Intelligence and Death

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In my last post I wrote about why I don’t agree with the use of the word intelligence in the term “intelligent design,” and why I don’t believe intelligent design is relevant when discussing the nature of the ground of Being, of Mind. The word intelligence as it is normally used it is too anthropomorphic, too based on our idea of functioning based on what we recognize as our brain’s unique activity; it implies a relative ranking based on some parameter you can measure when attempting some brain centered task.

Buddhists tend to talk about awareness rather than intelligence as the quality of Mind or Consciousness (and some may add compassion as the foundation of its expression). Awareness is less content driven than intelligence. Less a skill than a state. Less brain-centric. Tibetan Dzogchen masters use “Pure” or “naked” awareness. Nyogen Roshi defines samadhi as non distracted awareness.

This difference is not trivial. Intelligence is much more personal, more consistent with an “intelligent design” deity that has a personality and is in linear space and time, hence dualistic. Some Buddhists traditionally have recognized such deities in the context of their cultural surroundings, like Shiva in India. These deities are beings that are like us, contingent and limited, an embodiment of karma and conditions, even if vastly less limited than we are. You too can become a deity in your next life! But it won’t last forever.

Interestingly, the Ancient Egyptians also had their deities age, though there was the hidden, the Amun, and the idea of renewal in Osiris, and the formless Nun (random chaos fluid/watery substrate from which all arises). Also note that in the last post I referred to mental masturbation when discussing my problem with the idea of Cosmic design; well, the Ancient Egyptians had one creation myth where the universe was created in a divine act of Divine masturbation. Go figure!

Some people come to Zen or Buddhism because of their fear of death. It is this awareness, this ground of compassion, that doesn’t know death, the Buddhist teachers tell us. Bob Lanza believes Biocentrism is a prescription for the fear of death because this consciousness is not lost with death; it is not limited by our brains any more than the ocean is limited by its contingent function manifest by the wave. Energy, consciousness, is conserved. It is a symmetry! [see next post]  We lose nothing, he says, as death is just a reboot. Momentum (karma) is conserved with respect to time.

And time itself, Lanza and others tell us is an illusion, only a relative sampling of a timeless fluidity. Of  Nun or Nu, the primeval undifferentiated ocean prior to creation of this and that, you might say (Ancient Egyptian ideas of time(s), cyclic time and eternal time, are another post, but I thought I would throw it in).

Time is a conceit of mass, and mass is a conceit of specific energy interactions. A photon, or any massless particle in space, as I pointed out in a recent post, will experience an infinitely long time between a tick and a tock that doesn’t ever come, at least not until the photon interacts with another energy. And the photon exists in an infinitely compressed space, zero space, that we mass-y entities experience as vast interstellar distances.

For that matter some physicists believe it is accurate to say that all particles, even with mass, are one particle, one in the set of excitations of the quantum field, and there is no difference in time and space between particles, no individual identity between what appear to be different electrons, say, whether here or there, now or then. It is just a matter of the state of the energy locally that gives the image of separate particles. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, and they are all connected at the root like a stand of beech tress. So where does space and time come in for this one uber-particle, which is really a field of energy, a field of potential, without beginning our end.

In Zen it is said we frolic in a field of samadhi, of bliss, forever. That is, beyond life and death, beyond time and space.

On the other hand, a friend at the Zen Center told me a Tibetan teacher told him that, the good news is that reincarnation is real, the bad news is you won’t be you. That does make some sense to me. After all, you aren’t you now, at least not the you of before and the you of after now. For that matter,  which “you” would be the “real you” that is reincarnated? The you of this life? Sure, but also infinite lives as the ocean “you”, the wave, returns to is without beginning or end. You are contingent, you are momentum, the wave, the whirlpool.

What do you think?

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Deathbed Wishes

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For whom the bell tolls?

I saw a posting on Facebook where someone suggested that what most people regret on their deathbeds is what they didn’t do.

Certainly Buddhism, Zen,  (and for that matter, Biocentrism) is about the big questions of your life and death, and how you face your life and death, and indeed understanding that death can come at any time.

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It’s easy to think the other road, the one not taken, was the one to abiding happiness and success and joy.  I suspect it is at least possible that some people who do feel that way on their death bed, that they regretted what they didn’t do, if they were honest with themselves, felt that way before they new they were dying.

That is an important pursuit in Zen practice, being aware of your life, knowing yourself and your mind. Not waiting till it all falls apart.

Now, one point, one conclusion, that the person who wrote about that death bed reaction made was: follow your dreams. Write that book, sing that song.

