Monday, 26 May 2014

It's Actually a Balancing Act: Maslow's Hierarchy

                Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a systematic organization of the body and mind’s requirements for growth, development, and happiness in general. The foundational needs (d-needs) are undeniable and relate to the objective functioning and protection of one’s physical body. At the top of the pyramid are needs related to the mind and subjective welfare (b-needs). Someone who is struggling to survive has no extra energy to spare on the delicate balance of their mental/emotional states. If there are physical threats, social or emotional needs must be foregone.  Similarly, social strains affect one’s emotional and even physical well-being. A precise life requires attention to all levels of development because they are interdependent. Imbalances at any individual level will necessarily send ripples both up and down the system; that system being you.

Maslow made a major distinction between the higher and lower order needs. The physiological and safety needs he called deficiency needs: d-needs. The higher order of needs, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, were placed in a category he denoted as being needs: b-needs.

                This hierarchy that Maslow identified especially makes sense in the context of how life and our species evolved. In particular it parallels the development of the physical universe which later formed the basis for biological entities. In turn these biological entities eventually developed minds and consciousness. In the case of humans and several other highly social mammals, consciousness evolved sufficient complexity to become self-aware to varying capacities. As some humans became able to thrive to the point of satisfying all of their needs at every level, the concept of a self-actualized person began to take shape. Maslow himself developed the vocabulary of self-actualization by studying the lives of people such as Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass. Many of the people who also inspire this very page and embody the concept include Carl Sagan, Joseph Campbell, and MLK as well as countless others.

                The good news is that for biologically healthy humans raised even in relatively poor conditions, development through some form of self-awareness occurs naturally. That is to say, even those who have been brought up under the toughest of circumstances realize that they do actually exist (self-awareness). They can reflect on their own thought processes, at least if prompted to do so. They have the ability to understand that they are now different than they once were and that they will one day be different than they are now. They can also see how their circumstances have impacted their lives up until the present, which in turn gives evidence that they can now use their influence to shape their experiences as they move forward. This ability gives people the potential power to overcome nearly any deficits in their immediate and natural environment. It is certainly not always easy and different people’s environments have resulted in better or worse positions to achieve self-actualization. However, the privilege of being a healthy human comes with the ingenuity to overcome the unique shortfalls of our individual situations.

                The significance of this system for people attempting to bring greater degrees of precision, refinement, and ultimately happiness to their lives is that the hierarchy of needs is an excellent lens for self-analysis and for understanding others. Anyone who makes an honest attempt to reflect on each of these stages will quickly come to realize some of the aspects of their lives that may be holding them back, how their past may act as an anchor in their present, and it may even offer some insight as to how to accelerate growth in the future.               

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Workin' It

Bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, leaner, more skilled, more capable, more knowledgeable, more _________: we all desire growth in some capacity. When we look back and see that right now we are something more than we previously were, we feel good. When we've made gains, and then lose them it can be terribly discouraging. Given that we live in an information epoch, the most significant limiting factor in our personal development is often our own ability to focus effort in a desired field. Fortunately, this is an aspect of ourselves that we can actively address. Regardless of whatever specific area an individual would like to improve in him or herself, there is an underlying current in development; if it doesn't feel like work, it’s probably not working.

While they are related, there is a difference between pain and suffering. Furthermore the concept of work does not mean an activity is unenjoyable. Pain is the body’s physiological response to extreme, often harmful, conditions. Suffering is the mind’s reaction to that pain and is one reason different people have different pain tolerances. A compelling example of this distinction is the historic demonstration by the Vietnamese Monk, Thích Quang Dúc, who self-immolated (some viewers may find images here disturbing), in protest of religious oppression in June of 1963. Thích Quang Dúc undoubtedly experienced extreme pain in this demonstration, his face and body language communicate an experience of serenity as opposed to suffering. This radical example shows an important aspect of how powerful our constitution can truly be. Perhaps most importantly, there are times when our conscious mind can make the overt decision to face work or pain head-on, and it can even be healthy.

