December 26, 2014

Insights from "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl

[Book Section 1 of 2: "Experiences in a Concentration Camp"]

-Book is an answer to: "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?
-Concerned not with the main figures, but of the xp. of the unknown and unrecorded victims.
-Capos: prisoner leaders; fed decently; often more brutal to reg. prisoners than the SS; demoted if "ineffective".
-Stripped of identity; known by number; prisoner numbers, not qualities mattered.
-Moral/ethical debate nonexistent, only the instinct to survive; only the most cutthroat saved themselves at the expense of others.
-"These former prisoners often say, 'We dislike talking about our experiences. No explanations are needed for those who have been inside, and the others will understand neither how we felt then nor how we feel now.'"
-Three phases: initial period of admission (into camp), distinguished by shock; the period when well entrenched in camp routine; the period following release/liberation.
-"Delusion of reprieve": condemned man has the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute.
-Consequential decisions (even life-and-death) treated with no regard or seriousness by the decision-makers.
-Stripped of any connection to former life; only had 'naked' existence.
-A grim humor developed (only thing that could now be taken was their life); affords an aloofness and ability to rise above any situation.
-A curiosity over the fate to be befallen; a objective detachment as a means of protection.
-The thought of suicide was widely entertained due in part to the hopelessness of the situation.
-The fear of death subsides after the first few days.
-"An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior."
-Entering the second phase, a "phase of relative apathy in which he achieved a kind of emotional death," a self-defense mechanism characterized by blunted feelings, unmoved by the suffering around him.
-"It is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all," that "hurts the most."
-Insult is more rousing of indignation than the cruelty or pain itself.
-"Regression" occurred in camp inmates - a retreat to a more primitive form of mental life, characterized by very simple wishes and desires.
-How helpful is it to dwell on imaginings of good food when you've adapted to poor food (applies to other things as well), "for the sake of knowing that the sub-human existence which had made us unable to think of anything other than food, would at last cease"; more harmful than helpful?
-" body, is really a corpse already"; great mass of human flesh behind barbed wire, crowded into a few huts, which rots daily because it has become lifeless.
-When in an austere environment, seemingly small decisions about how to deal with circumstances end up having a profound impact on a person's mental state and willpower.
-"The truth - that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. ...The salvation of man is through love and in love."
-"I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss.... In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way - an honorable way - in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."
-"Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance."
-The prisoner finds refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual poverty of his existence by escaping into the past, finding solace in nostalgic memories.
-An appreciation of the beauty of art and nature develops far more than ever before.
-Meaning is found in the smallest of significances.
-"...suffering completely fills (disperses through) the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little."
-In such difficult situations "a very trifling thing can cause the greatest of joys"; "grateful for the smallest of mercies".
-Comparisons of wellbeing and luck were strictly relative to the experience of the person making the comparisons.
-"Freedom from suffering" was the primary source of any relative 'happiness'.
-"Under the influence of a world which no longer recognized the value of human life and human dignity, which had robbed man of his will and had made him an object to be exterminated... under this influence the personal ego finally suffered a loss of values. If the man in the concentration camp did not struggle against this in a last effort to save his self-respect, he lost the feeling of being an individual, a being with a mind, with inner freedom and personal value."
-Resigned to fate, combined with a great apathy.
-Guilt at the idea of escaping the situation when all the others would not be able to.
-A continuous fluctuation between hope and despair in the last hours and days of captivity.
-"We all had once been or had fancied ourselves to be 'somebody.' Now we were treated like complete nonentities. ...Without consciously thinking about it, the average prisoner felt himself utterly degraded."
-"...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
-"...there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision... which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate."
-" the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally... any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him - mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity.... ...the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom - which cannot be taken away - that makes life meaningful and purposeful."
-"...there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man's attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces. ...not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete."
-"It was impossible to foresee whether or when, if at all, this form of existence would end. ...A man who could not see the end of his 'provisional existence' was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future...."
-"This feeling of lifelessness was intensified by other causes: in time, it was the limitlessness of the term of imprisonment which was most acutely felt; in space, the narrow limits of the prison. Anything outside the barbed wire became remote - out of reach and, in a way, unreal."
-"Regarding our 'provisional existence' as unreal was in itself an important factor in causing the prisoners to lose their hold on life; everything in a way became pointless."
-"One could make a victory of those experiences turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate...."
-"Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it."
-"The prisoner who had lost faith in the future - his future - was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay."
-Nietzsche: "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."
-"We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life.... Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct."
-"He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden."
-"When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life."
-"Not only our experiences, but all we have done, whatever great thoughts we may have had, and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it is past; we have brought it into being."
-"'Freedom' - we repeated to ourselves, and yet we could not grasp it. ...Its reality did not penetrate into our consciousness; we could not grasp the fact that freedom was ours. ...Everything appeared unreal, unlikely, as in a dream. We could not believe it was true."
-" one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them."
-"A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering has no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and still more intensely."
-"We were not hoping for happiness.... And yet we were not prepared for unhappiness."
-"...for every one of the liberated prisoners, the day comes when, looking back on his camp experiences, he can no longer understand how he endured it all. As the day of his liberation eventually came, when everything seemed to him like a beautiful dream, so also the day comes when all his camp experiences seem to him nothing but a nightmare."

