Tag Archives: reality

Awesome Source

If anyone were to ask me (they never do) what sort of sources I use on the internet as News Director for Mutiny Radio, for my own show The Stranger in a Strangeland, or just as a web surfer, blogger, podcaster or podcast-listener, I wouldn’t have had a list readily available. Modern technology, however, would allow me to whip up an answer in the form of the feed aggregators on Google Reader, Blogger and iTunes. All the same, I thought I’d have a “little” entry prepared with some words about each and why I use/enjoy them, should anyone become inquisitive in the future, or for posterity.

News Sites/Aggregators

Generally, I have a preponderance of news waiting for me to skim in my Google Reader each morning. This includes the wealth of information from the New York Times, BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and Russia Today (RT), all of whom I trust to varying degrees to deliver a broad picture of what the world looks like at the moment. I typically do not trust the NYT’s coverage of Iran (or hardly any American sources for that matter), but agencies like Al-Jazeera, RT and the Conflict Monitors of the Human Security Report Project are usually reliable for producing a look at international issues from every side. Talking Points Memo (TPM) showcases what would be considered the progressive side of the news, but often without comment, with links to entire quotes and context, and a diligent job of muckraking. Their charts and analysis are great fodder for any news feed.

To get at the real heart of matters, however, we want journalists and researchers who will more deeply cover the stories than the national conversation would normally dictate or allow. Intrepid newmen and editors from Alternet, Truth-out, Democracy Now! and the Real News Network provide hard-hitting watchdog journalism, and pose incisive questions to power. Salon is a refreshingly progressive source of news, comment, and blogs written by the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Mary Elizabeth Williams, and Truth Dig, which features progressive columnist Chris Hedges. The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur is perhaps the greatest news resource on the internet or anywhere if you want to escape the drudgery of big corporate-driven conservative media.

Regardless of politics, I choose not to read the Huffington Post due to their abysmal science reporting. Without a good sense of the scientific method, I cannot trust their standards for journalism.

For science news, there are more resources than time to read in a day, with my inbox overflowing more in this category than any other, a reminder of the rapidly developing times we live in. New Scientist (both the magazine and the site) and Physorg provide a constant stream of scientific discovery, with timely technorati Ars Technica and WIRED revealing where the state of technological advancement has us (WIRED recently broke the story of the NSA’s mega-base in the Utah desert). The Electronic Frontier Foundation combines civil libertarian advocacy work and news with parsing large amounts of technical and legal information, “defending our rights in a digital world.”

For an alternative view, Disinformation aggregates strange and conspiratorial stories from around the web, defiant of the Big Brother states that allows their continued existence.. for now.

Whereas sites like Laughing Squid, Flavorpill and Neatorama offer up pop cultural items, mashups, fun topics and much needed escapism, in other words, all things neat-o. Neat facts, and topics can be had at Mental Floss and life’s big questions at Soul Pancake (co-created by Rainn Wilson). Gizmodo’s (itself a tech news giant) sister-site io9 (as well as Syfy’s own Blastr) keeps us at the cutting edge of science-fiction, which of course could be light years ahead of science fact reporting, or as their tagline boasts “We come from the future.” Whereas Lifehacker helps you get your shit together with easy, simple fixes, showcasing shortcuts to life’s tedium.

And just as general resources go, you’ll find that Snopes has been the greatest defender against internet and urban legend chicanery for years, and that the TV Tropes wiki will help you understand how fiction, culture and memetics works a whole let better. You won’t believe they actually have names for some of these things!

Podcasts

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe is hosted by Steve Novella, neurologist, professor, president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, with his panel of skeptical rogues, brothers Bob and Jay Novella, Rebecca Watson and Evan Burnstein. The interesting science topics, audio games and quirks, in-depth interviews, numerous sci-fi references, and of course the irreverent, conversational and casual wit of the skeptics makes it a welcome treat on my ipod each week. These usually go over an hour, but I consistently find myself wanting more.

Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid are a much smaller, so if you want your dose of critical thinking in a fifteen minute dose, enjoy his cool presentation of the self-researched topics ranging from Bigfoot to the Denver Airport. Now over his 300th episode, he somehow manages to uncover a seemingly endless array of new and intriguing myths, legends and misinformation.

