Sunday, January 21, 2018

Paulo Coelho, "Defeat"

 
"Defeat"
by Paulo Coelho

"Does a leaf, when it falls from the tree in winter, feel defeated by the cold? The tree says to the leaf: ‘That’s the cycle of life. You may think you’re going to die, but you live on in me. It’s thanks to you that I’m alive, because I can breathe. It’s also thanks to you that I have felt loved, because I was able to give shade to the weary traveller. Your sap is in my sap, we are one thing.’

Does a man who spent years preparing to climb the highest mountain in the world feel defeated on reaching that mountain and discovering that nature has cloaked the summit in storm clouds? The man says to the mountain: ‘You don’t want me this time, but the weather will change and, one day, I will make it to the top. Meanwhile, you’ll still be here waiting for me.’

Does a young man, rejected by his first love, declare that love does not exist? The young man says to himself: ‘I’ll find someone better able to understand what I feel. And then I will be happy for the rest of my days.’

Losing a battle or losing everything we thought we possessed will bring us moments of sadness, but when those moments pass, we will discover the hidden strength that exists in each of us, a strength that will surprise us and increase our self-respect.

Wait patiently for the right moment to act. Do not let the next opportunity slip.

Take pride in your scars. Scars are medals branded on the flesh, and your enemies will be frightened by them because they are proof of your long experience of battle. Often this will lead them to seek dialogue and avoid conflict. Scars speak more loudly than the sword that caused them.”

"The Only Question..."

“Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether
 it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The Poet: Thomas Centolella, "Splendor"

"Splendor"

"One day it's the clouds,
one day the mountains.
One day the latest bloom of roses-
 the pure monochromes, the dazzling hybrids-
 inspiration for the cathedral's round windows.
Every now and then there's the splendor of thought:
 the singular idea and its brilliant retinue-
words, cadence, point of view,
little gold arrows flitting between the lines.
And too the splendor of no thought at all:
hands lying calmly in the lap, 
or swinging a six iron with effortless tempo. 
 More often than not splendor is the star we orbit
without a second thought,
especially as it arrives and departs.  
One day it's the blue glassy bay,
one day the night and its array of jewels,
visible and invisible.
Sometimes it's the warm clarity
of a face that finds your face
and doesn't turn away.
Sometimes a kindness, unexpected,
that will radiate farther than you might imagine.
One day it's the entire day itself,
 each hour foregoing its number and name,
its cumbersome clothes, 
a day that says come as you are,
large enough for fear and doubt,
with room to spare: the most secret
wish, the deepest, the darkest,
turned inside out."

 - Thomas Centolella

"Listen To The MUSTN'TS"

“The Call of Duty- and Destiny” (Adapted)

“The Call of Duty- and Destiny” (Adapted)
by James P. Pinkerton

Sam: "It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."
- Samwise Gamgee, "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"

"In one of the great epics of Western literature, the hero, confronted by numerous and powerful enemies, temporarily gives in to weakness and self-pity. “I wish,” he sighs, “none of this had happened.” The hero’s wise adviser responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” The old man continues, “There are other forces at work in this world… besides the will of evil.” Some events, he adds, are “meant” to be, “And that is an encouraging thought.”

Indeed it is. Perhaps, today, we are meant to live in these times. Perhaps right here, right now, we are meant to be tested. Maybe we are meant to have faith that other forces are at work in this world, that we are meant to rediscover our strength and our survival skills.

And so the question: can we, the people of the West, be brought to failure despite our enormous cultural and spiritual legacy? Three thousand years of history look down upon us: does this generation wish to be remembered for not having had the strength to look danger squarely in the eye? For having failed to harness our latent strength in our own defense?

For better ideas, we might turn to J.R.R. Tolkien. The medievalist-turned-novelist, best-known for “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, has been admired by readers and moviegoers alike for his fantastic flights. Yet we might make special note of his underlying political, even strategic, perspective. Amid all his swords and sorcery, we perhaps have neglected Tolkien’s ultimate point: some things are worth fighting for- and other things are not worth fighting for; indeed, it is a tragic mistake even to try.

In his subtle way, Tolkien argues for a vision of individual and collective self-preservation that embraces a realistic view of human nature, including its limitations, even as it accepts difference and diversity. Moreover, Tolkien counsels robust self-defense in one’s own area- the homeland, which he calls the Shire- even as he advocates an overall modesty of heroic ambition. All in all, that’s not a bad approach for true conservatives, who appreciate the value of lumpy hodgepodge as opposed to artificially imposed universalisms.

