Several blogs, including Question of the day on what I want to say to the world

The Writers’ Institute UW-Madison 2011 April 7, 2011

Hi Laurie,

I can certainly agree in a sense with your statement “I don’t think writer’s write, I think they’re written through.“.

I certainly do my best creative writing when I simply set a high level context consciously, and then simply let the words flow. Often I will change a few words in the editing process, yet mostly things stay as written. And I suspect that we have very different explanatory understandings of this shared experience.

In another sense however, all of the subconscious processes that allow the words to flow from us are very much a part of what we are.
The conscious awareness is the very tiny tip of a vast set of subconscious creative processes powered by an amazing array of systems that are repeated both across and through many levels of organisation, in numbers that are hard to conceive.

So it is very much us, it is who we are, and who we are is so much more than our conscious awareness, and at the same time most of these systems are very much part of and dependent upon our physical bodies.

Glad you are having a great time.
Arohanui from the far side of the Pacific.

Question of the Day April 7, 2011 ~ You as wild animal surviving

Pick a wild animal you might like to be, and tell how you would survive, as that wild animal, in your/its natural habitat.

It’s an interesting question, and one that I think most people have little or no concept of.

We are speaking human beings.
We have language.
Our awareness exists in an environment of symbolic language, with all that comes with that.
Animals do not have any of that.
Nothing reflective.
They certainly have emotions, but not intuitions in the same sense that we do.
They simply get to be, whatever evolution has provided them to be.

As someone who is a trained zoologist, who was raised on farms, and has worked as a professional hunter, there are many different sorts of animals I have spent thousands of hours observing, and trying to build an understanding of their behaviour that is as accurate as possible.

As my ability to identify with anyone or anything else resides in symbolic language, I do not wish to lose it, and therefore, the only animal I would wish to be is the one that I am – a human being, possessed of symbolic language, and maps and models of the reality in which I find myself.

To me it is intriguing that when we imagine animals we think of them speaking to each other. But they do not. No animal that we are aware of is possessed of symbolic language, other than ourselves.
We are such creatures of language, that we cannot (for the most part) imagine life without it, so we ascribe it to all other life.

I find it intriguing that we do this, rather than accept the obvious fact, that animals do not have language – they exist in a world without it, and with all that that implies.
Mostly, they simply exist in a kill or be be killed existence, without any real (in a sense we would recognise) awareness of what is around them.

I can imagine I can think what it might be like to be all sorts of animals, Dogs, cats, sheep, horses, cattle, deer, ferrets, all sorts of birds and fish – and the idea scares me, as it would be an end to the awareness with which I identify, which is an awareness in language.

So – interesting chain of thought – thank you Shar.

@OM – from my personal experience of my own and Ailsa’s carpal tunnel problems, and from our reading of John Sarno’s work with Mind Body medicine, I am in no doubt that carpal tunnel is a manifestation of stress.

What is there is reality that exists that you are not willing to have as it is?
Accept it!

Easy to say – not at all easy to do.
Took me years of practice to achieve it consistently.
Haven’t had any carpal tunnel problems for over a decade now – just the cancer now 😉


[followed by]


I completely agree with you that animals feel emotions.

Some are even capable of planing to a quite amazing degree.

I have taught my labrador many tricks by getting down on my hands and knees and showing her what I wanted her to do, and she copied very well. But one thing I have not been able to teach her, is to pick up a rope in her mouth and pull it backwards in order to go forwards through the door. She does not appear able to get the idea of going backwards to go forwards.
Some other animals are able to master that, particularly primates, parrots, and many cetaceans.

I have no doubt at all that animals experience many of the same intuitive aspects of being that we do, and mostly they are overlain with automatic responses determined by genetically controlled features of brain.

It is a really interesting study of how much of our actions come from the four most common determinants of action.
1/ Habits, responses to situations that we have learned, often the learning of which is influenced by both environmental and genetic (and sometimes cultural) factors;
2/ Intuitions, responses of brain generated by the storage and retrieval of sensory information as interference patterns (which is sensitive to context at all levels);
3/ Instincts, genetically controlled responses, mediated through the chemistry and structure of brain and nerves;
4/ circumstance, the situation in which we find ourselves, at whatever level(s) we are able to distinguish.

Then there is the 5th, and probably least common determinant of action – choice.

Intuitive responses can be extremely powerful, taking into account many factors at many levels, without any conscious action.

So I agree with you that we can have experiences that are of the same nature as animal consciousness, and we can have strong empathy with animals on some levels. And those levels have very much of a sense of being purely in the present, with little awareness of future possibility.

For me, though there is a great deal to be said for being in the present when one is doing anything physical, there is also a lot to be said for the ability of the human symbolic awareness to project possibilities into the future, and to contemplate chains of causality, and plan and execute long term and large scale plans. This is something that animals do not do. This is what I would miss.

[followed by]

Around here we have Kea.
They are alpine parrots – very smart.
If you piss one off, he will dismantle your car when you walk into the bush – pull all the rubber out from around the windows so all the windows and lights fall out, pull out any wires they can find.

Take a look at this documentary –
There are Keas within 10 miles of here, fortunately they prefer high altitudes, and don’t come down to sea level very often.

Question of the Day April 9, 2011 ~ Definition of insanit

What is your definition of insanity?

I like what both OM and Deb have said on the matter, and I like the combination of the two.

The 3rd meaning of “sane” in the Oxford is “Sensible, rational; free from delusive prejudices or fancies”, which sounds sort of OK, except that after a few times of finding out that most of what I thought was so was actually “delusive”, I begin to suspect that anyone who thinks that what they currently think is “free from delusive prejudices and fancies” is actually deluded, and possibly insane.

It seems to me that life is the journey that offers the possibility of infinite exploration of the seemingly infinite levels of delusion available to the mortal.

I empathise with much of what you wrote John.
When my first wife left, she went to work in the morning, and called me from work to say she was not coming back. That was a shock. It took me about 6 weeks before I was fit for society again. Much of that time I was in my office, under my desk weeping. Had I not had a strong network of friends and family, I could very easily have come to the attention of the authorities, and fortunately I didn’t.
It took about 3 years before I was in a more stable state than prior to Rae’s leaving, and during that time a lot of stuff happened. That was 20 years ago.

Here in NZ we are somewhat more tolerant of difference, and there is still a general societal agreement about what is sane, and for many I fall outside that definition.

Question of the Day April 10, 2011 ~Say to the World~

Is there something that you would like to say to the world?

Acknowledging all that OM, Ian and Amber have said – there is quite a bit I have to say to the world.

There is a lot of wisdom that has been discovered in the past, and as great as it is, it is as nothing compared to what yet remains to be discovered.
Much, probably most, of what we think we know, it just aint so.
Anyone capable of reading these words, is a potentially infinitely creative being.
Start asking questions, about everything.
Start to find your own answers, instead of relying on “authority”.

Isaac Asimov came up with the three laws of robotics
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

When we talk of people we really only need one law:

1/ A person may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

From this can be derived all other requirements, including the requirement to care for the ecosystems that support us all.
All attempts to remove individual choice and responsibility by codifying sets of actions into laws that are more complex than this simple formulation, are actually counter productive.

We need to encourage and empower every individual to explore what they are capable of, while also demonstrating that success in our evolutionary history owes far more to successive levels of cooperation than it does to competition, and both are important.

We need to acknowledge that we are all human beings, and we will all make mistakes.
We just don’t want to make the same mistake too often.

Probably a good idea that I stop writing and start sleeping.

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
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