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Forum nameOkay Activist Archives
Topic subjectWhat Are We?
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=21933
21933, What Are We?
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-15-00 08:51 AM
AfricanHerbsman, in his signature, quotes Kurt Cobain/Nirvana: All we know is all we are.

Is that all we are? Are we formed exclusively by our minds? Or do sensations play a part? Or is it only what we "know" about sensations that form us? What about emotions? Is there spirit? Is action a part of us, or only what we "know" of action?

Thanks, AH, for making me think. Anyone have any ideas?

Watch this one fall as fast as anything can in OkayActivist...

21934, RE: What Are We?
Posted by BooDaah, Tue Aug-15-00 09:13 AM
>AfricanHerbsman, in his signature, quotes Kurt
>Cobain/Nirvana: All we know
>is all we are.

I agree with the statement. How can anything be "proved" 100% true?

>Is that all we are?

Not necessarily. I personally am the maifestation of ancestors and the genesis of a legacy, and at the same time all that is encompassed by my experiences and surroundings as well as my reaction to them. and so are you.

>Are we formed exclusively by
>our minds?

no because i'm probably not half as fly as the me mind mind makes me believe I am :-)

>Or do sensations play a part?

Sure they do. But if you do not "sense" something, then is it not real?

>Or is it only what
>we "know" about sensations that
>form us?

to a degree. think about this, you and i are standing looking at a sunset. we hear, see, and think different thinks. memories are sparked, ideas are formed. thus, we are "sensing" different. the uniqueness of that experience is what seperates you from anyone else.

>What about emotions?

reactions based upon experience.

>Is there spirit?

too deep for this conversation :-) i think there is, but the tricky part comes in the definition.

>Is action a part
>of us, or only what
>we "know" of action?

i think I answered this already.

> Anyone have any ideas?

sure. a lot of folk do.

>Watch this one fall as fast
>as anything can in OkayActivist...

just because few respond, don't make it any less a good topic.

BooDaah-OkayActivist Moderator
Sister SheRise's Activist Stew Recipe:
Step1:inform yourself step/Step2:inform others/Step3:discuss the problem/Step4: DISCUSS SOLUTIONS/Step5:EXECUTE SOLUTIONS/Step6:evaluate the results/Step7:start over at 1 until desired result is accomplished.

21935, i hate typos
Posted by BooDaah, Tue Aug-15-00 09:23 AM
but i ain't correcting them. everybody who reads this is smart enough to get the point.

BooDaah-OkayActivist Moderator
Sister SheRise's Activist Stew Recipe:
Step1:inform yourself step/Step2:inform others/Step3:discuss the problem/Step4: DISCUSS SOLUTIONS/Step5:EXECUTE SOLUTIONS/Step6:evaluate the results/Step7:start over at 1 until desired result is accomplished.

21936, Damn straight
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-15-00 02:11 PM
I like a few typos. I'll admit that a LOT of typos can make a post hard for me to read, but a light sprinkling works to keep me humble.

21937, Synthesis
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-15-00 02:10 PM
I think that the gist of what you're saying is that, aside from spirit, which we are purposely leaving out of the discussion for the time being, we are the totality of our experiences, what we know is informed by our experience, and how we experience something (including our own actions)will also be informed by our experience. And our experience is primarily but not exclusively the sum of our sense perceptions.

Is that anywhere near what you were getting at? I know I'm paraphrasing and prolly messin up badly, but the problem with a Q/A format is that if each question gets answered in a vacuum it's hard to synthesize the answers.

21938, pretty much
Posted by BooDaah, Tue Aug-15-00 02:22 PM
the cliff notes version:

what makes an individual an individual, is their reaction to whatever set of events they experience.

that better?

BooDaah-OkayActivist Moderator
Sister SheRise's Activist Stew Recipe:
Step1:inform yourself step/Step2:inform others/Step3:discuss the problem/Step4: DISCUSS SOLUTIONS/Step5:EXECUTE SOLUTIONS/Step6:evaluate the results/Step7:start over at 1 until desired result is accomplished.

21939, Okay
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-15-00 02:31 PM
then two people with exactly the same experiences should be the same? What accounts for the differences in identical twins?

21940, you missed...
Posted by BooDaah, Tue Aug-15-00 02:52 PM
the part about how they percieve those experiences (go back to my original blathering response).

you and i could see the same thing and percieve it completely differently.

BooDaah-OkayActivist Moderator
Sister SheRise's Activist Stew Recipe:
Step1:inform yourself step/Step2:inform others/Step3:discuss the problem/Step4: DISCUSS SOLUTIONS/Step5:EXECUTE SOLUTIONS/Step6:evaluate the results/Step7:start over at 1 until desired result is accomplished.

21941, RE: you missed...
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-15-00 02:56 PM
When you say "perceive" you mean "process with our mind" and not "receive sensory input" right? or not?

If right, what is it that forms the "processing" function? Experience?

Also, rather than distinguishing between individuals, what is the unifying factor? What is anyone/everyone?

21942, well now see...
Posted by BooDaah, Tue Aug-15-00 03:13 PM
>When you say "perceive" you mean
>"process with our mind" and
>not "receive sensory input" right?
>or not?

both. example: if i'm blind my mind will recieve the stimuli from a different source and process it differently than someone else who CAN see (maybe not in the chemical sense, but i believe so in the "order of operations" sense). but at the same time both of our minds have to process that input (as opposed to say our kneecap).

>If right, what is it that
>forms the "processing" function?

i don't think experience is the function as much as a variable in the equation. now what the FUNCTION is? well, isn't that what folks have been discussing forever (the nature of humanity)?

>what is the unifying factor?

other than the fact that we're made of the same raw materials (basically) i don't know that there is one. i think folks are unified based upon similar needs and ideas, seperation occurs when the methodologies differ.

> What is anyone/everyone?
my succinct answer would be "God's children", but that's going to that "other place" again

BooDaah-OkayActivist Moderator
Sister SheRise's Activist Stew Recipe:
Step1:inform yourself step/Step2:inform others/Step3:discuss the problem/Step4: DISCUSS SOLUTIONS/Step5:EXECUTE SOLUTIONS/Step6:evaluate the results/Step7:start over at 1 until desired result is accomplished.

21943, Hmm
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-15-00 04:13 PM
I think that what I'm getting at is this: if all we know is a product of our experience only, then how can we understand something that is not experiential? And what glues our experiences together?

If what we know arises out of sensory data (experience) plus thoughts about the sensory data, where do the thoughts come from?

Let's add the unnameable back into the equation. Is spirit or soul or consciousness the glue that takes our random thoughts and puts them in order and creates a world view and a self?

21944, how 'bout this
Posted by BooDaah, Tue Aug-15-00 05:26 PM
>I think that what I'm getting
>at is this: if
>all we know is a
>product of our experience only,
>then how can we understand
>something that is not experiential?

i'm not sure if you're saying/getting this but "experiential" is broad. example: my friend goes on a trip then tells me about it. my experience is what i hear and that's the info i process. so, one doesn't necessarily have to "experience" first hand. this is where teaching and learning enter the equation.

> And what glues our
>experiences together?

our experiences as an individual or as a body of people? i already gave the answer for the group (common needs, desires, processing of experience, and sometimes the experiences themselves), for an individual: whatever the storage and retrieval mechanism used for categorization of experience (i don't have a name for it per se).

>If what we know arises out
>of sensory data (experience) plus
>thoughts about the sensory data,
>where do the thoughts come

this is getting deeper. where do thoughts come from? hmmm. let me try. what you "think" about a thing comes from how it relates to other past experiences coupled with your new mental and physcal reaction to said event/stimuli? this new "thought" gets classified mentally (i dunno how) to be used the next time it's needed by the storage retrieval system. sounds good i guess.

>Let's add the unnameable back into
>the equation. Is spirit
>or soul or consciousness the
>glue that takes our random
>thoughts and puts them in
>order and creates a world
>view and a self?

two thoughts on this:
one, we can take the unknown and label them as the "soul" or whatever

we define what it IS before we describe what it DOES. meaning, let's analyze that variable THEN introduce it to the perviously discussed equation.

this is kinda fun. nothing like a little brain exercise in the name of philiosophy. :-)

BooDaah-OkayActivist Moderator
Sister SheRise's Activist Stew Recipe:
Step1:inform yourself step/Step2:inform others/Step3:discuss the problem/Step4: DISCUSS SOLUTIONS/Step5:EXECUTE SOLUTIONS/Step6:evaluate the results/Step7:start over at 1 until desired result is accomplished.

21945, RE: how 'bout this
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-17-00 08:43 AM
>>"experiential" is broad. example: my friend goes on a trip then tells me about it. my experience. what i hear and that's the info i process. so, one doesn't necessarily have to "experience" first hand. this is where teaching and learning enter the equation.

I agree, but I'm talking about "direct experience." In this case, your direct experience is the experience of hearing your friend tell about it.

>>for an individual: whatever the storage and retrieval mechanism used for categorization of experience (i don't have a name for it per se).

Is this pre-intellectual, non-conscious awareness? Can we call this "judgement"?

You know that stuff that I spout about judgement arising without our willing it to arise and the point being what you do with the judgement, rather than whether or not you should make a judgement in the first place?

Does that work with your model?

>>where do thoughts come from? hmmm. let me try. What you "think" about a thing comes from how it relates to other past experiences coupled with your new mental and physcal reaction to said event/stimuli? this new "thought" gets classified mentally (i dunno how) to be used the next time it's needed by the storage retrieval system.
sounds good i guess.

That works for me -- I think it explains intellectual analysis. But are thought and analysis exactly equivalent? I think the key phrase is "this new 'thought'" -- what generates the new thought? It's analyzed by the pre-existing thoughts. Do the pre-existing thoughts generate new thoughts?

>two thoughts on this:
>one, we can take the unknown
>and label them as the
>"soul" or whatever

Which might be helpful in some instances, if we think that whatever "it" is, is bigger than us (like we're a subset of "it") so we can't see it well enough to define it?

>we define what it IS before
>we describe what it DOES.
>meaning, let's analyze that variable
>THEN introduce it to the
>perviously discussed equation.

Hmmm. I might get stuck here. It doesn't exist in the sensory world, right? so I can't describe what it is by saying "It's purple" and "It smells like roses." And I'm not sure that I can define what it IS without recourse to sensory data or effect (what it does). What are your thoughts?

21946, i'll b back
Posted by BooDaah, Sat Aug-19-00 04:10 AM
just so you don't think i've flaked on this convo...

currently I'm on a business trip working 15 hour days. i don't have a computer (i'm "borrowing" time on someone else's now), so for the next 10 days i'll be on very intermittently.

if this post is still around then i'll get back to this discussion then (it requires some thought, which is definitely a sad rarity on these boards as a whole. kudos 2 you again).
BooDaah-OkayActivist Moderator
Sister SheRise's Activist Stew Recipe:
Step1:inform yourself step/Step2:inform others/Step3:discuss the problem/Step4: DISCUSS SOLUTIONS/Step5:EXECUTE SOLUTIONS/Step6:evaluate the results/Step7:start over at 1 until desired result is accomplished.

21947, U better
Posted by janey, Sun Aug-20-00 09:03 AM
Even if the rest of the convo trickles out, I'll keep pushing this post up so that you have a chance to respond at leisure.

I probably don't need to remind you to maintain that balance that you're so famous for in the midst of those 15 hour days.

Keep well.

