Beauty and its relationship to survival

This morning I went for a walk through a nature reserve which includes some lovely scenery along the Yarra river. The light of the sun filtered through the surrounding trees where lorikeets, rosellas, and cockatoos completed the scene with their lively chatter.

As I passed through this beautiful moment in time I was aware that this entire scene was being collected by my senses and collated into what I consider a cohesive image in my brain.

But was it real? If we consider that our brain’s ability to recognise and classify objects is based on our previous experiences we will have to acknowledge that how we classify objects may give rise to error. So I may have seen things which I was unable to recognise, or more specifically, was unable to classify and therefore I may have misidentified them. Or I may have seen things which someone else would not notice.

A question that follows, and which has likely been posed since before the time of Plato and Lao Tsu is whether things exist in and of themselves or if things only exist because we think they do. My instinctive response is that of course things exist even if I don’t exist. To think that things only exist because of me is a little too egocentric for my liking. It also seems illogical. However if we want to be scientific about this we can’t actually prove to ourselves that anything exists without us being present to witness it. This concept is also featured in eastern philosophy. Existence consists of three components. The observer, the observed, and the act of observing.

This is something which I find to be one of the most incredible and profound mysteries. Observing. It indicates that there exists a special program in every life form on Earth. A conditional program. The act of observing indicates an ability to sense data, record data, and classify it in some way. The most important criterion must certainly be whether or not the information affects the observer positively or negatively, or in any way at all.

This must certainly be why some things simply are uninteresting to us. Our instinctive need to ensure our own continued existence causes us to prioritise the classification of any information which either threatens us or assists us in any way. If information we encounter doesn’t fall within either category and is deemed non essential to our survival then we will often completely disregard it or we may consider it for a little while and then relegate it to a remote part of our memory before eventually allowing its memory to decay. So if important information relates to our survival why do we notice beauty? Why is beauty so arresting?

I just finished reading a 3rd century philosophical treatise which included a very long segment on trying to understand beauty. Now I could lie to you and say that I followed along with everything the author, Plotinus, was saying. Parts of it did remind me a little of another book I have read, Quantum Physics –  A Beginner’s Guide. Both of these works contain parts which can make the reader quickly jump from ah, very interesting to wait, back up a little, what?

But it did get me thinking. There are certain forms that are almost universally thought of as beautiful. Certain geometric forms arrest our attention and though we may not all use the same word to describe their beauty, there seems to be a preponderance of certain formulae within the items the human sense categorises as beautiful. I don’t think I am the first to suggest that there is a mathematical formula found within these things of beauty which is derived from natural mathematics. What I mean by natural mathematics is that some shapes are formed naturally or are the consequence of perfect intersection. A circle is just that and will always be just that. The perfect circle can then be transformed into additional shapes through its multiplication and superimposition. If two circles of equal size overlap they create a universal form which is the beginning of natural geometry, or what I am calling natural mathematics. A third circle of equal size overlapping the other two can then have a triangle derived from it by joining the intersecting lines. And so on. this is what is widely referred to as sacred geometry. And it is sacred as it is unchangeable. It truly is the soul of perfection. The tenets of all existence are written in forms made up of sacred geometry. Shapes which follow as a consequence of natural progression then form more and more complex shapes.

If we agree with the idea that all life is running this conditional program, then beauty must have a role to play in our survival. I know that this is not a proper syllogism, so let me try to rework it into something a little more logical.

A syllogism is , according to Merriam-Webster dictionary: a deductive scheme of a formal argument consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion. So if I were to summarise all of the above in a syllogism it would be as follows:

For survival we take notice of important information

Beauty is taken notice of

Therefore beauty is important for survival

I believe it’s safe to say if we are honest then we will find that there are countless instances where we choose the symmetrical over the asymmetrical, the evenly shaped over the misshapen, the tidy over the messed up, the beautiful over the ugly.

Of course as intelligent beings we can override such instincts. We can reprogram our propensity to select within any confines. By choosing to look at something differently or maybe trying to understand some given input from alternative angles we may choose to interact with a subject that may not exhibit the properties of textbook beauty. As is often the case, appearance could have very little to do with what benefits can be derived from a particular data set.

In short, we can choose not to judge a book by its cover. But our instinct is to do just that.

And yet I wonder if recognising and consequently analysing this tendency to be attracted toward beauty may lead us in some way toward understanding what conditional rules were programmed into our DNA for the building and propagation of life itself.

 

 

Christmas is not in December nor is it in July in Australia

Happy Christmas on June 22 to everyone in the southern hemisphere.