Big Picture Science (formerly Are We Alone?) is hosted by Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley of the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute. With the big picture question of ‘Are We Alone’, the goofy gang of serious scientists have springboarded into the world of the atom, the future, the cell, the virus, the planets, the brain, and any other area where an inquisitive microphone can go. Ideation of this magnitude can also be found by watching Dr. Michio Kaku expound on science’s great questions on Explorations in Science.

Neuropod, hosted by neurogeek Kerri Smith, comes out once a month (with a few bonus episodes here and there), to fill you in on some of the latest discoveries in the world of Neuroscience. Not all of the aspects catch my interest, but the ones that do really do. And since it isn’t as prolific as some of the others, and the information not as time-sensitive, I can enjoy it at any pace without them piling up.

Two more that have been around for a while but I am just now beginning to check out and delve into are the BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific and the backlog of wonderful TED Talks (both audio and video).

Though I am now well-planted in the firm reality of scientific discovery, a nostalgic craving, sense of zany fun, and a smirking incredulity keep me coming back to Coast to Coast AM hosted by George Noory, with John B. Wells, George Knapp and Ian Punnett playing weekends and backup. I have been hooked on this show (along with many other listeners, of which there are now estimated 4.5 million listeners every night, making it the most listened to late night show in North America) since the mid-to-late-90’s, when Art Bell‘s grizzled tones would part the airwaves to spook us with the most arcane topics. Today’s shows are sometimes less esoteric, and the format is more formalized, but George Noory is absolutely charming in his innocent and nonjudgemental inclusion of a wide variety of topics in the realms of politics, conspiracy, the paranormal or speculations on the future.

The Psychedelic Salon with Lorenzo features lectures from some of the world’s strangest and deepest thinkers, such as Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Albert Hoffmann, Alexander Shulgin, and of course the inimitable Terence McKenna. I must admit that I skip some shows that do not feature McKenna’s brilliant form of rhetorical styling and intellectual mastery. Of late, however, I keep coming back for Lorenzo’s faithful coverage of the Occupy movement, and related audio, which I sometimes use on my own show. Another fun nugget of mind-body awakening can be found in the Alan Watts Podcast, rebroadcasting short philosophical bites from the Alan Watts Library.

The Philosopher’s Zone with Alan Saunders, whose received pronunciation may at first seem strange on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National, nonetheless perfectly mixes deep, philosophical questions with silly, simple ones. Part history lesson, part mind expansion, don’t allow your own life to go unexamined without at least inspecting some of the introspections bound to arise while listening!

Similarly, philosopher Tim O’Connor‘s Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot (taken from a Carl Sagan line), raises startling, tortuous questions about God, self, reality and being with atheists, agnostics, deists, and religious scholars of every faith. The show aims to “take philosophy to the street, illustrating how conversation… can be carried out in a careful, civil, and constructive way by people who disagree.”

When I first started listening to The History of Rome, I thought I would listen through the reign of Augustus or perhaps Claudius and then get bored. Here we are near the beginning of the Dark Ages, and I’m still hanging on to Mike Duncan’s carefully researched and recited dissertation on the storied lives, politics, drama, battles and intrigue (with a little cheesy humor thrown in at times) of Rome’s expansive civilization. To jump around in time, the adorable and well-read Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey present Stuff You Missed in History Class from HowStuffWorks.com. Thrilling and yet sometimes obscure historical stories, often examining a subject from as many angles as possible, revealing personal stories from time in the process, heartbreaking, brave, humorous and epic.

The International Spy Museum SpyCast is a great bit of history and political science education if you’re into the worlds of espionage, military history (and present), and the skullduggery of terrorists and intelligentsia alike.

Even the hilarious and conversational entertainment programming I subscribe to, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast and Ricky Gervais‘ podcast with Steven Merchant and Harvey Pilkington, present a sort of primer on critical thinking. Often revealing stories of science, religion, and history in the same casual manner as pop culture or scatalogical humor, the more skeptical Mosier often guides Kevin gently through the scientific method, whereas Ricky and Steve will taunt and ridicule Harvey’s mistaken notions of how the world works, ultimate culminating in an Idiot Abroad. Two different examples for how friends interact, and two different methods for how skeptics or atheists can talk to believers, and either way, all in good fun. The Onion adds another satirical bit of aural pleasure to your inbox, giving you some sensationally fraudulent talking points for the week.

And finally, X Minus One (X-1) has been my constant ipod companion since my first Nano. Classic tales of science fiction and horror from the 1950’s and 1960’s, the same spine-tingling diversions into space and time that probably elated my father when he was a boy.