21948, All we know is all we are.
Posted by guest, Tue Aug-15-00 10:36 AM
I like that song (I think it's "All Apologies" on their last album).
Remember the saying, "You're only as good as your word"?
Well, I think that is true to a degree.
What are we?
I think we are whatever our experiences project to us and whatever we deem ourselves in our minds.
I mean, sure, I could say that I'm "Black", but what if I was born in a totally different state of consciousness and society? I would then be whatever I've been led to believe.
What if there was some intricate truth that exists, but we were not aware of it simple because of our nievity evolving around this fabrication that we've been living?
I'm not sure what the hell this whole discussion is about, so that in mind, don't hold me up on "my word". ;-)

"Maybe that's why I'm so exhausted
as a revolutionary
I realize I can't save everyone
I'm trying to save myself
and I'm afraid"- Pamela Sneed
21949, Me neither
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-15-00 02:30 PM
I don't know where this is going. It's an honest question, I guess. So all thoughts appreciated.

Okay, so let's see if I understand what you're saying. If I read you correctly, what we "are" is the sum of our experiences and our thoughts about them? Assuming that's right, where do the thoughts themselves come from? Are they from our experiences alone?

21950, RE: Me neither
Posted by kemetian, Tue Aug-15-00 06:37 PM
just a short note. i believe we are not only what we experience as individuals but what our ancestors experienced as well. or if we are our experiences then experiences include the cumulative experiences of those that came before and those yet to come, so we are the physical manifestation of the sum total of all the experiences.
great topic, i wonder y there r so few involved. i'll meet B in the other thread to discuss who we should be voting for once we've registered.
21951, Not through yet
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-17-00 05:25 AM
I'm taking a short break from thinking so hard.

But let me ask this: Are you describing a "collective unconscious" through which we all learn from the experiences of all others? Or are you contemplating awareness and context received through family only -- genetically or through nurture (like story telling, or attitudes that are displayed by elders and so passed down through generations?).

21952, janey..
Posted by guest, Wed Aug-16-00 01:05 AM

..appreciate the shout. the time difference doesn't really help discussion, I'm leaving when most of you are switching on (assuming you're in america). as to the cobain quote ('all apologies' as wise7 said) I believe it to be true.

way I see it, every single experience of any description must pass through the brain at some point to mean anything, otherwise it's irrelevant..reality's recieved, analysed, processed then defined through our five senses - or however many. whether it's belief or experience they all pass through the same portal, it's all we know. umm, trying to stay simple and scientifical.. rather than philosophical or whatever - still, I think it all comes down to the mind.

so what makes us different..I see the brain as the computer hardware that we all have. where it becomes a 'mind' is in that each brain is custom-fitted and personalised, so thinks and reacts different. which might come from the fact that the brain actually develops physically in children as they grow..dunno any specifics but I think it responds to experience/learning and constantly creates new nerve endings, blood vessels and such until it peaks and starts the downhill decline.

so it stands to reason that everyone thinks/reacts different because our minds are physically un-alike in a sense, as a result of our diverse experiences. and memory plays a huge part..I'd guess that's the retrieval mechanism boodah mentioned - if you think of it, when you remember something it's like you actually 'relive' it, maybe not in like dvd, but emotions can resurface fresh after a decade.

damn, what sort of hard drive would it take to cope with downloading so much so quick after so long - memory plays a powerful part. when you think of it, your mind chooses what you remember and effectively tosses away the rest cause you can't keep it all - how does it choose? because that's pretty much the sum of what we know..so is it memory that makes us who we are? cause mad decisions/emotions are made on the strength of recognition. communication relies on it too.

and you've got the soul to contend with..what works for me: heart's the motor (keep sht moving), like the body's the car (do, act, get you there). brain's the driver (decison maker, time-keeper, archive, license-holder). and the spirit/soul is that part of you that has to prioritise for itself..the part of you that tells you whether you're happy with that decision to make the turn to work when you wanna keep going out of town but have sht tying you down behind you. brain knows what's needed, soul deals with desires..and stress/life is about trying to meet halfway.

and that's what makes us human, that we have to tussle about shit like that every couple of seconds, play games with yourself until you're almost not even aware of it..dunno if they have souls or not but there aren't many half-hearted animals in the wild - but even more literally, they are all they know. perhaps they/we are just all that we need at the end of the day, no longer need to dedicate thought to it so we turn in on ourselves.

I will conceed to the cats talking about ancestors, that's another thing humans benefit from the past in the sense that we don't have to start from scratch with each birth like many other species do. some sort of progression's made, don't necessarily mean industrial/technological/economic.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

all we know is all we are.. - cobain/nirvana
21953, More questions
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-17-00 05:34 AM
Thank you -- all of you -- for your thoughtful responses. My mind has been hard at work trying to assimilate all these thoughts.

I'm not sure that I'm completely ready to jump back into the discussion, but let me pose these questions in response to your post:

Experience/sense data: What about that part of us that is not learned or experienced through the senses? Let me just throw this example out there: time. Can't see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, hear it. So it's not sensory. But we believe we experience it. How?

Memory: How do memories arise? It's true, sometimes out of the blue I'll remember something from years ago, and it's like repeating the experience all over again. Why did I think of it then? Is there a selection process for memories and emotions that takes place without our awareness?

Soul: Is this the non-conscious, pre-intellectual and perhaps non-self-reflective awareness that selects memories, selects what sensory input that we become aware of and that which we discard, and glues together the experiences that we have?

More to chew on.

We're taking this at a leisurely pace -- at least I am -- so time differences don't bother me.

21954, Just wanna throw this out there
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-17-00 07:01 AM

>Experience/sense data: What about that
>part of us that is
>not learned or experienced through
>the senses? Let me
>just throw this example out
>there: time. Can't
>see it, smell it, taste
>it, touch it, hear it.
> So it's not sensory.
> But we believe we
>experience it. How?

Time to me is one of the most concrete examples of our sense abilities. For example: We see time as the sun rise or sun set, the wrinkles on an old persons face, the mold on a piece of bread, etc. We can smell and taste time as sour milk. We can hear time as the screeching sound of tea boiling in a tea kettle.

Also the thing about memory can be explained by some theories of quantum physics. I have a book that explains those theories, but it's at home. I'll see if I can locate some when I get there...


21955, RE: Just wanna throw this out there
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-17-00 07:14 AM
But sensory data alone only tells us what is directly in front of us.

Monday: I see the milk in the refrigerator. I feel the carton as I lift it out of the refrigerator. I smell the fresh scent of unspoiled milk. I taste the milk.

Friday: I see the milk in the refrigerator. I feel the carton... I smell the rancid odor of milk that is spoiled. I decide not to taste it.

I make a connection between these two events. What is it that tells me that the milk is the same milk? Just because it's in the same place? Because in some respects, it's not the same milk.

So I'm making a judgement in my mind: This is the same milk that I tasted on Monday. Today is Friday. The milk is different. I see the EFFECT of time, but I don't directly experience it.

How about space? Sensory data would tell me that when I close my eyes, the world turns dark. When I turn a corner, a new street comes into being and an old one disappears. What's the connector?

Again, we're doing this at a leisurely pace, so whenever you come back with the quantum physics info, it's all good.

I'm looking forward to it. I didn't realize that quantum physics applied to the human mind.

21956, RE: Just wanna throw this out there
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-17-00 08:01 AM
I see
>the EFFECT of time, but
>I don't directly experience it.

Yeah, you do. The thing is that it's so miniscule a change that you don't even notice it.

When hair grows on top of your head not only are you vicim to the effects of time, but your physical characteristics are altered. To me, this is a direct experience.

I think there are more senses active in the average human being, but we don't have the facilities to describe/analyze them.

>How about space? Sensory data
>would tell me that when
>I close my eyes, the
>world turns dark. When
>I turn a corner, a
>new street comes into being
>and an old one disappears.
> What's the connector?

There may be something like lower and higher sets of perception. Sensory data acts as the lower set because it's automatic. A higher set works under "consciousness" and through this we can make the connection and realize that we are on a different street. I dunno, I'm guessing.

>Again, we're doing this at a
>leisurely pace, so whenever you
>come back with the quantum
>physics info, it's all good.

no doubt...

21957, More on time
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-17-00 08:25 AM
When does time happen?

Does it occur in discrete moments? Or as a flow?

If the change is occurring at a pace that is too small for me to notice ("experience"), then I can't "experience" it, right? I'm not convinced that I "experience" time.

Reaching way back into the dusty caverns of my memory, I think I remember from high school calculus that the whole point of calculus is to measure the change that takes place at a "point" -- remembering that a "point" has no space itself and, if thought of as a point in time, is instantaneous. It's a helpful construct, because since time and space are made up of an infinite number of "points," none of which have any space or take any time themselves but all of which added together make all of time and all of space, then we are kind of stuck with a model that requires instantaneous change. And if change has to occur instantaneously, then change doesn't necessitate time, right?

21958, RE: More on time
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-17-00 08:45 AM
>When does time happen?

I don't think it's a matter of when. Can we exist out of time? Can there be a place where there is no birth or death and we're still conscious of our surroundings and senses?

>Does it occur in discrete moments?
> Or as a flow?

I believe everything is cyclical. Starts and stops don't exist with respect to time (unless one wears a cheap timex :-)).

>If the change is occurring at
>a pace that is too
>small for me to notice
>("experience"), then I can't "experience"
>it, right? I'm not
>convinced that I "experience" time.

You're not conscious of the passage of time, but it has a direct effect on you. If your meaning of experience is based on sensory perceptions then you don't experience it.

Let me ask you this. If you conceived a child yesterday are you experiencing pregnancy? Or just because you don't "feel" the child inside you you don't consider it the actual experience.

>Reaching way back into the dusty
>caverns of my memory, I
>think I remember from high
>school calculus that the whole
>point of calculus is to
>measure the change that takes
>place at a "point" --
>remembering that a "point" has
>no space itself and, if
>thought of as a point
>in time, is instantaneous.
>It's a helpful construct, because
>since time and space are
>made up of an infinite
>number of "points," none of
>which have any space or
>take any time themselves but
>all of which added together
>make all of time and
>all of space, then we
>are kind of stuck with
>a model that requires instantaneous
>change. And if change
>has to occur instantaneously, then
>change doesn't necessitate time, right?

Uh...I'll get back to you on that one...


21959, quick definition
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-17-00 08:48 AM
What I mean when I say "experience" is "receive sensory data." That'll help in figuring out my convoluted confusions...

21960, RE: quick definition
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-17-00 09:11 AM
I hear you.

But my question is: Is that all experience is? (I guess that's your question too)

See, that's my problem. I believe "experience" is more than what we can perceive with our senses. As long as an element acts upon your person it directly effects you. If it directly effects you (whether you know it or not) it becomes an experience (to me anyway). Time directly effects your person (alters physical characteristics), so that's why I believe we experience it.

21961, Good point
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-17-00 12:16 PM
Circling back to the original question --

If all we know is all we are, what do we know? How do we know something? This is where the distinctions become important. If all I know is derived from sensory data, how do I "know" about time? I think we agree that experience is more than sensory data -- "experience" is sensory input plus our own internal processing.

If I conceived a child yesterday, I wouldn't "experience" the pregnancy today -- except as a form of wishful thinking. Then when the pregnancy is confirmed by a test, by intellectual knowledge that I'm pregnant. Both are valid "experiences" but they still are based on sensory input plus internal processing.

So I guess the next question is, since we have no control over the sensory input we receive (do you agree? or is this unclear?), then the whole thing that makes us who we are is a completely random and meaningless set of sensory data that is beyond our control, and that elusive "internal processing." Does that follow?

