Distortions, Blind Spots and Practice

It is the task of our brain to make models. For humans, and some other mammals, this likely evolved because of complex social interactions.

Or brains/bodies also have emotional states that serve a purpose (to alert us that things are amiss). I few are emotionally uncomfortable we might think: wow, things are amiss. How did that happen? Can I fix this?

An unfortunate tendency is to be attached to these models and try and fit the world to our models and then think that is what the world is, how reality is, Truth with a capital T.

We create models out of our experiences to organize them, to have something we can grasp. It gives us the illusion of being able to know what is up, to predict what will happen, because that make us feel safe, in a world isn’t safe for embodied beings. Bodies are things that get hurt and don’t last.

But if the model is wrong, maybe we’re not as safe as we thought we were, and that kind of sucks.

All models are made with limited data and are subject to our hopes and fears. Some models are pretty good, they work most of the time, but all models are in some way wrong.

These models, our projections of our needs, fears, hopes and desires, gets very subtle, layer upon layer. At some point we forget they are models. We mistake them for Truth. We are conditioned. It’s the foundation of delusion, and it results in distorted views that cause pain and suffering.

These are part of us, our nature as embodied complex apes on a specific planet at a specific time and place, contingent, not of essence (or in the jargon, karma). I am not suggesting we try to ignore them or get away from them. Running and hiding is another delusion, another trick of the ego.

I have heard it said that the intellect is a good servant but poor master. So it is with ego, with our perspective. You can’t escape having a perspective when you are using perceptions and thinking thoughts. That’s what the words perceptions and perspective mean! But that doesn’t mean they are anything more than a temporary expedient to help you organize your reactions, your energy, to the energies you interact with.

Look straight at the O below with your left eye. Go back and forth slowly. If you are careful you will find a distance where the X disappears. Or if you don’t see well with your left eye, or seem to be right eye dominant, look at the X with your right eye and the O disappears. (To people middle aged and older: it may be hard with some progressive/bifocals!)

 

 

X                                                                                   O

 

 

 

It is your blind spot. You have one in each eye. Every human does. It’s where the optic nerve leaves your eye to go to the brain. There’s no light receptors (photoreceptors), no rods or cones, there to see anything.

Everywhere you look that blind spot is there, but your brain fills it in and projects a complete scene “out there” based on what it thinks it should see. You don’t have to think about it. It isn’t an intellectual choice. It evolved as a practical solution so we aren’t bothered by missing parts of our vision. But it’s a trick, a gimmick. That’s also ego, and it works. A fine servant.

But some blind spots are a bit more hurtful than this, deeper and more impactful on our lives, yet we also don’t even know that they are there, that we still fill them in with our stories. We are upset when the world doesn’t cooperate by not sharing our blind spots or by sneaking up on us in our blind spots!

Early Mahayana/Zen sutras discuss perception and projection and consciousness, in particular in the Lankavatara sutra, probably written about 2,000 years ago. It was the main text of early Chinese Chan (Zen) masters as long as 1,500 years ago, who were sometimes called the masters of the Lanka in the early Tang Dynasty.

Meditation and practice is geared toward getting a more and more subtle look at the models you project, the ways you deflect reality because it threatens your self image as an individual being that is safe and abiding in a world of blind spots, contingency, disappointed expectations, entropy, sickness, birth and death.

Suffering, in the Buddhist jargon.

I wrote years ago the difference between how I see the world and other scientists who are committed materialists see the world is  whether consciousness is primary.

 

I have a proposition that brings me to meditation practice: Brain processes do not create consciousness. Consciousness at its core is not this model making, projecting, and responding to friction between our models, our projections, and Truth. It’s not the words in our brain. Rather, consciousness is manifest through all of this. It is the water taking the color and shape of the container.

Yes that is dualistic, but it is only a metaphor, not meant to be literal. It expresses what can’t be expressed in limited words since words are based on our scale as four dimensional contingent beings, the scale that perceptions and emotions and intellect exist at.

We chant something at the Zen Center: reading words you should grasp the great reality. Don’t make war on your tools. That’s just more ego, another story.

In Zen there is a mistrust of having goals as they tend to be just more distortions, unreal expectations, distractions. Yet in Zen we do speak of aspirations. This is my aspiration, something I consider a valid quest worthy of my time and attention:

Is there a foundational consciousness, not limited by the idiosyncratic perceptions generated by our particular set of sense organs and brains? Can we experience this directly? Is there some way of being that is not contingent on our programming and conditioning?

Does Truth make us free, and is this indeed safe and abiding?

Does it walk us out of suffering?

This is my practice.

And I am very grateful for it.

 

 

Some Thoughts/Fun Facts on Light

 

In one, all; in all, one.

From a Buddhist Sutra (and a tee-shirt from Nara temple in Japan)

 

In white, all colors. In all colors, white.

All it takes is some heated sand and water (that is, a glass prism) to show that!

 

You have no receptor in your eye for yellow.

 

Rainbows aren’t things. They are contingent processes of light, water, quantum electrodynamics and an eye and brain

 

Having no mass and traveling through a vacuum at light speed a photons’ universe is one of time dilation such that the next tick of the clock never happens, so no time, and space contraction so there is here, so no space. So, see that star thousands of light years away here and now?

The Pleiades in the night sky

 

Photons pop in and out of electrons. That’s what a “quantum jump” is: an electron absorbs a photon (only some energies are allowed for a given orbit in a given atom. That’s quantum electrodynamics) and gets the right amount of energy to be in (jump to) a different (higher energy) orbit around the nucleus of the atom (or spits out a photon and goes to a lower energy orbit).  So atoms are constantly creating and absorbing light. 

Not atomic orbitals, but a cool picture that reminds me of atomic orbitals

 

You can pile up photons in the same place, but not electrons and protons and neutrons. That’s why you experience things as solid, but not light. Light has energy though, and so it can cut through things and burn you up and give you cancer. However, it helps if you want to read a book at night.

Neither Exists Or Doesn’t Exist

in all things the one, in the one all things

 

Neutrinos!

Neutrinos are subatomic particles that have just a hint of mass yet can move at light speed. They are created by radioactive decay in the sun, supernovae and some other radioactive processes like human made reactors.

Here’s the question that interests me: Do we exist in the same universe?

Neutrinos were first suggested by Wolfgang Pauli (whose exclusion principle is primarily why we can’t have two atoms in the same time and place i.e. why things seem solid when we know atoms are empty for the most part). It was known that in a kind of radioactive decay (beta decay) the momentum and spin of particles did not appear to be conserved, even though momentum and spin were known to be conserved in every other process. Hmmm. Conservation of something (like momentum and spin) in physics means that the total is unchanged before and after something happens, even if distributed differently (say one object looses momentum, but another gains it). As I wrote in earlier blogs, if you can’t tell if something changed after you messed with it, it is a symmetry. For example, if I close my eyes and you rotate a circle, it looks the same to me when I open my eyes. That’s rotational symmetry. If I close my eyes and you move it, the circle itself looks the same when I open my eyes. It is symmetric to translation.

