fathom how trillions of cells, each one driven to accomplish what it must accomplish, can generate an intellect capable of understanding our evolutionary process, yet is unable to sense the amazing cellular processes going on inside its own body.

Some of my cells are replaced quite often, while others can last my entire lifetime; most of my cells blindly follow instructions, while others have the capacity to choose. This level of rigidity and suppleness is what builds and constantly renews the complex structure of my body; it is how my temperature and heartbeat can be adjusted in accord with the changes not only inside of me, but around me.

Without my awareness, every single cell engendered by my body is imprinted with a unique set of features … the color of my eyes, the type of my blood, the pigment of my skin, the traits of my temperament … which will identify me as a unique individual amid billions of other individuals like me, each one with their unique set of features, their unique level of rigidity and suppleness.

There is an Order within me, self-evident, perceptible, measurable, yet it remains beyond the awareness of my senses. Perhaps this level of awareness is the next wrung up in our evolutionary ladder: To be aware, to sense, to feel the Order within us   and all around us. We are made for that.

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186 – The Loneliest Being in the World …

My mind is the loneliest, most wondrous being in the world; traversing beyond boundaries, while my body traverses within boundaries.

My mind has grown out of experiences weaved through happy and sad moments, fears and dreams, emotions and feelings, anxieties and accomplishments; what my body is able to see, taste, hear, touch; what I love to remember, what I wish I could forget. My mind is the compound of all I have suffered, of all I have lived, of all I have learned, of all I have wanted, of all I have loved, of all the little battles I have lost, and the big ones I have won.

Born when two other minds became one … ovum’s and sperm’s … I inherited a mind of my own. But it didn’t come alone; it brought some very powerful baggage of its own.

Endowed with ancient Knowledge, my mind taught me how to build and organize an extremely complex yet supple body, how to perceive and adapt, how to talk, how to cry, how to laugh, how to dream, how to imagine, how to love; how to admire the beauty of Nature and tremble at its destruction and creation; how to survive the madness of anger, of hate, of deceit, of cruelty. And how to move on, even when humiliated, belittled, unwanted, hurt, scared, so I could live to be awed and loved, so I could learn to look inward … at the order and wonder of me … and come to see the magnificence and beauty of the Order we are all made to see, yet most of us cannot yet see:

An Order immensely greater than mine, yet a bit like mine. Beautiful yet grotesque, mysterious yet intelligible, destructive yet creative, physical yet immeasurable, fragile yet resilient, deliberate yet spontaneous, gentle yet merciless, breathtaking yet coarse, bold yet meek.

An Order with a mind a bit like mine. Unfathomable, yet open to comprehension. Intangible, yet always present; busily prolonging Order so there is Life. The loneliest most wondrous Being in the world, whose presence in me is music I can only hear.

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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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