Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chapter Four We are Not Scientists

"I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn."---Albert Einstein

"We are not scientists!" Einstein announced, as he looked me square in the eye. "Not yet! Not by a long shot. As scientists we should be able to create a new synthesis of consciousness. Piaget stated that an infant, slowly, over a six-month period of time learns to assemble or learns to 'synthesize' a highly unique and significant relationship between its consciousness, its body and the objects of the world. However, what scientists have failed to realize is that every night our conscious minds attempt to create another synthesis but, since our imagination is untrained, we fail miserably in uniting our conscious mind with the dream environment. Not that engineering a concious experience is dreaming not by a long shot. We fail, much more so at creating an intentionally engineered conscious experience." His arm fell to his side, pencil in hand as if defeated. A sparkling glint of sadness enveloped his eyes as threy slowly traced the patterns on the tiled floor.

I was happy that I had exciting news. And I knew I could cheer him up. "I found my hands in my dreams!"
"Ahah!" He turned and looked at me."Tell me more."

I had just returned to see Einstein after a three-week hiatus –Christmas break. Einstein's task had been a lot harder than I expected. I told him that I began repeating the phrase "This is a dream. Look at my hands." as soon as Christmas break started. Einstein wanted to know every detail of my endeavor and I told him that every morning I reviewed my dreams looking for an instance in which I saw my hands. But day after day I failed to even get a glimpse of my hands. By the end of the first week I was tired out and still no success, not even one close call. I had never put forth so much effort to achieve something in my life. I figured that if I quit now I would only try it again in a few weeks so I continued. Half of the next week went by and still nothing.

I decided to take a new approach. I bought a pair of bright yellow rubber gloves and wore one to bed. I figured that having it on my hand while sleeping would trigger me to find my hands. That night I dreamt I was walking through a museum and on my right hand was a bright yellow rubber glove. I felt ashamed for wearing the glove in a public place and hoped no one would see it and make fun of me. When I awoke in the morning and remembered this dream I was pissed! I saw my hand but didn't realize that I was dreaming! I was so close! And without success.

I told Einstein that sometimes hours would go by where I was totally oblivious to my intention. It was not uncommon for me to spend hours at a time thinking about something else before realizing that I wasn't repeating the phrase. I refined the process by noticing when and where my thoughts would stray away from my objective. When these situations arose I took note of what I had so absorbed my attention and taken me away from my task. I braced myself for a possible four weeks of this tiring repetition and devoted every moment of my time to the task. I decided that if the current situation wasn't going to put my life in jeopardy or my health in peril I did without thinking about it and opted to continually repeat the phrase.

I told Einstein that I pressed on and three quarters of the way into the third week, I went to bed, fell asleep and was dreaming a normal dream. I dreamt I was sitting on the tailgate of an old rickety pick up truck that was driving down an old country dirt road. I heard a metal can begin to rattle its way down the bed of the truck. It reached the tailgate and I watched as it fell and bounced pretty high up off the dirt road. It soared into the air and back down again hitting the road but when it bounced back up again I couldn't believe what I saw. The bounce was the exact same as the first one! The can bounced in exactly the same tumbling motion as the first time! What I witnessed was impossible. Suddenly it hit me - This is a dream!

An incredible surge of energy shot up my right arm. And I found myself looking at my hand. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was alive and existing in a place entirely different than anything I had ever known. There was an extraordinary sense of freedom, mystery and specific air of the profound. I couldn't believe that I was alive somewhere else, somewhere where I'd never been. I was standing in the kitchen of my parent's house staring my hand. And my hand had an immense amount of wrinkles on it. It looked like an inflatable pool toy that had been mashed down all winter long and had been entirely forgotten about and unused.

I heard a door open and peered around the kitchen corner and noticed my dad coming out of his bedroom. Suddenly, I became afraid and walked into the living room and sat down. I wondered if he knew that I was dreaming.
Out of nowhere, the dream changed. I was still aware of being entirely alive someplace else but now I was in a dark room or a corridor. A doorway appeared to my left. Inside it was a view of Earth wrapped tightly in chains. A hidden booming voice asked me. "What are you going to do with this?" The chains started to squeeze the planet. I was instantly terrified. My mind raced for some kind of solution.

"Missing link! Missing link!" I cried out pointing at the doorway attempting to beckon my solution to solving Earth's crisis. The chains disappeared and were replaced with a single floating link. The door closed. "How will you control your fears?" The hidden voice asked.

