A Story Of Two Old Men

Recently my grandfather was put in a nursing home.  He’s around 90 years old and very feeble at this point.  He had been somehow managing to stay in his home, but has now hit a point where he needs people to care for him.  Just to give an example, I got a phone call at 3 AM one morning from my grandfather, asking for help.  He was heading to the bathroom, had fallen, and couldn’t get up.  I made my way over there to find him face first in a pile of dirty clothes, unable to move, having soiled himself in a dirty pamper.  Since I’m a weight lifter, I’m the only one available who is strong enough to lift a 150 lb man off the floor.

But that’s not even what I want to talk about.  So my grandfather is in the nursing home and I’m going to visit him.   He’s served three meals a deal, and for dinners they normally wheel him out to a table in the main dining area where he eats dinner with several other old men.   I decided to join my grandpa one evening and we’re all sitting around a big table.  Conversations started up and it turns out that one of the old men is a former university professor.  He really enjoyed talking with me.  Turns out he went to MIT, earned several degrees, has taught as a professor in many different universities, published all these papers, was on top of his field, and even wrote the most highly used textbook in his field.  Impressive guy.

Here’s what baffled me.  Here’s this decorated man, full of knowledge and expertise but nobody visits him.  His wife had entered the nursing home with him but she’s now dead.  His kids live far off and don’t visit. Though he’s not far from the campus, no students ever visit him, even though he’s the author of the very textbook they’re using.  The old faculty he worked with are now all dead and gone, the newly hired faculty have never contacted him, and nobody has ever felt it even worth letting him know what has been going on in the very department that he founded.  My father was at the dinner table as well and called up their department chair.  Even though this old man is listed on their emeritus faculty page, the chairman didn’t even know who the old man was!  You’d think someone would’ve tracked this impressive guy down, asking him about all these papers he’s published, trying to pick his brain for insights, etc.  Nobody ever has.  Think about that a moment.  I wonder if anyone has even read the hundreds of papers he published, outside of just looking for things to put into their own papers for references.  I’m just saying.

Compare this to my grandpa’s room which was full of people at all times of the day.  Whenever he would complain of the food, all of us family members were out on the road and taking things to him, even when he probably wasn’t supposed to be eating it.  Even I was sneaking him strawberry milkshakes.  Why could grandpa call me at 3 AM for help, or request I run all around town to get him food?  Good question.  Probably because for my entire life he’s loved me unconditionally and I could always see he did everything he could to make me happy.  Whether it was when he made me homemade nunchucks and bow staffs in his wood shop because I loved the the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid, or when he took me fishing at Meramec springs early in the morning, or when he’d play baseball with me in the backyard.  Maybe it’s when he came and admired my tree fort I built in the woods and showed me how to shoot a BB gun.  Maybe it’s when he’d buy me packs of baseball cards and watch me place them in my trapper keeper, talking about all the different teams and players.  Maybe it’s when he used to print me off business cards which said, “Call me at any time if you’re in trouble, no questions asked, Love, Granny and Papa”, and it left their phone number.  It could be when he gave me the hat he was wearing just because I expressed interest in it.  It could be all the Sunday dinners where he was constantly patting me on the back, telling me how proud he was of me (when I hadn’t ever accomplished much of anything), and how much he loved me.  Could be the holidays where he always bought me gifts and was smiling as I opened them.  Even when I’m visiting him in the nursing home, he wants to know all about me.  He was asking me if I’d bought that truck I was looking into and wanted to see pictures of it.  Asked me how I was liking teaching, whether any of the students gave me trouble, whether it was hard work, etc.  I don’t know, seems to be a whole lot of things.  Even a hermit like me will go visit a guy like my grandpa if he’s stuck in a nursing home alone, and I rarely get out of the house at all.

Those who love unconditionally will be loved unconditionally, even when they have nothing of value left to give.  I don’t think people care much if you went to MIT, or have all kinds of accolades.  I certainly don’t.  People do seem to genuinely care when you care about them.