But consider: is this just wishing for a better past?  If you didn’t go after something you thought you wanted, or thought would have been oh so cool, maybe you had a good reason, something more important you had to attend to. Maybe you knew or even just had an intuition that another course of action was needed, even if you aren’t so sure now. Memory is selective. It is easy to think it could have been better, that the path not taken was THE key to all sweetness and light and a great life!

Now, if you didn’t pursue some activity out of fear, or delusional feelings of guilt, or concerned about not being worthy or not being good enough, and that is how you still respond, that’s the issue, isn’t it?

Living life fully isn’t a matter of pursuing some specific great idea or activity, of doing all the awesome, rewarding and artistic and adventurous things you can get into or out of your “bucket” of cool stuff. I personally have no interest in “bucket lists” of “must do stuff” (there’s always more and more and MORE).

You don’t need to fill your life with things and activities, artistic, creative, cool, or otherwise.

Life is full if you just look at where you are, what’s in front of you; as they say in Zen, cover the ground you stand on. You don’t need more doing.  Most of us actually need LESS doing. Less going after that wonderful experience you imagine will make it better, that creative glorious life over the rainbow. Less re-writing the past. Less seeking praise and fearing blame. Less drama.

As it says in the heart sutra: no idea of gain, so no fear. No hindrance in the mind.

And as the very, very accomplished (you and I should be so accomplished!) Laplace reportedly said on his deathbed when someone commented on just how wonderful and accomplished he had been in his life (he was perhaps THE  foremost mathematician and scientist and philosopher of his age, hobnobbing with the “in” crowd, hanging with artists, authors and even Napoleon Bonaparte, the most powerful man in the world at the time):

“Ah, well, we do chase phantoms, don’t we?”

So, sure, I suggest that you don’t waste your time on dumb stuff, and certainly don’t hold back out of fear. Do what seems right, compassionate, just and good, but don’t chase phantoms. Don’t make some artistic endeavor, some idea or concept of success (however awesome), of creativity, some experience on a bucket list, a fantasy lover never loved, or a dream you think you should have or would have pursued “if only”, into something to moan about, something to regret, into just more busywork and useless striving, something more to feel bad about. Don’t set yourself up for misery and failure.

If you do, it’s just another phantom. A bad dream.

Sing the song, paint that painting, take that photo, take that trip, get a better job, write the novel, if you like and it works for you. If not, that’s ok too.

Try this: Don’t waste your time. Pay attention. Do what is right when you know it’s right. No self-deception. don’t wish for a better past, it does no good and causes great pain (you can tell I really like that; thanks Lily Tomlin!).

Compassion is a good thing, including compassion for yourself.

Creativity is the Way, is life. You don’t have to strive for it. Don’t try to fake it. You ARE creativity in form and function! You can’t be otherwise.

Creativity, living a full life, is what happens when your ego, your delusions (including your idea/conditioning/concept of creativity and a full life), don’t get in the way. Compassion and ethics are like that, too.

That’s more than enough!  What more is there? What more can there be?

Life is full just in this breath, this heartbeat. Live fully in the moment.

Simple, not easy.

Living life fully is not about some specific experience or activity or doing cool stuff. Not what society or your fantasy defines as artistic or creative or successful or glorious. The Universe, Mind, your mind, is cool enough.

I have found meditation, practice, really helps with this.

Zen, Buddhism, is about life and death. The book “Beyond Biocentrism” is a good place to start about Mind and Consciousness and Life and Death if you aren’t into Buddhism or Zen.

But I do agree with the main idea of that person who wrote about deathbed regrets: Don’t wait until you are on your deathbed. That seems kind of sad.

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Waves Arising, Waves Falling, Crossing to the Other Shore

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I have heard that there is just one photon, one photon field without beginning or end, as it were, but that this one photon expresses and manifests local conditions, the contingent flow of energy, as a given photon in time and space, that is, as all photons throughout time and space. . .

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In fact perhaps the same can be said of all particles, really, of everything. Like how there is only one ocean, but waves express local conditions that rise and fall.

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Last week my 7 year-old grandson asked me if I heard Prince died. Yes. How did he know? His mom told him. Did he know about Prince and his music? He knew the song Purple Rain. He liked the song, although at first he thought it was purple raisin. He was somber, reflective.

Two people I have known for many years also died last week, just two days apart. Cancer. Not close friends or family, but colleagues I have known and worked with and respected. Both lovely, intelligent, accomplished, dedicated physician scientists.

Ultimately liberation from constraints, the realm of measurement and the senses, is the next wave.

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Gate gate paragate parasamgate boddhisvaha.

Riding the waves to the other shore.