The importance of being able to endure pain without suffering is that growth can be uncomfortable. Indeed, any individual must be cautious because pain often signifies possible harm.  However growing pains take many forms and not all pain is bad. Awareness and experience help us to determine which pain catalyzes growth and which one leads to injury or other negative consequences. For those of us looking to actively develop ourselves in any capacity, it is important to remember that if it doesn’t feel like work, it’s probably not working.

Advertisements for easy or quick fixes to significant problems litter the internet and television. Is there a product I can hook to my abs to burn away the fat as I watch tv? Is there a pill that will make me stronger, faster, leaner, and smarter? Science brings us new wonders every year but these advertisements are far more likely to feed us the type of information that may inspires us to buy a product rather than paint an accurate picture of how that product might affect us. Certainly there are physical chemical reactions that underlie change of any kind, but research in athletics and learning sciences alike support that real advancement requires good old fashion work and overt effort.

Does your workout leave your muscles burning and your breath short? Did your ballet practice push your limits or could you easily perform all the acrobatics without much effort? Do you play music you’ve known for years or do you push yourself to learn a new piece that is currently just out of reach? How many mistakes were made while learning math, science, or writing as a student? Lasting growth requires overt and focused work on specific sub-skills. Development only occurs at the fringe of one’s present abilities. At the fringe, mistakes are made but mistakes are how pushing one’s limits take shape in reality. In his book Strength to Awaken, Robert McNamara, performance coach and professor of Psychology at Naropa University, explains some of the deeper implications of strength training. He describes training as a mental practice of expanding one’s ability to endure suffering, and in doing so expanding one’s sense of self and overall capabilities. He goes on to describe the changes one sees in the mirror as a reflection of the interior development a person is making through mindful effort. This concept goes beyond that of physical exercise and is true for any disciplined Practice whether it be physical, mental, or as is usually the case, a combination of the two. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Magic of Awareness

     Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and couldn't remember which direction you were facing in the room, then all of sudden the problem corrects itself and you realize what's going on? Have you ever been in a vehicle traveling around a city or the countryside, and you thought you knew where you were. Then all of a sudden, you came to a place that you definitely recognized, and it didn't coincide with what you thought. In that moment your perceptions 'snap' back to reality as if you traveled through a hidden worm hole. Experiences such as these can be bewildering, and the act of recognizing what's actually going on can feel like magical. In fact it is this phenomena that magicians take advantage of in their performances. These examples demonstrate just how powerful our brain really is and how it literally creates our  every experience. The main point is this: anything outside of our awareness does not seem to exist; when something does enter our awareness, it 'pops' into our personal worldview.

     Each one of us has a particular understanding of the universe in which we live. Our understanding is based on our experiences, and those experiences are the basis for the partial conceptual model universe that is in our brain. As we go about our lives, we continually update this working model. However, our model also influences what we see when we go about our lives so we do not always see what is "really there". It is as if a person spent their whole lives wearing pink colored goggles. If they wore them from an early age, they would simply believe that they colors they have always seen are just how things are. For everyone not wearing tinted goggles, it would be apparent that they really don't see the objective truth. In order to see what's really there, they would have to remove the goggles, and this, in essence, is the situation of us all. Metaphorically speaking, we are all walking around with pink goggles that bias how we interpret the world simply because we are animals. Our perceptions are colored by how we understand things to be.

     We cannot perceive that which is outside of our awareness by definition of the word awareness. Our awareness is only made up of a small slice of all the available information in the cosmos, and there is an infinite amount of information to possibly know. Our awareness can be conceptualized as a circle. Anything outside the circle does not seem to exist to us. Something may enter our awareness and we see it for a period of time. When it leaves the circle, if we did not overtly notice it, it ceases to exist. This is more significant in terms of understanding how things work. When we are unaware of how something works, then it will seem to us like magic. Most of the inventions of science would be perceived as magic to people even a couple hundred years ago. If one has no idea of how a remote control works, then a remote basically seems like a magic wand.