So with Tolkien in mind, we might speak of the “Shire Strategy.” It’s simple: the Shire is ours, we want to keep it, and so we must defend it. Yet by the same principle, since others have their homelands and their rights, we should leave them alone, as long as they leave us alone. Live and let live. That’s not world-historical, merely practical. For us, after our recent spasm of universalism- the dogmatically narcissistic view that everyone, everywhere wants to be like us- it’s time for a healthy respite, moving toward an each-to-his-own particularism.

Tolkien comes to the particular through the peculiar, creating his Bosch-like wonderland of exotic beings: Elves, Orcs, Trolls, Wargs, Werewolves, Ents, Eastlings, Southrons. To audiences relentlessly tutored in the PC pieties of skin-deep multiculturalism, Tolkien offers a different sort of diversity- of genuine difference, with no pretense of similarity, let alone universal equality. In his world, it is perfectly natural that all creatures great and small- the Hobbits are indeed small, around three feet high- have their own place in the great chain of being.

So the Hobbits, low down on that chain, mind their own business. One of their aphorisms is the need to avoid “trouble too big for you.” Indeed, even Hobbits are subdivided into different breeds, each with its own traits. Frodo, for instance, is a Fallohide, not to be confused with a Harfoot or a Stoor. Tolkien wasn’t describing a clash of civilizations- he was setting forth an abundance of civilizations, each blooming and buzzing and doing its own thing.

In addition to the innate differences, Tolkien added a layer of tragic complexity: the enticement of power. Some races in Middle Earth were given Rings of Power- 19 in all, symbolizing technological might but also a metaphor for hubristic overreach: “Three Rings for Elven-kings under the sky/Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone/Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die.” One notes immediately that the Hobbits, along with other categories of being, have received no rings. Again, Tolkien’s world doesn’t pretend to be fair; we get what we are given, by the design (or maybe for the amusement) of greater powers. Only one threat endangers this yeasty diversity- the flowing tide of overweening universalism, emblemized by Sauron, who seeks to conquer the whole wide world, and everyone and everything in it

Of all the men and mice in Tolkien’s bestiary, the Hobbits are his favorite. Jolly good peasants that they are, Hobbits never hunger for martial fabulation or Riefenstahlian dramatization; their nature is to accomplish their mission first and brag about it only afterward. And the Hobbits’ biggest mission, of course, is the destruction of the One Ring. In Tolkien’s tale, there aren’t 19 Rings, as thought, but actually 20, and that 20th Ring, the One Ring, or Ruling Ring, is most to be feared. Loaded as it is with Wagnerian overtones, the One Ring is Tolkien’s symbol of evil, or, more precisely, it symbolizes temptation, which leads to evil. Even the dreaded Sauron is but a slave to his ambition to acquire the One Ring- and if Sauron can get it, then all hope for freedom and difference will be lost under his world-flattening tyranny.

Happily, unique among sentient beings, the Hobbits seem relatively immune to Ringed seduction. Hobbits like to smoke and drink, but all grander forms of world-girdling intoxication are lost on these simple folk. Hobbits just want their Shire to return to normalcy.

Enter Frodo, hero Hobbit. Tolkien, who served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the Great War, modeled Frodo, admiringly, after the Tommies- the grunt infantrymen- who fought alongside him. Neither a defeatist nor a militarist, Tolkien admired those men who were simultaneously stoic and heroic. In the words of medieval historian Norman Cantor, “Frodo is not physically powerful, and his judgment is sometimes erratic. He wants not to bring about the golden era but to get rid of the Ring, to place it beyond the powers of evil; not to transform the world but to bring peace and quiet to the Shire.” Because of their innate modestly, only Hobbits have the hope of resisting the sorcery of the Ring. Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring to the lip of a volcano, Mt. Doom, there to cast it down and destroy it once and for all.

And even for Frodo, the task is not easy; he’s that lonely epic hero who wishes that none of this had happened. But as the wise Gandalf tells him, it was meant to happen And so it goes: events unfold to a successful but still bittersweet conclusion.

Indeed, the greatest desire for power, Ring-lust, is felt by men, not the lesser beings. And so when our heroes are confronted by two dangers- the danger from Sauron’s encroaching army, hunting for the Ring, and the infinitely direr prospect that Sauron might gain the Ring- it is a mostly virtuous man, Boromir, who is most sorely tempted. Don’t destroy the Ring, Boromir insists; use the Ring to repel Sauron: “Take it and go forth to victory!” In other words, use the Ring to guarantee triumph. But that’s Tolkien’s point: absolute power is always tempting- and always corrupting.

