A Key To Understanding Abstract Thought

August 4, 2014

Back when I was a teenager, I remember first reading Plato’s works.  I was completely puzzled trying to figure out how abstract thinking worked.  Take our ability to think of general concepts.  We know that women and men are both human beings and that all human beings have arms, legs, mouths, and noses.  It’s effortless for us.  It happens automatically within a few milliseconds and feels instantaneous.

Or think about something else.  Say I was a mad scientist and took you down to my lab.  I had built a brain scanning machine and I was going to strap you down and steal your memories.  How would I do it?  How does your brain store your memories?  What format are they in?  How are they organized?  Believe it or not, I pretty much know the answer!  But back when I was a teenager, I had no idea how this worked.

I never knew how my brain could recognize, categorize, and label objects.  Take walking into a kitchen.  We always see particular tables, and each table is different from one another, but somehow our mind has some abstract concept of a “table”, and can look at objects in the world around us and say, “Yes, that’s a table.”  The same applies to animals.  We see beagles, bulldogs, and golden retrievers, but we know they’re all “dogs”.  What is a “dog”?  How does our brain do it?

Plato used to theorize that there was some ideal “dog” in another invisible dimension and somehow all particular dogs were a copy of that, in some inexplicable way.  That never made any sense to me and I doubt it does to anyone else either.

But nowadays we’re making huge breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and we’ve cracked the code for how the brain does it.  Using biologically inspired algorithms, AI researchers can now write computer code which is able to do this same sort of abstract thinking.  Take Microsoft’s Project Adam for instance.  You can go out into your backyard with your smartphone and snap a picture of your dog.  Their software can then analyze the image and tell you exactly what type of dog it is, even more accurately than the best human dog experts.

Once I studied how these sorts of algorithms work, I immediately understood what abstract concepts are and how they’re stored in our brains.  I don’t know whether to begin with our brains or with the computer algorithms.  If you understand one, you immediately understand the other.  We’ll begin with our brains.

Basically, abstract thinking takes place within our neocortex which is like a thin layer of neurons which sits on the outer layer of our brains.  This is simplifying things a bit, but it consists of layers of neurons wired together into vertical columns.  The columns themselves have cross-connections, wiring them to other columns.

neocortex

It works like this.  Let’s just talk about identifying things we’re looking at with our eyes.  Light beams make their way into our eyes which then stimulates photo-receptors in our retinas.  This creates small electrical signals which are then sent to the “bottom” layers of the neocortex.  That’s when a very simple pattern recognition process starts.

Basically the bottom-most neuronal layers identify patterns, then the next layer of neurons “above” those identify patterns within the patterns.  The layer “above” that identifies patterns within the pattern’s patterns.  And so on.  It forms this hierarchy of patterns within patterns within patterns … within patterns.

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So let’s talk a little more about Microsoft’s Project Adam.  How does it tell the difference between a dog and a cat?  Well, all you have to do is show it a bunch of images of cats and tell the software that all those images contain cats.  Then you show it a bunch of images of dogs and tell the software that all those images are dogs.   The software will build this hierarchy of image patterns within patterns within patterns.  Low levels begin with raw sensory data, such as colored pixels.  The next level will be patterns of colors, such as a small splotch of black and brown next to one another, or white and brown next to one another, etc.   As you go higher up this hierarchy, you’ll come to “tails”, “mid-sections”, “noses”, “eyes”, “floppy ears”, etc.  Then at the even higher levels, you’ll find “dog”, “cat”, and “human”.

We’ve been discussing patterns within images, but there are also patterns within sounds.  Instead of finding patterns within colored pixels spatially spread out over your retina, your brain also uses the exact same system to identify temporal patterns.

Say you find a cover song by a random person on Youtube and they’re playing their own rendition of a popular Beatles song.  How do you know it’s the same song?  If it’s really bad, you may not.  But if there is a good resemblance, your brain finds temporal patterns, within patterns, within patterns, of sound intensity based on pressure waves which vibrate your ear-drums, which in turn creates similar sorts of electrical signals for your brain.

