Friday, September 30, 2016

Consciousness is not a symptom!

This morning, to get away from politics- a frequent necessity in my line of endeavor- I went to the Lancaster City Library to read an excellent British journal, New Scientist. Like most science journals, New Scientist is under the influence of Mammon, but there are amazing things in it.  For instance, did you know that nostalgia was originally a disease?  It's main symptom was loneliness ("Wistful thinking," 9/24):

The word nostalgia- from the Greek nostros, to return home, and algos, meaning "pain"- was coined by medical student Johannes Hofer in 1688, when he described a disorder observed in homesick Swiss mercenaries stationed in Italy and France. Hofer saw nostalgia as a disease whose symptoms included weeping, fainting, fever and heart palpitations.  He advised laxatives, narcotics, bloodletting or- if nothing else worked- sending the soldiers home.

The article details the evolution of "nostalgia" to its current, pleasant connotation:

By the second half of the 20th century, the notion of nostalgia shifted away from one of illness.  In the past 20 years, researchers have come to understand that nostalgia is not some rare affliction, but an emotion found in all cultures.

Thanks, then, to the rigor of the scientific method, we now know that homesickness is caused by not having a home or having one but not being in it, possibly ever again.  Armed with this knowledge, we can suggest appropriate therapies (sending patients "home" has apparently been dropped).  The article reviews psychological terms bolstering the modern positive bias of "nostalgia," e.g. personal nostalgia, nostalgic memorycollective nostalgia and national nostalgia (this last being memories of how great your country used to be, employed in different ways by both Trump and Clinton).  These concepts lead to therapies urging people to think mainly about positive memories, because, as I understand the theory, that cheers them up.  I'm not sure I subscribe to this approach.  Wouldn't it be better for society's purposes to reinforce memories of a hellish, miserable past, compared with which our present is a near paradise?  That would seem the cheerful way to go.

There was an engaging concept towards the end of the article: anticipatory nostalgia, which happens "when people miss the present before it has passed." That could be a common symptom in the crazy-quilt of human cultures steadily losing definition in modernity's osterizer.  Too much thinking about the future brings it closer.  The present becomes memory.  Consciousness becomes memory.   In the final step, one we may already have taken, consciousness becomes a symptom.

This is how I unwind after a week of sweating the "real" world.  An absurd way to relax, you say?  I considered that, but then just to experience "action," and maybe "agency," I went home and made a picket sign reading, "Consciousness is not a symptom!", then took my protest down to Pearblossom Highway, where I stood like a nut on the side of the road, waving my sign and scowling at bemused motorists whizzing by.  Even Robert was appalled, and it takes a lot to appall a gila monster.  All I could explain to him was, sometimes you just have to do something.

Monday, September 12, 2016

I didn't wait long enough for God

Dear Harry the Human Readers,

Once again, as Harry's editor and friend, I must step in and give his apologies.  He had a deep experience yesterday morning requiring a bit of down time for reflection. 

It seems that Harry has started to wonder why so many people have been "called" by God, and he hasn't.  Of course he also wonders if people who say they've been "called" are making it up, but then he's caught short by Julian Jaynes' theories in "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" (1976), a book that became un-famous too soon, which posits that human consciousness is only about 5,000 years old, and that it developed out of a previous, very different sort of consciousness, what we might call a religious consciousness, in which people spoke with the immediate world around them and with the universe.  Unlike today, when people who speak with the universe are considered crazy and are subject to public ridicule, such behavior, according to Jaynes, was once a normal part of human community.  Jaynes suggests that neolithic monuments stimulated voices in people's heads which were often taken as voices of gods.  Jaynes does not address the ultimate origin of the voices, though he speculates on physiological aspects, largely involving the corpus callosum, the tissue connecting the brain's right and left hemispheres.

Harry says he doesn't know if Julian Jaynes' is right, but Jaynes' ideas engender a troubling doubt in Harry's agnostic soul, to the extent that he decided to make one more attempt to talk to God, to get "called" somehow.  Harry has a Christian friend in Pearblossom whom he meets sometimes to discuss philosophy, and she told him that God does not speak to him because his mind is closed.  Harry took this comment seriously and this morning set aside all self-indulgence and tried to open his mind to God.  He had purchased an old Camry and in pursuit of his goal set out for the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, to Cold Creek Canyon in Calabasas, which he recalled from years past was a spot where someone with a bicameral (i.e. unified) mind might encounter God.  