     This same concept is actually how 'magic shows' work as well. There is a greater scheme than we, as viewers, are aware. The magician leads our awareness through a serious of logical steps. When we come to the finale, our past experience makes us ready for one thing to happen, but it doesn't. Instead, something else occurs. It doesn't make sense to us. If the magician executes his performance well, what the audience experiences is really something that feels like magic.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Thinking: It's Getting Critical

                 What is worth valuing? What is good? What is morally correct? How do I become the person I want to be? What sources and information are trustworthy? Most importantly, what do these questions all have in common? The common denominator for all of these inquiries is critical thinking. Critical thinking is of vital importance now more than ever because information is so readily available. While the quantity of information has exponentially increased throughout the modern era, its quality has not risen at a similar rate. The consequence is that a person growing up in the 21st century is constantly bombarded with biased perspectives, values, and information. Many people have a direct stake in the beliefs of others. Corporations spend billions of dollars annually to build particular reputations and to influence the thinking of others. Religious and social institutions have highly refined ideologies that they would like to metaphorically upload into any available psyche. Though some of these organizations have the interest of the individuals in mind, many of them are far more concerned with their own longevity. Browne and Keeley (2013) went as far as to argue that a lack of critical thinking can lead a person to be a ‘mental slave’ of another’s ideology. All these factors directly affect the type of person people want to become and how they perceive the legitimacy of various routes that could take them there.

                While avoiding ‘mental slavery’ should be a sufficient reason for many to engage in critical thinking, it actually goes beyond that. Browne and Keeley (2013) explained two types of critical thinking: weak and strong. Weak critical thinking was defined as critical thinking employed in order to defend one’s preexisting beliefs. Strong critical thinking was that which is employed to evaluate all beliefs including one’s own. In this sense strong critical thinking is a way of actively engaging the world. All people start off by inheriting the values of their own culture and social circles, including family. At some point, a person will develop the capability of reflecting on these values. If a person does not engage in this type of reflection then they are falling victim to the same type of mental slavery expressed by Browne and Keeley, and they may never even be aware of it. This can be likened to the allegory of the slave who grows to love his own chains. Critical thinking provides the tools for an individual to ask “why do I value this?”; “what is worth valuing?”; and  “are my actions reflecting those values that I profess to have?”. In this sense, critical thinking is the tool that allows for a person to become self-aware, self actualized, and fully engaged in their own existence.

                As it relates to life in general, critical thinking must be used at multiple levels. Specifically, it is important in terms of distinguishing what sources of information are legitimately based on reliable and valid evidence, and what information is biased. Even many seemingly well executed experiments or surveys should be mindfully excluded from how we make decisions. It is well within the capabilities of knowledgeable researchers to intentionally influence the responses of study/survey participants. This can be done by everything from the word order of questions to the context in which a survey is given. However, perhaps more importantly is the affect of critical thinking as a tool to navigate life as a whole. Critical thinking can be likened to the captain of a ship. Its job is not simply to focus on the minutia of the journey and to micro manage every detail of handling the boat, but to make sure the entire operation stays on course. In this way, people can actively use critical thinking to actively develop specific mental shortcuts (heuristics) that help them keep their own lives on track as they see fit.

Browne, M. N. & Keeley, S. M. (2013) Asking the right questions: A guide to critical thinking 9/e (Custom Edition) Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall

Monday, 26 August 2013

Awareness: Acknowledging the Various Factors that Influence Behavior

     Though it has been a while since I have been able to return to write here, I have been staying busy via work towards completing a Master's degree in Social Psychology. This two year gauntlet of courses has been playing a significant role as to what I see when I look out into the social world of human interaction, human development, personality, and how experiences relate to behavior. Some themes have come up with regularity and they clearly have a significant role to play in the lives of all people whether we are aware of them or not. With any luck, I will be able to refine some of the seemingly more important ideas that have been presented to me over the last period and share them with you. It would be excellent to use this platform as a launch pad into other topics and ideas as they arise. Please feel free to contact me and share your ideas if you ever feel so inclined.

