Skip to main content

Dreams and Coccyx


Dreams
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Langston Hughes 

When I was a boy, probably 8 or 9 years old, I had a dream that I was on the beach, stepped up onto a clump of rocks on the shoreline and pushed myself up into the air where I flew high into the blue and weaved my way through emerald archways the likes of which I had never seen. I'll never forget that sensation of flight and the quiet simplicity of soaring through my imaginary world. The sensation was so real that I found myself on the same rocks the next day jumping off and expecting to fly but falling to the grey sand with a thud instead. Call me a slow learner but that was not the last time that I attempted to replicate my dream in the wide awake world because I knew - I just knew - that flight was possible because I had experienced it so vividly in my slumber and it wasn't until about 5 years later that I finally gave up all attempts to leave the terra firma behind.

Bound to the earth and it's constraints of consciousness is my lot, except when I dream and there the possibilities are profoundly open and incongruous to my waking life. I fly and fall, visit lands unknown, talk to the dead, have sex with lots of people, breath underwater, peel my skin off, walk through walls, go to work without my pants on and thousands of other things that simply don't happen during the 2/3 of a day I spend "awake." I sometimes wonder if we've got the whole consciousness thing backwards and speculate upon the idea that our mundane daily routine is the down time humans require for the real work we do in our sleep when we are immersed in the dream world. Wouldn't it be funny if all the worries and arguments and striving we experience in our "conscious" life were nothing more than mundane tasks required to induce a slumber where the true meaning of our existence transpires in dreams. A third of our life is spent asleep - why?

Which brings me to Robert Epstein and his article titled "Decapitating Consciousness" which uses cold hard behavioral science and Darwinian evolution to dispatch with the mystery of our conscious life, the illusion of self and entire branches of philosophical disciplines practiced for centuries. It's pretty simple really:
"No matter how you cut the cake, consciousness is simple observation — either of properties of the environment around us or of properties of our own experience, both past and present." 
Where did it go?
Who created the receptors we use to see the cake, cut the cake, eat and taste the cake? Why, evolution of course, but this always begs the nagging question (for me at least) of why evolution took away our tails. I simply can't understand how a 5 foot tail would make a evolving human less superior to a neanderthal or any other competing human ancestor - including those who roamed the plains of modern day Kenya sans-tail. A long hairy tail would be awesome for every day tasks like opening a car door when your hands are full of packages to dusting hard to reach corners in your living room. Any monkey knows that a tail is great for climbing trees, swatting flies or just hanging around and if evolution forces a species to adapt over time then I can think of several other body parts that should have been left on the side of that long highway before ditching our tails. And to what end? Many people have a lot of pain in their coccyx bone which is where their tail should be (was) but stupid evolution got rid of it. Maybe modern science and plastic surgery can bring it back, but probably not.
"Alas, even with all the extra cortical tissue that distinguishes us from lesser beings in the animal kingdom, humans do not think clearly. We are highly prone to errors of thinking — reification, autocentrism, and cognicentrism being just three of our many weaknesses. We are easily swayed, especially by authority figures, and once we have adopted some belief, we attend selectively to evidence that supports that belief, no matter how shoddy it may be (a phenomenon called “confirmation bias”). This means that the perspective I have described in this essay will not only be difficult for many people to accept, it will also draw criticism from “experts” whose careers, reputations, and livelihoods depend on defending their own positions, no matter how weak, cumbersome, or absurd. (The whole universe is conscious? Give me a break.) Over the course of the 40 years since I entered graduate school in psychology, I have known of only one major figure in my field who recanted a theory he had been staunchly defending for much of his career — more than 20 years in this case. This remarkable shift was an exception to the rule; when academicians develop and defend a theory, it is almost always to the death."
Something is missing... and it hurts
From a Darwinian behavioral psychologists perspective, illusory though it might be, the paragraph above probably makes sense but it raises some questions that aren't easily answered. Before I get to the erroneous thinking part and putting aside my missing tail I'd like to know where my ability "to detect properties of the earth’s magnetic field" or "detect subtle seismic signals" or "sense electrical fields" went to? How about enhanced hearing or night vision, sonar to say nothing of ESP, remote viewing and lots of other phenomena, real or imagined, observed in non-human species that would have made survival much easier for homo sapiens had evolution been less niggardly in doling out its goodies? And what of the "many weaknesses" that evolution has not pruned from mankind and surly should have put us on the fast track to extinction well before the invention of the wheel? "Confirmation bias" alone should have destroyed humanity long ago and certainly should have done the job in the nuclear age. And not to put too fine a point on my dissent but "confirmation bias" of what, exactly? More problematic, for me at least, is why there would be even one exception to this evolutionary behaviorist model of mans illusion the philosophers call consciousness? How does one change ones mind without a moment of fully conscious self-reflection and divinely inspired honesty?