I can’t help but make an observation.  I wonder if the world has some mysterious mechanism behind it, drawing people of like minds together.  Those who love unconditionally in turn draw unconditional love back to themselves.  Likewise, those who are using the people and environment around them primarily for personal advancement somehow find themselves surrounded by similar people.  These types are so caught up in their own selves, their ambitions, their dreams, etc., there is never any time to care about anyone else, such as visiting an old man in a nursing home.  Could this be what happened to the old professor?  -shrugs-  Who knows.

Later that evening I was spending time with my Dad, and he reflected on this old professor at the nursing home.  Dad quoted Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities.  All is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”  I agree with him.  The old professor spent a lifetime building up some reputation that nobody cares about anymore.  He made all kinds of money, but when he could no longer care for his mansion, it had to be sold and the money was taken by his children who don’t even visit him.  The rest of his money was taken by the nursing home.  His lovely wife is dead and gone.  Even his mind, which he spent his entire life cultivating, it’s falling apart due to dementia.  Why get caught up in these weird “games” of life?  Outside of enjoying the process, there is little point to it.

My Own Self-Inquiry

I’m going to share my thoughts on a very complicated problem which I’ve been struggling with for the past fifteen years. Say I bump into you in the store. Our eyes meet and then I lift my arm and wave hello. Here’s my question. How was I able to do that? And if it wasn’t “I” who did it, then who lifted the arm?

You may think this problem is common sense — Jason, you used your free will to wave at me! Ok, fair enough. I chose to stand up, I chose to sit down, I chose to say the words coming out of my mouth, and so on. Ok, but let’s dive into this problem and think about everything that claim entails. I want you to think of all the electrical impulses which must happen within my brain, and all the electrical cascades within the nerves connecting my brain to my arm, and the microscopic changes in the countless muscle cells, how they all had to fire and move in the perfect patterns, just right, all so my arm would lift and wave at you. You’re claiming “I” did that? Really? That’s strange because when I examine the conscious contents of my mind, I only barely understand how the brain functions, I don’t know how the brain is wired, I don’t even fully understand how muscles contract in the body, nor do I have any conscious recollection of initating all these electrical firings. But “I” did this you say?

Sure, after the event of my arm being lifted a thought enters my brain which says, “I did that”, but I don’t believe this thought. There’s not enough information or ability in my conscious mind to do such a thing. But it’s all common sense? Ok, I’ll lay on an operating table, give you an electrical probe, and I want you to stick that thing in my brain and activate all the proper neurons and nerves all over my body, and lift my arm. Go on! It’s simple! It’s all common sense. Anyone can do it! What voltages would you need? Which points would you stimulate? How long would you stimulate them? Common sense. Just cut my skull open, stick some probes in that blob of jelly in my head, and lift up my arm. Go on! Do it!

But that’s just the beginning of this problem. You’re going to lift your right arm and wave hello to your friend across the room. Think about everything that needed to happen. According to physics, every Planck time there is a new “frame” of reality. Every 5*10^(-44) seconds a new frame needs to be generated, containing all the new positions of every atomic nucleus, every electron, all the photons creating the electric and magnetic fields, the exact curvatures of space-time due to energy and mass, and all the rest of it. Think of all the frames required to move your arm! It’s a number so large we don’t even have words for it, and within each frame you’re going to have to give positions and velocities to all the particles, which are also so numerous we don’t have words for it either. So who lifted the arm? Me? Ok, then what am I that I can do such things? And how is it that my conscious mind lacks the details of all the atoms and particles it moved. Yet I moved them all?

If you’re not puzzled yet, this only gets more interesting. The standard conception of free will seems to imply that I had a choice to lift my arm and wave. I could have waved or not waved at the store. But wait! How many different ways are there to wave an arm? When I think of quantum physics, and the superposition of all the different ways of atoms and energy to make that arm movement happen, the different combinations are endless, probably infinite! You could lift your arm out sideways, or front ways, straight armed, a bend in the arm, hand partially closed, hand completely open, waving in a circular motion, or left to right, or up down, or whatever you want, apparently. So when you went to wave your arm, did time stop, and were you presented with a catalog of all the practically endless options of arm movements available to you? Then, after browsing them all, you said to yourself, “I’ll go with that one!”, and then your arm waved in just that way? I can’t speak for you guys, but that’s not what I experience. In my case, the arm waving just happens the moment I see you. There may or may not be accompanying thoughts.

