All is Mind.

I have been a Buddhist going on 25 years, but only in the last ten years or so have I begun to have a burning interest in finding links between Buddhism’s teaching (summarized in the Heart Sutra), that “all is mind”, and the experimental evidence and theories of physics.

There has been over at least the last decade, a growing number of theoretical physicists, particularly those delving into quantum phenomena, who have expressed their observations and feelings about the intersection of their physics and what may be called conventionally, the spiritual realm.  There are now many books on the subject, exploring the links spanning consciousness, spirituality and modern physical theories and astronomical and laboratory observed phenomena.  The book, The Physics of Consciousness, by Evan Harris Walker, is but one.  Currently I am reading and will reread a book by Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.  A couple of other authors are Amit Goswami and Fred Alan Wolf, but there are a number more who have written on the subject, either directly or by touching on the consciousness aspect.

For those less inclined to read, but who want to explore this topic, you must watch the movie, What The Bleep!? -Down The Rabbit Hole, which gives an excellent treatment of the subject, although being already somewhat outdated as science has moved on since the release of the film in 2005.

This whole subject, trying to grasp findings and implications of modern particle physics and the relationships of time, space and gravity is mind-boggling enough, but when blended with the question of “what is consciousness?” becomes essentially unfathomable if one remains in a normal state of mind.  I have found the best way to approach these questions is to essentially go into a semi-meditative state.  Little by little I am finding I have a better understanding of the puzzle pieces as explained by these great physicists.  But when “studying” the subject of consciousness, using one’s own consciousness, it is clear that there is no discernible end to the rabbit warren’s twists and turns.

I would be foolish to attempt to say more on this grand subject, for far greater minds than my own continue to struggle and scribble equations that may finally capture the Mind of God.  I would leave it to the reader, if interested, to follow me into the hole, and be open-minded.

Happy exploring. Keep a Happy Mind!

 

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It Began Here

For some reason my mind wandered back to where my formal education began, at the school house pictured above.  I attended first and second grades there, at Montell, Texas, 1952-1954.  It was a fun time, and I learned what I needed to learn to move into decades of learning that would lay the foundation for my career of some fifty years as an electrical engineer.

Now I remember what drew my mind back to the school.  I was watching a movie last evening and there was a jeep rolling along a country road that triggered my remembrances of the jeep our parents owned.  It was a raggedy Army jeep, with even one or two bullet holes in the back.  I don’t recall if I ever asked Daddy if that jeep was in the WWII or the Korean conflict, or maybe it was just used for training.  I do recall how much fun it was to drive it, as my parents taught me how to drive it when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  I will save my stories of driving the jeep on the ranch for another post.

Mama used to drive me to school, as we lived about five miles from Montell on a ranch.  I vividly remember those wintry days when she would bundle me and my little sister up, and we would roll along with cold wind chewing us to pieces.  During good weather though it was so enjoyable to us kids.

Montell school closed after my second grade, and I went on to attend schools in Uvalde, which was a 40 mile bus ride from our ranch.  The school had been there a very long time, and after the community hall closed, the school served that purpose and still does today.

On one side of the school is a historic Methodist church, and a short distance away on the other side is the Episcopal Church of Ascension, with a historic graveyard.  Our parents, one set of grandparents and many other relatives are entered there, along with many area residents spanning centuries.  The graveyard also has some historic characters in the mist, including a Confederate general, which I am not very happy to admit (but also not happy to acknowledge the slave-owning history of some of my ancestors).

One other building makes up the “infrastructure” of Montell, and in its day when I was a little boy, it was very important to us kids around lunch time.  John D.’s store and post office was just a couple of hundred yards away from our school house, and we would of course often skip over to the store as we knew John D. would have some candies for us, and maybe a Coke.  Ah yes, when Cokes were in the smaller glass bottles that we seldom see today, and tasted so good during a hot day where we sweated in the open windows building trying to do what our one teacher was working so hard to teach us.