Now, the symmetry of momentum and spin in beta decay seemed like something that better not be violated. Pauli did the math and suggested a new particle. People were a bit shook up by that, and it took 20 years to find the neutrino experimentally, but they did and it worked! This is the kind of thing that excites physicists who suggest we should trust the math: sometimes it works!

Anyway, this was part of the discovery of one of the main forces, the weak nuclear force, which has been unified with the electromagnetic force (the electroweak force) and so is a big deal.

Neutrinos have no charge, but like the electrons they are related to (which have charge) they have spin. Spin is weird. Point particles can’t literally spin around (there is no axis or lateral extent to spin around the axis; they’re points!), but the term spin is used because the particles behave like spinning particles would (like how they move in magnetic fields). Well, something is weird with neutrinos; they have a preference and they shouldn’t! Neutrinos are “left handed” and anti-neutrinos “right handed” (the direction of spin) and that is weird. Unlike the other situations mentioned above, we can’t just flip the terms and it is just how we say it, it doesn’t matter which you call which. It isn’t symmetric. It may not seem it, but that is really unique!

Yikes!

There’s more.

When they measured how many neutrinos/second came from the sun, it was less than expected. It turns out there are 3 flavors of neutrino that can change into each other. They “oscillate.” Other particles don’t do this, at least not in the same way. It was once thought that maybe all three types (flavors) of neutrinos don’t have mass. That was wrong. They have mass. But we don’t know the masses of the three neutrino flavors; we only know the differences in the mass between them. Anyway, neutrinos interact differently with the Higgs field (which gives mass) compared to other particles. So it seems all three have some really tiny mass, way below other particles with mass, but tiny as the mass is, they are not massless like photos and gluons.

I have seen various estimates for how many neutrinos pass through you, but it is something like 100 trillion per second, every second you are alive.

Why don’t we have any effect from them? You don’t hear about putting neutrino sun block on. In fact, if you could see neutrinos, it is said the sun would be as bright as the full moon. That is neutrinos from the sun wouldn’t be as “bright” as photons (regular light), but it would be plenty.

It’s because they interact very weakly with matter. We are invisible to them and they are invisible to us.

How weak is this neutrino interaction with stuff? According to one estimate, neutrinos interact with atoms so weakly that it would take about four lifetimes for one to interact with an atom in your body despite the trillion going through every second. Askel Hallin in Scientific America wrote that in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, a 1000 ton heavy water solar-neutrino detector picks up about 1012 (1 with 12 zeros after it i.e. a trillion) neutrinos each second. About 30 neutrinos per day are detected, say about one per hour). There are 3600 seconds in an hour, so about it seems that almost 3,600 trillion are “picked up” in the detector (his word, I believe that means passes through) for every one neutrino detected (that is, that interacted sufficiently with their apparatus to be detected).

The universe of the neutrinos is: be created, have a tiny bit of mass, and exist in a vast empty universe. Most will go light years without interacting with anything, cruising through planets, dust clouds, people, whatever.

If neutrinos could somehow put together all the vast neutrino “data” of the rare and random neutrino/matter (subatomic) interactions throughout space and time, some objects would have enduring patterns and become “visible”, or perceived in the sense of registering interaction/o interaction, yes/no, 0/1 information. That is, an interaction event happened that changed the information content of the universe that could be considered a “perception.” If enough events/perceptions were gathered over time, there would be entities that would be denser to neutrons than their surroundings and persist long enough to be present in the neutrino universe. Perhaps stars and planets and nebulae would be large and persistent enough to exist in the neutrino universe.

But neutrinos wont ever “perceive” you or me. The neutrino world of can’t resolve us as anything but a single data point that would be lost in the noise of other random and rare interactions, if we as individuals have such an interaction at all. Remember that most of us (3 of 4) wont ever interact with neutrino world; we are truly invisible. If there are four of us, yeah one of us was “seen” but at such low resolution (a single 0/1 for all space and time, just one data point, one interaction with one neutrino and one atom) that in neutrino universe he or she would be no different from a falling leaf, the air or water in a mountain stream or a wandering cosmic particle in empty space. Just a bit of noise, if even that.

As a small practical issue, if some genius advanced aliens did have neutrino vision, the neutrino data, the “perceived” patterns that persist through a sufficient time at neutrino interaction scale (many, many, many human lifetimes) on a planetary level that could resolve say our planet, would require supercomputers to even approach giving any real image. After all, our planet is a moving target; around the sun, then around the galaxy with the sun, then the galaxy rotates and moves and space expands. Just looking at an area in space would be useless. Any object would be gone.

We are invisible to neutrinos; we simply do not exist.

Are neutrinos invisible to us? Well, they were until a few decades ago. Certainly they are without huge and expensive detectors. They pass through us (and our planet) with impunity, the rare interactions too weak and isolated to have any abiding effect on any macroscopic entity. They are without direct effect and certainly in that sense non-existent.

Now, here is a neutrino universe we have discovered and added to (with nuclear reactors), the neutrino universe of radioactive processes, the sun, supernovae, our reactors on earth, that through science we can “perceive”, but barely, that interacts so rarely that we as individuals can never exist in that neutrino universe.

And despite having mass a neutrino travels at the speed of light (some scientists thought they saw evidence of faster than the speed of light neutrinos, but so far doesn’t seem true. Information in entangled particles can transcend time and space, for example, but it doesn’t seem neutrinos can). As I have written elsewhere, travelling at the speed of light means the ultimate n space contraction (there is no here to there, only start then place of interaction, no here to there) and time dilation (the next tick of the clock never comes, just start and time of interaction, no then to now.)

A neutrino universe is our universe, but then again, it isn’t.

All of this about neutrino world as written sounds a bit like pantheism or maybe just bad “anthropormorphizing” if you take it that I mean literally that the neutrinos are self aware and communicate these interactions. But in math and science you can talk about a space of states. Here what I mean is the space of neutrino states as encoded in 0-1, neutrino yes/no, interaction/interaction with a subatomic particle, exists independent of our experienced universe.

And here is my point:

In that neutrino space of states I do not exist. Literally. I do not, I cannot, exist. I am in a space of states  (e.g. momentum and energy) that interacts too rarely with neutrinos to register as more than noise, if it registered at all. The sum of neutrino universe interactions would not be sensitive or specific enough to detect that I exist.

Neutrinos do not exist for you and me, even if we look them up on Wikipedia. You may trust me as I trust the physicists, but there is no consequence to you of the vast number of neutrinos that pass through you undetected that they truly do not exist for you except as a rumor that you have. If you aren’t a physicist or part of a team researching neutrinos, they don’t exist but as a story.

Really, they just don’t exist.

But…they do exist, these children of the stars.

And whatever space of states neutrino world evolves through, you don’t exist.

But…you do exist, a set of various spaces of states, whether or not it “matters” to neutrino world.

In Buddhist sutras there is a category of what neither exists nor does not exist. Not Aristotelian, trying for non-dual logic.

Neutrinos: You bet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now Again?

Here’s a fun fact:

Closer to an object with mass time moves more slowly compared to further away from the mass. That’s relativity. That’s why things fall (huh?). That is gravity. Which is cause and effect? Gravity slowing time, time slowing being gravity! Scientists also talk about bending space. Time dilates, space contracts. Same issues.

