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Contributor to project:
What happened to nature?
Olena {The Wizard} Shmahalo (29)
New York
Immortal since Aug 5, 2009
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    What happened to nature?
    How to stay in touch with our biological origins in a world devoid of nature? The majestic nature that once inspired poets, painters and...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    As a kid, books like Wolverton's "The Golden Queen" hit me with extreme force.
    Therein were sci-fi future civilizations and fantasy worlds where people were more a part of nature than most are today, more in tune with their humanity and intuition, their human magic. There, technology wasn't some impeding synthetic force that extorted and paved over the natural surroundings - rather, it coexisted, entwined with the living environment.

    Wolverton wrote of a "backward planet" where people knew nothing of the state of galactic politics. In a medieval manner they attributed the unexplained to magic and spirits, and fantastically made their homes in house-trees.

    Will biomechanics, bioengineering, biomorphic visualizations take us there? Will a deeper understanding of our fundamental being?

    It's supposed that a Type 1 civilization is able to "harness the power of its planet". I hope that entitles a more synthesized relationship between "object" and "nature" without destroying one or the other, but maybe even enhancing both? Mutualistic symbiosis. Anti-industrialization.
    I hope it will lead us here...

    Something like that. This is my personal equivalent of
    "a home in a great circle dome where stresses and strains are at ease."

    Thu, Oct 1, 2009  Permanent link

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    Sun, Sep 20, 2009  Permanent link

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    Why do creative and/or intelligent people often suffer from some kind of mental illness, or at least bouts of, if not a steady, depression? Citing too many examples seems unnecessary as it's brought to mass attention enough - suicidal rock stars, mathematicians, alcoholic/drug-addicted artists, missing ears, and so on. "A Beautiful Mind", referenced in the post's title, addressed this very phenomenon (albeit, only in one man). "Pollock" seems less well-known, but also excellent & shows how a creative was both raised and brought to his knees by his extra-ordinary thinking.

    I've been interested in this topic for a very long time, and I wonder not only why the two seem to go hand-in-hand, but is there some causality? Is it that being different and therefore often ostracized for these differences makes one fall into depression? That doesn't seem to explain it - what about visionaries like Yayoi Kusama who were "insane" before their creative inclinations forced them to express what they imagined? Then, does that mean that most of these individuals are in some way "mad" to begin with, and therefore are able to come up with other ways of looking at things than those of us who think "normally"?

    A little while ago I came across this hour-long documentary about brilliant mathematicians who committed suicide, called "Dangerous Knowledge":

    If you don't have time to watch that, then perhaps read the short synopsis here.

    Or, this: A list of the Top 10 Scientists who Committed Suicide.

    Not only is it tragic that our most brilliant thinkers fall into these states, but it makes the very thought of pursuing intelligence and going into any... well, I don't want to say career, in this case it's more like a life-long obsession, a love... but in any case, it's almost scary to even wander into "that field" knowing how one feels while there; knowing the effects that prolonged exposure had on others.

    The other day, I finally found what might just be an answer - this article in Scientific American suggests that depression may have evolutionary roots, and gives what seems to be a highly sensical & probable explanation as to why thinkers tend to be more susceptible to depressive symptoms:

    "One reason to suspect that depression is an adaptation, not a malfunction, comes from research into a molecule in the brain known as the 5HT1A receptor. The 5HT1A receptor binds to serotonin, another brain molecule that is highly implicated in depression and is the target of most current antidepressant medications. Rodents lacking this receptor show fewer depressive symptoms in response to stress, which suggests that it is somehow involved in promoting depression. (Pharmaceutical companies, in fact, are designing the next generation of antidepressant medications to target this receptor.) When scientists have compared the composition of the functional part rat 5HT1A receptor to that of humans, it is 99 percent similar, which suggests that it is so important that natural selection has preserved it. The ability to “turn on” depression would seem to be important, then, not an accident.

    This is not to say that depression is not a problem. Depressed people often have trouble performing everyday activities, they can’t concentrate on their work, they tend to socially isolate themselves, they are lethargic, and they often lose the ability to take pleasure from such activities such as eating and sex. Some can plunge into severe, lengthy, and even life-threatening bouts of depression.

    So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

    This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable. Indeed, when you are faced with a difficult problem, such as a math problem, feeling depressed is often a useful response that may help you analyze and solve it. For instance, in some of our research, we have found evidence that people who get more depressed while they are working on complex problems in an intelligence test tend to score higher on the test.

