New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 by All Natural Spirit:
“Care for our Earth…
Save our Forests…
Protect our Oceans…
Love all Animals…
Always be Kind…”
Today is the summer solstice – it is the day of the year where we experience lengthened daylight hours and have shortened night hours. In the Southern Hemisphere we are at the peak of summer with high temperatures and frequent rainfall, which means an abundance of food and cherished time with the family.
The summer solstice is aligned with Fire, an element equally capable of creation and as it is destruction. The element of fire is often associated with the mind, which is able to come up with wondrous ideas that assist humanity (light aspect), but it can just as easily come up with many cruel ways to harm another (shadow aspect). Here I also link Fire with Earth, where a mental idea born from fire manifests as a physical entity; perceived in its solid form, like the earth. Thus, this leads to the main theme of today’s article.
What is the future of humanity? Many debates between citizens and scientists alike have led to interesting and disturbing predictions, from single toed-feet to uploading our brains into computer networks. However, one key point is somewhat over-looked in many of these predictions; the one where evolution and natural selection mostly operate in a ‘natural’ environment.
“Everything is everywhere nature selects” as well as “Survival of the fittest” generally rule the progression of a species throughout their interaction with nature. So, the question becomes: Does evolution in this sense still apply when we start to add the advances of technology as an ‘environmental factor’ in an ever-increasing synthetic life..? Because, we are living in a world, and living our lives more removed from nature than ever before and closer to technology – so much so that technology becomes the new environment. Thus, nothing natural would exist anymore for evolution to select upon. Therefore, should we not be more concerned rather with our self-imposed artificial selection? Whether-or-not some of us are more optimised towards the initial integration, and later the creation, of wholly synthetic humans…? Human-computer integration in the form of robotic bodies to brain networks seem more likely, especially if we live on a harsher Earth where resources become increasingly scarce, genetic modification would likely be vastly unreliable/irreproducible due to the complexity of DNA and its interaction with cellular mechanisms, and additionally, if we have not yet developed the ability to become space-faring. Genetics as the bases of Evolution becomes nearly obsolete.
Several films, such as Transcendence, Ghost in the Shell as well as TV series such as Pure Genius already touch upon this topic of blurring the line between natural and synthetic, whereas the movie Arrival and the video game trilogy of Mass Effect even ventures towards alien-contact as a means of improving humanity. When one starts to replace the physical body with synthetic material, the physical identity becomes blunted even to a point of non-existence, since customisation of our entire outer appearance (such as eye or skin colour, hair type, length of limbs and body shape) could become just as easy as applying make-up or pressing a button. We also see a scenario where genetics starts to become less important, in the sense that disease-resistance or healthy physique becomes unnecessary, because a ‘robotic’ body would surpass all of that. Only those who are mentally (and emotionally) strong enough would be able to survive (and become templates for new human life). When I refer to strength here, it is in the sense of having enough willpower and enough sense of identity without a ‘fixed’ natural body to be able to live as a synthetic. Whether we obtain our body through brain-transplantation (as in Ghost in the Shell) or get modified as we go (similar to Pure Genius), it leaves one thing in question – what about our souls? The part of us that guides our identity, our morals and ethical values, our capacity for compassion and humanity – when we are not even ‘human’ anymore…
We already see individuals in our societies with no regard for human life, including their own life regardless of the fact that we are all so very mortal. Existing as synthetic life would be in effect the ‘Fountain of Youth’ situation where robotic bodies do not age or become diseased and when damaged, can be repaired. Effectively we become immortal. I am assuming that some human-like activity would still be necessary in robotic bodies, such as supplying the brain with nutrition (through eating in some way) as well as sleeping (for the brain to process information). But, if the brain itself also becomes synthetic and we simply upload our consciousness into these bodies or even discard bodies entirely, opting for life in a digital network. How do you retain your sense of self and soul? What about of perception of time? How does our value of life change and would things like emotion still be possible? Or would we simply be reduced to electrical signals as our minds become stored as digital information? It would be far easier to be space-faring as digital signal rather than physical bodies. Maybe it would be possible to seed other planets with physical life through the transportation of ourselves in digital code, much like DNA travelling on meteorites. Could this be the salvation or the extinction of ‘The Human Identity & Soul’? Is evolution towards the digital our new path for survival?