A zombie appeared in front of me. His eyes were glowing, his flesh was in pieces and he was charging at me. I froze to the spot. Before I knew it he was on top of me. He pummeled me with his arms and fists. As soon as I began to defend myself the zombie stopped, turned and walked right through the wall. I heard a woman scream in horror. I scanned the corridor for a door. Then, brazenly, I walked right through the wall following the Zombie.

The strength of the dream suddenly disappeared. I was still aware I was dreaming and had some volition, but it paled in comparison to the previous state. It was nowhere near as real. The captivating force that convinced me that I was doing something completely impossible was replaced with heavy emotions and a kind of drunken lucidity. I knew that I was dreaming but the crystal clear awareness that I was alive was gone.

I found myself standing on a spacious upper level landing in a cafeteria or huge open office/warehouse of sorts. A bunch of men were sitting at a table in front of me. A woman was entertaining them. I was surprised to see it was Lisa, a woman from my college that I had fallen completely in love with. I was standing directly behind her out of her sight. Somehow I knew that this was her work place and that she and I were married. She was talking to the guys about having a lewd sexual encounter with one of more of them. I was shocked. The guys glanced at me nervously.

"Your husband is right behind you." One of them said.

"No he's not," she said turning and looking right through me. She couldn't even see me.

"Oh my gosh!" I thought. "I am invisible!"

Heart broken, appalled and angry, I turned away from the scene and found myself sitting in the back seat of a car. Lisa pulled up in a blazer next to me. I immediately thrust myself awkwardly out of the back seat. She was not happy to see me. We walked to a big, heavy, wooden door set in a massive stone archway. It looked like London in the mid 1800's. I tried to talk to her but she refused to have anything to do with me.

Suddenly, out of nowhere the scenario repeated itself. Somehow, I was again sitting in the back seat of a car as Lisa pulled up. Again I awkwardly struggled to get out. Angrily, I asked myself why I was always in the back seat of this damn car? Again we met at the same immense doorway. This time she took me up into her apartment.

Next thing I knew we were sitting at a small table with our son. Lisa filled my plate with huge portentous amounts of meat from a roast she had cooking all day. She stared at me vehemently with hate and distrust pouring from her eyes. As the dream ended, thoughts of ways to salvage our marriage were running through my head.

Einstein burst out laughing at the recounting of my struggle and became quizzically silent. He stood and slowly paced around the laboratory with his hands behind his back. He stopped in front of a window put his hand on his chin, "You forgot to look at another object and back again at your hand." I was immediately offended. I wanted congratulations and accolades for my achievement. I had worked my butt off to do this and all he could say was that I failed? He read my mood and countermanded with the question, "What was the primary difference between the two different states of awareness that you experienced?"
I pondered for a few moments and said that the first dream was crystal clear and I was completely amazed that I felt like I was alive and living in a body that was as every bit as real as this one. I pondered further and told Einstein that the second half of the dream seemed muddled, heavy and filled with my emotional concerns. I explained to Einstein that I became completely wrapped up in what was taking place and the awe of existing in my body someplace else entirely disappeared.

"Don't get me wrong. What you've done is an achievement but we don't exactly have time to pin a little star on your lapel or name a day after you. It is, however, important to analyze your experience because if there is one thing that is more important than having the experience itself it is what you do with the experience afterwards that counts." He paused looking at me.

"If you could compare the two states of awareness you experienced with other states of awareness from daily life what would be comparable?"

I thought for a moment. “The first half of the experience was amazing, unbelievable and was entirely impossible but happening kinda like riding a roller coaster or being in a life or death situation. The other experience was entirelly about me kind like I was drunken, petty, and filled with concerns about love and being loved."

"And you said you felt like you were someplace else?"

"Oh yeah, I was. I was. . . I don't know how else to say it but I was and still am astonished by how I was alive in every possible way but not here in a place where I am familiar with everything. I was alive but elsewhere." I paused. "Does that make any sense?"

"No matter," he said and waved his hand. "You're not there yet. " He seemed internally frustrated and wanted to say something but refrained at the last moment.

"You see in the everyday world we believe we are surrounded by objects and thus we react to the world as if it were a world of objects. Which, of course the world is. The world is a world of objects. There is no denying that. Our world, which surrounds us, IS an objective world. But as the living creatures that we are, we also have an interior or subjective experience of this very same world. Whether what we are perceiving is internal or external is a debate that has raged on and on in philosophy since the times of Aristotle and perhaps before.

Einstein began to pace the wide empty space between his desk and the door. His eyes seemed to be looking through the walls gazing somewhere far away. "Some certain handful of philosophers believe that when we look at an object the light of that object hits the eye and the image of the object is rendered in the mind. They believe that this image in the mind is what we see and interact with. This assertion leads to the conclusion that what we see and interact with is an illusion, a projection. This particular theory is called the Cartesian Theatre.

