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Row, row, row your boson…

September 8, 2009

Gowland Harbour

The universe is nothing more than the dreams of the matter that lives in it.

 I will endeavor to explain why I believe this is so. I ask that you stick with me as I wade through some serious scientific concepts. The words may sometimes be big and unfamiliar but I will try to keep explanations of the concepts as simple as possible.

 Albert Einstein attempted to describe the nature of the universe mathematically. While he failed in his effort to arrive at the “Theory of Everything”, he is credited with what may be the most well known formula in the modern vernacular.

 Let’s have a peek at the formula E=mc² from a layman’s standpoint, shall we?

 It has three components – E – energy, m – mass and c – the speed of light. So just what are these things really?

 Wikipedia describes energy as “a scalar physical quantity that describes the amount of work that can be performed by a force” Work is nothing more than force multiplied by displacement of an object, or the quantity of energy transferred from one system to another. “Different forms of energy include kinetic, potential, thermal, gravitational, sound, light, elastic, and electromagnetic energy.” These forms of energy can all transform from one to another but when the amount of “work” each describes is factored, the amount of energy is the same. Often, two of these energy types can be linked together as a single entity. Electromagnetic radiation is energy propagated as electric and magnetic fields which vary over time.

According to the Georgia State University Department of Physics and Astronomy “the mass of an object is a fundamental property of the object; a numerical measure of its inertia (the tendency of a body to resist acceleration; the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in straight line motion to stay in motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force); a fundamental measure of the amount of matter in the object”. Matter is anything which occupies space and has mass. While the layman may believe that mass is an unchanging property of an object, at speeds approaching the speed of light one must consider the increase in the relativistic mass. Relativistic mass is simply the change that happens to mass as it approaches the speed of light. According to current theory, mass increases as speed increases until at the speed of light, mass is infinite.

The speed of light is the speed at which electromagnetic waves propagate (move) in a vacuum and is observed to be exactly 299,792,458 meters per second. It is theoretically presumed to be the fastest speed at which matter can travel. This theory is not applicable, however, to the quantum universe. Photons, which are the particles we observe as light, have been seen in experiments to actually travel faster than “the speed of light”. Confused yet? We will get to this in time.

So, we have looked at all three components in Einstein’s famous equation and time is an integral part of each. It is not mentioned directly in the equation. Time is also just a concept. While we can measure it in microscopic fractions with tools like atomic clocks, if we were able to put a clock on every discreet bit of matter, it would actually be different for each and every one if they were moving in relation to another. While relativistic differences are too small to be noticed by things moving at low speeds in relation to each other – such as two people moving toward or away from each other here on earth, those relativistic differences do exist and we can, in fact, measure them.

So, to briefly review, energy is a force doing work. Mass is a numerical measure of inertia – matter resisting changes in motion. The speed of light is how fast certain forms of energy travel in a pure vacuum. So far what we have are a bunch of concepts – force, work, speed, relativity, motion, time. Our universe is defined by concepts rather than by objects.

“But wait!” you say. “What about matter?” “It is not a concept! It actually occupies space. I can touch it and feel it. It affects me and I have an effect on it”.

I don’t think it is a fluke that matter is something defined by the concepts of mass and inertia. If we actually look at what we know about matter, it may just be conceptual too. Remember mass is the tendency of an “object” to resist changes in motion. The object – matter – has more mass the faster it goes so matter is not an unchanging thing. We just happen to live in a time and place in the universe where energy levels are fairly stable and so matter is fairly stable as well. Looking out at the universe we are able to see places (and times) where energy levels are not stable and so mass and matter are not either. We could likely not exist in our current form in much of the earlier universe – which we can see with powerful telescopes. We are also lucky we do not live near an unstable star where matter changes from one form to another and energy levels can and do fluctuate radically.