Mrs. Taylor, our teacher, was responsible for teaching four grades at the school, with a student population that varied some, but usually around 7-10 kids over the four grades.  She was a very nice and competent teacher as I recall.  She got some assistance from two sisters who were in the top two grades (levels), and they would help tikes like me with learning our primary colors and ABC’s.

It took me a while apparently to master the primary colors.  I even recall to this day, Mrs. Taylor trying to get me to comprehend what the color orange is, so she took an orange from my sack lunch, held it up, and said “What color is this orange?”.  I was totally frustrated by then, and blurted out, “I don’t give a damn what color an’ ol’ orange is!”.  Well she was very nice as I said, and didn’t spank me, but told Mama, who laughed about this her entire life.  Now I laugh hard thinking about it!

Besides myself, there were usually 2 or 3 other boys, one a little older than myself, and all Mexican Americans.  Which reminds me also that at this first school experience all of us kids, Anglos and Hispanics, played together; but, when I went to school for the rest of my days, especially during elementary years, there was a very harsh distinction between the two ethnicities, with the Latin children always sitting on one side of the class rooms, and we “white” kids on the other.  And, I clearly recall that we “white” boys were often pitting ourselves against the Mexican-American boys on the play ground.  That one day I would marry an African American woman is a testament to how people change.

The Montell school had one big wood-burning stove to keep the school “warm”, but we definitely kept on our coats during the cold days.  I and the other boys were given by Mrs. Taylor the chore of going out to the wood pile to tote in logs and keep the stove stoked, so this was a fun thing to do at that age (I was used to doing it at home anyway!).  One day we were gathering wood and discovered a huge centipede in the pile, and we ran to get Mrs. Taylor, who grabbed a big glass bottle and came running.  Her intent as a teacher was to catch it and let it become a science exhibit.  I am not sure how we caught it, no doubt she was doing that work, because I know neither myself nor the other kids wanted to have anything to do with it (and I still today would not).  She was successful, and we kids marveled at how scary the thing in the bottle looked.

So it all began there.  Very few kids today in America get to experience anything like this country school experience.  It was a holdover, a remnant of the past.  Although we didn’t have anything like today’s technology (my granddaughter mastered the iPhone at 18 months!), we did have real life lessons, like looking under logs for centipedes!

If you are ever inclined, go visit Montell, just don’t blink or you will miss it!

 

Male Ritual Initiation: On Becoming A Man in America

This topic has always intrigued me.  In fact many years ago I wrote a small book on the subject, self-published it at a local print shop, then never did anything with it further, eventually tossing it all.  But I continue to feel that the vacuum of male ritual initiation in modern Western societies, especially in the USA, has “short-sheeted” our cultures.

In all tribal societies, to my knowledge, there is a rite of passage from being a boy, to joining the ranks of manhood; same for girls becoming women.  Many of these practices continue this very day, some extremely risky, but innate to the respective cultures.  Some of these rites would highly offend our values and senses, but each tribe or group devised these over millennia to be their social “glue.”  Somehow our modern Eurocentric societies, over centuries, lost whatever we had “back in the day.”  Likely this had to do with two things:  religion and industrialization.  The latter gave the masses a means to live less tribally, more as larger societies, exchanging goods and services, without having to endure extreme deprivation or physical pain routinely; whereas the former sought to totally control the masses, with initiation becoming baptismal in Europe, excluding any possibility of initiation into one’s familial micro-culture.  The objective of most ritual initiations is to prepare the man for dealing with his future life as a man, whether warrior or elder, which invariably will involve pain:  the pain from hand to hand combat, the pain of hunger and pain from accidents working in very harsh conditions; basically the pain of living as hunters, gatherers, and herders.  The greater objective is to be shown one’s role in their tribal structure, and instill an appreciation for the tribe’s values.

