As below, so above

According to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the respective values of certain pairs of physical properties---such as position and momentum, or time and energy---cannot both be known simultaneously. The more precisely one property is known, the less precisely the other is known. For example, the more certain you are about the position of a sub-atomic particle, the less certain you are about its momentum.

The uncertainty has nothing to do with the inadequacy of measuring instruments, but rather is a fundamental property of Reality: when some things are known, other things can’t be known at the same time.

“So what?” I hear you say, “Who cares about where a sub-atomic particle is at? What’s that got to do with the real world?”

Work shall set you free

Arbeit Macht Frei, by CR/MM/SRS, oils on board, commenced 2005 finished 2014, 54.5 x 74.5 cm"Arbeit macht frei" is a German phrase meaning "Work shall set you free" found above the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

More than 70 years later, almost everyone is an inmate of the global concentration camp of modern human culture. Work doesn't make us free, it enslaves us.

A person at work is a person with no identity. Ze is not a person, just a uniform, a suit. A person at work has no mind of zer own, no brains, no head. As the painting suggests, the body of a person at work ends at the neck.

The corporatisation of human life and culture proceeds at an accelerating rate. One of the results is the destruction of our humanity itself. Another is the destruction of the planet.

A person at work is a psychopath with no personal values, just a fake but hearty enthusiasm for the values of the corporation. Every morning, when we walk into the workplace, we leave our personal values at the door. We're all psychopaths, these days, or sociopaths if you're into labels. We repress and suppress our personhood, our empathy, at the behest of the employer. That's why there are cruel red eyes in the lapels of a pin-striped suit. They are the insane eyes of one who has lost zer personhood.

And yet, as Jesus is said to have said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

And here we are, 2000 years later, toiling and spinning for dear life, and not liking it very much at all.

Painting by SRS, oils on board, 54.5 x 74.5 cm.

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Cheeky little devil

Limbourg Brothers, “the Devil Torturing Souls as well as Being Tortured Himself in Hell” from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, 1411-6The Devil Torturing Souls as well as Being Tortured Himself in Hell”, painted by the Limbourg Brothers, from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, 1411-6

Little Jonnie stood at the entrance to Hell, bright-eyed and bold as brass. In his left hand blazed a flashlight. In one pocket was a box of matches, in the other were spare batteries for the flashlight.

Lacking maturity and being well-schooled in folly he audaciously demanded an audience with the First of the Fallen.

“Can’t you read?” growled the Gatekeeper Demon in Charge, pointing to the sign.

“Firstly,” responded Little Jonnie, impudence oozing from every pore, “How can I abandon something I never had to begin with? Secondly, how can Hope be abandoned when she already has been left behind in her unbreakable house? And thirdly, I haven’t entered yet, have I? You’re blocking the way.”

The Gatekeeper Demon shook his long, twisted horns with irritation. He didn’t know what to say. He had never before encountered anyone or anything like this impertinent Young Person, so self-possessed and not at all afraid.

“What is the meaning of this, young man?” spluttered the Gatekeeper Demon. None too bright at the best of times, the Demon's perplexity rendered him temporarily incapable of performing his agnostic duty.

“The meaning of which young man?” asked Little Jonnie provocatively.

“You! You, young man! I believe I’m talking to you!!” The Gatekeeper Demon’s coal-black face turned as red as a boiled lobster.

“Believe? Don’t you know for sure?” asked Little Jonnie wickedly.

Can't do nothing properly!

Drawing by SRS One day dad went into McDonald’s for a burger but it was quite busy and he had to wait in line. Also, the teenage staff weren’t very efficient: one was flirting with a boy, another was talking on her phone, and another was just plain slow and useless full stop.

Dad got more and more impatient. He had a terrible hangover and all he wanted was a nice greasy burger to throw to the pain in his gut.

Finally, he got to the head of the queue and grumpily placed his order but was told it wasn’t ready and could he wait a couple minutes. That got him steaming mad.

Free Willy in the United States of Personhood

I downloaded this image of a captive dolphin a number of years ago, can't remember where and can't provide attribution: apologies to the copyright-owner.I downloaded this image a number of years ago, can't remember where and can't provide attribution: apologies to the copyright-owner. Actually it's unclear as to whether dolphins were granted legal personhood status, or whether India "merely" banned the use of dolphins in aquatic theme parks. But whatever happened in reality has no bearing on whether cetaceans are or are not persons, or on how they should be treated. This issue is a great example of the relativity of values and the significance of context. The movie, Free Willy, is about the conflict of values and the impact of that conflict on the life of an orca named Willy. Many humans, including myself, believe that cetaceans are as "personable" as humans.
Free will means you are free to choose to do anything that is within your power to do; to think anything that is in your power to think; to experience anything that is within your power to experience. But the most significant freedom of all is the freedom to define your values, relative to the All, relative to Everything and every thing.