This is related to language as well.  Nouns are consistent high level patterns, such as those discerned from images.  Verbs are their temporal patterns over time.  You’re linking up the sounds and symbols of the words (themselves high level patterns), to the high level patterns from sensory experience over time.

So what is the ideal table?  Does it exist in another dimension?  No.  The ideal “table” doesn’t look like anything. It’s just a type of information pattern.  It’s hard to describe what it is because it doesn’t look like anything, or sound like anything, or exist in any sort of space.  It’s just a type of encoded information.

If you’d like to hear about this process in even more detail, I’d recommend watching the neuroscientist Jeff Hawkins explain all of this in the video below.  In the tech world, this AI technique is called deep learning.  The topic begins at around 10 minutes.

I’ve slightly simplified this discussion a bit though.  Our brains are even cooler than this.  The information doesn’t just flow upward, it also flows downward.  When you study how the neurons are laid out, as your brain is trying to figure out what it’s looking at, it’s also making predictions about what it should see in the future.  If there’s a match between what your brain thinks will come next and what does come next, you unconsciously say to yourself, “Ah, I know what this is.”  If your brain’s predictions do not match what you experience next, there’s a shift in your attention.

For example, if you’re looking at your pet dog and all of the sudden it stands on its back legs upright and starts talking to you like a human, you’re totally taken back, in shock, and your attention is completely focused on your dog.  That’s because it doesn’t match the patterns stored in your brain and we’re wired up to say, “I don’t understand this.  This is new.  I need to pay attention to it.”  It may also generate fear, etc.  So it’s more complicated in us humans, but abstract thought and object identification is built on this process.

If you showed Project Adam a fake video of a talking dog standing up on its legs, since it has no emotion, all it would do is say, “new pattern”, and create new nodes in this hierarchy of patterns.  But with us, our object identification process is directly tied into emotional centers which trigger a more complex response.

So as the mad scientist, if I was wanting to read your mind, it’d be very difficult.  It’s not like the information is stored in the same way in each person.  It’s totally different in each brain based on what you’ve experienced.  The pattern hierarchies are all laid out differently.

In short though, your memories are temporal sequences of hierarchical patterns.  It’s not like there’s a movie-clip I could access and playback with perfect clarity.  The brain also discards most of the raw sensory information we experience.  So that’s going to be a problem.

For fun, I could ask you to think about your wedding, and once I found out where the high-level patterns were stored, I could trace down your tree and try to produce a movie of you walking down the isle.   Maybe, I’m not sure.  If I had sophisticated enough equipment and you’re willing to let me cut your skull open, I’d be more than willing to give it a try!  *giddy grin*  Then again, it may be better just to search your attic for the DVD or VHS tape!

One of my biggest interests in this subject is trying to understand what numbers are.  I feel quite certain they’re rooted in this same process.  The number one is some sort of high level pattern in our sensory hierarchy.  The same with two, three, four, five, and maybe six.  We intuitively understand small numbers because they actually exist within this hierarchy in our mind.  I’ve seen two glasses on a table, two books on my desk, and two buttons on a computer mouse.  There’s some common pattern within all of them which we’d label “2”.

Higher numbers are probably just symbols linked to logical rules for manipulating them.  We don’t have any intuitive sense of the difference between a billion and a trillion stars.  It’s too much for our minds to comprehend.  In other words, imagine the resolution an image would need to distinctly contain a billion separate objects.  There’s not enough pixels on the back of our retina to contain such an image no matter how tiny you made each object individually.  You could try to link the word symbol “a billion stars” to lots of tiny dots flying by in some temporal sequence, possibly.  Or maybe you could say something like, “Imagine dropping a thousand pennies in a jar each day.  Each penny will be a star.”  Then the person goes and does that for a single day, one thousand pennies.  “How long would we have do this process before we’d counted a billion stars?  It would take you over 2,700 years to count that many stars!”  Little tricks like that help to grasp numbers, but you really have to think hard to come up with those things.  It’s tricky to have any intuitive sense of large numbers.

