I Can’t Go Back If I Don’t Go Away
But then, I realise at the same time how foolish to feel this, this is .
At this time of the post-modern-industrial age; at this time that everything is always on time, all of the time . . . people (me), are awake and available all of the time. Here I am. Awake. All of the time.
I am the Insomnia Nation.
It started late last year when I had to be awake PST morning time in order to administer my mother’s health care remotely.
Then there were the voices in America; Philadelphia and Sebastopol, mainly that kept me engaged and then involved with the rhythms of the other lives living in other temperatures; other emotional time zones.
It is people that lead us where we go; the people in our lives determin our geography.
But now that I’m ‘awake’ all the time, available all of the time; now that the world is one big Manhattan, ON TIME, ALL THE TIME; now ,my relationships with people transgess time zones and finds the immediacy and intimacy of a forever ‘Now’, no matter what time it is.
It is always Now; it is always the right time for this, whatever this is.
Regardless, it won’t wait for you to catch up; it will just keep being Now all the while you whittle way your time carving toy boats and train engines.
This singularity of experience, this synchronizing across time zones points to a very important idea to me; in fact the primary idea that has driven most of my intellectual investigation to date, across varied disciplines, works of art, literature over several decades. The study of mysticism is challanging because of all the false trails, the snares in the pursuit that trip up the self-imposed handicaps of arrogance and self-delusion. Finding the mystical is of course, easy because anyone can pick up a copy of Blake, view the frescos of Botocelli or listen to Beethoven.
The contemplation of the mystical is present in each one of these works and countless more. It is at the heart of the scientific invesigation and shares with art the nature of inquirey into the unknown so that it might be known to all of us. Art has always painted the way to the mystical from pigment-Bison hand-spread over a stone cave wall to the Cubism of Picasso.
We have all been trying to understand, to account for our world and our experience of it for a very , very long time.
The Science of Mysticism is also a misnomer as the only science in play here is in the idea of applying a consistent methodology to any investigation.
But there is nothing Spiritual about the Mystical; both approaches come to the world from different starting points.
The Spritual is about the inner self, the subjective, personable and profound sense of Self.
The Spiritual is an inward investigation; a psychological, inner journey.
The Mystical on the contrary, is finding of the Spirit in the world.
The Mystical investigation is an outward pursuit, through our senses, through the order and pattern of things that are presented to us that we understand as ‘outside’ if not inclusive of our Self. Of course the Mystical escoteric traditions spanning the Coptics, the Kabbalah and even the Illuminati jump to the rather aesthetically simple interpretation of the inner self and the outer world as merely reflections of each other. The Self as an interaction of reflected awareness, neither inner nor outer but the bouncing speck of light that passes in-between. Self-Awareness, but a notion of Self that exapnds well beyond the horizons of mere individual egotism. The Self that is in some ways an Absolute Self and point of inquiry, a window onto a great mirror. Jesus, the Buddha nature, Allah/Islam, Krishna, Da-Sein, the Oceanic Super Ego; call it what you want but there is universal to all religions, faiths and sciences the idea of a primary observer, an initial floating point of consciousness from which all human obervation firstly observes.
I’m not going to segway into a Budhist vernacular because although Mahayana Buddhism especially enjoys a rich vocabulary of descriptive terms for these states of conscious being, the trappings can get distracting and I admire Jon Kabat-Zinn in his ability to transmit and convey very profound psychological insights without resorting to a branded vocabulary or ritual association.
And as the great Japanese Zen Monk and translator D.T. Suzuki once said “In all matters of the mind, the East is the East and the West is the West”.
So will endeavour to remain within a Western, if somewhat philosophical mode of expression.
To get to the point, in the same social experience that 24/7 Internet connectivity offers me and you; that of being capable of being connected to whomever we want to be, regardlesss of geographic or time zone differences; we meet in a constant ‘Now’ which we qualify with acronyms like GMT (has anyone actually ever been to Greenwhich and figured out why they got to invesnt Time?), PST, EST. But we know what time it is really when your connection is crying on your SKYPE; or when the doctor in the hospital is holding up the pad so that you can tell your 5,000 miles away mother that the surgery will be fine; or when you’re praying your daughter is traversing the hard crossing of teenagehood without getting hurt or in trouble and the only way you can be for sure is to look her straight in the eyes and ask her; or when someone dies; or when someone is happy.
So if we can understand this focal point of apprehension, this moment of experience as a meeting point, then the next step is easy:
If each of us expereinces the moment of our experience in the same manner, within the same psychic format: as a snesory data input attached to an idea, an understnaidng of the expereince that we are having imbilically attached to language, context and culture (AFFECT & IDEA), if we are united by our sense, by the fomrat by which our faculties apprehend reality, then we are all in one way, united in that act of awareness.
We may not all be aware of the same thing at the same time but we are all aware. And our awareness has a topography. And that common cognitive topography, the apprehension of an event before it is perceived and subject to a localised and disconnected comprehension, is what connects us all, we are all functioning within the same territory albeit, utilising and adjusting different maps, some science, some religion and of course, some art.
The term ‘Singularity’ has been used within the SF context to refer to the hypothetical ‘awakening’ of a super computational intelligence as a result of ‘singularly’ linking up all the computalional intelligences on the planet.
The merging is supposed to rival human supremecy as the machines finally rise up against their masters and we become the masters of our own doom.
Of course that’s just Speculative Fiction; good for amusing novels, film franchises and adding to the paranoia about an infringing computational society.
Remember, we may be allot of things but we are also merely data; and the inventors of the term ‘data’.
The Singularity SF paranoia doesn’t wash because firstly intelligence is not derived from quantity or speed of computational power; it is something else entirely different that we really don’t understand yet, much less be able to idnetify glimpses. We won’t have artifical intelligence to any prtactical degree until we understand the nature of intelligence and to do that we have to understand ourselves and how our minds work.
One way our minds work is to tell our hands to build tools; better and better tools.
The Internet is a fantadtic example of how our ability to combine desires, innovation, ingenity, circumstance and dumb luck into extraordinary and beautiful creations.
As a child, my father, a cultural anthropologist once brought home a photograph that was comprised of other photo images. The first row of six images depicted the archological evidence of hand axes over a span of millions of years. Each photo, from left to right showed the progressive refinements to the tool, the sharpening of the blade, the conforming of the handle. The second row of images also spanned the same period of time but instead of a stone tool, each picture was of that of the fossilized remains of human hands roughly corresponding to the date of the tool directly above them. What was evident was that not only had the hand axe progressed and evolved over time, but the human hand had begun to adapt to the use of the tool, the hands conforming to the utility and functionality their tool.
In the same way that our current tools have opened up the channels of simlutaneous real time communication between people, we have already begun to adapt to this reality of always being connected, always being available (ARE YOU AVAILABLE?). We are conforming to the contours of our machines as clearly as our stone tool-making forefathers did.
We are on our way to a Singularity; not apart from our machines but as a result of our machines.
The real Singularity that is not only most likely but inclusive of the SF paranoia is that rather than our machines uniting and gaining intelligence that challanges are own, the outcome is more likely to be a merging of man and machine into a Singularity of expereince and awareness we acheive through our machines.
Our machines don’t threaten us.
Why should they when We Are Our Machines?
The Singularity of experience, the awarenss of universal faculties, of the senses that we all have in common but separately will be achieved with our machines and will be so gradual and so pedestrian that it will be years of hindsight before any of us really begin to notice.