That relativity is inescapable, at least for the likes of you and me. You might, for instance, choose diversity as one of your values, except if you were supplying tomatoes to a supermarket, in which case you would want all your tomatoes to be the same size, weight and color. A supplier of tomatoes to a supermarket would prefer conformity to diversity, at least in relation to supplying tomatoes. To echo the "location, location, location" of realtors: context, context, context!

A Renormalised Cat

Schrodinger's catSchrodinger's cat. My thanks to the creator of this image. Apologies for lack of attribution but I can't remember where I got this image from.
Whereby the Akashic Record is less record than portfolio or ensemble of multi-dimensional spacetimeslices, all but one of which are potential; and the one which is not potential is brought into actuality by virtue of the actualising agent, of the Copenhagen, Everrettian or multiversal School, constructed on the premise that the Observer brings reality into being by decoherently collapsing the renormalised wave function (hopefully without killing Schrodinger's cat).

Here's what the cat is saying: "Being simultaneously dead and alive in the box gave me an incredible perspective on "life, the universe and everything" And I'm here to share that perspective with the world!"

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Tomb-Sweeping Day

Five coloured papers placed on the mound of a grave in Bukit Brown Cemetery, Singapore, during Qingming Festival. There is a shrine to the Earth Deity (土地公 Tǔ Dì Gōng), also known as 后土 (Hòu Tǔ; "Backing of the Land"), on the left of the gravestone. Photo by wikipedia User:Jacklee.
Thursday 4 April 2002 was a very busy day. It was Children's Day, Tomb-Sweeping day, and the Death of President Chiang Kai Shek Day.

According to Wikipedia: "The Qingming or Ching Ming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English, is a traditional Chinese festival on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, either 4 or 5 April in a given year. ...

"Qingming has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday in China. In Taiwan, the public holiday is now always observed on 5 April to honor the death of Chiang Kai-shek on that day in 1975. It became a public holiday in mainland China in 2008."

My diary says it's celebrated in Taiwan on the 4th April, but Wikipedia is probably right about it being the 5th.

I know it's unworthy of me, but I can't help but imagine a "bizarro-world" in which the festival of Tomb-Messing Day is celebrated. On that day, everyone has to go to the nearest tomb and mess it up -- throw garbage at it, or dead leaves, or evil sandwiches. It's also known as "Disrespecting Your Ancestors Day".

The higher you stand, the further you see

Relativity, by M. C. Escher. Lithograph, 1953.Relativity, by M. C. Escher. Lithograph, 1953.
Most things seem big if you are very small. Most things seem small if you are very big.*

The extent to which information is tied to a local context determines the extent to which the information is universally true. You can't and you don't see the same thing from a worm's point of view as you can and do from a person's perspective, or a bird's, a dog's or a god's point of view. Which perspective is absolutely correct? None. Which is absolutely incorrect? None.

Examples follow. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain... in Tanzania. For people without telescopes, the Earth is at the center of the cosmos. Food that humans call rotten or spoiled is a banquet for bacteria. Weeds are plants that humans don't like and/or can't use. One person's "terrorist" is another person's "freedom fighter". The lemma is continuous and discreet. As realtors put it: location, location, location! Or in other words: context, context, context!

Context-free thinking, context-free language, and language-free conversation are prerequisites to universal understanding and universal communication. The higher you stand the further you can see. The higher you think, the more contexts/perspectives you understand. The higher the level of abstraction (meta) the more can be seen of the nature of reality.

God is always right

Some people say there’s nothing but Matter
Others say everything is Energy.

Some people say everything is Information
Others say Awareness is everything.

Some people say that Love is all there is
Others say that God is all there is.

God says we’re alright:
Matter is Energy,
Energy is Information,
Information is Awareness,
Awareness is Love.
God is all ways right.

Homo the sap pronks no more

Detail from painting by SRSOnce upon a fatuous time, when dark desires eloped with virgin pixies, and antelopes no longer pronked stotted or sprinked upon the veldt... when no more cantaloupes in fruity embrace with swarthy greengrocers did entwine... when all the zombies in the world laid end to end---an undead chain twenty six thousand miles long---did girt the Earth, and werewolves with gingivitis growled and grimaced in a hundred thousand dentists' chairs across the land...

