I’m sure everyone has heard by now, but Stephen Hawking died just a few days ago.
In a recent post I mentioned that I’m not good with dealing with change. I hate watching everyone get old and die. I really looked up to Stephen Hawking. He did the very type of physics research that I’m most interested in.
I’m middle aged now, but I feel like I’ve only just started life. A lot of that time has been spent just struggling, trying to get traction, and working to get involved in some projects that’re meaningful to me. Then I see Hawking die and it’s like, huh, how much longer do I have? Maybe 40 years? Then I think how quickly time goes by these days and it just hits me hard. It’s like, what am I doing?
Death isn’t even a distant thing for me. I have an old photograph of my family from about ten years ago during a Christmas get together. Half of them are dead now. My grandparents are gone. A bunch of my uncles are now gone. Other family friends are gone. It’s really hard to process.
It’d be one thing if I lived hundreds of thousands of years, or millions of years, and I saw all this happen over eons of time. But no, it’s not like that at all. It’s like, ok, one day I’m a kid and my only thoughts are on video games and sports, then I’m out of school and spend some years trying to build a business and make some money, then bam, before I feel like I’ve even got things moving or anywhere near where I’d like them, my family members start dying left and right, my parents are getting grey hair and are retiring, people I look up to are dying, role models are dying, the entire culture starts shifting and changing, and it’s just too much.
I’ve been watching faculty in my department retire, and even some of them having strokes and dying. Others are having health complications and are on the verge of retirement (some may be forced to retire). If younger guys like me don’t come along, work hard, and get ready to carry the torch when the time comes, who’s going to do it? Who’s going to carry this knowledge and expertise? I can’t just expect that these brilliant people are going to be around forever. They won’t be. They’re here today, gone tomorrow, just like anything else.
Every time I see someone like Hawking die, it’s this stark reminder that I have no time to waste. If you have something meaningful that you’ve always wanted to do, get out there and do it. Right now. Not tomorrow, not even later today, right now. That’s really what his life was like. He was given a death sentence, confined to a wheelchair, could literally only move some tiny portion of his upper lip (I think it was), and he does way more than me. Types out best-selling books, one character at a time, probably (at most) a few words a minute, teaching the world about the universe.
I have so much more to learn about cosmology, quantum field theory, string theory, the workings of our brain, and all of that. My dream for a long time has been to become an expert on the nature of the universe and our mind. I’m working hard at it, but there’s so much more I could be doing. I waste way too much time. I also haven’t been prioritizing my time to the things that really matter to me.
The years just tick by, tick tock, tick tock. Then I wonder, did I make time for those things that are meaningful to me? Did I work to make those things a reality? Or did I just coast, or goof around, wasting time?
What am I doing sitting around reading about Stormy Daniels’ affair with President Trump, wasting my life watching dumb Youtube videos?
In a recent post I shared Aldous Huxley’s viewpoint that the brain does not produce consciousness but it instead acts as a filter. He believed that our minds are actually aware of far more that’s going on in the universe than we believe, but our brains are locking us into a particular point in space and time and filtering out all our other awareness. This same view was also shared by the famous psychologist William James.
What I wanted to share today is a website I found called Psychonauts Wiki. It’s basically the wikipedia of mind-altering drugs, and it’s a comprehensive encyclopedia of how all these different substances alter consciousness, all of the known neuroscience (such as what sites particular drugs bind to, etc), as well as first hand accounts of what people have experienced. There’s some really fascinating stuff on there.
Take their entry on DMT for instance. I mentioned before that it’s the most powerful mind-altering substance there is. It’s basically a naturally occurring neural transmitter that’s already present in our bodies, but when you flood the brain with it, people have what many believe to be ‘spiritual’ experiences. These experiences are short-lived because the brain already knows what DMT is and how to deal with it. It only takes the brain a few minutes to pump the excess neural transmitter away and restore balance, but during those few minutes people are shot into what they perceive to be another conscious dimension.
There does seem to be strong evidence that drugs like DMT are basically screwing with the operation of the brain’s normal filter operations, temporarily opening your consciousness up to domains you don’t normally experience. I’m going to list out, in bold-face, some of the most bizarre and profound things people experience on extremely high doses of DMT; it’s almost as if the brain’s filter is dismantled and you see beyond life’s curtain.
