Sir Paul

Across the way from his childhood row-house home, across Strawberry Fields, Paul McCartney met one John Lennon. Both of their mothers died while they were teenagers, both of their fathers were musicians. Lennon-McCartney wrote and performed songs, and the whole world went . . .crazy . . .over their music,  and still does.

Paul is charming, kind, a devoted father, a faithful husband, a very successful businessman, and a Brit who honors his queen. He has always loved his Liverpool past.

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes, there beneath the blue suburban skies”

He has lived 50 years of magic – wealth, fame, exhilarating creativity, and bittersweet pain and loss.

He still can’t read music.

What ever is the gift for songwriting and singing, Paul has it.  He gives commanding concert performances, like a gifted athlete.   He sings his solo career songs, yes, but with Beatle songs – which he is careful to do as they were originally done, . . . he brings down the house. . . . still.  It is the Beatles music that carries gloriously on, ever ecstatically received.

Paul McCartney is reticent with personal feelings, and superficial in person.  He barely seems to know Paul McCartney.  “Maybe I’m amazed” . . . . maybe?  He just never wants to get deep.

“the fool on the hill sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round.

Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say”.  ‘Was I harking back to my mum? he asks.  Who would know?  Few realize that his song ‘Blackbird’ was written to console african-americans after the death of Martin Luther King.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly“.

He can’t explain his creativity – or doesn’t want to. “I’m very lucky with my voice, I have no idea how it happens“.  Songs just come to him.  He dreamed the melody for his greatest song, ‘Yesterday’, the most recorded song in history. He spent months sure that he had heard it somewhere before, trying to find out where.

Paul has this mastery of melody, how it forms and carries a song. His best songs feel already known, like they could be no other way.  The words, by themselves, have almost nothing there.

there is an unmistakeable sadness in McCartney’s gaze and muted manner“.  John Colapinto,  The New Yorker,  June 2007

He was unable to reconcile with the bruising John Lennon, before his death.  And there is the losses of his mother and wife, both in the full of their lives,  to the same disease.

For well you know that its a fool who plays it cool, by making the world a little colder”  – Ironically, it was John Lennon who wanted this line kept in the song.

Above all the acrimony and nihilism of his times, he holds out, decent, and up beat.  The spirit of a 19 year old Beatle lives on.

I’m never going to believe I’m 70.  I don’t care what you say.  There’s a little cell in my brain that’s never going to believe that“, Rolling Stone, March 2012

Driver

In the movie Drive, the central character has a special talent. Driving, yes, but more compelling, he can stay calm and focused during intense moments, like driving fast and escaping the police, or like when someone is trying to kill him.  It is a gift, his ability to stay cool, it helps him get by.  But it may have helped him get involved with the wrong people.

Behind the wheel, his eyes centered on the road, he is ever wary, a taut spring. His smile is soft, his eyes rarely blink.  He says pretty much only what is necessary to say. He seems satisfied staying in the background. Somehow he has ended up half way between good people and bad.

He meets a girl from down the hall, an innocent, vulnerable mother to a young son.  He helps her out. Watching television, the boy says you can always tell who the bad guys are. Driver asks: ‘How do you know?’

The girl’s husband has been away, in prison, for what we don’t know.  He eventually comes home, and has problems he can’t handle.  He is roughed up to pay escalating demands for protection payments he may or may not have ‘purchased’ while in prison. This threatens the mother and boy. Driver decides to help get the money, in a robbery he has been asked to drive for, but things go awry.

Bad guys show up for the same money.  They kill the husband. In a sinister luxury SUV, they give chase. Driver races away. He manages to get bumper to bumper – in front of them – going very fast, backward, in control.  They think they have him, but just near the end of the road, an end they don’t see because they are looking at him, he spins around to the side, and they go on to crash.

But he gets found, and almost killed.  He acts fast, and survives.

Somehow, he knows how to deal with creeps, how you have to speak to them, how you cannot trust them, how they only respond to threat and force, how you sometimes have to kill them.

But they keep coming, like insects.  He has to stomp one to death, in front of her, in an elevator, to protect her.  He has no choice.  She watches. Maybe she thinks he is one of them. She leaves. What can he say?

They kill his friend.

He must have thought he was one of them, at one time, but with her he seems to realize he isn’t.  He is not going to go back.