However, my thesis is that having forsaken ritual initiation, our society left the door open to the natural yearning that young males have to feel their strength, to become men in the sense of social responsibility, to protect their loved ones and to bond together.  Thus, I contend, boys in America have been left with finding their own means of initiation, for some beginning with participating in potentially dangerous activities such as skate boarding and other sports and activities with considerable risk.  Another example is our passion for rough sports, whether it is football, or today’s popular MMA fights, which are clearly at a lifetime cost to these “gladiators.”  To become a man in the heart of a “normal” boy, is to face danger.  The sense of adrenaline flowing through the body, providing that special thrill that has to be upped each time to experience the same level of reward, fuels this self-initiation.  The coursing of testosterone through the body, focusing the mind on sex, is a parallel aspect of this initiation: being a standout in a sport may reward a young man by upping his popularity sexually.

I personally experienced all these aspects of self-initiation, growing up as a boy in Texas: doing all sorts of risky things, hunting with a rifle at age nine, riding bikes doing crazy stuff, racing dump trucks on gravel roads….you name it….and being like many American kids in their teens, endangering myself and others while DWI; oh, and let me not omit, chasing girls.   Eventually my self-initiation was joining the Air Force, going to pilot training (that I quit…see another of my posts), and fortunately, NOT going to Viet Nam.  So my perspective  about all this is experienced based, of course.

But the No. 1 issue of my thesis, is this:  that Americans and America at large has always had a penchant toward violence, and over the years since the Korean war, our society has turned to war as a means of collective initiation.  As a result, in the absence of personal ritual initiation, many of our youth have sought to pass into manhood by joining the military – or being drafted to be “initiated” – without any real understanding of what they are getting into, or what they may have to do, or accidentally do,  “to other human beings.”  The saying that “ignorance is bliss” well describes how we prepare our youth in understanding the full truth of America’s history domestically and abroad, and even current events cannot easily be penetrated or assessed by the young mind (the mind does not reach adulthood until around 25 years of age), so how can they make a clear choice about becoming a soldier?

On the other hand, most American males never go so far as to join the military, and so are left without any recognizable initiation into manhood.  So initiation comes only through the experiences of their lives, and combined with our poor education system, lack of mentoring and coaching by elders, begets an unending spectrum of personal and social difficulties.

So given the premise of my argument, do I also proffer a solution?  I do have one:  radically improve our educational system.  Obviously there is no way to change our culture at large, but we can greatly improve what we teach our children, our boys and our girls.  Children will self-initiate themselves into adulthood, one way or another. If they have been given a wider spectrum of education, from societal to physics, all through their school years, they will be much more equipped to critically analyze their options and the implications of potential choices they must make in life.  The starting point would be to teach American history truthfully, devoid of “white washing” and prejudice.  Next, expand the teaching of science, for instance teach quantum physics theory and its implications regarding “consciousness” and even religion.

Am I optimistic.  Well, yes.  I detect slow but sure changes going on, for the better.  My pet saying, that I often voice to my godchildren and others, is “all good things take time.”  So while we cannot return to tribal ritual initialization, we can holistically prepare both our minds, spirits and bodies to be the best adults we can be.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice…

To be able to tune your mind to being for a few moments, minutes or even hours, to a frequency band that returns you to childhood play?  I think so…except I might forget to set the time limit and just stay there!  The image of this post does remind me of those days of being a boy, playing outdoors which is where I was mostly if it wasn’t too cold (never too hot, oddly…even in the Texas heat, but then we had no air conditioning at all).

I vividly recall this fallen, great oak tree, that was quite huge to me as a small boy.  It had to be quite “ancient” by normal standards, for it had lost all of its bark to age and insects, and had bleached in the sun to be a grayish white.  To me it served as Moby Dick, or as a great ship, or any number of “platforms,” even a big airplane.  I would run up and down it, out on its “tail fin”, up to its snout, fighting villains, leaping off its back to land several feet below, then run and leap upon it again, fighting my way back against huge odds.

Some years earlier I remember even at the age of four and five, how various objects my Daddy had sitting around, like his old one-horse trailer, that became in my fertile boy mind, a stage coach.  I would dress in my Hopalong Cassidy (yes kids, there actually was a movie character named that…look it up!) outfit that Mama had bought me, complete with boots and hat, and riding my stick horse Topper, race around the stage coach shooting at the bad guys who had stolen it and the gold it carried.  I would leap onto the stage coach, and arrest the horse team to bring it to a hard stop while shooting these bad guys.

