Dreamer's Refuge

A Student of Life

The story of our time

Study: Storytellers promoted cooperation among hunter-gatherers before advent of religion 

I thought this was interesting because it touches on the concept of stories in our society, and how those stories compete for resources, and minds.

The stories we tell ourselves, be they religious, science fiction, and everything in between, shape our cultures, landscapes, and minds.

At one point we had a few unifying stories, usually religious, of our view of the world, and morality. But as the traditional religious stories started to wane, society started to fragment as newer ideas started to spread which undermined the traditional religious stories.

As “freedom” increases, it creates room for more ideas, and different narratives from within the culture, but also as we import different stories from around the world via immigration/migration. One story that has stuck around for 50+ years is Star Trek and it has has had a huge impact on our society as it has given a vision of the future that people could coalesce behind; people like Elon Musk, and others like him are the current disseminators of that narrative. A hopeful future where technology is used to solve problems, instead of being used for harm. And depending on genetics and upbringing some people will like their vision of the future and support it.

We support a narrative when we pour our resource and time into it individually, but also as a society. The markets (and our purchase power) dictate which product, or idea is the winner.

With the internet we can connect with other people that share our views, for example this forum, and we create our own micro-culture of ideas that most have absorbed and generally agree with.

But if you take a broader look at our society… what story can you tell by where our collective resources go (by choice, not tax)?

Do not look at these as brand names, but from a generel perspective of what they create, provide, or distribute:

Walmart = Cheap Consumer Goods;
Berkshire Hathaway = Investment (resources) in Technology, Consumer Goods, Food production;
Apple = Technology;
Exxon Mobil = Energy;

(Source)

1. Walmart

Last year’s Fortune 500 Rank: No. 1
2016 Revenue: $485.9 billion
One-year Revenue Change: 0.8%

2. Berkshire Hathaway

Former Fortune 500 Rank: No. 4
2016 Revenue: $223.6 billion
One-year Revenue Change: 6.1%

3. Apple

Former Fortune 500 Rank: No. 3
2016 Revenue: $215.6 billion
One-year Revenue Change: -7.7%

4. Exxon Mobil

Former Fortune 500 Rank: No. 2
2016 Revenue: $205 billion
One-year Revenue Change: -16.7%

What story could you tell from this top level picture of our society in the US?

Something to think about; as our society continues to coalesce around compelling stories, be they about a futuristic future, which is currently the winning narrative, to a traditional religious life, which is waning in the west, it will divide people into separate groups with different interests, cultures, vernaculars.

This happened with the printing press as ideas spread via books like memetic viruses across minds, and this has accelerated with the internet. It will be interesting to see how we cope, if we can learn to stop forcing our stories on others, and as a society if we can adapt to the unique and interesting challenges that technology has introduced.

The story of us

Fox experiment is replaying domestication in fast-forward

What shapes our minds? We do.

(Genetic) Instinct <-> Emotion <-> Thought <-> Concept (morality and ethics are just complex concepts) <-> Action <-> loops back to Genetics, based on the ethics/worldview we value, who we mate with. It’s a never ending process.

What we like, or dislike, and how we act are all influenced by the interplay of genetics, society and upbringing.  The subtlest influence comes from our instincts which are genetically encoded in us, the instincts for survival and reproduction.  How the brain is wired, influences how these are expressed.  Aggression for instance, out of fear, is an expression of survival on a more complicated emotional level.  Emotions themselves are influenced by instinct and thought, and they can be trained to supersede instinct via thought.  It is an interplay of influence across the whole process.   A form of Indra’s net.

We have domesticated ourselves via our ethics systems, both religious and secular.  We usually have children with people that are like us, either in what they value, or how they act in society. That is a mix of genetic and cultural influence through upbringing.  Those that can spread that genetic information and the worldview have children that usually exhibit similar traits.

A religious family that is insular and does not allow for outside information will raise kids that are similarly religious.  A religious family that allows outside information will risk losing the child to a different worldview that better conforms to their genetic predispositions, and those laid out by upbringing.

Biology, and psychology are tied, connected by culture, and culture is influenced by biology and psychology.

Genetic predispositions of instinct and emotion influences your political affiliation, or what you like ethically/morally.   A percentage will have the instinctual/emotional traits for the left, right, authoritarian, libertarian, etc, how violent, peaceful someone is, which is also influenced by upbringing, culture or society. All of this will effect what religious/philosophical worldview that person will be attracted to.  Some might pick violent or peaceful parts of an ideology, some will be pulled toward a different ideology altogether.