     One seemingly important theme that has come up throughout the course of my studies is how our behavior is affected by a huge range of factors. It is very common, especially for people form Western civilizations, to attribute the causes of different behaviors to personal qualities. That is, we are generally inclined to believe that people behave a certain way because of characteristics that they possess, i.e. "that's just the way they are". However, there is a very strong case to be made that in many instances, situational factors play an equal if not larger role than personal qualities. Here are three classic social psychological experiments that exemplify the role of factors outside of a person that can influence behavior: What is most striking regarding these examples is that behavior such as helping another in desperate need; obeying commands that clearly contradict moral reasoning; and inhumanely treating subordinates are all actions that we generally attribute to personal qualities. The point of these is not to demonstrate how everyone would necessarily act in the same situation, but rather to demonstrate how environmental factors can and do influence all of our behavior, often unconsciously.

Bystander Intervention -

Milgram's study of obedience -

The Stanford Prison Experiment - (Some people may find parts of this video difficult to view)

     Consider, if you will, the various types of factors that influence our behavior and how we understand the world. The universe is compiled of different items from the unimaginably small to the unimaginably large. We tend to see distinct levels of organization. This is partly based on our size in relation to everything else. We are middle beings and this influences how we see the world. That is to say we exist at a certain range of sizes, and we are equipped to perceive things of similar size. However, when considering material objects, it is more like a sliding scale, a spectrum of gradual shifting changes. Classifying different items at different levels is like placing flags in the sand. This gives us points of reference so we can all agree as to what we are talking about. Generally speaking they could be moved one way or the other.

    This type of gradual shift is an underlying trait that applies to many aspects of life and the universe. For example, it can be compared to age. We arbitrarily assign the age ticker to the length of time it takes the Earth to circle the sun. Each year we add to our age is like one of the flags in the sand, but the actual changes in our age occur moment to moment in increments that are imperceptibly small. One revolution around the sun satisfies our sense of logic and reason for counting time, and maybe it even 'makes the most sense' in terms of being an easy system that everyone can understand. However, it is still just one potential option, and could be replaced by any other system that we deemed adequate such as moon cycles, seasons, or anything else.

     That being said, especially as items get larger, it becomes increasingly easy to distinguish levels that we can all agree are qualitatively different. The important thing to note is that all levels of organization influence all other levels to varying degrees. That is to say the small influences the large, and the large influences the small. This can be clearly seen in the different types of psychology and holds key information as to the environmental factors that shape our behavior as well as the ways our behaviors alter our environments. This cyclical relationship tends to lead to feedback loops that generally sustain themselves, and these feedback loops ultimately become our lives.

     Over the last 100 years or so, psychology has developed and refined a number of tools that can help us to understand why we think and behave the way we do. This search has led to a number of different schools of psychology that all focus on factors at different parts of the size spectrum. Technically speaking, psychology really only deals with a limited range of factors that influence our behavior and other sciences and fields of study pick up where psychology leaves off.

Moving from small to large, you get the following.

1. Neurobiology - How neural connections affect our behaviors.

2. Cognitive psychology - How aspects of the mind, ie. thinking, affect our perceptions and subsequent behavior.

3. Developmental psychology - How both our physical brain and how we make meaning changes over time. Note -Though the brain makes slower physical changes once we enter adulthood, the types of cognition we are capable of continue to increase and change all the way through adulthood.

4. Clinical psychology - Incorporates aspects from both the larger and smaller ends of the spectrum to specifically help people handle individual emotional/psychological distress.