It is also not an accident that to really see what matter actually looks and behaves like we need to build gigantic and expensive particle accelerators and other experimental apparatus. These machines may also tell us that there are forms of matter which we cannot currently perceive (and which theoretically exists) but which actually make up a good part of the universe. This is really a clue as to how blind we really are from a human perspective. We are capable of sensing only a narrow view of the true universe and require technology to even begin to perceive the true fullness and beauty of “creation”. We are further limited by theoretical dogma and our perception of the universe is often based on outdated or flawed ideas.

On the surface and when looked at with human eyes, matter can be everything from opaque to invisible and exists in a number of states with which we are familiar. I refer to solids, liquids and gases. These forms of matter have everything to do with density and that has a lot to do with energy levels. Matter at a lower energy level will tend to be more solid and as energy levels rise it becomes liquid and then gaseous. There is also a fourth form of matter which in truth makes up most of the universe with which we are currently familiar. Plasma is matter which is gaseous and has been ripped apart into ions (atoms which have lost or gained electrons) and electrons. Our sun and all the other stars in the universe and a lot of the matter blown out by them is made of plasma. We are not done. Here things get strange to us. In reality, there are at least six forms of matter. The next two only exist at energy levels which are rare in our corner of reality. They are Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) and fermionic condensates. To understand these we need to be familiar with basic matter smaller than protons, neutrons and electrons.

In grade school science we learn that atoms are particles which have a nucleus of protons and neutrons with electrons in orbit around this core. We have all seen pictures taken by our most powerful x-ray microscopes and atoms look like nothing more than a grainy black and white photo of bubble pack. Molecules are just bunches of atoms stuck together. High school and university science tells us that protons, neutrons and electrons are also made up of three basic building blocks – quarks, leptons and bosons. The way these particles interact with each other determines what the form of matter will be. Break it down a bit further and we find quarks and leptons are made up of particles called fermions. There are a fairly large number of sub-atomic particles which have been discovered but for the purposes of our discussion, they are not important. They are simply particles which are combinations of fermions or bosons. If we are describing particles which do not have internal structure, that is they are not made up of any other particles, we are, by definition, discussing elementary particles. Current theory and physical observation show us that all matter in the universe is made up of fermions or bosons. We are not currently aware of anything smaller than these two elementary particles.

It has been possible, by cooling bosons and fermions to temperatures a few hundred billionths of a degree above absolute zero (the temperature at which ALL atomic movement stops, -273.15 C and theoretically not reachable by any means natural or experimental) to create Bose-Einstein condensates and fermionic condensates.

At this temperature (a microbe fart of a degree C above absolute zero) bosons can combine into an unstable superparticle called a Bose-Einstein condensate. This particle is a very strange speck of matter in a number of ways. Put two of these particles together and they merge. They behave as a single particle – not like a bunch of atoms stuck together, but as a single particle. They are not solid or a gas or a vapor but a new state of matter altogether. BECs can only be made from normal atoms where the number of protons, neutrons and electrons added together is an even number – sodium or rubidium for example. Try to make them from normal atoms with an odd number of protons, neutrons and electrons and nothing happens.

A fermionic condensate is produced in a similar manner, using potassium-40 atoms. Potassium-40 just so happens to have an odd number of protons, neutrons and electrons. Fermions do not appreciate being forced to clump together so a much different experimental technique and apparatus is required than that used in producing BECs. Fermionic condensates are even stranger and at this point in time less well understood. To even begin to appreciate what these particles are, scientists turn to quantum physics.

Very discreet statistical differences in conditions in the experimental apparatus result in very different particle behavior. Described mathematically, this behavior becomes a probability. This probability is further described as a quantum state. The quantum state of a particle gives some indication as to whether it will act like a particle or a wave.

A truly strange thing about these two forms of matter is that when two or more BECs or fermionic condensate particles interact they do not just join like atoms do. Atoms hook on to each other by linking electron clouds. Their nuclei tend to remain unchanged. These new forms of matter actually merge to become a single particle. One of the behaviors scientists have found is that where the parts of BECs or fermionic condensate particles overlap when merging, sometimes the “atoms” (the individual bosons or fermions) in this new particle DO behave like waves on a pond and cancel each other out. These “atoms” do not blow up, they just disappear. They are not destroyed. They simply show up instantaneously elsewhere at a point where two “waves” add up together to make a bigger “wave”. It is here that “matter” truly becomes a matter of probability. Particles appear and disappear without energy being lost or gained and those particles might seem to move quite large atomic distances instantaneously. We have no way of labeling individual particles which are so small, so we cannot be certain that it is a specific particle which moves from one place to another, but regardless, the speed of light becomes meaningless.