December 24, 2014

A Word (or Two...) On the Truths Concerning Existence

[A Forward: from :
"We as conscious beings now have the opportunity to become aware of the truth of Life by way of reason, attention, and honest intention."]

Over the last several years, through exhaustive studies across a multitude of disciplines, I personally discovered real Truth of what God is and is not, about my world, and my self... purpose, meaning, the 'how it works' answers, and 'what it all means', by identifying and recognizing relevant macroscopic and microscopic patterns (e.g. observing fractal "self-similarity" being present in our universe {reference: Chaos Theory}) across a multitude of vary different types of systems and making a final leap--a leap I ultimately had to make with the help of a little bit of "intuition". Ironically, I also learned that all my intellectual toil was not necessary; all along I could have discovered truth through simple subjective, unanalyzed observation and simply 'knowing' (e.g. the Buddhist story about a man smiling, having attained "enlightenment", after a long period of meditating on a flower he sat before):

One Love Unites All; All is God and God is in all--not separate at all (reference: "pantheism"). Your Conscious Mental-State in the "Now"/"Present" Moment is an infinitesimal slice of the omniscient consciousness of God. Every Conscious Being is Both the Cause and Simultaneously the Result of the Universe Being Experienced/'Observed'. All Possible Configurations of the Universe Exist, Always & Forever, within an ∞ Manifold (Even though We are not Able to See it All from Our Limited Perspective as Human Beings). All Information is Saved--Never Lost--because It Always Existed and Always Will. "Past" and "Future" Always Exist--Just as Much as the Present Moment Does (it is Simply the Case that the Nature of Our Limited Consciousness Does Not Allow Us to Experience Anything but the "Present" at any Moment). Nothing Exists as "Physical" objects; Everything is a "Projection" of Universal Consciousness (reference: "panpsychism"), an ∞ Emanation of Light/Energy/Heat/Warmth/Love/Life into the ∞ Manifold of All Existence. Each of Us can Only See an Infinitesimally thin, singularly Unique, Slice of Existence. The State of the "Universe" is Unique to You at Any Given Moment. You Have "Free Will" Only in the Sense that, Subjectively, You Sense You Are "Navigating" which Particular Universe Will Unfold Before You 'this Time' through Your Subjective Perception that you are Choosing the Path that Unfolds Before You (Out of an ∞ Many Other Paths the Other "You's" Are Traveling); Objectively, from a Universal Frame of Reference, You Do Not Have Free Will because an ∞ number of Different Universes are Unfolding for Each of an ∞ Number of "You's." I Realize that I am in ∞ Synchrony/Interconnection with the Rest of Existence, as All Things Are with Each Other. The Purpose of Life (Universally Speaking) is to Be and Experience All Possibilities. Achieving the Ultimate Zenith of the Unification and Comprehension of All that is 'Knowable' (through Science, Philosophy/Logic, and "Spiritual" Experience)--or the Simplest, Thought-less Subjective Experience of the World--Either can Yield Equal Wisdom.

All conscious beings in the ∞ omniverse are experiencing one 'slice' at one particular scale of perspective along an infinitely-scalable dipolar spectrum ("Yin & Yang"); a spectrum that is ∞ in the "resolution" of its ∞ degrees and has ∞ scale, and yet is All/One Construct. Time is an illusion of an inherently ∞-limited perception, which is dependent upon the conscious neuro-sensory system that is experiencing its "world". The perception of the passage of time is different for each consciousness and is defined by the being's neurological resonance frequency at that moment (i.e. its neuro-sensory awareness "refresh rate"/"frames per second", to borrow from the modern lexicon).

Everything must exist relative to something else, by definition and the inherent necessity for geometric stability and self-consistency. The only thing that is 'real' or 'physical' in the world are the things your particular consciousness, at any given moment, is causally linked to through observation (reference: quantum mechanical effects of an observer on the things being observed). You are made of the same ∞, universal consciousness (reference: "panpsychism") that everything is bound together by. Your mental state right now, which is one configuration of conscious experience out of ∞ many that exist--your awareness and perception of the universe--is causally defined by everything you are observing at this very moment (including your memories of one particular past through your memory engrams, which are quantumly-entangled with that particular past--a lower resolution echo of the original).

