Writing in Love

One Sunday, at Unity Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, Forester Church, a son of the Senator Frank Church, as pastor of the historic All Soul’s Unitarian Church in Manhattan, New York, spoke of his church’s history and how, in the back of the church, on Sundays, for some thirty years in the late 1800’s, there sat, silently, Herman Melville.

How did this this young man known primarily for writing light books of adventure suddenly experience one of the most remarkable bursts of creative inspiration in literary history? And why was that short period in the 1850s followed by decades of relative silence and obscurity?    Melville in Love, Michael Shelden, pg. 10.

Some people have a gift.  They sense it before they really know it.  They don’t understand it, but they feel different.  Herman Melville was one of these people,  a wordsmith artist, restless for verbal expression outside of the confines of convention,  a fish out of water.

Some people are born to the wrong parents . . . I mean, that happens.”  Bob Dylan

At age 25, on a whim, he joined a South Sea sailing ship into the wilds of the South Pacific.  He jumped ship on a Polynesian island, and cavorted for some months with natives, some of them female, unabashedly naked.  He wrote a book about it all, and became famous.  This anthropologic and philosophical travel tale, among free-living  people, who at times also happened to be, at times, cannibals, inspired many-a young sex-starved young man to follow in his foot steps.  He returned by way of a whaling ship.

On return, he married conventionally, and financially, and strived to earn his living by writing.  He had children, and the family vacationed in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Nathaniel Hawthorne lived near by.

He is an incalculable person, full of daring and questions.  And with all momentous considerations afloat in the crucible of his mind.  He tosses them in, and heats his furnace seven fold and burns and stirs, and waits for the crystallization with a royal indifference as to what may turn up, only eager for truth, without previous prejudice.”  Sophie Hawthorne

In Pittsfield, Melville met Sarah Underwood, a vivacious, intelligent, beautiful, woman who was . . .  married . . . to an older wealthy and boring man who spent much of his time doing business in New York City.

Herman and Sarah fell in love.

In those days, falling in love was dangerous. It could destroy your social standing.  It could destroy you financially.  To divorce was to become exiled.

Letters and biographical documentation, long hidden from established history, establish the love affair of Herman Melville and Sarah Underwood.

At the very same time, Herman Melville was writing the novel Moby Dick, at a desk in front of an upstairs window, looking out at Mount Greylock, in the small farm house near Pittsfield that he bought to live in, to be close to her.

Moby Dick sold only 3000 copies, in his lifetime, and earned him a total of $556.37.  Forty years after his death, it was re-discovered, and came to be considered one of the greatest of American novels.

Not for nothing does Moby Dick tell the age-old story of metaphysical yearning and obsession for unrequited needs.

Sarah died of tuberculous, in just a few years.

Melville lived the rest of his life working as a customs clerk on the shipping docks of New York city, attending All Soul’s Church on Sundays, in silence, unacknowledged as the writer of a masterpiece.

He is Ishmael.  

“I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.  I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it – would they let me – since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all inmates of the place one lodges in. . . By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open . . .”  Moby Dick, or The Whale. 


Self, Soul, and God

Mystics always seem to, alone in solitude, find themselves. . . and find God, at the same time.

The neuroscientist, Michael Graziano, thinks that Self, Soul, and God are all related manifestations of the human neurologic system of mental social perception.  NOT, mind you, mental social thinking, rather mental social perception.  He emphasizes perception – the experience of our senses – what we automatically and unconsciously consider to be real.  Perceptions, he says, are believed.   And what is fundamental about God, Self, and Soul, is that they are believed.

He explains, however,  that our perceptions are actually constructed models in the brain, that create our experience in predetermined ways.  We don’t experience them in this way,  though, we experience them as objective aspects of the real world.   Our minds fool us this way . . . very, very convincingly.  Our minds are virtual-reality devices.

Evolution has created these constructed models of perception, in our brains, not to be ‘true’ as we think of objective reality as being ‘true’, but for the purpose of promoting our evolutionary interests and goals – survival and reproduction.  They are constructed in various ways, for various kinds of perception, with or without cognitive, or motor elements, and with or without conscious elements, as natural selection has found to be best.  Most importantly, Graziano emphasizes, we are NOT built to be conscious that they are constructs,  Rather, we are built to believe – to feel – that they mirror objective reality.  We don’t ‘think‘ them, we ‘know‘ them.