5. Social psychology - How groups and situational factors influence an individual's behavior, cognition, and beliefs.

6. Sociology - How social structures, groups, neighborhoods, and institutions affect each other at the group level.

(This table of analysis comes from Susan T. Fiske's book "Social Beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology" -

     It is important to realized that this is just a small spectrum of the variables that directly affect how we think and behave, but they are the levels that affect us most directly and most powerfully. For example, this scale could be extended on the smaller end of the scale and we could consider how the laws of chemistry and physics comprise the infrastructure of our brains and how these directly set physical limits as to how our brains can operate. Equally, we can look at the large end of the spectrum and consider the influence of anthropology and culture throughout history. We can even considering influences from the cosmic level or how various planetary bodies including the sun and moon affect our biological systems. Overall, things closer to each other on the scale generally exert a larger influence over each other.

     The main point here is that we exist on a continuous scale comprised of items of varying sizes. Items of every size affect our personal psychology in terms of how we perceive the universe, events, and the behavior of ourselves and others. Some levels of organization are more immediately significant than others since they are closer in size to us and what we can readily perceive.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Analyzing the Garden: Eden Revisited

In Western civilization, the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is well known from dedicated religious zealots to atheist, ‘rationally’ minded, scientists and most everyone in between. For some this story represents an explanation of our connection to divinity and the origin of humanity. For others it is simply a pre-rational mythological tale that has little or no relevance to the world we live in today.Unfortunately there has been relatively little in the way of sophisticated debate regarding this story. Instead, for those who care, both believe that their view is the only correct way to understand it. This raises a seemingly significant question: Is it the case that these two points of view are completely incompatible with each other or is there room for overlap? Here I would like to take a look at this story from a number of perspectives, and in doing so potentially start to bridge the gap between these two points of view.

So that we can start on some common ground, let us begin with a short review of the foundational aspects of the story. The Garden of Eden was paradise on Earth. It was plentiful and provided for all living creatures in it. Within this paradise, God created a man and a woman. They were free to do as they pleased with one exception, do not eat the fruit of knowledge or the two would be pitched from the garden and never allowed to return. Through the coercion of a snake the people were tricked into consuming the fruit. Doing so expelled them from their Earthly paradise and set into motion the long chain of events leading to the present.

While some details have been left out of the story, this short version contains sufficient information to begin an analysis. The first major question that hinges at the center of the discussion is if the contents of this story are better understood as a literal historical account, if the story is simply a meaningless tale from a previous era, or if it has any symbolism or metaphorical meaning that is pertinent to life today?

First, let’s take on the point of view that this story was intended to be understood literally. In which case, what are we to take from it? Well, it would seem that we have an explanation for the origin of humanity. It gives us an explanation about a connection to a divine energy, and also why we are now less connected to it. However, it also leaves us with a number of questions. For instance, it would be natural to wonder what the fruit of knowledge really is, does anything like it exist today? Why haven’t there been any other snakes capable of communicating and manipulating people in the same way? Also, how was this story originally recorded and how did it arrive to us in the present? This by no means exhausts the list, but it gives us a general sense about how a literal interpretation leaves some loose ends. Unfortunately these questions still seem to be unanswered and the likelihood of finding an answer will probably only diminish as we move farther from the ‘Fall’ itself. Inquiries like these have tended to lead to the second point of view.

The second perspective has many arguments but it could be summed up as the following: Too many aspects of this story contradict how we now understand the universe, the world, and the way nature works. Most of the story has never been reliably recorded in a way that we can be certain of its validity. Therefore, the story is not true and has little or no relevance to life in the modern world. It can best be understood as an explanation to the origins of life that was created in a time where people’s knowledge about the workings of the physical universe was limited.

Unfortunately, both of these perspectives seem to give little relevance to the story in the modern world. If it is a literal story about our origins, what does that mean to us in our daily lives? If it is just a story from a previous era, what significance does it have in this modern period? Fortunately, there is at least one more point of view to consider. The story can be seen in terms of symbolism and metaphor, in which case it relates to both of the previous two perspectives and our lives today.