So it's all about that internal processing mechanism, isn't it? BooDaah & I are chatting above about the mechanism, too.

Doesn't it seem weird that the thing that defines us, makes us who we are (assuming that my arguments follow logically), is something that we can't quite put our fingers on? Or does it? Maybe it's not weird. We think that we have this big consciousness, but maybe it's really a lot more limited than we think.

21962, The quantum physics thang...
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-17-00 12:51 PM
It's gonna take me some time to answer the questions you just posed. I got a chance to peep a small quote about memory in a book entitled "The Dreaming Universe". Like the title states, it's more about dreams than memory, but they are interrelated. See if you can draw any conclusions (or questions) from this:

"Our brains and neural-network models of our brains operate associatively. Events in one part of the net stimulate the rest of the net to reproduce a particular pattern. This results in a recall of a memory that was created in the first place by the plasticity of the connections in the interconnecting matrix.

However, these nets operate causally: the neuronal units of the net are interconnected through a matrix that will respond in time, i.e., given enough time. Thus a change of value in one neuron will be sent over the connecting matrix to the other neurons, ultimately causing them to change values, after a while. All of this happens over time as the network "interrogates itself" over several cycles in attempting to reconstruct the whole truth from a piece of the truth. This would explain the normal sense of a time delay as we attempt to remember some event based on another associative event.

Quantum mechanical nets, if they are ever simulated with a computer, will operate differently. Neurons throughout the net will not be connected by anything like wires or a mathematical connecting matrix. Nor will they have definite values. Instead they will be "quantum physically corelated," and each will be in an indefinite state. As a result of any one neuron's taking on a definite value, the other neurons in the net will instantaneously take on values as if the connection between them were superluminal. The result of this "beyond time" interconnection produces a range of "popping-on" neurons acting simultaneously, giving rise, I believe, to a distributed "sense of presence" that I label as the self.

Thus, in the model I propose, the dreaming brain is capable of correlating events ocurring elsewhere and "in here." Normally the awake brain does the same thing, but the overwhelming "out there" data swamps any hope of correlating the "in here" events with such events as those that will occur in the future or those that are occuring out of normal causal range. But the dreaming brain is shut off from the overwhelming causal data field of the outside world. Thus it would seem that it could on occasion "read" events that would be considered paranormal. It would not read this data as unusual any more than your awake brain reads the rustling of a tree or a birds flight as unusual.

But for this to happen there would have to be some previous event that set up the quantum state of correlation or, as some physicists have discovered, some event in the future that will correlate the events in question. Given that this correlation mechanism can generate a correlation of events in the past or the future, it would at least appear that the same machanism that explains the rise of the self also explains psychic or telepathic dreaming. All that is necessary is that something happened in the past or that something will actually happen in the future that involves the dreamers brain and the outside world."



21963, sidetrack..
Posted by guest, Mon Aug-21-00 12:46 AM
>if they have souls or
>not but there aren't many
>half-hearted animals in the wild
>- but even more literally,
>they are all they know.
>perhaps they/we are just all
>that we need at the
>end of the day, no
>longer need to dedicate thought
>to it so we turn
>in on ourselves.

sorry, just reading back my own post days later and that's looking deep to me..like, if I could just apply it to my own life.

like if an untamed animal has a need it satisfies it, sees an opportunity - it takes it. or dies in the attempt on either count.

perhaps, what we are IS what we need..but do we still have serious needs, as such? or has this social 'domestication' gone too far now.

cause I feel like if all of this were gone in a second and we took it back a few millenia, and most thought time had to be dedicated to survival on a moment-to-moment basis..

what then? I feel like a lot of folks would just lay down and die without leadership, fam or not. like now, what we are is what aren't.

or is it like how some psychologists used to think babies were equivalent to savages/primitives. and vice versa - seems like an insult to both.

what's a 'primitive' anyway? is it because we've got different cultural signifiers..yet we've all spinning on this rock an equal length of time.

anyway, rambling's ensued..so speaks a hopeful pessimist. umm, yeah. carry on.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

ain't nothing rehearsed.. - butterfly/dps
21964, Primitive?
Posted by janey, Mon Aug-21-00 05:13 AM
Maybe the difference between adult humans and babies/animals is the lack of intellectual analysis. So much of what we do is colored by our thoughts about it. We project into the future what the consequences of each action are, and we believe our predictions, even though they are just mind constructs.

For example, what is fear? Fear is a thought about the future. If a bear is chasing you and you feel fear, are you "afraid" of the bear chasing you? No, you're afraid of what will happen if the bear catches you. If the bear catches you, are you afraid of that? No, you hate it, you're in pain, whatever, but you're not afraid of the pain, you're feeling the pain. If you're still afraid, what you're worried about is what's coming next. You see what I mean? So it's all a mind construct in the present moment.

Animals/babies presumably don't go through that intellectual analysis.

But I don't think that necessarily means that they are "better." With intellectual analysis, and with spacious awareness and consciousness, we are able to discern among skillful and unskillful means of reaching our goals. We're able to distinguish harmful and beneficial. So the trick probably isn't to give up intellectual analysis altogether, but maybe just to cultivate an openness to seeing more broadly -- trying to see the effect of our actions on all creatures.

I think it was Gandhi who said, "Before you take any action, consider the poorest person you have ever met, and ask yourself whether this action will have any benefit to them." Animals don't do that.

But animals do have a sense of immediacy that we can cultivate, I think. I think it takes a lot of practice and I think that it's the work of a lifetime, but I think that we can become more present to our moment to moment awareness.

21965, you're peace, janey!
Posted by guest, Mon Aug-21-00 05:35 AM

that's a good point you made about immediacy - we could all use it, make things much simpler..guess what I was saying is that that very difference is also oftentimes our downfall - our big old brains.

that intellectual deliberation that introduces hesitation..not a bad thing in itself, but it can be paralysing - warp/distort our natural instincts as in your example with the irrational fears most of us learn to cope with now.

we have us scheming beyond our means/needs for no real reason. intellectual's quandary, I like how ras kass put it: 'a billion paths to take but which one is truly straight?'

seize your time! - marley/wailers

ain't nothing rehearsed.. - butterfly/dps
21966, paths
Posted by janey, Mon Aug-21-00 05:43 AM
Yeah, we have to find a balance between skillful analysis and unskillful paralysis...

On straight paths -- I never believed much in straight paths. There have been times in my life when one thing led naturally to the next and it was all moving toward something bigger, and I could tell what was happening in the moment, and even now when I look back, I see it as a particularly blessed time.

But most of the time, my life is made up of corrections. I see I'm a little bit off track, and I make an adjustment. My adjustment veers me off the other direction a bit too much, and I change course again. But I figure I had to do everything I did in order to be where I am today.

Anyway, it's not about where you're going or the destination, it's about the search, the path that you take. The intention. Cuz you never get there, anyway, right?

21967, paths..
Posted by guest, Mon Aug-21-00 05:55 AM

on subject of paths, it was your ghandi quote that had me thinking of ras kass..meant it in the sense that we as humans have created sooo many options for ourselves on a minute-to-minute basis it's no wonder we're in here seeking our identities.

true, I feel like even hindsight is underrated and useful/rare as foresight..straight paths in the sense of choosing between getting by/down/up/over for self without being selfish.

religious doctrine places much importance in destination..so you believe that intentions carry all the weight, whatever the consequence?

we've prolly really side-tracked here..self-definition was the original question.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

ain't nothing rehearsed.. - butterfly/dps
21968, side tracks
Posted by janey, Mon Aug-21-00 06:26 AM
Side tracks are just another crooked path to the same destination.

Intention/destination. Consequences are important, too. But remember that when they come about, they're path (present) not goal (future).

Someone said, "Love God and do what you like." The idea is that if you truly love God, what you like will be all good. So if your intention is high enough, then the consequence will be the best you can hope for. That doesn't mean that it will look exactly like you wanted or hoped, but it does mean that if you don't have high intention, it would be worse.

21969, alright..
Posted by guest, Tue Aug-22-00 05:33 AM
> But remember that when
>they come about, they're path
>(present) not goal (future).
>Someone said, "Love God and do
>what you like." The
>idea is that if you
>truly love God, what you
>like will be all good.
> So if your intention
>is high enough, then the
>consequence will be the best
>you can hope for.

essence of it is that present (path) is really the only part we have direct control over..or like peter tosh put it metaphorically: 'make sure your doings are right so that when the payday comes around what you get in your envelope will be satisfactory.'

>That doesn't mean that it
>will look exactly like you
>wanted or hoped, but it
>does mean that if you
>don't have high intention, it
>would be worse.

and that's where like ALL human anger in life stems/arises from, isn't it? expectations that aren't met.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

ain't nothing rehearsed.. - butterfly/dps
21970, RE: alright..
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-22-00 05:50 AM
I think that's right. I never thought of it like that, but I think you're really onto something. I'm trying to think of a kind of anger that arises out of something other than expectations not being met...and ultimately, I don't think I can.

So if we let go of expectations, our anger should decrease. Or, if our expectations/goals are useful and we don't want to abandon them, then when the expectations aren't met then perhaps we recognize where the anger is coming from, decide whether it's helpful, and if it isn't, recognize that it's just another mind construct that we can choose to identify with or choose to just notice.

Buddha said that being angry with someone is like picking up a red hot burning iron ball with the intention of throwing it at another. It burns us as much as it does the person we're directing it at. And if we were to recognize the harm that the anger is doing to us, we would drop it as naturally and as quickly as we would drop that red hot iron ball.

So circling back to the original question and also your post below on mind states, What am I? Am I my anger? For me, at least, the answer is no, because the anger is a mind construct that rises and passes away with the correct conditions. If the conditions exist for anger to arise (my expectations), it will arise. If the conditions exist for the anger to fall away (my recognition of it as an impermanent state of mind and not something with substance), it falls away. I have this idea that what I'm looking for when I'm trying to point to my "self" is something that is more permanent than that mind state or the mind states created by thoughts.

Also, because I can see my emotions as separate from my "self" and because, like thoughts, they arise and pass away without my will or conscious control, I am not my emotions.

But I think that we can pattern the mind. I think that there's a lot of value in practicing those mind states that are skillful. Like, when I make a mistake, if I say to myself, "Oh, janey, you're so stupid!" that reinforces the idea that I'm a bad person and I'm stupid, and that allows for more mistakes and more bad feelings about myself. If instead I say to myself, "Oh, janey, you made a mistake -- how unlike you!" that reinforces the idea that I'm a worthy person who doesn't make mistakes. This is not to say that we don't all make mistakes. Just that I think we can create conditions that expect mistakes and so create them, or expect good works and so creates that.

21971, yeah..
Posted by guest, Wed Aug-23-00 02:02 AM
>myself. If instead I
>say to myself, "Oh, janey,
>you made a mistake --
>how unlike you!" that reinforces
>the idea that I'm a
>worthy person who doesn't make
>mistakes. This is not
>to say that we don't
>all make mistakes. Just
>that I think we can
>create conditions that expect mistakes
>and so create them, or
>expect good works and so
>creates that.