Let’s get back to the point now shall we. We have come to understand that the existence of the basic building blocks of matter is just mathematical probability.

 When we view the universe through the lens of quantum physics everything becomes a probability. Matter and time become mutable things. It is not just weird thoughts racing through the confused minds of nutty professors either. Actual experiments have shown matter appearing and disappearing. Photons have been noted to travel faster than light. The deeper we peer into the atomic universe, the less likely it seems we will actually “see” atomic sized particles. We observe the effect particles have on the space and other matter around them but actually see more space in between those particles rather than the particles themselves. It seems more and more likely that matter is really just probable rather than certain. So where does that leave us?

 Let’s draw another simple comparison shall we? Human thought is physically seen to be nothing more than nerve impulses firing in the brain – nothing more than chemical reactions causing electrons to move from one place to another. From that simple biological basis arise memory and emotion, creativity and planning, dreams and godhead. How can all these infinitely complex things come from a simple chemical reaction in a biological matrix?

 Human perception is nothing more than the interaction of atomic particles. As far as we know, when those interactions cease, perception ceases. We label it death.

 It is only human hubris which presumes that other organized forms of matter are without perception. We have become aware that life forms similar to us are capable of perceptually experiencing those things humans are able to do – all but thoughts of god – and that may be simply because we do not understand the language of that life form. If that is so, it becomes possible to believe that simpler life forms might have simpler forms of memory and creativity and even of godhead.

 As we expand our knowledge of the universe we must also expand our understanding of consciousness.

 Particles seem behave in certain and specific ways both when alone and when in bunches but when we peer deeper into the atomic world particles become more of a probability and less of a certainty. They have causative behavior if they are acting as elementary particles combining to make a proton or as neurons firing in a human brain or as one galaxy colliding with another.

 In point of fact, while we are theoretically aware of the existence of certain particles, we have yet to be able to confirm that existence through “direct” observation. Big on the list for particles for which scientists would like confirmation are gravitons, Higgs bosons and a whole raft of charged particles such as neutralinos, charginos, squarks and others (all “superpartners” of known and as of yet theoretical particles). Small and fleeting as they are, they may actually end up being the bulk of the “physical” universe until we come up with a new physical model. Our understanding of our place in the universe must necessarily change if we find that it is much different than what we currently believe.

 The point is that the more we know the less we know. Particle interaction can result in consciousness and yet we have yet to actually “see” a particle. What we do know is that as far as we know matter is energy. Without energy there is no consciousness. There, I said it. We can describe particles and the effect they have on the universe around them but all we are really measuring is energy.

 The contention of this essay is that the universe exists only in the consciousness of the energy within it and that universe is as simple or as complex as the amount of energy involved. I am of the opinion that every individual exchange of energy creates its own universe and while we as humans may think we agree on the nature and existence of a single universe, in fact we all perceive something unique to ourselves. EVERY view of the universe is unique no matter how complex the descriptive framework may be on which we agree. It may be that the more we learn about the universe, the closer we will come to understanding this argument. Until then I suppose we will bumble around making presumptions (as I just have) based on incomplete hypotheses. It is the human way. It is also totally entertaining.

Oh, and one more thing. Before you take this argument to heart and try walking through a wall, remember, you will need to convince the consciousness of the energy which makes up the atoms of the wall, that your perception is in fact the true one and that each of those atoms needs to let you pass because you believe they must. Otherwise you will just bump your nose.

