Monday, January 22, 2018

The Conflict of Modern Life and Classical Religion

January 22, 2018

The Conflict of Modern Life and Classical Religion


Modern Life:
Social Media
What must I do?
You must appear to be great!
Navigating Highways
What must I do?
You must come first!

Classical Religion:
What does God want me to do?
Look out for others always, never shove others out of your way.

Summary Explanation:

Modern life now conflicts daily and even hourly with all of the principals of Classical Religion - specifically, all those wonderful life rules all religions present and teach and that practically everyone agrees with and seeks to emulate such as compassion, caring, being other oriented, humility, honesty - because of the design and function of two of the seemingly essential, major elements of modern industrialized civilization: automobiles and social media.  This is not just another finger-waving, shame-on-you attempt by someone seeking to place people on a behavior guilt trip; this is an observation of a deeply rooted problem that needs to be consciously understood and worked against if we want to see the essence, the kernel of Classical Religion survive at all in the modern world. 

Consider driving in traffic: in order to just make it to work or the store on a daily basis it is now necessary for anyone living anywhere near a city to engage in "me first" aggressive driving in order to make the needed lane changes and navigate the various over passes encountered along any urban journey.  This so easily leads to not just "me first" driving but actual aggression carried out by humans in vehicles who decide to swear, gesture, and even physically crash into and fight or shoot at each other.  On any level modern driving forces anyone, devout or atheist, to put away humility, other-oriented thinking and compassion and instead use pride, aggression, and selfish calculation just to get by much less the cascade of truly sinful behavior begun when a road-rage scenario plays out.  Indeed it is very severely challenging to actively change this and attempt to drive in a charitable, compassionate way because you may very well be taking your own life into your hands by doing so on roads so very full of aggressive, self-concerned drivers.

Consider now also social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, et al.) where the goal is seemingly to present or elevate yourself before your friends (real or algorithmic) to create "likes" or "follows" which is your confirmation that you are valuable to them and that you somehow matter.  To do this, you must not only depict your life as it is but attempt to spin it, edit it, enhance it - all of which are synonyms for lying about it - which makes people daily, and usually hourly, commit the deeply sinful act of falsehood, dishonesty, deception, and telling lies.  Now it isn't as bad as the falsehood of say a Bernie Maddoff or a slick horse trader, because at the least it appears no one is being hoodwinked out of their money by way of these lies, but nevertheless giant scale communal lying, misrepresentation and falsehoods are being created and shared about as a means of garnering validation in the way of "likes".  But validation is itself built on validity - which is truth, logical or philosophical - and virtually nothing on social media is built on validity.  This has the effect of bending and warping a communities grasp of what truth is and causes ignorance of the reasons why honesty is so essential and not to be traded away for anything much less for the sake of establishing your worth by way of what other people think of you.  In all religion, the emphasis was and is always on being concerned with what God thinks of you by way of how you fulfill and observe the laws and guidance of His religions, which is much more of a bedrock, solid, distortion-free standard than the whims of fellow human beings who are well proven to be plastic in the extreme.  Without a consistent, distortion free bedrock foundation of good character, there can be no real happiness in life. 

These two elements of modern life, one very much physical and quite dangerous to the body, the other virtual and equally dangerous to the character and the mind, have now made it seem like no where in daily life are the teachings of religion applicable because to use either one - which one must in order to have a job and interact with the digital economy that will soon touch literally everyone's life - places one in an untenable position where one must at some point think and behave in very non-religious ways in order to use the automobile or the social media page as per it's design. The solution for social media is to use it as a platform for real discussion and event sharing rather than "selfie" grandstanding which is now being proven to be deeply psychologically damaging especially to young minds but also detrimental to the sanity of any mind; the solution for automobiles and traffic is much harder because it involves real humans making choices under pressure because they are in speeding metal vehicles while deciding what to do.  Perhaps as autopilot self-driving features become more and more capable and common that will make a dent in the traffic situation.  The real problem is that if you constantly choose to be prideful, selfish and even cause harm or danger to others so that you can be first, you are constantly corrupting your own character and even your own soul - all for the sake of arriving somewhere 20 or 30 seconds quicker than if you backed off and did not think and decide in a selfish "me first" manner.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Art Of Applied Truth