..like justified expectations - righteous anger. or is it the other way around.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

I'm all about peace in this nation
but if she played me in the womb
I'd give my mother complications.. - dres/blacksheep
21972, soulexperience, memorytime..
Posted by guest, Fri Aug-18-00 01:31 AM
>Experience/sense data: What about that part of us that is not
>learned or experienced through the senses? Let me just throw this
>example out there: time. Can't see it, smell it, taste it, touch
>it, hear it. So it's not sensory. But we believe we experience it. How?

dunno if time's a good example.."can't see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, hear it" - I'm starting to fall into that camp that believes that we can't 'experience' time because it doesn't exist. like it's a relative, administrative thing that's gained significance, increased relevance. logical divisions of divisions between this point and that - like trying to experience something that's we apply and justify after the fact, like maths.

dunno, I feel like that's something that's learned - like, no disrespect to dove, but why do we feel it necessary to count our years down because the earth rotates that way? sometimes wonder if babies have a concept of time..or death even? or like digable planets said: we're all just babies. then again, even science/truth/reality is just enough people co-signing on the same thing (usually after opposition) - somebody can prolly shake it all up again any moment. so, no - I feel like time is what we make it and we experience 'within' it, like space.

I'd guess time/judgement's about linear accumulated experience up until that precise point that thought draws upon it and you want that milk and can have it but know you shouldn't..or perhaps it's just a primal, primitive thing, like how we apparently naturally physically reject anything from inside that appears outside the body..but then again, babies apparently aren't averse to handling shit or piss so maybe it's all concious/learned, recognise it or not - rotten milk is simply unpleasant.

>Memory: How do memories arise? It's true, sometimes out of the
>blue I'll remember something from years ago, and it's like repeating
>the experience all over again. Why did I think of it then? Is there
>a selection process for memories and emotions that takes place
>without our awareness?

not a clue about how memory arises..the human brain is some shit, subconcious specifically. we can speculate all we want but it denies definition because it isn't defined - or we aren't ready. like I say, everything outside ourselves is nonsensensical until we each make sense of it for ourselves. it's almost like you actually create what you see each time based on a bunch of stuff, generate the street, the corner, next street, YOUR entire world. perhaps we all 'see/create' a different world, maybe each time even.

when I say we aren't ready I feel like we've done almost too well with this world, we aren't hungry and we stalled at twenty percent brain use, lugging around the rest until...? not like it's just laying dormant - but then would we all be identical if we all hit 100%? anyway, I feel like that'll be a key to understanding our subconcious selves, connecting mind/spirit (body even - who knows maybe we can fly), understanding dreams, memory and such, even just the effects of music. irrational moods, unexplainable/persistent ill health, God, war, whatever.

then again, why DID you think of it then?..but instead of when? why not, it's as good a moment as any other if you discount time, dunno if minds are meant to be shoehorned into that linear frame - like we'd assume it to be non-reflective selection because we know that it isn't concious recall and don't really have a clue about the process so we apply logic to it. I don't really have a clue about any of this.

>Soul: Is this the non-conscious, pre-intellectual and perhaps
>non-self-reflective awareness that selects memories, selects
>what sensory input that we become aware of and that which we
>discard, and glues together the experiences that we have?

yeah, you might say that..it's the soul that deals with those intangibles that are affected by reality and have tangible effects. the emotional side that decides whether the incoming data is relevant enough to warrant storage for future use..but like you say, how does it know/decide - it's a riddle because is that how self/identity is built upon, like a computer that learns? or is self about wading through a bunch of data and some pieces will 'fit' - the pieces themselves determine identity.

but that's too random. and we'd have to start discussing intelligence..and the nature/nurture debate. collective thought/society. I guess the world isn't that big in the sense that, as we are now, we really can only focus our attention or eyes on a very small selected piece of space at any given moment. whilst you actually read these words everything outside your monitor, or the paragraph, sentence even, becomes pretty indistinct..so we're all about keeping it moving until the next frame.

thanks - good shit all, peace. I'm likely to be out until monday.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

you can't take the wet out of water, if you could I know you would.. - marley/wailers
21973, Lots to
Posted by janey, Fri Aug-18-00 05:31 AM
I think that time is a construct by which we make sense of the world, but which does not exist as we know it outside of our minds.

And I also think that thoughts arise without our conscious will or control. Some examples of this are:

I try to remember a fact, like someone's name or something, but it escapes me. If I had control over my thoughts and memory, I should be able to retrieve them at will.

I try and try, and still can't remember it. I give up the search through my memory, and just let it go. A few days later, while falling asleep, or while walking down the street, it comes to me. Not while I was consciously trying to remember, but just seemingly on its own. Does that sound familiar?

The same thing works with "new" ideas. I'm puzzling over something, I can't quite figure it out. This could be the answer to a clue in a crossword puzzle, or a new theory to explain the way the world works. While I'm working at it, I have no insight. But, days later, again as I'm about to fall asleep, or having a conversation with friends about a different topic, an insight appears. Just presents itself. Not a product of the rational mind. Einstein said something to the effect of "My understanding of the nature of the universe did not arise from my rational mind."

Another example: have you ever meditated? I'm thinking of the kind of meditation in which you try to still your mind by focusing on one thing, which can be your breath, or a prayer, or a chant. Just one light focus. Those thoughts keep coming in, coming in, and it's easy to get caught up in them, but when you notice that you're no longer watching your breath, or that you can't remember where you are in your prayer, the thought falls away and you go back to what you were doing.

I think that the mind is not under my control, and Phraktal's piece out of The Dreaming Universe seems to agree with that -- there are thoughts that arise because of the connection of neurons in the brain, and thoughts that arise because of the collective unconscious, but they just sort of happen. If I am my thoughts, or if I owned my mind -- like if I could exert my will on my mind, then I should just be able to say "Okay, thinking mind, turn off for a while now," and get really quiet. But there's always a lot of noise in the mind.

Listen to me, taking apart thinking while saying "I think, I think." Weird.

So before I go on, let me go back and re-read your post again, so I don't get too far off the mark.

21974, I was watching
Posted by Wendell, Fri Aug-18-00 06:19 AM
public television about a month ago and the program discussed this exact subject. What I can remember is that it discussed how the brain retrieves data and processes it. To answer your ownership of your brain quandry, the program said that when a person tries to remember something and can't, the brain continues to work on retrieving the data AFTER you consciencely decide that you don't know the answer to the question and move on. When the brain finds it, it gives it too you, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

The program talked about two types of memory depositories, one short term and one long term. The short term memory acts as a filter for the long term memory. I'm not quite positive of this, but I think the short term memory holds every sensation that you've experience (taste, feelings etc.) for approximately ten minutes. It "tags" any sensation or memory that is worth saving and discards the rest. Those tagged memories then are categorized and prioritised in the long term memory bank, forever.

The program said the we have the ability to store and retrieve more data than we actually do, but we haven't learned to tap into the other parts of our brain.


Pseudonym-less Wendell
21975, If I understand
Posted by janey, Fri Aug-18-00 06:40 AM
then we're still talking about memories arising as a result of a trigger that we've pulled, but not as a result of a conscious filtering through of old memories until we find the right one.

So if thoughts arise without our conscious control, and if sensory data is beyond our control, then what do we mean if we think that what we "are" is the sum of the sensory data and our thoughts about it? What we "are" is beyond our control?

Or is that all? Is there an "observer" behind the thoughts and behind the sensations?

21976, That's not how I understand
Posted by Wendell, Fri Aug-18-00 06:48 AM
the brain process. I think we have control because we made the initial request. The brain is a part of us and does the work for us, but it can execute a command without our "supervision", so to speak.

I think we independantly control our being.

I'm desperatly trying to stay on track with this discussion.


Pseudonym-less Wendell
21977, you and me both
Posted by janey, Fri Aug-18-00 06:53 AM
this ish is getting complicated.

I think what I'm focusing on is the fact that I think of "myself" or my "self" as being closely related to conscious awareness. So stuff that happens without my conscious awareness and control (like digestion, or my hair growing, or aging...or finding the thought I was looking for, or stopping thinking for a minute), is a part of me, but isn't "me."

Does that sort of make sense?

21978, Stop me if I get too far "out there"...
Posted by guest, Fri Aug-18-00 07:06 AM
>I think that time is a
>construct by which we make
>sense of the world, but
>which does not exist as
>we know it outside of
>our minds.

I see where you're coming from. This reminds me of the question "If a tree falls down in the forest, does it make a sound?" Outside of our brains, do sounds exist? Sight? taste, touch? It's ALL a construct by which we make sense of the world. (Does this make sense to you? let me know if it doesn't)

>I think that the mind is
>not under my control, and
>Phraktal's piece out of The
>Dreaming Universe seems to agree
>with that -- there are
>thoughts that arise because of
>the connection of neurons in
>the brain, and thoughts that
>arise because of the collective
>unconscious, but they just sort
>of happen. If I
>am my thoughts, or if
>I owned my mind --
>like if I could exert
>my will on my mind,
>then I should just be
>able to say "Okay, thinking
>mind, turn off for a
>while now," and get really
>quiet. But there's always
>a lot of noise in
>the mind.

I believe we have very limited control of our minds. We can all remember the name of the street you live on on demand. However, if you see somone you haven't seen in a long time and you can't remember their name for example, this is what "fires up" those neurons in the brain. Subconsciously, the brain will make associations with the face, or any other familiar feature. This will (sometimes) lead you to remember the person.

The brain is just like a computer. When you run an application like Netscape for ex. all of your settings (personal info) are in RAM. This allows easy retrival of that information. If you try to open up a GIF or Jpeg(any external info) from your hard drive, that information must be read into(processed) RAM memory. It takes longer because the computer must analyze the data and make sure everything clicks so that you can see(remember) your picture. If the data is corrupted, either you'll get a distortion, or you won't see the image at all. This is not to say that your brain is corrupted, but the associations made probably led you to believe it was someone from high school, when it was really a neihgbor from your pre-adolescent days.

The mind is a wonderful thing, aint it? We could probably talk about it for years and still end up asking the same question - Is all we are what we know? (that is the original question right?)


21979, Never too far
Posted by janey, Sun Aug-20-00 08:59 AM
> Outside of our brains,
>do sounds exist? Sight?
> taste, touch? It's
>ALL a construct by which
>we make sense of the
>world. (Does this make sense
>to you? let me know
>if it doesn't)

It makes perfect sense to me. So then the next question would be: Is there a "self" or a "witness" or an "observer" that is observing the mind's constructs, or is that observer itself a construct of the mind?

Can the fish describe the water? Nahmean?

We keep digging a little deeper, a little deeper.

>I believe we have very limited
>control of our minds.
>We can all remember the
>name of the street you
>live on on demand.
>However, if you see somone
>you haven't seen in a
>long time and you can't
>remember their name for example,
>this is what "fires up"
>those neurons in the brain.
> Subconsciously, the brain will
>make associations with the face,
>or any other familiar feature.
>This will (sometimes) lead you
>to remember the person.

And if I say to you, "Don't think about a pink elephant" your mind will automatically conjure up a picture of a pink elephant, no matter how hard you try to stop it.

Or you hear something that reminds you of the most obnoxious song that was ever popular during your lifetime. And then for hours or days, that damn song keeps running through your head.

(TOTALLY IGNORABLE SIDETRACK FOLLOWS: Annie Dillard has this tremendous essay in, I think, Teaching A Stone To Talk, in which she describes the experience of a total eclipse. Getting to the place where they could view the total eclipse, finding a hotel to stay in, getting up before dawn so as to get to the mountainside where they would watch it. Numerous people there, all very comfortable with each other, the sun rises, the eclipse begins, people settle down to watch through their cameras obscura, then, just as the last sliver of sun is about to disappear, the shadow of the moon comes RUSHING up the mountainside to where they are and a lid just SLAMS shut over the sun. And while this shadow is rushing toward them she realizes that all these people around them are screaming. And then she realizes that she's screaming. Later, she learns that at total eclipses in the Middle Ages and such, people used to commit mass suicide, and she says she can understand why. And she describes the quality of the light, etc., and completes the experience and says that it was an incredible thing that she ponders from time to time. But, she says, in that hotel room where they stayed the night before, there was a picture on the wall of a clown's face, all made of vegetables. So the hair was carrots, and the head was a head of cabbage, and the lips were chili peppers, but the eyes were human eyes. And she said it kind of repelled her when she first saw it, and she thought, "Ugh what bad art." and dismissed it. But the picture of the clown's face still comes into her head unbidden at night when she's falling asleep or at odd times, and she has to consciously retrieve the experience of the total eclipse. Which, she says, she finds a little bit upsetting. She would rather flash on a peak experience like the eclipse, and not some piece of trash she saw inadvertantly.)