“Another very certain set of philosophers, scientists or what have you, believe that we don't see an illusion or a projection. They believe that we see objects of the world directly as they are. Either way it doesn’t really matter because reasonable points and arguments hardly ever change the overall direction and course of our lives. Our ways of thinking and believing things about ourselves and our world seemingly are permanent and unchangeable but what if we could change just a fraction of that!" He winked at me and erupted with a joyful laughter. He began to move and rearrange, I assumed- cleaning up, objects on his laboratory table.

"What’s important is to realize that our world is a world of objects and that our conscious minds have learned to have sensorimotor reactions to a world of objects. Piaget called the process of learning to have the appropriate sensorimotor reaction to the world of objects - assimilation and accommodation. Our minds learn to assimilate and accomdate sensory information to fit into the smaller arrangement of language and even smaller yet, into tiny concepts” He held up a plastic fruit banana. “You see a banana from this viewpoint and it looks tall. You see it from another viewpoint and it is the size of quarter, an oddly bent quarter. Our minds assimilate and accomdate the mulitiude of different views of the objects as the same object! And there behind the language, behind the concepts a plethora of sensory information exists frozen in a kind of state of suspended animation. Too accept the classification of ‘banana’ as a ‘banana’ for the rest of our friggin' lives is a huge waste!
“Why is that? Why do we want to free the sensory information from concepts and language?”
"Because our conscious minds remain trapped there merely responding to the concept and the language enforcing our minds to believe that all there is are sensorimotor reactions to world of objects. Once a banana always a banana. Most artists are not happy with this situation and endeavor to access the raw sensory information encased underneath language and concepts. Artists love to draw the objects, study the shadows, the space, between things, the lights, the varying hues of colorand so on. Most artists desire complete involvement with raw sensory stimulous. They know something of extraordinary value is right there but they are untrained and cannot, as yet, and as in your case, engineer a conscious experience.”
Regular people, I think it was Buddha who said 'There is nothing new under the Sun! We wander the world, through the rest of our lives looking at objects, smelling them, tasting them, handling them but we are still having the same basic sensorimotor reaction to objects. And we think this is an intelligent things to do!" He rolled nearly out of his chair laughing.
“What are we supposed to do?”

"You see we don't have to believe and act as if the world of objects it is a world of objects. The real world is the real world because it is the only thing that offers our senses the conviction that something besides ourselves exists! This is very important to realize. Our senses are convinced that something exists. But as Immanuel Kant realized in what was it 1700's . . . ?" He looked at me eyes pleading for a date. I shrugged my shoulders as I didn't know and didn't care who Immanuel Kant was.
"I will explain Kant's idea more to you at a later date, but for now allow me to assert on Kant's behalf that there is no way for us to know what it is our senses of convinced of. Something is out there riddling our senses tempting our minds to take the challenge and solve its riddle. And this is the heart of the matter; having the guts to believe that the riddle can be solved is everything! Without that we are done. Kaput! Nada! Without something to solve we are nothing. What is amazing about sensing the world is that the sensation of objects is both an internal and external experience. As the taste, touch, smell, sight and sound of objects meets one of our five senses that sensation becomes an internal subjective experience and highly synthesized one at that. We will talk more about that later when things become apparent to you. For now, pay close attention to this dual mode of sensation, existing internally, because you are aware of the object or rather, the sensation in question, and existing externally because the world is a world of definitive objects.

Einstein grabbed a book sitting next to a corner sink. It was aplty titled Consciousness and the World he read aloud from it, "This is an object. But because you can perceive this book, some part of it exists inside your mind, in whatever form that it does, the rest of it as you can see, exists outside your mind in the real world. He flipped it open to a dog-eared page and said, "Philosophers of mind like Brian O'Shaughnessy acknowledge this dual mode of perception and perceiving.”
Of this dual mode Einstien said tilting his glasses down and reading over them, 'It is absolutely unique to the sensation. All other phenomenologies, whether of mental imagery or dream experience or joy or amusement or anxiety or shock, come to consciousness solely as the internal object of the experience: they never come as well as its distinct and perceptible object: they never appear in the mind in this double mode' (534-35).

"You see, when you dreamt yourself alive in this elsewhere place you actually were handling the dual mode of sensation in a very novel way. And you did it with little coaching and very little understanding of what you were doing. For some of us just an idea is enough to give us the impetus to achieve something that is exquisitely impossible. Perhaps it is because you are an artist. But then again in some way we are all artists.

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