More details later.

But for now, let this sink in. so assuming you are on earth, if you are standing or sitting up, even slouching, your feet are in a different time zone (or if your prefer, space-time zone) from your gut, which is in a different zone from your head. Your chin from your brain.

That time difference, that space difference, that space-time difference, can actually be measured using modern technology.

So, where is now? When is here?

You can’t hold it.

My New Novel

Cover of my first novel. You can look at ralphlevinson.com for more

Note:

I edited this for format and minor changes in text on 6/11/18

I am getting ready to self publish this novel for older kids (and grown ups!). It is the second novel about Aidan who travels through time and space in his dreams to solve cosmic mysteries. I’m waiting for my friend who is working on the cover then there’s always this and that to do. Self publishing means each hard copy is a bit expensive, but it will be on kindle and nook and if you know someone who cant afford a copy let me know. I just like hard copies! Anyway heres the first five chapters just for fun.

In this novel he has to solve the mystery of the golden feather; he goes to Tang China, Nalanda the Buddhist university in ancient India, meets a naga, Taxila where Alexander’s troops are ready to invade the Indus Valley, an Ancient Greek island and finally faces a cosmic battle in the realm of the dead in Ancient Egypt.

Busy boy!

One of his mentors is Wise-and-Able, Red Pine’s translation of the name of the 6th ancestor of Zen in China, Hui Neng.

Enjoy (note the spaces are a feature of the website; ignore) :

 

Aidan and the Mummy girl Save the Universe

 

Dedicated to those who try not to be trapped by their stories

 

Chapter 1.          That Mummy Case

 

 

Aidan Alvarado put the large old-fashioned metal key into the lock of the door to his grandfather’s study.

Turn the key, he thought. It won’t turn by itself.

Or maybe it would. He wouldn’t put it past the study to give him a nudge if the time   was right.

Maybe the time wasn’t right. The key wasn’t turning by itself, and Aidan wasn’t turning the key either.

KoKo, his grandparents’ mostly black German shepherd, nuzzled Aidan’s arm.

“Don’t rush me, KoKo.”

Ever since Aidan finished his first case as a junior dream detective and saved the world, he followed his grandfather’s advice to just be a kid again for a while.

No traveling through time and space in his dreams. No dangerous people like the greedy ancient Chinese General Ling or the powerful renegade dream detective Diamante Petrus who tried to kidnap Lotus, a dragon princess, in order to force her father, the Dragon King of the East Ocean, to use his powers to help them rule the world.

No study that gives you clues. He hadn’t set foot in there for over three months.

Being a dream detective and saving the world was exhausting. Taking a break was a good idea.

Still, he missed it. Homework and studying and grades were boring after all he had been through, and that was a problem. He didn’t put any effort into his schoolwork, and he didn’t much care. It’s not like the fate of the world depended on it!

His grades tanked.

He promised to do better but never got around to it. He just got his report card and his broken promise was obvious. Cs and a couple of Ds. Ds! He had never gotten a D on a report card before in his whole life.

His poor performance at school was not going over well with his mother, not only because she was a teacher, Aidan decided, but also because she was a mother, always looking for things to worry about. His report card was going to be something for her to worry about.

Maybe a new dream detective case was what he needed. Excitement. A challenge. Something that mattered. On the other hand, it might be overwhelming, scary, tiring, and totally terrible for his grades.

The study could help him. It had a way of telling you what you needed to know. Or, it might suck him into a case before he was ready, like dream detective quicksand, complicating his life and making things worse.

He probably shouldn’t take the chance. It was too risky. He was on shaky ground as it was. Better to walk away, right?

Nah. He was going in.

Aidan turned the key and the door slowly swung open. The musty, dusty smell of old books swept over Aidan, and musty and dusty smelled like adventure and mystery.

Aidan’s grandfather, Emanuel Prosperowitz, greeted him when he stepped inside the study. “Aidan! Welcome. I was bored. Come keep me company.”

Aidan didn’t believe him for a minute. His grandfather was never bored.

Aidan’s grandfather was sitting in one of the two large ratty old over-stuffed chairs. His grandmother, Jane Prosperowitz, was sitting in the other one.

“Sleeping well?” his grandfather asked. “Any special dreams lately?”

“I thought you were bored and needed company?” Aidan challenged.

“I was kidding. Jane never lets me be bored,” his grandfather responded, laughing at his little joke as Aidan’s grandmother rolled her eyes. “But you didn’t answer my question.”

“No, Grandpa, no special dreams.” Aidan was pretty sure his grandparents already knew that.

“I had an interesting dream about the Emperor Wu,” his grandmother offered.

Aidan felt a rush of energy go up his spine. At the end of his first case Emperor Wu told Aidan that she’d need his help as a dream detective again.

“Does anything in the study grab you?” his grandmother asked.

Looking around his grandfather’s study was not simple. The shelves went up almost 30 feet and books and papers were piled up and scattered around everywhere. Aidan scanned the library quickly since thinking too much got in the way.

On top of the old wooden filing cabinet there was a large feather that he hadn’t noticed before. A feather wasn’t nearly as interesting as the fossil dinosaur skull or the samurai sword, but those were old news.

Aidan shrugged. “Not really.”

“We’re stuck. We’d like your help. Look again,” his grandfather said.

Aidan looked all the way up to the top shelves. Nothing glowed. Nothing shifted. Nothing did anything. He climbed a few rungs up the ladder by the shelves and reached out without looking. His hand touched a book. Aidan took the book off the shelf and climbed back down.

His grandparents were smiling.

“You’re really getting the hang of the study!” his grandmother said.

Aidan loved her smile. Few things in the world were that warm and sincere.

Aidan read the title of the book out loud. “‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead.’ Wow, that’s kind of creepy. But what does that have to do with Emperor Wu? She’s not from Egypt.”

“That’s right,” his grandfather agreed. “It’s very odd. Not only wasn’t she from Egypt, but Emperor Wu lived 1,300 years ago, and ‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead’ was written 3,500 years ago.”

“It’s a book about dead people?” Aidan asked.

“‘It’s been ages since I’ve looked at it, but as I recall ‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead’ has instructions on how to get through the trials the dead person faces in the afterlife,” his grandfather explained. “‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead’ wasn’t what the Egyptians called it. They called the book ‘Coming Forth by Day’—”

“You mean the dead came out in the day?” Aidan was getting interested. “Like zombies?”

Before his grandfather could answer, Aidan found himself looking at the mummy case standing in the corner.

That mummy case! When Aidan first met Diamante Petrus he almost convinced Aidan that there was a mummy in there. That was just mean. But it wasn’t the meanest thing Diamante Petrus did. He pulled a gun on Aidan and his friends (sure, it wasn’t loaded, but still!) and tried to kidnap Denise Hu and steal the piece of the vase with the dragon spirit so he could rule the world.

Aidan was notin the mood for anything to do with that mummy case.

Aidan looked away.

Then he looked back.

Then away.

But it was no good.

He knew it. Dream detective quicksand!

Aidan sighed. “This is gonna be about that mummy case and Mr. Petrus, isn’t it?”