Bertrand Russell struggled to define numbers in his Principles of Mathematics.  I’m not really sure if this conception of numbers is correct though.  Still, I’m pretty sure you could show Project  Adam lots of different pictures with just a single object in them and then tell it, “1”.  Then do the same for images with two objects in them, etc.  I think you could get it to grasp the first few numbers.  There’s scientific evidence that animals understand the first few numbers.  For example, if an animal is trying to escape a group of predators, and the predators run into a cave and then exit, one by one, the animal seems to know when they’re all gone.  If there were three predators but only two have left the cave, the animal knows to remain hidden.  It must have some basic conception of number.

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Losing Iraq

August 3, 2014

PBS produced a documentary on the war in Iraq, chronicling its beginnings up to the present, and what a nightmare!  There have been hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, several thousand American troops have been lost, we’ve spent over two trillion dollars, and everything we fought for is now unraveling as ISIS rolls in and takes over.  It’s been a total waste.  Nothing has changed, the world is angry at us, and we’re buried in debt.  Even worse, this new ISIS group is bad news.  They’re well funded, well armed, and very dangerous.  They’re far scarier than Bin Laden ever was.

It’s even worse knowing it was all doomed from the start.  There really isn’t any need for me to get into it.  Just watch it all for yourself.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/losing-iraq/

Before the war began, all of the generals were telling President Bush, “Why are we doing this?  This war is a bad idea.”  But the president had filled his administration with neoconservatives like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and they they had been busy devising plans for the middle-east since the 1960s.  They found themselves a gullible cowboy who’d listen to them, and so off we went, and once we got involved, there was no easy way out.

It was clear that nobody knew what they were doing.  Those appointed to run things had little knowledge of the region, Iraqi culture, or their people.  Those who did weren’t listened to, or even worse, they were kicked out.  There were constant changes in leadership and a severe lack of intelligence.  The Bush administration kept asking, “Why can’t we wrap things up?”, not even realizing what they had started.

As for President Obama, he’s wanted nothing to do with Iraq ever since entering office.  He wanted to pull out immediately but had to honor an agreement set in place by the Bush administration just before Bush’s second term ended.  Obama’s cabinet broke contact with the fledgling Iraqi government and he gutted a lot of the resources dedicated to managing the war.  This left the Iraqi prime minister on his own and he’s frightened.  He’s been consolidating power, eliminating political opposition, and restructuring the government.  This has led to violence, corruption, and a large portion of the population being disenfranchised.  Protests have been breaking out everywhere.  It could be argued that Obama’s inattentiveness to everything going on has led to ISIS and their buildup.  With these new jihadist radicals running around, it looks like we’re being pulled back in.  They’re dangerous but we’re broke.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen.

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A Robot Hitchhiker

August 2, 2014

A question has been on all of our minds — well, maybe just few people’s minds — will Hitchbot be able to hitchhike its way across Canada?

Researchers have built a robot with an ambitious plan.  It will attempt to bum rides across Canada, all on its own.  If successful, Hitchbot will travel coast to coast, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, all the way to Victoria, British Columbia.

hitchbot

As it bums electricity from your cigarette lighter, it will read you poetry, discuss the news, and share its vast knowledge with you.  In fact, it’s pre-loaded with all of Wikipedia.

So far, it’s halfway there.   After receiving publicity from local news stations, people have been on the lookout for this robo-hobo.  It needs a lift!

hitchbot3

I would totally give it a ride.  You can follow its progress at www.hitchbot.me.

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What Does Community Look Like?

July 31, 2014

In my more recent posts, I’ve mentioned that after a person’s basic needs are met, we human beings seek out relationships with other people.  We long for a place where we belong, where we’re accepted, and where we’re a part of the group.  We search for an important role to play, where we depend on others and they depend on us.  We want to matter.  We desire respect, crave self-esteem, and strive for greater ability at our “thing”, whatever that may be.  We desire to be a part of a family, where successes and failures are shared.  These are the sorts of things I mean when I say we crave a world beyond ourselves, a state of greater connection with the world.  In other words, we want community, but what is that exactly?