Perception of Eternalism
People report exiting time as we experience it and can see their entire lives laid out before them, from beginning to end, as if it all has already been written in advance. They see it all the same way one would see all the different blades of grass spread out in an open field, perceiving it all at once. They still perceive causality and being connected to the present, it’s just they can see the end from the beginning.
Perception of Self-Design
Though we feel like this life mostly “happens” to us, when the brain’s filter is pulled up, you see that you, yes YOU, wrote the entire script of your life before this thing even began. This includes creating your loved ones, the entire universe, and even the physical laws it all abides of.
Exposure To The Inner Mechanics of Consciousness
You directly perceive the “programming” which directs and controls your thought streams, why you like things and dislike other things. Your preferences. Your desires. This goes for anything one consciously or even subconsciously perceives. You sort of “stand above” the filtered mind you’ve been living in and can see it all in action, beholding the cage you put yourself in.
You become aware of some sort of “deeper” you beyond the filter, and just experiencing this is enough to flood people with an intense motivation for life and an ability to enjoy it.
After perceiving all of this, people find a new sense of purpose, they form complex spiritual and religious beliefs about their true nature and that of the universe, there is an increase in compassion and love toward nature and other people, an increased sense of unity toward others, nature, God, and the universe as a whole, they lose interest in material things and even money, and they lose their fear of death.
Unity And Interconnectedness
A much wider array of concepts is integrated into their idea of “self”. A person who used to be stuck in their “ego” and physical body now comes to feel they are the universe and everything they experience. “Internal” and “External” are brought together into just “self”. They are the people they’re talking to. They are the plants. They become everything, and the same love they had for themselves is expanded to everything.
Wild, huh? And naturally if you come to this realization, it’s almost as if you’ve designed this fictional world to send people to come after you and tell you you’re crazy, all to keep the illusion up a little longer. Apparently that’s the game — to trick yourself into believing that you are something that you’re not.
For a long time I’ve felt this world is an illusion of some kind. Of course western psychology calls this ‘dissociation’, claiming that you’re just trying to detach your emotions from this world because it’s too painful to acknowledge the truth of your existence. I don’t think that’s my case however. I’ve thought long and hard about it all, and when I look at quantum mechanics, when I study relativity theory, when I study the brain and consciousness, when I look at evidence these pschedelic “psychonauts” give me, just when I think of the mind, space, and time, I find myself standing back thinking that something is up.
There’s some sort of bigger picture and I get small glimpses of it, and while all the pieces don’t perfectly fit into a whole, when I lay them all out on the table I start to see something. I come to a conclusion similar to Alan Watts, that this is some sort of dream I’ve concocted for myself to play in, and that the nature of this game is convince myself that I’m something that I’m not.
It’s sort of like I created this illusory “self” consciousness, and its entire goal is to convince me that I’m my brain and some sort of petty consciousness my brain creates. When I started this dream I made sure to filter out the “higher” me so that I wouldn’t be aware of what’s actually going on, and the whole nature of the illusion is to convince me that I’m my brain and my body, and to greatly fear death. The reality is that once I die, my consciousness will expand, I’ll realize that I am in some way united with all matter and everything that ever has been or ever will be, that I am the Earth, I am the trees, and I am all of you. I’m not only the stuff of this world, but also the stage on which it all exists. Not “Jason”, but the real me. In the meantime, the dream is trying to convince me that it’s oh so important to maintain this blob of flesh and blood in a particular form, and that it’s going to be oh so scary when it finally rots back into dirt. It’s determined to keep me from returning to the Mind At Large.
Lately when things I experience are frustrating me, I start chanting this silently in my mind, “Om So Hum”. It means “I am that”. It’s a Yogic mantra I learned from, I think, Sadhguru. Probably will sound corny to many, but try it and take it seriously. A great love from within seems to permeate your mind, it brings you peace, and somehow that peace starts fixing situations around you. It’s to remind you that what you’re experiencing is actually yourself (the real “deeper” you), even if what’s in front of you is crazy and something you want to get away from. Don’t reject it, bring it back into the fold with open arms. It’s about bringing unconditional, universal love toward everything and everyone.
