This question on Walls generated some interesting explorations:

Questions of the Day – March 17, 2011 – seeing beyond your walls

When you encounter a wall, you should tell yourself, “Since there is a wall here, a wide, open expanse must lie on the other side.” Rather than becoming discouraged, know that encountering a wall is proof of the progress that you have made so far.-Daisaku Ikeda. What do you see beyond the wall(s) in your life?

Would be nice if it were so, and often it is not.
Sometimes there are open spaces on the other side of walls, sometimes not.
Sometimes walls have been placed there to keep people out of dangerous places, and jumping over the wall just leads to immediate death.
Sometimes walls just are – without any intention, they just exist – without reason.
Sometimes there is no open space beyond a wall – if one considers the ground itself as a flat wall, then below it is miles of solid rock, followed by thousands of miles of liquid rock, followed by liquid metal, followed by very hot solid metal. None of that stuff supports human life.

If we go high enough to escape the “wall” of gravity, we expose our bodies to the vacuum of space, which without some sort of enclosure to provide us with life support again results in rapid death.

There are certainly many walls and barriers in life that may be crossed, and beyond which lie “lands” new and unexplored by us; and many of those barriers are imposed by culture and or our own beliefs.

Some walls, like death, are of a type that do not offer open expanse, but actually terminate existence – irrespective of what some cultural creations might have to say on the matter.
Some barriers are better not crossed, if one wishes to survive or grow in any sense of those words.

[followed by]

Hi Barbara, OM & Amber
Yep – I agree that there is many a metaphorical wall for us to dismantle, punch through or otherwise get past.

I do not see us as energy.
I see us as patterns in the flow of energy, much like a fountain is a pattern in the flow of water.
We are not the energy as such, we are a pattern made by the flow of energy which form is given by many factors, including our genetic and mimetic heritage.
To say otherwise is a bit like saying there is a game of tetris in every grain of sand. No there isn’t. First we need to purify the sand, then get it into a perfect crystal, and then slice it very thinly, etch it with miles of very fine lines, dope it with minute quantities of very pure substance in very precise places, then supply it with a power source, and then introduce a pattern into it, and hook it up to keyboard and screen – then we can play tetris on the CPU we just built.

We are kind of like that (metaphorically speaking).

Plants capture energy, mostly from the sunlight (and some from geochemical energy) and turn it into chemical energy, and grow sugars and proteins and fats etc. We either eat plants, or things that eat plants, to let that energy from the sun or the earth flow through us. And some part of that energy that flows through our brains gets into a very particular patterns that allows the formation of awareness. That pattern can be disrupted, without damaging the rest of the body (it’s called general anesthesia, or sleep, or fainting).
No pattern, no us.
Simple really, yet vastly more complex than the most complex computer system yet developed.

We are just metaphorical fountains of energy.

[followed by]

Hi Barbara,

You said “If everything is constructed of atoms, Ted, and atoms are made of energy, then how can we be anything else but energy come together in this particular pattern constructed from the blueprint of our DNA? What then is the energy that allows conscious awareness of our existence?

It is far more complex than you imply.
Is the software, the computer program, that allows us to write these words on this internet site called ANG, made of atoms?
In one sense, we store the pattern of information that is the “software not in action” as a property of some atoms, usually some magnetic property of alignment of collections of atoms on the surface of a hard drive. We then take that pattern of a sequence of magnetic properties, and turn it into a sequence of electrical properties within a set of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), which act as an instruction set for electrical activity within the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of a computer (or set of computers) somewhere, resulting in sequences of electrical signals being sent, and perhaps changed to light or radio for long distance transmission, then back to electricity, and finally back onto our screens.

Is that process made of atoms?
Atoms are certainly involved in mediating the process, and the process would not be possible without atoms, and what we have created is electrical connections between the atoms in our personal computers scattered over the planet, mediated via central computers and the internet, with all sorts of properties in between.

A deeper question is – what is energy?
The understanding I have of the term “energy” comes from thousands of hours of discussion, study, and experimentation. Some of those discussions have been with some of the best scientists, technicians, engineers, and philosophers alive on the planet today. There is no shortcut to gaining the understanding I have, and it may be possible to get a sort of “feel for it”.
Essentially, we are profoundly ignorant of what “energy” is. It is a catchall term for “stuff that is not solid”.
The closer we look at the idea of “solid”, the less solid it looks.
The closer we look at energy, the stranger it seems to get.