His grandparents both nodded.

Aidan moaned. “This isn’t gonna be good for my grades, is it?”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” his grandmother said.

“I’m gonna have to see that Petrus guy again,” Aidan grumbled.

His grandfather shrugged. “You can handle it. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy.”

“Not such a bad guy? The whole gun and rule the world thing seems bad guy enough for me.”

“He got carried away,” his grandmother said, “but we should give him a chance to make up for it. He was really sorry. Believe it or not, he had his reasons, and they weren’t all bad. He thought he could use the dragon’s power to make the world a better place. Sure, he went a bit crazy—”

Aidan exploded. “Sometimes you two drive mecrazy! I know he’s your friend, and you think he meant well and you like to be nice, but you can’t be thatblind, can you?”

His grandfather stood up. “Show your grandmother a little respect, young man. This is a big world and for dream detectives it’s vastlybigger than most people can imagine. You still have a lot to learn—”

“Really, both of you! What did I just say about not getting ahead of ourselves?” Aidan’s grandmother scolded.

“Sorry,” Aidan and his grandfather said at the same time.

Actually, Aidan was a bit surprised. He knew his grandmother was the top dream detective, but Aidan never saw his grandmother shut his grandfather down and take charge quite like that before.

“Back to business!” his grandmother ordered. “Aidan, I think you’re right, something is brewing and it likely has to do with that mummy case because the study clearly spoke to you just now.” She took the book from Aidan and put it aside. “But I’m also not sure what all this has to do with Emperor Wu.”

“Or Diamante Petrus?” Aidan asked.

“Or Diamante Petrus,” his grandmother agreed.

KoKo nudged Aidan. She had left while they were talking and returned with a rubber ball in her mouth.

“Are we done? Can I play with KoKo?” Aidan asked as he took the ball from the dog.

“Are you sure you haven’t had any special dreams?” his grandfather asked.

“Nope. No special dreams.”

His grandparents nodded again, but they didn’t say anything. They were lost in thought. Aidan took that as an opening to leave and play with KoKo.

Aidan kicked the ball in the back yard for KoKo to chase. Was there going to be a mystery with Emperor Wu? He’d probably see Lotus, the girl who used to be the dragon named Princess Peace. That would be awesome.

But first there was still the matter of his report card.

 

Aidan waited until after dinner to give his mother, Anna Prosperowitz Alvarado, his report card. She looked it over for all of five seconds, and then handed it back to him.

“There’s been some mistake,” she announced.

“No mistake,” he murmured.

“Oh, there’s been a mistake. My mistake. I believed you when you told me last month that you would bring your grades up. I thought I could trust you.”

Aidan started to protest but stopped himself. Not only would it make things worse if he seemed to be arguing with her, but also he had to admit she had a point.

“I’ll do better. Really.”

“Please, Aidan. It wouldn’t take much. Is there something wrong? Are you depressed? It’s not drugs, is it? A bully? You can tell me. We’ll get help.”

Aidan felt like he had been punched in the stomach. It was easier when he thought she would be mad at him. Now he wanted to be mad at her; how could she think that?

But he knew how she could think that. It’s what they tell parents. Look for the signs. And his grades being in the toilet was a sign of something. Just not the something she thought. It was only that school didn’t seem all that relevant after his dream detective adventures.

She looked so down, so defeated.

“No, mom, it’s alright. I just haven’t been interested.”

“What would get you more interested? I mean it. What do we have to do?”

Aidan hugged her. “Give me time. I’ll try, really I will.”

“Hey, I have an idea. How about no more soccer? Will that motivate you to try?”

Ouch. “Please don’t make me stop soccer. That would be really depressing!”

His mother stared him down. “Okay, one more chance. I want to see a B or better on every test. One C and no more soccer this spring.”

Aidan had to agree. He had no choice. If that’s what it took to keep playing soccer, he would make himself study.

Maybe the whole dream detective thing wouldn’t happen right away. Maybe his grandparents got what they needed from him. Maybe there wouldn’t be any special dreams for a while.

Though he was pretty sure that was notgoing to happen!

 

 

Chapter 2. The Girl With A Plan

 

 

When Aidan woke up the next morning he was relieved to find that as far as he could remember he had no dreams at all. He was well rested and ready for school…

Then it hit him. He had a history test! If only the test was about Emperor Wu he’d ace it, but no such luck. Aidan tried to talk himself down. Just calm down, he told himself. Was the test today? Oh, please, no, not today!

He bolted over his clothes on the floor, dove at his desk, and opened his notebook. Tomorrow! The test was tomorrow! What a lucky break.

Aidan instructed his heart to slow down. His heart didn’t listen right away, so he took a slow deep breath, counting to five in and five out, like his grandfather taught him to do (well, what his grandfather said was: “if things get weird, take a deep breath;” this wasn’t really weird, but close enough). His grandmother told him to breathe in slowly and imagine smelling soup, breathe out slowly and imagine cooling soup. Then repeat: smell the soup, cool the soup.

They were really into this breathing thing.

Whatever. Aidan wasn’t sure breathing like that helped all that much. Sometimes if he used the smell-the-soup trick, all it did was make him hungry thinking about soup, especially tomato soup, his favorite.

At least breathing slowly was something he could do when he didn’t know what else to do, so he did a couple of minutes of smelling-the-soup breathing and his heart did slow down.

He had a day to prepare for the test. Tonight, he would actually study. He used to study before the whole dream detective saving the world thing. He didn’t want to study, but he had to if he wanted to play soccer, and he really wanted to play soccer, so he had to study.

Wait a minute! This afternoon is soccer practice. Dang! That was twisted. He had to skip soccer to be able to play soccer. He didn’t like it, but that’s how it was.

The school day went by pretty quickly, mostly because Aidan doodled and daydreamed to pass the time. He really liked drawing the wild, long flowing beard of the Old Sage he met on his first adventure. When he was sure no one could see what he was doing he’d sketch butterflies. Aidan’s name was Butterfly in old China. That’s what the Teacher of the Way of Wisdom, Wise-and-Able, called him because in Aidan’s first dream as a dream detective the Old Sage told Aidan that he, the Old Sage, dreamt he was a butterfly, then when the Old Sage woke up he wondered if he was a butterfly dreaming he was the Old Sage!

Aidan still wondered about that. Was the Old Sage for real? It seemed so dumb to think butterflies could dream. Did he really think he was a dream in some tiny butterfly head?

How big could a butterfly brain be? Like, maybe as big as a grain or two of sand? Was that big enough to be able to dream about being the Old Sage? How big did a brain have to be to do that?

Still, given the crazy things Aidan had been through, it didn’t seem all that big a stretch to imagine that butterflies could dream, maybe even about being the Old Sage.

Thinking about this made paying attention to schoolwork tough.

After school, Aidan rushed off toward the soccer field, forgetting he was going to skip practice that afternoon so he could study. He wanted to get there early so he could work on the Okocha kick, named after the professional soccer player who made it his thing years ago.  He flick-kicked the soccer ball over his head from behind, and when it landed he could change direction or pass the ball. Aidan could do it pretty well, but he never used that move in a game, of course. It was too risky.