Have you guys ever had some situation in life, some obstacle, some state of affairs that has always bothered you, but things have been that way for so long that you’ve just come to accept that as the way it is? Have you dealt with issues that have overstayed their welcome for so long, you’ve just come to assume that things will always be that way and it will never change? I’m primarily talking about things you don’t even think about. You’ve probably dealt with these things your entire life and have just absorbed these assumptions into yourself as part of your personality. Lifting weights has taught me that those things can change. I would say that the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I’m capable of a lot more than I ever thought I was.
It all started when the illusion that I had to be a skinny, scrawny, shrimp shattered. I learned that I can be as strong as the strongest NFL players. It may sound like a small thing to a lot of people. After all, our society values the mind, not muscles; we have machines to do most of our heavy lifting today. But to me, it’s really shaken me up. I don’t think people understand, but I had always been scrawny; I hated it, but what could I do? It’s just the way things were. I was the weak guy. That’s who I was. It was a part of my identity. It was something I just assumed to be true. It was my fate.
It meant the world to me when that illusion shattered. It was just a few years ago, but I decided I was going to change that. I watched a bunch of Youtube training videos, I bought some bodybuilding books, and I just got started lifting. Then it was amazing. I learned that if I ate enough calories and got a lot of protein in my system, if I only went to the gym four or five times a week and did these exercises, I would grow.
One of the Youtube trainers which really inspired me is C.T. Fletcher. I would watch videos like this one, and I’d just listen to C.T.’s words. If you don’t know who he is, he’s a many times over world champion power-lifter. He’s one of the greatest lifters that’s ever been. If you just listen to his words, it’s the total opposite of everything I had thought about my body. He’s yelling out, “You’re stronger than this shit. You can’t quit. It’s not in you to quit. It’s undeniable. You can do this. C’mon now, get it! Pull! Pull! Everything you’ve got! Pull! PULL! Show me what you’re made of! Don’t you quit on me. Don’t you quit! Ain’t no such thing as quitting around here. Do it! Do it! DO IT! You can’t quit! You’re too strong for that! There’s too much in you to quit! You can’t quit, it ain’t in you to quit! Refuse to quit. You’re too much man for this shit!”
When I was the scrawny six foot tall, 130 lbs shrimp coming into the gym, being out-lifted by even small women in the gym, failing to squat even 95 lbs, I kept hearing CT’s words in my head, “You’re too much man for this shit! You’re too strong for this weight. Don’t quit! Get it! Get it!”
Years later, just a few days ago I went into my university’s gym, which I haven’t been to in a while. I went to bench pressing, doing my normal sets. Then this big football player comes over to me and says, “Hey man. You a power-lifter?” I said, “Me? I just like lifting.” He then took me over to a big poster on the wall with all the university’s weight lifting records. He pointed out that I was lifting insane weight, and that with just a little more training I could shatter all of the university records. I was out-lifting all the strongest football players, even the weight-lifters. He said, “You should enter the competition.”
I had always believed I was a little scrawny wimp, but was I really? No. I had the power to change it, but my own beliefs were stopping me, beliefs which had been set in me at such a young age, I didn’t even think of them. It was CT Fletcher yelling at me, saying, “That shit ain’t true! That shit ain’t true! Get it!”
I really like this next video.
We’re taught to avoid pain. We’re taught that if something is painful to avoid it. We’re always hearing about finding our bliss, finding things that stimulate and motivate you, and having fun, but then CT gets right in your face and yells the complete opposite, “Hello pain! I’ve been looking for you! Come right in! Have a seat! Motherfucker I made dinner for ya! Pain is my friend! Come right in and stay a while, because I ain’t leaving.” When you go to do something and hardship sets in, whatever you fear the most, get right up in its face and yell, “I don’t fear you! I ain’t leaving!” Put your arm around it and say, “We might as well become friends, because you’re not stopping me.”
These sorts of lessons go far beyond weight lifting. The first is the realization that where you are now isn’t where you have to always be. The second is to not fear the pain and hardships that are going to come your way while making the transition. There’s a lot more to the weight room than meat heads grunting and lifting heavy weights.
