Sunday, March 14, 2010

fever dreams and feedback loops

I'm not sure that having a cold, even a bad one, can count as a near death experience but I suppose every little pain and inconvenience is practice for the big one and I've been having some practice since last Wednesday afternoon. I feel much better now even though I can't seem to give up this nasty habit of thinking about how we got where we are and where it might lead since none of us has direct control over anything but the way we choose to see things.

Our preconceptions shape the way we interpret our world because we find satisfaction in extracting information from noise as a way to make sense of the world. In this way our belief system can be said to project itself on the environment in a kind of feedback loop. Just like scientists who shape their research based on what they hope to find, modern technology has allowed our imaginations to invent Pentagons and Disneylands. The land itself, gouged into highways, strip malls, chemical plants and factory farms mirrors our fantasies and fears of what we can't control.

I think each of us have the fundamental responsibility as human beings to take responsibility and make judgments and act as wisely as possible to improve things one way or another. I see the general pattern of human society to be miserably sub-optimal and given all the various feedback loops that amplify stupidity and desperation, I don't see any very big opportunities for improvement. Nevertheless, the present possibilities include wonderful and delightful feedback loops of creativity, mutual enjoyment and wisdom. There's no more frontier and here we are at the edge of the greatest collapse yet. Maybe all we need is a culture that goes beyond civilization that will recover some elements of tribal life in the same way a realized master recovers some of the innocence and spontaneity of a child. Anything is possible.♡

Then again, maybe the fever hasn't finished with me yet.


okjimm said...

"count as a near death experience"

just saying, and all,..... but I have had TWO near death experiences....once when I got married and the other time when I got a divorce. These days I just live for a 'Near-a-beer' experience.

Anonymous said...

once i died on the operating table, and i've got to say there was nothing but black ... nothing... i sure hope that's not practice for the big one lol.. because there's definitely room for improvement there :)

susan said...

okjimm - and I'm guessing that's not near-beer either.. the stuff is nasty.

elaine - I had brain surgery to remove an aneurysm a few years ago and had a wild dream but no nde. I'm not sure the entertaining ones happen very often or there'd be more research but I think meditation is probably better practice.

Lisa said...

Thank you for always reminding me that we did not get here i a vacuum.

I'm sorry you're sick.

Now, it may have been fever or your ears might have been burning. Our family has started a new impromptu mural project and we were sitting around my little office last night admiring your art and discussing, in particular your borders. So if we are to blame, my apologies....

Sean Jeating said...

Excellent(ly written).
There is but one tiny point where I do disagree: Looking around, I do see many opportunities for improvement. :)
Get well soon, Susan.

linda said...

wow, i wouldn't want you as a mother when i was in trouble as a kid, which was often :) but how true and where are we going from here, nowhere but downhill is my guess...taking the disneyland train to nowhereville. did i really say that?

this is powerful and here you are sick too...ah well, this is a pretty miserable summation of our current pickle isn't it...and i was wondering what your little kids were doing in the painting, taking off for parts unknown, was my guess....reality aside, i love how you did the border and from my vantage point, i have no idea how you always achieve that softness, it almost looks like velvet to me with little flying hamburgers :) love it love it love it and now, get thee well, you have work to do! wish you lived closer, we could be in misery together over tea.

susan said...

lisa - Well, that's true and there are a whole bunch of bankers, policy makers and politicians who should be in prison. Things won't change until people stop blaming themselves.

I'm still in kind of disgusting shape if you consider coughing, sneezing, farting and belching to be a good description of that. The ears burning was on Saturday :-)

I'm glad you like my borders and happy you have such cool children and a mathman too :-)

sean - Thanks. I mostly think we can only improve ourselves and hopefully encourage others :-)

linda - I only mothered one and I guess he'd have to be the judge of my parenting skills but he's pretty cool and very old fashioned :-) I wasn't entirely sure the post made much sense when I finished it so I appreciate your vote of confidence.