Harry says the canyon was beautiful today, with the first cool weather in months (72 degrees!).  After hiking to a spot that looked as much like a vortex of forces as any other, he tried out a slew of approaches, such as:

1. Asking God to speak to him now that his mind is open.

2. Asking God to speak to him to keep him from giving credence to his suspicions that:

     a. there is a God, but He is not omnipotent; He is struggling, just as His creations are struggling.

     b. the Judeo/Christian God is the God of fire worshipped through the ages by many cultures.  Harry thinks so because this God requires obedience rather than understanding, not because He wants ignorance, but because humans can't understand fire.  We think of it as war, killing and suffering, which God so often seems to want in His mysterious way.  What He really wants is his own and our dissolution into oneness, the melding together of life with itself, the orgy, the self-love of fire, as opposed to the controlled burn and separateness we call "life."

What are the ethics of this?  Is fire either good or bad?  Judging from what Harry experienced in his recent adventures with the Time Artists (see below), it doesn't seem there's any good or bad to it.  We all end in fire anyway (as defined above) shorn of our identities and memories, and possibly it's just the coolest thing ever, with everything becoming everything else followed by the biggest bang of them all.  Harry says God is good when fire is good.  Harry's argument is that we should recognize that we are devotees of a death cult and stop trying to prove that we're fixing anything.  Either that or- Harry and my preference- find gods that promote life on earth.  Is that evil?  Harry and I find that hard to argue too.

Anyway the upshot is that Harry did not encounter God in Cold Creek Canyon.  In all fairness to God, Harry, who lives in the desert anyway so should be accustomed to quiet spaces, could not tolerate the isolation, beauty and peace of the canyon for more than fifteen minutes, not an impressive amount of time maybe for such a weighty purpose, but Harry says the experience was vivid enough that he made a video and asked me to post it on YouTube, which I did (

Harry is refreshed from his day of awakenings and promises to write again soon!

D. L.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Race and the modern world

What you are about to read is a science fiction story in reverse order, in which you'll be introduced to the Time Artists and my contact with them, Arthur, before you know who or what they are.

"Come with me," said Arthur, and before I could give informed consent I had already come with him to a vast hall that can best be described as "somewhere."  When I say the hall was vast I mean it was big beyond my power to measure.  The walls looked like those of a gothic cathedral, columns streaming upwards and arching across the ceiling, but they looked miles high, the ceiling at cloud level. The distance between where I stood and the walls was maybe ten, twenty miles in any direction. There were crowds of people, worshippers perhaps, moving over the ornate marble floor, miles away, looking like ants.  A circular table in the apparent center of this floor space was occupied by fifteen Time Artists, appearing like a council of wizards.  Again I wondered, as I had with Arthur's appearance, if this was a show for me, based perhaps on their detecting my secret wish to be a wizard rather than a superannuated nightclub performer.

One of the Time Artists had obvious authority, judging by his bigger build, higher chair and taller pointed hat.  He gestured to me to sit in an empty chair next to him, which I did.

"Greetings, Harry the Human," said the imposing figure, "I am Fred, Director of the Time Artists in District 32."

"Fred?" I asked stupidly; "District 32?," I continued, stupidly.

Fred cracked a brief smile.  Great bunches of gray hair flowed out below the brim of his hat.  His face, seeming both old and young, looked like it was peering through several dimensions.

"Our names are for you convenience," he explained, "and as for District 32, that encompasses your galaxy and several others nearby."

"'Fred' is an informal name form in our culture, connoting little authority," I offered, emboldened at this point to speak to the Time Artists as, potentially, an equal.

"Maybe we have a sense of humor, too, Harry the Human."  At this all the Time Artists at the table chuckled.  I stared at Fred.

"Harry, we've had a chance to review your revelations about major political figures of Earth, and we feel, tentatively, that if you show some cognizance of the constraints that weigh on us, you might be able to assist us in running the time/history continuum in your sector of District 32."

"Gee, thanks!" I gambled and was much relieved to see the Time Artist's guffaw and nod approvingly.

"We have decided to give you an assignment requiring your telepathic powers, but you will need to discuss the relevant issues with us first.  Are you interested?"

"Yes, I'm very interested!"  That's what you say when expressing lack of interest might be the last thing you ever express.