The perceptual machinery in the brain automatically constructs models about the mental states and intentions that underlie events.  We are built to do it.  We do it all the time.  We can’t help it.  It is our heritage as social animals.

Our social perceptions – perceptions about what other living beings, (particularly other human beings), are thinking, feeling, wanting, and planning to do, are no different than our other perceptions of the world. Our evolutionary needs require intense social perception, as other living beings are key elements of the problems and opportunities of our lives. We conjecture about the awareness and intentions and perceptions of other beings.  We model their world of perceptions and what they are thinking and feeling so as to understand  and cope with their actions.

We live immersed in self-created models of minds crowding around us.”

Further, we apply social perception, both consciously and unconsciously,  to ourselves.  We perceive ourselves – our thoughts, our feelings, and intentions – using the same system we use to perceive others.

And, very importantly,  we have as much objectivity . . . and lack of objectivity . . . about ourselves as we do of others.  Our self awareness is as limited as our objectivity of others is limited.  And because it is a perception, our self awareness feels as real as our other perceptions, which, unconsciously, feel objectively real. . . in us and outside of us.

And, if that is not enough:

Somehow, we are aware of ourselves being aware, and we are aware of others being aware of their self awareness, and we feel like this awareness is disembodied”  – outside of our physical being

Disembodied, our self awareness becomes . . . our Soul, and the intentions and awareness in nature becomes . . . God.

Our social perception modeling apparatus is always on, operating, all the time.  It has a built-in bias of agency and intention.  We see, wherever we look, inside ourselves and outside of ourselves, agency and intention, all the time, the presence of Self, and Soul, and God.

What is God but the perception of intentionality on a global  scale?

                           God, Soul, Mind, Brain        Michael S. A. Graziano, 2010.


The Music of the Universe

How do such simple things as atomic nuclei, or even more elementary particles like neutrons or muons, ‘know’ their half life?  . . .  These objects are like hair trigger bombs in an storm environment.  Space itself, seething with quantum fluctuations, supplies passing gusts, and every so often one is strong enough to to trigger an explosion.  In this picture, nuclei are basically simple and passive.  It is space, empty space! that is complex and active. 

Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek tells us about beta decay.  It is radioactivity of certain atoms, which have spontaneous release of beta particles – electrons and neutrinos.  This release is predictable . . .  in time, but only with probability . . . in space.  We can know how many atoms will decay in a unit of time, but not precisely which ones will decay, or where they will decay.   This is all caused by the ongoing, spontaneous energy fluctuations of vacuum space –  the Void, that energize the release of particles from atoms.  And these energy fluctuations, of empty space, are the actual powerhouse of those mysterious fields, quantum fields, the most basic known elements of fundamental physical reality.  They are the invisible, ghost power of the Universe.  Predictable, when, probabilistic, where.

Yet, our lived world is one of predictability in both space and time, one of self-organization, arising out of , and floating in, it seems, this sea of random quantum field energy fluctuations.   How can randomness form the ordered and predictable world?

Chvykov, et.al., in the journal Science, say that it is because of Rattling.  Rattling is when the random responses of the ‘many body’ systems of matter, to the pounding of quantum field energy fluctuations, inevitably yields perturbations of synchronization, and this synchronization then brings forth order, in both time and space.  In any infinite set of random collisions of movement, there will randomly – and inevitably – be collisions that repeat themselves, identically, in time and space, and these collisions, again, inevitably, foster further repeating and further establishment of the created patterns.  As Isaac Newton stated in his third law – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And so, inevitably, the beat of synchronicity arises in the system, much like mechanical clocks, on a shelf, eventually all tick and tock in unison.

And so, despite a basis of random, unpredictable, fundamental actors and actions – the energy fluctuations of quantum fields – order inevitably and always arises.  Randomness only exists theoretically.  It is a useful abstraction. but real . . . it is not.

From nothing comes a beat, and from the beat,  order.  Not unlike how melody arises from iterations of rhythm.  John Lennon – of the Beat-les – once said:  “Its got to have a beat.”

Reality is the ‘music of the spheres’.  The world is a musical instrument.

We are Electromagnetism

Fish swim in water.   We swim in electromagnetism.