A few years ago, I was reading a blog post by a scientist and he was sharing his view that sports are a total waste of time.  To think that people would spend hours and hours throwing a ball through a hoop!  What a waste!  They need to be developing their minds, not kicking a ball around.  I don’t think he realizes what they’re really about.

While academics are important, that’s not all there is to the world.  I saw a video on Youtube where the comedian Russell Brand introduces us to a youth sports league he sponsors.  Take a look at it.

Listen to one of the young boys tell his story.  His father left their family, and he lives with his mother and little brother.  From a very young age, he felt he needed to be a role model for his little brother, considering his father wasn’t around.  He dealt with anger issues and his temper would flare up.  A little while after joining the team, all of that went away.

And pay attention to what they liked about playing on their team.  You may think that it’s the thrill of dominating the other team, or kicking some amazing goal to win the championship, or impressing cute girls who watch the games.  After all, they’re just kids, right?  But what is it that they actually like about the team, in their own words?  Just listen.  They feel they’re a part of a family.  They also like the atmosphere where success is encouraged, but nobody is too judgmental.  They’re encouraged to be their best, but they’re loved and accepted, regardless.  Nobody is turned away.  That’s something to think about. I thought the coaches seemed like good people.  They’re creating a very positive environment.

Over and over they stress, “we are a family.”  They train together three times a week and they’ve been working together for over five years.  That’s a lot of time spent together.  What do you think that place is for them?  The reason I bring it up is because it’s everything I mentioned just a moment ago.  Within that team, on that field, kicking that ball around, they have a place where they’re respected.  They have a means to develop self-respect for themselves.  They’re a part of something larger than themselves.  They share a common goal with a group of people.  They learn to be a team player.  They get to have the experience of sharing successes and failures with their team, their family.  Lifelong friendships and bonds form.  It’s a wonderful thing.

The other day I was out with my friend Greg, and we were questioning where in the modern world you can find community.  Outside of some churches, religious organizations, the military, sports teams, clubs, and a few other small pockets here and there, most places are devoid of this sense of greater connection with people.

Thinking of these kids and their lives, school is a very isolated place.  Helping one another on tests or homework is considered cheating.  You’re all on your own.  There’s not going to be any sense of community in that place outside of friends they may make.  But even then, the only real quality time they can spend together is in extra-curricular activities, not so much school itself.  And many find these things wasteful, so schools struggle to keep extra-curricular programs funded.

It can be tough being young.  So much of your life is controlled and dictated by whatever life choices your parents have made.  If your home-life is a mess, you don’t really have any place to escape it unless your school offers programs like these.  But when programs like this sports team exist, kids have a positive place to spend their time, even if their home with their biological family is a terrible place to be.  Once they get old enough, they can go off to college and leave their messed up homes behind them.  It gives them options and a choice.  They can still go home if they want to, but there’s all these other things they can do if they want as well.  I think it’s much better for these kids to learn to play instruments in a band, or play sports, or participate in a science club, etc., than spend hours in front of their computers and Playstations.

When they graduate they’ll enter the corporate world where most people find themselves expendable, plugged into some machine where they are easily replaced.  The mindset isn’t, “you’re a seminal piece and valuable team member”, it’s more, “be thankful you have a job at all.”  Success certainly isn’t shared.  All the money goes to shareholders who they’ll never meet.  I guess they do share failures though.  They all get chewed out if things go south.  They can expect to be worked thirty-nine hours a week so that their corporate employer doesn’t have to pay benefits.  That sort of thing doesn’t make you feel valued.  You’re a cost of doing business, and if they can save money by cutting you out of the picture, they’ll do it.