Speaking of which, this same argument can be applied to all “internal” states of consciousness as well, such as thought and emotion. At any point you can remember, were you ever presented with a catalog of thought processes and emotional states which you arbitrarily could assign to each and every moment? I never did. My best guess is this doesn’t happen for others either because if they were choosing their thoughts and emotions, moment to moment, there wouldn’t be anywhere near as much misery in the world. Everyone would be choosing happiness and bliss for themselves. Quite a puzzle. Why do we feel these states as “my” thoughts and “my” emotions? Why is there this sense of ownership when there seems to be so little control over what transpired?

Let’s try to solve this problem. First off, there’s no reason to believe that there’s some special universe that begins and ends at your body’s bag of skin. This idea that “you” are controlling your arms, legs, and body, but somehow are not controlling the rest of the environment around you seems highly artificial. The same laws of physics govern your body, other people’s bodies, and the environment around the bodies as well. But if that is true, then you are everything. You’re the walls, the hamburger you’re stuffing into your mouth, your body, other people’s bodies, and everything you perceive through all your senses. So would that mean you’re identical with all that is? You’re somehow the substratum of reality? If so, then the question as to who or what you are becomes a question of, “What is reality?”

So now that we are describing reality, doesn’t that bring in science? Is reality a big machine, following mechanical laws and mathematical equations? If so, you never had any free will to begin with. The universe is a type of algorithm, following some simple ruleset, repeatedly, over and over, and all of our thoughts and actions are just a complex consequence of this ruleset. All claims that you have an independent existence is an illusion, and you’re nothing more than a biological robot, putting around, claiming to do this and that, when really there was never any sort of “choice” available to any of us. The universe does what the universe does. The powers behind this world made all these decisions for you, dictating what you love, what you do, and how you feel about everything. You’re just experiencing some accidental consciousness generated when these deterministic electrical pulses flow through your brain. One great consequence of this big accident is the illusion that some independent and separate “you” exists.

That’s one option I suppose, but when I hear something like that, I immediately have to ask, “What is this subjective consciousness happening, supposedly due to the electrical pulses within the brains? Why would the operation of a mechanical algorithm produce such a subjective feeling?” Also, when one deeply examines the physics of this universe, is it mechanical in nature?

We have two major clues available to us which I feel rule out this way of seeing the world. For one, when you lift your arm, there is a subjective experience that you really did lift your arm. Secondly, quantum physics is our fundamental ruleset for how this reality behaves and it doesn’t point toward this mechanistic machine like view of the universe. In physics jargon, if you’re an illusion, there’s no observer to collapse the wave function. Without a wave-function collapse, Schrodinger’s equation predicts that given enough time, the universe becomes a cloud of probability where any and every possibily becomes equally likely. I’m not even sure what time would mean without a collapsing creating the series of events happening in succession. We’re left with a big “world” filled with infinite potential but nothing actually realized. Many like to explain this problem away, saying it is all taken care of by theories of decoherence. Like all things, take some time and actually investigate it deeply for yourself (I recommned https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0112095). This idea of quantum decoherence was first introduced by a guy named H. Dieter Zeh. It became a really hot topic throughout the 1980’s, but after it was all completely worked out, Zeh was forced to admit, “…no unitary treatment of the time dependence can explain why only one of these dynamically independent components is experienced.” He wrote this paper with a guy named Joos, who also later concluded, “Does decoherence solve the measurement problem? Clearly not. What decoherence tells us is that certain objects appear classical when observed. But what is an observation? At some stage we still have to apply the usual probability rules of quantum theory.” Decoherence is interesting, but we’re still left with the original problem.

Now that we’ve put some technical objections aside, quantum mechanics seems to indicate that the universe we observe, with this flow of time, doesn’t even exist outside of consciousness observing something. But what does that mean? Who or what observing what? We don’t know who we are (that’s what we’ve been investigating), and we don’t know what reality is either. We’re throwing around blind conceptions of what we are, combined with blind conceptions of what reality is. Well, we have to try I guess! Thinking about all we’ve discussed thus far, the line of reasoning seems to be leading us down a path that there’s no fundamental distinction between what we are and what the world is, whatever the world may be. The founders of quantum theory held similar opinions. Take Erwin Schrodinger. In his book, “My View of the World”, he argues that there is only a single consciousness of which we are all different aspects. Interesting! Not a single mechanical machine, but a single consciousness! So how would that apply to this problem?