Would you be able to live as a synthetic, without physical identity? Where you essentially become raceless, even genderless – would you retain enough identity to preserve your uniqueness and expand your perspective as digital code? How would this type of change influence the socio-economic state of our communities? When we no longer fight over land that has oil or water/food for sustenance? When discrimination based on physical appearance falls away – no more bureaucratic tick boxes of gender, race and nationality, not even religion or culture! No comparisons of physical prowess, beauty or age! Everybody becomes physically equal, since the body is stripped from the human experience. When physical actions, such as eat, sleep, run, swim, get married and even the bearing of children ceases to exist as our lives become converted to alternate universes based on digital constructions? How would your morals and ethics change?
Are you able to create an identity representative of yourself without the purely physical? Would you be able to retain your soul, grow and thrive as a person without a physical world? I think this is an important point to consider and it will dramatically change the way in which we presently view the world, ourselves and others. We start to identify with ourselves and others beyond the physical, to truly appreciate each other as people, not just as bodies. Since, we are more than just our bodies and to truly understand or love someone is to realize that they have the potential to exist without a body. To ultimately see and cherish people as they are; precious lives with unique souls.
Today is the winter solstice – it is the day of the year with the longest hours of night for the Southern Hemisphere, whereas the Northern is experiencing the longest hours of daylight.
The winter solstice is aligned with Water, a free flowing and reflective element necessary for all life on earth. Winter is a time of rest when many plants have become dormant, yet southern countries rarely receive snowfall such as our northern counterparts and thus many animals remain active during the colder months. The lower levels of activity, clear skies and dull landscapes are an ideal environment for some self-reflection and contemplation. Here, water assists greatly with inner searches of discovery when we review our behaviour and thoughts, sometimes coming face-to-face with inner demons (shadow aspect). With great effort we are able to see the value of such darkness in times of need when they are brought to bear during struggles for survival. We are also able to cultivate new skills and use them as gifts for ourselves and for others during times of need (light aspect). [Music: Anywhere Is – Enya] Thus, this leads to our main theme of today’s article.
The greatest gift one can learn for oneself and to teach others is that of meditation. Conscious focus on one’s breath is a very simple act, but our minds are easily distracted and soon thoughts invade, leading our concentration elsewhere and hindering our journey towards stress relief (and later self-discovery) [Benefits of Meditation]. In general, meditation also involves little-to-no human interaction and a great deal of solitude. Many people avoid and even fear solitude. Modern day society will tell you that you are ‘introverted’, anti-social or socially incompetent when you actively seek out solitude. It is because of the fact that during times of silence; your inner most being, your deepest desires and fears speak the loudest. It is easier to avoid such scenarios, because we are much too often reminded of the ‘could haves’, ‘should haves’ and ‘would haves’ when we sit in solitude [The Lost Art of Solitude & What’s Great about Solitude]. We are duped into believing that the distractions of money and material things can bring us everlasting comfort and happiness without having to face your inner self.
“At the start of our practise, we have to recognise the nature of mindfulness, which we have to develop for as long as we are alive. The presence of mindfulness is what really makes the difference between true happiness and false happiness… True happiness is when we really have peace of mind. False happiness is when greed and excitement overcome the mind – the mind is agitated.”
Venerable Sujiva (2000), Essentials of Insight Meditation Practice.
“The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing; it refuses nothing. It receives, but does not keep.”
Chaung-tzu as quoted in The Way of Zen, 1957 by A. W. Watts.
Material distractions form the basis of modern society. When we refuse to face the truth of our inner self we will never reach a state of contentment and harmony, because we are always rushing and running after the next big pay check and the next shiny car. I am not saying that money is evil or unimportant and that all material things are distractions – no, we all need to eat sometime during the month and certain material things are needed in order to function properly in society. What we do need to realise is that we actually require a lot less from the outside world and a lot more of the inner world. Happiness and contentment are not external, both are generated from within. Also, it isn’t easy, it isn’t instant and it takes constant effort to create your own happiness. Especially in a world that doesn’t believe such a feat is possible. This is where a constant meditation practise (even of 5 minutes a day) can assist with gentle guidance towards the inner self and impactful stress relief. The effects and personal journey that meditation leads one through is hard to describe partly because our language is quite inadequate to describe such explorations of the spirit.
“The difficulty is not so much in the language as in the thought-patterns which have hitherto seemed inseparable from the academic and scientific way of approaching a subject.”
