Tough Decisions

28 March 2014 ~ Question of the Day ~ Tough Decisions

Sometimes in life we have tough decisions to make where the answer or choice is not clear. Where do you turn for help in making those decisions?
Ask family and friends?
Ask a counselor or experts, or try to figure out what someone you admire would decide?
Do you seek more knowledge or information, to learn more about the matter you are deciding on?
Do you ask someone from your philosophy or religion, or seek the answer from further study of your philosophy or religion?
Do you look inside yourself for your own intuition or perhaps consult runes or tarot or other sources of clues or answers, like opening a special book at random, and reading?
Do you get quieter and seek inspiration?
Do you seek inspiration from Nature?
Do you look for some help from your astrological chart or other self-descriptive system?
Or some other source of help?

I tend to do the best research I can in the time available, analyse with the best logic available, then rely on my own intuition.
If I know anyone with relevant interests, I am likely to consult them.
I don’t have a philosophy or a religion. I am an eclectic soul, just taking what seems most effective from whatever I encounter, and whatever my intuition comes up with.
I don’t do runes or tarot or anything similar, though I do have some techniques for accessing my intuitive side that many would find a little odd.
I do sometimes do random searches, and that has been proven to be the quickest way to uncertain information.
I certainly spend time in contemplation – particularly early morning time.
I certainly spend time in nature, even if it is just looking out the window most days – I try to get outside for several hours at least twice a week.
I don’t do astrology, or anything similar.

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27 March 2014 ~ Question of the Day ~ Morality

Who decides what morality is?

Good questions OM and Bhatta,
The OED defines moral as “Relating to the nature and application of the distinction between right and wrong”.
Decide is defined as “To determine (a question, controversy, or cause) by giving the victory to one side or the other”.

So it seems that there are several levels of determination possible.
First one must be willing to admit of the existence of something called “right” and “wrong”, or something similar.
As children, we all start out making simple binary distinctions. The ideas of “right” and “wrong” are a prime example of such a simple binary.
Most of our choices in reality do not present themselves as simple binaries, but as complex situations, with complex chains of consequences stretching into our possible future.
So for most of us, as we age, and gain a deeper understanding of the potential consequences of choices, the simple idea of right and wrong we had as children vanishes. Things get much more complex.

It seems to me, that in so far as the terms “right” and “wrong” retain any shadow of their childhood meaning, then we are each personally responsible for making those choices.
And having said that, there is no doubt that there can be many different levels of social and legal agreement about what is “right” or “wrong”; and that in some societies these external agreements are held as much more important than our own personal determinations. Thus our choices can have consequences at many different levels, and can be judged at many different levels.

And it seems to me that most people do the best they can in the situations they find themselves most of the time.
And based upon that observation, I tend not to worry too much about ideas like morality, and just deal with whatever reality brings my way in the most effective way I can for the benefit of myself and all others.

[followed by]

Hi OM,
You should know by now that I don’t acknowledge any final authority.
Reality comes closer that anything else, and given that my only access to reality is through my unreliable sensory systems, I can’t rely on that absolutely.
All is probabilities.
And I do own the full 23 volume Oxford English Dictionary. It is one of the single greatest repositories of human knowledge.

[followed by]

Hi Kathy,
The problem with your last point is that no two situations are ever entirely identical, and no two individual’s understandings are ever entirely identical, leading logically to the conclusion that any strictly codified set of rules will necessarily lead to suboptimal solutions in some instances, and perhaps even catastrophic for the entire group.

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Shields Up!

Captain Kirk — Shields Up!

Have you ever let your guard down?

Interesting Laurie,

Shields and barriers are so important to life.
Without any sort of barrier, we could not survive.
Our cells have membranes and our bodies have skin (as the song goes, to keep the outside out and the inside in). People who lose more than 20% of their skin to burns or abrasion rarely survive.

The trick with any barrier is the degree of permeability. How much of what do we let through? And how much energy do we need to put in to chuck out unwanted stuff that seeps in, or get back important stuff that leaked out.

At every level we need some way of getting in the stuff we really need, and minimising the amount of unwanted and potentially dangerous stuff; as well as keeping in the uch needed stuff.

And being humans we have many levels of shields. Cells membranes and skin are the obvious physical ones, our eyes, nose membranes, mouth, gut, and lungs are slightly less obvious, but still there. Internally we have blood vessels and lymph system etc.

When we get past the physical and into the software (spiritual) side of being human, we have so many levels of barrier that we build during our development, most of which most of us are completely unaware of.
Many of those levels of barrier are important for our early development, but need to be dismantled as soon as possible after having served their developmental purpose, but in most of us they stick around.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time dismantling most of the no-longer required barriers from my development, and have replaced a few of them with systems I have designed myself to detect and isolate malicious intrusion.
So mostly I operate in a very open and trusting mode.