What if you are not your thoughts, not your emotions, and not even your body and brain? We’ve argued quite strongly that the “I” bouncing around in your head is an illusion. Its claims of control are unjustified. It lacks the power, the knowledge, or the ability to make the events of your life happen. It doesn’t know how to move your arm, or create your thoughts, or dictate your emotional feelings. It’s not making you move, or making you think, or making you feel. So what is?

What if it is God who makes you move, makes you think, and makes you feel? An interesting proposition, but would it help us explain or understand this problem in any deeper way? It sounds as if we’re just pushing the problem onto God, without explaining or understanding things. Or maybe it is a better explanation? -shrugs- Let’s just entertain the idea for a bit. God could be this “single consciousness” Schrodinger and others speak of. What if we are all characters God is manifesting within His mind? If this were true, there would be a deep connection between all of us and God. Growing up in a Christian household, I would pick up the Bible and read about Jesus saying things like, “I and my Father are one”. Or in another verse of the Bible you read, “In Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” All things were created by God (including all of us), exist within God, and cannot do anything without God. Other spiritual texts from all over the world make similar claims. So, when you go to lift your arm, God moves through you to move the arm, and you are an aspect of God, made in the image of God, as the scriptures say. Interesting thought, but what does this explanation add over say a mechanistic, mechanical view of the universe? Mainly, the universe becomes a place filled with intention and intelligence, and if things are seemingly following mechanical rules, it’s because something willed that to be so. It would explain why you feel that ownership when you move, even if “you” (the made-up character) don’t understand how you (the real I AM) did it. You really did move the arm, but you are not the made-up character you believe yourself to be within your human mind, but are actually something far greater contained within the Mind of God.

That would also give a method of wave-function collapse. How could a mindless, mechanical universe do something like that? You’re left with some complicated many-worlds interpretation, or some sort of constant universe splitting like in the Everett interpretation. If we apply Occam’s razor, it’s literally an infinitely simpler explanation. It also explains subjective consciousness, such as the taste of sweetness while eating an orange, perceiving the color red, or enjoying a musical symphony. A world of mechanical vibrations doesn’t contain these dynamics and subjective consciousness remains a total mystery. This new explanation says we’re all manifestations within the consciousness of God, so consciousness makes more sense. And if I’m nothing more than an illusion, then why do I feel this sense of ownership of my bodily movements? You could explain it away as an illusion of the brain I suppose, but does it feel that way to you? Dangle your arm now in front of the computer screen. Are you controlling it? I definitely feel this sense of control and response to my willful intentions. You say that’s an illusion? Also, if “you” are an illusion, who doesn’t exist, just a by-product of a mechanical algorithm, who is it who’s worrying about all of this? Something or someone is perceiving this all taking place, right? I certainly experience it. What is that? Why is that happening?

But in the end this is all theoretical. After all, where is God? Look at all the evil around us, and things are far from perfect! Why is that? Why am I suffering like I do if all follows the will of God and this being is supposedly infinite love and goodness! A powerful and difficult point. To that, well, I’m not making any claims as to what God is or isn’t, or even why things are happening as they are. All I’ve reasoned thus far is we’re all contained within a single consciousness, which ultimately we are all manifestations of, and that the individual identities we hold onto are deluded fabrications of our confused minds. I’ve claimed nothing more.

But with all things, I want direct experience. Is there some way to directly experience this God, this I AM, supposedly within all things, even within us? We need proof of some kind, otherwise it’s just spiritual scriptures making all kinds of claims and us philosophizing about it all. I’m someone who wants direct proof, direct experience. But what sort of experience would that even be? Even if Jesus, or Shiva, or Allah appeared before me in my bedroom, that’s just a form. Isn’t God beyond all form? Beyond even thought itself? Beyond even emotional experience? We’d be in search of some root consciousness, somehow underpinning all experience. What would an experience of that even be? Does such a question even make sense? Even visions of the Christ shouldn’t satisfy us. We need something deeper, as sacrilegious as that sounds. Interestingly enough, the more I pursued this question, I eventually came across a great Indian yogi named Ramana Maharshi, and read his book on Self-Enquiry. He claimed that anyone can experience the direct presence of God within their consciousness! I was like, wow, how would I do that? And what should I experience?