Blogs

The frequently updated blogs on WIRED are some of my favorites, and I think I’ve been following them the longest, as they equally rate with other news in my feed. Epicenter, which puts the reader in the heart of the constantly changing world of digital media industries and business. Writers like Kim Zetter and David Kravets present absolutely essential information on Danger Room, closely following military gadgetry and national security, or Threat Level which, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, highlights the latest threats to our privacy, individual freedoms or civil liberties pertaining to technology and surveillance.

Nick Bilton, tech blogger for the New York Times’ Bits, is also the author of I Come From the Future and This is How it Works, a stunning analysis of how the shifting media and technology landscape is affecting industries, our culture, and our brains. As a blogger he is adept at finding and focusing in on lesser talked about yet important issues in technology, often raising stirring points about the trends and transactions.

Michael Anissimov (who was interviewed on the Strangeland) is media director for the Singularity Institute and co-organizer of the Singularity Summit. He is co-founder of the Lifeboat Foundation, which seeks to find safe and responsible developments for emerging technologies. His blog, Accelerating Future, bring our minds closer to the future of nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, transhumanism, Artificial Intelligence, the Singularity, and extinction risk.

Harvey Silverglate (another former guest), criminal defense civil liberties litigator, author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of of Liberty on America’s Campuses and Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, former ACLU attorney, partner of the aforementioned EFF, and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has many articles available at Reason Magazine, which is aptly named.

Whereas Law and the Multiverse serves to illustrate how legal actions might come to be decided in the worlds of fiction; comic book superpowers, science fiction, and even AMC’s drama Breaking Bad are all made the subject of legal analysis.

Micah Allen’s Neuroconscience researches brain plasticity and cognitive neuroscience, while Mo Costandi’s Neurophilosophy deals with

Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy is astronomically great, and is hosted along with several other fascinating science blogs at Discover Magazine. If you enjoy a good skeptical dose like his, I would check out the above-mentioned Dr. Steven Novella’s NeuroLogica blog, his advocacy on Science-Based Medicine, or the contributions to Skepticblog along with the likes of Brian Dunning, Micahel Shermer and others.

Illusionist/Future World Dictator Derren Brown has lots of fun updates of stunning imagery, science, magic, psychology, skepticism and the supernatural, all especially appealing to my eclectic tastes. Author, psychologist and skeptic Richard Wiseman offers up puzzles, brain teasers and illusions each week that will make you want to show someone else.

Mind Hacks keeps readers abreast of the news in neuroscience and psychology, with the bold assertion that with such understanding, such tricks will help figure out one’s own brain.

I’ve recently become addicted to the grand ideas presented at Big Think. Similar to TED, you can find great links, lectures, and interviews, but in a much more condensed and potable form. Politics, science, society, and the mind are all game to their host of editors.

Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings is yet another brilliantly curated web resource for intellectual pursuers with a love for art, literature, photography, biography, science, philosophy, and historical oddities. I cannot emphasize how much I love Brain Pickings!

Especially significant of late in the wave of psychopaths taking control of our democracy, the Ponerology Blog details discoveries in the science of evil, spearheaded by Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Ph.D.

I also put together a little tumblr concerning the fate of the publishing and retail book industry in this historically significant shifting media landscape, dramatically titled Likely In Store.
As for food blogs, dire decadence demands that one consume updates from Fancy Fast Food, Insanewiches, Cook to Bang, This is Why You’re Fat and the Cheese Underground.

I’ll also occasionally head over to the Brothers Brick or Brick Testament to get my LEGO on, but I do worry that this may open up into a black hole of LEGO blogs for me.

Webcomics (Bonus!)

Of course I’ve been a lifelong fan of Penny Arcade and PvP, (as long as they’ve been live), and Brian Clevinger’s spritely 8-bit Theatre back in its day, and Diesel Sweeties, the robot romance webcomic. I’m also stunned by creatively experimental and remarkably crafted works like Scott McCloud’s Zot! Online, yuumei’s Knite or Demian5’s When I Am King. Pervs will enjoy S.S. Myra or Chester 5000 XYV. And just about anything anything with art by Scott Campbell, John Allison, or Kate Beaton.

I know I just fired a lot at you, and it’s all just the tip of the iceberg! But with an overabundance of digital information, news, discovery, curiosities and entertainment, we all have to be our own curators, or as author James William Powell puts it, our own ‘SPAM filters.’ Hopefully by pointing toward some of my favorite daily, weekly or monthly sources, I can help some curious internet wanderer in the future. Of course, it may all be different by then! At the very least it stands as yet another blog time capsule to what I ‘fed’ on at this point in my life.