The good are good only as long as they resist temptation. A wise Elf, Elrond, answers Boromir: “We cannot use the Ruling Ring… the very desire of it corrupts the heart.” That is, a good man who uses the Ring automatically becomes a bad man, who would “set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear.” And so the varied group convened by Elrond- Elves, Dwarves, Men, and Hobbits- agrees to an arduous plan. The Council of Elrond will fight Sauron’s army through “conventional” means, while a smaller team, the Fellowship of the Ring, chiefly Frodo, crosses into enemy territory in hopes of destroying the sinister golden band. But as Tolkien makes clear, the Ring threatens to overwhelm everyone, and everything, with temptation.

Tolkien died in 1973. During his lifetime, and ever since, critics and pundits have put their own spin on his work. He was writing, it was said, about the totalitarian temptation. About the lure of fascism. Or maybe about the Circean song of communism. Or perhaps it was all a jeremiad aimed at industrialization. Each of these was, of course, a universalism, and so each was, in its way, antithetical to the natural variegation that Tolkien so treasured.

The author himself abjured simplistic allegorical explanation, perhaps in part to keep his multiple audiences happy. In the ’60s, for instance, the Hobbits were celebrated as proto-hippies, inspiring jokes about what might be tamped into their smoking pipes; the whole oeuvre was seen as a druggy trip. But Tolkien once confided, “’The Lord of the Rings’ is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” That is, Catholic in the sense that reality and history are complicated, that the world is rich in majesty and mystery, that human nature is but a poor vessel. In his world, the Shire is Christendom, and Christendom is the Shire.

Yet more than three decades after Tolkien’s death, new universalisms- new all-encompassing ideologies- have gained prominence, vexing, once again, tradition and difference throughout the world. One such universalism is capitalist globalism. In the late ’80s, Francis Fukuyama published his legendarily misguided piece “The End of History?” suggesting that the West had found The Answer. Madeleine Albright expressed similar hubris when she declared that America was “the indispensable nation.” And Thomas Friedman has since argued that everyone has to submit to “golden handcuffs,” managed by planetary financiers, even as the wondrous force of capitalism “flattens” the world. But of course, it took Paul Wolfowitz to bring Rousseau to life in another century: Uncle Sam would force people to be free. And how are these bright bold visions working out, in a world that includes so very many conflicts and tragedies?

“A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
- Aragorn the Strider, “The Lord of The Rings”

"How It Really Is"

“How to Learn to Love Disaster”

“How to Learn to Love Disaster”
By Bill Bonner

“I was in Paris when the end of the world came. My company there, Les Belles Lettres, has been publishing the Greek and Latin classics there since 1919. We’ve translated about 900 of the 1,200 texts that still exist. It seemed a shame that the world would end before we completed our work. So, I went into the office, where, amid a thick blue fog, I found Caroline – the CEO – energetically working her way through a carton of Marlboros. She was determined to go out doing the two things she loved most: promoting Aristotle and chain-smoking at her desk – screw the workplace tobacco ban; they can fine me in hell! Impressed with her attitude, I considered writing a nasty letter to the IRS. Maybe I’d park in a handicapped spot while I was at it... 

But first I needed to get coffee. At the nearby “café bar bistro,” however, there was no mention of the impending apocalypse. Apparently, management had decided to continue serving coffee right through the end of the world. Servi kaffe, pereat mundus. 

I looked at my watch. It was 11 a.m., the supposed ETA of our apocalypse. We were all still there. I was perplexed. Could it be that the Mayans were just as thick as the rest of us? Was it all just meaningless guesswork? What if their chief astrologer was one of Paul Krugman’s ancestors? Then it hit me: The Mayans were based in South America. They probably used Eastern Standard Time! But 11 a.m. EST rolled around, and the world was no more destroyed. Caroline tossed her empty carton in the trash and sighed. The cosmos had spared us. That’s the trouble with natural disasters. They never quite show up when they’re supposed to. And for card-carrying doom and gloomers like me, they are a source of much disappointment.

Napoleon’s Hubris: Man-made disasters, on the other hand, are not only far more frequent, but also far more predictable. They’re also extremely entertaining... assuming, of course, you’re into that sort of thing. Take, for instance, one of the worst military campaigns in history: Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. 

