Friday, January 14, 2011

Pedantic Complexity

Evolution. The theory supposes an ongoing process. We, according to the theory, should be evolving. Right now. A significant difference between homo sapiens ("wise" or "knowing" human) and the rest of the primates, I think, is that we have the capacity for consciously choosing to evolve. I really like the idea of evolving, consciously. That is premised on making the choice to evolve. But, evolve into…what?

Deciding to sprout wings, or have our bad teeth grow back like a lizards tail may not be the must efficacious avenue for such an ambition as conscious evolution. Our biology and genetics will likely not want to play ball with such imaginings, not on short order. However, our consciousness might be more game on the idea, and in fact, our DNA might be suggesting it.

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell thought it might be worth exploring what the next phase of evolution might look like, and went so far as to name it; Homo Noeticus ("inner knowing"human). He co-founded the Institute for Noetic Sciences with Paul N. Temple in 1973 to do just that. During Edgar's return trip to Earth on Apollo 14, he had what he called an epiphany concerning the human condition in the scheme of things: "The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes ... The knowledge came to me directly…"

Edgar's didn't claim a religious conversion or decide to become a born again, zealously campaigning for Team Jesus, though the description of his experiences mirror what many born-again's describe as their own. But this was a man who's perspective on the world was afforded by science. His objective realization was not facilitated by a church (though his experience might have had some help from being spawned in a Christian dominated culture). Of course, this experience of divinity does not belong to the province of astronauts (for many described similar realizations) or Christians alone, but has been reported by people of all religions and practices, and enjoyed a lot of air time out of the mouths of psychedelic seekers since the cultural revolution of the 1960's. I consider the premise of Edgar's institute as laudable in my opinion. Even if the endeavor was a bunch of New Agey hooey as the critics claim, I admire and respect his taking the unpopular road of exploring inner-space and challenging the cultural narrative of a Judeo-Christian God.

As far as the "Sheeple" notion. Sheep are going to flock, with or without a Shepard, and humans, with or without a chief, are going to tribe. Traditionally, the black sheep of the flock and tribe both have had a harder go of it. Being conspicuous in the wild invites predators, so, one can see an attractive evolutionary advantage to belonging.

There are a myriad of shepherds of the human flocks. Some honor their charge of protecting, some sheer the fleece too close. Some lie their way into their roll to devour, some sacrifice themselves in earnest. But the flock will accept one or the other arbitrarily. Holding up a mug shot of a wolf, real or imagined, is often enough to scare a consensus into them. "Outside the consensus lurk the devourers, so, I will hang with the flock rather than take my chances."

A central aspect of the Homo Noeticus that Edgar's was interested in was what the institute termed "integral intelligence," or a working awareness of the oneness of life. For convenience, I'd like to focus on the notion of the oneness of humanity as a single body.

Within this body of humanity we can find the brains, the immune system, the nervy people, the muscles, etc. The body won't do much without coordination between all the parts of the organism. The brains may tell the muscles to start the feet in the direction of nourishment, but not without a signal from the gut. After that task has been completed, the asshole becomes necessary. Coordination (cooperation) is not negotiable if the body is to survive another day. From my own experience of operating a body, conflict cannot be avoided. My sex organs have caused problems for my brain, and vice verse. My brains have motivated me to do things for the sake of my adrenals at the expense of my flesh and bones. In spite of all this, life still endorses my being.

Who knows whom we are dealing with when we interact with other people. We may be dealing with a scatological function, someone we feel is "talking shit." How we deal with that can help us understand our own function. If we can relax enough, we may facilitate a healthy movement. Trying to stop it out of repulsion may not be good for the system as a whole. This can be where we make a conscious choice to honor the asshole and let it do it's duty. Or we can make a conscious choice to be a sphincter muscle and contract the anus. When we choose to identify our personal being with the body of humanity, we can be mindful of the appropriate time for all these functions, but the herds/tribes/body goes a long way to inform us what that appropriateness may be.

