I want to think that the answer is ‘No’

There are two senses in which conscious beings collectively create reality. Is there any relationship between the two? I want to think that the answer is ‘No’.

The first is epitomized by a quote from (probably) Karl Rove that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in October, 2004. Speaking of the GW Bush Administration, he said “We make our own reality.” Rove may have been dropping a hint about the upcoming Presidential election, the first to be stolen electronically, with means hidden from the public by suppressing coverage by the very same New York Times and every other credible media outlet. But he may have been referring more obliquely to the mainstream narrative about 9/11 terror attacks, 19 brown-skinned men with box cutters and a mastermind hiding in a cave in Afghanistan–a story which the great majority of the public believed, despite its overall implausibility, and despite the blatant physical impossibilities in its essential features. For that matter, the description could be applied to stories about Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan or James Earl Ray that disguised a slow-mo CIA coup that usurped power from elected government in the 1960s.

The second is a physical and metaphysical ontology. It’s not too strong a statement to say that in quantum physics, there is no objective reality. Reality is always in a state of potentiality with many possible realizations until it is observed. The particular observations that observers choose to make have an influence on the answers that they receive; and, more deeply, these choices on the part of observers are co-creating reality. Many philosophers of science and physicists themselves have interpreted this to mean that “consciousness is the ground of all being” [Amit Goswami], and that all of physical “reality” is a collective dream of all sentient beings. “We, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated alters of cosmic consciousness, surrounded by its thoughts. The inanimate world we see around us is the extrinsic appearance of these thoughts.” [Bernardo Kastrup] “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” [Albert Einstein]

If there is there any relationship between these two notions of “created reality”, it would imply that the corrupt powers that have bought control of our mainstream media are not just deceiving us, they are literally changing a reality which is fundamentally subjective. I have heard too many credible accounts of rooms full of people bending spoons to dismiss this notion out of hand. But I deeply want to believe that it is not true, and that we who have taken on the mission of pointing out deceptions in the media have something like an objective basis for the claims that we make.

Painting by Russian artist Victor Bregeda

Physics and Fundamental Reality

Particle physicists are among the smartest people in the world. They are drawn to the subject because they want to understand reality on the deepest level. What are the rules that govern the behavior and evolution of our universe? We all should be so bold!

An unstated assumption in their approach is that the way to understand the whole is to understand the parts. This is a carryover from 19th century physics, where it was enormously successful. Write down the equations that govern each tiny region of space, and integrate them together to get the big picture. (Sometimes these equations can be integrated on paper; but even when this is impossible, with modern computer techniques they can all be solved to a high degree of accuracy.)

Quantum mechanics fundamentally changes the relationship between the parts and the whole. You cannot understand the big picture by integrating equations for the small picture at each point. One way to look at this is that the equation for a single particle is manageable in 3-dimensional space; but each additional quantum particle adds 3 more dimensions. In classical mechanics, the equations for 2 particles require following 2 points in 3-dimensional space, and 3 particles means 3 points in 3-dimensional space. With 2 particles, the computer calculation takes twice as long as with one, with 3 particles, 3 times as long, etc. But for the quantum calculation, the second particle requires a billion times as much computer time, because it must be solved in 6-dimensional space. Adding a third particle multiplies the computer time by a billion again. In classical physics, the computational complexity scales linearly with the number of particles, but in quantum physics, the computational complexity scales exponentially. As Ev Dirksen once said, “A billion here, a billion there — pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” The scorecard: For tracking trajectories over time, with classical physics, a modern supercomputer can handle 700 billion interacting particles; with quantum physics, the same computer can handle 3. For more than three particles, even the simplest quantum mechanical equations can’t be solved on any computer that humans can conceive at present (except, of course, a quantum computer, not yet a reality). 

Another way to describe this situation is to say that in classical physics, the calculations are separable for each particle; but in quantum mechanics the configuration of particles is an indivisible whole. You might hear that quantum physics is the best-verified theory that humans have ever devised, with calculated values verified by experiments to a few parts in a billion. Yes, that’s true, but the experiments require extraordinary measures to isolate a single atom. This is done not because isolated atoms are so interesting, but because for anything more complicated the calculation cannot be done, even with the power of a supercomputer.

The most interesting mysteries in physics are hiding in plain sight, as they affect our real world and our everyday experience. They are not the questions physicists are fond of talking about as fundamental–the structure of space on the Planck scale a billion trillion times smaller than a proton, or the Theory of Everything that will reconcile general relativity with quantum principles. The most interesting questions are about how the microscopic rules that we already know produce the world of our everyday experience, and also the anomalous phenomena that conventional science refuses to recognize, deeming them “impossible”. The judgment of “impossible” is based on the reductionist paradigm, because that is virtually all the science that we know. Even though quantum theory is shouting at us that THE WORLD IS HOLISTIC, still, we don’t know how to think holistically, and we have yet to imagine what a holistic science would look like.

Quantum Biology May Help Solve Some of Life’s Greatest Mysteries

Biting Through 噬嗑

It’s true that anger clouds your thought when most
You need the clarity to gauge a plan.
Those who have natural self-possession can
Effect the most appropriate riposte.

But anger has its place and it can teach us:
What is unacceptable in our sight?
For what cause are we energized to fight?
It’s through our passion, awareness may reach us.

Most useful is rage on behalf of others;
Most dangerous is umbrage at a slight.
You are the least unfortunate of men!
Your anger only finds its target when
Invoked in defense of less privileged brothers.
None can stop the warrior whose cause is right.

— JJM = #21 in the I Ching Sonnet Project

Painting inspired by Chinese character for hexagram 21.