He phones her:  “I just want you to know that you and the boy are the best thing that has ever happened to me”.

Then he goes to settle things, to ensure her safety. He gives the ring leader a chance to honor an honest deal. The guy doesn’t, of course, and Driver, nearly killed,  has to do what he has to do.

He leaves the money with the body.

 

 

Swerve

Quantum theory predicts that the vacuum of space is a roiling bath of virtual particles that continuously appear and disappear.  These vacuum fluctuations produce measurable phenomena, such as the Casimir effect, which arises from the pressure the virtual photons exert on stationary bodies.  In 1970, Gerald Moore theorized that bodies in accelerated motion would produce real photons out of quantum vacuum fluctuation . . . Accelerated bodies modify quantum vacuum fluctuations, causing emission of photon pairs from the vacuum and dissipation of the bodies’ motional energy.  The power dissipated in the motion of the body is equal to the total radiated electromagnetic power, as expected according to the law of energy conservation.”  Nature,  November, 17, 2011.

Acceleration of matter in vacuum space creates photons, particles of light.  Acceleration of spin creates magnetism.  Acceleration of mass creates gravity.  There. . is. . something. . about. . acceleration.  It is a form of change, of variation, in our universe, a special form, it is change of change – change squared. And it is the essence of  gravity, matter, and light.

It is mysterious that light has the same velocity for all observers, but it does.  To be so, it must be something like infinite acceleration, each point of light being infinitely close to being instanteously brief, but infinitely accelerated from the previous point, infinitely close to reaching an asymptotic limit of velocity that is, weirdly, infinitely close to being constant and therefore . . .finite. Einstein realized that light, then, being infinite acceleration that  paradoxically achieves finite and constant velocity, is the universal invariant. It can be relative or variable to no other position or movement.  Curiously, although matter and energy are interchangeable, only energy – electromagnetic radiation – can travel at the speed of light, matter cannot.

The Roman poet, Lucretius, in his famous poem:  On the Nature of Things, introduced to the Roman world, the philosophy of the pre-Socratic Greeks of 300 B. C.  These thinkers had deduced that the building blocks of reality – atoms – were infinitely small, infinite-in-number entities that repell and attract each other such as to create all things and events. These ancient Greeks saw, long before Darwin and Einstein and quantum physics, that the fundamental units must have . . . what Lucretius called: swerve  – an irreducible, varying indeterminancy in their behavior so as to make for the change with variation that is necessary for the evolutionary processes that manifest all things and events, inorganic and organic. The most basic units of reality, they realized must be, themselves, units of variation, units of change.

If all the individual particles, in their infinite numbers, fell through the void in straight lines, pulled down by their own weight like raindrops, nothing would ever exist.  But the particles do not move lockstep in a preordained single direction.  Instead, “at absolutely unpredictable times and places they deflect slightly from their straight course, to a degree thqt could be described as no more than a shift of movement” (2.218-20 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things),   Swerve, Stephen Greenblatt, pg.188.

Even if cooled to a temperature of absolute zero, all objects will retain a fundamental jitter in their physical positions due to quantum ‘zero-point’ fluctuations.”  Painter, et. al, Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 033602, 2012

 

 

Zero Empathy

Gestapo Chief Rudolph Diels:  “The infliction of physical punishment is not every man’s job, and naturally we were only too glad to recruit men who were prepared to show no squeamishness at their task.  Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the Freudian side of the business, and it was only after a number of instances of unnecessary flogging and meaningless cruelty that I tumbled to the fact that my organization had been attracting all the sadists in Germany and Austria without my knowledge for some time past.  It had also been attracting unconscious sadists, i.e. men who did not know themselves that they had sadist leanings until they took part in a flogging.  And finally it had been actually creating sadists.  For it seems that corporal chastisement ultimately arouses sadistic leanings in apparently normal men and women.  Freud might explain it.” In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson, 2011.

For Boethius, the 400 AD Roman philosopher, evil is US – we all have capacity for evil, and therefore to combat evil we must look to ourselves and cultivate our goodness. Evil is the absence of good. “We must break the ‘cycle of violence‘. This is the modern view, the enlightenment view, the christian view.