    Analysis requires a lot of uninterrupted thought, and depression coordinates many changes in the body to help people analyze their problems without getting distracted. In a region of the brain known as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), neurons must fire continuously for people to avoid being distracted. But this is very energetically demanding for VLPFC neurons, just as a car’s engine eats up fuel when going up a mountain road. Moreover, continuous firing can cause neurons to break down, just as the car’s engine is more likely to break down when stressed. Studies of depression in rats show that the 5HT1A receptor is involved in supplying neurons with the fuel they need to fire, as well as preventing them from breaking down. These important processes allow depressive rumination to continue uninterrupted with minimal neuronal damage, which may explain why the 5HT1A receptor is so evolutionarily important."

    -Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr.
    Scientific American, August 25, 2009

    If it is actually a selected trait, a feature rather than a a malfunction, it seems to be a little bit counter-productive... but, if it is true, then by the looks of it it means that the chicken-or-egg question is at least solved for this case, because they are not mutually exclusive but rather arrive at once, or, when one "needs" the other.

    { 01.23.10 } *Edit: adding to the initial research.

    These is a book called "The Courage to Be", in which theologian Paul Tillich writes about Anxiety and Courage, our constant battle with the former (mostly existential anxiety), and the effects of such (on the modern man).

    A common anxiety:

    “There is, however, one common denominator in all the theories: anxiety is the awareness of unsolved conflicts between structural elements of the personality, as for instance conflicts between unconscious drives and repressive norms, between different drives trying to dominate the center of the personality, between imaginary worlds and the experience of the real world, between trends towards greatness and perfection and the experience of one’s smallness and imperfection, between the desire to be accepted by other people or society or the universe and the experience of being rejected, between the will to be and the seemingly intolerable burden of being which evokes the open or hidden desire not to be. All these conflicts, whether unconscious, subconscious, or conscious, whether unadmitted or admitted, make themselves felt in sudden or lasting stages of anxiety.”

    And then, this one speaks exactly about my initial questions — what is the place of neurosis within the creative; why is it there? — These are some sound answers:

    "Anxiety turns toward courage, because the other alternative is despair. Courage resists despair by taking anxiety into itself. ...
    This Analysis gives the key to understanding pathological anxiety. He who does not succeed in taking his anxiety courageously upon himself can succeed in avoiding the extreme situation of despair by escaping into neurosis. He still affirms himself but on a limited scale. Neurosis is the way of avoiding nonbeing by avoiding being. In the neurotic state self-affirmation is not lacking; it can indeed be very strong and emphasized. But the self which is affirmed is a reduced one. ... less than [the] essential or potential being. ... The neurotic is more sensitive than the average man to the threat of nonbeing. And since nonbeing opens up the mystery of being he can be more creative than the average. This limited extensiveness of self-affirmation can be balanced by greater intensity, but by an intensity which is narrowed to a special point accompanied by a distorted relation to reality as a whole. Even if pathological anxiety has psychotic traits, creative moments can appear. There are sufficient examples of this fact in the biographies of creative men. And as the example of the demoniacs of the New Testament shows, people far below the average can have flashes of insight which the masses and even the disciples of Jesus do not have: the profound anxiety produced by the presence of Jesus reveals to them in a very early stage of his appearance his messianic character. The history of human culture proves again and again neurotic anxiety breaks through the walls of ordinary self-affirmation and opens up levels of reality which are normally hidden.
    ... The difference between the neurotic and the healthy (although potentially neurotic) personality is the following: the neurotic personality, on the basis of his greater sensitivity to nonbeing and consequently of his profounder anxiety, has settled down to a fixed, though limited and unrealistic, self-affirmation. This is, so to speak, the castle to which he has retired and which he defends with all means of psychological resistance against attack, be it from the side of reality or from the side of the analyst. And this resistance is not without some instinctive wisdom. The neurotic is aware of the danger of a situation in which his unrealistic self-affirmation is broken down and no realistic self-affirmation takes its place. The danger is either that he will fall back into another and much better defended neurosis or that with the breakdown of his limited self-affirmation he will fall into an unlimited despair.
    The situation is different in the case of the normal self-affirmation of the average personality. That is also fragmentary. The average person keeps himself away from the extreme situations by dealing courageously with concrete objects of fear. He usually is not aware of nonbeing and anxiety in the depth of his personality. But his fragmentary self-affirmation is not fixed and defended against an overwhelming threat of anxiety. He is adjusted to reality in many more directions than the neurotic. He is superior in extensity, but he is lacking in the intensity which can make the neurotic creative. His anxiety does not drive him to the construction of imaginary worlds. He affirms himself in unity with those parts of reality which he encounters; and they are not definitively circumscribed. This is what makes him healthy in comparison with the neurotic. The neurotic is sick and needs healing because of the conflict in which he finds himself with reality. In this conflict he is hurt by the reality which permanently penetrates the castle of his defense and the imaginary world behind it. ...
    There is a moment in which the self-affirmation of the average man becomes neurotic: when changes of the reality to which he is adjusted threaten the fragmentary courage with which he has mastered the accustomed objects of fear. ... [These changes] make the average man a fanatical defender of the established order. He defends it as compulsively as the neurotic defends the castle of his imaginary world. He loses his comparative openness to reality, he experiences an unknown anxiety. ... This is the explanation of the mass neuroses which usually appear at the end of an era. ... 'periods of existential anxiety'."
    Tue, Sep 1, 2009  Permanent link

