Sometimes, the world feels like a completely preposterous, utterly ridiculous lie.

And ironically, that’s one of the truest things that has ever crossed my mind.

41 thoughts on “Musings

    • The idea that matter and energy expanded billions of years ago from some unknown cause when gravity was too dense for time to exist and hence causality wasn’t allowed to either, and then the condensing of all things into gas clouds and stars which then exploded and eventually formed into all of life on Earth to me is ridiculous. And yet we can build machines and make sound assumptions that work off this theory, so the weight of evidence indicates it’s true.

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    • But what’s truth? We have weight of scientific evidence indicating certain things are true, but they still fail to present a comprehensive model of reality. I think what’s better is to work with what’s in front of you, and be ready to change your fundamental assumptions if the weight of functional evidence begins to contradict them.

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  1. By “the world” do you mean the human social world or the world of nature as well? While I know that you are coming at things from a Buddhist perspective, this is a key question in Christian thinking. There is advice to not get caught up in the things of “the world”. I would take this to mean the social world which is a hierarchical structure built from lies and a false sense of the worth of things. This is only because we have departed from our instinctive connection to nature, displacing our love for each other into status and material possessions. But supernaturalist Christians might include nature as part of “the world” that is to be kept at a distance, because they are trying to depart from the sick social world, not into a healthy relationship with nature (including their own nature), but into a mystical dead end which is arguably the biggest lie of all.

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    • I mean physical reality—the weight of evidence with which we can build machines and make functional assumptions off of seems to indicate that billions of years ago, an expansion of matter and light without cause (no time existed back then, so neither did causality) iterated into gas clouds, exploding stars, and eventually life as we know it. To me that’s crazy, and yet the weight of scientific evidence seems to indicate that it’s true, and that assumptions we make from that premise will hold up.

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      • I would say that nature is real, but our ability to explain it is limited. As they say : “The map is not the territory.” We have models which work as far as we have tested them, but we are always finding limits and needing to change those models. What we think matter is now is not what we thought matter was a couple of hundred years ago, and in another couple of hundred years we may know that it isn’t what we think it is now.

        And “crazy” is a relative term. Something only seems crazy because it doesn’t accord with our preconceptions, but if our preconceptions don’t accord with reality, then it is those preconceptions which are the real insanity.

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      • I honestly don’t even know if I’m real. I don’t know if when I die, a VR helmet will be lifted off a head I don’t know and entities will ask if I liked playing that game of Kent, and which one do I want to play next.

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      • It might depend on what you mean by “I” and what you mean by “real”. If an experience is being had which labels itself with your name, then that is the solidest grounding you have. Even if it were to become clear that Kent is an avatar in a computer game, that would simply mean recognising that “you” are really the person playing that game and may, perhaps, play other games. And I think this is true, because our persona is a construct which doesn’t constitute the nature of the “I” behind it. Personally I think the “I” behind our persona is the collective consciousness of the universe, i.e. “God”. Remove the specifics of body, thought, memory, etc., and all consciousness is the same.

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      • Maybe so, maybe not. I think even if that’s true, even if there’s an all-powerful, all-knowing consciousness behind phenomena, then it doesn’t need us to defend it or even acknowledge it. It doesn’t need anything from us, I believe, if it exists. So that leaves me to do the best I can with what’s in front of me. And that course of action, for me, sufficiently covers all cases, whether there’s a god or a not.

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      • I haven’t tried it myself, but some set out to see if they can have a more direct experience of that substrate, as it manifests itself in consciousness, through the use of psychedelics. It does seem likely that reality is far more wonderful and awe-inspiring than our narrow minds can conceive of.

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      • I have—I’ve taken a heroic dose of DMT and was given visceral confirmation of every mystical premise underlying existence. Because of the sheer strength of that experience, I became agnostic; I realized that if that thing I merged with actually exists, then it doesn’t need me to defend or evangelize it, or even believe in it. If that thing exists, I will return to it no matter what, and in the end, my life is a “no lose” game. In the meantime, however, I’ll address the problems in front of me, making my immediate experience as fulfilling as possible. The whole question of an existential substrate became moot when I realized how powerful and undeniably capable it was (if my experience was real.)


      • I think that’s the key point. It doesn’t need us, but we may benefit from working with it rather than against it. I’m not a religious person and never have been. Religion, it seems to me, is about imposing dogma and discipline upon our nature. It makes more sense to seek to connect with the source of life, love and creativity in our nature and go with its flow where that is possible. We can see the example in natural ecosystems. Nature doesn’t need an individual bee, but the individual bee will lose the benefits of nature and die if he doesn’t follow the instinct within him which makes him a creative participant in nature. Worshipping nature won’t do him any good. And believing that another bee died to free him of his sins won’t do him any good. All that will work for him is to participate in the larger system which supports him and gives him meaning.