I think one of the hardest things in life is to find these “pockets” of community, where you feel you’re a part of something.  And even if you do find them, they don’t last forever.  We all desire it, but I wonder how many people find it?  Finding it and making it all work out is difficult.  It requires people with certain values and commitments such as friendship, loyalty, a dedication to excellence, a shared vision, and other things like that.

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Topics: Philosophy, Psychology | 2 Comments »

Reflections On Maturity

July 9, 2014

I came across an article on Arts and Letters Daily which I really enjoyed.  Upon reaching sixty years of age, an older gentleman reflected on the ageing process.  While I’m just a tad over half his age, he made a statement that I myself relate to when I’m around people much younger than myself.

One of the surprising symptoms of getting to be 60 is that I now can’t tell how old anyone under the age of 40 is; you all look 16. And don’t believe the beauty page gush that you are in fact only as old as you feel. It’s a nonsense, based on the assumption that ageing is primarily a physical process. It isn’t, it’s a maturing one. It’s not a feeling, it’s an experience. You are as old as you can remember.

Life At 60, The Sunday Times 

Ageing is a maturing process.  There are certain lessons life simply teaches people as they get older, though some learn a lot more than others.  I want to write down what it means to be mature.  What sort of processes go on in a person?

The best way to tackle this would be to give a vague overview of the human mind and what motivates a person to do the things they do.  Once we accomplish that, it’s not too hard to give a person the direction and general character of maturation.

We human beings all have these inner compulsions, drives, and desires which compel us to do the things we do.  There is a sort of hierarchy to these drives, and that’s what I want to first discuss.

There are higher and lower drives, and as each lower drive is satisfied, “higher” drives begin to manifest themselves.  Each “higher” drive is more quiet than lower drives beneath it, so unless you satisfy the lower drives, or learn practices that quiet the mind and allow you to experience the higher drives, you simply will not hear them.  Also, higher drives are more complicated than the lower drives beneath them, and they also connect you more to the universe outside and beyond yourself.  Each higher drive is harder to satisfy and even understand, and if you study people, very few people ever go beyond the first tier or two within this hierarchy of inner drives.

The most primary drive is for food, shelter, and safety.  It’s a survival instinct.  It’s by far the strongest inner drive within human beings, but once it’s satiated, it quiets down and weaker drives begin to manifest themselves.  In the modern world we don’t really think much about these things because very few of us struggle to find food, stay warm, or evade predators.  It’s quite an accomplishment for our civilization.  But if you were placed on a deserted island, you’d soon find your thoughts consumed with survival and safety.  Other “higher” desires and thoughts would be pushed aside.

If you manage to secure food, shelter, and safety, your mind will start to seek out relationships and associations with other people.  You will seek out a place where you belong, where you’re accepted, where you’re part of the group.  Desires for love and being loved will start to manifest.  Along with this there will be worries of whether or not you’re worthy of love.  You’ll worry whether you’re able to contribute to this group you belong to (or trying to find), and you’ll want to be as self-reliant as possible.  You’ll desire respect, crave self-esteem, and try to find a place where you believe and trust in yourself.

If you’re able to find some group of people to plug yourself into, you’re going to desire a feeling of ability.  You’re going to want to be competent and even excellent at the thing you do, whatever that is.   You’ll want to be strong, to excel, and maybe even be a leader in your field and area of life.

Very few people ever move beyond this stage.  I may have met a few people who have moved past the stages mentioned, but they are rare.  That’s not to say each “higher” drive is better.  I’m just saying they’re quieter, and also, higher drives are far more capable of satisfying a person.

If you quiet your mind, or you’re able to satisfy the desires to belong, to be loved, to play a part in society, etc., the mind start to undergo various changes.

For one, a new curiosity will develop.  It will start asking questions about the universe itself.  All sorts of things.  What is this universe?  What is time?  Has the universe always been here or will it one day end?  Was there a creator?  It’s part of the mind’s quest for greater connection and understanding.  You’ll also begin to question everyday experience and just feel how weird and strange it all is.  All of this will feel very childlike and interesting.  It’s a fun, pleasant experience.