'Twas a time of sorrow, when all was lost or drawn and braggarts and liars and con-persons were the order of the day... A sorry time, I say, a sad and sordid time, when durance oppressive pressed and weighed upon the minds of most such that those on whom the pressure was the least, enslaved their fellow-jerkwads, thus kindly hastening the end...

In those times, in those ways, at that cost, a specious species egregiously declined; the will of the sapient ones was sapped, and personkind into the All was gathered, once and for all. Thank Christ!

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Teeny tiny biggie

More things are small (local) if you’re big; more things are big (universal) if you're small.

(Acknowledgments to Daniel Dennett for the original thought: sorry that I can't provide more details.)

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How big is your god?

One of the 54 so-called One of the 54 so-called "wrathful deities", Karma Heruka, in union with his consort, Karma Krodeshvari, painted by Shawu Tsering and photographed by Jill Morley Smith, in The Tibetan Book of The Dead, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition (2005)
Humans like to fight. We enjoy a good war, brawl, mêlée, fracas, dispute, argument, disagreement. And one of the things we most like to fight or argue about is the thing we label as "god".

Mainly, we fight about the nature/attributes of god: has a thousand arms, is found in the sea, is found in the air, is found in a burning bush, throws thunderbolts, was crucified, is male, is female, is genderless, carries a large hammer, enjoys drinking blood, has a long white beard, is wrathful and jealous, likes a good flood, etc.

The attributes of deity are many and various, if not infinite. Some people say that all attributes are manifest in deity, and therein lies an opportunity. If everyone agreed that all attributes are the attributes of deity, then we would have no basis for disagreement about the nature of deity. (And by the way, having all attributes is equivalent to having no attributes.)

Many many tickle a parson

The Hand-Writing upon the Wall (1803), James Gillray's caricature of Napoleon as Belshazzar, King of Babylon. Napoleon, Josephine, French soldiers and women are at the feast-table. Napoleon looks in horror at Jehovah pointing to words in the sky. In the Biblical story, on a wall in Belshazzar's palace god's hand writes the message: mene, mene, tekel, upharsin. Daniel interprets for the King: "God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. You have been weighed and found wanting. The kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." In 539 BCE the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great invades Babylon.
In Babylon flowed the rivers of wine
'til one fateful day god put up a sign

The anger of god was expressed on a wall
but Belshazzar didn't get it at all

The King's main pursuits were eating and drinking
but the words on the wall really got him to thinking

He couldn't make sense of what god had in mind
so turning to Daniel said “please be so kind

as to look at that writing and try and explain
the words on the wall that are hurting my brain.”

Now Daniel was sober, he had a clear head
he knew what to say and here's what he said:

“The finger that writes having writ then moves on
here come the Medes and the Persians: you're gone!

“God's run out of patience, he really can't wait
he's given your kingdom to Cyrus the great

“So don't ask a priest or even a parson
too mene mene and tekel upharsin

“For as it is written and so shall it be
Jehovah is jealous and wrathful you see

“He'll smite you and bite you and strike without warning
so swallow ten tablets and call in the morning!”

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The story of the story of the magic painting

St. Anthony Plagued by Demons, engraved by Martin Schongauer in the 1480s.St. Anthony Plagued by Demons, engraved by Martin Schongauer in the 1480s.
In my harsh and bitter years of toil as an indentured servant in the household of a cruel, demanding master, every day I would arise three hours before the sun. My first action would be to retrieve my bloodstained, battered notebook from its hiding place. Then, in the light of a spluttering, stuttering candle, with the stub of a pencil I had found in the fields, I would write down what I remembered of my dreams the previous night.

On one particularly dark and frozen morning, I began to write about a Magic Painting that was a doorway, a portal. Anyone who looked into the Painting was miraculously transported to another world. And everyone returned from the world of the Painting miraculously healed of all wounds: physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual.

But before I could finish writing the story of the Painting, I was summonsed to my duties, which were many, unvarying, heavy and onerous. Much later, two hours after the sun had died in the arms of day, my body aching and bruised from strenuous labour, I crawled onto my thin and threadbare mattress in the corner of the dark and tiny stall assigned me by my keepers.

Who are you and who is in charge?

Dialogues (monologues? multilogues?) of the self, with the self, can produce understanding, empathy, congeniality, even love. But these solipsistic conversations can also involve negative emotions---hostility, confusion, hatred, recrimination, resentment, contempt, and the like.