Your Political Beliefs Are Partly Shaped By Genetics

Source: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2015/08/05/political-beliefs-genetic/

There won’t be peace in this world until we have an enemy besides other humans that poses a real danger.  One of the easiest way to unify a group is make the “other” more scary then the current “other”.

Space dust may transport life between worlds

Source: http://www.kurzweilai.net/space-dust-may-transport-life-between-worlds
Paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1711.01895

A hypervelocity bioparticle from Earth could have reached identified potential habitable planets

Life on our planet might have originated from biological particles brought to Earth in streams of space dust, according to a study published in the journal Astrobiology.

A huge amount of space dust (~10,000 kilograms — about the weight of two elephants) enters our atmosphere every day — possibly delivering organisms from far-off worlds, according to Professor Arjun Berera from the University of Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the study.

The dust streams could also collide with bacteria and other biological particles at 150 km or higher above Earth’s surface with enough energy to knock them into space, carrying Earth-based organisms to other planets and perhaps beyond.

The finding suggests that large asteroid impacts may not be the sole mechanism by which life could transfer between planets, as previously thought.

“The streaming of fast space dust is found throughout planetary systems and could be a common factor in proliferating life,” said Berera. Some bacteria, plants, and even microscopic animals called tardigrades* are known to be able to survive in space, so it is possible that such organisms — if present in Earth’s upper atmosphere — might collide with fast-moving space dust and withstand a journey to another planet.**

The study was partly funded by the U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council.

* “Some tardigrades can withstand extremely cold temperatures down to 1 K (−458 °F; −272 °C) (close to absolute zero), while others can withstand extremely hot temperatures up to 420 K (300 °F; 150 °C)[12] for several minutes, pressures about six times greater than those found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than the lethal dose for a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for more than 30 years, drying out to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce.” — Wikipedia

** “Over the lifespan of the Earth of four billion years, particles emerging from Earth by this manner in principle could have traveled out as far as tens of kiloparsecs [one kiloparsec = 3,260 light years; our galaxy is about 100,000 light-years across]. This material horizon, as could be called the maximum distance on pure kinematic grounds that a material particle from Earth could travel outward based on natural processes, would cover most of our Galactic disk [the "Milky Way"], and interestingly would be far enough out to reach the Earth-like or potentially habitable planets that have been identified.” — Arjun Berera/Astrobiology

This lends more credence to panspermia. Life here, for instance, could have come from (microbial life from) Mars.

Is Morality a Product of Evolution?

Article: Is Human Morality a Product of Evolution?

The video is separate from the article. But they are related in their topic.

It seems like Morality is based on a few evolutionary traits, which are the pillars for ethics: Reciprocity yoked with Justice and Empathy yoked with Compassion.

Rationality and The Age of Enlightenment.

Why I have hope that rationality will win out. Using Autism as part of the explanation.

We (Autistic people) lack some of the evolutionary programing. My hypothesis is that Autism is caused by a few different things converging. But essentially it is “damage” to the social brain that is prewired at birth, to help the baby with survival. (Mostly by being cute with its parents).

Depending on the DNA a person has, and how damaged the social brain is, it affects how the brain rewires itself to compensate. This is how the spectrum is created.

I say damaged because of things like this:

Autism risk linked to fever during pregnancy
Prenatal exposure to maternal fever during the second trimester raised odds of autism spectrum disorder by 40 percent
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170613102024.htm

But there are other studies that show a similar thing.

(Cognitive) Empathy (or theory of mind) helps a baby without language, on an intuitive level, understand how to interact with their parents.(and other people).

So, why is this important?

Because without the social evolutionary wiring (and attenuated emotional attachment) we (autistic people) make better decisions:

People with Autism Make More Logical Decisions
Experiments show lower emotional awareness lead to more rational choices
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/people-with-autism-make-more-logical-decisions/

People With Autism Spectrum Conditions Make More Consistent Decisions
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797617694867

So why is this evidence for humans becoming more rational over time?

One picture should explain it:

A lot of people hate that… I smile every time I see it, because:

People are attached to Technology; and that attachment will only get deeper. Walking like that is not optimal, as time goes on the devices will become part of us, inside our eyes (literally) and inside our brains and minds.

You add an Artificial Intelligence to the mix… and you can see where I am going. More people, without realizing, becoming more rational.

I believe we have hit our limit in our biological body, it is not changing fast enough, our intellect is close to outpacing our biology. CRISPR/cas9 (or a better version of it) and cybernetics is the future of mankind. Or we mess it up (either with a mistake, or fall into the nationalism/isolationism rabbit hole, and destroy ourselves. The Great Filter from the Fermi paradox).