"It's about the Chinese and the Russians," continued Fred, "America's two great rivals."


"We are tracking the interplay between the three powers and we see something distinctive arising."

Fred looked at me for a while before asking, "What comes to mind, Harry, when you think about the most important difference between American society versus Russia's and China's?"

"Race," I responded.  The Time Artists nodded and I realized they had already perused my head on this subject.

"Indeed," Fred resumed,  "The Russians and Chinese can roughly identify their respective nations with a relatively uniform race: Slavic people comprise most of Russia, and people identifying as Chinese comprise most of China.  Though the terms "Slavic" and "Chinese" include a variety of sub-groups, the unifying racial identity of each population with its country is strong, compared to the racial identity of the United States, which is too weak to be a unifying force, as you might expect in an empire of many races. Confusion arises here, since the states making up America are, technically, voluntary members of a republic, not conquered peoples.  American blacks are the exception, since many of their ancestors were captured, empire style. They do not see their race as the national race, but in this they are like the many types of "white," "brown" and "yellow" people who also have no image of a national race to identify with. America needs a few hundred more years of intermarriage to produce a national race, but don't expect that process to begin promptly in a culture formed by the British, who are fussy about their mates.  Harry, in your view what does this portend for relations between the three 'super-powers'? We know you've thought about this."

"I have," I responded.  "The United States' lack of a central racial identity makes it vulnerable.  Humankind's races formed over thousands of years with specific purposes, if UCLA anthropologist Jared Diamond is right.  Diamond maintains that racial awareness is essentially sexual.  To contain and promote distinctive mixes of strengths, both inherited and learned, along with a culture designed to be closely compatible and supportive of its lifestyle and dovetailing with the local environment, races developed and promoted sexual attraction between their members, discouraging mixed-race mating as a threat to competitive status.  

"Modern nation-states were created mostly to reflect and serve the primary races that founded them. So Sweden has racially identifiable Scandinavians.  Bulgaria has many of Bulgar descent, etc.  But America was designed to contain many races, even though most of its founders were from one race.  While America was growing and becoming dramatically more powerful, the ability to draw on the disparate talents of many racial groups was a major advantage.  But as America approaches the depletion of its windfall, it is turning inward and questioning itself."   

"We have doubts, Harry," interjected He of the High Pointed Hat,      "about the ability of American culture to survive without its surplus, as that culture was fashioned with consumption in mind."

I looked at the Time Artists for a moment, then ventured, "America's attempt to improve race-relations has serious limitations." I paused, not wanting to end up lecturing this high council, but Fred nodded and said, "Please continue, Harry."

"Thank you," I said, aiming to stay polite in consideration of the vat of molten lead Arthur had, the day before, threatened to drop me in. "Liberals can be faulted for overlooking the sexual aspects of what we call 'integration,' the legally mandated placement of racial groups with a tense history in close proximity to each other, often in residential, recreational, educational and work settings.  Diamond's evolutionary model is corroborated by the American experience with mandated integration, which frequently produces sexual tensions resulting in behaviors ranging from violence and alienation on one side to the dissolving of racial boundaries, both emotional and sexual, on the other.  The latter leads to mixed-race children and ultimately the creation of new races, not historically a bad thing, since such integration processes have contributed to the formation of everyone. Contemporary people, however, as the outlines of past cultures are worn away by modernity, often experience intense anxieties about fundamental change, and it's not enough to throw them together and say, "Figure this out."  Our government, which forms the pressure cooker of integration, is silent on its dynamics, offering only centuries old Enlightenment generalizations as guidance.  Liberalism is essentially an economic theory, not a psychological one.  Economics can accurately describe certain aspects of life, but its description of race relations is incomplete and has produced a liberal mindset that is almost Puritanical in its refusal to acknowledge the role of sexuality in race relations and evolutionary history.   Humans tend to have half-theories like this, because much of the time they can’t handle talking and thinking about the true nature of things.”

"What about the role of conservatives in America's race relations?" Fred asked.

"Conservatives," I answered, "have avoided discussion of the same sexual dynamics that liberals have.  Basically no one anywhere is discussing race in a rational way because sexual psychology is not considered."

"Ok," said Fred, "Let's proceed to the dramatic and abrupt future that awaits your species and indeed all of earth's biosphere."

Fred paused and looked at me, waiting for me to intuit his direction.

"You mean the bio-engineering and artificial intelligence revolutions?"