Up until then, Napoleon’s career had been a spectacular success. He could seemingly get away with anything. By the time the French senate proclaimed him emperor in 1804, he was already regarded as the greatest military genius who had ever lived. So when he decided to invade Russia, no one blinked… 

No one besides Armand Augustin Louis de Caulaincourt, Napoleon’s longtime aide-de-camp, that is. He knew better. He had been to Russia. Napoleon had sent him there as the French ambassador. He knew invading Russia was a bad idea. He warned Napoleon of the terrible weather, the bad roads and the savage people. He begged him not to go. It would be the ruin of France, he said. Napoleon ignored him… and a few months later, there they both were – freezing their rear ends off as they fled the smoldering ruins of Moscow. 

We have a chart in our library at home that shows what happened next. It records the temperature dropping to -30°C, as the size of the French army dropped along with it. Soldiers burned down barns to try to get warm, but many of them froze. The Russian army shot many of those who survived the cold; still others were attacked by partisans on the roads, packs of wolves in the forests, and prisoners the czar had released into the city streets. If that didn’t get them, they starved to death. Napoleon entered Russia with 300,000 troops. Only 10,000 got out. 

I told this story to my kids over and over again as they were growing up. I can tell you with some confidence that it has had beneficial effects. None of my children will ever invade Russia. They won’t make that mistake! 

It’s Time to Get Out…: Knowledge of Napoleon’s 19th-century disaster didn’t dissuade Adolf Hitler from repeating it in the 20th century on a larger scale. And Hitler was certainly aware of the dangers. The famous German war strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote extensively on Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion. 

August von Kageneck’s history of the German army’s 18th regiment on the Eastern Front in War War II contains a delightful anecdote to this end. The regiment had been annihilated, rebuilt and annihilated again. Finally, near the end of the war, the Russians captured the remnants of it.  A Soviet interrogator with a sense of humor posed a question to the survivors: “Haven’t any of you ever read von Clausewitz?” None of the prisoners raised his hand. 

Why do these disasters happen? That’s what I set out to explore in "Hormegeddon." To use the words of the Scottish poet Bobby Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men “gang aft agley.” Is that Scots dialect? I don’t know. But the sense of it is probably best captured in the old Navy expression: go FUBAR. The last three letters of that mean “beyond all recognition.” The first two I will leave you to figure out for yourself. 

History is a long tale of things that went FUBAR – debacles, disasters and catastrophes. That is what makes it fun to study. And maybe even useful. Each disaster carries with it a warning. For example, if the Sioux have assembled a vast war party out on the plains, don’t put on your best uniform and ride out to the Little Bighorn to have a look. If the architect of a great ship tells you that “not even God himself could sink this ship,” take the next boat! 

When you are up against a superior enemy – like Fabius Maximus against Hannibal – don’t engage in battle. Instead, delay... procrastinate... dodge him… wear him down… until you are in a better position. And if the stock market is selling at 20 times earnings... and all your friends, analysts and experts urge you to “get in” because you “can’t lose” – it’s time to get out!”

"Make Them Laugh..."

Look, it's all going to Hell in a handbasket, that's obvious... The economy, wars, climate change, loss of civil liberties, the existence of a very real police state, and worst of all Fukushima, the ultimate and final nightmare. The least we can do is try to understand how and why, and who and what's taking us there, don't you think?
- CP

"Asteroid Strikes, Plague, and Economic Meltdown: Government Shutdown 2018!" by The Daily Bell

"Asteroid Strikes, Plague, and Economic Meltdown:
 Government Shutdown 2018!"
by The Daily Bell

"Asteroid strikes, flu plague, and economic meltdown. According to CNN, that is what we should fear from this “government shutdown.” People have to hype it up in order to give the impression that the government matters. In reality, this just reveals why we shouldn’t trust the government to do anything essential in our lives. If political fights in DC can put people at that kind of risk, then we should get these services from organizations that have incentives to deliver.

Congressmen won’t lose their jobs over this, except in the unlikely event the voters from their district fire them. More likely they will blame representatives from other districts. But without Congress luring us into a false sense of security, other organizations would fill the gap.

For instance, who might have an incentive to make sure a public outbreak of the flu doesn’t become epidemic? I would bet health insurance companies would be interested in saving costs by monitoring the flu’s progression. They would save money purchasing services from an agency that monitors and sells disease data.

As for the economic meltdown, this is another iteration of the broken window fallacy. This is the incorrect idea that the economy is stimulated by a broken window due to the money spent replacing the window. But since resources are limited, the truth is that a window will be made instead of something else. So whoever has to buy the new window will have to spend less on, say, going out to dinner.

And the same holds true for non-essential government services. It’s right there: non-essential. These things are not necessary but have become a mundane recipient of bloated government funding.