All My Love & Peace My Brothers & Sisters; remember that what you do to others, you are literally doing unto your 'universal' "self".

Metaphysical Physics Propositions for Your Consideration

//Universal Quantum Entanglement?//
Since the universe began with the "Big Bang" in which all matter, energy, and space-time in the universe we see today were once infinitesimally adjacent and combined, would that not make it the case that all particles in the universe are quantumly entangled from that moment forward?  Since the nature of the "Big Bang," including the property of the "inflationary period," caused the even distribution of matter throughout the universe wherein any random pair of entangled particles could be on completely opposite sides of the universe, or anywhere within the boundaries of the universe, is it not the case that any particles observed by conscious beings throughout the universe would cause their entangled partners throughout the other areas of the universe to instantly take on a specific state?  If this is the case, the implication is that localized conscious observation has instantaneous effects on the behavior of matter in every region of the universe.

//The 3 Primary Qualities of the Universe and How they are Linked//
On macroscopic scales, there are three relatively distinct phenomenon of the universe: matter and energy (including dark matter and dark energy), space-time itself, and consciousness.  While they seem relatively distinct aspects of the universe from the vantage of the human scale, in truth, they are intimately interconnected to the point that they are actually indistinguishable from each other (meaning that there is no identifiable threshold of interaction between them where there is a significant, definable distinction between each of these three aspects of the universe).  Through what we call "forces" which are the ways in which matter and energy interact within the parameters of the innate properties of space-time's geometry, physicists have already well-established that these two aspects of the universe are completely interconnected and interrelated to each other, and can even be considered to constitute a unified structure or construct.  The unified nature of matter-energy and space-time has been identified and well-established on the macroscopic scale, including our understandings of the direct connection between the behavior of electromagnetism and motion relative to space-time, as well as the forces of gravity and dark energy and their direct effects on both the macroscopic behavior of matter-energy and the fabric of space-time throughout the entire universe, and also on the smallest of scales, including through our understandings of quantum mechanics.  But what of the relation between these two aspects of the universe and consciousness?

Because of what we know through quantum mechanics and verified experiments such as the two-slit experiment, we know that the act of observing any particular particle at any specific moment decides the particular location and/or vector for that particle.  Since, by definition, the act of observation requires a consciousness to be involved in the measurement process, it follows from our vast empirical evidence that consciousness directly effects the behavior of all matter-energy that is observed at any given region of space-time observable by a consciousness.  Therefore, consciousness is indistinguishably interconnected with the behavior of the matter-energy component of the universe.

As far as the interconnection of consciousness with space-time, we know through the theories of Special and General Relativity, which have been empirically proven repeatedly, that the movement of a conscious observer through space distorts space-time in specific ways, including that the observer must use exponentially increasing amounts of energy to continue accelerating as they come ever closer to the speed of light limit, which shows that the distortion of space-time is not just an external perception but a reality within their own frame of reference.  As modern physicists agree, there is not a universal frame of reference in space-time, only relative frames of reference from the point of view of individual observers.  It necessarily follows that consciousness and space-time are completely and indistinguishably interconnected.  To add one additional argument, which is a logically deductive one, involves the fact that a conscious observer can only observe one finite moment of space-time at any particular moment, which we call being in "the present."  The total pattern of brain and nervous system activity of a conscious being can only be in one specific state at any one instant in time.  That is why a consciousness can only experience one infinitesimal slice of space-time from moment to moment.  Now, consider that the total qualia experienced by that consciousness at a particular instant is a direct effect of the total interaction the entire universe's influences have had on that conscious being at that instant in time.  The exact conscious state of the observer and the exact state of the "observed" part of the universe are directly and completely co-dependent and interconnected.  If the observed universe were even slightly different, the pattern of the observer's conscious state would necessarily be slightly different, and vice-versa.  If an observer's conscious state were slightly altered, say by electrically stimulating a part of their brain, from what it otherwise would have been, then the universe would be in a slightly different state than would otherwise have been, because the person's observation of particles would have been slightly altered, thus altering the state the universe ended up being in at that precise moment.

To reiterate, with what we know from quantum mechanics, consciousness, which is the basis of the kind of observation that determines the particle-wave properties and locations of particles, directly determines the exact state of the observable universe at any instant in time, and that the exact state of the observer's universe directly determines the conscious state of the observer in that same instant in time.  In summary, the three seemingly unique aspects of the universe, space-time itself, matter-energy, and consciousness are not distinct from one another, but are instead completely interconnected and interrelated and all three can only be addressed as being along a smooth spectrum of what makes up the whole universe.