I did the painting on Friday when I really couldn't see straight but the secret is underpainting and glazing. I like to see the kids as moving toward something better. I'd like to see us all moving toward something better and that includes our mutual health. Umm, I like tea :-)

Seraphine said...

In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proved or demonstrated but considered to be either self-evident, or subject to necessary decision. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other (theory dependent) truths. -Wikipedia

it's not as eloquently stated as your words. but you are right, we make sense of the world by what we "know," which sometimes contains a very narrow point of view.
i'm a believer that everything works out in the end: good balances bad in favor of good.
it may not be true, but the alternative belief that we are ultimately doomed is otherwise too depressing to contemplate.
revolutionary change rarely happens. positive change is most possible in the small, confident, profound things we do in our daily life.
get well soon susan.

MRMacrum said...

You have such an interesting and original way of looking at things. Feedback loop, fear of unknown - your post tweaked my synapses and got me moving in a different direction for awhile.

I wonder though that our inbred fear is not so much about the unknown or frontiers, but a fear of change. The one thing that is constant in our lives is change. I see most of the things we do as efforts to either forestall the change or hide from it.

Anyway, I enjoyed your thoughts this early AM as I woke to no coffee.

Spadoman said...

Glad you mentioned you had the fever, I was begining to worry.

Sorry you haven't been feeling too good. Seems like that crud has been going around and around forever. I know of someone who is sick every day. Get well soon.

People are mentioning your borders in their comments. I will mention them as well, again. They are as much the painting as the painting. I love them.

The Roman Empire didn't fall overnight. It took something like 300 years. Finally, some other empire, beat them down. But that is different than change. Our society will change and change again. I think the changes come quicker as technology changes.

I'm reading The Monkey wrench Gang these days. Edward Abbey's story about a few folks determined to keep the face of Mother Earth from being scarred by the roads and such stuff called progress. In my own opinion, I wonder why progress is measured in more of everything. I wonder why status quo isn't allright.

Peace, get well soon!

Spadoman said...

PS I was close to death a couple of times. I'll tell you about them sometime.

Liberality said...

Once I had the flu and during a very high fever had what some call a near death experience. I had recently left the church and hadn't thought about religion in any form but I had what is now called the classic near death experience. This was back in 1980 and I had never heard of such a thing. Some day I might blog about it.

I recently checked a book out of the library called "Bright-sided" by Barbara Ehrenreich. According to her, we are encouraged to stay positive and when bad things happen to us we are told to blame ourselves for not being optimistic enough. She thinks this is just another way to victim blame rather than change our social structures to be fairer for all. At least I think that's her premise.

I am conflicted about this premise and I read it to challenge myself. Buddhists believe we can vastly improve our own reality by how we react to our experiences and that negative experiences are our greatest teachers. I think this is true and I wonder how that will tie in with this book, if at all.
Sorry to read you got sick and hope you get well soon.

susan said...

sera - Maybe there'll be a revolution of consciousness one of these fine days but, like you, I won't be holding my breath. In fact holding ones breath and stopping our thoughts isn't what we're here for. At least I don't think that's the point. The problems we're seeing manifested is that people are encouraged to participate in mass hallucinations of scarcity and competition. I prefer words like effulgent and noumenon.

mrmacrum - I think you're right about our fear of change but more than anything else feelings of limitation like fear and anxiety are habits rather than rational reactions to real events. Sorry you missed your morning coffee.

spadoman - Thanks for the good thoughts. I promised to stay home today so I'm painting one that eventually may be worthy of a more complex border :-)

From what I remember reading the Roman Empire collapsed from within after they spread their military far too thin conquering nations far from their home. They also had very corrupt governments toward the end. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The Goths and the Visigoths arrived to do some damage in the aftermath.

The idea that progress is measured in more stuff to be purchased without regard to what is being destroyed in the process is definitely something I'd prefer seeing changed. It makes no sense that we throw so much away because something bought new a year ago is now hopelessly out of date and who ever came up with the idea of landfills? Was the land not already full in and of itself?

I'd be interested to hear your stories - as always.

liberality - I've read about nde's but haven't had one myself (thankfully) but I'd be interested to hear yours too.