I’ve got rhythm, I’ve got music…

July 15, 2009

Rhythm may be one of the most recognizable behaviors of matter in the universe as we currently know it. Atoms of all kinds vibrate at specific rhythms depending on their temperature and structure. Pulsars beat with a specific time signature which seems unchanging – at least as long as we have been able to observe them. Moons cycle through phases as do seasons.

All life also has intrinsic rhythm. From the simplest bacteria where cellular function operates with a specific pulse to the heartbeats of more complex animals, rhythm is embedded in life.

Music is a particularly human blend of melody and rhythm. In the animal kingdom one or the other can (almost) be found. Music is created when phrases of notes (which are themselves just unique wavelengths vibrating through some medium – in our case primarily air or water) are combined into melodies, then themes and finally variations. Humpback whales seem to be able to creatively develop phrases into variations over a span of time but don’t really have rhythm. A particular species of gibbon in Sumatra has what is arguably a rhythmical call but it is not “perfectly” repeatable in timing from one call to the next. Animals such as parrots, which can mimic human music, do so without rhythm.

One of the deepest seated behaviors in humans is music and with it, creative rhythm. This behavior often survives even profound strokes where melody is lost. It easily survives even when language, which seems to be one of the first casualties of stroke, is lost or damaged.

Creative rhythm can only be found in mankind – it is yet to be found in any other animal species. Even other higher mammals such as apes, which are proven to have displacement and rudimentary language skills (in the human purview anyway) do not express rhythm. Other animals which we suspect have languages (dolphins and whales for instance) have complex and repetitive expression but without repeatedly “perfect” rhythm.

Even our search for life on other worlds is essentially a search for signals from space which have a “creative” rhythm.

It appears rhythm is somehow tied to the level complexity of the organisms discussed so far. The more complex the interaction of matter, the more complex the ability to affect rhythm seems to be. Viewed from the top down, it becomes apparent then, that some level of consciousness is required for even the most discreet atomic structures to behave rhythmically.

At the root of all this interaction of matter is energy. Einstein’s equation describing that energy is mass times the speed of light squared shows that relationship. What the speed of light squared is, we have difficulty wrapping our minds around so let us just accept that energy and mass accelerated to enormous speeds are congruent.

We are able to see with the use of electronic tools that energy behaves rhythmically too. From the longest wavelengths to the shortest, we can perceive just that – energy waves. Waves by their very nature are rhythmical and they are also pure energy. If we apply the understanding that rhythm is somehow tied to the level of consciousness can we then stretch that understanding just one step further and find that even pure energy itself has some level of consciousness? If so, how might that consciousness be described? Is ALL the energy in the universe as we know it tied together as a single consciousness – the capital E in E=MC²? Are we then defining a god mind?

I find it very interesting that even with the limited perception that we have as humans, we are able to creatively play with rhythm. So far, we are unable to find that creativity ANYWHERE else. It is possible that as living humans we will never be able to access the possible consciousness of simple matter or energy. But is it also possible that the god mind has evolved us to finally have a way to express rhythm intellectually – one step removed from matter? What a lovely thought.

In the stillness at the door of death there is no rhythm. I have been there. I have come to realize however, that what I perceived as absolute and utter stillness was just my own inability to perceive the rhythm of pure energy. I now find myself beginning to believe that since I did not cross the threshold into death, my all too human perception was unable to connect with the rhythm of pure energy and therefore the consciousness of the universal god mind.

I have no expectation that the relatively minute amount of energy which describes my human body will be of any impact to the total energy which makes up the “god mind” when I die, but I also do not know whether the energy which describes me will simply be completely absorbed or whether I will continue to exist in some discreet way. That is the great mystery of death.

Many say that we do continue to exist after death. Ghosts and angels are common themes in the human mythology as is resurrection. We cannot know however, if these things are constructs of the human mind or if, as I have inquired, we continue as discreet “bundles” of energy after death. Maybe the creative rhythm continues on.

It is becoming obvious that we only perceive a small part of even the total matter which exists in the universe. So called dark matter and dark energy make up the bulk of the universe. They are not things far away in intergalactic space. We are surrounded and imbued with these particles and energies. It is simply that we currently have no way of perceiving them. I believe that until we can perceive them – and maybe not even then, we will not have a hope of understanding from where our true consciousness springs.