Homo Sapiens are capable of this kind of integral awareness, and through the exercising of this mindfulness of our interconnection, integral intelligence can be developed. I wonder if the Homo Noeticus may not be a new kind of human to develop in the future, distinct from the Sapien, but a necessary function of the human species right now. High functioning Sapiens have an awareness of the body of humanity, the interconnectedness of it with our environment, and all other life within it. But perhaps the function of the Noeticus concerns itself with that awareness of life, as well as the notions of life beyond that, in and out of time, on and beyond this planet. Someone has to do it.

So, where does the heart fit in all this? It's a mystery. The brain doesn't tell the heart to beat. The heart can continue beating even if the brain is "dead." The heart can continue to provide life for all the other parts of the body, even with no brain to put those parts into action. For a while. Some say the heart, the motor for the life-blood, has it's own intelligence capable of overriding the brain, and seems to have impulses that are as counter intuitive as they are powerful. The head holds our vision, but the heart tells the head which way to look and motivate the body into action. It can seem as though the heart doesn't care what price the body and mind pays for it's mysterious motivations, even as it pumps life into every part of them. Sometimes this doesn't work out so well, as far as the body, or the brain's perspective, and a resistance forms in the system.

I have so over metaphored. I'll try some science sounding stuff now.

The Internet told me that a Russian biophysicist named Vladimir Poponin made some interesting discoveries in the early 1990's concerning the nature of human DNA. The story goes something like this;

Poponin put some human DNA in a container and blasted it with photons. The random acting photons then glommed onto the DNA. When the DNA was removed, the photons continued to hold the DNA spiral form in what has been called the "phantom effect." It was surmised that we are leaving phantoms all around us as we move about, phantoms specific to our particular DNA, at a particular moment.

Conventional Science has begun to rethink the function of the 98% of human DNA called "noncoding" or "junk" DNA. Because noncoding DNA does not encode proteins for sequences, it was believed that it had no biological function. More recently however, various functions have been attributed to sections of the "junk" DNA including pseudogene sequences that "appear to accumulate mutations more rapidly than coding sequences due to a loss of selective pressure." and "allows for the creation of mutant alleles that incorporate new functions that may be favored by natural selection; thus, pseudogenes can serve as raw material for evolution and can be considered 'protogenes.'" This noncoding DNA could be considered a kind of biological 'open mic' that allows new talent to take the stage and catch the attention of the organism. The Internet also told me that scientists were able to detect a contracting of our DNA when we are experiencing anxiousness or fear, and that the DNA had an expansive quality when were were experiencing compassion, or love. So we could be walking around leaving stroboscopic phantoms in our wake in the shape of our contracted or expanded DNA, depending on how we feel that moment.

So, when we choose to look at our fellow humans with love and compassion, we are creating ghosts of our condition that others unwittingly encounter. At the same time, our DNA can "wear" this condition, to try it on for size to see if it wants to walk out of the store with it. Inversely, when we choose to carry the burden of fear based emotions, we cancel the open mic and stick with the golden oldies.

So, to go back to the sheeple thing: The sapien resists anything not of it out of survival fears, and thus perpetuate their state, where a Noeticus can walk amongst them, incognito, all the while shedding impressions of an integral intelligence that leaves a very real impression; people in sheeple clothing.

If humanity is ailing, the affliction comes from within. Our right arm has a mind to punch us in the head while the left arm reaches behind our back, trying to hold our butt cheeks together. Meanwhile the left and right brain argue over control, forgetting they are one. Let us pray that our DNA has a plan to get us through this mess.

Or, we can choose to trust that it will, and in that trust serve an integrative function.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Lotus Eaters

All the information in the world at my fingertips. I just have to search for it. So where to start? It's a tricky question. Each time I hit search it opens up a rabbit hole with slippery slopes of related links and endless forums of speculation, and a wikipedia-go-round that often throws me off in a completely different realm than what I was searching for.

Like many, I have abandoned the mainstream outlets of news and information due to their complete lack of journalistic integrity. I think it's called "Infotainment" now. And like many, I rely on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report for critical analysis of the spin of the mainstream headlines. While I value the work of the satirists, it is a necessarily narrow and limited reaction to the mainstream noise machine, not a journalistic enterprise.