Many think of me as naive, and in one sense I suppose I am, but in a much deeper sense it is a conscious choice to take the risks involved and enjoy the benefits that come from such risk.
Yes sometimes trust is broken, and there is pain and unwanted consequence, and the vast majority of the time people respect the trust, and I get the benefits of communication and relationship.

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Earth and Sun

25 March 2014 ~ Question of the Day ~ Earth and The Sun

What relationship between earth and the sun causes the seasons?

The basic reason is that the earth’s spin axis is not aligned to the sun, so that as the earth goes around the sun first one hemisphere gets most of the sunlight and energy (summer), then they get equal amounts (equinoxes), then the other one gets the lions share (winter in the original hemisphere and summer in the other one.
Here is a graphic showing how it works:

This image shows what the various lines of latitude mean with respect to the Northern hemisphere summer:

And here is the >Wikipedia article on the subject.
If you have a spinning globe on a tilted axis, it can help to turn the lights out, and set up a flashlight on the other side of the room pointing at the globe to act as the sun, and spin the globe to simulate days passing, and turn the base to simulate the change of seasons as the spin axis rotates around the earth.

[followed by]

Kathy’s video is great – and one of the best little explanations I have seen of the major influences on the earth’s orbit.

There are a few other factors – like changes in day length due to tidal effects from the moon, and changes due to extreme solar activity, but they are very small usually – small fractions of a second in any one year.
So certainly the angle of the Sun through the sky is changing, but very slowly, and only by a couple of degrees every few thousand years.
The unaided human eye might just be able to notice the change over a century, but it would take meticulous record keeping to be certain.

[followed by]

My question then has to become – exactly what is the record keeping that is informing experience (FOS’s or anyone else’s).

Our memories are not that reliable.
We are all very suggestible.
The sun definitely changes its position in the sky every day, particularly so at this time of year – for us it is getting lower and lower in the sky, for you it will be getting higher and higher.

I have seen no evidence of any strange wobbles.
If there had been any strange wobbles, then all celestial navigation tables would need to be redone, and I have not heard of any such thing. I have a couple of friends who live on their yachts, and travel the world – so I think I would have heard.

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ANG’s 5th year

24 March 2014 ~ Question of the Day ~ As ANG Enters Its 5th Year

As ANG enters its 5th year can you describe ways this community has had an impact on your personal journey?

So many ways.
When things get hard in NZ reality, it is great to know that there is a community of people willing to make the effort to communicate with the joint intention of developing a world that works for the great diversity that exists, and the even greater diversity to come.

It is great to have people willing to engage in really challenging questions, questions that alter our perceptions of reality.
I make the effort to follow all the links that people suggest here, and sometimes well down the chain.
I have learned a lot.

This is a place where I can try out ideas, and ways of expressing those ideas, and see where it takes us. All powerful in what I am up to.

And then there is the discipline of checking in here every day.
I don’t always post, and mostly I do, and I do always read.
It is kinda like vitamin C for the mind.

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Travel companion

23 March 2014 ~ Question of the Day ~ Travel Companion

What are the characteristics which make someone either an excellent or a “nightmare” travel companion for you, you in particular, not people in general?

Spontaneous, interested in most things, willing to try new things, willing to adjust plans if something particularly interesting crops up.
Someone with a good mix of street smarts and awareness of nature, particularly awareness of the “comfort zones”, and aggravation levels of large or vicious or poisonous animals.

A nightmare would be someone unaware of our situation, and unthinking of the needs of others.
I have been in some very dangerous situations, and always got out alive, mainly through displaying respect for and interest in other people; and sometimes that respect involved not noticing them when they clearly did not want to be noticed.

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22 March 2014 ~ Question of the Day ~ Evolution

Why Evolution?

Why evolution? Basically, because it is the simplest possible way to get a replicator to change over time and circumstances.

In the space of all possible strategies that can lead to increases in complexity over time, evolution by natural selection is the simplest possible.
All it takes is a replicator, occasional errors in the replicating process, and variation in the environment over time; and the resulting competition amongst the variants will randomly explore the possibility space available. Some of those explorations will result in increases in complexity, some in decreases.
Given that the process starts from very simple replicators, there will be an expanding “front” of replicators exploring ever more complex arrangements.
If one looks at any particular line of evolution, it is about as likely to go in the direction of less complexity as it is to go towards greater complexity, and over time, ever greater complexity happens. It seems that the replicator that started life off here on earth was the family of molecules known as Ribo-Neucleic Acids (RNA).
It seems clear (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) that all life we observe here on earth has evolved from a single common ancestor some 3 billion years ago, and all life has been evolving all that time. Some of it, like us, has reached deeply into new realms of possibility, while other lines are still much the same as they were billions of years ago (like the archea and the cyanophyta). That is just how the process works.

When one is able to see the chemistry, the mathematics and the logic of the process, it has a profound beauty in the simplicity driving the developing complexity.

Now that evolution has given rise to us, we are able to explore other mechanisms to develop complexity.
And it seems that to get to something as complex as us, reality has to go through the process of evolution.