Maybe when we can really see the totality of the universe (or universes) in which we exist might we have a better hope of grappling with the true root of consciousness. Until then, death will likely remain a mystery to the living. Until then belief will have to be a sorry second option to truly knowing anything and we all know what belief gets us – the rhythm method…..

Fundamentally Transforming Our Society to Confront Climate Change

June 6, 2009

The current governmental (mental being the key component of the word) focus is to funnel taxpayer money towards global businesses which develop energy mega-projects. These projects not only concentrate OUR money into business concerns which are already making millions or billions of dollars in profits and taking those profits out of country, but use our tax dollars to purchase goods and services which are not Canadian. These corporations then apply those foreign goods and services to energy mega-projects in Canada. As a by-product, some jobs and some products are created in-country and the political will is satisfied.

The flaw in this process is that the energy status quo can actively and successfully resist change. We as citizens are still faced with increasing energy costs, profound environmental impact due to the size and scope of energy mega-projects and increased government debt.

Politicians argue that energy mega-projects are the only effective way of generating enough power (or energy-related products) to satisfy demand and generate profits – which are taxable. Historically, freeing taxation dollars for grass-roots ventures has resulted in much too high failure rates, much too low production and significant loss of funds to fraud or miss-use. This attitude is not a result of lack of good intent, Politicians are terribly gun shy. Exposure by the media of funds inappropriately used is a political death sentence. Lack of proper oversight and even greater lack of insight into what kind of approach might actually work, disables political will. The only fallback position is to accept what is offered by lobbyists.

Enormous quantities of tax dollars are currently being funneled towards nuclear power plants, hydro-electric projects and petroleum or coal based technologies. In the mean time, funding for wind, solar and tide based technologies is almost non-existent by comparison. Even more importantly, red-tape for companies working with these “green” technologies is endless. In 2004 there were exactly ZERO companies producing solar panels for the commercial marketplace in Canada. Those Canadian companies were not non-existent, but instead building plants or producing solar panels in other counties because they could not get ANY support to do so in Canada. Companies working in tidal and other emerging power generation technologies report the same problems.

Governments seem frozen by past failures to find successful solutions in the triad of job creation, technology growth and oversight of funding on a more granular level. Seemingly endless demands from companies exploring “new” technologies only deepen this political indecision. Unwillingness to repeat past mistakes is to our benefit. Inability to move forward is not. So how do we move forward? The path seems hopelessly complex when the political risks of failure are so high and the very structure of our governments and the laws they create is so resistant to change. It need not be so. We, as a society can successfully find solutions which do work within the current framework. It only takes a LITTLE vision.

Other countries, notably a number in Europe, have embraced “green” technologies applied at the microscopic level. Our challenge in Canada is to do the same. We now have successful examples to follow.

We must begin by providing tax dollars (at levels which will still be insignificant when compared to those provided to mega-projects) to alternative energy micro-projects for individual homes and the upgrades which allow utilization of energy from those technologies. Since we already have individual “accounts” as citizens and small businesses with ALL levels of government, administration of such funds should be within easy reach of government management and control. The immediate impact would be a reduction of demand on the current energy infrastructure and an over-all reduction of energy costs where micro-projects were installed. Secondarily, energy costs would be reduced at the individual taxpayer level, freeing those who installed the systems to spend those energy savings in their communities.

Government attention must also be refocused on providing a business environment where Canadian companies which produce products for green micro-projects can exist and thrive. This will have an initial impact of providing jobs and creating an increased tax base within the country and have a secondary result of generating potential sales of products in the international marketplace. Our government, at all levels, must also re-evaluate how they deal with small power producers in emerging technologies. Current support for small tidal, wind and solar producers is almost non-existent and the laws which impact these technologies are hopelessly out of date. Small companies in this arena also face impossible odds because mega-corporations are in bed with government. As such, lobbyists from these corporations are capable of directing politicians and the laws they oversee and create, therefore maintaining a political environment where only large corporations can survive. This political behavior must change because it is fundamentally wrong on so many levels. Corporate profits leave the country and therefore the pockets of the individual citizen. The mega-projects which are created also arguably have a mega-impact on the environment although scientists working for these corporations can successfully argue that the over-all effect is small.