A. W. Watts (1957), The Way of Zen.
“Only when the veils of the old, overconditioned personal self drop away do we liberate the innate capacities of our ‘‘original self’’ to see deeply into the reality of this outside world. Only at the deeper levels of such an emancipation can our true nature register objectively. The result is an extraordinary, fresh impression: things as THEY are, not what they had always seemed to be in our overconditioned imagination.
What we see then are the ways individual things complement one another, as do yin and yang. But these words, like other language functions of the left side, are then no longer in the picture. Indeed, as Paul Valery phrased it, “Seeing begins when you forget the name of the thing you see.” ”
J. H Austin (M. D) (2006), Zen-Brain Reflections.
One of the most striking descriptions that I have come across for the process was the comparison of the mind during meditation like the waves upon the ocean:
“Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves. Actually water always has waves. Waves are the practice of the water. To speak of waves apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one.”
Shunryu’s analogy lets me understand that the mind is like an ocean, where the thoughts are its waves generated from far in the subconscious (or unconscious). Some thoughts crash onto the shores of consciousness. Then the aim of meditation is to let them pull back, returning to the subconscious once again. Therefore, one cannot have an ‘empty’ mind, which is a common misconception. One cannot empty the mind as thoughts are inherit to it. Shunryu also continues his teachings by noting that:
“When you are practicing zazen, do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in, and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything. It appears as if something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind, and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer. “
[zazen = seated meditation]
Here, Shunryu illustrates that we can objectively face our subjective reality and the thoughts that come with it. We must learn to accept what we have done and realise how we currently think without judgement or reaction. With this realisation we will be able to chart a new way of thought, which will eventually lead to a new way of action. A spirit-to-mind-to-emotional-to-physical cascade of sorts, one flows into the other and cannot be separated from the former.
When one comes to think of the mind as a flowing entity, capable of steering its own course of energy, you quickly find yourself in the world of quantum physics [Quantum Physics & Quantum Metaphysics]. The laws of quantum physics are universal, unlike classical physics, and are able to influence any part of our reality, even our minds. Quantum physics has even demonstrated that an observer of a quantum event can influence its outcome. Thus the question becomes, if we step back from ourselves, our behaviours, thoughts and feelings – when we become mere observers of our life’s events: how much would we be able to influence what we have experienced and what we have learned from our lives? Ourselves?… We would, in-fact, be able to re-remember and to re-learn an entire lifetime’s worth of lessons. We would even be capable of re-writing experiences and memories. Such revelations would come to use like mind waves upon our own quantum ocean. It has the potential to become a deep and endless source of inner truth, ultimately leading to lasting happiness and contentment through all of life’s challenges and tribulations. The best of all is that: All of these valuable lessons lie within each and every one of us, we merely need to start listening and let the waves of wisdom crash upon the shores of our consciousness. Allow them effect upon our realities every day as we presently carve the path to ourselves and move towards a better future. I end off with phrases from the Venerable Sujiva, who gives us a practical approach to building on these memories and experiences, whereas Carl Jung gives an indication of its consequences:
“This means that a proper base of the lower experiences must be developed further before the higher levels can grow. For example, your concentration must last longer and deeper, before you are able to watch more phenomena. Therefore, when you watch certain new experiences, you have to watch it longer and clearer before you can watch deeper ones. For the third level to become stronger, the first and second level must become stronger too. You do not forget the lower levels. This means that there will be a constant repetition of the earlier experiences for some time, before a new experience comes. The lesson to be learned is that you must have patience.”
Venerable Sujiva (2000), Essentials of Insight Meditation Practice.
“The recollection of infantile memories and the reproduction of archetypal ways of psychic behavior can create a wider horizon and a greater extension of consciousness on condition that one succeeds in assimilating and integrating
in the conscious mind the lost and regained contents. Since they are not neutral,
their assimilation will modify the personality, just as they themselves will have to undergo certain alterations. In this part of what is called “the individuation process” (which Dr. M.-L. von Franz describes in a later section of this
book), the interpretation of symbols plays an important practical role. For the symbols are natural attempts to reconcile and unite opposites within the psyche.”
C. G Jung (1964), Man and his Symbols.
Thus, the Final Symbolic Message for the Winter Solstice:
– Meditating on the Shore of my Quantum Ocean –
All Natural Spirit
Source Materials for the “Message of the Winter Solstice”:
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