While teaching class recently there happened a convergence of subject matter that needed to be delved into.  Specifically, the hard reality that much of the more advanced technique in ballet - multiple pirouettes, tours jetes, batterie/sautes, and so forth - absolutely require correct technique to do successfully regardless of how good someone's attitude is, how perfect one's attendance record is, or any other personal behavioral trait however positive.  (Obviously positive attitude and good attendance are very good things, but by themselves they are still not the complete solution!) In the absence of the correct technique, any complex or advanced step results in stumbles and out of place hopping around instead of that smooth graceful flow that is the signature of classical ballet.

Underneath all this however is a much deeper philosophical idea, and that is the ability to understand, practice then apply what has been learned to solve natural, variable, REAL problems.  This does NOT mean taking an exam or filling out a multiple choice form, this means learning a technical subject, understanding, then confronting unknown situations in the real world while applying that subject to solve real, natural problems.

When students learn mathematics in school they are not actually doing anything with it - unless that student is also designing a circuit to control a motor or making the lifting body in the wing of an airplane or finding the right slope to cut into a hill with so a wall will stand up straight - they are not applying that mathematical knowledge at all, just using it in the very confined space of academic learning and test taking, none of which features the real world variability and unforeseen problems aspect of solving natural variable problems.

If a student learning biology is not trying to find the cure for the Madagascar Plague outbreak but instead following exam questions in a lab at high school, that student is not using biology to do anything but rather just learning it and proving to the teacher they learned what was taught in a controlled academic setting covering known ground. The mysteries and rather scary problems of solving natural world biological problems are NOT being attempted by any biology student. 

And then there's the arts such as classical ballet, wherein students learn the theory of classical positions and movements, add advancing levels of complexity to those in order to create a movement language that can describe any idea just as mathematics is a language to talk to the physical universe with, and then the ballet student must apply his or her learning to very real world natural variable problems, such as how to make their own bodies correctly do a complex variation maintaining all the correct foot, body and arm positions while encountering natural world problems such as the wear factor in their pointe shoes, daily changes in joint flexibilty, variations in body energy available to exert maximum effort with, variability in where the body's balance is every 24 hours (the universal circadian rhythm) and so forth.  This mirrors exactly what the applied scientist encounters with new diseases or engineering new motors or devices, such a random material purity variations, the effects of heat and cold on new materials, conductivity changes, biological responses to new pathogens, and so forth.  Then there's also the fact that no natural system including the human body ever does the same movement exactly the same way twice, yet to perform any variation the ballet dancer must find a way to get as close to exact repetition as possible so that the variation looks "correct" each time it's done.  This is applying truths learned from the classes and rehearsals to real world situations with natural problems and variables, and the answer is without exception ether valid/functional or incorrect/wrong all based on the ballet dancer's ability to apply learned truths correctly to the natural variable problems at hand.

This is the real value to classical ballet in particular, since ballet is a complete movement language that tries to make ideas appear through movement, the dancer must be able to apply to the real world all the theory that was learned and overcome variables and unforeseen problems to make the truth appear.  This is a much deeper lesson than any purely academic learning ever touches on, and is an excellent gateway for the student to begin understanding their own existence and the universe they live in, because they have learned how to apply learned truths to solve natural variable problems - and that is what the art of ballet is really about, not just playing around with pretty colors and fancifully frittering around on a stage.  And it's not based on anyone's opinion or value judgement nor on the "best intentions" of the ballet dancer either, because either that triple pirouette was done with turned out passe and a straight leg, or it was not.  Opinions and desires do not change that truth at all any more than an aerospace engineer's crossed fingers will keep a badly designed rocket engine from exploding.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Philosophical Theory of Holographic Reality

How To Use Your Personal Hologram refers to my theory for keeping both positive - a surprisingly difficult thing to do in life - and innovative; moving ahead in life in the face of all the tragedies, inter-personal problems, and seemingly random useless challenges life always offers.  Rather than the normal view that much of what is encountered in life are random, meaningless events only occasionally punctuated with truly meaningful experiences, this theory insists that every experience in life is rather connected, because all experiences stem from your local experience of the universe which is itself holographic in expression at all scales, and part of an overall matrix which is not comprised of infinite independent elements clanging around at random and only making patterns as accidents, but is rather a structure of interdependent expressive states which mutually evolve. 

