A Brief Glimpse of my Neurosis and the Nature of Evolution

I have always been curious about how the mind works. Since I only have direct access to mine, I have spent a lot of time over the years watching it. Meditation has definitely helped in this regard. For the most part, it’s a fairly banal bit of business, but occasionally it does something interesting. I’ve noticed this mostly happens when I have an “Ah-hah!” moment. Usually, this occurs when a problem I have been ruminating on for some time finally moves a bit forward. One of those leaps happened today.

The ah-ha moment I got to witness today has to do with a couple of things that Buckminster Fuller, Ray Kurzweil, and Terence McKenna have in common. They actually have a lot in common, but the two things that are important here is that they all had some very interesting notions about the acceleration nature of time and evolution and that they all happen to be people whose work I admire (and hence have studied.) Buckminster Fuller was famous for carrying with him a set of charts which showed the accelerating curves of a number of areas of human development. Ray Kurzweil, in his book “The Singularity is Near”, features a number of these type of charts especially focused on the accelerating development of computing power, while also showing the trend to decrease in pricing and size of said computing power over time. Terence McKenna talked about this tendency of evolution accelerating in his work on novelty theory, and his time wave zero model of time. These three deep thinkers (along with many others) have noted that the amount of change over a given period of time is accelerating. As an example I’ve talked about before, if you take the amount of information available to humanity as a whole in the year 0 AD as one unit, the amount of information humanity has doubled by the year 1500. It doubled again in 1750, then again in 1900, and again in 1950, etc. As you can plainly see the rate of accumulation of information (new discoveries, sparks of genius, fresh fields of research, etc.) is plainly accelerating.

Several mathematicians have worked on this notion as well. A pair of them calculated that by around noon on June 12th, 2012 there would be an invention on the order of the wheel, the mastery of fire, the creation of the printing press, or the development of the Internet, happening every second, and that new invention would have been propagating into general use by the human species as a whole the next second. Not only do I have no idea what that would look like, it also does not seem to have occurred. Similarly, Terence McKenna showed mathematically that on December 21st, 2012 the amount of evolution that has happened since the big bang would happen in one seconds time, and all of that evolution would happen again int the next pico-second, etc. He called this the collision of our reality with the transcendental object at the end of time. Again, I have no idea what that would mean, and again it does not seem to have happened.

All of these thinkers were quite brilliant, and their math seems to hold up. So, what happened? That’s the very problem my brain has been chewing over for the last five years. Normally when a problem like this clicks it’s because another notion collides with the first. That’s what happened. It went like this: I was watching Red Dwarf (one my favorite science fiction series) on my iPhone. I got up to go to the restroom, paused the show and stuck it in my pocket. The thought came to me, “How amazing that in my lifetime TVs have gone from back breaking cubes with bad black and white pictures to something I can keep in my pocket. Hmm, why can’t I fit an oven in my pocket? Ovens have been around for longer than TVs. What’s the difference?” What came to me was information. Information is the difference between a TV and an oven. A TV is (to a large degree) all about transmitting information. An oven is about physical material, and the transformation of physical material. That was where the second notion came in.

Most of the major traditions of contemplation on the nature of existence have some form of a “ladder of existence.” The Hindu traditions breaks it down (basically) into the gross, subtle, and causal realms. One way to think of this is that the gross realm is the waking world or rocks and trees. The subtle realm is the dreaming world of ideas, emotions, and thoughts. The causal realm is the deep dreamless sleep world of being without form. This conceptual framework collided with the theory of accelerating change over time which led to my ah-hah moment.

The material world which ovens play in is the gross realm on the ladder of existence. The information world of TV is mostly in the subtle realm. So, rather than thinking of evolution as one thing, what if we think of it as a multi-faceted affair. Some of it is material, and it obeys the rules of that realm. Some of it is informational, and it obeys the rules of the subtle world. Perhaps then what is happening with the fact that there seems to be a slow down in the speed of progress has run into a limit in the material realm. Perhaps material evolution cannot go any faster than it currently is. The informational portion of evolution may still be accelerating as it always has, but now with the drag factor of the “material evolution speed barrier.”

Of course, this is a new notion for me, and I am sure it will lead me to more areas of research and study, but it may be that I am on to something. It’s likely an old notion to other people out there. However, this moment is an example of when such a moment of insight happens to an individual.

Anyway, that’s how things happen inside my whacked out brain.

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Throwing a Wrench in the Witness

More gems from the book, “F*ck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way.” I’ve been working very consciously with the five tips expounded on in chapter 2. They are Relaxing, Letting Go, Accepting, Watching Impartially, and Conscious Breathing. I have been paying particular attention to these tips during my daily meditation practice. The “Watching Impartially” tip has lead to a bit of a breakthrough. This concept is often referred to as the witness (as I am sure you are all aware). There is a feature of the witness that is called out on the spiritual path as a stumbling block or conundrum. That conundrum is the phenomenon of the infinite regress that can come from standing (or sitting) as the witness. The root idea of the witness is often stated as, “That which you see, you cannot be.” Because whatever it is that you see, you saw it. The issue is that you can then become aware that you witnessed it, which means you witnessed the witnessing, so that cannot be you, and the regress cranks up.

What hit home for me was the word “impartially” in the Fuck It tip of “Watching Impartially.” That distinction drove home in a deep way the “not me” portion of witnessing. It appears that there are at least two things powering the infinite regress of witnessing. One is the simple circular logic of it. The other is identification as the one having the thought, “I witnessed X.” The logic part can be handled by the recognition in logic that any infinite regress is invalid. The impartiality helped me grok the trouble of identification. I sat watching impartially, the witness regress started up, and then the notion came up, “Whew! I’m glad that’s not me doing all that spinning.” Then, of course, that notion got pulled into the regress by witnessing that I had witnessed my gratitude of not identifying, but the power of the thing dropped dramatically. As I sat there smiling, relaxed, accepting, letting go, breathing, and watching, the loop of thought slowly faded away. It was free to do what it wanted, just like the sounds of the room, and the feelings of the body, because they were not me.

These days when I have a breakthrough I almost always see the teasing of that breakthrough that has been going on for some time. This was no different. But, I find it very useful to make note of what happens that crystallizes these breakthroughs so that they can really sink in.

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Meditation is Not About Getting Better at Meditation

It’s basic human nature to want to do something important well. If we have a job to do, we like to do it in a way we can be proud of. If we are making something, we want it to turn out well. Not only that but the next time we make something we want it to be even better. Humans like their endeavors to mature. That’s a good thing.

However, the drive to improve can prove a distraction, or even an impediment, in accomplishing what we are doing. Writing for example; one of the frequent pieces of advice a young writer gets is to not edit as they write. Instead, forward momentum should be preserved at all costs. Edits can be taken care of later. Spending too much time getting every single word just so will cripple your creative flow. (By the way, while writing this example I stopped to edit typos about seventeen times. That is a HUGE improvement from when I started writing as a form of expression over a decade ago. So it goes.)

In just this way, a focus on meditating better can easily derail meditation itself. Meditation is about being right where you are and letting right where you are show up however it happens to. As you can easily see, being right where you are while trying to be better at being right where you are is not meditation. It’s practicing meditation. That is not a bad thing, and it is inevitable. There is nothing wrong with getting better at meditating. My suggestion though would be to keep that to a minimum. That way you can get some of the benefits of actual meditation. Which is why you sat down in the first place, yes?

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