His method is extremely simple. Everytime the “I” thought arises in your mind, such as “I am hungry”, or “I need to see a doctor”, or “I don’t want to go to work today”, ask yourself who is speaking? Who is having the thoughts? Who is it that experiences hunger? Who is having the experience of needing to see a doctor? Who is it that has the feeling of not wanting to go to work? Who or what is this “I” who says these things? Put this “I” on the witness stand and ask it, “Show me who you are”. It is extreme Self reflection.

The point of the process is to discover what is real and what is illusion. Maharshi had a very specific definition for what to consider “real”. To him, anything real must be eternal, unchanging, and self-shining. By self-shining he meant that it must experience itself by its own light of self-awareness. It’s a very strict definition, but I accepted it. I’d search for things of this nature within my consciousness, if it’d lead me to this root “source” experience of God.

I spent many many hours meditating, seaching for what’s real (using Maharshi’s conception of reality), and applied this process anytime I heard some “I” bounce around in my conscious mind. If you spend enough time doing this process, tracing your thoughts of “I”, you’ll find that you’ll always come to the same ever present, unchanging root. It never changes. It’s always the same. It’s also aware of itself. This is the root from which all your subjective consciousness stems from. This root can only be described as, “I AM” (just as spiritual scriptures all over the world, such as the Bible, describe God), though it’s not words, nor is it thought, nor is it form, yet it can be experienced firsthand. It seems that everything is coming out of it, since everything traces back to it. And isn’t it strange that this is found directly within you, whenever you trace your own “I” thoughts back to their source? You found the I AM directly within yourself. (or at least you can do so if you desire) God is omnipresent, and lo and behold, you’ll directly find God within you! That to me was the proof I needed, or at the very least, lent extreme weight toward a… spiritual (for lack of a better word)… view of the universe.

Everything in your experience, other than this I AM root perception, will change. Your body will change with time. Your friends will come and go. Careers will come and go. Thoughts come and go. Emotions come and go. But this I AM directly perceived within you never goes anywhere. Ever. When I went through this process, and kept coming back to the I AM, time and time again, tears came to my eyes. In my search for what’s real, it turns out the only thing that is real is God, which is with me, and is me (when I move beyond false identifications of things I am not), and is the source of everything happening. Maharshi calls this Self-realization, when you finally realize who you truly are, an emination of God, moving beyond the false “I” conception you had of yourself before. The great single consciousness is all that’s real. This ultimate substratum of reality. Upon this realisation, you become, as the saints like to say, one with God, and the old (false) self dies, just as Christ died on the cross.

People Can Suffer Anything

The sort of science and engineering I help teach at the university has led to a world with great material comfort. The average person today lives a more comfortable life than royalty did in ages past. I’m definitely all for this, but I’m slowly realizing that if we don’t work on a sort of inner engineering, none of us will be able to enjoy the material benefits. From what I see, every life situation becomes a problem if person has not tamed their mind. If a person is poor, they suffer that. If they’re rich, they worry about all they have to lose. If they’re not educated, they suffer a lack of opportunity. If a person has a chance at a good education, the majority of students do not want to be there. If they lack a job, they suffer unemployment. Give them a job, they don’t want to go in. If they’re not married, they suffer being alone. If married, they murmur about their spouse. If they don’t have children, they’re unhappy. You give them children and they’re unhappy with the sleepless nights and all the work involved. I could go on, but I won’t. Will greater material benefits fix these problems? I can’t see flat-screen televisions, faster computers, or new iPhones fixing any of this. We’re our own problem. The mind is like a super-computer with too many knobs, buttons, and features, and people struggle to pilot the mind. They can’t properly control its energies.

A lot of it comes down to garbage in, garbage out. If you eat bad food, you get diarrhea. Similarly, if you focus the mind’s attention on garbage, you get mental diarrhea. You have to change your mental diet.

