The illusion of duality
What does it mean to say someone is tall or short, Or to say that something is outside or inside? What are these terms "tall/short" and "outside/inside" referring to? Are they specific designations of particular qualities? If so, then where is the line between someone who is tall and someone who is short?
The fact is that these designations are relative in essence. Something cannot be "tall" without something else being "shorter" to indicate tallness. Outside refers to something external to an "inside"; top refers to having a bottom, etc. These polarities are relational and indicate not a polarized duality, but a cohesive unit with relative aspects; tall and short, light or dark. The illusion is in that we humans tend to forget this unifying principle with duality, but the proof is plain to see. A person of 2 meters is taller than a person standing 1.5 meters, but shorter than a person at 2.2 meters. This illustrates the relational quality between short and tall. The same goes for outside and inside. To illustrate take the human dermal layer (skin and fat), is the skin outside of a human or is the air that touches the skin the outside? Are the underlying layers of dermal material inside and the topmost layer outside? Regardless, on a physical level, the "outside" of our skin is also an illusion because skin is permeable to some things and not to others.
The whole idea of dualities existing as separate entities is illusion. They are relational and completely interdependent upon each other. This goes for "emotions" and "intellect" as well. They cannot be separated into singular classes, because they are interdependent with each other. The intellect informs the emotive centers of the brain, and the emotive centers influence the intellect. If a person is lacking in either intellect or emotional depth, both are adversely affected.
I see the dangers of this illusion everywhere. The illusion of duality is embedded into our language, in our educational infrastructure, in the media we see. It is the illusion that we as individuals are somehow separate from our environment, from our actions, our bodies, from the people in our lives, when in actuality our identities are composed of all of these aspects. This illusion provides a license for dangerous attitudes and exploitive behavior; From the good/ bad religious paradigm to the left/ right political positions... if we are separate from our environment, it is easier to see it only as a usable resource. This is the very illusion that gives rise to selfishness over true identity.
Why is it that we say "my body" or "my mind"? This semantic trap implies some kind of propriety over ourselves, that there is some other thing that is "I", that owns the body and mind. This is a grand illusion that plays out in many ways. But when we look at the matter with any degree of depth, it is obvious that we are our bodies and minds, not some "separate" entity that is driving the vehicle. When either our bodies or our minds are damaged beyond repair, then we cease. This illusion is so rampant in our culture that most people buy into it hook, line and sinker. We start thinking in terms of "control" as in"I just can't control my lusty thoughts". We create these little conflicts within us that are completely neurotic in essence. There isn't a filmstrip playing inside us with another little consciousness watching it. The problem with that idea is that the "little" consciousness inside must also have a "little filmstrip" playing ad infinitum.
To assert that there are real distinctions between our thoughts and our emotions stems from this illusion of being separate from our "selves". Once we make the shift to seeing duality as embodying a relation, then we can easily see how each (our cognitive abilities and our internal emotional content) overlap. This is a liberating act; it liberates us from holding onto assumptions about ourselves that impede our ability to understand.
This same illusory quality of dualism is found in the artificial separation between individuals and the collective. Such as the problem of erroneously calling "the focus on the individual". The truth is that the idea that we as individuals are separate from the lives we lead and the influences both on us and from us is wrong. The self includes not only what is "inside" our skin, but also what is outside it as well. We are the community and the community is us as individuals. It's when this relational aspect is neglected that rampant individual selfishness manifests. In our current social system, the "group" has the upper hand, and severely limits the conscious and active involvement of the individual in their own realm of existence. The "collective" is exploiting this mental illusion of duality and imposing "control" and oppression.
The truth is not that we as a culture are too focused on individualism, but that we adhere to this illusion that we are somehow separate from our society, from our environment, from each other.
The mind as a heterachial structure rather than a binary system.
The problems with making any generalized statement about consciousness arises from the fact that it amounts to consciousness to define itself. The Zen Koan "what is the sound of one hand clapping" is an attempt to call attention to this whole idea of touching ones left index finger with their left index finger. However, despite the difficulties in making any sweeping generalizations about consciousness scientific consensus has made some progress on understanding consciousness.
One of the key advances in neurology and psychiatry is the idea that the brain is not a hierarchal system, meaning that it doesn't have a centralized control unit governing the activities of the brain, but rather a heterarchial system, where each component part is involved with the governance of the brain. This accounts for both neurological and for psychiatric phenomenon (the illusion of Mind/brain distinction).
On a cellular level, the brain works not like a binary system, or a hierarchal system, but each individual neuron may be attached to any number of other neurons working in concert with each other. The electronic "messages" are nonlinear (they do not follow from a single starting point) and they are as close to simultaneous as we can get. This web or network of connected neurons work as the most efficient and complex heterarchial system known to humans.
On the psychiatric/psychological side of things, the idea that we have one distinct mental identity was first attacked by William James, and then by Freud and Jung, Erich Fromm, et al. Each of these learned and intelligent people had their own structure of mind. For Freud there was the Id, the ego and the superego, Jung had his own versions, Fromm as well. The behaviorist movement (Skinner, et al) also saw the complexity of the mind as being relative and not structural unique. According to their school of thought human beings are input/output boxes, and in order to manipulate the output, the input needs to change. This indicates a higher level of complexity than a static identity.
When a person hears/sees/feels/tastes/smells/touches anything, that stimulus is screened through a myriad of inferences before we are conscious of it. Once we recognize the "thought" it continues to add to inferences and memories are recreated, impressions and thoughts in the past. These impressions/memories/thoughts cannot be defined as either emotional or intellectual. The stimulus incorporates both at the same time.
This matrix of memory, inferences, and cognition that all stimulus undergoes is not "controlled" by any single aspect of mentation, but is influenced by them all. Even just physical sensation itself. This complex matrix cannot be coded into a binary function, and in fact at this point the closest we can code it is in a trinary system (which is an exponential difference in complexity). The problem is that the complexity and non-linear aspects of mentation are not amenable to simplistic symbiotics; we cannot reduce the patterns down to simple symbols or systems.
The activity of the brain is a physical heterarchy, each part plays a significant role with the whole, and the activity of the mind is also heterarchial, in that the matrix of experience is composed of many different impulses, memories, and actions.
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The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."
- A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
- In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
- The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.
Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.
Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.
- Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
- Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
- But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
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