Exciting developments in the human endeavor are happening constantly and increasingly. For years I have believed that every problem that faces humanity has a solution, here, now. But the problems seem to sell more Dorito's than their solutions, and so what happens between the Dorito's commercials too often passes as the whole story, and defines reality for the DoritoEaters. I then have to negotiate the DoritoEater reality due to the overwhelming numbers of people that carry it.

I feel that something has gone awry in the human condition. We have gained the powers of reason, but lost the context within which to reason, that context being the human condition. Often the limits of our reason are too narrow to render it relevant in the context of the larger human condition. Too often our reason stops at our personal interests. What the Fundamentalist movement seems to be doing is perfectly reasonable within the context of their reality, and to them their reality is Reality. What the Arizona shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, did was perfectly reasonable within the context of his personal reality, which to him was Reality.

The challenge seems to be, not agreeing upon what Reality means for us, the Humans at large, but agreeing to make this agreement a priority.

The premise of the United States Political System, or any political system for that matter, must be a conspiracy, by nature, at least by the original root of the word, conspiration; "to breathe together". Our representatives in Washington and elsewhere come together and conspire for our sake, conspire to bring about results in concurrence with us, the represented. This is our conspiracy. We conspire to select our representatives. Now, about that we and us thing....

A few years ago I was riding in the car with my parents. I hadn't seen them in years and I was doing my best to keep things civil. We were driving from Oklahoma to Kansas City, to take me to the train station. The AM radio was on the whole way. I had endured two hours of Rush Limbaugh, and was now suffering through the Hannity Show. The show bumpers between commercials bombastically trumpeted "UNITED WE STAND - THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW". I endured this for an hour or so before I was completely overcome with the irony. I put on my best diplomatic voice and turned to my dad, "that phrase, 'united we stand...'
"'United we stand, divided we fall'. If you don't know who said it, I'm not going to tell you." my dad said, all dad like.
"Well, that's not really my point. I noticed that in between all these 'united we stand's' that the radio host spends the majority of his time bashing half the country, so I was wondering who is supposed to be 'we'?" Both my parents balked and blurted in unity, "Us!".

It hurt my brain. To spare your brains from hurting, I will not relay the rest of our conversation, but it was at this moment that I realized that my folks, and the others of their political persuasion had an absolute zero capacity for irony. Their heroic zeal for unity was a large part of what was fostering the division in our country. We would not spend the rest of the drive conspiring to solve the Nations problems.

At that point I gave up on the notion of a country united. Until the citizens conspired to elect representatives that represented 'us' humans first, over the identity of Christian, or conservative, or liberal, or whatever, we will be divided by the "we" that stand to unite against us.

There are uniting factors however. Disaster being one of the most expedient. An earthquake that shakes the divided from their individual shelters is an excellent example. A TeaBagger will not hesitate to help douse the flames on the house of his neighbor, even it that neighbor voted for a tax increase. But do we have to just sit and wait for everything to fall down around us before we agree that it might be in every ones self interest to consider each other?

Brisbane, Brazil, and Sri Lanka are drowning. The magnetic North Pole raced towards Russia forty miles last year and is expected to go farther and faster this year. Antarctica is experiencing t-shirt weather this week. Fish are floating to the surface and birds are dropping to the ground in unprecedented numbers. Quiet Volcano's are waking up. The permafrost in Canada and Russia isn't so perma anymore. Brad and Angelina are having relationship problems.

Do we really have to just wait until the New Madrid Fault zone rips the country in half before we stop doing it ourselves? Chicken Little fever is sweeping the country, and even the Chicken Little's are pecking at each other over who's disaster is most alarming. Were entering into a stage of meta-rhetoric where the rhetoric over our rhetoric is being rhetoricized.

The Dark Days are coming for us all. The apocalyptic crowd, the 2012ers, the environmentalists, the nationalists, the publishing industry, Lindsey Lohan, Organic gardeners, etc. I believe a desire for some kind of unity underlies this disaster talk fetish. But we don't know how to imagine this unity without giving up our particular identities and agendas. We resist the need to be humans first, and put all that otherness second. In the midst of all the disaster-tragedy cacophony we still enjoy that luxury.