If you’re wanting to lose weight, needing to change your career, if your relationships aren’t what you’d like them to be, you can wallow in despair, think that’s the way it is, make excuses, find podcasts and blogs which will tell you it’s impossible, that it’s not your fault, that you’re just a victim of circumstance, find some expert who will tell you you’ve got a “eating disorder”, you can blame your mom, your dad, your school, whatever it is, or you can confront the issues in your life head-on, get in their face, tell them to move out of the way, and do whatever it takes to change your situation, without quitting, enduring any pain with a crazy grin on your face, screaming, “Bring it on, muthafucka!”, just like CT.
As I get older and am more experienced in this world, I feel like one of the most important things we’re all supposed to do is show people a better way. I’m not saying to be pompous and arrogant, thinking you’re better than anybody else. I’m also not saying to push your way of thinking or living on anybody else. What I am saying is that if you have some knowledge or skill that can really help somebody else out, offer to take a little time and share what you know to those who would greatly benefit from it. Help people navigate this crazy maze of life.
Like take my field of physics. If I see a student struggling to understand some concept that I understand well, I try to take a little time and explain it to them, or at the very least, direct them to some book or materials that explains it clearly and easily. We all benefit from this. The more talented scientists and engineers we have out there, the more smart people we have to work on the technical problems we face in this world. The same goes for just about every aspect of life.
I also try to help out in the weight room. I’ve now been lifting for years. I’ve read lots of books on how to properly train and diet to transform your physique. Sometimes I’ll take time to explain to people how to properly do a cut, how to be careful during ‘bulking’ so that you don’t put on too much fat, I tell them about software tools they can use to track their macros (protein, carbs, etc), and all that. I don’t like to be ‘that guy’ in the gym correcting everyone’s form, but when people ask me, I do show them proper technique and tell them ways to avoid injury. It’s pretty nice, because doing this has cultivated a lot of new friendships in my life.
Not too long ago I was in the gym and some high school students came in. They were really young. Maybe 14 or 15? They saw me doing bench press and the weight I was using to warm up was more weight than their max, by a lot. They’re looking at me amazed because I’m not a huge guy and I was warming up with 185 lbs, doing sets of 10 just to get my shoulders stretched out. I guess I don’t look very old either, and they were all clamoring around me, “How can I get strong? I’m on the wrestling team. I need to strengthen up.” I’m not the greatest power lifter in the world, but I had a lot to teach them. I started asking them about their diet, what kind of workouts they were doing, and all that. I taught them about the importance of protein and getting in enough calories, introduced them to pyramid sets, and gave them a lot of tips to get them on track.
I was watching this video of World Champion boxer Mike Tyson talk about his early trainer Cus D’Amato and I found it really moving. Tyson was from the projects, grew up dirt poor, and had inherited the culture and mindsets one does growing up in that sort of environment.
D’Amato took Tyson into his home and personally mentored him, physically and mentally. He turned a violent street kid into arguably one of the greatest boxers to ever live. That’s amazing to me. D’Amato must’ve been one heck of a guy. I don’t know the history all that well, but I believe Cus D’Amato died before Tyson ever became the world champion. That’s sad because if D’Amato had been around, maybe Tyson wouldn’t have ended up in all the trouble that he later did.
As we get better at something, we tend to become deeply aware of the particular subject we’re dealing with. We become aware of the greats, whether it be the world’s top physicists, or the top power-lifters, and you don’t feel qualified to help somebody. They should be talking with the greats, not with little ol’ me. But what you don’t realize is that if you’ve been dedicated to something for years, putting hours and hours into it each day, you’ve learned a whole lot, even if you’re not the “best”. You have a lot to offer somebody who is new to that thing. Keep moving forward, but take a little time to help the people you bump into along the way. Pass on your tips and knowledge. Sometimes you can totally change someone’s life.
This may sound strange to many, but ever since I was little, I have had trouble accepting “time”. Whatever time is (and if you think deeply about it, the more puzzling it is), it’s often been a force which seems to steal beautiful things from me. People will tell you not to get caught up in the past and to move forward, but I’ve never been good at that. I typically don’t like change, even when that change is for the better.
We’re told we’re supposed to love the things we experience in the world. Well, I do fall in love with different things, with people, with certain experiences, and then time always, without fail, takes it away from me. It makes me feel alienated from the world. Nothing is ever “mine”.