In another post I may have mentioned me becoming a matador and fighting my pet goats.  Now that little play activity nearly got me hurt bad.  We had a few “Sancho” goats…orphaned goats our parents had raised by bottle feeding…and these preferred to stay inside our yard often, looking for more food, even after they were nearly grown.  I had discovered that if I pulled on the tail of one of these goats, it would turn around and butt me, much to my delight.  Somewhere I guess I had seen some bullfight scenes, and at that age that impressed me sufficiently to become one.  So I got a towel for a cape, and would pull the goat’s tail, and it would turn and “charge” me.  Well, that worked well and we were having lots of fun (at least I was, not sure about little goat), until on one pass the goat had had enough of pesky boy, pushed me against the yard wire fence.  Now I was actually about the same height as the goat, and it had full horns, and had pinned me against the fence with its head in my chest and its horns at my throat.  Of course, by then the fun had vanished, and sheer fear had set in and I was screaming my head off.  Mama came running thank goodness, to save her little matador.  Needless to say, that game was not on my play list afterwards.

I know many children in the world have little opportunity to freely play, but I have seen that around the world, even children living in the most dire circumstances do play.  Each place, time and nature of their play is spontaneous and captures their minds for a while, taking them to a place away from the mundane, or suffering, or the gnawing hunger in their little tummies.  Such is play.  It is what we were given to refresh ourselves a little bit, to have the strength to carry on.  Unfortunately most adults lose that faculty to activate their “play mind.”  Watching my little granddaughter, not even age two, play, is so amazing and wonderful, and is a catalyst to activate mine. Through her I can relive to a degree the feeling of play, a place devoid of time and real space, just joy, if just for a few moments.  But in play land, a moment in this dream time can be an hour.

Yes, if I could go back and reclaim my own “play mind”, I would in a heartbeat.  I have heard the question asked before, why are we humans born little and die as wrinkled, dull old folks (if we are so fortunate to live to old age).   It might be nice to be born somehow fully grown, fully wise, then get smaller and smaller, having more and more fun as our time expires.  Think about it.

 

Americans’ Obsession With Time

It has been many years since I passed through Grand Central Station, depicted in the image of this post.  It is a rather amazing place, if one is of a mind to stand to the side and just contemplate the movement of humans through this beautiful edifice.  As I recall, few people might be observed just standing waiting, for at rush hours in NYC, as anyone who has been there knows, if you stand still you will get run over.  Sad, but true.

As I say, I haven’t been to NYC in a very long time, but I vividly recall that each time, during the day when we were attempting to “make hay,” we were always in a trot to get somewhere.  Only in the evening, did the mass movement recede to the point where you could stroll along, which I took good advantage of, sightseeing, and cabbing to Greenwich Village to take in my favorite cuisine, jazz.

So it seems that we Americans have sort of a mathematically sliding scale sense of time, somewhat a “fuzzy” logarithmic perception it would seem.  We seem to think we have control time by stepping on or easing off our private time “mini-warp” pedals.  Each person, living in different environs also has their biases applied to their sense of time, whether innate to their temporal sense, or due to being caught up in a shared mass sense of time, such as the commuters moving through Grand Central twice a day.

Time is also at best an elusive subject to even discuss.  Our daily sense of time as Americans is typically purely temporal, but for some people, they have “escaped” temporal concerns, and are living in a more spiritual time base, not overly worried about today or this moment, thinking more in terms of being along an infinite time line.

We Americans sense of time may be rightfully said to be owned by we Americans.  One can look to any other country or area, or even tribal groups around the globe and each will have their own sense of time, the marking of time in their respective histories, and several having no sense of time, nor even tenses nor words to even recognize the “movement” of time (or humans movement along time?).