Considering the first perspective, since the bible and many other religious texts are generally series of stories, it is likely that they have always been intended to be understood symbolically. If this was not the case, why wouldn’t these books simply be a list of rules? What would be the point of communicating through stories? Reflecting on the second perspective, thinking in metaphorical terms would mean that the aspects of the story that do not concur with our modern view do not necessarily negate the value or meaning of the story itself. In fact, there is a chance that the Garden of Eden refers to actual events in history, symbolically. Devaluing everything about the story because certain parts may not be literally ‘true’ would be a classic example of “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

Since a number of meanings could be drawn when considering any story in metaphorical terms, it must be mentioned that this is just one interpretation. Many other analyses could be considered and do exist, but that will not stop this particular thought experiment from continuing.

Starting historically, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden could represent a particular period of world history. At one point in time, humans lived as nomadic people, wondering around forests that were much more plentiful than any we can imagine today. Wildlife and vegetation covered a significant percentage of the world and this lush setting could be symbolized by the “Garden of Eden”. At one point humans, or our evolutionary ancestors, certainly did not wear clothing and thought nothing of it, just like Adam and Eve. Simultaneously, they had no thought of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ because they lived completely at the whim of nature like all the other animals. Consciously speaking, humans were probably rather similar to other primates, but were on the brink of some major realizations. All humans of this era are represented in the story as Adam and Eve.

So the Garden can represent nature, and Adam and Eve can be the symbol for all humans in this era of limited consciousness or self-awareness. Perhaps the next question could be: What does God then symbolize? Well in the story God created Adam and Eve, the Garden, and everything else. Metaphorically speaking, God then could represent the energy that led to all things existing. In all likelihood this energy probably erupted long before the Garden of Eden in the Big Bang. It probably did not happen in an instant, but rather over the course of about 14 billion years which led to the precise setting of this particular story. People who made the story, and who were more conscious than the humans represented by Adam and Eve, were indeed attempting to explain the origins of humans. Considering the evidence available to them at that time they thought back to the earliest conceivable setting, the Garden of Eden, and thought that this must be the origin of time. Since they could not think of anything before that, this HAD to be the moment of creation. In this sense, everything that happened before this time leading back to the Big Bang was squeezed into one moment. That energy, symbolized as God, was responsible for setting the stage and providing the characters.

Next then we must look at the Fruit of Knowledge, the Fall from Eden, and what they might represent. Again, considering these symbolically may yield the most significance. After eating this Fruit, Adam and Eve could never return to the Garden, but why? Well the Fruit of Knowledge is often represented as the knowledge of good and evil, but it can also be considered in terms of self-awareness and self-other awareness. Consider again how humans had a consciousness that was rather similar to other animals. This means at some point, people were generally unaware of themselves, did not or could not self-reflect, and could not deeply understand that others were also human like themselves that experienced the same emotions and had the same experiences.They completely lacked the ability to take others’ perspectives. At some period of time later, people could do all of those things. Eating the Fruit of knowledge then can represent the transitioned from this animal-like consciousness to the beginnings of human consciousness and self-awareness. Again, this probably did not happen in a single instance as quickly as it takes one to eat a piece of fruit. Instead this transition may have occurred over tens or even hundreds of thousands of years. However, when one considers the event long after it occurred, the length of the transition is inconceivable and can then be condensed into a single miraculous moment.

Once humans begin to look around with this new sense of self-awareness and ability to think abstractly, they essentially ‘step out of the forest’ as people for the first time. They cease to live in the same way as the other animals, being subjected to the whim of nature. They can use this thinking to understand and manipulate their environment, and to plan into the future. This ‘stepping out of the forest’ is the Fall from Eden, and once people become self-aware, they can never go back to being unaware. This is why eating the Fruit of Knowledge expels them from the Garden forever. It’s impossible to unlearn, to undo the act of becoming self-aware.