I’m always looking for new sources! Of course, it goes without saying that Mutiny Radio should be your source for a much more streamlined helping of these sources! And Mutiny Radio is always looking for intrepid journalists, editors, aggregators or bloggers! Get a hold of me at thestranger@earthling.net!

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Think of all the ascorbic acid you eat in a day!

As symbols, every picture and for that matter, any word, implies a previous and/or a following action. Many times the implications are very simple; a man on a door implies ‘Men’s room.’ Other times, an object in space has much more to ‘say’ concerning its role in society, well-known history, common usage, double entendres, mental closure, function, usual ties to other objects, and context. The more complicated the pictures and words, the more that can be extrapolated from the ‘part-of-the-whole.’ A drawing’s shading implies the location and prominence of lights in a room, just as resonant audio would imply its size. A drawing’s lack of shading may have been an intent of the artist to emphasize a contoured iconographic style, perhaps. By showing a large portion of the whole, the artist makes a very different statement than by showing a focused one. This can even be the moment for a juxtaposition, wherein what is acceptable or even mentally expected is then replaces by its polar opposite, or a non-sequitur, some wholly unexpected thing. This opens up all forms of comedy, socio-political satire, and intense visual stimulation. The suddenly clever thing to do is then to reveal several meanings at once to the audience. Perhaps the meaning is intentional (and the level of this that the author reveals is discretionary), or perhaps too much is read into coincidence, but even this becomes part of its philosophy. If meaning can be ascribed an object, and is internalized by the viewer, then it does contain validity. Indeed, the unintentional mental connections made between otherwise arbitrary elements is what makes enjoying art possible

The audience then, as the only arbiter of his/her own reality, is the true artist. At the final moment in art’s production, which must culminate in audienceship (even if only by the author’s review of it), the artist’s intention is inevitably cast aside in favor of the newer relevant present that the viewer brings to the object. Many artists (or fans of the artists, or critics, for that matter) would stay attached to the original meaning. However, no author would or could have involved every possible interpretation in the creation of the piece, no matter how clever or foresighted. True art lies in subtlety, a craftsmanship in ambiguity, in understanding that the artistic process does terminate in the necessary witness by a viewer, an thus their roles irrevocably linked despite any passage of time.

Ontologue

Philosophy so often talks about the things that exist in our real world as instead things that do not exist so much in our real world, replaced by ideal concepts in easy chewable tablet form.

Concepts of things that do not exist (or do not exist as they exist) drive our imagination, fiction, sexual fantasy, ingenuity to create new concepts in science and technology for tomorrow, attempts to build a better society for future generations, art, religion, and language. Abstract concepts allow us to define the universe, our sense of self and everything else in it. We have mental images for things like time, space, atoms, genes, and light, though how science has described them differs greatly.

More specific to philosophy, however, is the idea that we can and should conceptualize all the things in existence as more than meets the eye. It is possible, after all, that our senses lie to us, that nothing really exists as we think it does, or even at all. In Plato’s ideal world, each and every thing was represented on some other ethereal plane of pure concept. Imagine, a (possibly physical) plane of the exact mental image of perfect grass, a gigantic endless ocean of pure water, a room full of ideal chairs, a dog that describes all dogs, metal, stone, marble… Literally all unattainable, but clearly somewhere there in the back of your mind, their existence is implicated heavily.

Plato himself did not think that anyone, not even the enlightened autocratic kings (who never mistype nothing), was capable of ever viewing this world. Where are the objective non-objects? Never mind all that. They’re there. Stop questioning your betters.

Various iterations of conceptually perfect existence involving an intelligent God, as in Leibnitz’ surmising led to the best-of-all-possible worlds, attempted to bridge the gap between the classical Greek aether and our own crass reality.

The argument is often made that everything exists (or exists as it does, or exists in its ideal state) simply because God said so. We can therefore surmise the existence of God (which is the same as God existing as He does, in his ideal state), they claim. Critical thinkers among us are quick to point out that this is not only circular logic, but narcissistic thinking. We are not fine-tuned, we live as one example in a set with an unknown quantity (at least containing ourselves), with an existocentric view outward, not knowing how many Big Bangs failed, how often matter failed to cohere, how many times life did not arise. Science may now be supporting the multiple dimension model, which opens up wholly new and even more ridiculous speculation on the nature of reality and existence. We are just lucky, in the same way that first-world attractive wealthy white kids are, to have shared the formality of “happening to exist.” As I have often said, reality exists because it has to; if it didn’t, then it wouldn’t, and I think I could tell a difference.