Technology evolves faster than people. Writing – > Printing Press – > Internet – > ?

The unanswered questions

Was watching “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman” with a friend, and he liked that some religions/philosophies do not really concern themselves with what “god” or creation is.

The one they used in the show was Hinduism, in that the ultimate understanding of the Brahma, is not understandable to humans. So most of the stories are allegories or metaphoric in nature.

I told him that Buddhism is the same way. The Buddha did not answer the Ten “questions” that were put to other teachers of this time.

This samyutta is organized around questions that the Buddha left unanswered. Most of the discourses here focus on questions in a standard list of ten that were apparently the hot issues for philosophers in the Buddha’s day: Is the cosmos eternal? Is it not eternal? Is it finite? Is it infinite? Is the body the same as the soul? Is the body one thing and the soul another? Does the Tathagata exist after death? Does he not exist after death? Both? Neither?

MN 72 lists the reasons why the Buddha does not take a position on any of these questions. In each case he says that such a position “is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full awakening, Unbinding.”

These reasons fall into two categories. The first concerns the present drawbacks of taking such a position: It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, and fever. The second category concerns the effects of such a position over time: It does not lead to awakening or Unbinding. AN 10.93 further explores the first category of reasons. MN 63 further explores the second.

Some of the discourses in this samyutta explore a third category of reasons for why the Buddha does not take a position on any of these questions: Such a position is based on attachment to and misunderstanding of the aggregates and sense media. When one sees these things for what they are, as they’re actually present, the idea of forming them into any of these positions simply does not occur to one.

Of the discourses here, SN 44.1 and SN 44.10 are special cases. SN 44.1 focuses specifically on the questions that try to describe the status of the Tathagata after death, and explains that, having been released from the classification of the aggregates, the Tathagata defies description, in the same way that the sands of the river Ganges cannot be numbered, and the waters of the oceans cannot be calculated in gallons. The Commentary to this passage tries to fathom the Tathagata’s infathomability, but its attempt is controversial. See the note to that sutta.

Even more controversial is SN 44.10, which addresses an issue not included in the standard list of ten undeclared questions: Is there a self? Is there no self? Many scholars have been uncomfortable with the fact that the Buddha leaves this question unanswered, believing that his statement that “all phenomena are not-self” implicitly states that there is no self. Thus they have tried to explain away the Buddha’s silence on the existence or non-existence of the self, usually by pointing to the fourth of his reasons for not answering the question: his bewildered interlocutor, Vacchagotta, would have become even more bewildered. Had the Buddha been asked by someone less bewildered, these commentators say, he would have given the straight answer that there is no self. However, these commentators ignore two points. (1) The Buddha’s first two reasons for not answering the questions have nothing to do with Vacchagotta. To say that there is a self, he says, would be siding with the wrong views of the eternalists. To say that there is no self would be siding with the wrong views of the annihilationists. (2) Immediately after Vacchagotta leaves, Ven. Ananda asks the Buddha to explain his silence. Had the Buddha really meant to declare that there is no self, this would have been the perfect time to do so, for bewildered people were now out of the way. But, again, he did not take that position.

One peculiarity of this approach to the Buddha’s silence on this issue is that many commentators, noting the Buddha’s desire not to bewilder Vacchagotta, assume somehow that their readers and listeners at present would not be bewildered by a doctrine that there is no self, and feel free to jump into the breach, stating baldly what they believe the Buddha was simply too reticent to say.

Another attempt to explain the Buddha’s silence on this issue focuses on the second reason for his silence, saying that the annihilationists had laid claim to the slogan that there is no self, so — because the Buddha did not want his own doctrine of no self to be confused with theirs — he avoided their slogan. This explanation, however, is not supported by the Canon. The doctrines of the annihilationists are presented in a fair amount of detail in the Canon, and nowhere are they quoted as saying outright that there is no self. Thus there is no basis for saying that it was their slogan. Second, there are many instances where the Buddha, when asked a categorical question concerning an issue where he wanted to give a nuanced answer, showed himself perfectly capable of rephrasing the question in more nuanced terms before giving his reply. Had he held a nuanced doctrine that there is no self, he could have easily rephrased Vacchagotta’s question before answering it. The fact that he chose not to do so, either in Vacchagotta’s or Ven. Ananda’s presence, indicates that he felt that this issue, too, was a thicket of views based on a misunderstanding, accompanied by suffering, and not leading to awakening.