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    I'm curious as to what the Space Collective thinks about this subject; namely, Bohm's thoughts that we have simply been looking at the universe the wrong way - for example, that an electron is, rather than one thing unto itself, only a "holographic representation" of one instance of an underlying ordered whole. That would certainly explain "spooky action at a distance" wouldn't it?

    Talbot's "Holographic Universe" was published almost two decades ago, but it doesn't seem to be mentioned much lately (I'm only basing that on personal experience - it certainly isn't as popular as string theory, etc. for an average layman's pop-sci-of-the-day discussion). What are the thoughts on it nowadays?

    Is it simply that it's been disproved altogether and buried? Has string theory provided a better model? Or has it just been swept under the rug for lack of sufficiently advanced technology to test it further?

    Thu, Aug 27, 2009  Permanent link

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    As I began this project, so I begin the post - with the Koan, Hoshin's Last Poem:

    The Zen Master Hoshin lived in China many years. Then he returned to the northeastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China. This is the story:

    One year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to his disciples: “I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should treat me well this year.” The pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.

    On the eve of the new year, Tokufu concluded: “You have been good to me. I shall leave tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped.” The disciples laughed, thinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and the next day they did not find their teacher about.
    They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.

    Hoshin, who related this story, told his disciples: “It is not necessary for a Zen master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can.” “Can you?” someone asked. “Yes,” answered Hoshin. “I will show you what I can do seven days from now.”

    None of the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin called them together. “Seven days ago,” he remarked, “I said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither a poet or a calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words.”

    His followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write. “Are you ready?” Hoshin asked. “Yes sir,” replied the writer. Then Hoshin dictated:

    I came from brillancy

    And return to brillancy.

    What is this?

    This line was one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: “Master, we are one line short.” Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted “Kaa!” and was gone.

    What is this?

    Influenced by this reading, I began to think about The In Between, transience and ephemerality, and then went on to research time and its modern-day value.
    My research included Einstein’s Theory of Relativity & reading the novel, Einstein’s Dreams (which I highly recommend), the fourth dimension, black holes and their event horizons, the Japanese Enso sign (a symbol of the universe and continuity as well as a moment when the mind is free to create), and recent theories that time is inquantifiable and
    might just be an illusion

    In exploration of these ideas, I decided to develop an object that would allow the modern individual, one who is often busy and in need of “five more minutes” to be at peace with time by immersing himself within a a meditative space, constructed to imitate warped dimensions in space beyond an event horizon.
    This horizon would be breached through the bottom of a block of time with “second hands” and a log slice face - a ridiculous creature, but one who might invite a person to hug it, pet it, explore it, “hold on [to] a second [hand]” and so on, in this way "becoming friends" with time and diminishing any transience-associated stress.
    The creature, TIC (Time Immersion Cubicle), in itself the product of very much time, was designed to be childish; inspired by Japanese plastic culture design, & in order to invite one to perceive and interact with time in a more lighthearted manner - like a child who puts a box on his head and pretends he's in a space-cave.

    Without further ado, the TIC:

    Past the TIC's event horizon lies a warped & infinite space.

    By accessing the inner cavity, it is possible to use the TIC as a meditation facilitation device.

    A few more at the Flickr.
    Mon, Aug 24, 2009  Permanent link

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