Time as a dimension in theoretical physics also becomes something really cool, as any Star Trek fan well knows.  But, sigh, for now we each are stuck with our “personalized” time.  In the day-to-day (7 x 24) world of America’s workdays, time equals money.  Everything we do in the workday, if it is about our work, time and money are for practical use, the same domains.  Projects work against deadlines.  Why? To minimize cost and maximize profit.  Perhaps artists and musicians are not even immune to this, for artists may have a date to make an art show, and musicians have time = money sessions in studios.

No doubt this aspect is not just an American phenomenon, but is typical of “developed” countries.  However, that sense of time, the sense to maximize profit by constricting time, does vary across the industrialized world, and it is proven in some societies for employers and workers to be less concerned about the extremes we live with here, while they also experience greater work/life balance, and actually spend less time working.

Having recently retired I can say that one can definitely adjust to a “time change.”  My days, as with most retirees, seem quite long, like time has stretched, and I have “more time” to do the things I want to do.  There is truly a joy in not feeling the pressure that most Americans works under, driven by this American sense of time.

So I do hope for America’s sake, we can find a way to alter our sense of time, and our purpose for even being here.  Can we carve out more time to relax, allow our minds to be still, to be led to a sense where there is no time, just a state of joyful being?

OK, I have run out of time I allotted to write this!  Bye for now.

The Elephant in Our American Classrooms

The news often carries stories of aging school buildings, poorly maintained, particularly in the “rust belt”of our nation, or poor rural towns and  inner-city areas.  We also see many stories that compare our educational system to those of other nations, indicating that American students continue to rank far, far below the top performing nations.  These education comparisons typically are based on test scores for “reading, writing and arithmetic”, and other factors such as teacher/student ratios, et cetera.  This in itself is very sad, given the resources the United States has at its disposal.  However, there is another aspect of our educational system which, after observing particularly the last ten years of our political strife, leads me to one conclusion.

We just don’t see the elephant in our classrooms:  the absence of teaching students how to critically analyze subjects.  I contend that if our youth were taught, from their early years, right on through secondary curricula, and for those going on to four year colleges, there too, how to think (not what to think), then our political discourse actually would result in promoting our society at large, to the betterment of all, as opposed to what we see hour by hour in the news today.

Critical analysis requires working with facts – not alternative facts – validating “givens”, searching for the true themes, testing hypotheses, challenging the “story”, the logic of the story’s elements, and generally not just accepting, prima facie, any content we see in the media.  Of course, we could also extend this to discourse in general, whether conversation at the family breakfast table, or bullshitting at the bar during happy hour.

As I write this our nation is embroiled in what effectively is a civil war, a battle for the future of this country.  I give thanks every day that I live in this country, a nation of laws, at times irrational and unfounded on truth, but one that endures,  one that had a Civil War, and continues to evolve.  How this will play out, no one can know.  Personally I have faith, that the arc of moral justice is long, but sure, to paraphrase a famous quote.  But I do think we would be wise to wipe our eyes, and begin to see this elephant, in whatever color or colors we best see.  Unless we begin to teach our students the refined “art” of critical analysis, we will continue to be locked in a battle for generations to come, even though the stakes will change.  I suppose one could argue that the struggle makes us stronger – if it doesn’t kill this country completely.  However, I would rather advocate for minimizing the struggle, because it by in large is predicated on conflicting opinions, neither of which in any situation is grounded in reason, vis-a-vis critical analysis. While we are human and not Vulcan (a la Star Trek), when our arguments are mostly emotional, based on unfounded bias or predisposition, devoid of logic or fact, we collectively will progress slowly, at best.  The great mishap that we are allowing to ominously reach the precipice, that which could be the undoing of the civilization we “enjoy”, is due to our inability to critically analyze and fully appreciate its cause and its danger:  climate change.  So, the wages of non-critical thinking are dire indeed.