As a physicist, I like to look for the most fundamental rules behind anything I observe. When it comes to a mind that has turned on itself, the most fundamental principle is identification with things you are not. As Sadhguru points out in this video, “The mind should not be telling its own stories all of the time.” If you understand and master this principle, the mind will sit still, waiting for you to tell it what to do. It can be a real battle, but if you don’t take the time to learn this, the mind will be a constant nuisance. It won’t matter how blessed your life is, you won’t enjoy it. You’ll always find something that’s not how it should be.  However, when I rid myself of these mental stories, these projections onto the world around me, life has become a quite pleasant experience.

Chalkboard Musings

The other day I entered my classroom and saw the word ‘Anarchy’ written in large letters for all to see on the chalkboard. I silently crossed it out and wrote ‘Love, Peace, and Order’ underneath it. Some may crave anarchy, but I crave peace, continually striving for an inner silence which comes from deep within. That to me is freedom, not chaos. As someone sows, they will also reap and chaotic behavior soon reaps a whirlwind of negative repercussions; before long all one’s time and energy is spent trying to put out self-inflicted fires instead of moving in a worthwhile direction. This is especially true of one’s own mind. Chaotic thinking destroys one’s potential to accomplish anything of value. The world outside of us flows from what’s first within us, and our outer world is a mirror of our own thoughts, beliefs, and actions reflected back at us. As a person thinks, so they are, and the world around us is a collective product of how everyone thinks.  A lot of the problems we experience in life are simply reflections of our own inner chaos being cast back at us;  sadly, we lack self-awareness and don’t see this happening.

I want to talk a little bit about this mirror. It’s all similar to a Rorschach test, where a person is shown random inkblot splatters and are then asked by a psychologist what they see on the page. The images in and of themselves are nonsense, but if you give someone enough time, and keep flashing these inkblot images to them, their inner world will be projected onto those images, and then this inner dialog starts coming out of them.  Their joys, their fears, things they hate, people they’re mad at, things they desire, the list goes on.  This is exactly what we do each and every day with just about everything.

Life is like a giant Rorschach test.  When you wake up tomorrow morning, just stand in front of the bathroom mirror and stare at yourself for a moment.  Observe what happens within you.  Step outside your home and look at the neighborhood.  What happens inside of you?  Go to your job and for a brief moment, take a look at your coworkers, your desk, and your office breakroom.  What sort of thoughts happen within you?  For most people, some inner dialog starts.  What is it saying?  What is what you’re hearing telling you about yourself?  Even more importantly, where are these voices coming from?  Do you identify with them?  Do you have to identify with them?  Should you identify with them?  If a lot of what you’re hearing is negative and causing you to suffer, are the things these voices saying true?  Based on what?  Challenge them. Place your own thoughts and mind on a witness stand, like you’re in court.  Prosecute them.  Who are you?  Where do you come from?  You say these nasty things about me and others, but what proof do you have?  Why should I believe you?

I’ll give you all an example.  The other day I finished teaching and walked home from work.  As I was leaving the physics building, a thought entered my mind, “I don’t want to walk home.”  I then put it on the witness stand.  Who is this “I” who doesn’t want to walk home?  How do you know “I” do not want to walk home and would rather drive home?  It was silent.  Just as I thought.  I’m self-aware enough to realize these stupid mind-games my own brain likes to put me through. I then proceeded to walk home, the weather was nice outside, I enjoyed the breeze as it was cool out, and within 15~20 minutes I was home.  The walk was nice.  I didn’t suffer at all throughout the entire experience.  So who was this “I” who didn’t want to walk home?  It wasn’t me because I actually enjoyed the walk.  This thought had no idea what it was talking about, but I could’ve believed it and amplified its negativity in my mind, letting it brew the entire walk home, complaining within, and let it ruin my entire mood.  But why?  There was nothing waiting for me in the world that had suffering on its agenda, but crazy forces within me sure had plans to make me miserable.   They didn’t win that day.