Like take an event from a few months ago. I would often go out for a run at the track. Off in the distance was my old junior high school. When I looked at it I remember thinking, “In what sense is that the junior high school I went to?” It isn’t. I haven’t been in that school building for almost 25 years. By now they’ve remodeled the building. My old teachers have long since retired. The students I went to class with back then aren’t in that building. That isn’t my school; it’s some weird foreign entity. This same idea applies to most everything I experience; everything I become accustomed to is stolen in this way. Even my memories of what it was like when I experienced it are stolen from me too. My brain slowly forgets everything.
I didn’t even like my experiences in that junior high school, but they were my experiences, nonetheless. As I stood out there at the track, I had a desire to transform into a young kid again, it’s a little after 3 pm, school’s out, and I run over to some of the guys’ lockers and see if they want to go the park and play some basketball. But I can’t. I’m stuck in some flow of “time” which inhibits me from revisiting the past.
Nasty problems also arise when dealing with the future. I’ve never been able to accept this strange notion that I’m supposed to make decisions and not know where those decisions will take me. Half of the time, when you’re choosing your career path, or romantic relationships, or entrepreneurial ventures, there is no way of knowing what will happen. You may have your intentions of what you expect and want, but the world has a wonderful way of telling you that all of that is null and void; reality doesn’t care.
I’m told to go out and create the future. The future is mine! But is it? From my personal experiences, the world doesn’t care what I want, at all. It has its own agenda. I may make certain plans, prepare for this or that, but when I actually go to execute, reality just twists, turns, and does whatever it wants and I’m forced to go along with it. In what sense is the future mine? Is isn’t. Most of us seem to get a little of what we want, and the rest we’re just forced to accept; we don’t have much of a say otherwise. In what sense is this my future? It isn’t. I agree with Satre when he said that, “Man is condemned to be free.”
I’m responsible for my decisions, but most of the time, I’ve had little to no way of knowing what I was getting myself into. Life can feel like a rather raw deal, especially when things aren’t going well. It’d be one thing if God came down and would show me visions, demonstrating to me all the consequences of every action. Yeah, then it’s on me. I’m actually choosing. But since that isn’t happening, this world can feel like a game show. A bunch of doorways are put before me and there’s this announcer saying, “Jason, the future is up to you! What door shall you choose? The world of your dreams may be just behind that door!” But I can’t see behind the doors. So I make a choice, the announcer says, “Awww, shucks. If you’d only chosen door #4 instead of door #2, you could’ve had it all. Too bad. Try again next time. Oh wait, there is no next time. Make due with what you got. See ya later! And for all of you watching at home, remember, anything is possible!” I suppose anything’s possible, that is, if you choose the right set of doors, at all the right times, but your probability of correctly doing so is next to nothing.
And like I said, even if you do navigate this maze of doors and end up with something in this world, reality often quickly takes it away from you. In the end, everything will be taken away from you if you live long enough. Ever since I was young I’ve never liked this “gameshow” of life. Something felt very wrong about it all.
But what’s wrong with it? What would I change about it all? First off, I want to be connected to every moment and be able to experience it anytime I want to. If I want to be a kid playing basketball with my friends in the early 1990’s, I should be able to do so. If I want to be with friends at a video game arcade in the late 1980’s, my simple intention of wanting to experience that should draw that reality instantly to me. Also, I should be able to step in and out of time if I want. And I should be able to foresee the consequences of any action I choose before I make the decisions, and have control over this flow of time and my experiences. That includes my ability to “not know”, and be able to turn on and off my foreknowledge over events. If I want to experience a mystery, then that should be my choice, but if I want “out”, I should be able to look up to the sky and say, “Ok, enough of this”, and return to a God-like state of power and knowledge, similar to what we do in video games.
Maybe reading all of this has put you in a sour mood? Well, you might guess that this post has a serious twist, and it does. I was just reading Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors Of Perception” and realized that things already work in the way that I want them to, roughly speaking. Many of you will find this interesting, so read on!
Huxley proposes that our brains are not what create consciousness, but are merely filters. Our true Mind has all knowledge, it knows everything that has happened or ever will happen, not to mention the principles behind how everything works. It’s at total peace. It’s indestructible and eternal. Listen to this excerpt from the book for yourself.