Aidan acted like he was dribbling an imaginary soccer ball as he hurried to make it to practice when he remembered that he had to study for the history test. He stopped short, turned around, and found himself face to face with Denise Hu.

“Hey Aidan, where are you going?”

Denise was a year younger than Aidan. Her brother, Jeremiah, was in Aidan’s class and had been Aidan’s number one enemy, a bully who only bullied Aidan. Aidan had to admit it was his own fault. He started the feud by calling Jeremiah “Jerry Berry Brain.” The bullying stopped when Denise, who was out of school because she was very sick, told her brother that she needed Aidan’s help to get better. It wasn’t a coincidence that Aidan needed their help in his first case as a dream detective. Denise and Jeremiah completed the mission by braving the waves in the Santa Monica Bay, releasing the dragon girl’s spirit from a piece of the vase that their parents brought with them when they immigrated from China.

The effort had almost killed Denise.

“Hey Denise. I was going to soccer practice, but I remembered I have to study,” Aidan said.

“That explains it.”

“Yeah. See you later.”

“Wait a minute,” Denise called out to Aidan as he started to walk past her. “I think Jeremiah’s not doing so well in school.”

“Uh, I guess.” Aidan shrugged. “I mean, I’m not sure. He’s always been quiet in class.”

Aidan started to walk off again, thinking the conversation was over, but Denise walked with him.

“Our parents sent me to my room last night and it didn’t sound like they were exactly celebrating with Jeremiah.”

“Bad report card?” Aidan asked. Welcome to my world, he thought.

“Me? No, mine was great,” Denise said. “I want to be a doctor or a scientist and cure disease, like my dad and your granddad.”

Aidan started to object.

“Oh, you mean Jeremiah’sreport card, not mine,” Denise said. “Oh yeah. Must’ve been really bad. My dad looked like he ate something rotten and needed to puke and my mom looked like she wanted to cry before they sent me to my room. I thought you guys were friends. How come you never hang out together? Jeremiah really liked the study.”

“We’re friends. But I got soccer—”

Denise tilted her head. “If soccer’s such a big deal, why aren’t you walking that way?” she asked, pointing over his shoulder toward the soccer field. “Your report card wasn’t good either, was it?”

Aidan shrugged. “No big deal.”

“What’s with you guys? You need to move on. Maybe you should take Jeremiah to the study again.”

“Does Jeremiah think so?”

Denise was quiet for a few steps. “I haven’t asked him. He doesn’t like to talk about it.”

“Bet you do.”

“Yes, I’d like to talk about it, but who would I tell? They’d think I’m totally nuts. I mean, it was nuts, but it was amazing. I felt her, you know. I felt Princess Peace, Lotus the dragon girl, all through me. I felt what it was like to be a water spirit. But that’s beside the point. You and Jeremiah should be friends. You both need the study.”

“How do you know I haven’t been back?”

“Have you?”

“Yesterday.”

“Good. It’s about time. Now bring Jeremiah. Like, form a club or something. Call it ‘The Club of The Secret Magic Study.’ No girls allowed, just a couple of boys or something. No, wait. Forget that! Bring me too!” Her face lit up, as if she never thought of that before and it was just the most fun thing she could ever imagine. “How about it? Me and you and Jeremiah, we all go.”

“Do you really want to?”

“Gee, I thought you’d never ask,” Denise answered with a huge smile.

“You’re playing with me, aren’t you? You wanted me to invite you!”

“I really would love to see the study. And meet KoKo,” Denise added.

“Okay, maybe this weekend.”

Denise pulled on his arm. She was almost as tall as Aidan, and now that she was healthy she was strong like her brother. Aidan thought she could easily beat him in a wrestling match. “I’m doing much better now. I almost never miss school anymore. You saved my life, Butterfly.”

“Aidan. In Los Angeles my name is Aidan. And I didn’t save your life. You did. And the medicine.”

“If that’s what you want to believe, go ahead. But you really are a hero,” Denise said.

Aidan rolled his eyes.

“You can roll your eyes and make all the faces you want, but I’m the smart one with the good report card, and you know I’m right. We’ll meet you after the soccer game on Saturday and go to the study. I’ll make sure Jeremiah comes.”

Denise spun around, saw some girls from her class and called out, “Hey, wait for me!” in what Aidan thought was a way too cheery voice, and then ran off to join them without even waiting for his reply or saying goodbye.

 

Once Aidan started studying it wasn’t so bad. When his mind drifted to dreaming butterflies or wondering how in the world his grandparents could even thinkof trusting Diamante Petrus, he would take some deep breaths and get back to studying.

After he finished studying, he went to bed and fell right to sleep.

And he fell right into a special dream.

 

Chapter 3. Do Alligators Smile?

 

 

Aidan knew right away that this was not an ordinary dream. He was in a long, wide hallway, dimly lit by Chinese paper lanterns. The hallway had red wooden ceiling beams with carved and painted dragons on them. Chinese scroll paintings hung on the walls.

Okaaaaay… maybe he was back in Emperor Wu’s China.

Would that mean Lotus was around? When he last saw Lotus she was living as a human girl in Emperor Wu’s palace, her dragon spirit safely hidden by the Old Sage in the small white vase. Aidan really wanted to see her again.

There was a large round shadow at the end of the hall. What, he wondered, could be casting that shadow? As his eyes adjusted to the flickering yellow light produced by the lanterns, Aidan was beginning to make out a shape in the shadow.

Just as it was coming into focus he heard Lotus’s voice behind him.

“Butterfly, don’t say anything. Don’t make a sound. Step away from that thing.”

She didn’t sound surprised to see him. Then again, she didn’t exactly sound happy to see him, either. She sounded very scared.

Aidan didn’t have to ask what thing she meant. The shape was huge. It took up a good part of the eight-foot height and ten-foot width of the hallway.

It looked like the butt of a hippopotamus with a little flicking tail and stubby hippo legs.

“Why is there a big hippo in your hallway, Lotus? And hi, great to see you, too.”

“I don’t have any idea why that beast is here. But it isn’t just a hippo. Please, just step back and be quiet.”

The butt down the hall shifted back and forth as the tail wagged faster and faster.

“I think it heard us,” Lotus whispered with increasing urgency.

“But it looks like such a happy butt.” Aidan started to laugh at his joke when the beast managed to turn itself around, and Aidan was not looking at a happy hippo butt anymore.

Aidan was now looking down the hall at a huge alligator face with snapping jaws surrounded by a thick, golden lion’s mane, a very powerful lion’s chest, and a lion’s strong front legs.

The alligator looked like it was smiling.

“Do alligators smile? Maybe it’s friendly—” Aidan whispered.

“That has to be one of the dumbest questions asked at the dumbest time to ask it ever. We need to get out of here right now,” Lotus said as she turned and tried to run.

Lotus almost fell over since the long silk dress she wore was not made for running. Princesses in China didn’t run! She lifted the dress above her knees and ran as fast as she could.

The hallway shook with the deep vibration of a voice that came from everywhere at once. Even though the alligator’s mouth was open, it obviously couldn’t be speaking, yet Aidan was sure the booming voice came from the freaky beast.