Many a person who believes ze is overweight, for example, experiences inner conflict. Part of the person wants to stick to a diet; another part wants to feast on fast-food. This kind of conflict frequently involves a person arguing with themself, castigating themself for being weak and unable to resist temptation. But how can this be, that a person can be in conflict with themself? To be at war implies plurality. Yet personhood is a singularity. Or so we believe. Or so we are taught and encouraged to believe. But is it true?

Is murdering children absolutely wrong?

Aztec ritual human sacrifice portrayed in the page 141 (folio 70r) of the Codex Magliabechiano. 16th centuryAztec ritual human sacrifice portrayed in the page 141 (folio 70r) of the Codex Magliabechiano. 16th century
Can there be morality without gods? Can there be right and wrong without gods? Can there be values without gods? The answer is “yes” but only in relation to relative not absolute values, relative not absolute right and wrong, relative not absolute morality.

Most if not all values people accept or reject in this life are relative, not absolute. And that is simply because absolute values do not exist in this life, in this world.

Values differ from one culture to the next, one point in time to the next, one person to the next. It is the differences that comprise the relativity of values.

Take murder for instance. Most cultures today would condemn murdering children as "bad" or "wrong". Nowadays most people share values relating to protection and nurture of children. But in many ancient cultures, including the Carthaginian and Aztec cultures, child sacrifice was regularly practised on a large scale (see image above). In the Aztec culture, thousands of children were ritually slaughtered to appease the god Tlaloc. In the Old Testament the god Jehovah asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, saying: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2-8).

The magic painting

Portal to Forever, oils on canvas, by SRS
Someplace, sometime, somehow there was a Magic Painting that was a doorway to another world.

Anyone who looked into the Painting fell into a trance and entered that other world, just as Alice through the looking glass. And on the other side, they found themselves entangled in exciting and wonderful adventures. And when they returned they felt happy and healthy and healed of all their wounds and woes and worries.

One day some Bad Men stole the Magic Painting. Sly as rats they snuck away to the Low Places of the City. Quiet as snakes they slithered down a Crooked Street to a Hidden House. In that Hidden House was a Secret Chamber. And in that Secret Chamber was an Iron Safe that weighed as much as a mountain and was big enough for thirteen people to stand inside.

In that Iron Safe, the Bad Men put the Magic Painting. Then they locked the Safe, slunk out of the Secret Chamber, left the Hidden House and went their separate ways.

the meaning of meaning

Gaia, Primordial Deity of the Earth, painting by Anselm Feuerbach (1875)Gaia, Primordial Deity of the Earth, painting by Anselm Feuerbach (1875)
There are distinctions and differences throughout Reality. As humans we have the ability and the desire to identify, categorise and name those distinctions. Which is fine and good and valid. But we must always be aware that the identifications, categorisations and names we create are relative, not absolute.

The various labels we apply to the infinitely rich aspects of Reality are meaningful to us, their creators. But the labels are invented by humans for use by humans in human contexts. "Life" is a particularly mercurial label, difficult to pin down. The meaning of "life" changes over time and varies from brain to brain.

Some people believe the planet Earth is alive and name her Gaia. She satisfies a number of the criteria for life established by mainstream biologists. For example, she practises homeostasis, the maintenance of a dynamic equilibrium that ensures ongoing biological existence. She self-regulates her "metabolism" through the complex interplay of multiple systems and processes including but by no means limited to those associated with climate, ocean chemistry and plate tectonics, for example. In fact the plants and animals and other lifeforms she supports are themselves part of her physiology.

The Evil Sandwich

Once upon a brunch I bought a Sandwich from a gnarled and rustic seller ensconced quite gaily in a gaudy booth one inauspicious day.

‘Twas ham and cheese: I remember it well, as if ‘twere but this very toothsome morn itself that I reluctantly but expectantly forked over six clinking dollarim — sponduleks if you will — to that aged and curly purveyor within zir gaudy booth that foul and fractious day.

And though the absence of tomato hinted at the manifestation of dark forces as repulsive as a botched cosmological constant, still I remained initially at least unaware if not absent-minded as to the true and fundamental nature of the Sandwich.

Down the toilet of lost souls

The Same God So That He Obtained Of The Magus Was By Demons Be Pulled In Pieces: Engraving by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Same God So That He Obtained Of The Magus Was By Demons Be Pulled In Pieces: Engraving by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Around the Courtyard of Dispaire
The stony benches stare
their stony glares I’m sitting there
belittling where I’m splitting hairs
unpicking nits let’s call it quits
before my mind’s behind forgets
that most of all I’m feeling numb
the cold befriends my lonely bum
it all depends it never ends
it twists and bends
its weary way it wends...
around the Courtyard of Dispaire.

