Thursday, 23 October 2014

Be Patient

Is the tiger giving sage advice “Be patient like me, I have to prowl around for days before an opportunity for a kill comes along. Even when I give chase, my quarry often escapes and I have to start prowling all over again.”  Or has he got a sinister message for us “Just you wait there, be patient and  I’ll get you in while you're prevaricating.”

God was watching a movie of The Creation. The opening sequence of the Big Bang was terrific. The dispersal of matter and the formation of galaxies and stars was really cool. But then nothing much happened for thirteen billion years.
God got bored and switched off.

Friday, 17 October 2014

I wish I was real

 Mr Potato Head has reason to complain. He is a plastic copy of the Toy Story version, which is itself a copy of the original - the ‘real’ potato-based Mr Potato Head.
We often have the feeling that things are ‘not real’, that we are in a film for example. Only occasionally are we conscious of being conscious. Can we be conscious of being conscious of being conscious? How far does this hall of mirrors have to recede before we know we are real? Language has an important part to play in this bizarre process and mindfulness is a way of being aware of it.
On the other hand, perhaps we are more real when we forget this nonsense and experience reality directly, not filtered by language. This might happen dramatically in a trauma or a moment of ecstasy but it is not sustainable for long (we would not be able to function as human beings if it was).
We all live in a fantasy world. It is not possible to plug ourselves into the real world directly without the filters of our senses, our minds, our language, our prejudices, our education or our religious and cultural backgrounds.
As it becomes more possible to have experiences through the virtual world (which by definition is not real) the boundaries between virtual and real have become blurred.

Perhaps none of us is real.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

What are we like?

Suppose you were the only human to survive an apocalypse and you knew you were the only survivor.
There would be no purpose.
Language would only serve to torment you.
Everything would be pointless.
There would be no future.
If you did not kill yourself, how would you spend your time?
What would you be like?

Suppose you were brought up by wolves and never saw another human being.
Would you be like a wolf?
What would you be like?

Suppose your entire brain-function was transferred to a super-computer.
What would you be like?

Suppose you were struck deaf, blind and dumb and were unable to move.
What would you be like?

Suppose you knew you were going to die in the next five minutes.
What would you be like for those five minutes?

Suppose you were dead.
What would you be like?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

There's no time

In his book The End of Time, Julian Barbour suggests that time is an illusion – there is just a massive number of ‘nows’ through which we weave a path.

Suppose time is not continuous - like cheese - but is made of lumps - like rice. Each present moment is a grain of time. Suppose there is a moment in which nothing happens. It would not be able to lead to the next moment (because that would be something happening) and so ‘nothing happening’ would herald an eternity of nothingness. Like Adam and Eve in the garden. Time would be stuck. It could not proceed to the next moment.
But in a movie, if two frames are identical, the film does not come to a halt. That is because it is being run through an external time-machine - the projector, which has its own time-agenda. The ‘present moment’ is unique for each observer so perhaps that’s what keeps things rolling along like in the projector. In other words time is kept going by all the observers experiencing the world  together.

There must have been a moment when the last tree was felled on Easter Island, bringing about the collapse of the ecosystem and the devastation of a civilisation. The island became infertile, many statues were left unfinished in the quarries as the population was decimated.

What were they thinking of when that last tree came crashing down?  

Sunday, 5 October 2014

That’s really interesting

“That’s really interesting” says the robot in an electronic monotone. But we are not convinced that a machine can be interested in anything. For a robot, one bit of information must have the same value as another.
But maybe we can program him to respond intelligently. For information to be interesting, it must be: comprehensible, novel, and relevant.
So if I say to the robot “Jib jab Jehovah, I speckle your prunes.” The robot might be programed to reply  “Sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying.” And if I say “The Moon is not made of cheese.” It might reply “Yes, I already knew that.” And if I say “Crikey! My feet are sore.” It might say “I don’t see how that is relevant.” But if I say “I see Microsoft have just launched a new version of Windows” obviously the robot would be really interested.

Anyway, for us humans, being interesting implies much more than just being comprehensible, novel and relevant – in fact it could be none of those things and still interesting. The world is interconnected. Everything is interesting - but we have to apply filters to prevent information-overload. In mindful meditation we try to pay attention to every detail that presents itself.