The sun god is reborn and begins increasing time spent in our view every day from June 22. If we were to only take into account the time of sunrise at dawn then July 1 would be the rebirth. That’s the day when sunrises stop getting later every day and start happening earlier. By taking into account length of the day we see that the total amount of daylight time stops decreasing and begins a very tiny increase of 2 seconds on 22 June. In the northern hemisphere this happens in December. December 25th, Christmas.

The Romish version was a celebration of the change at dawn; the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox version celebrates the change of time at sunset as they have Christmas in January. Both were based on “eye reckoning” as the dates reflect noticeable changes in the position of the sun on the horizon.

Locally we have the following lengths of day around the winter solstice.

Date Sunrise Sunset Length Difference
June 19 7:35 AM 5:08 PM 9:32:37 −0:07
June 20 7:35 AM 5:08 PM 9:32:33 −0:04
June 21 7:36 AM 5:08 PM 9:32:32 −0:01
June 22 7:36 AM 5:08 PM 9:32:34 +0:02
June 23 7:36 AM 5:09 PM 9:32:39 +0:05
June 24 7:36 AM 5:09 PM 9:32:47 +0:08

 

 

Learning to avoid suffering

I find that things are easier when there is money to pay the rent. But there are also times when I can’t pay the rent and bills.

During those times I sit back and think: “The one thing that is certain (death) has not been avoided in good times and will never be avoided. Every moment is there to be experienced and observed.”

Every moment must be experienced and observed. Once we live life as an observer we discover a wonderful device that can help us avoid pain and suffering. The key word here is device. Learn a method of detachment, then let go of the method. If you gained something from a particular meditation technique, great.

Allowing it to pass by as just another experience is ok too.

Genius From Outside the League

I find it tremendously awe inspiring to read about work that continues on in spite of fierce opposition. Researchers or writers who bring up concepts which fall outside of so called “mainstream” academia invariably receive a fair share of ridicule if they are acknowledged at all before some traction takes hold and support for their work begins to build. Sometimes their life’s work becomes accepted and confirmation becomes undeniable. Though it’s just as likely that they are never welcomed into the world of accepted knowledge. A few eventually have their thesis accepted and incorporated into the textbooks.

Foucault’s pendulum, Paris. Photo by Ben Ostrowsky (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sylvar/70589378/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that the earth’s rotation was still in doubt. On January 3, 1851, Leon Foucault set about to test the rotation of the earth.

In his fascinating book Pendulum: Foucault and the Triumph of Science, Dr Amir D Aczel recounts what a struggle it was for Leon Foucault to convince the nation’s mathematics that the earth was rotating on its axis. He tells us of the struggle and eventual triumph of this self-taught physicist.

Foucault had been working on making the perfect pendulum for months.  Wires, metal cutters, measuring devices, and weights were all employed in its construction. What he finally came up with was a 2 meter long steel wire attached to the ceiling of his cellar in a way that allowed for free rotation without resulting torque. At the other end  of the wire, he attached a 5 kilogram brass bob. It was a free-swinging pendulum, suspended from the ceiling.

 Aczel goes on to tell us that: “Once the pendulum was set in motion, the plane in which it  oscillated back and forth could change in any direction. Designing a mechanism that would secure this property was the hardest  part of his preparations. The pendulum had to be perfectly  symmetric: Any imperfection in its shape or distribution of  weight could skew the results of the experiment, denying Foucault the proof he desired.

He held his breath as the pendulum began  to swing. Suddenly the wire snapped, and the bob fell heavily to  the ground. Three days later, he was ready to try again. He care-  fully set the pendulum in motion and waited. The bob swung  slowly in front of his eyes, and Foucault attentively followed every  oscillation.  Finally, he saw it. He detected the slight but clearly perceptible change he was looking for in the plane of the swing of the pendulum. The pendulum’s plane of oscillation had moved away  from its initial position, as if a magic hand had intervened and  pushed it slowly but steadily away from him. Foucault knew he  had just observed the impossible. The mathematicians—and  among them France’s greatest names: Laplace, Cauchy, and Poisson—had all said that such motion could not occur or, if it did,  could never be detected. Yet he, not a mathematician and not a trained physicist, somehow always knew that the mysterious  force would be there. And now, he finally found it. He saw a clear  shift in the plane of the swing of the pendulum. Léon Foucault  had just seen the Earth turn.”