//An Infinite, Fractalinear Structure within the Omni/Multi-Verse?//
[If you are unfamiliar with the multi-verse interpretation that is strongly suggested by the findings of multiple major fields of study in physics (particularly in the ways in which they support the "many-worlds" interpretation through how these originally-segregated fields are now understood as complimenting one another supporting the same conclusion (that existence is a multi-verse within which our own universe is merely one small part), I suggest reviewing: .]

It is a reasonable conjecture that every time a blackhole forms, a new, "child" universe is born within the blackhole (the blackhole's singularity being the source of the "big-bang" for the child universe; the "arrow of time" is inverted within the blackhole's space-time geometry as compared with the "parent" universe) whose matter-energy content is determined and provided by the massive amount of matter-energy that is already present within and immediately surrounding the blackhole at the moment it is formed, and that everything the blackhole consumes in its "lifetime" continues to add to the total matter-energy content of the child universe, which is a likely explanation for the impetus (driving force) behind the accelerating cosmological expansion that cosmologists observe in our own universe and which physicists currently can only attribute to some mysterious anti-gravity force they have dubbed "dark energy." Since the blackhole / child universe is completely self-contained within the blackhole's infinitely curved space-time, the child universe is completely cut-off from the parent universe and any internal observer would be unable to directly observe that there is more to "existence" than just their own universe, and certainly unaware that their perception of the unidirectional flow of time is reversed as compared to their parent universe and their own child universes forming within their own.

//Quantum Neurology//
This is perfect for understanding how our perception of time and quantum computing power is derived.

"Cognitive System Level 1" (S1) Individual Neuronal Quantum Computing:
is the base layer of information processing in which individual neurons use the biological structure that's within each of their nuclei which permits basic quantum processing of incoming signals from other, physically connected neurons that results in useful/meaningful outgoing patterned signals to other neurons to which they are connected.

"Cognitive System Level 2" (S2) Subconscious Processing:
involves the subconscious processing by clusters of neurons (many of which have a particular type of information processing that is their specialty) in the brain that inherently maximize their collective processing power through the utilization of "parallel (entangled) quantum computing" with other neuronal clusters in order to determine the most relevant, therefore most useful information results to pass on to S3, which is selective in what incoming S2 information to pay attention to and consciously analyze, due to S3's inherently limited conscious capacity.

"Cognitive System Level 3" (S3) Conscious Awareness:
is the conscious, serial (temporally non-parallel), "active" thinking that serves to evaluate 'relevant' information passed to it by S2 sources, and initiates requests to S2 clusters to conduct additional, followup subconscious analyses.

//A Quantum Field Proposal//
There is a quantum "aether" (the Higg's Field?) through which information/matter-energy propagate, within which there is a constant distortion of the quantum probability fields/waveforms (QPFs) of individual particles, and consequently, that of the aggregate QPF fabric (the ether, which is actually just the overlapping, interacting QPF's of all matter-energy).

Relative velocity can be expressed as an elongation of the QPF relative to all the other QPFs, with the particle's median line of symmetry of its elongation coinciding with / being its velocity vector.

The inertial force experienced during acceleration (positive or negative) would therefore be the effect experienced by the changing geometry of a particle's QPF relative to all other QPFs.  Our classical physics view of inertia would therefore, in fact, be describing the property of QPFs to want to maintain their current geometry (as opposed to Newton's ideas of "at rest" and "in motion," which are clearly arbitrary notions given the relativistic nature of the universe.  In other words, the underlying nature of relative inertial frames of reference and the transference of information/matter-energy between particle-waves (certainly the ones that have "mass") is the aggregate influences of all particles' QPFs on one another.  "Friction" can perhaps by seen as being the result of the QPFs of the various particles involved becoming partially entwined geometrically, causing inter-particle resistances to changes in the individual particles' momentums.

The reason matter can never achieve absolute zero is because that would result in an infinitesimal, 1-dimensional QPF and the particle would then cease to have a past or future, which would require suspending the law of causality and the law of conservation of information.  This is because changing the energy level of a system of particle, or altering the "temperature" if you prefer, has the effect of expanding and shrinking the QPF for each particle in the system.

Perhaps, some of the odd effects of Special Relativity, such as relativistic compression of space-time dependent on relative velocity, as well the exponentially increasing energy demand required to maintain a constant acceleration as one approaches the speed of light, can be better comprehended as an increasingly elongated quantum probability field that is approaching a maximum geometrical limit.

The quantum probability field (QPF) of a particle-wave does not "collapse" into a specific state, location, and/or velocity upon observation, but continues to exist as a probability field/wave during and after observation, but beyond our ability to perceive from our particular frame of reference at the moment of observation.  That of course means that conscious beings are only experiencing one infinitesimal "slice" of the QPF "halo." There is amble support in the physics community for this interpretation of conscious perception of a universe that is, at all times from our individual perspective, fully and specifically defined (reduced to) one particular "state."  This perception cannot be used a premise in arguing that there are not an infinite number of states behind our consciousness' "field-of-view."