It is painful in the short term because now you have hundreds of thousands of people without a paycheck. But if the government never hired them in the first place, and didn’t take that money from the taxpayers, then those people would have to work in the productive sector. Their jobs would be based on demand, not whatever Congress thinks is a good idea. And some of their jobs may still exist if they were moved to the private sector. You can bet they wouldn’t be randomly furloughed when management couldn’t reach an agreement. Companies need to be profitable, or heads roll.

Don’t Worry, Security Services Will Go on Operating: We need the government to keep us safe from asteroids, disease, and poverty. But their services apparently hang by a thread, with one argument over funding plunging the USA into turmoil.

Speaking of this false sense of security, workers for the CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security will still show up to work. Their prowess and determination to keep us safe is unrivaled. Except perhaps the competency of these agencies is rivaled by a pissed off 15-year-old boy. Now 18, the British teenager will be sentenced for hacking into former CIA Director John Brennan’s email and gaining access to CIA passwords and files. He obtained contact lists as well as sensitive information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was also hacked.

He also targeted the ex-deputy director of the FBI Mark Giuliano and James Clapper, director of national intelligence under Obama, as well as their families. He boasted about carrying out “the best breach ever” after accessing an FBI database to get the names of 1,000 staff and details of the officer responsible for the notorious shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The information Gamble gathered was later used to carry out a “swatting” attack on John Holdren, a science and technology adviser to US President Barack Obama, resulting in armed officers being sent to Mr Holdren’s family home.

So basically one teenager using the computer in his bedroom was a match for the top security officials in the United States government. And they are supposed to win wars, thwart terrorism, and stop crime.

We need to shut down more of the government.”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

X22 Report, “The Greatest Push To Start WW III Has Just Begun”

X22 Report, “The Greatest Push To Start WW III Has Just Begun”

Musical Interlude: Neil H, “The Remembering”

Neil H,  “The Remembering”

"A Look to the Heavens"; "Only One Of Each Of Us..."

"A gorgeous spiral galaxy some 100 million light-years distant, NGC 1309 lies on the banks of the constellation of the River (Eridanus). NGC 1309 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one third the size of our larger Milky Way galaxy. Bluish clusters of young stars and dust lanes are seen to trace out NGC 1309's spiral arms as they wind around an older yellowish star population at its core. 
Click image for larger size.
Not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy, observations of NGC 1309's recent supernova and Cepheid variable stars contribute to the calibration of the expansion of the Universe. Still, after you get over this beautiful galaxy's grand design, check out the array of more distant background galaxies also recorded in this sharp, reprocessed, Hubble Space Telescope view.”
"In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three billion Earth-type planets.
And in the universe, 2 trillion galaxies like this.
A Universe 93 billion light years in diameter, 14.5 billion years old.
And in all that, and perhaps more... only one of each of us."

- "Dr. Leonard McCoy," "Star Trek," "Balance of Terror”
(Slightly adapted- CP)

Chet Raymo, “Telling Stories: ‘Real’ Life”

“Telling Stories: ‘Real’ Life”
by Chet Raymo

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything 
would appear to man as it is, infinite."           
 - William Blake

"I have just finished reading Brian Greene's new book, “The Fabric of the Cosmos”. As with his earlier book, “The Elegant Universe”, he does a damn good job explaining the almost unexplainable - string theory, braneworlds, multiple universes, and all that. None of this stuff has an empirical basis, and is not likely to for the foreseeable future. So does it qualify as science? Well, yes, barely. Because in principle at least experiments are possible. We should value the wild speculations of the theoretical cosmologists precisely because they are pushing the limits of what is imaginable.

We live in an imagined world. Some parts of that imagined world are so tightly bound to sense perceptions that we call them "real." The chair I'm sitting in is real. Atoms are real. The common ancestry of humans and raccoons is real. Strings and branes and multiple universes are not yet real, but they spring from the same storytelling tradition. Democritus and Lucretius told stories of atoms long before atoms were real. It is ever for us as it was for the singer in a famous poem by Wallace Stevens: 

"Even if what she sang was what she heard...
there never was a world for her
 Except the one she sang, and singing made."

So, what is the real? My own views on the matter were given shape when I was young by the poet Wallace Stevens. More influential was a book I read as a graduate student, the physicist-philosopher Henry Margenau's "The Nature of Physical Reality" (1950). Margenau uses a simple diagram to illustrate the conceptual maps we make of the world. Down the middle of the page he draws a vertical line that he calls the "perception plane." It is the locus of our immediate sensations of the world - sights, tastes, odors, touches, sounds - the interface between the world as it is and the world as we know it. To the left of the line is the world "out there," which we know only through the windows of our senses. To the right of the line Margenau draws circles representing "constructs" - names, descriptions, or ideas we invent to make sense of our perceptions. The more abstract the construct, the farther the circle from the line.