Because then there’s Alex Meinong, who stated that existence is merely a property of things that so exist.

The theory is based around the purported empirical observation that it is possible to think about something, such as a golden mountain, even though that object does not exist. Since we can refer to such things, they must have some sort of being. Meinong thus distinguishes the “being” of a thing, in virtue of which it may be an object of thought, from a thing’s “existence”, which is the substantive ontological status ascribed, for example, to horses but denied to unicorns. Meinong called such nonexistent objects “homeless”;[1] others have nicknamed their place of residence “Meinong’s jungle” because of their great number and exotic nature.

Types of obects, according to Meinong, included the following, with even further categorization down the line:

  • Existence (Existenz, verb: existieren), or actual reality (Wirklichkeit), which denotes the material and temporal being of an object
  • Subsistence (Bestand, verb: bestehen), which denotes the being of an object in a non-temporal sense, includes concepts like love and irony, numbers and theorems.
  • Absistence or Being-given (Gegebenheit, as in the German use es gibt, i.e. “there are”, “it is given”), which denotes being an object but not having being, such as square circles, or iron that is made of wood.

Further confused thus by the unnecessary philosophical categorization of things, we are only now starting to determine what is a thing-in-itself, and what is a thing-not-in-itself.

Immanuel Kant (as in, Kant understand it), posited the ‘existence’ of the noumenon, the thing that exists in your mind before the senses, and the thing-in-itself (ding an sich), which may or may not be synonymous, depending on your perspective. Like with Plato, these are unknowable, but must exist, otherwise we would be faced with appearances without anything actually bothering to appear. A lot of this requires intuition, effectively reducing that hypothesis to rubbish during morning meditation. This may lead to limits on knowing, with inner unknowable senses explaining parts or whole of the phenomenal world.

Certain semantic definitions or unnecessary categories of things lead to things not-being-in-themselves, while being synonymous with the thing nonetheless. Good examples of this arise with synecdoche, a figure of speechin which a term is used in one of the following ways:

  • Part of something is used to refer to the whole thing (pars pro toto), such as farm hands, a set of wheels, those long-hairs, or Great Britain, or the States
  • A thing (a “whole”) is used to refer to part of it (totum pro parte), such as the United Kingdom referring to England.
  • A specific class of thing is used to refer to a larger, more general class, like the good book, or one who is good people.
  • A general class of thing is used to refer to a smaller, more specific class, such as bugs, your John Handcock, or genericized trademarks.
  • A material is used to refer to an object composed of that material, like the good silver, brandishing cold steel, wearing threads or glasses or a rubber.
  • A container is used to refer to its contents, like kegs of beer, or barrels of oil.

Or sets that are defined as containing all sets, which would include the said set in an example of a strange loop, sometimes do not contain themselves. The famous example of Russell’s paradox is of a barber who shaves all men who do not shave themselves and only men who do not shave themselves. When one thinks about whether the barber should shave himself or not, the paradox begins to emerge.

One can argue that these abstracts like synecdoche or “lists of all lists that do not contain themselves” are too absurd to exist, or would be an empty or null set. But that might not suffice for someone who believes that existence first lies buried somewhere deep in the essential being of human knowledge, true and irrefutable. As Tom Waits once wrote, “everything you can think of is true.”

These ideas in one form or another persists today, even modern philosopher Sartre defining reality as sets of being and non-being, or no thing, your calculating consciousness both creating and annihilating existence, a concept so frightening that it makes me want to futilely look behind me very quickly just to make sure. Truly, my existence predates my essence, but do we even need the latter at all?

Do these sort of puzzling concepts exist only in the mind? Was Carl Jung’s collective unconsciousness the source and repository of all of our shadowy dreams, hopes and fear? Though, without diverging on an entire tangent, I always flinch in the face of the more formidable paranormal implications of Jung.

More importantly, with modern technology and science growing more and more capable of truly defining matter and mind down to every subatomic particle and electrochemical neural impulse, could it be that this branch of philosophy’s entire field of inquiry isn’t really all that relevant anymore?