”I will eat your heart. I will eat your mind. You will cease to be now and forever. I know your names! You are Butterfly, you are Aidan Alvarado. I had you in my power and you cheated me!I have come here to find you, to stop you, and now you are MINE!”

The alligator face was laughing, Aidan was sure of it. That thing may have been laughing at him, but it was notfriendly!

The monster tried to lunge at Aidan, but its stubby hippo back legs couldn’t keep up with its long lion front legs, so it only lurched forward awkwardly.

Aidan turned and ran right into 20 of Emperor Wu’s Imperial Guards. They looked mad and scared. They clearly had no idea what that thing was or what they could do about it.

“Aidan, you know what to do!”

Aidan knew that voice coming from behind the Imperial Guards.

Diamante Petrus!

The tall, angular figure with long sandy hair lurking in the shadows sure looked like Diamante Petrus. The guards parted and there was no doubt about it when Mr. Petrus walked out of the darkness into the light of one of the lanterns.

“No, I don’tknow what to do. I don’t have a clue!” Aidan protested. He really was not in the mood to deal with Mr. Petrus. “You know, between you and the alligator-lion-hippo thing, maybe I’m better off with that beast!”

“Really?” Mr. Petrus asked, pointing past Aidan, “You might want to rethink that.”

The bizarre creature was moving faster and faster as it built up steam. It let out something between a roar and a hiss that shook the walls.

“It wants you, Aidan. Tell it you know its name. It’s Ammut. It doesn’t belong here. Tell it so!”

Aidan didn’t have a better idea. He knew that if he didn’t act soon they would all be alligator-lion-hippo food. He turned to the beast, now only two clumsy hippo-lion steps away.

It was so close that Aidan smelled its hot, wet, stinking rotten meat and dead fish breath.

“Ammut! I know your name. Go back where you came from. No hearts or minds for a snack for you tonight!”

The beast screeched and howled and tried to leap forward, but just as its six-foot-long, tooth-filled jaws were inches away from Aidan’s face it disappeared.

Gone. It was completely not there.

 

Aidan woke up.

I might as well kiss soccer goodbye, Aidan thought; this is going to cut wayinto my studying.

 

 

 

 

 

Quantum Big Time

Entanglement is certainly one of the most out there and interesting observations in quantum mechanics.

I have written here about it in more detail before, but just briefly: In the basic experiment, if two particles are born together, say a particle goes through a crystal and is “broken” into two each with half the energy of the first, they are entangled. Not because they share inherent properties, which to some degree they do (like the amount of energy that must be conserved), but because they are entangled. When you measure one of the quantum properties that measurement result can vary within those results that are allowed according to quantum laws (say magnetic spin or polarization) in that one particle, and the corresponding property the in the other, sister particle is immediately determined. Anywhere in space, instantaneously, not obeying the speed of light limit (and some experiments, called delayed choice, even suggest a time component i.e. it is determined before you did the measurement, which is even more mind boggling!!)

Many think this suggests Mind plays a role, or is evidence we are all one, non-duality. It certainly does suggest that, but it is all so inconceivable, so beyond what I can grasp with my brain (and I am not alone; the great physicist Feynman famously said, and I paraphrase, you can’t understand this),  I shy away from interpretations because it is so beyond intellectual thought for me it is like a deep koan and I keep my conclusions to:

Whatever you think, based on your 4-d (space and time) experience and scale of sense perceptions is true is wrong in some basic and ultimate way. The universe, Truth, is deeper and more omnipresent than your brain functions.

I do think the deepest view, to the degree views can approach Truth, is Mind and non-duality as the core of Truth, and sure entanglement is about non-locality in space and time and so is consistent with that (as we say in medicine and science), but I admit after all these years still I balk a bit where others I respect, those I have suggested you look into in these blogs, do not fear to tread. I just know we don’t really understand quantum mechanics so I wont bet my Mind on it, as we measure it  it in our experiments.

And it certainly doesn’t mean whatever fantasy you have about non-locality and its implications is right, of course. Good luck on jumping off a roof and trying to manifest a soft landing by thinking quantum states of the ground. As Bob Lanza said, there is cause and effect. You have karma. Don’t get arrogant and indulgent. Is your little brain in that itty-bitty boney box really that pure and powerful? Be careful about confusing your brain with Mind, non-Duality as meaning your ego, your perspective and delusions, your hopes and fears, is the universe. After all, that’s wisdom, that’s spiritual practice, not aggrandizing the ego with uber-spirituality and just adding more delusion by interpreting the truth through what you’d like to believe. (It’s also science. Ha did the science spirituality thing again!)

One scientific criticism has been that this is limited to single of a few particles or atoms. Well, now it has been none at the level you can see with a magnifying glass or certainly a $50 toy microscope, the level of small cells (i.e. life). Look up:

Einstein’s ‘spooky action’ goes massive: The elusive … – ScienceDaily

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180425131858.htm

The criticism to extrapolating to your day to day life is that is was done near –273 degrees centigrade, absolute zero where all but the most basic quantum effects determined by Heisenberg’s uncertainly principle stop (cant stop completely; that is very deep and Buddhist also; can’t stop change), about 3 degrees colder than the universe in deep space.

Well, quantum effects have been seen in warm wet living beings, they may just be harder to demonstrate.

Remember, the ancients, our spiritual and philosophical ancestors, came to this without quantum mechanics! And practice (and science!) is about authenticity I think, not proving some a priori claim however cool and whether I agree with it.

But even if it doesn’t mean you are likely to (or should feel a delusional need to) try to quantum change the ground if you challenge time and space by jumping off a roof, or that it PROOVES we are all one, Mind and non-duality and all that, at least, at a minimum, we can revel in the deep mystery, the underlying unity it suggests beyond our concepts and experience.

You Are Multitudes Unfolding

When I started writing this Zengut blog I thought I would share more of the “gee whiz” of science. I also thought I would join the ranks of popularizers of math and science and the intersection of science with Zen, spirituality, Mind and meditation. One of the blogs I enjoyed writing the most was my meditation on Circle, Triangle and Square, a Zen painting. It’s really good and deep and if you haven’t read it, check it out, especially the revised version (also on Hazymoon.com). But over the years since I have started writing and have pursued my practice and my life (same thing), I find for the most part I have less and less interest in doing so in a methodical fashion.

There are plenty of sources for science that aren’t geared to scientists: magazines such as Scientific American and Discover, websites such as sciencedaily.com, and I am sure many others.  There are great writers and thinkers who really want to make clear the implications of quantum mechanics for a Mind Only view of how it is (e.g. Lanza and Berman Biocentrism and Beyond Biocentrism) and the philosophical underpinnings of non-duality and  idealism (e.g. Bernardo Kastrup).

Robert Lanza talking at Hazy Moon Zen center; me listening for a change.

I am not a Zen teacher. I share as a student, a practitioner. Certainly there are qualified Zen teachers (e.g. many books of ancient masters, Hazymoon.com has selections of Nyogen Roshi’s dharma talks, Maezen sensei’s books and blogs and websites are also good to check out, and of course other sources of Zen and spiritual teachings by those who are spiritual leaders and teachers).

