The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Web Site/Blog ...

I haven’t been blogging much lately, as I am trying to set up a new home computer (a Dell XPS8700 tower — yes, a very old school, totally non-mobile computing situation) with Windows 8.1. Win 8/8.1 is a terrible operating system, a real clunker. I paid for it, but sooner or later Microsoft will pay, one way or the other, for putting out such a monster. Win 8/8.1 tries to cover both worlds — the desktop world and the mobile world — and winds up combining the worst of both. I hope that MS does better with Windows 9 (already in development, supposedly for release early next year), and that my Win 8.1 becomes a curious anomaly, a clunky transitional footnote between the world-changing Windows95 to Windows 7 series, and some new, highly flexible and intuitive type of personal computer operating system. I’ll be stuck with an Edsel (one of the most famous clunker cars of all time; but you could also say “Corvair” here, to avoid picking on Ford). But there will be enough others in my boat to form a support community such that we will still get some use out of our misbegotten software investments. In every life, you are going to buy something that just doesn’t live up to your expectations; you do your best to make the best of it. (No complaints, though, about the Dell box; seems to be running OK . . . knock on wood).

I’ll be back in a few days with a big essay on modern scholarship regarding consciousness, cosmology, and the deepest nature of reality. And whether God has any part in all of this. I have some big thoughts brewing up, so stay tuned, more to come!! (Hopefully this weekend).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:23 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Religion ... Spirituality ... Zen ...

In my life, I have both studied and practiced a variety of “organized spiritualities” (i.e., religions or other tradition-based spiritual group practices). I grew up as a Roman Catholic, and while in my 30’s and 40’s I was involved with various Episcopalian and Quaker congregations. Over the past 4 years, however, I have committed myself to a local Zen sangha. So, I’ve tasted a bit of both the western and eastern approaches to spirituality. (I’ve tasted more western than eastern, admittedly; but nonetheless I do actually sit zazen at least once a week with a group; Zen has become more than a handful of interesting books or magazine articles for me).

But then again, a lot of other modern Americans have similarly jumped ship. A lot of zen sanghas, my group not excluded, are comprised mainly of “refugees” from Judaism and Christianity. A lot of people, especially Baby Boomers (given our narcissistic tendencies), want to keep some sort of group-based spiritual practice going in their life, but don’t want all the doctrines, rules and ultimate judgment and other such baggage that the western “Abrahamic” religions usually require. The natural place for such people to go is to an eastern practice, be it Zen, Vedantic yoga (I’m thinking about the more spiritually expansive version of yoga, not your common stretching routines), other Hindu ashrams, Nichiren Buddhism, Bahai, etc. More accurately, they wind up in an American adaptation of an eastern tradition, which is not exactly what the old-school eastern practices were really like. More on that in a second.

From what I can see, most people who leave the church, temple or even mosque for the eastern ways never look back. They warmly embrace their new tradition, study it in detail, learn its every little rubric, and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:31 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Philosophy ... Religion ... Science ...

Physics is really pushing the boundaries these days, regarding how we understand what reality is “really like”. It seems increasingly possible that reality is not entirely like what we think it is, from our day-to-day experiences as human animals roaming the planet earth. First, there’s the quantum world and all its Alice in Wonderland weirdness. Then there is Einstein’s relativity, with all its time-space distortions and gravity warps. Today there is even more weirdness in the offing, questioning the existence of space and time itself. Perhaps what we thought were the minute and fundamental building blocks of our world aren’t really real at all. Relativity and quantum theory made time, space and sub-atomic particles fuzzy or rubbery, and new ideas melt them even further.

E.g., a recent experiment hints that time, space, and the motion of things within them may just be an “internal illusion”. Quantum entanglement may be responsible for a holographic process that is grounded in pure information. From the outside of this entangled system, the overall bundle would appear to be unchanging; no time, no motion through space, nothing changing, everything still. From the inside, when you are entangled in the system, the hologram of space, time, particles and motion becomes real, and you experience a world of things moving, and space and time for them to move in. Pretty weird. It’s the holographic relationship between all the information that is real (or “realer”) than electrons, quarks, photons, etc.

And as to the origins of everything, many physicists are now speculating way beyond the big bang. They say that there are “multiverses“, such that entirely new  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:39 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Photo ...

This pic was taken at the local zendo where I practice. It was taken during zazen, while everyone else was sitting in a dark room with their eyes closed. I decided to break ranks and get the camera from my coat pocket and snap the pic, knowing that the perfect sunlight and shadow scene was “in the moment” and would not last.

Zen is great; but there are times for keeping one’s eyes open.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:23 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, January 3, 2014
Science ... Society ...

Not long ago, I posted an essay about artificial intelligence. In it, I mentioned a new and controversial book recently released by documentary maker James Barrat, called “Our Final Invention“. In a nutshell, Mr. Barrat asks us to become more aware of what the artificial intelligence field is up to, and what the possibilities are once it really “gets” what human thinking is all about. I.e., what happens when computer systems (you can no longer talk about individual computers; every computer worth its salt is part of a bigger “system” today) can really start to think on our level, and can have discussions amongst themselves. And take it even further, what about when they start pushing their own intelligence past what we humans are capable of. And even better (or worse, perhaps), these computer systems might be able to do this much faster than we anticipate, perhaps beyond human control.

Next, consider that these systems basically run the world — they execute our economy (think about stock market high-frequency algorithms, which are now responsible for a majority of stock trades); they run our factories; they oversee our food supply; they oversee our utility infrastructure including electrical power, clean water and natural gas . . . In a few years we will start to see self-driving vehicles (autos, buses, trucks) on our roads. Unpiloted drones are already taking to the sky. Our governments and educational and law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on these networks to execute their actions (some school courses are already “taught by algorithm” via a computer device; and Robocop is not going to be a sci-fi joke much longer, so thank you for your cooperation!).

So, imagine what could happen if these networks, which most certainly are or can easily inter-link, suddenly become “enlightened” with their own self awareness; if they discover each other and start conversing, and rapidly increase their own intelligence. Imagine that  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:52 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
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