To be told that something is impossible by none other than the top minds in one of the most intimidating disciplines could be enough to make many people quit. But this didn’t dissuade Foucault. In the end he had such a strong case that his opposers had to concede he may be on to something. The French Academy of Sciences still took their time in allowing him in as a member. It wasn’t until 1865 that his application to be elected as a member was successful.
His tenacity and determination is inspiring. His story also shows that new ideas take time to work their way into the body of accepted knowledge.
Of course after making this point I will point out that being outside “mainstream” doesn’t mean someone is right nor does it mean they are wrong. I have read many books by authors that many consider “fringe” writers. Some make a strong case, others seem like cranks and crackpots.
I find great pleasure in examining any argument, trying to get a complete picture and forming my own opinion without being influenced by the prevailing consensus. I think appeal to consensus smacks of cowardice, and if nothing else is lazy. Since the majority can be right as often as it is wrong we can’t rely on consensus for the forming our own opinions.

How to improve your eyesight

It’s something no one wants to hear.

“Your daughter needs an operation.”

She’s only three.

I couldn’t imagine it. It seemed unthinkable that surgical instruments would be cutting and sewing up the muscles around her eye.

“It’s a quick procedure, and the surgeon is very experienced.” After the operation we were required to bring her back for regular follow up visits.

When I asked the doctor if there was any nutritional advice or even exercises for helping improve eyesight he said no, there’s nothing.

I was stunned, but didn’t say anything.

The above incident happened nearly 20 years ago, when I knew little about how the world of medicine works. It has become clear to me over the years that the field of medicine, like many disciplines, is compartmentalised. The eye specialist is not necessarily going to dispense advice on nutrition. He may even say little to nothing about eye exercises. An optometrist will only be interested in what types of glasses you are going to buy. And while it may seem cynical to think so, it simply does not fall within their interest to give out nutritional advice. Recommending other means of achieving wellbeing would evidently create a conflict of interest for the practitioner. We can’t necessarily blame them. In an idyllic world everyone would theoretically look out for everyone’s wellbeing. I say theoretically, because it isn’t actually possible. If the word everyone includes oneself, then the logic in this particular case implodes.

We have to find somethings out for ourselves. This isn’t always easy. We will run into conflicting advice.

As far as I know the Bates Method is a very effective technique for improving eyesight and it’s a no risk endeavour.

The aforementioned conflict of interest, though, will still be apparent as one begins to read up on the Bates Method. Wikipedia, at the time of writing this blog post, has a rather dismissive tone in its article on the Bates Method, and one can only wonder who added the disparaging paragraphs to that wiki.

Aldous Huxley, best known for his book “Brave New World” was rather impressed with the Bates Method and he wrote “The Art Of Seeing” after it helped him improve his vision.

 

 

Activists Revolutions and The Corruption Of Power

Students of history often note how it becomes plainly obvious that there are cycles in history which keep on repeating. The cyclical nature of politics is summed up in the brilliant satirical film Land Of The Blind.

The film which takes place in an unspecified decade and cleverly compresses a range of differing eras into one timespan should be required viewing for any student of political science. Also activists should watch it.

“So the story of man runs in a dreary circle, because he is not yet master of the earth that holds him.”
Will Durant

History Repeats Itself. How Will It Play Out This Time?

The moment I heard that a well known tycoon was bidding for the presidency of The United States of America for some reason I thought of an incident I had read about in Gibbons’ History and Of The Decline and Fall Of The Roman Empire.

The story goes something like this. The top position in Rome was under negotiation after the Praetorian guard had turned on the despotic ruler they were meant to guard. A wealthy senator became convinced that he should put in a bid and became consul. The story didn’t end well for the senator. The Praetorian guard who’d accepted his money soon yielded to a war veteran toward whom they all felt the deepest respect. Within nine short weeks as ruler of the Roman world the senator was disposed of in a most unceremonious manner.

 

 

A Wake Up Call From Beyond The Grave

I had this thought yesterday.

Who really understands what is going on as far as life goes? I mean truly deeply knows and understands the profound truths about existence. Why do we have coded information in our genes? What is the principle that makes life want to continue propagating? What is the pact between plants and animals to nourish each other? How does symbiosis initiate? How can an organism evolve an eye? What are moods made out of? Why does the placebo effect work? And if our beliefs are so powerful why are some things bad for you even when you don’t know they are?

Of course many people simply don’t have time to think about these things. And the ones who do have time are likely disinclined to lend their thoughts to deeper musing.

As Henry David Thoreau said,

The millions are awake enough for physical labour; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.

I can not say that it is necessarily good or bad to reflect on life and search for meaning. A case can be made for both perspectives.

On the one hand such reflections have undoubtedly led down what would seem to some a perfectly logical path ending in nihilism, a concept which some may find difficult to divorce from misery.