>The brain is just like a
>computer. When you run
>an application like Netscape for
>ex. all of your
>settings (personal info) are in
>RAM. This allows easy
>retrival of that information.
>If you try to open
>up a GIF or Jpeg(any
>external info) from your hard
>drive, that information must be
>read into(processed) RAM memory.
>It takes longer because the
>computer must analyze the data
>and make sure everything clicks
>so that you can see(remember)
>your picture. If the
>data is corrupted, either you'll
>get a distortion, or you
>won't see the image at
>all. This is not
>to say that your brain
>is corrupted, but the associations
>made probably led you to
>believe it was someone from
>high school, when it was
>really a neihgbor from your
>pre-adolescent days.

Interesting -- that folds right into the time issue, doesn't it, because it points us at the question of how the past is experienced -- as another mind construct. All that we have of the past is what we think about it. There really is only this moment, this moment, now, now, now, see where I'm going? So if there's a lag between the computer/brain receiving information and the computer/brain processing the information, then we are at all times living just a hair's breadth behind now. There it is -- whooops, got away.

I can't off the top of my head remember which cultural tradition this image comes from (bad computer!) but in Western culture we tend to talk about looking "forward" to the future. In this other tradition, the image is that the future is behind us, that time is flowing over us from behind -- which seems to be more apt to me. We're just standing at this point, watching our experience flow further away. Did I make that image clear? If not, I'll try to describe it better.

>The mind is a wonderful thing,
>aint it? We could
>probably talk about it for
>years and still end up
>asking the same question -
>Is all we are what
>we know? (that is the
>original question right?)

Entire ways of thought, entire religions get built around the question. Maybe what we're doing here is testing old theories against our personal experience, and coming to new ways of thinking about it. Maybe we'll even construct a new philosophical system....

21980, RE: What Are We?
Posted by Shimmy, Fri Aug-18-00 09:07 AM
Forgive me if I get off topic....many ideas have come up while I've read your responses...

I feel I have to put in my Westcoast, hippie, psychoactive substance taker perspective.

Part of what is missing is the concept of magic.I don't mean card trick magic either--call it soul, spirit, the "force"...

Naturally, we have this tendancy to want to nail down our understanding of the way things work.
We like to define the concept of time in linear terms, define the function of the brain as "firing neurons".

In doing so we take a complex event and make it "simple" by defining it with language and scientific theory.

I see it as soooo much more than that..

But it requires a mental shift..an ability to look outside normal conventions.

I like your example of meditation.When you really get into a deep meditation, your experience of time is altered greatly.What seems like an eternity, can only be minutes(by the clock). Your physical boundaries become expanded, the relationship between the brain and the body changes.Even your relationship with the "universe"; the energy of nature, the connection to the collective human existence--it can all be manipulated!

Phew--am I losing any of you yet?

So--having said that I approach it from a "student" perspective.I try not to define it, but rather focus on the potential. If I open up my consciouness to such a degree--will I enter a whole new level of understanding?One that can not be explained by mere words?

There is a lot of this type of discussion occuring in the circles of people using psychoactives to explore these ideas.Yeah--its a big word for drugs--but its not done with an idea of getting wasted, but rather to use certains substances as tools to unlock new doors of perception....Its been done by the Shamans and seers throughout history. It can also be done by the meditators and monks, but heck I'm too lazy for that route.

Regardless of the path you choose--I think you discover truths that are larger than what can be defined.Everyday terms of reference can't represent it.And I'm ok with that.

The question "what are we" becomes less of a frustration, and more of a gift--a beautiful challenge to figure out.

Ooooh I've been reading too much Zen.....

I'm gonna zip off to lunch now, but I wanted to just put in my .02 cents....


If you're happy with nothin', you'll be so very happy with me -----Ben Harper
21981, Just a quick word
Posted by janey, Fri Aug-18-00 11:03 AM
Two things jumped out at me in my first reading of your post. I'm going to have to read it again for a bigger picture response, but for the moment...

Time. I used to have a lot of fun with people's concept of time by asking them whether they thought that time, as a relative concept, moved at a constant rate, or whether the rate was fluid. In almost every case, people seem to believe that time moves at a constant pace and it was their own perception that was skewed if time "flew when they were having fun" or if it seemed like that "watched pot never boiled." It seemed as though time was an absolute without which their world would end. If time is a convenient construct and not an absolute truth, then there's no problem with it speeding up and slowing down. Also, you know, the concept of hours and minutes didn't come into play until the industrial revolution.

Psychoactive drugs. I take my lead on this notion from that wonderful old hippie, Ram Dass. Ram Dass (under his other name, Richard Alpert) was a close associate of Timothy Leary during the early experimentation with LSD. Both were seeing the drug as a method to open up to new possibilities, new universes. Ultimately, Ram Dass found (and talks about in Grist For the Mill, I think) that the possibilities are available to us without drugs and that there's more integration with unaltered life if the new ways of thinking are achieved without the drugs. You're right that meditation is a way to insight into greater possibilities, but most teachers will warn against taking too seriously the visions or manifestations that arise -- it's just another form of distraction from the actual practice of meditation.

More in a bit.

21982, RE: Just a quick word
Posted by Shimmy, Fri Aug-18-00 11:40 AM
And just to mess with the concept of time even further...it gets even more interesting if you look at the idea of having more than one "life" on earth.If you are a being that evolves and reappears at different points of existence.
Really puts that question of "what are we" in a whole new realm.

Again reading too much Zen ;-)

I see psychoactives as merely a tool...it can create an atmosphere where you are more open to accept concepts which might not be readily explained by everyday experience. Timothy Leary--and more recently Terrence McKenna, were two guys that were highly intelligent visionaries who respected the potential of exploration in this area. It can take a lot of discipline(meditating for example), or a good dose of mushrooms to enable us to transcend all the beliefs we accept to be "truths".

Gotta get back to work!


"If you're happy with nothin', you'll be so very happy with me -----Ben Harper
21983, mind control...
Posted by guest, Mon Aug-21-00 02:36 AM

I'm thinking much of the 'brain' is involuntary - you can't shut down bits of it, concious or not, without affecting the ENTIRE thing. eg. lobotomies or shock/breakdown whatever.

much of the mind engages in concious thought..kinda like the car analogy, you can steer/speed/crash it but you've got to respect it because there's a bunch of stuff going on under the hood that you don't really have any say in at that moment.

and the two overlap of course. you control the brain even in just the selection/range of things you expose it to. lose control of the mind daily eg. when it starts picketing for lack of sleep.

and there's the replenishment that goes on during sleep. this doesn't really explain what makes us 'us'..just keeping it moving.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

ain't nothing rehearsed.. - butterfly/dps
21984, That Kurt quote is completely wrong!!!
Posted by Genius, Tue Aug-22-00 05:59 AM
The line is "All in all is all we are". It is from "All Apologies" This post makes no sense if you base your comments on that incorrect quote. But if you never listen to Nirvana I can see how you would not know what he says or what song its from or even the context in which the song was written. I doubt that African Herbsman knows much about Nirvana other than "Smells Like Teen Spirit". But I don't want to get into a big argument about Nirvana. All I know is that Nirvana is the only music of my generation that has ever touched my soul and meant something to me. That wasn't even the topic of the post. But unless you are a true fan of Nirvana (which many of you aren't), just stick to quoting Common and D Angelo for now.

All Apologies

What else should I be
All apologies
What else should I say
Everyone is gay
What else could I write
I don't have the right
What else should I be
All apologies

In the sun
In the sun I feel as one
In the sun
In the sun
I'm married

I wish I was like you
Easily amused
Find my nest of salt
Everything is my fault
I'll take all the blame
Aqua seafoam shame
Sunburn with freezerburn
Choking on the ashes of her enemy
All in all is all we are

21985, Any thoughts welcome
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-22-00 06:11 AM
Irrespective of the attribution, do you have any thoughts on what we "are"? What does it mean to say "all in all is all we are"? Can you unpack that for me a little?

I confess that I am not a true Nirvana fan, although I do enjoy what I've heard. And I offer my apologies for misquoting. I think we're having a pretty valuable discussion about a lot of different things here -- any thoughts on any of the ideas expressed above? Nature of self? Role of mind? Nature of anger?

21986, RE: Any thoughts welcome
Posted by Genius, Tue Aug-22-00 06:40 AM
Hmmm.....I could write a book on this topic. I will not though because my views will probably seem weird to people. I am also at work and do not have time to write out a long winded response. I think what many of you have said is interesting. But even if you say "all we know is all we are" there are many things we don't know that makes us what we are. People in the past have not known all the stuff we know now. We should feel lucky as well as burdened with all the information we have. Sometimes its better to know less. I think you are able to enjoy life more if you aren't thinking and analyzing everything. What do they say? "Ignorance is bliss" That is very true.

Nature of self....that's basically a combination of genetic traits and life experiences.

For nature of anger, that is an easy one. Its just an innate characteristic that all animals have. Yes, that's right, people are animals too. If you don't believe me just watch a tape of a war or riot on TV. I still cannot believe people did this. The only thing that separates people from animals is language abilities. Anger is a way of releasing your emotions. It is not healthy but it is something you cannot control, no matter how you try to "manage" it with silly classes. It is normal to be angry once in a while.

Role of mind is to help the body survive in the world. Our main goal in life is to survive. Our mind helps us to accomplish that among other things. Our mind can help us find food, a mate, pleasure, etc........ I better stop now, I feel like William S. Burroughs. I would like to know what anyone else thinks about what I said. Does it make sense? Am I a freak? I am really just making this up as I go along and have not had sufficient time to think about your post and what everyone has said or to create a more focused response.
21987, Makes sense
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-22-00 06:43 AM
Don't worry -- all of us on this thread have teetered on the brink of nonsense at times.

What you have to say is very interesting, and I think it echoes in large part much of what is posted above. Have you read some of the above posts? When you have time, you might find some specific statement or question that really fires you up, rather than the general questions that I posed that really would take volumes to answer.

Looking forward to more discussion.

21988, P.S.
Posted by janey, Tue Aug-22-00 06:45 AM
For example, AfricanHerbsman & I have been discussing the nature of anger today -- take a look at our posts above that are dated today and see what you think.