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      • Okay, but I actually think selectively imposing discipline upon our animal aspects hews to a deeper aspect of our nature. We seem to be unique among biological organisms; we aren’t purely reactive, we can bargain with the future by delaying immediate gratification, and attempt to amplify positive outcomes by orders of magnitude. Using inductive reasoning, we can hold ourselves accountable and refrain from glutting our bodies with toxic substances or use them in healthy moderation, or we can refrain from killing someone in the heat of an argument, even though it might feel immediately gratifying. I actually think the premise of declaring something “natural” is erroneous; the evidence seems to state that all configurations of matter came from exploding stars, so by default, all is natural, meaning that’s a fallacious way to quantify worth. A better way in my opinion, is examining things context by context, and using any evidence available to justify the best course of action. What may seem “extreme” or “unnatural” may be entirely appropriate, given the context. It all narrows down to what I consider the fundamentals: if you have the time, quality-check your observation with inductive reasoning, and do the best with what’s in front of you.

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      • Sure, the relationship between our primary instincts and the discipline we impose on them is not simple, especially since that discipline can channel them into secondary drives which absolutely need to be disciplined. Our dark side is a product of just such a negative feedback loop. And it no doubt arose as a side effect of our capacity for reasoning.

        It seems likely that our primary instinct, like that of our closest relatives the bonobos, is an orientation to loving community and the sharing of healthy bodily pleasure in a way which encourages social bonding. (Chimpanzees are different. They are competitive, hierarchical and patriarchal, which accords with our society once our secondary drives manifested, but with the chimps this is so because they had to compete over scarce food resources, something the bonobos and ourselves, originally, did not.)

        I think the story of Adam and Eve is an important myth in our culture because it symbolises our early psychological development as a species (maybe it happened well before homo sapiens sapiens though) and as individuals. Our original orientation was towards forming a loving bond with other humans, unashamedly experiencing the pleasures of the body and favouring a harmonious social environment.

        But we also had the capacity for reason. Originally this would not have caused a problem for our loving instincts. But eventually our reason led us to idealism – to the concept that we should make a distinction between behaviour which benefits the integrity of the group – “good” – and behaviour which might compromise that integrity, i.e. might be anti-social – “evil”. And with this came the idea that the meaningful way to live is to exercise discipline personally and socially in order to encourage the former and discourage the latter. This is fine initially. A loving society shows a good deal of natural give and take – a high level of forgiveness. But very gradually over time, living with these ideals began to erode our self acceptance. Lack of self acceptance is experienced as the painful feeling we call guilt. The problem here is that pain directs our attention back towards ourselves. So the more we criticised ourselves and each other, the more we suffered feelings of guilt and the more selfish we became as a result. We became ego-embattled.

        Our competitiveness, greed, gluttony, self-righteousness, etc., etc., are all symptoms of our ego-embattled state. From this came war, rape, depression, drug addiction, etc., etc. All of the human sickness.

        But, deep down, underneath all those neurotic secondary drives, we are still those original healthy pleasure-loving love-monkeys that are embodied in the myth as Adam and Eve before the fall, i.e. before they discovered idealism – “ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil”.

        It’s true that everything is natural in the sense that everything that exists is a product of the universal system which is nature.

        I think a good way to think about is to consider a seed. It has a husk, which is the dead skin on the outside which is needed for protection, and it has the soft bit in the middle which is the source of life. If we want creativity and new life then we look to the living bit rather than the dead bit, even though both are natural. But we also don’t simply discard the husk when it is needed for protection. We retain it as long as it is necessary.

        The structure of our society is an accommodation of our secondary drives – our ego-embattlement – so it makes sense to look to our deeper instincts, the loving feelings we are capable of feeling in our bodies as we once felt them when we were young children, for the source of a new and healthier society, but also to recognise that we can’t get there simply by abandoning discipline.

        Healing the dark side of humanity through love is a complex task. We have no road map, and it will no doubt take all of our intelligence, courage, self-discipline and imagination.