Thorny questions, I know, for which we only have "The Consolation of Philosophy" to help us navigate a treacherous journey. It is tempting to let evolutionary behavioral psychology bulldoze a broad clear path forward, but students of history will know that it's been done before (many times) under different names and to the scientists surprise prickly bushes and razor sharp grass grow up quickly and before they know it the path they were walking down is gone. It is left to the philosophers and holy men - the dreamers - to hack a way out of the thicket and ensure humanities survival.

SONG VIII.
Human Folly.

Alas! how wide astray
Doth Ignorance these wretched mortals lead
From Truth's own way!
For not on leafy stems
Do ye within the green wood look for gold,
Nor strip the vine for gems;
Your nets ye do not spread
Upon the hill-tops, that the groaning board
With fish be furnish├Ęd;
If ye are fain to chase
The bounding goat, ye sweep not in vain search
The ocean's ruffled face.
The sea's far depths they know,
Each hidden nook, wherein the waves o'erwash
The pearl as white as snow;
Where lurks the Tyrian shell,
Where fish and prickly urchins do abound,
All this they know full well.
But not to know or care
Where hidden lies the good all hearts desire—
This blindness they can bear;
With gaze on earth low-bent,
They seek for that which reacheth far beyond
The starry firmament.
What curse shall I call down
On hearts so dull? May they the race still run
For wealth and high renown!
And when with much ado
The false good they have grasped—ah, then too late!—
May they discern the true!


Boethius


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson

She was "sexy", but "too much hard work."

I'm a regular Fox & Friends viewer (mostly in protest of the other insipid morning programs like Today and Good Morning America) so over the years I've gotten to know Gretchen Carlson pretty well. Stuck between Steve and Brian she always seemed a prudish scold with an irritating, self-righteous demeanor that I simply put up with because I figured some people in the Fox audience actually liked her persona. It was obvious that Steve and Brian did not, but they were stuck with her like so many talking heads and had to make the best of it - which they did. Besides, she was no worse than any of the other women on morning show TV - I mean, you're only going to find a certain kind of person to do this kind of work and that kind of person is the Gretchen Carlson kind. Then, one day, she was gone and replaced by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and the F&F ratings began to climb, and climb and climb - in two months viewershi…

The Democracy Quirk

Let it be said that Politico is one of the most worthless web sites with clout on the internet - it's like the Washington Post after a night of hard drinking in the Georgetown bars that passed out on a friends couch. Predictable and stupid at the same time - Also, the editors appear to despise democracy as a political science and as practiced here in the USA. Their latest "explanation" for the Trump phenomenon takes aim at the voters and their knowing ignorance which can be easily explained by the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The article written by shrink/educator David Dunning illuminates a big, glaring problem in any democracy, and that is, "we all run the risk of being too ill-informed to notice when our own favored candidates or national leaders make catastrophic misjudgments." Shit, now you tell us, for surely this is not a problem unique to 2016 and probably was in effect in 2000 and 1980 and 1968 and so on...
But as a psychologist who has studied human behavi…

Running Fence 2

You probably know that the Congress (specifically the Senate) and the POTUS are at loggerheads over Federal funding for the Big Beautiful Wall to be built along the US southern boarder. The reasons for this impasse are long and complex so a quick review of how we got here might be in order.

The Elvis from Queens glided down the escalator at Trump Tower (corner of 57th & 5th) and declared to America and the World that he intended to build A Great Wall across the southern boarder when he became POTUS because this alternate speech was never going to happen (KOTCB Alternate Universe 06/15/2015)A few weeks later candidate Trump was presented with a big fat brick of pain and suffering that served as the cornerstone of his campaign (KOTCB Dirty Sanchez)The physical Wall served as a curative slap in the face of the DC establishment who had, over the years, constructed an elaborate Folly Wall in place of the real thing (KOTCB Decius drops the mic)The idea of the Big Beautiful Wall began to…