No Music, No Life

7 a.m., and I awoke thinking about what I could write about today.  Early morning is when I am most in touch with my inner being, and the joy I get from writing is totally a function of the subject springing forth from my spirit.  So at this dawn, it dawned on me that the topic that brings me most joy is music.  Without music I could not have lived, nor would I want to continue living.  No doubt I have kindred spirits throughout the world’s population, in fact I would be on safe turf saying most humans need some form of music in their lives to feel alive.  Even in the most strictly conservative societies music proclaims they are alive.  Indigenous peoples in ways are most in touch with the instruments that are conduits between their spirit and their vision of the higher power, the creative force in the universe.  In fact the whole purpose of music, its very origin, is to connect our sense of living with the greater whole that heart perceives.

When I was a little boy in the country (I wrote about my boyhood in an earlier post), I was very early on a singer.  I sang to myself, to nature, for the joy of singing.  What I would sing would be some of the old songs I heard on 16 and 78 rpm platters that my father had or his mother, some really old folk songs, some older C & W songs put out by artists like Hank Williams, and then along came rock n roll.  There was an old mesquite tree by the gate from our ranch to the highway, where I would wait every morning, climb up on that tree so I could see the bus coming, but feel safe from any javelin hogs or other imaginary predators while I waited in the cold, dark winter mornings for the sight of that yellow bus.  Up in that tree I would croon to the world, at the top of my voice, singing whatever I had heard on the radio. At my age then, around 9 or 10, I had gathered a pretty good collection of songs that I could partially remember and at least carry the tune, and singing these would make the time go by quickly, reducing my sense of freezing on those cold mornings.  Our neighbor down the road a quarter of a mile would laughingly tell my mother that she always could hear me singing, but I had no idea I had an audience other than the ears of nature.

I don’t know if the love for music enters we humans from the divine ether, or if its karma, or DNA, or the environment.  All I know is that music is not an act, it is the essence of living, although very unfortunately some people are just not tuned to the right frequency band to realize it in their own lives.  I have this notion that people who love music are better people, but maybe that is just my wishful thinking.

When I was 13, after we had moved to southern California, my love for music continued, as my mother also loved music, and our parents had invested in a nice record player console, and Mama had purchases several albums of great song standards.  One of those also had several Latin numbers, and upon hearing the bongo playing, I knew I had to have some bongos.  So Mama got me a set of cheap “hecho en Mexico” bongos, which I endeavored to play along with the record, until I broke one of the heads.  After that although I continued to love all the rock n roll and then black cross-over sounds beginning to air, I dropped my drumming until college years, when I finally saved up enough money to buy a good conga drum and another bongo set.  I would play my heart out, drumming along to albums by the Tempts, and other big name groups of the day.

Later when I was stationed in North Dakota, even as a commissioned officer, I played with a small soul band consisting of all enlisted guys, and we played on and off the air base (looking back I was lucky I wasn’t charged with fraternizing with enlisted personnel, as an officer).  I would also just play in my room, all alone, covering the rhythms of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Curtis Mayfield’s “If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go.”  I wore those albums out.  It would be minus-30 degrees outside my windows, but I would be all cozy inside, burning calories on my conga head.

As my Air Force days came to an end, my marriage to a lady who would be honored as “Dallas’ Queen of Jazz” at her passing some twenty-five years later, began.  For all those years I lived an up close and personal life in her shadows, in the world of jazz.  With her entre, I was able to meet some of the greatest names, to sit on a sofa next to her and Dizzy Gillespie, to have Cedar Walton often come to visit her at our home, to meet so many other greats (all this will be in my forthcoming book, Texas Jazz Triangle, A Historic Nexus:  My Love Affair With The Music).  I was not born to be a musician, however, but rather to be an engineer, which provided a blissfully rewarding career.  But when I was home, our domestic vibe was all jazz, with sounds of Coltrane, Ella, and so many other muses flowing throughout our home at all hours.

When my wife transitioned, it was music that kept me alive, that provided the catharsis for dealing with the grief.  Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Angel”, was one of the levers that got me through my deep sense of loss.  And since that time in my life, it has been music that has kept me going, fired my passion, allowed me to share love and joys.

Yes, music is life to me.  If it is yours I am sure you understand.  If not, I do pray you open up and let it come in.