Brother from another Mother (Earth)

I met a doppelgänger of mine from a parallel dimension today on my lunch break. He didn’t explain how he managed to end up in our worldline (it never came up, I only get an hour!) but it did become evident fairly quickly that I was the evil one for several reasons, not the least of which being that he DIDN’T have a beard.

We spoke the same language, though his accent was indescribably different, and we had trouble communicating on some odd, conceptual level. He was far more convivial.

He told me that in his dimension, the rich routinely philanthropize, so much so that there are no destitute or super-rich classes, safe synthetic meats ensure delicious bacon without any animals being tortured, money we would spend on guns and bombs are going towards cancer and free energy research, politicians argue over the most logical and efficient ways to serve the weak and sick, and Adolf Hitler was only a slightly renowned drag entertainer.

He was shocked to discover that our media glorifies violence, but is also frustratingly both perversely obsessed and shamefully repressed when it comes to sex. He seemed to think the internet was a good sign for us, something they have had since the nineteen-twenties. They have had jazz music since the seventeenth century.

All of the water fountains shoot cream soda, as they have found the cures for both diabetes and obesity, or as they archaically remember them, “diabesity.”

There is free health care, but they are not a socialist dictatorship. In their free market economy, the affluent volunteered to pay the higher taxes that they can afford, and every corporation profit-shares with their employees.

When I asked about the Third World he replied that yes, both of our planets were the third from the sun, but being the homeworld, Earth was simply more populated than the solar system’s colonies. I couldn’t bring myself to clarify the question.

He failed to check out the passing perfectly plump posterior of an attractive female, which made me consider my double was a little light-in-the-loafers, but he assured me that in his utopian reality, nearly everyone is bisexual at least at some point in their lives, that they simply don’t view the opposite sex as objects, and that additionally all elected officials are cannabis-smoking voluntary-eunuchs.

There are no suicide bombings or underaged, oversexed Disney pop divas.

Jimi Hendrix is alive and well.

Christianity exists there, but is more of a self-reflective non-judgmental philosophical set of ideals meant to help and love each other, than the self-righteous violent rhetoric meant to control and degrade each other that it is on our plane.

People say thank you, acknowledge each other, and don’t complain when they agree to help one another move.

People are allowed to experiment with altered brain states up to and including death, without governmental criminalisation.

The Cold War ended nearly the moment it began, with heartfelt letters of apology and a good, stiff drink or two.

Pie is the same.

Fascinated by each other’s cultures and technologies, we set a lunch date for tomorrow. I intend to ask him about world peace, the brotherhood of man, and the exact manner of his dimensional travel. Then I am going to kill him, shave my beard and take his place

To you, my otherworldly friend:

An Interesting Shade of Reality

I had quite an unusual spatio-temporal experience the other day most likely brought on by overheating during my lunch break (as evidenced by more than one co-worker commenting that I looked ‘flushed’). It was rather unpleasant, warmish, not altogether unlike being drunk, or as if on some weird drug. I wasn’t quite dizzy, but certainly disoriented (a distinction made clear by the WebMD app). I was able to perform my tasks and routines and sentences, but like some sort of automata, a simulacra, or philosophical zombie. Nothing felt quite like real life, and I remember asking those around me if they were uniquely thinking individuals, and pulling on my own beard to prove it wasn’t a dream, or a parody of reality, as if those were verifiable either way. Everything was strange, to say the least, and though obviously familiar, also alien and out of place, like in some extended deja vu.

Moving to the bathroom, I gulped cold water, splashing its coolness on my neck and face, making sure to wash my ears in the process. Things slowly returned to normal, and inasmuch as I can be said to have ever been, so did I.

Regardless, it was an interesting flavor of chemical brain consciousness, and I am happy to have experienced and recorded it, though I wouldn’t avidly repeat it any time soon.

Shift Happens

So the other day I experienced yet another Reality Shift, and realized soon after that this happens with enough frequency to be a noteworthy, bloggable phenomenon warranting further study.

The Reality Shift is unknown to science, although pop quantum mystics (re: bullshit artists) like Deepak Chopra or Rhonda Byrne might tell you that you are using the power of intention to reshape the world as your own, or send yourself into a nearly identical alternate universe except for those things you wanted changing. Any time someone starts speaking this way around you, you must a> correct them politely, b> run away screaming, or c> smack them.