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      • I make no assumptions about a “primary instinct;” even if there is one, then it still doesn’t change the fact that I have to engage things context by context, and understand that whatever my primary instinct may be, I have to deal with the instincts I have now. If there’s any functional assumption about “primary instincts,” I think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs depicts them in a way that seems congruent to most contexts. The assumption of the existence of a force called the ego—which I have assumed in the past—often tempts people into some dualistic, high-handed quest where they seek to “defeat” or “outmaneuver” the ego. Ironically, when one simply examines things context by context and focuses on solutions, one begins setting aside their own biases and preferences—their ego, if you will—and their very sense of self begins to diminish. Doubly ironically, by simply focusing on being a pure channel for harmony in the form of solutions, one begins to move toward “emptiness,” a mystical idea which from what I’ve seen, needs no belief in mysticism; it only needs the willingness to engage with problems with my full attention. I think this was one of the main points underlying Musashi’s writing.


      • I take the idea of the primary instinct which gets diverted into secondary drives from Wilhelm Reich, who I’ve found to be one of the most helpful thinkers for making sense of human psychology with his concepts of the character armour and the emotional plague. It seems to me that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is compatible with Reich’s ideas, with the body telling us when we are hungry, unprotected, cold etc., and, when those needs are taken care of, guiding us toward loving relations, although it also has to be recognised that loving relationships are advantageous to the longterm answering of those more basic needs, so the second level feeds back into the satisfying of the first level.

        The ego is defined as “the conscious thinking self”. I don’t think that it is necessarily “a force” on its own. The emotions are really the motivating force behind our actions. By “ego embattlement”, I mean a fault in the functioning of the ego which causes it to be self-directed and obsessed with strategies of self-justification – i.e. proving its worth. This faulty thinking leads to a disturbance of the emotions, and it is these disturbed emotions that lead to behaviour which can be destructive both to ourselves and to others.

        As you point out a “dualistic, high-handed quest” to “‘defeat’ or ‘outmanoeuvre’ the ego” is going to be counter-productive. The motivation, one assumes, is to prove our worth by proving that we are not obsessed with proving our worth.

        I think the answer is to cultivate unconditional self-acceptance, to give up on trying to prove anything about ourselves and thus allow our ego to resume its proper job of taking in information about the world around us, “context by context” as you say, and processing it to arrive at the most practical solutions to problems.

        But if the self being served by the ego is not itself, then what? Which brings us back to the nature of the substrate of consciousness. I do experience the “emptiness” you speak of when I’m totally engage in a meaningful task. At such a time I am participating in a whole larger than myself.

        When it comes to ego, I’ve been very much influenced by R. D. Laing : “True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality: the emergence of the ‘inner’ archetypal mediators of divine power, and through this death a rebirth, and the eventual reestablishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the Divine, no longer its betrayer.”

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      • Lain’s quote rings too dualistic with me, and at odds with full acceptance of oneself as you initially advocated. He iterates off the premise of a “false self” and a “divine.” If there is truly a divine that is beyond duality, there is no “false self.” The ego does not become a servant. There is simply a shift in perspective where the ego is revealed to be just as divine as anything else. I understand that language is tricky, inherently dualistic, and this is more the province of poets than writers, but I think the best way to approach the shift in perception that transcends duality is to seek functionality context by context, and thus achieve emptiness along with results. Too many “spiritual” folks declare one thing spiritual and another not, and consistently butt heads with the “mundane.” They try to put parameters around a transcendental state of emptiness, equating it with some kind of mindless ecstasy, when the truly transcendental—if it exists—means accepting the horrific and unpleasant, the false self and the ego. Once again, the surest way to do this, in my opinion, is to seek functionality context by context, thus eliminating any perceptual dissonance between the idea of self and the environment.

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      • Yes, there are problems with Laing’s dualism, but that doesn’t bother me, because I know what he is trying to say.

        For me the term “spiritual” simply refers to the field of relationship as it is perceived through human emotions.

        The term “false self” does have meaning to me. We know what we mean when we talk about assuming a persona or playing a role. We know what it is to lie and deceive. We know what it is to delude ourselves. We know when we experience a sense of dissonance between how we act and how we feel.

        The term “divine” refers to God, which brings us back to defining what we mean by “God”. For me, if the term “God” means anything it means the universe as a whole and/or whatever qualities allow the universe to take the form that it does. The term “holy” comes from the same root as “whole”. Thus it seems reasonable to interpret it as meaning “whole, or, of the whole”. To say that something is whole is to say that it has integrity. To stop being a whole is to disintegrate. So my interpretation of Laing’s “divine” is having integrity and being an expression of that tendency in the universe to allow the formation of more complex relationships of information and energy. In the human world, this pull toward integrated relationship is what we call “love”. So to say “divine” is to say “loving”. And love requires honesty.

