The blessing of what we are.
I call my photographic collection The Hidden World of the Nearby and I have often wondered what I might be missing that was close at hand. Then as I was straining to understand how we did not hop to it when scientists explained to us about climate change and disasters began to happen.
So I began to think about how we know what is going on around us by both sight and sound. And slowly I think I figured out at least a part of it and it has shaken by ideas about what life is.
Think about what you are seeing this minute. There is a world in front of you that we call “real,” three dimenions, distance, materials, textures, colors. We know what each object is, what it will feel like to touch it, approximately how heavy it is and if it moves or we move the picture in our minds of all of this keeps up with the moving. Yet the only “input” into our minds is two small upside down images on our retinas. Unless there is sound and whether it is a voice or a symphony orchestry all our input is two small quarter inch or so pieces of tissue vibrating. We call them ear drums.
What is happening is the experience known as sentience and which we call life. It is (to this very scientifically inclined writer) a miracle. No one knows how experience happens from a bunch of brain and nerve cells (actually billions of them) firing away. We can see some of this on a functional MRI, but that does not give us a clue. There is a bit more information by clicking HERE.
Sentience does not get discussed very often (certainly not by presidential candidates), yet it is the most important aspect of our lives that government should be concerned with. Why?
Our ability to experience, to be sentient beings, depends on everything that happens to us, who our parents were, how we are raised, what we are exposed to, how we are taught, what demands are put upon us by our environment and, perhaps most important, how much opportunity do we have to practice sentenience. Yes. That is correct. I said practice.
There are so many examples, it could take the rest of this web site. But we can start simply. Are you sensitive to the expression on another persons face. If you pay attention consciouly you will be. Do you like flowers? Perhaps you have never learned to see them. So you like symphonic music. It can take considerable effort to learn it well enough to enjoy it. Yes, I said “learn to enjoy.” It is not taught (usually). I have listened to classical music (and played it on the piano) almost all my life, and yet it took me until my mid-30s to hear a Mahler symphony. It was a stunning experience, and I was luckly to hear them often enough so I could hear them.
I have photographed and printed images of the natural landscape for 45 years. Yet it can take me years (in one case ten) to finally get it right.
So what has this got to do with climate?
I think to some degree we just ignore it. We may not feel the wonder of a beautiful day. We may not live where there are forests, parks, flowers, trees of various species and where sunlight dresses them up to go out and shine.
Besides climate what other implications are there.
I think there are three.
It is is the responsibility of everyone to maximize the opportunity to enjoy sentience. We must do it for each other. Health, housing, jobs, justice, fairness are the responsibility of everyone to everyone else. Why? Because the universe has given usroughly the same gifts and each of us should have the same opportunities for enjoyment, and satisfaction. Well, you say I work harder and deserve more than you. Says who? I am responsible for my contribution and I deserve fair treatment. Says who? I do.----------------------------------------
Sentience, what feels to me as the miracle of miracles, for it is the last piece that makes a human being who can experience the world. From a few photons on your retinas how can you "experience" that wall 20 feet away, know just where it is, how hard it is, how it formss the room. And when your your wife or husband comes into the range of your retinas and the same thing happens except it keeps moving and your retina and visual system in your brain keeps upwith it. My god. Who the hell worked this out.
Scientists can watch the brain cells but they cannot cross the barrier to sentience, but you can, and I think that is the ultimate gift. I think that the creation did not give it to us in its finished form, but as we awake and use this abiity more and more we become a part of the creation too and even add to it. This is Lang Lang playing it as an encore to a orcchestral concert conducted by Zubin Mehta. Click and listen, but watch too (full screen). Lang Lang, Chopin Polinaise Opus 53.
If you love this as much as I do, this is another fabulous experience: Vlaidmir Horowitz, 80 years old, in Moscow: Horowitz, Chopin Polonaise.
Evolution did not need that we move fingers this fast or write music this wonderful. I play this piece myself. Sixty five years ago I played it from memory in the annual recital my teacher, Rene Veau, put on every year. I was a sophmore in high school. Since then I have played the Chopin Polonaise Opus 53 at least 10,000 times, but not like this.
I know it seems impossible, after wandering the universie and time, to presume there is a bottom line. Well in science, I think this would be either a conjecture or a hypothesis.
The just above the bottom line is sentiencd. Without it, you are deaf and blind or unconscious. But it is not just that you hear and see, it is that there is a reaction, a feeling connected with the seeing and hearing. Sometimes, like looking at a wall, there isn't much. Other times, like hear your granddaughter say "granpy" for the first time, there is a lot.