The weirdness to which I refer seemingly happens at random, and more than likely within one’s own head. It may have the looming pressure front of nostalgia, not wholly unlike deja-vu, but particular in several regards. It leaves the victim feeling out of place and time, suddenly and inexplicably the world is unfamiliar and strange, or even exciting and new, though logic dictates that you have seen it all a hundred times before, and nothing has physically changed. Everything is somehow just… different.

Reality Shifts most certainly occur. The way you felt about your elementary school WHILST in elementary school is far different than the way you feel about it now. In fact, you have felt differently about it many times over in the course of your life through random quirks of circumstance and remembrance. Your tv-and-movie expectations of high school at a very young age were soon supplanted by the real thing, though they may have inadvertently tinged that part of your life, either at the time or years after. Your relationship with the people in high school, and your abilities of relating to people, drastically change as you enter adulthood, the work force, collegiate social circles and the like expanding the parameters of your worldview. Everything from your geographical orientation as you learn and memorize new environments to your comfort levels contextually as a member of the human race. Obviously we all change and grow and evolve with age and experience, and on the whole this is a gradual process. But can these Shifts be noticed and even recorded in memory?

Most of the time we do not feel the Reality Shifts within ourselves until much later upon reflection. But to actually be aware of of your perceptions and contexts apparently changing as you look around you in wonder, your head sent into a spin, leaves one dazed at the vast reality none of us truly understand a mote.

So having started a new job one month ago, (and having gone through all this many times already) I was in a good position to recognize what might be happening when this Shift occurred. As I finished assisting a customer, I stared off deeply into a nearby wall, one that I have seen hundreds of times before now, and felt a wave of alien resonance envelop me, an odd sensation like being in the Twilight Zone. Was my brain perhaps in the process of rewiring itself to accept my new placement in the universe? Shuffling the short-term into the long-term memories, (something that dreaming most likely accomplishes), thereby shaping my worldview at my present age to the appropriate circumstances pertaining to my life and survival and social graces? Does this happen any time our lives require it, during relationships as they blossom and evolve, friendships, vacations, or whenever a preponderance of sensory information makes it necessary to grow as an individual, incorporating new information and ideas? I have felt little Reality Shifts in response to what seemed at the time to be crazy new ideas in my life, listening to an Alan Watts podcast in Hawaii, reading a very difficult Social Science book for AP History, learning what anti-zoo meant from an insipid liberal, accepting the death of a relative or the end of a relationship, discovering that my father did NOT have the ability to change traffic lights by pointing his finger like a gun and going *pfvvew*.

Take note of these things when they happen, and ponder every possibility; transcendental, religious, philosophical, neurological (though I myself am predisposed to the latter two). Assuredly this is not singular to my life, but each and every human must be capable of being wowed by it.

Strange Varieties of Experiential Reality

I spend an inordinate amount of time that coulda/shoulda/woulda been spent as a productive member of society, instead supposing a limitless myriad of alternative points of view of the universe. Part of me almost naturally accepts the thinking that we all have been, will be, and are part of the same consciousness, but even that is a monumental leap away from the logic that each person’s thinking is inside their own head alone, that once we die all biochemical thought ceases, and that the only thing that connects us truly in this regard is our common ability to ponder the subject from our varied perspectives. Very few of us, it seems, reach the same conclusions using nearly identical operating systems.

Speaking of perspective, can you imagine being an artist in the Fifteenth Century, having apprenticed most of your young and adult life, finally having gained the intricate mastery perfected after generations, only to have some architect-punk named Bruneschelli point out that parallel lines recede together into the same point on the horizon, thus reinventing the way we approach art, and indeed the whole world?

Inspired individuals often (perhaps necessarily) uncover new truths that entirely alter for the rest of our species the way in which we view the world. Imagine falling asleep like Rip Van Winkle during the Dark Ages, your eyes closing to the night sky, only to emerge from your slumber after the Renaissance, a plethora of books now available on the theories of a sun-centered system of planets, a complex and moving cosmos of unimaginably distant stars, that each star was its own sun with perhaps its own planets and therefore perhaps their own inhabitants.

Germ theories of disease, and indeed the very existence of ‘invisible’ microorganisms, were very controversial even by the time Louis Pasteur landed on the scene. His demonstration of simple, easily replicated lab experiments opened up a disgusting world of factual reality to the rest of us, finally accepted, and led to immunization with antibiotics and hygienic practices not the least of which includes pasteurization.