So how is the statement “all phenomena are not self” to be taken? As a path to awakening. According to Dhp 279, when one sees this fact with discernment to the point of becoming disenchanted with stress, it forms the path to purity. Here the term “phenomena” covers fabricated and unfabricated phenomena. The fabricated phenomena encountered along the path include the aggregates, elements, and sense media. The unfabricated phenomenon, encountered when these fabricated phenomena cease, is the deathless. AN 9.96, however, points out that it is possible, on encountering the deathless, to feel a dhamma-passion and dhamma-delight for it, thus preventing full awakening. At this point the realization that all phenomena are not-self would be needed to overcome this last obstacle to total release. And once there is release, one becomes, like the Tathagata, indescribable: “deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the ocean.” At that point, the path is abandoned, like a raft after it has been used to cross a river, and positions that “there is a self” and “there is no self” would not apply.

Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn44/sn44.intro.than.html

Meditation Update 4/4/16

Had an interesting experience today during meditation.

I have been meditating for 1 hour and 30 minutes for the past month or so. Only the last 15 min I get a somewhat uncomfortable kink in my back, probably from sitting wrong, or slumping forward as I get deeper. (I will need to work on that).

For the last 15 minutes I usually lay down in bed and finish there, and then continue longer for another 25+ minutes.

I did the same thing today, only after laying down, I had my first Astral Projection experience. I was getting very deep, in between consciousness and unconsciousness, and could feel my body doing this weird vibration thing that would arise then go away, come up and go away, like I was getting plugged into an outlet, and then disconnected, a switching being flipped on and off. I figured out that I could control this, so I made the vibrations come and get stronger.

As I did this, my “black” field of view (of my eyes being closed) shifted to me being in my old house in Chicago. I knew I was meditating, but I could also control myself in this new surrounding. It was in black and white, but as I focused on the vibrations to make them go deeper, it turned into color.

I could walk around the home, either by actually moving my legs, or willing myself to move toward a certain direction. I essentially floated forward, or up and down.

I went outside, there was a thunderstorm, and the rain felt really refreshing as opposed to cold/wet. For some reason my mind shifted back to my body that was in bed, and I instantly snapped back into my body in bed.

All the World’s a stage in Plato’s Cave

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then, the justice,
In fair round belly, with a good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

— William Shakespeare

The Buddha, in his discourses, wanted to get this across to people, and this topic has come up again and again in different cultures. It is interesting that mindfulness, meditation, and listening to Dhamma, etc, all make this point very clear. Yet most people do not see it. I feel like I was the player, but now, instead being part of the play, I feel like I am in the audience, the observer. Though, from time to time, when mindfulness is lacking, I get caught up in the play. Hopefully as I continue my practice, this will become less and less of an occurrence.

Meditation Update 3/3/16

Had an interesting experience today during meditation.

I went from equanimity to what feels like an expansion of mind, and a fading away of the body… I could not feel myself breathing which caused distress, and instinctually I had to take a breath. This caused me to go back to equanimity. I kept on it and hit this state a few more times with the same outcome…(basically yo-yoing back and forth, for about an hour)

I got a bit frustrated, and got up and took a lying posture. I continued 6R and smiling to a state where my body had what felt like energy running through it, and then all of a sudden there was a momentary loss of consciousness (I could not hear, and I do not think I was conscious for that moment but I was nominally “aware”.) I only realized that happened after I gained consciousness again because it was like a hole in a stream of consciousness. It was basically like a blip… like a line that had a sharp dip in it, and then continued back where it was.

Meditation Update 2/29/16

Today, for the first time, I stopped feeling part of my body after about 9 minutes, or so. The mind became very clear, awake, I was not happy, or joyful, just seemingly peaceful and content.

I noticed that I could think, and this did not knock me out of the state I was in. So I started thinking about Dependent Origination, and had a dream like vision come up of me standing in front of an open refrigerator full of food.

And I noticed that just by looking at it, the eyes themselves had craving. Just by opening them, there is subconscious craving. And that this is true for all the other six sense bases. (though I only experienced the eyes directly). Even when we do not want anything “consciously”, subconsciously craving is always there with the six sense bases.

Not sure what Jhana this was (or if I was even in a Jhana) but it was a pretty interesting experience.

Meditation Update 2/25/16

This is an update to Meditation Update 2/18/16

Had a similar experience, but this time the energy sensation was a lot subtler.

I noticed that I was breathing out of both sides of my nose (usually I only breath through one or the other nostril), my body was again distant, and seemingly “stiff”, I also felt the it cool.

I was not as excited this time, and stayed in this state for a while (a few minutes), it was a very content/relaxing experience.

Unfortunately my Insight Timer (set for 1 hour) went off before I could go further.

I am going to set Timer for 1:30 hours from now on, and longer as is warranted.

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