"I do indeed," said Fred.

"Well," I began, "those revolutions, which are in their preliminary stages, spell the end of traditional races and cultures, as they involve re-engineering humans from the chromosomal level, and re-engineering human cultures too.  In a couple of years there won't be much point in agitating for your own race or culture in competition with other races and cultures.  More likely, traditional races will need to band together to resist the planned obsolescence of the species as we've known it."

"You also have a theory," Fred interjected, "which we've read on your blog, that the 'managers' of humanity, as you call them, are manipulating people of all nations and races into a global war, the purpose of which is to wreak devastation and chaos, to serve as cover for the introduction of a synthetic human genotype as well as new software-based human cultures.  Inserting a new humanity under cover of war would avoid the appearance of a hostile purge of the old order, as the new order could be presented as the savior of the old, offering for instance cures for diseases introduced in biowarfare, robots to work in poisoned wastelands that were cities, etc."

"Yes," I responded, "I do have such a theory."

"Well," said Fred, "I see why Arthur finds you a possible candidate for an adjunct position with us.  You have an intuitive streak, but, as a...(looking at Arthur) what's the term....?"

"Mortal?," Arthur suggested.

"Yes, as a mortal," Fred continued, "there is no way you can see the big picture that we see.  You would need to take direction from us most of the time."

I felt the first stirring of resentment since overcoming my fear of molten lead. 

"Fred," I argued, "maybe I can comprehend more than you think, if you would just try me."

There followed a silence.  Fred looked at Arthur, who returned his gaze.  Then all the Time Artists looked at each other, conducting a telepathic discussion to which I was not privy.

Finally Fred looked back and said, "You be the judge, Harry.  Open your mind now, please.  I'm sending you a vision."

I relaxed my defenses and suddenly felt a draft of fear- something unknown was approaching.  It entered my mind, causing immediate disruptions at many levels.  On the conscious level, I saw humanity, indeed all of earth's "life" as a sort of burn-off of escaped planetary gas, like those flaming exhaust pipes you see on the beach by the offshore oil rigs around Santa Barbara.  Fred's vision was of random chemical reactions, in place of the accustomed grand pageantry of our species. I saw that our definition of life is pinched into a biased and fearful little space. We are just one kind of life, a very fleeting kind, byproducts of a planet whose surface is fracturing as internal chemical imbalances climax.  All human history and culture- from the rise of the agriculture/architecture based death-cults to the enlightened making of money- is basically a kind of oil spill on fire. The Time Artists were dispatched here to clean it up.  Oh shit.

"I see what you mean," I said, "this is like Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when Zaphod Beeblebrox enters the Total Perspective Vortex to see if he can handle how tiny and peripheral humanity is, only worse."

At the name of Douglas Adams the whole table lit up in animated discussion.  Fred and Arthur looked at me kindly.

"Let's give this puppy a try!," said He of the High Pointy Hat.

And in a flash I was back in my Pearblossom shack, sitting in the kitchen looking at the small TV on the linoleum table.  It suddenly turned itself on and there were President Obama and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping at the end of the G-20 Summit, live on CNN taking turns at a mike and looking strained, as if the irrelevance of their official words were a source of exhaustion.  Making use of my techniques for telepathic intercept via broadcast waves, as well as new directional brainware that Fred, I suspected, had downloaded into my head, I picked up the following non-verbal conversation streaming from Obama's and Xi's "subconscious" minds:

Xi: The Americans have no central racial cohesion, no race-based culture to pull them together, only ideology.  

Obama: The Chinese have no national ideology like we do, ever since their communism morphed into state-capitalism.  But with their central racial consciousness to provide cohesion, they don't need an ideology as much as we do.

Xi: America's ideology is weakening as trust in its institutions weakens, not good in a country that lacks racial solidarity. Americans think they need better weapons.  What they really need is an updated ideology, one that anyone believes in, to make up for the racial solidarity they lack.

Obama: The Chinese ideology is that the Chinese must succeed in whatever direction they can via whatever ideology is available.  How do we compete with that?  

It goes on like this.  As noted, the Time Artists directed me to post my findings as an experiment, to see if the effects I have on my readership support the Time Artists' far-reaching plans.  "My readership" means you.  In other words, I have made you part of an experiment to see if self-awareness in humans leads in a good direction according to extra-terrestrials who secretly control our history.  I hope you don't mind.