Immediately adjacent to the perception plane are constructs that correspond to direct sensations: "blue," "bitter," "pungent," "brittle," "shrill." The construct "dragonfly" is a bit further from the perception plane, but not very far away. I feel a sensation on my finger ("tingle"), I see a color ("blue"), a quality of light ("iridescent"), a shape ("long and narrow"). I name this ensemble of sensations "dragonfly,"

As my experience of the world increases, the construct "dragonfly" becomes enmeshed in a web of other constructs at varying distances from the plane: "insecta," "Jurassic," "mitochondrial DNA," etc. Resilience and interconnectivity of the web are the defining characteristics of the real. "Atom" is bound to the perception plane by a dense and sturdy web of constructs. "Cosmic strings" and "branes" are way out there, far from the perception plane, dangling by a gossamer thread.

Perception and cognition are hugely complex processes, endlessly debated by psychologists, neurologists and philosophers. Margenau's simple schematic of connected constructs is itself only a construct, a useful way of describing the devilishly complex business of perception and cognition. The important thing is to realize that our ideas about the world are not the same as the world itself (a point often missed by true believers). Nevertheless, only the most obtuse idealist would hesitate to call "dragonflies" or "atoms" real."

The Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke, "Do You Remember?"

"Do You Remember?" 

"Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes - do you recall?
And we did make so many! 
For there were countless numbers of stars: 
each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall."

- Rainer Maria Rilke

"There Is A Theory..."

“There is a theory which states that if ever for any reason anyone discovers
what exactly the Universe is for and why it is here it will instantly disappear
and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. 
There is another that states that this has already happened.”
 - Douglas Adams

"Quite Insane..."

“Life calls the tune, we dance.”
- John Galsworthy

“Those who danced were thought to be quite insane 
by those who could not hear the music.”
 - Angela Monet

“Is the Universe a Simulation?”

“Is the Universe a Simulation?”
by Edward Frenkel

“In Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita,” the protagonist, a writer, burns a manuscript in a moment of despair, only to find out later from the Devil that “manuscripts don’t burn.” While you might appreciate this romantic sentiment, there is of course no reason to think that it is true. Nikolai Gogol apparently burned the second volume of “Dead Souls,” and it has been lost forever. Likewise, if Bulgakov had burned his manuscript, we would have never known “Master and Margarita.” No other author would have written the same novel.

But there is one area of human endeavor that comes close to exemplifying the maxim “manuscripts don’t burn.” That area is mathematics. If Pythagoras had not lived, or if his work had been destroyed, someone else eventually would have discovered the same Pythagorean theorem. Moreover, this theorem means the same thing to everyone today as it meant 2,500 years ago, and will mean the same thing to everyone a thousand years from now - no matter what advances occur in technology or what new evidence emerges. Mathematical knowledge is unlike any other knowledge. Its truths are objective, necessary and timeless.

What kinds of things are mathematical entities and theorems, that they are knowable in this way? Do they exist somewhere, a set of immaterial objects in the enchanted gardens of the Platonic world, waiting to be discovered? Or are they mere creations of the human mind?

This question has divided thinkers for centuries. It seems spooky to suggest that mathematical entities actually exist in and of themselves. But if math is only a product of the human imagination, how do we all end up agreeing on exactly the same math? Some might argue that mathematical entities are like chess pieces, elaborate fictions in a game invented by humans. But unlike chess, mathematics is indispensable to scientific theories describing our universe. And yet there are many mathematical concepts - from esoteric numerical systems to infinite-dimensional spaces - that we don’t currently find in the world around us. In what sense do they exist?

Many mathematicians, when pressed, admit to being Platonists. The great logician Kurt Gödel argued that mathematical concepts and ideas “form an objective reality of their own, which we cannot create or change, but only perceive and describe.” But if this is true, how do humans manage to access this hidden reality?

We don’t know. But one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics - not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.

This may strike you as very unlikely. But the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not. If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them - presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than non-simulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.

Very clever. But is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis? Indeed, there may be. In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation,” the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation. Physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years - on a tiny scale, the size of an atomic nucleus. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens. This way, they have been able to simulate the motion and collisions of elementary particles.

But these computer simulations, Professor Beane and his colleagues observe, generate slight but distinctive anomalies - certain kinds of asymmetries. Might we be able to detect these same distinctive anomalies in the actual universe, they wondered? In their paper, they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays, those high-energy particles coming to Earth’s atmosphere from outside the solar system, may reveal similar asymmetries. If so, this would indicate that we might - just might - ourselves be in someone else’s computer simulation.