The sort of understanding we have as “common sense” is great for dealing with things that are common – things that are roughly the same sort of size we are, going at roughly the same speed, in roughly the same place, at roughly the same time. These are things that evolution has had to deal with, in producing our brain, and the systems within it.
The smaller or larger we look, the less “common sense” they seem to be.
It seems that the rules that make the very small work are very strange indeed (to our “common sense”).
The smaller we look, the stranger the rules become, until “common sense” is a complete handicap.
In order to start to get an understanding of the rules of the very small we must learn to suspend common sense completely.
That much we have found and proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

It seems that our consciousness is made possible by patterns within patterns of the flow of energy.
To give an example using water, it is as if we are made of a fountain the jets of which are formed by another fountain, and the jets of that fountain are formed by matter.
The patterns that result from this fountain within a fountain are amazingly complex, subtle, and subject to so many influences and feedbacks.

So yes our awareness involves both matter and energy, as does a fountain.
And just as in a fountain, the form is not the result of any static matter or energy; though the form is constant in a sense. The constancy comes from a continuous flow of both matter and energy.
So it is with us.
Our bodies, and on a different level, our awareness, result from flows of both matter and energy, at different levels of organisation.

The energy that allows our awareness is the same energy that in one condensed form gives matter, and in another form gives light. We are the result of recursive levels of organisation of both matter and energy.
It is not the energy as such that is critical, it is the levels of organisation and relationship; of feedback and stability.

The idea that there is any sort of separate “energy” that is “awareness” is an illusion (a very old one to be sure, and an illusion – that has been clearly established beyond all reasonable doubt).

If you have ever fainted, or been subject to a general anesthetic, then you will have personal experience how complete is the cessation of awareness when that higher level of organisation is disrupted, either by lack of oxygen, or by some chemical interruption; and how sudden is the return of awareness when the disruption is removed, and pattern resumes. (I have many personal experiences of both sorts.)

So the “energy” of awareness is exactly the same energy as the “energy” that gives us matter, light, xrays, and everything else. It is just a different level of organisation, one that involves matter and electricity (DNA and culture).

[followed by]

Hi Sandi

You raise a very good point in relation to walls – the fact that they allow us to gain some control over our environment.

In this sense, walls are part of the essence of life.

The first great creation in life was the creation of cell walls.
Cell walls enabled life to maintain an environment within the walls that was different from that outside.

One of the essential properties of all walls is their permeability – how much of different sorts of stuff they let in or out and under what circumstances those properties vary.

In the evolution of life, after cell walls, came organelle walls (nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplasts and cytoplasmic reticulum), then skeletons and skin – other sets of walls, within and without, enabling the cooperative colonies of cells (animals and plants) to survive in ever more hostile environments.

When we think of our own bodies, our skin, our gut, the walls of our blood vessels, our lymph ducts, our nerves – we are a mass of walls, all performing essential functions.

At the wider level, we build walls to keep us warm (houses) and safe. We built walls to preserve stuff (around freezers, granaries, canned goods, packaged goods of all types). We have boundaries of organisation (town, parish, region, province, state), some of which support cooperative development, and some of which hinder it, but we are not quite yet sufficiently aware to see it.

So walls, particularly selectively leaky walls, (like walls that let light leak in, but keep water out (aka windows)) are very useful, even essential to our survival; at all levels of organisation.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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2 Responses to Walls

  1. holessence says:

    Ted – The conversation thread regarding energy within this post is extremely interesting to me. Your statement–“I do not see us as energy. I see us as patterns in the flow of energy, much like a fountain is a pattern in the flow of water. We are not the energy as such, we are a pattern made by the flow of energy which form is given by many factors, including our genetic and mimetic heritage.”–took me by surprise. I see it quite differently than you, but then that’s perfectly okay and part of what makes the world go round (mataphorically speaking).

    And as always, your summary posts give me great things to ponder through the week.


  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks for the comment – it helps me to focus, and to clarify ideas.

    I was shown the truth of the fountain analogy by my biochemistry lecturer (Peter Molan) in 1973. He demonstrated clearly to me that although my body has a relatively stable form, the atoms that make it up are flowing through it all the time. Every breath exhales water and CO2 that had until then been a part of it for some time. Every mouthful of food and water introduces new molecules.
    Over a 7 year period, well over 90% of the atoms in it have been replaced.

    Similarly with energy.

    Energy flows through us.
    Mostly we get it from our food.
    What distinguishes us from others is not the energy itself, but the characteristic patterns that emerge from us (our thoughts, words, behaviours).
    It can certainly be argued that we are in a sense the sum of our genetic and mimetic pasts in interplay with our personal experience; and there is so much that is personal.

    Two different individuals can experience exactly the same scene, and take entirely different things out of it.
    We are able to alter what we notice, by the application of will to the generation of context of mind.
    There are complex internal feedbacks that allow us to be far more than the simple sum of external stimuli.


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