I'm very fond of Barbara Ehrenreich and loved 'Nickle and Dimed' (how could you beat that one?) and 'Bait and Switch'. I haven't read the new one yet but have read some reviews of it and interviews with her. Like Carl Sagan she urges people to think critically rather than indulging in delusional wishful (or positive) thinking. The fact is that this society is a mess because too many people have swallowed the media propaganda that we inhabit a level playing field. Nothing could be further from the truth when there are safety nets for the uber-rich and none at all for the poor.

Remember that Buddhism arose in India in response to social injustice :-)

Seraphine said...

oh oh, you are going to make me get oout my dictionary, aren't you?
yes, holding one's breath for eternity isn't the optimal form of existence, so far as i know. but i like to be surprised sometimes.

Randal Graves said...

I think all we can do is be non-evil observers of the slow destruction of the machine. It's going to eat itself at some point.

Hoping you're feeling better!

Steve Emery said...

You know... to me it seems that your paintings and drawings are intensely personal. They are about personal experiences, dreams, relationships (often private relationships with animals), and perspectives. They seem to fit your remark here (so cogent) that the only thing we truly control is how we choose to see things. Though I guess even that would be up for debate...

Even the most cynical book of the Bible (The Book of Wisdom - with it's "Vanity of vanities - all is vanity," and "Life is so much striving after wind," and "There is nothing new under the sun,") extols the value of enjoying private moments with friends and loved ones. The author presents us with a life that was able to try EVERYTHING else, and realized in the end that only those simple pleasures last. A recipe for civilization? A recipe for personal happiness?

I hope you illness is truly and wholly gone now.

susan said...

sera - If you try to hold your breath is it better to take a deep one first or blow all the excess out? I think it's all a matter of whether we want to float or sink but it may be better to take the middle way so we have a choice. Of course, if we get tossed in at the deep end there's little time for planning.

randal - I think so too.. of both points.

steve - From my experience the most difficult task of all is figuring out how to make that choice. We have a lot of habits and prejudices to overcome before we can begin to see clearly and then it might just be through the tiniest spot on a glass that's easily obscured. As for my artwork being personal, isn't everybody's?

I think in the end that most people would agree we're happiest in private moments with close friends and family but some are very far away and some are gone forever. That means a search for permanence in the deeper regions of the heart and doing one's best to be kind to all we meet.

I had to go back to work but I am gradually feeling better and currently working on some paintings that take longer :-) Thanks for the good wishes.

Seraphine said...

i've always been a fan of inhaling more than i exhale. it sounds selfish, i know. holding things in seems easier than letting them out.
when in the deep end, being able to inhale almost anything other than water seems most desireable.

susan said...

sera - How could it be selfish when there's enough and more for everyone? Besides, the trees are glad to share. Hanging from the edge of a cliff, holding tight to a tuft of grass, would you reach for the wild strawberry? I like to imagine I would but I can't be sure.

Anonymous said...

you should see the absolutely decadent tank chair that i use for a computer chair, two of us can fit in it lol i love this chair, except that i often fall asleep in it like i'm 100 years old lol

Anonymous said...

you had brain surgery?? wow!!! i had a friend who did that to get rid of headaches, talk about a worse headache after!!! she wrote to me for help (spiritual) and i put her on the prayer chain in my dad's church, and God healed her.. Thank God, i'm glad yours went well, at least I'm assuming it did, glad you're here, and talented as ever :)

Seraphine said...

go for the strawberry
if it's the last thing you do.
you won't regret it.

Seraphine said...

you never hear anyone say big brown eyes creep them out.
i like them too.

susan said...

elaine - Chairs that comfortable are made to be fallen asleep in. In a way cuddling up in one is like being a child again.

Your friend must have had something weird in there causing the headaches for the doctors to think worth removing. I'm glad she's better now and I'm sure she was glad of the prayers.

sera - Yes, one last taste of a sun warmed berry would be a sweet end.. and perhaps a big pair of brown eyes waiting.