[followed by]

Hi Bhatta,
I did address why.
English is a strange language – very non-specific. Even when one goes to extraordinary lengths to be specific, one can still end up non-specific (I am reminded of the movie bedazzled – the original with Peter Cook ad Dudley Moore – where the Devil (Peter Cook) buys Dudley’s soul for a specific number of wishes, then grants each wish by giving him exactly what he asked for, but exactly the opposite of what he wanted).

Why can mean cause, or it can mean motive or purpose.
The latter meaning implies an intelligence to have a purpose. Without an intelligence, there is no motive or purpose.
A far as I can see, all the evidence is in support of the contention that there was no motive or purpose behind evolution. There is only cause, and the cause comes out of the logical possibilities available to random chance, and the probability vectors involved.

So I had quite explicitly addressed why – and had quite explicitly and intentionally left out all reference to motive or purpose, in the hope that others would see it for themselves with the clarity that is present for me.

[followed by]

Hi Bhatta,

You asked “How do we know that things are changing, that things are moving or are transitory?” then stated “A thing that changes cannot perceive change by itself. Change cannot know change. Only that which does not change can know that there is change.” Which is not actually true.

All that the thing that is changing requires is a way of taking and storing a “picture” of something, and then comparing that stored picture with the state of the thing at some other time. If there is a difference, then there is change. The agent itself does not need to be invariant, it only needs to have the ability to create an image which is more or less stable on the time-scale being considered. This is essentially the mechanism we use. Our neural nets are constantly reconfiguring, so the patterns we see are constantly changing, yet we also have an ability to form memories, and we can compare those memories with our current observations. It is our memories which are our best approximation to invariance (for all their faults and variances).

If there were no change, then everything would be static – all movement, all thought, would be impossible.

It is only in systems that allow for change, for a mix of both the lawful and the random to exist, that thinking entities such as ourselves can arise, via a long process of evolution by natural selection.

Given that we live in a galaxy that has some 300 billion stars, and we have estimated roughly 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, and the observable universe seems to be about 0.5% of the total universe; then there is a significant probability that intelligent life will have evolved somewhere else, and possibly billions of years before us.

Given that our knowledge is increasing exponentially at present, this poses a logical conundrum, in that if any other life form like ourselves achieved exponential expansion of knowledge, and started expanding through our galaxy, it would quite likely have reached us within a couple of million years. That no such entity has announced itself to us would seem to be fairly strong evidence that the conditions required to achieve cellular life and allow for the level of complexity represented by our global society, are exceptionally rare.

[followed by]

I can align with the first half of what you write Brian, and segments of the rest.

For me, evolution by natural selection provides an explanation of how matter created in the explosion of a first generation star can produce entities capable of language and spiritual development.

Evolution does not have anything to say about the end point of spiritual development, and it does give us many important understandings of the initial sets of conditions, including the initial incentives and the initial trajectories of spiritual development.
And past a certain point, spiritual development becomes a very personal thing.

It is clear to me that there may be an infinite number of levels and each level containing infinite possibilities.
One could spend the rest of eternity exploring any chosen level, or one could choose to continuously explore new levels.
The choice seems to me to be completely personal.

And within all those infinities, there seem to be some clear sets of strategies.
One can simply choose to “go with the flow” of the urges and tendencies supplied by our primate evolution, and let them drive us to (if we are male) young sexual partners, power, sugary foods, etc; or we can choose something else.

If we desire peace, to allow us (and everyone else) to explore the infinite creative potential within us, then the set of strategies that deliver that over the long term is a substantially smaller subset of the set of all possible strategies.
If we do desire to live in a free, peaceful, diverse, prosperous; then we must accept some limitation on the sorts of strategies we select in life.

The sorts of strategies that actually work are well known in spiritual traditions:
do unto others as you would have them do unto you;
let he who is without sin cast the first stone;
and any number of other strategies that support people living in peace and diversity.

Meeting the physical needs of people is something that we are now rapidly approaching the ability to completely automate.

Evolution explains a great deal about how we got to where we are.
Evolution does not have much to say about what we choose to do from here.

For me, morality is framed in the context of strategies that deliver long term benefit to me (given that it seems possible to me that I might actually get to live for the rest of eternity). Considering my own self interest on such time-scales, my owns interests blur into the interests of all other sentient entities (be they human or non-human, biological or non-biological).

Spiritual development for me is understanding the systems and processes that have bought me to where I am, and exploring the sets of strategies that deliver the greatest possible freedom and security for myself and others.

[followed by]

Hi Brian
At the higher levels, there is certainly an element of spirituality that is concerned with the boundaries between the I and the we.
That seems clear to me where any I must end up once it is able to push its expectation functions further out in time.
The further out we consider our own self interest, the more that self interest includes the interest of all others. That is just abundantly clear from extending games theory into strategy spaces in general.

It is also clear to me that all disciplines are related. They all have important effects on each other when it comes to our actions in reality.

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