I have finished my second novel for older kids, and I think it is a more unique contribution, more reflective of my mandala. More on that later ( I will post some chapters soon; maybe even the whole thing if people want. I will also self publish for those like me who like hard copy or who don’t read this blog).

I haven’t pursued the Zengut blog as planned. Well, that’s how it goes. I still see life as the universe unfolding as I wrote in the first blog I posted. Evolution is at its core. Life is change, all is continuous change, a basic tenant of Buddhism and science (there, mission accomplished! Political irony intended). So maybe I will unfold back into so pursuing a theme of science and Zen, or more of the inspiration of math, or whatever. I have continued to write when something catches my attention, whether something I can share of my Zen practice and life (again, same thing) or, like now, in the scientific world.

I do want to share what blew me away this week. It is definitely a “gee whiz” thing. It isn’t any new information. I have seen images of that are a bit like this for 45 years, that is cells interacting with cells, and there have been movies of cells in motion for maybe 10 years, but this image just hit home like a thunderclap. It may not hit you the same way, but give it a try:

Cutting-edge microscope spies on living cells inside the body – Nature

https://www.nature.com › nature › news

You have the same types of cells, and many other similar cells. Watch this and think about how in your bone marrow you give birth thousands and thousands of times a day to these cells, these organisms, that are you yet not you. Independent, with lives you have no idea of and don’t consciously control. Can you watch this and not see sense intention? Intention, you may ask? Absolutely. They have purpose. They are sentinels, guardians, noble and selfless. They do a job, a very complex and important job.  Watch how they seek. How they feel their environment. How they have no sense of you or your world outside of their impulses and needs, their immediate mandalas, their lives unfolding. Given the right environment, they can be removed from the living body that gave rise to them and still be who they are.

Clearly mind.

I am not suggesting conscious thought. Not brain stuff.  These are not beings with concepts as we have, of course. Still, a kind of sentience independent of you and your concepts, your desires, your hopes and fears and intellect. Mind, life, at work and play.

Life in life. You are multitudes.

 

 

 

Experience

The more experience I get the more I respect experience.

Sometimes it hits me: what was I thinking when I thought I actually knew something?

In fact, when I first came to Hazy Moon, Nyogen Roshi to said to me that what he had to offer was just his over 40 years experience “on the cushion” (i.e. meditating, having a  Zen practice). I understood. That’s why I was there. There are plenty of books on Buddhism. I had read many. Still do. Nyogen does point out reading can be good in Zen practice if you go about it in the right spirit; intellect as servant, not master. He reads. After all, smart and wise people who are dead or you can’t or wont meet or know, share themselves in books.

In Tang China, the monks who went to India to bring back Buddhist texts were heroes (it was and arduous journey. In Chinese folklore Monkey, or Journey to the West, is a fantasy myth about such a trip. Such a monk and the karma form his journey is part of my soon to come out novel, if I feel like self publishing it, “Aidan and The Mummy Girl”). Emperor Wu built a huge pagoda for the translators!

If you watch nature shows, you know about the power of experience for mammals. The knowledge of the elephant family matriarch saving her family in a drought because she’s been there before and knows the signs and what to do, comes to mind. Orca matriarchs teaching hunting. Animals transmitting tool use to the young. Life and death stuff.

Now, some creatures learn on the fly and don’t teach or learn like the octopus. Love them. But then, they live a year or two for the most part…

Of course, experience and experiment have the same roots. The difference is, well, maybe there is little difference if both are approached in the right way. The difference is organization and often math in experiment. In experiments you try to control the set up. Even in thought experiments and observational experiments. Hmm, we often try that in life and practice as well, don’t we?

Good luck with that.

First thing in experience/experiment if it is to be useful, is Maezumi Roshi’s admonition: no self deception.

Very difficult. The more I watch doctors and scientists, the more I practice Zen, the more I get how subtle and deep and layered self deception and delusion are. Turtles all the way down.

Experience in my life experience has recently hit home for me as I think about retirement and what I want to teach the residents learning about ocular inflammatory disease when the rotate in my clinic. It also hit home being on the boards of two non-profit groups, a new experience for me.

In medical school it seemed like if I could just cram enough facts about diseases into my head I’d be a good doctor. I studied hard, top f my class, 99th percentile on medical boards. Not a bad first step, a foundation, but not enough.

As a doctor who is involved with people who have rare diseases, I know the books just aren’t enough. After all, people like me write the books, and we often know less than we want to. Research is hard and expensive and in rare diseases great research is hard to do. Randomizing patients is often not ethical, and there aren’t enough patients/subjects to get a large enough group to see differences, to evaluate any differences, to understand the range of manifestations or to get a statistically reliable result.

We have a saying in medicine: “the disease didn’t read the book!” It may take a course, have manifestations, respond in ways not exactly how it is “supposed” to “by the book.”

Ambiguity is part of a doctor’s practice, and part of a patient’s life. Not always easy. Not cookbook.

The longer I teach medicine, the more I see how just reading the books is not enough. It is necessary, but not sufficient, as we say in medical science.

Experience wont necessarily bring great judgment and success, but it is necessary if not always sufficient, to have someone around who has been there, seen that, has the wherewithal to say something insightful and useful about it.

And that’s one reason the siliconization of medicine will hurt a lot of people. Others include mind numbing algorithms and extra work to make things cosmetically acceptable to the beaurocrats and lawyers and the push to a homogenous, one size fits all, way of being.

Fine, I’m an old guy justifying old people’s existence. You may say I just have a self-aggrandizing agenda.

You know, please don’t put me on an ice flow just yet…!

But the value of experience it isn’t just about medicine, that’s just one of the worlds I inhabit. Nor is it about being old, just being in the fray long enough to know your way around. To know what really is an exception, where the algorithm breaks down.

Every disease’s diagnostic criteria has an escape clause: nothing else found to explain what’s going on. Every treatment is statistically determined in clinical studies, with variables we don’t even know to look for yet.

Less ambiguous but more mysterious to me is the world of the non-profit board. A year ago I joined the board of “Swipe Out Hunger,” a non-profit to help feed hungry college students. Think about it. Someone poor gets into college. It may be a waste of their time, college can be, or the ticket to self-respect, dignity, freedom, a better financial future, but they are hungry and distracted. Not the biggest problem facing society, but a problem that is tractable and real and effects thousands of hard working, smart young people. I got involved because the university, UCLA, where Swipes started, is where I have worked for 19 years. This is one of my communities, a sangha.

On the Swipe board there are amazing people. Look on the Swipes website (swipehunger.org) at their bios. I met them, got the brief rundown, last year, but first read their bios a few weeks ago. I was floored, awed. I understood why at board meetings I have so little to add. These people have walked the walk and know the ins and outs of this do-gooder non-profit world. I don’t. And they aren’t old at all (well, one other guy and me), just they have done this or related things (e.g. consulting) as their life’s work. In fact, Swipe was started several years ago by college kids, including the woman who runs it now (she is no longer in college but still young. Dynamic. Talented. Caring. She needs to run for office one day).

They are smart, talented, and they made the effort, putting in the hours. It isn’t about grey hair and wrinkles and arthritis.