21989, more ramblings..
Posted by guest, Wed Aug-23-00 01:58 AM

started over again, threads get to be a headache to read when they get squashed in corners..I like to just keep rambling on this thread like raina's 'post that never dies' in general..print it out when it's done.

all apologies to genius, or apologies to kurt cobain/nirvana more like for the misappropriation - thanks for inspiring the thoughts anyway. thanks for adding to the convo too, genius. can't say I'm a nirvana fan as such either cause I came across them by default really, a younger sister that's much like yourself prolly so I was forced to listen to those joints right through on long journeys. I'm open though, it's like a love/hate relationship - read a couple of her cobain biographies and he's a strangely fascinating cat, beyond the music even.

anyway, I feel what genius is saying about blissful ignorance, survival and such..these aren't things that I'd think about on a hourly basis, but I like this thread cause it lets me think out loud. it's what I meant in an earlier response of how survival planning/needs are less prominent today so we have the leisure/stress of turning back in on ourselves, as society does a lot these days.

anyway, both janey and genius' replies had me thinking about how much of our day-to-day is unconcious - how emotions CAN almost be seperate from self, how so much of what we do conciously is performed completely unconciously, that animal side. or is survival a function, like biological machines that have a task to fulfil - see itself through for as long as it can.

like I'd think my thought and tell my fingers to type it or my throat to speak it but I don't have a real clue how it goes about flexing those muscles - I haven't any control over it prolly cause we'd all fck it up if we had to think too much on it..and survival's imperative. and even still, I'm just responding to a stimulus.

so, that inner voice that instructs us, get's angry, high, whatever - how does IT communicate with self..in words, sounds, pictures? or just electricity..like do we really talk to ourselves 'inside' the way many people do when they're alone or whatever.

and with survival as the mind's main role does it mean the brain is instructed/motivated by 'me' or am I moved by my brain - like a benign dictator? cause it's like if was playing table tennis, that hand-eye thing, can I really 'think' that quick? or even just bobbing your head to a beat, can't help it.

basically, what I'm thinking does it all, not just emotions, just consist of reactions, of differing complexities - regardless of if the responses are genetic or learned.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

I'm all about peace in this nation
but if she played me in the womb
I'd give my mother complications.. - dres/blacksheep
21990, RE: even more ramblings..
Posted by janey, Wed Aug-23-00 03:57 PM
"Ignorance is bliss" -- I agree that over-intellectualizing is distancing, but I don't think that's what we mean when we say "Ignorance is bliss." That saying, in full, goes "If ignorance is bliss, then 'tis folly to be wise." Is ignorance bliss? I see it as harmful, ultimately. I think a lot of division arises from ignorance, I think most violence ultimately finds its roots in ignorance and poverty. The mind is a powerful tool, and we might as well use what's at our disposal. The trick is to use it skillfully.

Ignorance is more likely to create divisions than knowledge, because the more we know the more likely we are to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others. The more ignorant I am, the more likely I am to classify someone as stupid if they don't agree with me or if I don't understand what they're saying.

Knowledge can distance us from that spacious consciousness that we've talked about, if we let it. But I think that ignorance is more likely to do so than knowledge.

The key, I think, is wisdom. There's plenty of knowledge that's unnecessary on a day to day basis (other than to give us more grounding in the idea that there's a whole host of opinions, none of which are necessarily right, and all of which may be right given the correct circumstances), but there can never be enough wisdom. And I think of wisdom as being self-reflective, so it does involve the thinking mind, but I think it also involves the heart.

21991, My Skinnerian opinion...
Posted by murph25, Wed Aug-23-00 11:19 PM
As a behaviorist, I'd have to answer that ultimately, "we are what we do." A cognitive psychologist would be very concerned with the questions posed: how do we think, how do we experience emotions, how do we perceive. I've learned a lot about those topics, but I don't think those questions are ultimately the most important. I don't think we have the capacity to communicate about our unobservable "mental" phenomena in a meaningful way, due to the constraints of human language and our own lack of awareness about these physiological processes in our brain.

The only way we can understand "what we are" is by studying what we do. Concepts like "feelings", "knowledge", and "memories" can ultimately be explained in physical, behavioral terms - they are not THAT mysterious. Your actions ultimately define you. Whether it's coming from DesCartes or Cobain, I would disagree with the argument "I think therefore I am". In my world view, "I do, therefore I am." This may sound like a simplification of human existance, but I don't think it is. I think that "what we do" is a very complicated question, and that to understand our behavior is to understand the essence of the "self."

21992, murph..
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-24-00 02:00 AM
>The only way we can understand
>"what we are" is by
>studying what we do.
>Concepts like "feelings", "knowledge", and
>"memories" can ultimately be explained
>in physical, behavioral terms -
>they are not THAT mysterious.
> Your actions ultimately define
>you. Whether it's coming
>from DesCartes or Cobain, I
>would disagree with the argument
>"I think therefore I am".
> In my world view,
>"I do, therefore I am."
> This may sound like
>a simplification of human existance,
>but I don't think it
>is. I think that
>"what we do" is a
>very complicated question, and that
>to understand our behavior is
>to understand the essence of
>the "self."

see what you're saying..never really looked at this in any depth so I'm just asking questions.

makes me think of what we were discussing about wild animals and that black/white mental world they supposedly inhabit.

where does 'choice' fit in behavioural ideas..like, what motivates us to do and why do we all do it in so many different ways ie. self?

and I'm curious, how does 'imagination' fit in - or in this whole discussion even?

seize your time! - marley/wailers

just me, no simile, never flow simpl-e, cause it was meant to be..the truth, the truth, and nothing but the truth, I tell it to the youth, compelling with the proof etc - del, funkee homosapien
21993, a few more questions for murph
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-24-00 05:02 AM
Have you ever done anything that you regret? Have you ever done anything that you knew at the time you were doing it was not the right thing to do? (By the "right" thing, I don't mean something that is wrong by anyone's standards but your own). If so, how does that fit into the concept of behavior as the totality of self?

Also, is thought part of behavior? In other words, if I weigh my actions in advance, or if I consider them afterwards, does that fold into what I "do" as my self? Or is thought separate from the action that is self?

Would it be along the lines of your thinking to say that "behavior expresses the self" rather than "behavior is the self"? If not, what does it mean if I act a certain way at work but a different way at home and another way at a club and another way when I visit my parents? Are these many different selves? Or do we sort of average them out to find out the "true" self? Alternatively, if "behavior expresses the self" is relatively accurate, what is being expressed? Is anything timeless -- by which I don't necessarily mean eternal, but existing outside the confines of time and change?

21994, RE: a few more questions for murph
Posted by murph25, Thu Aug-24-00 02:53 PM
I'll try to answer these:

>Have you ever done anything that
>you regret? Have you
>ever done anything that you
>knew at the time you
>were doing it was not
>the right thing to do?

Yes, I have made mistakes. But, generally, the regret and realization that it was "wrong" came about after the fact. Almost as if "regret" were a residue of the behavior that caused it. Or that this emotion of "regret" was created after the fact as a way for me to understand or conceptualize my behavior.

> (By the "right" thing,
>I don't mean something that
>is wrong by anyone's standards
>but your own). If
>so, how does that fit
>into the concept of behavior
>as the totality of self?

I don't think it matters that much. I'm not suggesting that we have some absolute control over our behaviors. On the contrary, I think a lot of what we do is done for various reasons. Now, if I hold a set of moral values that say stealing is wrong, but I make my living as a burglar, what does that moral value mean? Is it a part of the "self"? If so, how do you know its there? I think the real moral values of an individual are not those they articulate to themselves or in their minds, but how they behave.

>Also, is thought part of behavior?
> In other words, if
>I weigh my actions in
>advance, or if I consider
>them afterwards, does that fold
>into what I "do" as
>my self? Or is
>thought separate from the action
>that is self?

BF Skinner argued that all thought was just behavior that we can't observe. That thinking is just talking without actually engaging the vocal chords, etc. There is some evidence that the same parts of our brains are used to "think" something as to "say" something, so it isn't entirely far-fetched. But, I stop short of agreeing with him. I think thought is quite a bit more complicated than language. In fact, it is that complexity that makes me question whether a person's "thoughts" can be meaningfully expressed by language. I mean, when somebody says "what are you thinking about" can you ever really answer that accurately? I wouldn't go so far as to say thinking is "separate" from behavior, but I think I understand more from observing a person's behavior than I ever could from asking them what they think.

>Would it be along the lines
>of your thinking to say
>that "behavior expresses the self"
>rather than "behavior is the

Yes, behavior expresses the self. I would take it another step and also say "behavior is the self", as well. That's radical behaviorism. It isn't the most widely held psychological or philosophical viewpoint these days, but I cling to it for some reason.

>If not, what
>does it mean if I
>act a certain way at
>work but a different way
>at home and another way
>at a club and another
>way when I visit my

Your environment affects your behavior. A rat can learn to push one lever when there is a red light on, but push another lever when there is a blue light on. The environment is a cue for a different set of reinforcement contingencies. The behavior that is rewarded at a club may be very different from what is rewarded when you visit Mom and Dad.

>Are these many
>different selves? Or do
>we sort of average them
>out to find out the
>"true" self?

We are all of these "selves", and behave in all of these ways. That's what makes us interesting.

>Alternatively, if
>"behavior expresses the self" is
>relatively accurate, what is being
>expressed? Is anything timeless
>-- by which I don't
>necessarily mean eternal, but existing
>outside the confines of time
>and change?

I think I touched on this in my response to the other questions. Our behavior comes about as a result of a unique intersection of nature and nurture. We are what we experience (or do) in our lifetime, and by evolution and heredity, we are defined by human behavior (and animal behavior) reaching back millions of years.

I accept time and change as fairly immutable scientific principles. I am not big on the spiritual or mystical explanations - I am more of a scientist, and as such I MUST assume the existence of time. Most cosmologies (spiritual and scientific) see change as central to our universe, so I don't see how the "self" could be any different.


21995, Wow oh wow
Posted by janey, Fri Aug-25-00 09:29 AM
I don't know whether the conversation here keeps getting deeper or whether my ability to assimilate the responses is weakening but it seems like every response on this thread is so well thought out that my brain is getting a lot of exercise!

Okay, murph, here goes. *taking deep breath and hoping to do your response justice...*

First, on Skinner's idea of thinking as talking to yourself in your head -- I'm with you on that one. I think that is probably true in a lot of instances, but in some of the cases we talk about above in which information appears without conscious retrieval (like the solution to a problem that you got stuck on and gave up for a while), there's pretty clearly been some processing going on without that silent talking. Also, I don't think we have all the words for emotions, for example. There have, of course, been a number of philosophers whose basic premise is that we define our world by language (wasn't it Wittgenstein who said that the only proper name for anything is "this"?), and I think there's an element of truth in that, but I'm willing to believe that, despite the fact that all of my experience is a mind construct, I am not the totality of experience.

Then, on the behavior issue -- If we don't have absolute control over our behavior, and it's affected in part by our environment such that we're different people in different environments, then is there any validity in an idea of the self as a separate and distinct entity? There's nothing behind the behavior, no observer, no witness, no control, no constancy? Does anything exist outside of this fluid, ever-changing stage on which lives are played out?

And if not, then it's pretty much all an illusion, right? Any of us could be hallucinating this whole thing? Easier to believe on the internet, because of the distance and facelessness of the replies, but even the people right in front of you? You sure you're a Skinnerian? Sounds pretty darn Buddhist to me.

And on time -- I can understand that scientific method in general has to rely on certain conventions (including time and space and Euclidean geometry and all that) but there are points at which it breaks down, even in science, right? Because if time were some sort of Ultimate Truth, it would be the same for everyone and everywhere, right?

Remember Einstein's shorthand version of the Theory of Relativity: When you sit on a couch with a pretty girl, an hour seems like a minute. When you sit on a hot stove, a minute seems like an hour. That's relativity.

Seriously, though, if time is an absolute, what time is it on the sun?

Or does scientific method only apply on Earth? And if that's the case, who are the astronauts when they're in orbit?

And, uh, hey, doesn't it kinda bug you that you're relying heavily on a guy that raised his daughter in a box? (J/K)

Golly this is a lot to think about.