Then there is the snake that whispers in the ears of these early humans to tempt them into doing that which is forbidden. Well, with this new knowledge of self and other, there becomes a concept of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ or ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. People before the Fall had no conception of right and wrong, similar to a lion or wolf. After eating the Fruit of Knowledge, this type of thinking does exist. The snake is generally used to represent the Devil in western cultures. Both the Devil and the snake in this story likely represent the Ego that lies within everyone. It’s the voice in everyone’s head that encourages them towards that which is forbidden. In most wisdom traditions from Buddhism, to Judaism, to Islam, to Christianity, self-control is held above giving in to desires. Often controlling these internal urges is a significant focal point of spiritual practices. The snake was probably added to this story in order to communicate a symbolic moral struggle that exists within everyone. Do we honor God and resist the temptation of the forbidden fruit? Or do we give in to the ego, the Devil, and self-indulge.

Lastly, does this story have any significance to life in the modern world? I believe understanding the Garden of Eden symbolically can give the story new life. Any time anyone is unaware of something, they are in the Garden of Eden, but they can step out at any moment simply by learning more about the subject. They say ignorance is bliss. That’s because when you do not know, everything just is the way it is and there is nothing to do about it. Stepping out of the Garden requires new knowledge, a new awareness, and with it comes added responsibility. It comes at the price of the knowledge of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Becoming increasingly aware is little more than recognizing relationships between things. So the farther we step out of the Garden, the more we become aware how our own actions affect other people, other animals, the environment in general, and how all those things affect us. Every day we continue to acquire new experiences which bring new knowledge and awareness, but we then must make the choice of how we use that information. Do we give into selfish desires of the Ego, or do we honor a higher sense of being through self-control. That decision is certainly up to every individual and depends on the specifics of any given situation. The important thing to note is that every “ah-ha” moment, where the world makes a little more sense, is the feeling of stepping just a little farther out of the Garden.

So while this analysis is sure to ruffle a few feathers of both the traditionally religious conservative and the analytically oriented scientific, there is some good news. Both of your perspectives are correct, and they do not conflict with each other. This story does indeed refer to real events, simply not in real time. It points to the period in history in which people transitioned from what we might consider animal-like states of consciousness to an orientation that is more reflective, self-aware, and specific to only people. The forces that some call God do exist. There is an undeniable energy that runs through the universe; that energyresulted in the creation of all matter, biological life, and the emergence of consciousness. Though there is much evidence to suggest that they did not happen in the time periods suggested in religious texts, if we look at the events symbolically, we can see they do pertain to aspects of reality. Regardless of how people come to understand the universe and their existence in it, as humans we all experience the same things. We may have different words to interpret these experiences (i.e. spirituality, consciousness, or psychological processes) but our experiences run parallel to each other. We simply must learn to identify with, understand, and empathize with one another because in the end we are all in it together.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Seed of Life

Seeded at the center,
like the smallest Russian doll,
where perception comes together
there's a spot.

In the soil of the mind
it's a theater of time
running present, past, and future
films of thought,

and it's nestled in the middle
of a matted neural network,
in a symphony that's playing
without strain.

In a finely folded origami
masterpiece of mass,
each uniquely morphed and molded,
called a brain.

Which is carried in a carefully
constructed carnal carriage
that is constantly combining
cells reborn,

in a beautiful and balanced flow
of fantastic function
in the body of the breathing
human form.

And these beings are the basis
of a coordinated cluster,
beginning to create
 a colony.

In an even larger
interwoven tapestry of time,
integrated in a world

that's dependent on a
delicately dynamic system.
Some begin to sense that it's
in danger.

Probably because
we're precariously perched.
The product of a bigger
tree of nature.

Which is eloquently
isolated in a cosmic ocean
floating along freely
without strife.

A glowing globe of green and blue
magic in a marble.
The miracle that is our
Seed of Life.