I also recently joined the board at Hazy Moon. What do I know about running a Zen Center? I show up, meditate, vacuum and dust or clean the yard on work days or when I take part in sesshin (or, more often, a part of one, anyway). Some on the board built the place and have been making it happen for decades!

So I decided, like in medical school, to get a foundation of knowledge. Got a few books. Started reading. The books are fine, but in fact I’d have to also read up on accounting and management, etc., etc. No book looked like it answered even most of  the questions I had. What should we budget for this and that? What is the right managerial mix when hiring? Fortunately the other board members have travelled those roads.

On the plus side of reading, a book is presumably a distillation of the author’s knowledge and, yes, experience. Books are great resources. How else can dozens, hundreds, even thousands or millions of people access what the author knows and thinks?

Reading of course I just one way to access knowledge. There are many great resources. But I just happen to love books. Hard to scan a recorded lecture for what you want. Holding and smelling my computer just isn’t the same as with a book. But some things really do lend themselves to other media.

But then, can we truly transmit experience in a book? Certainly a bit. We can sometimes almost do better in fiction and poetry (hence why I took a stab at fiction with “Aidan and The Dragon Girl,” and have another one I wrote and am finishing up I mentioned earlier, “Aidan and the Mummy girl,” to express my personal experience and journey in a meaningful way, hopefully only moderately didactic). Will an author be honest enough, have the space for enough to give attention to the outliers, to individual circumstances? Can an author know in advance what it is that you as a particular reader needs to know? Will the author have the courage to step outside received wisdom and write what is really on his or her mind?

Sure, I’ve spent a bit of time with the books and will do some more reading when I feel like it.

Or better than rely on books, I decided, I will hang around.

After all, they didn’t invite me on the board because of what I could read up on.

So I will soak up the knowledge and wisdom of my fellow board members.

In the mean time, use my intelligence and wit to try to add a bit here and there to the conversation and decision making.

You know, get some experience.

Learn.

Old school style.

It’s a spiritual practice.

 

All Now, No Now

Is “now” really only an illusion?

Certainly a universal now that you can perceive as a universal now is impossible. As I mentioned in a recent blog, whatever we are responding to as occurring “right now” is a conglomeration of recent energy states that we integrated into a story based on our conditioning (physical, biological, intellectual, psychological). As the Lankavatara sutra says, we project our delusions and illusions and then we take them as out there in reality.

Quantum mechanics demands that there can’t be a zero time, there is Planck time, which is exceedingly short, way shorter than anything anyone can comprehend or any technology can even get hope to get anywhere near. This is in part related to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: if something could be stopped in time and space, a frozen now that we could capture and measure,  we would know both its momentum and position at that time, and that isn’t allowed.

Also, a time called “now” where all things that are simultaneous to one person’s experience are simultaneous in the experience of all observers, regardless of movement and orientation, is an illusion. Relativity theory quantifies that!

A photon travelling at the speed of light is not in time. The photon’s clock slows to infinitely slow (time dilation; or if time were smooth it would, that is, but as in quantum mechanics maybe it just “approaches” infinitely slow…). The photon also gets infinitely thin, flattened out (space contraction; or it would if space were infinitely smooth, so again, it approaches infinitely flat…). That is, until it hits your eye. Then it is a point particle interacting with your photoreceptor after having travelled perhaps millions of years and trillions upon trillions of miles from a distant star, maybe even a distant galaxy far, far away).

So is there no now? Just the illusion?

Or is it ALL now? As Nyogen Roshi said in his talk today, the infinite now, no beginning no end.

 

How long is now?

A building I saw in what was formerly East Berlin a few years back

Now as no time and all time may be much the same, I think. So short it can’t be measured and so vast and universal it can’t be measured. Bigger than big, shorter than short.

 

Related is the identity of relative and absolute, as a poem we chant is called. This is on a tee shirt I got from Nara, a Buddhist Temple in Japan a bit outside Kyoto. It says, in essence, in the many, One, in One the many. They translated it as in a drop of blood the whole universe. I have also heard it as in a drop of water (or in an atom or particle, or string) the whole universe, but that’s not the pattern you see there on the tee shirt. It is in pattern and spirit I think more like the Heart Sutra (we also chant): form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form. Or the identity of the relative  and absolute.

Here and Now? You Think So?

I just finished my Christmas blog and opened up Lawrence Krauss’s book “The Greatest Story Ever Told-So Far.” (Yes, I still like reading these books, seeing what scientists are selling. I enjoy it almost as much as interpreting ancient Egyptian ideas about the cosmos, as I do in my next Aidan Dream Detective novel, “Aidan and The Mummy Girl Save the Universe,” which I am finishing up).

Dr. Krauss is one of the more militant skeptic-atheist-materialists. I find him a bit arrogant, but he seems otherwise a pretty nice guy. He’s certainly very smart. Anyway, I came across this sentence, where I was, on page 56:

“So too, Einstein explicitly argued, for the first time as far as I know in the history of physics , that “here” and “now” are observer dependent concepts and not universal ones.”

Bravo! Of course Buddhists knew that for at least two millennia. Check out the Lankavatara sutra, among others.

Live in the here and now? Sounds good. The future is a guess, the past is irretrievable far as we can tell, and science assures us we are prone to false memories, dressing up our reality to make it more comprehensible, more palatable. We edit everything to fit our concepts of who we are and what is meaningful, even as we go along, and more so as we keep memories alive by telling and terelling ourselves our stories.

And that’s at best.

Or as the great mathematician and scientist, Laplace, the man who told Napoleon Bonaparte that he had no need for the hypothesis of god in his book on cosmology, said two hundred years ago on his deathbed, when someone tried to make him feel good by lauding his great accomplishments:

“Ah, but we do chase phantoms.”

The word translated into English as ‘phantoms’ was chimera in French. Chimera are mythic beasts hobbled together from different animals. We hobble together phantoms and spend our lives chasing them. Good things, bad things.

Here and now is such a chimera.

If there is any here and now it is Planck time and space, trillions of trillionths of a second or a millimeter. So  so fast a time and so tiny a distance that they are truly inconceivable, nothing our technology can even hope to come in the ballpark of approaching to measure, let alone our senses or our monkey minds. We can write these numbers down mathematically and drool slack jawed in amazement at how clever we are to have come up with such a brazen idea that might even be true, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you can grasp such a space and time.

Even on a mundane level, when you experience a sensory change, a difference in your universe of sight and sound (and smell, taste, touch, phenomena, including mental phenomena, as the sutras say), it is the past. It has been modified. It went from here to there, from an object to your sense organ then to your brain then other parts of your brain where you interpret the changes and tell yourself a story about them.

I used to think a lot about this in surgery, certain one of my more “here and now” experiences. Things move so fast in cataract microsurgery you cant be here and now in a literal way. By time the image of something zigging rather than zagging reaches your brain then you react to it, you’d be too late! You have to be prepared for zig and zag.

By time you react to it, it is gone.

Gone, gone beyond, way beyond.

Gate gate paragate, parasamgate, as the heart sutra says.

So, living in the here and now? Sure. What else do you have? But then, do you even have that? And if not, what do you have?