21996, RE: Wow oh wow
Posted by murph25, Fri Aug-25-00 11:50 PM
Let me attempt to answer some of these questions.

>There have, of
>course, been a number of
>philosophers whose basic premise is
>that we define our world
>by language (wasn't it Wittgenstein
>who said that the only
>proper name for anything is
>"this"?), and I think there's
>an element of truth in
>that, but I'm willing to
>believe that, despite the fact
>that all of my experience
>is a mind construct, I
>am not the totality of

I have known a lot of individuals with disabilities who have had limited or negligible language abilities. Clearly, if they cannot communicate linguistically (or even understand language receptively), they must have other ways of organizing their world. I think that their existence is a valid one, and their lives are as valuable as any college graduate's. So, I guess this agrees with what you say. We must acknowledge there is more than language (or thought) to justify our existence.

>If we don't have absolute
>control over our behavior, and
>it's affected in part by
>our environment such that we're
>different people in different environments,
>then is there any validity
>in an idea of the
>self as a separate and
>distinct entity? There's nothing
>behind the behavior, no observer,
>no witness, no control, no
>constancy? Does anything exist
>outside of this fluid, ever-changing
>stage on which lives are
>played out?

We do not behave in a vacuum. All behavior occurs within a context - social, physical, internal. I would argue that no, we cannot exist as "separate and distinct entities". We are bound to this reality, this environment, this context. We may experience the world as "perception", but I think it's out there - why else would I keep stubbing my toe, right? An individual CANNOT exist outside of the context of our reality here on this planet.

As for whether we have any "control", I'd say no. I think we like to believe that we control our behavior, but that's really illusion. As a scientist, I've never seen any proof that we have some external "control" over our behavior beyond the physical stuff of our bodies and brains. Our brain functions in complicated ways, but the biology of it doesn't seem to invite the idea of a singular "pilot" driving us and engaging in all the behaviors we do. And I don't think its necessary to assume one exists.

>And if not, then it's pretty
>much all an illusion, right?
> Any of us could
>be hallucinating this whole thing?...
> You sure you're a
>Skinnerian? Sounds pretty darn
>Buddhist to me.

I wouldn't argue that reality itself is illusion. Just the feeling of a "self" that controls our behavior. For me, reality is primary, and our relationship to it or perception of it changes through time and experience. I'm willing to give other people the benefit of the doubt, and assume they actually exist. But, to the Buddhist's credit, they are correct that even Behaviorists like me base our understanding of the world on fallible human perceptions. Science is constrained by our capacity to percieve the reality in which we exist. That's one reason that technology has changed the face of science so drastically in the last 100 years. But even with the most powerful telescope, there's still a human eye doing the looking.

>And on time -- I can
>understand that scientific method in
>general has to rely on
>certain conventions (including time and
>space and Euclidean geometry and
>all that) but there are
>points at which it breaks
>down, even in science, right?
> Because if time were
>some sort of Ultimate Truth,
>it would be the same
>for everyone and everywhere, right?

I would argue time IS fairly constant for us. We have a lot of different systems for measuring it, and certainly our subjective perception of time can vary, but I think time does come close to a Truth for us. Of course, scientists used to hold on to the belief that the sun revolved around the earth (for example). The rejection of such assumptions, and the resultant "paradigm shifts" mark some of the most significant advances in human history. Time and space are the building blocks of all scientific understandings of the world. I think when somebody comes up with a better way of understanding time and space, there is likely to be a big paradigm shift, but I doubt that will happen in my lifetime.

One way in which scientists try to deal with the subjectivity of time is that its measurement is mechanized, and always demands multiple observers. Any attempt to measure or define events that take place over time needs to be duplicated, confirmed, and validated by other scientists - otherwise you're just a crackpot. If two independent observers watched you spend 5 minutes on a stove, and 5 minutes on a couch with a pretty girl, they could probably come to an agreement on how much time passed in each case, even if your perception was entirely different. I'd tend to believe the observers.

>Seriously, though, if time is an
>absolute, what time is it
>on the sun?

I don't think a concept of time as an "absolute" is necessary. Einstein's ideas touch on the maleability of time, but are not particularly relevant to the human experience of time. He says that as something approaches the speed of light, the laws of time and space change somewhat. Quantum physicists believe that some subatomic particles may move at speeds so high that they actually do defy the normal laws of physics. However, as biological entities on this planet, we will never experience the speeds at which Einstein's new laws come into play. If we did approach these speeds, we would be killed.

>Or does scientific method only apply
>on Earth? And if
>that's the case, who are
>the astronauts when they're in

Astronauts in space are again not travelling at anything close enough to light speed for the laws of time and space to be affected per Einstein's theories. Our ability to communicate with astronauts indicates that time exists in orbit, and on the moon. The fact that we can communicate predictably via satellite relays with space craft sent further into the galaxy indicates that even there, time still exists. The way we measure time is very Earth-centric, because frankly that's where most of us keep all our stuff.

Also, I agree Skinner had some wacky ideas. But he had some great ones too. He's not my ONLY academic hero, but he is ONE of them. He's kind of a misunderstood figure. And he has the same birthday as me (weird, huh).


21997, Hmmm,
Posted by janey, Sat Aug-26-00 08:13 AM
Let me see if I understand clearly what you're saying. Are you saying that there's an ultimate reality that exists independent of human perception, and that ultimately who I am is controlled by that ultimate reality alone?

If that's right, what IS real? This desk? But using your powerful microscope you can see that this desk is made up of a bunch of atoms and stuff that, bottom line, are made up mostly of space. So my perception is certainly whacky when I think that my desk is solid, right? So the desk as I perceive it isn't real. Right? So what IS real?

Also, if I have no control over myself, no say whatsoever in who I am or what I become, is there any point in trying to be a better person? Where does that kind of thing fit in? Does your position argue in favor of not doing anything to effect individual or social change? And, personally, isn't it a little depressing? I mean, if you take it all to its logical extreme, nothing I do makes any difference so why try?

I'm still chewing over your response, so I may come back with more questions before you have a chance to see or respond to this.

Also, take a look above at some of the stuff Phraktal & I were discussing about time and see what you make of it -- I'd like to see your responses to some of those questions, particularly the questions about how we know time exists.

By the way, I think that independent observers are good for a lot of things, but basically all they can do is give their own perceptions and opinions, which may or may not relate to truth. If I keep the apartment clean to a certain degree, and my boyfriend says, "God, you're so obsessive about cleaning -- just give it a rest!" and my landlady says, "I can't believe what a mess your place is" -- who's right? Do you just average out the answers? No, everyone is just giving their own opinion about how clean or messy the place is based on their own internal barometer.

I don't disagree that the hands on the clock move the same distance irrespective of whether you're on the hot stove or the couch -- I just mean that time is a mind construct and a convention that's very handy but that doesn't actually tell us "how long" something takes. You and I and five hundred independent observers could have 502 opinions on "how long" those five minutes took, but we don't have very useful words to describe "how long," partly because we have an over-arching tacit agreement that five minutes takes five minutes to pass. "How long" is still a matter of opinion or viewpoint, even though we can certainly agree on what time it is.

21998, RE: Hmmm,
Posted by murph25, Mon Aug-28-00 02:43 AM
OK, I have a few answers. Sorry if I go on too long here.

>Are you saying that there's
>an ultimate reality that exists
>independent of human perception,

Yes. There must be a reality. Otherwise, what would we be perceiving? Any psychological or scientific understanding of perception has that underlying assumption, and I think it's right.

>that ultimately who I am
>is controlled by that ultimate
>reality alone?

Well, I would not say that environment "controls" behavior per se. The one behaving (the "self") matters. Rather than talk about control at all, I would say that "who I am" emerges from a unique interaction of the environment, and the "self". I believe certain principles tend to govern this interaction, and that SOME of our behavior can be best understood as being "caused by" the environment, but I wouldn't write the brain/body out of the picture. I just see us as part of reality, rather than seeing reality as a part of us (make any sense?).

> So the desk as
>I perceive it isn't real.
> Right? So what
>IS real?

The desk may not appear "solid" at the molecular level when you observe in the microscope, but it is certainly "real", even when observed at that magnification. I'd say it's just another way of percieving that same object. We could clearly never shrink ourselves to a size at which we could pass through the space inside the atoms of the desk, so we experience it as solid. Plus, perception is more than sight. The desk has a physical weight, a texture, a temperature. There are plenty of ways to document and measure its existence through our senses and through the tools of science. It just happens that at a subatomic level, we don't understand it so well (at least I don't).

>Also, if I have no control
>over myself, no say whatsoever
>in who I am or
>what I become, is there
>any point in trying to
>be a better person?
>Does your position argue in favor
>of not doing anything to
>effect individual or social change?

Again, I wouldn't put it in terms of "control" per se. I see the "self" as the sum of all our behavior. And that "self" DOES have some effect on the world, certainly. After all, what we do really is the ultimate agent of social, personal, and environmental change. Ralph Nader said this in reference to Al Gore's record as VP: "to know and not to act is not to know." This is a nice way of rephrasing my ideology about behavior. I think "action" is at the heart of my definition of the self.

Just because we don't have "free will" doesn't mean we should give up and crawl under a rock until we die. Most people like to feel that they are in absolute control of their lives, that they can do anything they "set their mind to". I happen to think we don't have absolute control.

To me, it doesn't matter if you believe in free will or not. I don't think "belief" is a very good predictor of behavior. If anything, I would say "belief" is a way of for us to explain or describe our behavior after the fact. If someone wants to take "not being in ultimate control" as an excuse to twiddle thumbs or mope for the rest of their life, I guess they'll do that (probably would have anyway). But, I don't think it needs to translate into that for me...

As for your discussion with Phraktal on the nature of time, I didn't know where to jump into the conversation, but I'll share some of my thoughts. The question you guys seemed to focus on was "how do I experience time". I think that our subjective "experience" really is (as you suggest) limited by our perceptions. Behaviorists don't have much to say on percieving but cognitive psychologists have a decent set of hypotheses on it, and I'd point to those for answers.

The current belief is that any sensory perception (sight for instance) relies on a series of impulses (raw data) being sent from the sensory organs to other parts of the brain via neurons sending signals. As the raw data moves through the brain, it is organized, which ultimately leads to our conscious perception of whatever is out there. Neurons communicate primarily by electric impulses. As such, neurons cannot communicate instantaneously (although they do it VERY FAST). So, it takes a certain amount of time for a signal to be sent through your brain. In vision, for example, you can flash a stimulus in front of someone so quickly that they physically cannot percieve that it was there, much less "what it was". There are LIMITS to how quickly our brain can latch onto the stimuli in our environment (visual or otherwise).

Thus, one could say we never FULLY percieve time (or reality) as a "flow", but only as a series of herky-jerky moments of perception. At some point, our brain is able to fit all the data from our sensory organs together, and smooth things out. This is how we "consciously" experience vision as continuous (and "in real time"), when it in fact is a series of impulses. Another interesting point that cognitive psychologists make about perception is that our expectations and previous experiences can shape what we percieve, what we remember, etc. They suggest that to an extent, we CONSTRUCT our perceptions based on what we know - that we use perceptual shortcuts to make a complete picture of reality from incomplete data. Thus, we never truly experience reality, time, or anything as it truly exists.

But, as a behaviorist, I feel that perception isn't really the key to unlocking the human mystery. I'm more interested in the nitty gritty of what we do and why we do it than the "how" and "why" of our subjective experiences.

I've gone on too long.