That evil is OTHER, that there is a distinct dualism of good and evil, this is the premodern view, the Manichaean view,  the view of Mani, the early 250 A.D. Persian mystic whose ideas rivaled and threatened Roman paganism, and then christianity.  Evil is a force to be opposed, to be conquered.

In Science of Evil, psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen finds that evil is a disorder of empathy. We all vary in our ’empathy quotient’. There are those with the ‘continuous, unstoppable drive to empathize‘, and those with lesser empathy.  There are components of empathy – recognition and response, feeling and understanding, action and inaction. Failure to act is as significant as not feeling.  There is transient empathy erosion, from fatigue, or drugs and alcohol, or depression. There is Groupthink evil, empathy that is over-powered by enthusiasm and solidarity. Nazi gatherings were organized pageants of celebration.

Lack of empathy can be a failure to be good, but it also can be something else. There are those with no empathy. . . at all, zero empathy.   For them, lack of empathy is . . . .enjoyment. Serial killers relish their deceit and the knowing terror in their victim’s eyes. Stalin’s greatest joy was to go to sleep knowing that his plans for revenge were unfolding. Nazi evil was beyond efficiency. The Nazi’s precisely engineered emotional as well as physical suffering, over and above the murdering.  They practiced this with a sickening aesthetic, an almost artistic intensity.

Empathy by definition is seeing one’s self in others. Those with strong empathy just aren’t likely to perceive, aren’t likely to “empathize” – with the lack of empathy others may have. This asymmetry of awareness empowers those with no empathy to use charm, and to thrive, and the rest is human history.

In Explaining Hitler, 1998, Ron Rosenbaum, in his survey of theories of Hitler, found every reason considered but that Hitler wanted to be evil and do evil things.

“Man is Wolf to Man.”

 

Koolaid Consciousness

Pain really does hurt, but what is it that hurts?  In consciousness, the subjective and objective are mysteriously unified. I am unmistakably corporeal, and yet also, unmistakably, immaterial.  I have diverse sensations and thoughts, yet I am unitary. I unconsciously act and feel, and yet have agency and free will. I daydream and sleep, and yet have continuity. I am both me and I refer to ‘me’. I am self-disclosing.

Our experience of consciousness is outside of normal mental categorization. We experience ourselves as ineffable.

No currently available concept of induction is applicable to it.” Thomas Nagel, philosopher.

We are the singular of which the plural is unknown.” Erwin Schroedinger, physicist.

“I AM THAT I AM”.  God, to Moses at the burning bush.

Most experiences are made sense of in relation to other types of experience. . . Any experience immune to all this will be a mystery to its subject. There is only one experience for which that is completely true:  phenomenal consciousness.” Natika Newton, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2001.

What we can’t say, we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it either“.  A. S. Ramsey, philosopher.

In Soul Dust, for psychologist Nicolas Humphrey consciousness is a sensation. Whatever sensation is, consciousness is. A reaction to stimuli is always an action. No sentience, no brain phenomenon is passive.  All mentation is behavior. Responses to the outer world get internally registered, and they become representations. These representations then also become aspects of our further experience. Conscious beings become dual processors, they process outer world experience simultaneously with inner world representations of current and past outer world experience. An ever expanding loop of internal and external responses, and responses to responses, reverberates into a self-sustaining loop of memory, thinking, and feeling. . . and this is what we call CONSCIOUSNESS.

Because our present experience includes at least two distinct times, it is experienced not as an instantaneous slice of time, but as a extended time, containing elements of both ‘now’ and ‘not now’, in a unified, immediate representation.

This thickened time of consciousness, this cinema of consciousness, creates an artificially robust illusion of willful power and sense of the future. It enables us to imagine possible futures, design behavior strategies, plan and seek goals.  This inner theatre gives us a sense of creative agency that drives us to endure.

But it is an illusion. We are all drinking the koolaid.

And there is a cost, for with our inner extended time, we can sense that we aren’t significant, we can know that we are going to die. We can try to find meaning, we can try to escape.  We are seek intoxicated, altered states. These can be enlightening, they can illuminate the distortions of our normal consciousness, but they can also deepen our confusion, and worsen our dread. Many of us can’t manage consciousness, despair is not uncommon, suicide is not rare.

With our consciousness we transform the earth, with ever-increasing risk and reward, the genie out of the bottle.

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