I am basing this on what The Master (Abdu'l Baha) said concerning science, in that we must use and adopt whatever science discovers and reveals concerning the nature and behavior of the Universe.  

The Holographic Theory itself is a component of String Theory in particle and theoretical physics that states that one possible, and seemingly correct model (in that it can be used to analyze and then predict behaviors in physics) is that the Universe expresses gravity and relativistic effects in a manner similar to a hologram.  Without delving too far into hard science, the useful idea here is that holograms shift and change based on how you are looking at them - the underlying hologram remains the same and follows it's own evolution but your relative view of it, and your relative understanding of it, can vary dramatically based on essentially what "angle" you view it from.

This is a philosophical exercise and is ultimately based on the idea that the very essence of how the universe itself works is linked - in a metaphysical way if you will - to how human interactions and intelligence work in a fundamental way, and to how humans adapt and evolve because our mind and brain are first and foremost tasked with detecting and observing how and why existence works.  If humans have an instinct like the horse does for grazing or the wolf does for hunting, it is to constantly gnaw at and hunt down the unifying essences and principles that make reality function.   Other scientific advances rest on underlying primary elements or properties so the notion of everything in the universe being able to influence and govern all the other things in some way is not at all unreasonable and actually is a real property of existence.

This holographic notion can be summed up like this:

If God created the Universe then it is reasonable to assume, because God has said this repeatedly throughout history and in every religion, that there is a pattern or a "reason" or a "point" to creation, it is not purely random or haphazard -- therefore there is an underlying pattern, however, subtle, to existence.

Our understanding grows and changes with time whereas the underlying universe itself is the same as it always was relative to human history.   As our advance in science and physics has continued, profound metaphysical statements about existence can now be made because there exist in nature understandable instances of what would have been termed 'transcendence' or 'metaphysics' to previous times, and all our previous concepts of things that never changed like time, space, solid objects, even aging are now called into question or are proven to be completely changeable.

The logical elements - or another way of expressing this would be the plot line - of whatever sets of events happen in life, good or bad but especially the bad because these are what cause our evolution to happen and our experience in the hologram to significantly change (when everything is good no change or adaptation is needed) can be re-arranged and organized into positive solutions to future problems that always exist just outside of your current frame of reference but which will inevitably become present to your frame of reference by way of the warping in the hologram the current negative experiences cause.  Severe dents or negative experiences to your current local frame of reference cause your current modes, ideas, and patterns of action to change and so long as a "virtuously" detached, open examination of these negative events can be done, answers to the very next set of challenges can be gleaned.

All the experiences and circumstances in your life can be thought of as a 4-dimensional holographic display, which entails that all the elements are inter-connected in one or more of these dimensions and that shifting the view of one area will change the appearance of the overall hologram which can reveal useful solutions to new areas of the structure.  Also, a maximum orbit zone or a sphere of maximum distance within your local area of the hologram yields a useful notion as to the possible extent to events of your lifetime, and within this maximum orbit zone you have choice to go in whatever directions you choose - but there will be influence on you and by you on the overall hologram within this sphere.  Also, over a longer span of time (longer than a human lifetime) the hologram itself, because of it's overall general evolution and movement built into it's design, will begin washing away many of the previous generation's experiences and dents - this is where the phrase "life goes on" really gets it's meaning because even after catastrophic horrors like the Holocaust or the 2004 Tsunami, all remaining survivors have to continue experiencing and making choices within the hologram and the hologram itself is quickly experienced to be much the same as it was before the catastrophes took place.  NOTE: in no way should these discussions be seen to minimize or mitigate blame and responsibility upon any who commit crimes or wrongdoing, this is a more metaphysical discussion of underlying existence.  The 2004 Tsunami was a horror, and every Nazi who ever lived deserved to be hung at Nuremberg.