        The reason I recommend unconditional self-acceptance is that I believe that fighting against thoughts or feelings which we find unpleasant or frightening or have been told we should feel ashamed of, only makes the detrimental impact of those thoughts or feelings stronger by encouraging us to fixate on them. The natural tendency is for us to seek something better for ourselves. The degree to which we are able to do that is determined by how much energy and enthusiasm we have. To try to blackmail ourselves into some form of self-improvement by withholding self-acceptance, and the good feelings which come with it, until after we have achieved it, is simply to sap the energy we need to achieve it. It’s self-defeating.

        As for the ego being a servant, I think it is like the other parts of our body. Is our left leg a servant? Is our right eye a servant? Is our heart a servant? They perform their function so that the whole can thrive. They do serve the whole. They can also, if they malfunction, “betray” the whole.

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      • I agree with what you’re saying…to a point. I think self-acceptance and dualistic paradigms can be useful, especially in circumstances where one does not know oneself. But self-acceptance can easily spiral into an equally unproductive extreme that self-denial can—perhaps I should decide to eat/drink/indulge/kill whenever I want to whatever extent I want because I’ve decided to practice radical self-acceptance—and I think in terms of transcendence, imposing a “subservience” paradigm on the ego is ultimately restrictive. The left leg is just as important as the mind when throwing a low-kick; without either, the kick can’t be thrown. Hierarchical paradigms are only useful from context to context; they aren’t useful in a definitive sense. The ego may deserve it’s place at the reigns, if it is the most useful tool at hand (perhaps in the context of strategic shit-talking to off-balance the opponent). I think our discussion is coming to the core of our difference; I have no problem with a hierarchical structure, as long as it is not definitive, as I like to alter the hierarchy from context to context to serve my aims. You seem to imply there is an underlying truth/hierarchy (you’re comfortable with a definitive concept of “natural,” “false self,” divine, ego) that—even though it’s abstract enough to be fitted to every circumstance—does not change depending on the situation. That’s where you and I—I think—part ways.


      • What we haven’t done yet is not, to my way of thinking, a part of our self. So radical self-acceptance is not the same as licence. We have to accept the actions we have already carried out, because they are in the past and cannot be changed. Apart from that self-acceptance is accepting our thoughts and feelings. This is not the same as believing our thoughts or acting impulsively on our feelings. To me radical self-acceptance is learning to be with all aspects of our self without impulsive or compulsive reactivity. If I have an idea, I accept that I have that idea. I don’t see it as a problem to be solved, simply as something that exists. Trying to assess whether it is true or false, useful or useless, comes after accepting it as a part of me in the present moment. And it is not fighting emotions, but treating the way a rodeo rider does the movements of the horse. He has to accept the movement of the horse, but he doesn’t do everything the horse is pushing him towards.

        You talk about delayed gratification. Radical self-acceptance can help with this. If there is an advantage in living with an unfulfilled desire for a period of time, then that is part of what we are accepting in ourselves, e.g. the hunger pangs if we need to delay lunch in order to achieve something which is important to us. Of course, if we do over-indulge, then radical self-acceptance means accepting that as something in the past and not feeling guilty about it. This is beneficial to managing better in the future, because the pain of guilt makes us selfish and would quite likely be something we would try to drown out with further over-indulgence.

        You use self denial as the opposite to self-acceptance, but actually the opposite of self denial is self indulgence. Self-acceptance doesn’t preclude self denial, it simply isn’t a motive for it. If I can live a healthier, longer life by denying myself cakes and lollies, then that provides a motive for doing that which has nothing to do with whether I see myself as an acceptable person. And without the painful emotions which accompany a lack of self-acceptance, I will have less need for the compensatory pleasures of the sweets.

        I don’t think of the ego being the servant of the whole human as being a case of “subservience”. “Subservience” is defined as “willingness to obey unquestioningly” or “the condition of being less important than something else.” The ego is not less important, and questioning is a major part of its function. But to help someone is to serve them. I work in a library. I serve people all day. I don’t think they are more important than me, and I don’t unquestioningly obey them. So when I think of the ego as a servant of the whole, I think in terms of it functioning effectively as a problem solver and an assistant to our creativity – rather than a source of problems and a hindrance to creativity.

        I’m not sure that my approach is necessarily all that hierarchical. Take the term “divine”. I don’t believe in some kind of God the father sitting at the top of creation. That’s the traditional hierarchical idea. I see the universe as a creative system through which complexity can arise. That is why it is divine. I suppose you could make the argument that the most complex manifestations, like ourselves, are more divine than a rock. So, in that sense, you could see it as hierarchical. But among humans I don’t see a king as more divine or more important than a homeless person. We may naturally, jump to those conclusions based on who holds more worldly power, but we would be missing the point that the system is too complex to read. Remove the homeless person and, over the next hundred years, everything might turn out to be different, just like in that Ray Bradbury story where the guy stepped on the prehistoric butterfly.