But how in the world did he come to that conclusion? That’s not what we experience. And after all, aren’t we all supposed to be good scientists and make our first-hand experience the grounds for how we expect everything to work?
In ‘The Doors Of Perception’ Huxley takes part in experiments involving a drug called Mescalin. How does that substance work? Basically it inhibits certain enzymes in your brain from processing glucose. This weakens your brain and its “filtering” mechanisms begin to break down. So what happens when you take it?
On Mescalin, a person will have the same sort of experiences people have when they die in near death experiences. First off, your perceptions are heightened to an extreme degree. You begin to see colors you’ve never seen before. All of reality begins to glow and burst with life. Things begin to seem more real than “reality”. You also begin to experience the “meaning” and “purpose” behind everything. Everything becomes complete and whole. Absolutely perfect and breathtaking.
If you take enough of this substance, your sense of space and time dissolve. Time stops flowing and you’re not limited in space any longer. You sit still in this perfect moment, at total peace and full of bliss.
As nice as this sounds, it also poses a slight problem for the researcher. Once on this substance, the patients no longer care about your questions or anything you’re pursuing. They understand you loud and clear. These people can walk around, perceive the world fully, and talk with you. However, they find your questions boring, mundane, and simplistic.
Scientists were grilling Huxley while he was on Mescalin, asking him about famous artwork, musical compositions, culture, etc. In that heightened state of awareness, Huxley saw all of the things going on in man’s filtered pea-brain minds as cheap dollar store toys. However, reality in its “suchness” was so amazing, it had no need for man’s symbolic representations or thoughts. Huxley spent most of his time on Mescalin admiring his pant cloth and a table leg. Perceiving it without the brain’s normal filters made it all infinite.
The thing about Mescalin is that once these filters of your brain are pulled off, you no longer desire anything. You are basically reunited with your true self, beside God, in this perfect realm, wanting or needing nothing, in perfect safety and security. You have to limit yourself from that state in order to have desires. After all, what is a desire? It’s a chasing to become “whole” again, back to that perfect state with God. According to near death accounts, God puts that in everyone who “leaves” so that they’ll always find their way back.
So (apparently) there’s all kinds of ways to come close to returning to that state. Drugs are the easiest way. Use of certain substances will peel the brain’s filters off, such as magic mushrooms (in very high doses), DMT, ayahuasca, peyote (Mescalin), and others. Or you can come near to death, such as drowning, and be rescued at the last minute by doctors (not something I’d recommend). Either way, you’ll experience the same sort of thing.
Most people experience a mix. Their brain’s filtering systems hold on to varying degrees, depending on how much and what particular substance is distorting the brain’s “normal” operations. However, some substances like DMT injected intravenously just blow the filter out of the water and the person is almost completely released out of the limited perception of space and time their brains put them in. For example, here is an example of someone’s consciousness in an ‘inbetween’ state. Mckenna’s brain filter is breaking down, his consciousness is opening up, but he’s still perceiving his bodily functions and judgement systems which DMT leaves alone. After all, DMT is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter anyway, so it’s not dangerous at all. It’s just that when you flood your brain with it, the normal high-level filtering functioning is temporarily disrupted as your brain is pumping out the excess neural transmitter.
The question is, why does this filter exist in the first place? I think Huxley may have the answer. He proposes that when our species evolved, most of our higher Mind was unnecessary for terrestrial life on Earth. Perceiving every detail going on throughout the entire cosmos was a huge distraction. Also, as I said, when you perceive the end from the beginning, you don’t care about a petty life on Earth, moving some blob of dirt and water (our bodies) around, reproducing, and moving dirt around into temporary structures. We have to forget who we really are in order to care enough to indulge ourselves fully into this sort of petty existence. However, the fullness of reality can’t hide forever. If you look for it hard enough, you’ll find it. As I always grew up hearing, “Seek and you will find, knock and the doors will be open to you.” That includes the doors of perception.
So to bring all of this full circle, am I really separated from my childhood friends playing basketball? From the old video game arcades of my childhood? From any event that’s ever taken place in my life? From any possibility I could have lived? Am I missing out? No, not at all. It’s all there. It’ll always be there. As I said in a previous post, the more I study all this, I realize that everything is fine. You’re ok, I’m ok, we’re all ok; it’s just a ride.