We experience the gravitation field, we manipulate the quantum field, we ponder about a field of consciousness, but we live in the electromagnetic field.  Electromagnetism is light, it is energy, it is charge, it is magnetism, it is electricity.  And electromagnetism is chemistry – the dynamically ordered and structured flow of electrons between atoms.   And as life is ordered . . . structured . . . dynamic . . . self-organizing . . . self-reproducing . . . and sub-critically stable . .  chemical complexity, and so life, too, is electromagnetism.

Electromagnetism is how our nerves conduct signals by firing across electric charge gradients, across axon membranes. Our brains, our hearts, our muscles, our thoughts, our emotions, our vision – all fire electromagnetically.  Seizures and cardiac sudden death are discharges of electromagnetism.  Our moods and state of consciousness flow with electromagnetic, EEG brain waves.

Electromagnetism is a wave, but we don’t really know what is waving.  It is a wave that wave’s itself, like an undulating rope, electric charge swinging magnetism and magnetism swinging electric charge.  It can travel in a vacuum.  It binds protons with electrons into atoms, creating the matter, the ‘stuff’ of our existence.  It streams as packets of energy – photons – creating information, communication and computers.

The shimmering of gold itself is electromagnetism, the shared electrons of the atoms of its metallic structure,  all traveling between the atoms at the speed of light.

Electromagnetism is the one and only invariant reality of our universe, the one non-relative entity of unchanging dimension to all observers.  Nothing can travel faster than electromagnetism, and it has no mass, and does not exist at rest.  Because of this invariant fact of its finite velocity, and its stable dimension, we have a world of knowable space, time and causality.

We can actually see a tiny photon – a subatomic entity – with our naked eyes, testament to its central role in our being.

People can perceive flashes of light as feeble as a single photon“.  Nature Communications 7, 12172, 2016

It was all photons. . . in the beginning.

“The early universe contained both matter and anti-matter and these two forms of matter annihilated each other into photons when they were brought together.  There was slightly more matter than antimatter in the early universe; without this asymmetry, the universe would be pure energy-no stars, no planets, and certainly no life.” 

The world was without form, and God said let there be light.

Electromagnetic Light is our most universally recognized God – by the Inca in Peru, the Egyptians on the Nile, the Aztecs in Mexico, and the Judeo-Christians in the eastern Mediterranean.

We are fish in the electromagnetic sea.


Artless Art

The German professor of philosophy, Eugene Herrigel, as a guest professor in Japan,  studied the art of archery from a Zen Master, in Japan, for 6 years.  He wrote of this in Zen and the Art of Archery.  He wanted to explain the technique of Zen skill training.

It was, for him, a mystifying and frustrating time.  Somehow, in learning such arts as Japanese archery, one is not to try.  The setting of the arrow and the release of the bow are to happen effortlessly,  the bow should release itself, like when a tree branch bends to release the snow.

This is the ‘artless art’.

Remember that archery is not meant to strengthen the muscles.  When drawing the string you should not exert the full strength of your body, but learn to let only your two hands do the work, while your arm and shoulder muscles remain relaxed, as though they looked on impassively.

Don’t think of what you have to do, don’t consider how to carry it out!  The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise.  It must be as if the bowstring suddenly cut through the thumbnail that held it.  You mustn’t open the right hand on purpose.”

”The right art is purposeless, aimless!  The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede.  What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will.  You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.”

Concentrate entirely on your breathing, as if you had nothing else to do!”

True skill is . . . ‘spiritual’.  A state . . . “In which nothing is thought, planned, striven for, desired or expected, which aims in no particular direction and yet knows itself capable alike of the possible and the impossible”.

Eugene Herrigel couldn’t help but wonder:  “How can the shot be loosed if ‘I’ do not do it?”

“‘It’ shoots”, the Master replies

“And who or what is this ‘It’?”

Once you have understood that, you will have no further need of me.”

Zen training is a system of learning that builds the abilities completely in the subconscious.  Zen insists that true skill can reside no where else.  To the western mind, skill is a not-so-subconscious act that requires effort and a  disciplined Ego.  To Zen mind, act of skill is from the place of the unknowable, the unthinkable.

There are processes which are beyond the reach of understanding.  Do not forget that even in Nature there are correspondences which cannot be understood, and yet are so real that we have grown accustomed to them, just as if they could not be any different. .  The spider dances her web without knowing that there are flies who will get caught in it. . . The archer hits the target without having aimed – more I can not stay.”

At the end of his training, Herrigel was given a ceremonial demonstration of Zen archers, splitting arrows on targets, at distances of 80 yards, blind folded, one after another.

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