In the two-slit experiment--as classically setup, with one photon at a time and the placement of a photon detector before the placard with the two slits--the photons start to behave like "particles" over time (instead as "waves" over time) if and when a chain of causally-defined events (or alternatively, "space-time cross-section") link a conscious perception with the photon's existence. Everything on the future side of that moment/point of observation is perceived as 'defined' (as limited by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) only for each particular conscious observer. In other words, the truth is that matter-energy, space-time, and "forces" are simply the consciously perceived aspects of the aggregate QPF waveform rippling, flowing, and distorting over time, and a consciousness is both the creator of the future it will experience, over time, and the conscious observer's "present" is uniquely defined by the observer's past "observations," over time. Your "now" is the conscious perception of only an infinitesimal cross-section of a timeless, infinitely complex waveform.

Debunking the Myth of Cannabis Contributing to Mental Illness

(Originally posted on October 5, 2011 at 12:55 am)

[The following excerpts are from "Debunking the Myth of a Link Between Marijuana and Mental Illness" by Paul Armentano, Deputy Director, NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).]

"...less than 24-hours after the shooting [of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and 18 others,] former George W. Bush speech-writer David Frum posed the question, 'Did pot trigger the Giffords shooting?' to which the longtime conservative commentator answers, 'Increasingly, experts seem to be saying "yes."' month later... the mainstream media highlighted a report in 'The Archives of General Psychiatry' purporting to have linked marijuana use with psychosis.

...In truth, the supposed new 'study' contained no new findings at all.

...'There are no new data. I want to emphasize that. This is a meta-analysis, which means it (reviews) the studies that were already out there,' SUNY Albany psychology professor Mitcch Earleywine, author of the book Understanding Marijuana; A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, explained.... 'What you're not hearing in the media is that, in fact, this (reported association) is probably early-onset folks self-medicating (with cannabis).'

There are several published reports to back up Earleywine's suspicion. For instance, a 2005 study of 1,500 subjects that appeared in the scientific journal 'Addiction' reported that the development of 'psychotic symptoms in those who had never used cannabis before the onset of (such) symptoms ... predicted future cannabis use.' [A large portion of the study population (with no prior history of cannabis use) began to use cannabis after the onset of psychotic symptoms, in most cases to treat the symptoms of mental illness, since cannabinoids offer mind-calming and mood-elevating properties without being physiologically (biochemically) addictive.]

[The human body is equipped with a vast number of endo-cannabinoid receptors throughout most of its tissues. Endo-cannabinoids are created naturally by our bodies and are a necessary component for the optimal functioning of those tissues. Both endo-cannabinoids (those self-produced within animals) and photo-cannabinoids (those produced by particular plant species) do not act upon the dopamine system of the brain, like most "addictive" drugs do (e.g. caffeine, alcohol, a dozen or so byproducts of tobacco combustion, opiates, methamphetamines, heroine, etc); hence cannabis' very limited "habit-forming" potential. In fact, coffee is more physiologically (biochemically) addictive. From a psychological viewpoint, cannabis use can become a habit, though that should not be surprising since users of cannabis recognize and appreciate that they are getting very effective physical and psychological medicinal benefits, which are far broader in their potential applications to a variety of medical conditions than any standard medication on the market—without the negative side-effects that commonly accompany standard medications.]

Other studies reinforcing Earleywine's 'self-medication' theory include a 2008 study published in the 'International Journal of Mental Health Nursing', which found that schizophrenics typically report using cannabis to reduce anxiety and 'improve their mental state.' Marijuana use has also been associated with clinically objective benefits in some schizophrenics. Recently, a 2010 report in the journal 'Schizophrenia Research' found that schizophrenic patients with a history of cannabis use demonstrate higher levels of cognitive performance compared to nonusers. Researchers in that study concluded, 'The results of the present analysis suggest that (cannabis use) in patients with SZ (schizophrenia) is associated with better performance on measures of processing speed and verbal skills. These data are consistent with prior reports indicating that SZ patients with a history of (cannabis use) have less severe cognitive deficits than SZ patients without comorbid (cannabis use).'

A 2011 meta-analysis published online by the journal 'Schizophrenia Research' also affirmed that schizophrenics with a history of cannabis use demonstrate 'superior neurocognitive performance' compared to non-users. Investigators at the University of Toronto, Institute of Medical Sciences reviewed eight separate studies assessing the impact of marijuana consumption on cognition, executive function, learning, and working memory in schizophrenic subjects. Researchers determined that the results of each of the performance measurements suggested 'superior cognitive functioning in cannabis-using patients as compared to non-using patients.'