Are we prepared to take the “red pill,” as Neo did in “The Matrix,” to see the truth behind the illusion - to see “how deep the rabbit hole goes”? Perhaps not yet. The jury is still out on the simulation hypothesis. But even if it proves too far-fetched, the possibility of the Platonic nature of mathematical ideas remains - and may hold the key to understanding our own reality.”

Edward Frenkel, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of “Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality.”
"Riz Virk Explains Why Quantum Physics, AI, & Eastern Mystics 
All Agree We Are Living In A Video Game"
"An MIT trained computer scientist and Silicon Valley video game designer gives 10 reasons for the 'Simulation Hypothesis': that our reality is a simulated, pixelated 3d world where we all have individual xp, levels, and quests run by some giant Artificial Intelligence

Recently, the idea that we may be living in a giant video game, or as it’s sometimes called, the Simulation Hypothesis, has gotten a lot of attention because of prominent figures like Elon Musk who have openly discussed the idea. As Virtual Reality technology has gotten more sophisticated, we are starting to contemplate virtual worlds like that of the omni-present Oasis in Ready Player One, soon to be a blockbuster movie directed by Stephen Spielberg.

Some like sci fi writer Philip K. Dick, believed strongly that we were living in a kind of simulation. Others, like futurist Ray Kurzweil, have popularized the idea of downloading our consciousness into a silicon based device, which would mean we are just digital information after all. Some, like Oxford lecturer Nick Bostrom, goes further and thinks we may in fact be artificially simulated consciousness inside such a simulation already!”
Please read the rest of this fascinating, food-for-thought article here:

The Daily "Near You?"

Cardiff, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by!

"As Far As We Can Discern..."

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence 
is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being."
-  C. G. Jung

“How to Stop the Negative Voices in Your Head from Ruling Your Life”

“How to Stop the Negative Voices in Your Head from Ruling Your Life”
By Melanie Greenberg

“’Loser! You messed this up again! You should have known better!’ Sound familiar? It’s that know-it-all, bullying, mean-spirited committee in your head. Don’t you wish they would just shut up already?

We all have voices inside our heads commenting on our moment-to-moment experiences, the quality of our past decisions, mistakes we could have avoided, and what we should have done differently. For some people, these voices are really mean and make a bad situation infinitely worse. Rather than empathize with our suffering, they criticize, disparage and beat us down even more. The voices are often very salient, have a familiar ring to them and convey an emotional urgency that demands our attention. These voices are automatic, fear-based “rules for living” that act like inner bullies, keeping us stuck in the same old cycles and hampering our spontaneous enjoyment of life and our ability to live and love freely.

Some psychologists believe these are residues of childhood experiences—automatic patterns of neural firing stored in our brains that are dissociated from the memory of the events they are trying to protect us from. While having fear-based self-protective and self-disciplining rules probably made sense and helped us to survive when we were helpless kids at the mercy of our parents’ moods, whims and psychological conflicts, they may no longer be appropriate to our lives as adults. As adults, we have more ability to walk away from unhealthy situations and make conscious choices about our lives and relationships based on our own feelings, needs and interests. Yet, in many cases, we’re so used to living by these rules we don’t even notice or question them. We unconsciously distort our view of things so they seem to be necessary and true. Like prisoners with Stockholm Syndrome, we have bonded with our captors.

If left unchecked, the committees in our heads will take charge of our lives and keep us stuck in mental and behavioral prisons of our own making. Like typical abusers, they scare us into believing that the outside world is dangerous and that we need to obey their rules for living in order to survive and avoid pain. By following (or rigidly disobeying) these rules, we don’t allow ourselves to adapt our responses to experiences as they unfold. Our behavior and emotional responses become more a reflection of yesterday’s reality than what is happening today. And we never seem to escape our dysfunctional childhoods.

The Schema Therapy Approach: Psychologist Jeffrey Young and his colleagues call these rigid rules of living and views of the world made by the committee in our heads “schemas.” Based on our earliest experiences with caregivers, schemas contain information about our own abilities to survive independently, how others will treat us, what outcomes we deserve in life, and how safe or dangerous the world is. They are also responsible for derailing intimate relationships.

Young suggests that schemas limit our lives and relationships in several ways:

• We behave in ways that maintain them.
• We interpret our experiences in ways that make them seem true, even if they really aren’t.
• In efforts to avoid pain, we restrict our lives so we never get to test them out
• We sometimes overcompensate and act in just as rigid, oppositional ways that interfere with our relationships.