Along with this new curiosity will arise a sense of beauty, symmetry, and thoughts on perfection.  There’s an increase in your perception of connections between things and events.  A sense of values and ethics becomes very important because you crave beauty and for things to be done “right”.

The more you quiet the mind, the more capable you are of quiet joys, calm serenity, and an enjoyment of small things.  That’s because they’re no longer small or simple to you.  You see and feel more from everyday experience.  And because these things are satisfying you more, you need less from other people.  You can also endure greater hardship and isolation because of this satisfaction.

You become more capable of discovering truth.  Since you’re more satisfied with existence, you’re less prone to project your wishes onto it.  You can see things and people as they really are.  Your thinking becomes clearer.  Your intuition becomes better.  Increasing feelings of connectedness lead to mystical experiences.  A greater appreciation for art, poetry, music, wisdom, and science starts to take place.  You take more pleasure in things that are complex.  Your worldview, personal philosophy, and religion becomes more inclusive, less narrow, and further reaching.

You feel more and more comfortable being you, and irrational fears begin to leave you.  You become more open to new experiences, for the novel, for things that are unfamiliar.   You’re less afraid to fail.

Those feelings of connection make you think about other people a lot.  Empathy is enhanced.  You become more friendly and thoughtful.  You desire democracy and respect for all human beings.  It may go further, even for animals too.  You think about children and future generations, and desire to leave a better world behind for them.

You become the opposite of being petty.  You have a sort of “bigness”.   As they say, you don’t sweat the small stuff.  There’s an increased tolerance of people who are different than you, who have different beliefs than you hold.  Old prejudices leave you.  There’s an increased feeling of brotherhood and a realization and knowledge that you’re all in it together.  That’s not to say you don’t stand for things.  You just are “bigger”.  Black and white thinking is replaced with complex, nuanced thinking.

There’s a sympathy and passion for the rights of minorities and those who are oppressed.  You become a better citizen, a better neighbor, a better parent.   There is a hopefulness toward the future.

You become more relaxed.  More honest.  More genuine and straightforward.  You’re not fake or putting airs anymore.  You express yourself as you are.   There are less feelings of shame and you are more welcoming of other people’s love.  You’re less prone to self-destructive behavior and instead have strength within you to serve, protect, and help others.

I guess that will serve to give a general idea of higher and lower drives.  So how does this relate to maturity?  Let’s begin by discussing younger people.  For concrete examples, I’ll simply discuss the young women I met at my university who I went out on dates with.

They had no idea who they were, what they stood for, what they were about, or what they wanted to do with themselves.  I saw very little indication that there was direction or purpose.  They had superficial relationships with all sorts of people, but no true bonds with anyone.  They were very fake, hiding their real feelings, putting on a sort of show.  “I’m interesting, I’m fun.  Look at me.”  They were caught up in a lot of self-destructive behaviors, such as their drinking games.  I would sit and talk with them for hours and got no sense that they were aware of the those quieter, subtler, higher drives within their mind.  They were almost entirely consumed with petty things, such as their phones and other things that don’t really matter.  They were completely self-absorbed.  As I mentioned, many of them never even thought to ask about the man sitting across from them.  They were so preoccupied with random noise within their own mind, they couldn’t even see anything around them.

Those are some of the things you see in immature people.  It’s hard to pin down precisely what that means, but in general, they have a very low awareness of this hierarchy within the mind, and they live on the bottom-most rungs. They have a long way to go before actualizing their full human potential.

Don’t think I’m looking down on these women.  I’m not.  These are difficult problems.  It’s difficult to find a place in the world, to feel fulfilled, to find a real purpose for your life.  It can be difficult to find people you relate to and to understand yourself.  To really believe in something is the hardest, especially when you think about this world and our place in it.  All of this is a long process.  Since older folks have had more time, they’re normally further along.