Along the Hallway of Tomorrow
All the tumours beg and borrow
bloated bags of pus and vinegar
shiver, quiver, quaver or deliver
punctuated full-length features
starring all pipe-smoking creatures
eponymous green-hatted leprechauns
strangelings taut and sinning blameless
well-known if not despised and nameless
unhinged, unhorsed and plump with sorrow
trotting comes my old friend Zorro...
along the Hallway of Tomorrow.

Banquet for bacteria

Andrew Dunn, http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/ [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Sequence of images showing a peach decaying over a period of six days. Each frame is approximately 12 hours apart, but a couple of frames were not recorded. The peach appears to wrinkle and shrivel as it dries out, whilst the surface is also gradually covered by mold. From Einstein we learn about the relativity that applies to aspects of time and space. But relativity is even more absolute than Einstein imagined! Everything is relative, including the meaning of words, the meaning of meaning, and meaning itself. The truth we assign to things is never true from all perspectives.

Consider, for example, a picnic in the park. Mum, dad, and a couple of kids, sitting on a blanket eating sandwiches, boiled eggs, and other picnic food. One of the kids is unable to eat all of the food ze has taken (the "...eyes bigger than your stomach..." syndrome). Ze surreptitiously disposes of the uneaten food by throwing it into the bushes.

One of the parents notices and criticises the child along these lines: "Don't throw that food away, there are people starving in XYZ country. What a waste! I paid good money for that. And another thing, haven't I told you not to litter? You are spoiling it for everyone, making a mess like that!"

Hall of mirrors

Book cover: Nightmerries
The previous post was about the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Second Life and its currency the Linden Dollar. This post goes even further back into the misty past, to the time when text-based adventure games (remember those?) were all the rage.

You are in the chamber of The Shining Waterfall. Visible exits lead N, S, E, W, U and D. You see: Nothing.

> S

You go South. Visible exits lead N and S. You see: Nothing.

> S

You go south. You are in the Chamber of Despair. Visible exits lead S. You see: Nowhere Man, a yellow submarine.

Linden dollar exchange rate crisis

Second Life and the Linden dollar have faded into relative oblivion. The currency is no longer current, having been supplanted by Bitcoin and other virtual mediums of exchange. And these days Second Life itself is worse than inadequate, it's claustrophobic. Who would want to smear themselves across a paltry two lives, now that the technology exists to support dozens if not hundreds of lives per person?

But let's not dwell on the limitations of the past. Let's not get too smug about how far we've traveled in the last few years. To maintain our blistering pace of cultural change we've had to jettison some real good stuff that in future we will wish we hadn't.

But that's enough commentary; let's eat some meat (below).

Meat jockeys ride again and again

A tiny person sits in a movie theater inside a human head, watching and hearing everything that is being experienced by the human being. An illustration of the Cartesian theater. By Derivative work: Pbroks13 Original: Jennifer Garcia (Reverie) (Image:Cartesian Theater.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Soul, Self, Consciousness, Mind and Personhood may not be the same thing, but they are the same kind of thing.
  • They all refer in one way or another to the essence of a person.
  • They are all of the same nature: they’re immaterial ie non-physical.
  • They all do the same job: they’re meat-jockeys, riding embodied brains.
  • And they’re all immortal*, at least in theory (unlike the body, which can’t keep it together after death).

To a duellist the mind doesn’t matter, it’s immaterial. Instinct and intuition are critical in a fight to the death where there’s little time to think. Also immaterial is the soul. There’s little love or joy or oneness when you’re piercing eyeballs with a rapier. The body, on the other hand, is very material to a duellist: you can’t duel without one. In fact, you can’t even duel with one: only two will duo. Duellists understand how one opposes another, which equals two.

persons unknown

Jo is writing a story about a person writing a story about a person whose name is not known.

The plot is based on the proposition that if the person fails to discover the name of the person whose name is not known, then the person whose name is not known kills the person who fails to discover the name.

One day the person who doesn’t know the name meets the person whose name is not known.

"What’s my name?" asks the person whose name is not known.

"I don’t know," replies the person who doesn't know the name.

"It’s Jo, fool!" ze says, killing the person who has failed to discover the name.

"Ah yes," ze says, before ze dies, "but now the end of the story is written, Jo, and it is you who are no more!"

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