So, start small. Provide funds to the individual taxpayer earmarked specifically (for example) to solar panel installation on individual homes and upgrades to electrical and water systems in those homes so that those panels might be used effectively. Require that the funds be used for NEW energy production and do not allow them to be lost in the morass of renovation for improved energy efficiency (while this initiative might also be re-evaluated and better managed). Require receipts. NO, do not provide this funding in the form of a tax benefit. Too many people are living paycheque to paycheque to avail themselves of a tax benefit. Such funding is only for people who already have the money and can afford to wait for a refund. Initially, most “green technology” products will need to be purchased from outside Canada but as political support and corporate investment increase, more and more of our tax dollars will be spent in this country.

An immediate result of grass roots energy production will be reduced demand on use of petroleum, atomic, hydro-electric and coal based power infrastructure. Local jobs will be created to install these systems. If our government, at every level, will support the creation of small and medium sized businesses to develop and produce products for “home” energy production (which can also be used at the community level) we are well on the way to a new paradigm for energy production and use.

Instead of trying to plant an entire crop all at once, governments at every level should begin by encouraging every taxpayer to plant an individual seed. The most certain way to involve every taxpaying citizen is to give that citizen some of the money already collected in taxes in the form of a cheque to be put towards alternative energy production. The result will be a greener energy infrastructure which is more diverse, more resistant to failure and ultimately more productive than the one which currently exists.

Only when the populace is intimately involved in green energy will we be successful in moving toward a greener energy future. Any other course and any other outcome are unacceptable.

This Magic Moment

March 11, 2009

I woke at 4:30 A.M. and went out onto the deck to greet the morning. I could not help but be overwhelmed by my incredible luck to be here at this time in my life. The full moon hung in the western sky, lighting the garden and forest beyond. The only sounds were the burbling of Harmony Creek behind me, the occasional croak of the grey owls in the forest and the pulse of my heartbeat in my ears.

 

I was taken by how surrounded I was by beauty and the love of the people who care for me. Marie and the girls make certain I am comfortable, fed and happy. My family who live away give all they can or are asked without question or failure. I am surrounded by friends who could be family but for an accident of birth and a community who insures we are able to manage.

 

My life, at this moment, when compared to that of the rest of the world is quite extraordinary. People the world over aspire to the peace, happiness and comfort that I have at this very instant in time and yet, here I am.

 

I need nothing more except more of this.

How much is that dogma in the window?

November 23, 2008
Royalty

Royalty

 

By popular definition, dogma is a doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative. The contention of this essay is that if we explore the meaning of: “authoritative” we will find that dogma is a great deal more than generally accepted. Dogma is that which provides the framework within which humanity tries to come to terms with how the universe operates. By further extension, it is the way all life and all matter frames interaction.

 

Dogma is a term generally applied to human belief and is usually perceived in a negative light. At its worst it has been responsible for more violent human death than acts of nature or disease combined. At its best, dogma has given humanity the ability to formulate ideas which promote tolerance and understanding. Humans have the distinction of combining the best and the worst in a single creed. Religion is the most obvious, but by no means the only example.

 

Life is complex and humanity has always tended to take the easy path and follow ideas which are organized in a culturally understandable and acceptable format. It should be no mystery why this is so. To begin with, man is only one intellectual step removed from other higher mammals and all of those other species are behaviorally disposed to accept leadership from dominant individuals. In humans, dominance has been refined to include the power of ideas. People are only too ready to abrogate responsibility to popes, politicians, shamans, seers, royalty, chieftains and generals. Often their power over us is in their ability to convince us that their ideas are “right”, based on evidence which we as a cultural group find adequate. Convince a few big, ugly and mean people that one should be heeded and it isn’t long before those goons encourage everyone within reach to fall into line, but the power of organized ideas alone is often enough to guarantee sway over a group. The reason dogma is so very effective for religion and politics in particular, is that these two credos deal with both ideas and ideals and so by definition are free from having to be proven as factual and true – instead depending purely on the power of belief.