We inexorably move through life both literally, figuratively and even metaphysically for the following reasons:
 1) The Universe itself is in constant motion.  Whether or not your body is moving around, the planet you are on spins and orbits the sun which in turn orbits the galaxy which in turn is drifting through the local group of galaxies it orbits, and the whole fabric of the universe itself continues expanding.
2) As a corollary to the universe moving, in the Writings we find that we are to 'carry forward an ever-advancing civilization' in this life and that our souls will 'continue forever advancing towards (God) until they achieve His Presence'.  Therefore on every level and every state of being, movement is a necessary force making a static state in any sense of the word a pure illusion if not actually impossible. In terms of the concept of a holographic reality, the hologram itself moves, expands and changes with time which in turn makes us move and change with time.

In terms of free-will, it may seem that since we are stuck in and part of an infinitely complex and moving hologram not of our making that there is no way to alter our destiny or fate, but that is only true with regard to the hologram itself (we did not and will never make the hologram).  However, free will completely governs what choices we make with regard to interpreting, viewing and moving ourselves through the hologram.  In the hologram of reality, all the components of it behave in a similar fashion to light in a normal hologram - signals are created or altered and can pass through each other with minimal interference to the overall hologram.  So no matter how big a disruption is to us, only localized effects are possible, the rest of the hologram remains unaffected - hence the long held notion which can seem cold or even cruel at times but is essentially correct, "life goes on". This makes it possible for individuals to exercise free will and make choices about their lives while at the same time the abstract reality and general evolution of the overall hologram continues on it's own course letting everyone else have an equally undisturbed experience of the universe with the exception of whatever experiences we choose to focus on the most in our respective lives.  Our choices as to whichever direction to go, even extreme ones like crime or founding a mega-corporation, minimally disrupt the underlying structure which results in those close by extreme individuals almost never knowing who they were in close proximity to. 

Essentially then, think of whatever bad, negative or challenging circumstances whether of life and death, inter-personal, emotional, etc., are happening to you right now, examine the pieces and parts logically of them (which can be challenging in it's own right because emotional detachment in a healthy, virtues-type way has to be achieved before this analysis can happen) and what will be found are the very elements and ideas that solve or deal with the current negative situation AND will be the solution to the next challenges to be encountered because all local areas of a holographic construct are connected or related and can be seen by shifting the view of the hologram.   Challenges in life are not pointless, they are the key to the next sets of challenges because the underlying universe is interconnected.

The miraculous thing about human beings (and presumably any other intelligent life that may exist in the cosmos) is that we can capture the image of our direct experience of the universe, and in turn re-examine it again and again and apply logic and reason to it to glean deeper meanings.  This ability to capture and re-play the universe in our minds is truly extraordinary because we can do it totally at will by choice with zero instinct or emotional drive pushing us to do it.  In this way we are able to look directly at Nature and see her in totality, a truly transcendent ability.  We could say that the miracle of the evolution of our minds is the ability to stream the intake of our senses back on itself in order to re-examine what is going on, a tool much more powerful than any claw, wing or tooth.  There is no violation of the natural law of the universe in doing this because we are using only the things already found in the universe to accomplish this, but the astounding advantage it gives to us cannot be overstated and is a marvel and proof of the interconnected nature of the universe.  Evolution can interconnect anything that biology can experience.  Up close one must marvel at the amazing statement this makes about existence; examine this from a step back to get the bigger picture, and the Universe screams "one and single" not "endlessly random and haphazard".

Prophetic writings and the concept of Divinity does not contradict any of this because as soon as a Message crosses from the Beyond into the Universe, it becomes part of the interconnected hologram and made of the same photonic or quantum-virtual construction as everything else, because in this Universe nothing can be experienced - or rather, detected - that is not part of the overall hologram and operating with the same basic characteristics as everything else.  Newness or rarity is not itself grounds to call anything truly magical or miracle because we cannot know everything about the Universe as we lack omniscient abilities.  Our own models of the Universe are not themselves omniscient.  Where the true miracle or magic of Divinity comes into play is the level of personal inconvenience, aggravation, sacrifice, suffering and discomfort the work of relaying a Divine message causes to the Messenger.  The animal or Nature itself cannot detect these extraordinary things because they cannot reflect their experiences back on themselves for analysis - but the rational being who can do this is capable of seeing the Divine Message in this world with no magical powers or logical contradictions needed.