21999, A few more thoughts
Posted by janey, Wed Aug-30-00 11:53 AM
On belief: Even if what someone says they believe isn't a good predictor of behavior, wouldn't an internal belief system have some effect on day-to-day actions? I think people tend to mis-report on themselves, so that in a clinical testing environment, they might claim to hold beliefs that they only think they should hold, so certainly that wouldn't be a good predictor. But it seems to me that the principles to which we truly adhere should at least be a guide to decisionmaking, don't you find? The question for me comes down to intention and action vs. reaction. If we react without considering or intending, then we're likely to let momentary emotional responses govern our behavior. If we keep mindful and truly have intention when it comes to our behavior, then deeply held beliefs should make a difference.

I completely agree, by the way, that our perceptions are essentially if not entirely driven by our expectations and the way we describe and define the world.

I am overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and completeness of your responses.

22000, Thanks.
Posted by murph25, Wed Aug-30-00 03:48 PM
And just real quick on the belief issue, you say "the principles to which we truly adhere" provide a guide to our future behavior. I would agree completely. But I think that those principles are ultimately derived from past behavior alone. For example, I say I believe in Environmental protection for a variety of good reasons. But if I'm not recycling, protesting, and advocating toward that end, how can I really say that belief exists at all?

This has been an interesting discussion. You ask some tough questions.

22001, RE: murph..
Posted by murph25, Thu Aug-24-00 02:16 PM
Let me try to answer these the best I can.

>where does 'choice' fit in behavioural
>ideas..like, what motivates us to
>do and why do we
>all do it in so
>many different ways ie. self?

I think "choice" is basically a delusion. A lot of times we don't understand the reasons we do what we do, but there is ALWAYS a reason. Most of it can be explained in terms of an intersection of nature and nurture. Nature in that our evolution and genetics help to determine what we do. We have certain biological drives - we need to eat, sleep, have sex, etc. We inherit behaviors from our parents - I tend to drink too much because alcoholism is in my genetic makeup. Nurture influences behavior by learning. If we are rewarded for doing something, we're likely to do it again. If we are punished, we are less likely to do it. Sometimes, our behavior comes out of both nurture and nature. We learn to speak because our brains are predisposed to learn a language. When we are exposed to a language in our environment at the appropriate stage of our development, we learn to speak it, whatever the language. I think these concepts CAN explain all of human behavior. I don't find it necessary to infer the existence of "choice" or "free will". But that's a whole nother argument.

>and I'm curious, how does 'imagination'
>fit in - or in
>this whole discussion even?

I think imagination can be conceived of in a number of ways, behaviorally. One concept that seems relevant is the ability to "do something new". Some behaviorists (myself included) have done research on the topic of "learned variability". This is a process whereby you reward an individual not for a particular response, but for varying (randomly) between a bunch of responses. This type of variability CAN be learned (by humans and other animals), and it may be a really important part of why we all behave as differently and unpredictably as we do. I think we do have the ability to "act creatively". But, as I said above, I might stop short of ascribing intention to it. I guess I just see it as part of "what we do" and no more a "choice" than any other behavior.

22002, we as...
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-24-00 05:00 AM
individual people...
are indeed a combination of all the things you mentioned in your question
never fractional... if any elements were removed or seperated the other wouldnt function correctly... or be balanced

as i paint to the wind's breath
freestyle to my footsteps
and create till the heartbeat's got no rhythm left...

Continue to ignore yourself and your hearing will be no more...

22003, RE: we as...
Posted by janey, Thu Aug-24-00 05:03 AM
Is there an essence? What is the function or effect of change in your equation -- mind states rising and falling away, thoughts, emotions, etc., are all passing. What remains?

22004, By the way, y'all
Posted by janey, Sat Aug-26-00 08:22 AM
There's actually a reason behind this question.

This isn't purely academic, y'know.

I know you all think I'm weird for raising this, or raising it on Activist -- well, maybe not the folks who are involved in the conversation.

Maybe after we trickle out of thoughts (which won't be until BooDaah gets back and has a chance to macerate on all this), the next step is to move the perspective from the individual to the group, or move from the definition of being to the definition of doing. Sort of as a ground from which to base our actions. I have some ideas for jumping off points on this. So think about it, cuz that may be coming up pretty soon. Aaight?

22005, one mo' gin..
Posted by guest, Wed Aug-30-00 02:53 AM

judging by the gems murph's dropping seems that all we are is what we do, like a campaign slogan for activist board. but I like what murph's saying, reminds me of filmmaking in two respects:

scriptwriting - they teach that character is action, it's not about what your character might/would do or what they're thinking, it's what they're seen by the audience to do/say or not.

film - the way we recieve projected film/animation bears out your theory about the mind papering over the cracks/joins that it's too slow to pick up. we pick up single, seperate images onscreen as smooth, uninterrupted movement.

but janey's right though, it's kind of depressing when you put it in such clinical terms - like all our lives consist of is a series/system of rewards and penalties and everything slots into that. I'm guessing that sort of thing would facilitate the balance of things.

so why is shit so unbalanced? read in the paper on the weekend about how if you were to bet, odds of us being taken out by a falling asteroid are way smaller than odds of us wiping ourselves out, off the face of the planet.

it's almost funny with these massive, mystery brains how we're actually aware of this, of our behaviour and responses and can sit around here and have controlled discussions about how little control we actually have - like this awareness is irrelevant if you can't act upon it..another activist catchphrase.

but the key's buried deep in the gray matter..like murph says, you've got a constant stream of raw data to be organised - which piece is 'heard' loudest, how does the brain prioritise what to respond to at any given moment. self? cause we all react different to the same things, see the same things different.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

my views of this world are ever-growing is the way one must view me - speech/arrested development
22006, RE: one mo' gin..
Posted by janey, Wed Aug-30-00 12:02 PM
And what gets left out of the equation is the unseen, the eternal, the unchanging, the essence (if any). Murph is so eloquent but I keep thinking that, if I were more adept at truly understanding him, I would be able to point to the missing elements.

On character: I know what you mean in the respect that I majored in directing in college and I used to always say to my actors, "Don't tell me, show me" because how is an audience supposed to read the actor's mind? But don't you think that there's something more? We live in these human bodies, we inhabit these minds, and we are convinced, most of us, that there is some essence that isn't just reward/punishment or reflex. Are we just fooling ourselves? Or is there something unseen?

On filmmaking and time/perception in flashes: Buddhism holds that substance is an illusion, and it is exactly because of this flip chart nature of perception giving the appearance of continuity that we believe in substance.

I think it's practically definitional of depression that it's a feeling that nothing you do makes any difference. Maybe the idea that we can make a difference is also an illusion, but it's certainly a workable illusion in my book. That's just about the last illusion I'm gonna let go of, nahmean?

22007, one mo' gin..
Posted by guest, Thu Aug-31-00 02:32 AM
>And what gets left out of
>the equation is the unseen,
>the eternal, the unchanging, the
>essence (if any). Murph
>is so eloquent but I
>keep thinking that, if I
>were more adept at truly
>understanding him, I would be
>able to point to the
>missing elements.

that's it right there..I guess we've stalled here like we have. murph/skinner prolly speak much truth but I doubt that's even the half of it..more like a fifth of it because hopefully we'll be able learn how to utilise more of that dormant brain matter before we're gone.

>On character: I know what
>you mean in the respect
>that I majored in directing
>in college and I used
>to always say to my
>actors, "Don't tell me, show
>me" because how is an
>audience supposed to read the
>actor's mind? But don't
>you think that there's something
>more? We live in
>these human bodies, we inhabit
>these minds, and we are
>convinced, most of us, that
>there is some essence that
>isn't just reward/punishment or reflex.
> Are we just fooling
>ourselves? Or is there
>something unseen?

I feel sure it's there - if only because we all seem so certain there's more to it. even if 'instinct' is just another behavioural quirk, I'll stay trusting it.

>On filmmaking and time/perception in flashes:
> Buddhism holds that substance
>is an illusion, and it
>is exactly because of this
>flip chart nature of perception
>giving the appearance of continuity
>that we believe in substance.

say, are babies born able to process all of the stimuli that comes through their senses?

>I think it's practically definitional of
>depression that it's a feeling
>that nothing you do makes
>any difference. Maybe the
>idea that we can make
>a difference is also an
>illusion, but it's certainly a
>workable illusion in my book.
> That's just about the
>last illusion I'm gonna let
>go of, nahmean?

true, if the matrix hasn't already turned that illusion of reality into hallucinated delusion.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

blackboogeymanmanicmadmusicianmakerofnoise.. - black thought/roots
22008, A couple points for consideration..
Posted by murph25, Thu Aug-31-00 11:11 PM
>but I doubt that's even
>the half of it..more like
>a fifth of it because
>hopefully we'll be able learn
>how to utilise more of
>that dormant brain matter before
>we're gone.

Well this is basically a myth. There is no solid scientific evidence that there really is some vast portion of our brain that serves no known function. If anything, it is remarkable that with a brain this small and simple (in terms of wiring), we are able to do everything we do. I think our brains were designed to do what they do, and not to serve some other function we haven't discovered yet.

However, on the deeper question of whether my behaviorist theories articulated above are really the bottom line, or speak to the totality of the human experience, it's safe to say you're absolutely right. Science is valuable. But plenty of important theories on the nature of existence sit stubbornly OUTSIDE the walls of that scientifically defined world. Personally, I love Taoism and Zen Buhddism, specifically because they challenge the basic tenets of science by casting doubt and relativism into all endeavor to understand (or control) nature.

Ultimately, behaviorism is perhaps best understood as a technology. It is a powerful tool to understanding human existence. But it is not the only tool.

>say, are babies born able to
>process all of the stimuli
>that comes through their senses?

To a certain extent, yes. A newborn baby does not have fully developed vision, but once they start getting that sensory input, they seem to start using it. For example, at less than a month old, infants seem to be able to associate an object they explore by touch with a visual image of that same object. At the age of six months, infants with very little experience crawling can percieve and respond to depth (they will not go where they think there is a cliff.) As early as five months, babies seem to know that an object has permanence - that if the bunny goes behind a curtain, it is still a bunny. It seems like a lot of this is hardwired into our brain, which makes us remarkably prepared to learn from our environment even as an infant.

22009, word?
Posted by guest, Fri Sep-01-00 04:13 AM
>Well this is basically a myth.
> There is no solid
>scientific evidence that there really
>is some vast portion of
>our brain that serves no
>known function. If anything,
>it is remarkable that with
>a brain this small and
>simple (in terms of wiring),
>we are able to do
>everything we do. I
>think our brains were designed
>to do what they do,
>and not to serve some
>other function we haven't discovered

dag, that's a myth too? what's remarkabale is how much that taught to kids at school is presented as cocnrete fact..the way they'd quantify it like dolphins use more gray, damnneareverythingelse uses less. so that 20% is just plucked out the air - I assumed they'd done heat measurements or something.

>However, on the deeper question of
>whether my behaviorist theories articulated
>above are really the bottom
>line, or speak to the
>totality of the human experience,
>it's safe to say you're
>absolutely right. Science is
>valuable. But plenty of
>important theories on the nature
>of existence sit stubbornly OUTSIDE
>the walls of that scientifically
>defined world. Personally, I
>love Taoism and Zen Buhddism,
>specifically because they challenge the
>basic tenets of science by
>casting doubt and relativism into
>all endeavor to understand (or
>control) nature.

science/-tists lacks imagination most times, that's where that and whatwecan'tseebutknowtobe'true' won't meet.

seize your time! - marley/wailers

fizzuh-funky fuh yuh.. - odb