A woman we will call Diana has a schema of “Abandonment.” When she was five years old, her father ran off with his secretary and disappeared from her life, not returning until she was a teenager. The pain of being abandoned was so devastating for young Diana that some part of her brain determined she would live her life in such a way as to never again feel this amount of pain. Also, as many children do, she felt deep down that she was to blame: she wasn’t lovable enough, or else her father would have stuck around; a type of "Defectiveness” schema.  

Once Diana developed this schema, she became very sensitive to rejection, seeing the normal ups and downs of children’s friendships and teenage dating as further proof that she was unlovable and her destiny was to be abandoned. She also tried desperately to cover up for her perceived inadequacies by focusing on pleasing her romantic partners and making them need her so much that they would never leave her. She felt a special chemistry for distant, commitment-phobic men. When she attracted a partner who was open and authentic, she became so controlling, insecure and needy that, tired of not being believed or trusted, he eventually gave up on the relationship.

Diana’s unspoken rule was that it was not safe to trust intimate partners and let relationships naturally unfold; she believed that if she relaxed her vigilance for a moment, her partner would leave. In an effort to rebel against her schema, she also acted in ways that were opposite to how she felt; encouraging her partner to stay after work to hang out with his friends, in an attempt to convince herself (and him) that she was ultra-independent. This led to chronic anger and dissatisfaction with her partner.

Diana did not understand her own role in this cycle. Diana (and her partner) needed to understand how her schemas resulted in ways of relating to herself and others that are repetitive, automatic, rigid, and dysfunctional. By acknowledging and connecting with her unresolved fears and unmet needs, Diana could become more flexible and allow her partner more freedom without feeling so threatened.

The schema concept helps us understand how early childhood events continue to influence adult relationships and mental health issues, that we need to recognize their influence and (with professional help, if necessary), begin to free ourselves.

Six Things You Can Do Right Now: The tools and tips below will help you begin to identify your core schemas and take some corrective actions. If you had an abusive childhood, early loss or trauma, or grew up with addicted or mentally ill parents, think about whether your patterns match one of the following schemas:

• Mistrust and abuse: Not trusting others to genuinely care for you. Feeling like a victim or choosing abusive partners. Acting in untrustworthy ways.  
• Emotional deprivation: Feeling like your own emotional needs are not valued or met by others.  Not speaking up or voicing your own needs.
• Abandonment: Feeling like others will leave you or won’t be there when you most need them.

In close relationships, think about your partner’s background, beliefs and behaviors to see whether they fit into one of the schema patterns identified here. Think about the times when your communication gets derailed and you both get angry or defensive. What schemas may each of you be bringing to the table and how may they be setting each other off. For example, a partner who has an Entitlement schema may act in needy and demanding ways that trigger the partner with an Emotional Deprivation schema to feel uncared for.

Pay attention to when you or your partner are getting triggered. You may notice feelings of anger or helplessness, thoughts that contain the words “always” or “never,” and feelings of tension or discomfort in your body. You may feel reactive and tempted to withdraw or say something impulsively.

Practice the STOP technique when you are triggered during a conversation with your partner. This is a practice from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course developed by John Kabat-Zinn. STOP what you are doing, TAKE a breath, OBSERVE what you are doing, thinking, feeling and what your partner is doing, thinking, feeling.  Think about whether your schema is calling the shots and if you would like to change tracks. Then PROCEED with a more mindful response.

At a time when you are both calm, sit down with your partner and try to figure out the cycle that happens when both you and your partner get reactive to your schemas. Decide how to communicate that this is happening in the moment and call a break.

Train yourself in the skill of cognitive flexibility. Deliberately think about other ways to interpret your partner’s behavior that are not consistent with your schema? Perhaps he is withdrawn because he had a hard day at work. Are you personalizing things too much?

Schemas are more likely to be triggered when your emotional needs are not being met. Take some time alone to reflect on what these needs might be. Then practice some healthy ways of taking care of your own needs for love, security, comfort and so on. Harness your inner “Healthy Adult” to proactively take care of yourself so you’re less likely to feel deprived and reactive.”
Related: "Taking on the Voices in Your Head"
Melanie Greenberg is a clinical and health psychologist with a private practice in Mill Valley, CA. Her work has appeared in journals such as "Pain", "Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation", the "Journal of Personality & Social Psychology", the "Journal of Psychosomatic Research and Biofeedback & Self-Regulation". Visit her website, follow her on Twitter: @drmelanieg or sign up for her email list.