...Other clinical literature also casts doubt on Large's claim that marijuana use accelerates mental illness. In a study published last year, a team that included researchers affiliated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yale University, and the National Institue of Mental Health assessed whether lifetime [cannabis] use was associated with an earlier age of onset of symptoms in schizophrenic patients. They concluded, 'Although cannabis use precedes the onset of illness in most patients, there was no significant association between onset of illness and (cannabis use) that was not accounted for by demographic and clinical variables.'

The researchers also criticized the findings of previously published studies that purported to have uncovered a "pot trigger" for mental illness. 'Previous studies implicating cannabis use disorders in schizophrenia may need to more comprehensively assess the relationship between cannabis use disorders and schizophrenia.'

...authors of a 2009 study published in "Schizophrenia Research" said definitively that increased cannabis use by the public has not been followed by a proportional rise in diagnoses of schizophrenia or psychosis. Investigators at the Keele University Medical School in Britain compared trands in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Researchers reported that the 'incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining' during this period, even though the use of cannabis among the general population was rising.

...'The expected rise in diagnoses of schizophrenia and psychoses did not occur over a 10 year period,' they concluded. 'This study does not therefore support the specific causal link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders. ...this concurs with other reports....'

[Regardless,] health risks connected with drug use--when scientifically documented--should not be seen as legitimate reasons for criminal prohibition, but instead, as reasons for legal regulation [similar to regulation of alcohol because of its adverse health effects]. ...drug warriors' fear-mongering surrounding the issue of marijuana and mental health does little to advance the cause of tightening prohibition, and provides ample ammunition to wage for its repeal."

[Copyright Notice: The use of these excerpts are protected from copyright censor under the Fair-Use provisions of copyright law (17 U.S.C. § 107), because their use herein is strictly noncommercial and is for educational purposes only.]

{For a personal account of how medicinal use of cannabis alleviated my combat-induced PTSD and anxiety disorders, download the article the publication "NW Leaf" did on me for their January 2012 issue.  [©"NW Leaf" - 2012.  Used with permission.]}

December 19, 2014

Some Perspective on "Knowledge"

//Excerpts from:
"On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense"
("Über Wahrheit und Lüge im außermoralischen Sinn") — Friedrich Nietzsche (1873)//

"Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of "world history," but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened...

"The pride connected with knowing and sensing lies like a blinding fog over the eyes and senses of men, thus deceiving them concerning the value of existence. For this pride contains within itself the most flattering estimation of the value of knowing. Deception is the most general effect of such pride, but even its most particular effects contain within themselves something of the same deceitful character...

"Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendor, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself — in short, a continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity — is so much the rule and the law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among them. They are deeply immersed in illusions and in dream images; their eyes merely glide over the surface of things and see 'forms.'

"...What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him — even concerning his own body — in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers!

"...The liar is a person who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real. He says, for example, "I am rich," when the proper designation for his condition would be "poor." He misuses fixed conventions by means of arbitrary substitutions or even reversals of names. If he does this in a selfish and moreover harmful manner, society will cease to trust him and will thereby exclude him. What men avoid by excluding the liar is not so much being defrauded as it is being harmed by means of fraud. Thus, even at this stage, what they hate is basically not deception itself, but rather the unpleasant, hated consequences of certain sorts of deception. It is in a similarly restricted sense that man now wants nothing but truth: he desires the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth. He is indifferent toward pure knowledge which has no consequences; toward those truths, which are possibly harmful and destructive, he is even hostilely inclined.

"...Are designations congruent with things? Is language the adequate expression of all realities?

It is only by means of forgetfulness that man can ever reach the point of fancying himself to possess a "truth" of the grade just indicated. If he will not be satisfied with truth in the form of tautology, that is to say, if he will not be content with empty husks, then he will always exchange truths for illusions.

"...The various languages placed side by side show that with words it is never a question of truth, never a question of adequate expression; otherwise, there would not be so many languages. The "thing in itself" (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for. This creator only designates the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors. To begin with, a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image: first metaphor. The image, in turn, is imitated in a sound: second metaphor. And each time there is a complete overleaping of one sphere, right into the middle of an entirely new and different one...

"We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things — metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities...

"Every word instantly becomes a concept precisely insofar as it is not supposed to serve as a reminder of the unique and entirely individual original experience to which it owes its origin; but rather, a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases — which means, purely and simply, cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal. Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things. Just as it is certain that one leaf is never totally the same as another, so it is certain that the concept "leaf" is formed by arbitrarily discarding these individual differences and by forgetting the distinguishing aspects.