And what of all those enterprising thinkers who worked on their theories for years, researching, experimenting, formulating, hypothesizing, and all of it ultimately wrong? For some time in historical record our ancestors believed insects to be born of pebbles, based in part on observation. When Johann Joachim Becher postulated in 1667 the theoretical existence of phlogiston, a fire-like element that was contained in combustible bodies and released during combustion, and could also explain the rusting of metals, he was observing a phenomenon for which he had no contextual understanding in his place in spacetime; the chemical process of oxidization. Or when psychoanalyst Wilhelm Riech posited in the 1930’s a theoretical orgone energy, yet another in a long series of fictional ‘life-energies’ to be historically uncovered, his ‘discovery’ nevertheless affecting the study of sex, music, literature and parapsychology forevermore. And how was Mao Zedong to know that, by popularizing the ‘barefoot doctor’ medicine of unlicensed country practitioners, merely out of financial necessity to at least somewhat treat the millions of Chinese not living in modern cities with access to hospitals and expensive pharmaceuticals, that the paramedical advice would be taken out of context and used ad nauseum by white middle-to-upper class Americans years later? Or homeopathy, when it is not a malicious ploy to trick ailing victims of poor health into diverting their dollars to another profession, is often a genuine, sincere (and altogether incorrect) proposition that medicine diluted down to nonexistent doses might somehow be more efficacious than what they see as an archaic medical establishment in dire need of progressive revolution. Or all the sorcerers and alchemists and religions and quackery that insisted that they had the freshest revelations that would shape a new world, and though the facts did not bear them out, somehow left a lasting affect at least upon popular culture.

Shaman, without benefit of scientific equipment, pop psychological terminology, or socioeconomic awareness of larger global themes, have been able to use psychotropic drugs to explore and create entire mythos of humanity, the self, the universe, and gods by simply delving into their sacred states. The discoveries they made, one could argue, have little to no bearing on the truth of reality as it pertains to all of us. But it had plenty of that and more for the shaman.

Our understanding of the universe and ourselves not only changes through time, but with a greater understanding of time. Before a certain point in history, time could only be determined by the sun, the stars, or other natural occurrences and features of the cosmos and our planet, itself a giant clock. The slow evolution of invention in gnomon to mechanized and finally atomic and digital clocks allowed for better time-keeping, at first for the very rich, but soon for anyone who could carry a pocketwatch, wristwatch, or iphone. Both Galileo and Newton and most people up until the 20th century thought that time was the same for everyone everywhere. This is the basis for timelines, where time is a parameter. Our modern conception of time is based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, in which rates of time run differently depending on relative motion, and space and time are merged into spacetime, where we live on a world line rather than a timeline. New perceptions in time affected art, as the impressionists left their stuffy studios to capture the world more quickly or essentially, and photography managed to capture it instantly. Art became more figurative, gestural, or symbolic in response.

Armed with curiosity and new innovations in film, Eadweard Muybridge managed to capture for analysis the biological movement of beings, with ramifications on the worlds of science, medicine, art, and the burgeoning worlds of film and animation as well.

And so the world unfolds itself to us, and doubtful is it that anyone alive at the time of this digital imprint being left in the historical record will coincide with the full revelation of cosmological knowledge and truth, (liberally granting our species even gets that far). Each achievement begets others, can sometimes be lost and have to be rediscovered, eventually building a decently accurate portrayal of how everything works. Neuroscientists, philosophers, string theorists, particle smashers, self-wallowing alcoholics and religious zealots are all working out the same thing. The facts remain the same throughout, it is up to each of us on our own and all of us as a whole to construe them accurately.

You could have been born a synesthete, or been a paranoid schizophrenic before our modern conception of mental disease, or an acid freak, or have had a distinct vision of Mother Mary, or been a released prisoner of Plato’s cave previously shackled knowing only shadows, or born a Chinese villager whose favorite delicacy is eggs boiled in boy piss, or genuinely believe you were abducted by a UFO, or forced to pose as a double agent for so long you don’t remember what’s true, or been the surreal sole survivor of a mine collapse, or fought for the Confederacy, or been born transgendered, or been in a Sam-and-Diane relationship for many years, or been Constantine the Great or Elizabeth Bathory or Bill Hicks or Jim Morrison. You can be a skeptic or a believer, an optimist or a pessimist, lead an active or a sedentary lifestyle, passive or aggressive, dominant or submissive, studious or stunted, martyred or vindicated. And in many ways no other human being has the right to say you were right or you were wrong about a great deal of the choices and decisions and rationalizations in your life.

Ah, but for science.