synthetic zero


March 25, 2007

If you think in terms of cognitive systems, the problem is that we don't just see the world, or our situation, etc., we actually construct the world that we think we live in, and we do so in a manner that creates what appears to be a circumscribed totality --- there is a totalizing quality to the construct. (I mean totalizing in the postmodern sense). That is to say, the illusion of a complete world is very hard to break.

It becomes sort of like "Flatland". That is, if we think we live in a two dimensional space, then when we try to explore our alternatives, we will attempt to do so by exploring the two dimensional space. We won't even try to go into the third, fourth, fifth dimension...

The point of the "get out of the local optimum" idea is that not only are we stuck in a local optimum --- we can't even SEE some of the directions that we may need to go to explore other alternatives. It falls outside our paradigm, so it is invisible to us, so to speak.

By this I don't mean to say it falls in some mystical dimension. I mean it in a very simple sense --- for example, like the stories of forest dwellers who had never seen people at a distance, and when shown pictures of people they thought they were pictures of very tiny people. They didn't have a conception of perspective. This was probably literally wired into their perceptual systems, into the way their brains processed visual information.

I am saying that this is the way we all live --- in a way, by necessity. We have to narrow down our perception, to condition it, in order to perceive anything at all. We all live within very narrow confines of conditioned perception, thinking, etc.

But the point is --- this narrowing down doesn't actually create a world that is self-contained. There are possibilities outside of any paradigm, any sort of constrained, projected world. And in fact we are already outside of the constraints of our paradigms, just as the forest dwellers actually lived in a world where people could be far away and appear small. It was already a possibility for them, but they weren't aware of it.

Even if one can understand this idea abstractly, it is immensely difficult to become aware of this and apply it in a concrete sense that allows you to begin to open up to the possibility of shifting your perspective or paradigm. But the freedom to shift one's paradigm, one's deep assumptions, gives us a hugely larger space in which we can let our lives play out.

March 25, 2007

I had this conversation with Katharine, who's had a certain sense of deep happiness recently. She was saying that while she has an understanding of her recent happiness, she doesn't know exactly how she would explain it. She asked me how I would describe the ordinary picture people typically have of the world, their lives, and how I might characterize an alternative:

the main thing about the ordinary picture is that we think we know everything about our situation
we think we know who we are, what our situation is (typically doomed, or unsatisfying, or somehow needing something that is missing), who the people around us are, etc.
but that is wrong. We don't know nearly as much as we think. we're not in the situation we think we are.
...we're much more than that
it's a strange thing where, to gain everything (the universe) we have to let go of everything we're grasping onto
because the grasping narrows our focus
and the focus narrowing is what creates the illusion of a deficit, of things missing
and the odd thing is, that illusion creates its own false world, that feeds into itself
and sustains it, weirdly
yet at no point are we ever actually in that false world
it's more like a picture we've drawn for ourselves and wrapped around our head so we think it's what we see.
it's not that the picture is totally wrong.
it's PART of what is true

that focussing explanation is very good

but there's so much more, and that can't really be felt or found until you let go of the tight grasp on the picture
but it's okay, because you're always already outside that picture. so it's not really so bad
but it does make people suffer
that in some sense is real

well the picture is part of what's there - it's not like you're someplace else

that's true. it is part of it.
but ordinarily we think that's ALL that's the case.
it has this strangely totalizing feel.
there are radically larger possibilities
it's really what is meant by "No Exit"
there is actually an exit. and we're already outside.
but the "No Exit" is the trapped cramped world created by our narrowed focus
the reason people can't find a way out
is because they don't realize they're already out.

they just need to stop looking


looking for the way out is the problem

yes indeed.

but it's not really
i mean, of course you're gonna look for the way out. that's how you're gonna figure out you need to stop looking!

yes, that's absolutely right. Not only is looking for the way out the problem, it's not a problem.


March 23, 2007

Today, my meditation, especially in the afternoon, felt much more relaxed and present than it has. Not, however, to say that the disturbing retreat I've been having so far was a problem; it's been very interesting, even if a little tiring.

March 22, 2007

More evidence Bush's secret plan to undermine the Republican Party for a generation continues in its march of success:

Public allegiance to the Republican Party has plunged during George W. Bush's presidency, as attitudes have edged away from some of the conservative values that fueled GOP political victories, a major survey has found.