 

Dogma is a term applied to primarily to theology, but in fact any idea which is codified is, by definition, dogmatic. Science has a long history of developing new understandings and then refusing to accept breakthroughs until either the old guard is dead or new evidence is so overwhelming as to be irrefutable. There are still people who believe the earth is flat; that man has never been to the moon; that fossils are recently created. Many individual scientists invest so much time and energy developing their own ideas that when evidence shows their work to be misguided or wrong, they are unable to accept or integrate that new evidence and speak out against it.

 

Engineering and architecture are by their very nature dogmatic and necessarily so. If engineers had to reinvent the wheel every time they designed a car, nothing would ever be accomplished. We are forced, just for practicality to make assumptions that what has worked in the past will work in the present.

 

That is the crux of the problem – if we presume that dogma is problematic.

 

In our personal lives, dogma is the lynchpin which anchors our grasp with reality. We are required by sheer expediency to defer to preconceived notions, first impressions, popular opinion and ideas or concepts qualified by other people’s beliefs, but which we respect at some level or another. Living completely in the moment is all well and good but is functionally impossible if we are to interact with a world where assumption is the glue which holds reality together. We make tacit agreements with the world around us all the time and in all things. Cultural, community, family and personal rules allow us to focus on more immediate concerns of daily living. These rules are only reevaluated by us when we decide that some balance is unacceptably out of whack. When we broaden our concepts to include new ideas we may pat ourselves on the back but by necessity those new ideas immediately become dogma until re-examined.

 

We depend on memory to provide the majority of our world view but new studies have shown that the very act of recollection changes those memories and the more we “remember” something, the more our current recollection diverges from the original. These studies show that we need to either record events in some way or accept that the more we recall our past experiences the less “true” they will be.

 

On a more granular level, we construct dogmatic viewpoints when creating literature, art and music. In fact, all our perceptions are frozen by the act of recording them. Language may be the most obvious way of organizing perceptions but it is by no means the only device. However, until we find some way to record the fullness of individual experience though all the senses and perceptual modes, it is the most immediate and available means. Sadly it is like trying to prune a rose bush with an atomic bomb.

 

Much of our interaction with the world is based on subconscious dogma. “Looks like rain”, “Wolves are dangerous”, “Classical music sucks” and uncountable other statements or thoughts – even when unspoken or not consciously expressed – are representative of just how much we are willing to accept that what once was so will always be so. As often as not we may be wrong, misguided or uninformed and either ignore that fact or when in some way proven wrong, simply adjust our view without being aware we have done so. The vast majority of our moment to moment existence is predicated on the assumption that what has been true will always be true until shown otherwise. The definition of proof is different for every individual too. Assumption is dogmatic by definition.

 

Time for the inevitable perceptual stretch.

 

I think it is obvious that humanity uses dogma as a tool to successfully cooperate as a race and in very real terms to interact with the universe. We presume, wrongly I believe, that human awareness is required to formulate conventions which allow cooperation with reality.

 

Mention was made earlier in this essay about other mammalian species, a few of which we now know have consciousness similar to humans. For the purposes of this discussion that is not as important as is recognition that all animals, (including man) and in fact all life must make assumptions – at some level – about their interactions with the world around them. These assumptions, which all other life makes, are every bit as powerful as humanity’s conscious, subconscious and unconscious assumptions and have just as profound an effect on their interactions with reality. Bears hibernate when day length, temperature and food supplies reach certain levels – even in an El Nino year where they may wake up unexpectedly. Whales migrate to locations where ocean currents concentrate food, even if those currents have temporarily changed and the food source is no longer there. Black spruce trees grow in bogs even as they and other plants deposit biomatter which will turn the swamp into grassland more suitable for aspens. Although to human eyes, the world is a pretty stable place, the interaction of life with the world can never be presumed to be static. Life and living it change the world. Life forms which are capable of adjusting will endure but most life depends on the changes being small enough to tolerate. However, we have a propensity to forget that life tends to exist at the mercy of majority consensus.

