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There is no clean break between stories lived, and stories told.

Our world is a measureless ocean of stories, wriggling through and around each other like worms. Each wiggly meeting and each squirmy farewell is an edit.

We are living stories who make stories. Every relationship, ambition, fear, and plan is a story within a story. All have public and secret stories. Intimacy invites the other inside and downward, closer to the secret you wouldn’t even know how to tell.  Each story has an equal number of participants and versions: Of listeners and tellers. To know something is to tell it to yourself. Each of us is a tale being told. Our branching stories mingle and tangle with family, friends and loves branching toward us until they blend into distance and difference.

To imagine a time of people without stories who later, luckily, acquired stories is sheer fiction. No such animal existed. The outside borders of humanity are where the stories cut off suddenly in the silence of animals, plants and the great unknown. We exist in an atmosphere of exhaled and inhaled narrative. In the beginning…was the beginning.

Since stories are both proof of humanity and its universal means, we could not communicate without a framework, a system of recognition shared by all.

A narrative part or mechanism in the telling must match up with a corresponding part or mechanism in the listening. They must land, like drug molecules, on matching neuroreceptors. We easily refer to the smell of fall leaves, wet dog, or shit because we can take the same recognition system for granted. Continue reading

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THE NARCISSIST’S PRAYER:

That didn’t happen.
And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, that’s not a big deal. 
And if it is, that’s not my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did… You deserved it.

 

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Marcus Tullius Cicero writing 2000 years ago on our hollowed-out foundations in the age of Trump. 

  1. Laws are silent in time of war.
  2. The enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.
  3. Orators are most vehement when their cause is weak.
  4. When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.
  5. Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system.
  6. It might be pardonable to refuse to defend some men, but to defend them negligently is nothing short of criminal.
  7. The false is nothing but an imitation of the true.
  8. The sinews of war are infinite money.
  9. It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own.
  10. The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk.
  11. A liar is not believed even though he tells the truth.

 

 

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I began meditating a few months back and it feels very positive, even transformative. That feeling is backed up empirically.

There are a number of interesting published studies on the effects of meditation but these two are amazing! Both have high strength of evidence. The titles below link to the full articles. Here’s the nutshell summary:

  1. Long term meditation alters brain anatomy in positive ways, such as larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter
  2. Meditation and yoga can rewrite our DNA and alter the gene expression of enduring trauma and stress correlates

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(This series will be way better read from beginning to end, rather than end to beginning.)

Last time on Naked: Lizard boy began his quest to find love without fixing his broken heart first.

Because I didn’t know I needed to work, I didn’t do the work that needed to be done. And so I passed through the lives of many wonderful women: confusing, annoying and confounding them as I walked confidently in two different directions. Continue reading

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“The Brain tunes itself to criticality, maximizing information processing”

Our brains are clearly amazing at processing the “blooming, buzzing1” world around us.  A recent experiment supports the theory that when neurons work together they actively cooperate to achieve their maximum processing capacity. They seek the urgent, intense edge of their ability. Picture them as the human runners in an Amazon “fulfillment center” except happy in their work.

The entire brain appears to seek this set point or default working state at the maximum of its abilities: “Where it is as excitable as it can be, without tipping into disorder, similar to a phase transition.” A phase transition is where matter transitions from one state, liquid, solid, or gaseous, to a different state.

In other words, our brains are balanced about one millimeter from chaos and disorder. That’s all of us, all the time. Returning from sleep or other off duty moments the brain tunes and retunes itself seeking this point.

While the study neither reveals nor claims anything else about our neurology, I think it points a bright red arrow at possible organic causes of ADHD (as well as ASD, schizophrenia, etc). If the default human phenome, the standard, mass-produced person has this edge-of-chaos set-point, then genetic variation (known to be the prime cause of ADHD) could easily generate a different set point. This variation might generate the quirky, out of step processing that makes us so valuable in the modern workforce, wait, strike that…

It also seems logical that anything that alters this point results in behavioral instability.

More and other interesting details in the reports:

Link to study results 

 

 

1 William James, writing about sensory processing. : “The baby, assailèd by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion; “

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Science is a Gas Giant.

I don’t mean anything disparaging by that. It’s a mental model to freshen up our thinking.

The unequivocal territory of science is the sum of theories plus experiments that have unambiguous, replicable results. This body of knowledge is the diamond-hard core at the heart of science. There are a lot of physics and chemistry experiments here. They seem to know their parts by heart.

Just beyond the border of that core, the gas atmosphere begins but it is nearly as hard as the core itself. It’s a long, dense gradient from here to the wispy edge of the atmosphere that is literally made of thin clouds under scattered atoms and space. Close to the core, the experiments are as replicable as the day is long when you average them out. There are enough squishy, stochastic details here that any random experiment might say something new, but not useful. The ambiguous results are overwhelmed by un-ambiguous ones like a single black grain in a bag of white rice.*

Heading outward, the variables faced by theorists get more complicated and slippery. If the questions science aims to answer were pickle jars, we’d crack them open without a beat at the core, struggle with rubber gloves and screwdrivers around the middle, and create thought experiments about jars and pickles at the foggy upper edge. Your thought experiment may perfectly predict opening the jar, and what’s inside but it’ll be a long time before anyone gets a pickle. Continue reading

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“All the wrong people hate themselves.”

-Tig Notaro

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/ Than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science]. – Willy the Shake

I grumble about scientific reductionism (SR) regularly but I thought of an angle that shows starkly, what is wrong with it. It is a Jekyll and Hyde thing. The problem comes when it escapes from the lab.

SR identifies the core reality of things as their simplest parts and origins. It is a filter against complexity, seeking the Least Story. SR understands the essence of something as “What it all boils down to”. As if a whole chicken, boiled for days down to greasy, particulate liquid better-represents chickens than the prepared carcass, let alone a living chicken. In an experiment, SR is like reducing fractions or maximum simplifying of non-essential variables. It makes results less ambiguous and that is good.

But it spread.

“All religions, nearly all philosophies, and even a part of science testify to the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its contingency.”
― Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity

Monod is the man chiefly responsible for the successful neo-Darwinian movement1. I’m not specifically picking on him but using him as a fair example of scientific reductionism when it climbs over the wall. There are tons of these quotes from him and I chose the nearest one. He is using the word Contingency to mean unpredictable randomness. He means all of us are hiding from the truth that we are an accident of the universe. Excuse me, we are MERELY an accident of the universe. Excuse me, I mean a meaningless universe.

Careful philosophy shoppers should ask questions.

  • What are the tools he used to run his meaning experiments?
  • How were the experiments constructed?
  • How would he recognize meaning if it existed? How would he observe its absence?
  • Provided he had a meaning detector, and observed its absence, why would he take that to mean that the result is universal?

Continue reading

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