I can give all kinds of other examples.  Oftentimes I’ll wake up in the morning and my mind will spew out, “I don’t want to go to work this morning.”  I put it on the same witness stand.  This thought sits defiantly in the booth, with its arms crossed, exclaiming, “I don’t want to go in today.”  What continues to baffle me is that this thought has the audacity to claim that it is me and that I feel this way!  Who’s it kidding?  I tell it to take its place and have a seat.  It doesn’t tell me who I am and who I am not, what I will and will not like, what to look forward to or what to dread.  It’s been wrong too many times to give it that kind of confidence.  The ONLY thing it has a right to do is propose certain ideas, and that’s it.  Propose.  Theorize.  Speculate.  And if I look into something it proposes and it’s flat wrong, I don’t pay those trains of thought any mind any longer.  When they arise I disavow them, let them pass, and do not give them my attention.  It can say “I” this, and “I” that all it wants, but it has nothing to do with me.

But anyway, this thought seemed to be telling me, in supposed advance foreknowledge, that I will dislike my day at work and that I shouldn’t go in.  A day at work is not worth experiencing.  For the first few days when I went into work at the university, I told this thought, “We’ll see.”  I gave it the benefit of the doubt, but then I actually observed my days at work without any emotional “coloring” from these inner random thoughts and the results were interesting.  I let the day itself make impressions on my emotions naturally, without interference from these made-up inner mental projections and I found that I do not hate going to work.  I do not mind teaching.  Many times when I’m joking around with students and I see them learning, I actually find it rewarding.   While at work, my own inner world goes from indifference, to bursts of a rewarding feeling, to a mild peaceful joy, and then oftentimes back to indifference, that is, if I’m not caught up in these inner mental projections.  So who was it that didn’t want to go to work?  Not me.  When I look at the evidence, the real me is indifferent to work at times, and enjoys it at other times.

Do you see how life is just like a Rorschach test?  Those inkblots do not contain any of the projections of the person looking into them.  In the same way, your life probably doesn’t contain half of the things you’re projecting into it either.

Speaking of which, I find that 95% of what goes through my head is nonsense if I actually call it out and make it prove itself.   I don’t hate going into work, I don’t mind walking home on certain days, and the list goes on.  For example, after going through same process in other thought areas, I soon realized that I don’t need or even desire half of the things the mind goes, claiming they’re the only tickets to happiness and a good life.  It goes on about career goals, relationship stuff, projections of what it thinks coworkers, students, faculty members, and others think of me, weird insecurities, things I should be angry about, things that would make me happy, things I desperately need to avoid, and so on, and at the end of the day, it’s just a giant onslaught of nonsense.  Almost all of it is garbage that isn’t worth paying attention to and these days I don’t.  I view it like a some sort of confused parrot hopping on my shoulder, saying things it doesn’t even grasp or understand, screaming it into my ear.  I playfully return its gaze and think, “Oh, you again?  You’ve been wrong 99 times out of 100.  Oh, you don’t say? Another one of your wild conjectures.  I wonder why it is I don’t believe you anymore?”

In the past, one of biggest forms of my own suffering was who I believed I was.  I used to have worries that I was a little human, trapped in a giant universe that doesn’t care about me at all.  I’m here today, gone tomorrow, and it’s all pointless as I’m just going to die and leave everything I work for behind.  However, I don’t feel that way today.  I kept looking into everything, and as I’m often told, if you seek, you will find.  I wanted to know who and what I am, and I kept digging.  What did I find?  No matter where I looked, I saw a world beyond time, and I kept seeing glimpses of infinity, infinity, infinity, over and over and over.  I studied Einstein’s general relativity and I saw universes springing into existence, big bang after big bang, like bubbles in a champagne bottle, bursting into existence from literally nothing, forever and ever (study eternal inflation).  I’m just in awe, so I try to look into things more close to Earth.  How about the dirt that I’m made out of?  I look into the nature of the physical matter and I see infinity once again, some sort of infinite branching of possibilities (Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics), or these probability clouds of infinite possibilities somehow collapsing and unfolding according to some source beyond anything I can grasp (Bohr interpretation), or maybe according to Bohm there is some sort of unfolding within the infinite mind of God giving rise to me.  Either way, infinity, infinity, infinity.  What a complete mystery!  I examine my brain and wonder about consciousness and why I experience what I do, and I have no answers.  I don’t know what I’m made out of, I don’t know what I am, I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know where all of this is going.  The more deeply I look into anything, I realize I know absolutely nothing, and if “I” should identify with anything, it’s this ignorance.  Even still, I try understand.  Maybe it’s futile.