"...We obtain the concept, as we do the form, by overlooking what is individual and actual; whereas nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts, and likewise with no species, but only with an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us...

"What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions — they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins...

"We still do not yet know where the drive for truth comes from. For so far we have heard only of the duty which society imposes in order to exist: to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors. Thus, to express it morally, this is the duty to lie according to a fixed convention, to lie with the herd and in a manner binding upon everyone. Now man of course forgets that this is the way things stand for him. Thus he lies in the manner indicated, unconsciously and in accordance with habits which are centuries' old; and precisely by means of this unconsciousness and forgetfulness he arrives at his sense of truth...

"The venerability, reliability, and utility of truth is something which a person demonstrates for himself from the contrast with the liar, whom no one trusts and everyone excludes. As a "rational" being, he now places his behavior under the control of abstractions. He will no longer tolerate being carried away by sudden impressions, by intuitions...

"Everything which distinguishes man from the animals depends upon this ability to volatilize perceptual metaphors in a schema, and thus to dissolve an image into a concept. For something is possible in the realm of these schemata which could never be achieved with the vivid first impressions: the construction of a pyramidal order according to castes and degrees, the creation of a new world of laws, privileges, subordinations, and clearly marked boundaries — a new world, one which now confronts that other vivid world of first impressions as more solid, more universal, better known, and more human than the immediately perceived world, and thus as the regulative and imperative world...

"One may certainly admire man as a mighty genius of construction, who succeeds in piling an infinitely complicated dome of concepts upon an unstable foundation, and, as it were, on running water. Of course, in order to be supported by such a foundation, his construction must be like one constructed of spiders' webs: delicate enough to be carried along by the waves, strong enough not to be blown apart by every wind...

"As a genius of construction man raises himself far above the bee in the following way: whereas the bee builds with wax that he gathers from nature, man builds with the far more delicate conceptual material which he first has to manufacture from himself.

"...When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding "truth" within the realm of reason. If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare "look, a mammal' I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value. That is to say, it is a thoroughly anthropomorphic truth which contains not a single point which would be "true in itself" or really and universally valid apart from man. At bottom, what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man...

"Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor can one live with any repose, security, and consistency: only by means of the petrification and coagulation of a mass of images which originally streamed from the primal faculty of human imagination like a fiery liquid, only in the invincible faith that this sun, this window, this table is a truth in itself, in short, only by forgetting that he himself is an artistically creating subject, does man live with any repose, security, and consistency. If but for an instant he could escape from the prison walls of this faith, his "self consciousness" would be immediately destroyed. It is even a difficult thing for him to admit to himself that the insect or the bird perceives an entirely different world from the one that man does, and that the question of which of these perceptions of the world is the more correct one is quite meaningless, for this would have to have been decided previously in accordance with the criterion of the correct perception, which means, in accordance with a criterion which is not available...

"Between two absolutely different spheres, as between subject and object, there is no causality, no correctness, and no expression; there is, at most, an aesthetic relation: I mean, a suggestive transference, a stammering translation into a completely foreign tongue — for which there is required, in any case, a freely inventive intermediate sphere and mediating force. "Appearance" is a word that contains many temptations, which is why I avoid it as much as possible. For it is not true that the essence of things "appears" in the empirical world. A painter without hands who wished to express in song the picture before his mind would, by means of this substitution of spheres, still reveal more about the essence of things than does the empirical world. Even the relationship of a nerve stimulus to the generated image is not a necessary one. But when the same image has been generated millions of times and has been handed down for many generations and finally appears on the same occasion every time for all mankind, then it acquires at last the same meaning for men it would have if it were the sole necessary image and if the relationship of the original nerve stimulus to the generated image were a strictly causal one. In the same manner, an eternally repeated dream would certainly be felt and judged to be reality. But the hardening and congealing of a metaphor guarantees absolutely nothing concerning its necessity and exclusive justification...

"If each of us had a different kind of sense perception — if we could only perceive things now as a bird, now as a worm, now as a plant, or if one of us saw a stimulus as red, another as blue, while a third even heard the same stimulus as a sound — then no one would speak of such a regularity of nature, rather, nature would be grasped only as a creation which is subjective in the highest degree. After all, what is a law of nature as such for us? We are not acquainted with it in itself, but only with its effects, which means in its relation to other laws of nature — which, in turn, are known to us only as sums of relations. Therefore all these relations always refer again to others and are thoroughly incomprehensible to us in their essence...

"We produce these representations in and from ourselves with the same necessity with which the spider spins. If we are forced to comprehend all things only under these forms, then it ceases to be amazing that in all things we actually comprehend nothing but these forms. For they must all bear within themselves the laws of number, and it is precisely number which is most astonishing in things. All that conformity to law, which impresses us so much in the movement of the stars and in chemical processes, coincides at bottom with those properties which we bring to things. Thus it is we who impress ourselves in this way."