 

On the other hand enough contemplation may lead another person to drop all worry of past as well as future and drop into a serene state appreciating the value of each present moment.

a walk in the park

Seeing birds, animals, flowers, trees, mushrooms, insects, sunshine, clouds and people on my daily walk often presents me with a stark contrast between us humans and everything else. We humans have this immense capacity to understand so much about life. Yet we either don’t reach that place, or we choose to deliberately distract ourselves from facing life. Maybe life’s antithesis is what worries us.

I sometimes imagine what it would be like if an outside intelligence encountered planet earth. How confusing it would be for them to discover that a being with this much capacity has created hundreds of thousands of reasons to imprison each other. Absurd, yes. Easy to solve, no.

This evening I sat down to read a book which I have had the intention of cracking open for several years now. It is called SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT TRILOGY (1979 by Robert Anton Wilson). I read another book by the same author, THE ILLUMINATUS TRILOGY about 13 years ago and recalled that Robert Anton Wilson wrote with a wicked sense of humour and a ridiculously honest albeit unflattering view of human nature. In SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT he writes as though he was an outside intelligence looking at humans and their peculiar ways.

I was only a few pages into the book when I felt I wanted to share the book with the world. This concept is exactly what I would have hoped to express had I written about an outside intelligence observing the ways of our world. I am delighted that someone else had already expressed the idea I had had earlier.

This is the wake up call from R. A. Wilson.

How to Get Everything You Want

This may seem like a joke, but it really isn’t.

Now, don’t skip on ahead to see the punchline. I’ll get to it. And it’s no joke, though you may laugh a little when I tell you.

There is a way to get everything you want, and it’s actually kind of amusing. But like I tell people when I teach them how to perform a magic trick: “Please remember how impressed you are before you know how it’s done. Once you know the secret you will be disappointed that it was so simple. Remember what your feelings were like when you saw the trick and were astonished.”

Looking for ways to get what we want is what occupies much our time. The struggle is real. There doesn’t seem to be any real formula. We try and try again. Sometimes our efforts pay off, and when they don’t there’s usually something to learn from the experience. That’s what I like to tell myself. It’s good for morale. And often true. But learning from experience is the hard way to learn. If we can learn from someone else’s experience we’re likely to avoid some trouble or even pain. Specific advice is great when you can get it but we often have to settle for general advice. And general advice abounds. As with everything else this type of product will vary in quality.

One thing that many systems have in common is that they help you work on your attitude toward life. In the process you come across more than your fair share of quotes which some people find trite like Attitude determines your altitude and If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you cant  and all that jazz. While some people will run as fast as they can from any kind of “self help” program, others, like myself, will give these types of things a go.

Not to brag, because really it should be more embarrassing than anything else, to date I have listened to The Abundance Course and Financial Freedom by The Release Technique, the Sedona Method, the Silva Method, The Effort Free Life System, You Can Heal Your Life, Project Yourself, Natural Hypnosis, hypnosis tracks by Dr Adam Eason, Dr Lee Poulos, Steve G Jones, Paul McKenna, Brainwave Sync, and possibly more, but that’s all I can remember at the moment.

Those are just the audio courses I have managed to get my hands on, not to mention all the books that have crossed my path.  One thing I have learned. More than one thing actually, but yeah, one important thing I have learned which I may have learnt much earlier had I simply paid attention when watching The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe is that what we think we know is never everything there is to know.

When Aslan comes back to life, the children are shocked because after all according to the laws of The Deep Magic his life was forfeit. Aslan then explains:

It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.
―Aslan describing the Deeper Magic (The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe, Chapter 15)

Yes. There’s always a deeper magic.

This is something I find exhilarating. To explore something and then to discover that there’s a more advanced edition. A Deeper Magic.

What I find fascinating is that the solutions I come across are often not “the latest thing” but are actually pretty old. And I’m not talking old as in “I came across this 100 year old book” as Rhonda Byrne says in The Secret. I am talking about 2 and a half millennia old. Very old.

Yes it was around 2500 years ago that several philosophers came up with some very interesting ways of getting everything you want.

Did you know that both Lao Tsu in China and Gautama Buddha in India came up with ways to get everything you want around the same era in history?

And here’s the secret.

You ready for it?

It’s this.

You learn to not want.

Then you’ll have everything you want.

Because you won’t want anything, therefore you have everything you want. Which may be nothing, or it may be lots of things.

Like I said, it sounds like a joke. But it actually isn’t. It does work. Now it gets a little tricky at this point because the truth is that you may end up getting the things you wanted before you started giving up your wants, or you may end up in a state that you would have thought is pretty crap before you gave up wanting all the things. But either way if you think about it, you’re better off. In your mind, anyway. The theory is that this state involves less suffering.

But can you have your cake and eat it too?

Maybe.

After all,

There’s always a deeper magic.