But what tools am I going to use to understand all of this?  Thought?  Logic?  Where do “my” thoughts come from?  When I think a thought was there this giant catalog of all thoughts to choose from, and “I” browsed through them before each moment, and from this infinity of possibilities sit down and chose the thoughts I’m having?  No.  “I” was never presented this catalog nor can I recall a sensation of choosing any of these thoughts.  So do I even control what I think?  Maybe, at least I feel I can believe in or reject thoughts, such as when I thought, “I do not want to go to work”, but that’s not the same thing.  So who or what is the true “I” controlling all of this?  It seems to happen, just like everything else.  So who wrote this “script” of thought and action I’m experiencing?  “I” am at a loss.  I lack such self-awareness.  Whatever causes it all to go also causes me to go, that’s all I’m comfortable saying.

If you think “you” are doing it all, please tell me how you lift your arm?  Can you tell me what even a single atom in your arm is?  Can you describe it in its fullness?  I’m a physicist and I can tell you we have no idea what an atom is.  How are you moving countless numbers of them when you move your arm around?  Yet “you” can!  But who is this “you” doing it?  And how come?  And stranger still, this illusory mind we all have likes to take the credit, saying “I” lifted “my” arm.  It’s just another false mental projection.  The mind really has no idea what’s going on.  It sees some complicated happening, just like the ink blots, and it’s like, “Oh, ‘I’ know what’s going on!”  Right, sure you do!  “I” lifted my arm.  Uh huh. I can barely describe electrical currents to my students and yet this thought in my brain likes to say that “I” created bazillions of neural firings in my brain and arm, and conducted this energy down my arm, and contracted the muscles, and all the rest of it.  How?  I don’t even fully understand how it all works, even on a conceptual level.  I don’t know how the brain does what it does, I don’t understand how it’s all wired up, and I barely understand the biology of muscle tissue and how muscles even contract, much less how all the ion channels give rise to neural conduction and all the rest of it.  Yeah, “I” did that.  Give me a break.  That’s impossible.  What an incredible illusion believing that “I” am in control of anything.

So what is this “I”?  The brain seems to generate thoughts, and most of what it is says is stupid nonsense.  Most of what it has to say isn’t much better than radio static.  Some of the stupidest thoughts we have are those which try to tell us who and what we are, and those which attempt to interpret what is happening in this infinite unfoldment we call reality.  Not all the brain’s thoughts are nonsense, but be wary if you ask it anything deep or complicated.  Maybe I’m too hard on the human brain?

Whatever the universe is, I’m the same thing, I think, but maybe not?  Who knows.  But if so, does this make me a machine and my identity unreal?  That would be true IF this universe was a giant machine, just mechanically flowing deterministically one moment to the next, but is it?  I used to believe that to be the case, and maybe you believe it is that way as well, but from all I’ve studied I see no evidence that that’s how things work.  Quantum theory is our most fundamental description of the universe, and it doesn’t describe anything like that.  Also, how come I feel this subjective feeling of being “me”?  Oh, that’s the brain doing all that?  Ok.  Why would electricity flowing in the jelly of my brain give rise to that?  And like I pointed out, we don’t know what matter is, so how can you tell me what this brain even is?  I don’t know.  Consciousness is a complete mystery to science.  How come electrical currents in the brain give rise to me feeling sensations of hearing music, seeing colors on a television screen, or the sweetness of chocolate cake?  I don’t know.  I think I’m a lot more than “I” think I am.  My true identity is beyond my frail human brain’s comprehension.  But as I said earlier, I am more prone to identify with complete ignorance these days than to claim to know anything.  My mind is finite and anything finite trying to wrap itself around something that’s infinite isn’t going to fare well.

Even all my worries about who and what I am, and my ultimate destiny, those fears were just Rorschach projections of a human mind, reflecting on the tiny handful of events that happened to its body.  Strangely, I live far more mindlessly than ever before, thinking less and less, and I’ve never been happier.  I just have reserved my thinking power for issues that are more interesting and worth investing time into.  If I have some goal to work on, I apply my mind toward that, but as for all these worthless mental projections, nah.  I’m done with all that.