 

DNA is a genetic “alphabet” which records the language of life. Life forms evolve in various ways to effectively fit into certain niches and once successful, are predisposed to greatly reduce their rate of change or stop evolving altogether. With few exceptions, changes are small and slow. When we draw a parallel with human languages, DNA is simply life’s dogmatic way to manage interaction with reality.

 

While consciousness in the traditional human sense is not involved in genetic variation, awareness is. Without awareness of the environment, DNA would not be able to respond to better interact with that environment.

 

Awareness absolutely relies on stability. This is as true for you and me as it is for all living things – including the genetic components which define life. If every moment were unique, there would be no way for life to identify structure or organize intellect. Dogma provides opportunity for change without demanding it.

 

In a very real sense, consciousness can be even further qualified. Granted, we are not always able to apply the traditional “I think, therefore I am” precept to all forms of consciousness, but frankly, if original thought is a benchmark for perception, most humans would fail to measure up to the standard. We do, however, function very well – brilliantly even – with the “chemical” consciousness all life exhibits. Taking this idea one step further, I think it can be argued that awareness need not spring from things which are “alive” in the traditional sense, for dogmatic principles to apply.

 

All matter has some level of awareness with the reality around it. Atomic structures tend to move toward stable configurations in much the same way traditionally recognized life forms (including humans, as a thinking life form) do It is a good thing too. If atomic structures were inherently unstable, the universe and life as we know it would be impossible. Atoms have enough awareness to “know” which ones can combine into molecules that are stable enough to exist. Once stable, it takes significant external force of some kind to change that configuration. It is really no different except in scale to what happens in human ‘belief” where we seek a stable physical, emotional and intellectual comfort zone until forced to re-evaluate our position. Just as with all other life and by extension all matter, outside forces can not only make us change our way of thinking but our very physical existence.

 

Taken one small step further, the little bits which combine to make up atoms also have not just simple awareness but a basic sense of self-identity. Protons and neutrons (and the even smaller components which make them up) only interact in particular ways with each other and with other atomic and sub-atomic particles. In a very real way they are self-aware. Granted, their dogmatic behavior is limited to interactions at the same scale but neutrons “know” how to be neutral. Electrons and protons are always attracted to each other. Unless convinced otherwise by external forces, they group into stable configurations and stay that way.

 

My contention is that the popular definition of “doctrine” is far too limited. It must be expanded to include non-conscious methods of communication. If we are able to get our minds around that concept we will see that dogma is neither good nor bad but simply the way that this reality manages complex interactions. The curse and the blessing of humanity is that we are able to effect change based on the power of thought alone. Examining interactions allows us to find new ways to influence them and in that way, physically change our reality.

 

I “believe” we will eventually find that thought and awareness are far more powerful and complex than we currently imagine and much more entangled in the creation of reality than we ever “believed” possible. In that sense, dogma is simply a tool. No, dogma is THE tool with which the framework of this reality is built.

 

If one is interested in creating or shaping one’s own reality, one simply needs to learn how to use the tool.

First blog ever

September 9, 2008

"Dolphin Dance"

Life is good. I have three amazing daughters, five brilliant grandchildren, a wonderfull nuclear family (yes Robyn this includes you) and everything to live for. I guess that is why I am WAY past my expiry date and going strong. Docs gave me three months three and a half years ago. Shows what they know.

I think I will use this blog to reflect on the nature of wood, my ongoing love affair with new challenges and the joy of discovery my family and friends bring to me every day. Today, just setting this page up and figuring out how to use it will be enough but watch out tomorrow and tomorrow.

All of my fave bloggers will find themselves reflected here too. They will show me the way….