But sentience is a fun-house mirror that you control, for "granpy" creates a feeling that requires a response that will create more sentience and more feeling, etc.
So the earth is a plaace for lots of sentiece and reflecting to happen. Without it there is none. So that is what we destroy. And that is Life. So if you don't ccafe abpit tje earytj you don't care about life. And that is the lowesty line.
I ask, what are you doing right now and what are you seeing and hearing. What has happened to you is so ordinary you do not realize it is virtually a magical miricle. It is called sentience, and it is your ability to experience everything that your retinas receive light from and your ear drums receive sound from.
Now you have to stop and think about what you are experiencing. From two perhaps 1/2" squares of light your brain gives you the experience not just of sight, but of anticipation. You know what touching that wall will feel like.
The modern study of genetics tells us there is little difference between humans.
Two differences that affect either action or rationalization. One is the spoken or unspoken differences between the poor and those that are born well-off. Studies have now shown that it is lack of stimulation, the emmersion in intelligent conversation that is the primary cause.
The second is the color of a persons skin that is determined by how far north ancestors migrated our of the intense sunlight of the equator, so that the dim light of the north made melin unneessary and "white supremacy was born." How utterly absurd that racist tribes that worship the lack of sunshine.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a civilization that cannot cooperate for its own survival. At present, humanity is divided by extremely strong self-interest. Companies work for "stockholder equity." Whether profit seeker or average working citizens, there is a fundamental lack of understanding on two ends: not understanding enough science to comprehend what is happening. This lack of comprehension goes back many decades. It reminds me of the mayhem the United States caused by starting wars in Vietnam and Iraq for no reasons except someone political or selfish. Rumsfeld was driven to demonstrate shock and awe.
(You will remember that decades ago cigarette companies knew smoking would shorten life spans but continued to push them and hide the health issues. And when finally congress put restrictions on sale, the same cigarette companies gave the cigarettes to teens in other countries to addict them.
The list, beside global warming is long. The useless Vietnam war. The totally disruptive second Iraq war (Rumsfeld wanted to demonstrate "shock and awe" and then dissolve the countries police and miletia leaving them with nothing to do but fight.
It is not appreciated the degree to which warring countries fail to educate their citizens to the point that they have s "life," a professional identity that is more important than killing.
And in the U.S. "lock em up" becomes a way of life for procecutors and judges. Three strikes and we have by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. (I will not get into guns.)
Civilization is not yet civilized. So when global warming colmes along it is dismissed. IT IS OUR ONLY PLANET, DAMN IT doesn't seem to get to anyone including the New York Times. It gave far more dramatifc coverage to the sinking of the Titanic.
Of course a huge problem is a misunderstanding of what science is, all kinds of science. With the Times burrying news at the bottom of page three and the average citizen doesn't have a clue. And then somehow the trumpet gets elected and million of people worship him. Now we have a farmer with a flock of chickens.
In the course of this futile venture I kept discovering things I thought everyone involved should know, when in fact it clearly seems they did not. The most important was to have an understanding of what "science" meant, for to an engineer/scientist it seems a bit like breathing or eating. There is no place to move in the sciences if you do not understand the basis for their existence and incredible frustration when they are misunderstood.
"Science" = "verified information" whatever the topic. However, it is easier said than done and justifying it has proved difficult. When one grows up with a soldering iron in one hand and one eye on an oscilloscope, verification seems as natural as breathing. Oscilloscopes are like eyes to see electrical signals and soldering irons are the tools that make the devices that move, modify and ultimately result in the utilization of the electrical devices being constructed (amplifiers, radio receivers and so forth in my case). Thousands upon thousands of "experiments" verify the verification process. It all hangs together, reinforces itself and produces something useful, and also does something beautiful if enough skill went into making the choices.
The science deals with very real world very accessable stuff and the verification was instant. It worked or it did not. It worked better...well in some cases that could be a close call, but one could always refine the process or decide it didn't matter beyond a certain point.
I went on to study electrical engineering at a good college and when I walked into my first lab it was "I'm home" and an A+ with a notebook hand lettered carefully in India ink. Needless to say, subsequent labs were more difficult, but always done with the same philosophies and always fun. And I cannot overemphasize the certitude connected with good work. Some were harder than others, but the certitude has not left me in the least in 2019 after a bachelor of science degree in 1963 (followed by two other degrees in 1965 and 1967) and then a very satisfying job to follow, which brings me to two topics I was reading about this morning that resulted in a slow boil and a deep depression.