December 17, 2014

A Few Thoughts Concerning the Human Condition

//Society and the Impact of Selflessness vs. Selfishness of Individuals//
Institutionalized human morality, in all areas of social life, is ultimately rooted in and defined by the need to inhibit the aggregated impact of the self-centric intentions and impulses of all the individuals that fall within the societal framework.  Does a person knowingly act to achieve personal gain at the expense of others, or does a person seek to achieve personal growth by making the struggles of others partly their own, and investing in the betterment of all, for the sake of all?  Is it not true that building a network of true friends through a well-meaning and steady application of selfless behavior brings lasting flexibility, strength, and happiness to one's life, whereas creating a network of people that are distrustful of you, through deliberately selfish behavior, begets fleeting gain and a lasting counter-effort of those wronged, whom always prevail over the selfish individual in the end? Only a dedicated effort on the part of every individual towards genuinely appreciating others and the benefits of the diversity that exists amongst us all, faithful application of active listening, proactive, routine, deep reflection about one's self and their social environment that leads to true insights, making a consistent effort to apply those insights to maximize the benefit of all, being actively compassionate and forgiving, and having a willingness to consistently establish truly well-intentioned relations with others can bring forth lasting balance, peace, and happiness throughout all of society.  Is it not then in all of our own self interest to be selfless in our interactions with others and our collective social institutions? Perhaps most people lean towards selfishness because the idea that being selfless is more beneficial to themselves than being self-centered appears paradoxical, or at least counterintuitive.

//Human Perspective//
It is just incredible how self-centric humans tend to be, and how much unnecessary suffering results because of it. We are capable of so much more than we have already accomplished thus far as a civilization, because of this tendency towards self-centric thinking in the individual. Even after my perspective widened exponentially over the last several years, I still find it difficult at times to avoid self-centric thinking, but it is easier to do once you let your self accept that you are a very, very small part of a much grander picture.

Our Milky Way galaxy alone is so large it takes light, traveling at 186,000 miles/sec, 100,000-120,000 years to cross from one point on the edge of it, through the center, to the opposite edge. As a guide to the relative physical scale of the Milky Way, if it were reduced to 100 meters in diameter, the Solar System, including the hypothesized Oort cloud, would be no more than 1 mm in width, about the size of a grain of sand.  There are between 100-400 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and contains at least 100 billion planets. On November 4, 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the "habitable zones" of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs within the Milky Way Galaxy. 11 billion of these estimated planets may be orbiting sun-like stars. The oldest known star in the Milky Way is at least 13.82 billion years old and thus must have formed shortly after the Big Bang.

The Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy (the nearest galaxy to ours) are a binary system of giant spiral galaxies belonging to a group of 50 closely bound galaxies known as the Local Group, itself being part of the Virgo Supercluster (containing at least 100 galaxy groups and clusters within its diameter of 110 million light-years), which is itself a subcomponent of the Laniakea Supercluster (consisting of 100,000 galaxies stretched out over 520 megalight-years).

3 Solar Interstellar Neighborhood (ELitU)
5 Local Galactic Group (ELitU)
6 Virgo Supercluster (ELitU)

Just in the part of the universe we can see, there are over 100 billion galaxies and the approximate diameter of the known universe is 92 billion light-years. The diagrams below help the average person to understand how small we really are and how beautifully vast our universe is; and there are many very good reasons to believe that our known universe is just the very tip of the iceberg.

CMB Timeline300 no WMAP

So how many stars total in the visible universe?
About 10 octillion stars (10 trillion billion stars).  Writing that out gives us: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  Care to start counting from "1"?  Each star system has a chance at harboring life.  Honestly ask yourself: what are the chances that we are the only intelligent life in all the universe?  There is no rational basis to think of our own self or civilization as being especially "special."  We are all interconnected with the rest of our incomprehensibly vast and diverse cosmos, and we ALL ought to start thinking and acting like it as we proceed on with our lives.

//Choosing Our Path//
Life really is an incomprehensibly vast ocean of possibility. We each are merely, drifting consciousnesses, floating independently along paths of our choosing. Occasionally, they cross paths in meaningful ways. More rarely, a couple choose to abandon the independent path they would otherwise have taken, and take a risk that the path and circumstances of the journey that they agree to share together will provide greater fulfillment and happiness.  Yet, no matter the path we currently travel, we must always remember that there are an infinite many others we can choose to follow if we find our current one becoming stale or untenable....

"Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you… Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and your self alone, one question… Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use." — Carlos Castaneda (The Teachings of Don Juan)