        And there are fuzzy edges and ambiguities to concepts like “natural” and “false self”. Nature is always changing. We don’t want to be like land animals telling the first flying reptiles to “come down from there, it’s not natural!” Nature made us tool-makers, so you could say that our tools are natural. But we know what we mean when we tell a woman who has had her face pumped full of a natural substance – botox – that we think it would have been better if she had stayed natural. And, when it comes to a “false self”, sometimes we may more honestly express aspects of our personality when we don a mask and play a role than we do when have to “take responsibility”.

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      • I appreciate the long, thought-out response. Now I think we are on the same page in accepting the premise that there is an appropriate place for all modes of behavior and viewpoints, but due to our difference in past experience, we seem to be expressing this premise with different terminology. But I once again put forth the idea that by and large, the way to navigate ambiguity (what mode of behavior to use? When should I go “extreme?) is to know one’s own tendencies and long-term aims (know oneself), use that information to formulate a strategy that pertains to the immediate situation, and do what is most functional to serve that strategy. To me, that seems to be the best way to marry practicality and all mystical premises. It also allows one to—if the need should arise—throw out the doctrine/dogma surrounding religious scriptures, “mushin,” “tantra” (the old-school version that roughly translates to “whatever works”), “spirituality,” and the idea of “the shadow,” “the ego,” “the authentic self,” etc. At the same time, it allows one to use every one of those concepts, should the need arise. It even allows one to throw out the idea of causality, in the far-fetched circumstance that we will ever discover and have to make allowances for an acausal, superordinate structure beyond time and space, and it also allows one to use or turn away from the idea of magic, depending on whether or not it propagates desirable results.


    • I don’t know about “all-powerful” and “all-knowing”. You could say “all-powerful” in the sense that, if the universe is a single entity, anything which can be done is done by it, because anything which can be done is done (assuming that the universe is a deterministic system.) But that isn’t the same as our conventional concept of “all-powerful” as meaning “able to do anything we can imagine,” because we can imagine things which are impossible. And regarding “all-knowing,” I don’t think that consciousness, in and of itself, knows anything. It has to be limited by the boundaries of thought in order to reason and learn, and the boundaries of thought are created by our physical bodies and then, by extension, our means of communication with each other. So if the consciousness of the universe is “God” then it is able to know only to the extent that it is able to temporarily and in a limited area take the form of human individuals and a human society. To that extent of course it also takes on the capacity for folly.

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      • We can each cast our suspicions on the base substrate that forms phenomena, but in every discussion which I’ve done this, I always go back to the same conclusion: no one knows. We’re given clues on patterns of behavior that we can employ to increase the chances of a positive outcome, i.e. discipline and strategy, but beyond that, it’s really anyone’s guess.


      • I’ve not actually read an entire book since the middle of September. I even had to take one back to the library after I’d checked it out twice. I’ll start reading again, soon. I sure hope I do……

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      • Gotcha. Well, no worries if you do or don’t—I’m grateful you read and liked the others, regardless. 😘 (I’m actually kind of embarrassed of the others now; Echo 4 is the only one that I feel lives up to my personal standards, haha!)

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      • Absolutely sweetie! With each book in the Echo series I kept thinking “ok, this is entertaining, a little boundary-pushing here and there, but nothing where I can really say I made my mark.” With Echo 4, it was like BAM! SCORE! I felt like I not only stuck the ending, but earned my chops as a “real author.” Whether it makes me rich or brings me acclaim doesn’t matter; it’s something that makes me very, very happy in terms of what I pulled off. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think of it, if you ever decide to peruse its contents—no pressure, though, Fan Girl. I’m flattered just to have entertained you with the other three, as well as have you ogle me. 😁

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  2. I always consider the possibility that what we have learned about the physical world (i.e. Big Bang, physics, etc.) and what we speculate about a “higher” level of existence (i.e. God, Universal Consciousness, etc.) are more connected than we currently realize/understand. I think that lack of understanding is what causes the frustration that spawns statements about the world being a lie. The other frustration is the seeming lack of interest that many – maybe even MOST – (the modern social world) have about such ideas/thoughts. I enjoy my material possessions. Don’t get me wrong. I am not that much different than the “norm”. But while I would miss such things, I also believe – maybe even know – that I could live/exist without such things. I have “touched” that “other world” where physics and spirituality meet simply by considering its possibility. I have chosen not to give that up by burying myself completely in the mundane of day-to-day. Is that faith? Maybe… I just try not to let myself get bogged down when I realize how little understanding I have of the reality in which I seem to exist.

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