Kuai = Breakthrough

Then, out of nowhere, sudden certainty;
A confident conviction fills the air.
You had been hanging back, but now you dare
To take decisive action; you feel free,
Though sensing you could do no differently.
Your gait embodies unselfconscious flare,
That naturally the others want to share,
They join in eager unanimity.

In time is metamorphosis compressed.
A line divides the future from the past,
As past the river’s rambling you can see
An occult energy there manifest;
And all the universe erupts in vast,
Uncontemplated possibility.

— JJM = #43 from the I Ching Sonnet Project

Will the Real Human Nature Please Stand Up?

I was in the jungle for 3 years before I saw what was right before my eyes. That the children never argued with each others. Not just that they didn’t fight. They never had a disagreement. I think of how we see children here…“Boys will be boys…”

We meet the expectations of our elders. We have created an anti-social population by our expectations.

Why do we have locks on our doors? Why do we have armies? It’s not just America–it’s all of Western culture. We have a grotesque idea of what it is to be human, and we are replicating that idea with our expectations, generation after generation.

These women have been taking care of babies since they were three or four years old. Children that age can remember very well what it was like to be a baby. They know what to do. By the time they have children of their own, it is deeply part of their nature. I would have been embarrassed to explain to these mothers that where I come from [NYC], women don’t know how to take care of children until they read an instruction manual written by a man.

From the minute a baby is born, we declare war upon her. We poke things in her orifices. We weigh and measure her. Then the baby is hungry, and we say “no, it’s got to be 4 hours between feedings.” We call it “colic” when these children can’t keep their food down. They’re so upset by what we do to them that they can’t digest their food. This is normal here in the West. It’s unheard of in these people we call “primitive”.

— Jean Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept

Nonviolence? C’mon…get real!

I was swimming in a lake in the Philadelphia suburbs, as is my wont on a summer afternoon. Out in the middle, I saw an insect floating, and I identified with his struggle. I lifted him out of the water and he tried to fly, but his wings were too waterlogged, and he fell right down. So I lifted him onto my finger and held that hand out of the water while I swam sidestroke for awhile. He dried in the sun for about a minute, then picked himself up and flew somewhat further before falling back down in the water. I thought he really needed to dry out for longer, so I swam breast stroke, pushing him on a water wave ahead of me until we got close to the shore, where there was a fallen tree in the water, and I lifted him onto a branch. There I said good-bye, and swam off, hoping he might dry off thoroughly enough that he could fly to the shore and safety.

All the while, I was thinking what a Buddhist thing I was doing. Or maybe Jainist. Or maybe I am just taking the idea to extremes, that all life is worthy of our reverence. It was only after I swam off that I became curious about the taxonomy of the creature whom I had helped.

Delta wings with an orange underbelly…

As I realized that I had rescued a lantern fly, I was flooded with a whole different set of feelings. Here I thought I was experiencing a tiny connection across a wide genetic gulf. But at the same time, I was putting myself at odds with my neighbors, who are on a campaign to exterminate lantern flies. I thought about C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters, in which Satan’s advice on how to capture souls was to: “Make sure he loves mankind but can’t stand his mother in law.”

Am I a deeply empathetic person who carries non-violence to the point of catching mice in have-a-heart traps and carefully shephering wasps out the window? Or am I so accustomed to virtue-signaling that I do it even when there’s no one around to signal? Maybe both?

And what about lantern flies? I truly think that the campaign to kill every last lantern fly in Pennsylvania is doomed to failure. They are a new reality that the ecology is just going to have to adjust to, as they fill their niche and attract predators that will keep their numbers in check. But I also realize that this belief separates me from my neighbors who are doing their part with backyard lantern fly traps. It’s making me lonely.

Why have I spent so much of my life being morally superior and lonely?

Limitation

The poet who commits to fourteen lines
Finds focus and a certain inspiration,
While words that don’t conduce his destination
Can have no place in sonnet’s strict confines.

A marriage, or a pledge made to a child
Can focus life, as poems focus art
A parent pares all that cannot be part
Of life that son and daughter have beguiled

He feels he’s both the finder and the found;
His yoke is tight, but surely it is his.
He bucks and starts, acknowledging what is
His lot and manifest, to which he’s bound.

The sum of his creation stands or falls
On what transpires within these prison walls.

— JJM = #60 in the I Ching Sonnet Project

Iching60

Biology is not Physics

You’ve found the spark that makes the sun burn bright
and tracked the orbits of the distant stars.
You’ve harnessed energy for planes and cars—
success convinces you you’ve got it right.

You think the rule of physics must be strict,
yet only in the aggregate do maths
apply to living things. Their single paths
take twists and turns that you cannot predict.

Man’s thirst for knowledge never can be quenched
while minds refuse to grant the role of mind
that regulates the quantum. You won’t find
broad truth while narrow physics is entrenched.

What sort of physics would it take to know
how neurons fire, hearts beat, and grasses grow?

— sonnet by JJM (not part of the I Ching)

Jia = Family

Your isolation, not inborn, was taught
To you. You had to learn to feel apart.
Contracted and alone within your heart,
Connection is the soul of all you’ve sought.

Pursuing one who’s worthy of your love,
You’ve known great blessing, calling her your wife.
And then this child, whom you love more than life
Has taught you lessons you never dreamed of.

That love is not a thing one can deserve
That will-to-power yields to will-to-serve.
Your family is a microcosm where
You need not pose or try to prove you care.
All roles are tried here, dreams and visions nursed
And to the end, your family will come first.

— JJM = #37 in the I Ching Sonnet Project

37. Chia Jen / The Family [The Clan] | I Ching Community