The survey, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found a "dramatic shift" in political party identification since 2002, when Republicans and Democrats were at rough parity. Now, 50% of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward Democrats, whereas 35% aligned with Republicans.

What's more, the survey found, public attitudes are drifting toward Democrats' values: Support for government aid to the disadvantaged has grown since the mid-1990s, skepticism about the use of military force has increased and support for traditional family values has decreased.


March 21, 2007

I have been having uncharacteristically difficult dreams; something I rarely if ever have at home. They have a strange, exaggerated quality to them. My meditation is agitated as well, and I keep thinking of things that need attending to. By this time in a retreat I am usually a lot more in the "retreat space" --- but not this time. I find it both uncomfortable and yet very interesting, because it's pointing out to me things that I really need to pay more attention to.

March 20, 2007

After arriving here I realized how stressed by New York I had become. It's odd that it takes coming to a retreat to discover that I need to relax.

March 19, 2007

San Luis Obispo always seems so far away, but it felt like a short drive to get here. It's right near the famous Pismo Beach --- yet the beach has this mythical reputation, but no one really thinks about San Luis Obispo, or has even heard of it. We're at a retreat center, very pleasant, homey, almost too homey to really feel like a retreat.

March 18, 2007

Los Angeles, for me, is always home --- I still dream about it, years after I've moved away from here. I dream about my mother and father, and doing things with them in LA... it's the space where my unconscious plays itself. I dream about a lot of other people, too, of course, and my life in New York, etc... but Los Angeles remains the center of my dream world. Even the smells are so familiar; my parents' garage, the kitchen, the backyard. I don't even think I'm normally aware of the way things smell, ordinarily, in most other places, but it's one of the first things I notice when I come home for a visit.

My father says he still has dreams of riding the train in Hiroshima --- the Hiroshima that existed before the bomb dropped.

March 17, 2007

Two and a half hours on the web and phone, and finally managed to get a relatively reasonable flight out only a day late after the storm... it seems like it should be easier, but the technology of airline websites remains a bit clunky (especially when AirTran keeps listing its flights as available one minute, then the next unavailable, even though when you finally get through it seems the planes are half empty... very bizarre).

March 16, 2007

So what we want to do is build a visual representation of nearly every single kind of structured transformation one might imagine doing.

March 15, 2007

Katharine visited Rimsky Korsakoffee House last night, and though she's quite enamored of expensive spots in New York which are far more fancy than Rimsky's, she said it was the coolest place she'd ever been. And that's not all --- Portland as a whole is filled with strange, impossibly good things that are at the same time extremely ordinary, basic, as though the sublime were meant to be commonplace, available to everyone. In New York, people live and act as though you need to pay a lot of money for the sublime. I suppose you do, usually, in New York, but not every place is like that. In Portland, it's not only cheap, but it's plentiful --- and it's often better. Of course, Katharine was aided by my scrawled map, which, along with two lengthy emails, provided her with some help finding those little moments in time and space.

March 14, 2007

Second Life is a curious place; at first, it seems like nothing happens there except people hanging out in casinos and dance clubs, watching their avatars dance, and chatting/flirting. But there is something increasingly compelling about the place, when you do happen to stumble upon something new, a beautiful place, or some strange new gadget, etc. Thinking back on your time there, you get the impression of having been to a place, and your mind seems to translate the third-person view of the experience into a nearly first person memory. But not exactly first person --- always slightly detached, like one of those dreams where you're watching yourself doing things.

March 13, 2007

Jimmy is in town --- he's one of the most outwardly modest guys I've ever met, yet one of the most smart and capable people I've ever known. He's the living embodiment of underpromise and overdeliver.

March 12, 2007

I want to make an interactive space that touches on the subject of how building things can both give you new reach yet also constrain your range of movement.

March 11, 2007

Katharine is going to Portland! I envy her. I scribbled a map of the city with highlights for her. I hope it helps.

March 10, 2007

Visited my friend Karina here in Massachusetts. It's been too long since we last met. She is looking for someone to go to Europe with her this summer. She's a very promising young poet, among other things.

March 9, 2007

The Bay Area remains the epicenter of the tech world --- the most advanced practices are commonplace there, while New York remains a comparative backwater. Funny reversal of roles.

March 8, 2007

!!! !! !

March 7, 2007

Communication is much more than writing things down in sequence --- it involves alluding to entire dynamical systems, fully alive and embodied. This is hard, if not impossible, without a lot of effort on the part of the listener.

March 1, 2007

We are saved.