The issue was the removal of regulations on methane gas and the apparent philosophy behind the decision. Methane to my growing knowledge about the atmosphere is worse than poison (DDT was a poison outlawed decades ago and from which I believe the natural world has fully recovered) in that it traps a vicious gas in the atmosphere, raises the temperture of the earth and raises holy hell with the entire environment. What triggered this writing was an article in the New Yorker that had arrived just before lunch about the conservative economists of the Chicago school and partcularly Milton Freedman. And now comes the crunch that has been destroying sleep for a year and a half.
Economics falls into the same categories as various philosophies and systems of government, and many fields of science including the most sacred which is physics. Scientists in physics speak of "theories of everything," and reducing everything to the "four forces" that theoritically govern everything, although that has not been proved so far, and I gradually concluded it was (excuse the expression) bullshit.
I suspect that in most if not all fields of learning there is a fairly strong tendency to work on the problems that appear to be subject to solving, and leaving the rest either as "an exercise for the student" or a future generation of scientists.
In the declation of independence, Jefferson used the phrase "pursuit of happiness." I do not know if he wrote further about what he ment by that. In modern economics, the measure of success is shareholder equity (or profit, or salery) but shareholder equity seems to be it.
I cannot, at this point, explain the vicious pursuit of money despite the harm it causes up to the point of the survival of all, except that must be left over from hunter gatherer days a need to hoard. Second I cannot explain the pursuit of extra billions on top of 10s or even hundreds of billions with no thought of what that money could do for the 90+% of the population that does not have suffienct funds for eating, housing, health care and more without working thant one or possibly two jobs.
The theme of this website is "inanothershoes" which in social psychology is called reciprocity. Here is how reciprocity is defined in Wikipedia:
In social psychology, reciprocity is a social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. As a social construct, reciprocity means that in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model; conversely, in response to hostile actions they are frequently much more nasty and even brutal.
"Reciprocity makes it possible to build continuing relationships and exchanges. Fukuyama  states that “If the institutions of democracy and capitalism are to work properly, they must coexist within certain premodern cultural habits that ensure their proper functioning” (p. 11). He goes on to say “Law, contract, and economic rationality and prosperity…. must as well be leavened with reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust…. The latter are not anachronisms in a modern society but rather the sine qua non of the latter’s success” (p. 11) According to the sociologist Alvin Gouldner (1960), this norm is nearly universal, and only a few members of society—the very young, the sick, or the old—are exempt from it. Reciprocal actions differ from altruistic actions in that reciprocal actions only follow from others' initial actions, while altruism is the unconditional act of social gift-giving without any hope or expectation of future positive responses. Some distinguish between ideal altruism (giving with no expectation of future reward) and reciprocal altruism (giving with limited expectation or the potential for expectation of future reward). For more information on this idea, see altruism or altruism (ethics).""
As well as not comprehending the unlimited pursuit of money, I cannot comprehend how this can be changed. At this time an "ideology" (which is irrational on the face of it) has hold of the America Republician Party: "Small government, low taxes." There is no justice built into this and its primary effect is to transfer as much moneyh as possible fro the poor to the rich. It is vicious, vile, villinous and immoral by any definition. It seems that a fungus carried by money has captured the minds of the well off and convinced tham that the "evil" of worthless, lazy poor justifies the pleasure of piling it on."
This brings us to a fundamental moral tipping point in humanity's concept of life. I contend that the surplus of money is an insult to the universe because it narrows its appreciation to a single dimension, leaving an infinity of creation ignored. Simultaneouslhy, the gift of sentience, that which is most prescious and, at it level in humans, unique is discarded. Since it is those with the most money that are causing the deteroration of the cliate, it may be that carbon dioxide is the fuel of the engine to hell.
Being a bit (small bit) of a poly math I experience life from a different perspectives. I have made photographs that have brought tears to other people's eyes. I have played Chopin that made me feel I was in touch with him through his work. I have worked in science and experienced how truth is revealed and confirmed. And I have heard heavenly music. In a small salon in Boston I heard an uncannely talented string quartet play Mozart and Brahms. I sat close to hear well and closed my eyes. It flashed through my mind, during the first long sustained note of the Mozart that I had gone to heaven.
Of the many hundreds of conerts I have heard by the worlds greatet orchestras or by the world's greatest soloists, this is the one sound that stays in my memory.
So all we can do is perhaps change how we educate disadvantaged children and try to stop the burning or even reverse its effects. And hope we realize very soon that whatever commmitment is needed, humanity more than rises to the occasion.