In my own life, I know how to bring peace to my mind, and I’ve tasted the joys of the higher drives.  There’s nothing like them.  But in many ways, I’ve never fully finished with the earlier rung of finding a place I belong, and I get strong feelings of being lonely.  It’s sort of like hunger or thirst.  If it’s not continually satisfied in some way, it pops its head back up, and if you entertain it and let it continue in your mind, it’ll just consume you.  That happens to me.  They’re very strong feelings and they’re in us because we humans are weak creatures.  Our only strength lies in working together with others.  Those feelings are there to impel you to join up with others and work together.  I’ve never done that, and because I haven’t, that part of my mind can be very loud and drown out everything else.

I remember reading about mystics long ago who tasted the joys of these higher drives, and as they’d sit to meditate, they’d have this moment of serenity, but soon afterwards they’d have strong recurrent desires and thoughts surface which they could never shake off.  Their minds would just wander and they’d find themselves daydreaming about squeezing a young woman’s breast, and other sexual fantasies.  It’s not like you can ever shut off any of the lower drives.  If you don’t eat, your brain will be screaming at you, “Eat something!”  It’s painful for anyone to be rejected by society or live in isolation.  We’re social animals.

I know who I am, but honestly, I’m not really in an environment where I could really thrive.  I belong elsewhere, but I get conflicts because I’d miss my family, who I love.  One of the biggest factors leading to neurosis is when you have different deeply seated inner drives conflicting with one another, and there’s nothing you can do to satisfy them both.  You choose one at the expense of the other, but the other never goes away.

In me, I have all kinds of skills.  I’m competent in many different areas.  I have drives saying, “Use those skills and do things for the world.”  But that conflicts with other parts of me which doesn’t want to leave my family behind.  I’d miss them so much.  Every time I research where all the projects I’d want to be involved in are located, I’d have to go off to Tennessee, or California, or someplace else.  But the longer I’ve stayed here where I am, the more life seems to be prodding me saying, “It’s time to go.”

Realistically, I know myself too well.  I’d love my work and probably the people I work with on the project.  That’s fine and good.  A home life is going to be my problem.  If I work a research job, I’ll probably be alone a lot.  Then I’d come home and be alone even more.  I have a vivid imagination and can see it.  I pull up, it’s dark, I come inside, flip on the lights then move around in total silence, hearing each footstep and the hum of the refrigerator.  Eck.  Then I think, “What now?  I’ve been reading, studying and working all day.  Now what?  Read more?”  Then I sit down somewhere.  I don’t know what I’d think about.  Maybe work.  Would I que up Netflix and watch documentaries or some television series?  Play video games?

That’s not a good picture.  It lacks any connection to community or a love life.  I like beautiful things, not diversions.  I really need to get married or something.  She doesn’t have to be like me at all.  There just has to be a genuine interest, love, and respect for one another.  There has to also be a real connection.  Someone you can really talk to, discuss things and understand one another.  The rest would work itself out.  If I had that, I think I could relocate somewhere else in the world and be alright.  Maybe I could without it.  Hard to say.  I really don’t know.  I’ve sought that out, but as I’ve mentioned, so far it hasn’t worked out.  But most people will tell you that dating is a trying experience.

I have some sense of purpose.  I want to work with a team of scientists on some important technology or area of research which moves our technology and understanding forward in some interesting way.  My interests are really wide, and there are a lot of different things I’d love to work on.  I’d best like to do that with computer modeling and theoretical mathematics, but just to be involved in something I really believe in is what matters.  I still have some formal schooling left though, so I have to attend to that first.  I’m nearing the end of that tunnel though.

Before ending this, I should say that this maturity and growth process never ends.  As I said, all the higher drives only get more complicated to satisfy and understand.  Most people find a lover.  That can be quite an accomplishment.  But then you move on to finding some meaningful purpose within society, finding a place within a large social structure.  Think of all the ways people can work together and be together.  That’s really messy.  But, then you move on to understanding the universe and your place in it with all other life-forms.  The tree of life.  You understand that, and then think of the entirety of space and time, the evolution of the cosmos, and all that’s out there.

You’re never done.  It never ends.  There’s always more and that’s a good thing.

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