Resiliance and self-esteem

Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

– William Butler Yeats, from A Prayer for my Daughter

Niels Bohr said, “The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.” Yeats reminds us that we are self-contained, responsible for our own emotions. And it is also true that we are antennas, picking up thoughts as well as emotions from the people around us and from the collective unconscious.

I know not whence they come,
  the thoughts arising in my head
From neural circuits, or recall 
   of something someone said,
Or telepathic processes,
  or spirits of the dead. 

A different beast entirely
   are feelings in my breast
My heart and soul and deepest
   intuition all attest
They’re shared between us, amplified
   and thus we’re doubly blessed.


Artless Artist

What appeals to me about Rilke’s writing is his mystical message stripped of any effort to “create art”. He seems to be reaching inside to find words to express his experience. His almost desperate need to connect with us buries any aspiation he might have to be a poet.

All the modern translations I’ve seen capture this artless sincerity, but they do it in blank verse. They make no effort to reproduce the rhytmic or rhyme structures that were in the original German. Contrast this with his contemporary translator, Jessie Lemont, who worked brilliantly original English rhymes into her translations.

In honor of Rilke’s birthday (1875), I have sought to continue in Lemont’s tradition, translating a poem that she never tackled.

That Which Has Never Been Spoken

My faith abides all that has not been said.
I set my yearnings free to overspill
Ideals for which men’s sacred blood was shed,
To germinate some day, outside my will.

For this immodesty, I beg my God excuse
These innocent ambitions that seem wild.
An energy that permeates my thews
Has rendered me an unselfconscious child,
Incapable of enmity or ruse.

This flowing in and out which I partake,
Like river rushing to the ocean’s shore
Sweeps through my breast to breathe my soul awake,
And testifies beforeThee from my core
What none has said before.

If this be hope, then let me hopeful be
I tend this prayer,
From best sincerity
Before Thy presence rare.

— JJM 4Dec20

On the Creation of Giant Voiceprint Databases | American Civil Liberties  Union

Alles noch nie Gesagte

Ich glaube an Alles noch nie Gesagte.
Ich will meine frömmsten Gefühle befrein.
Was noch keiner zu wollen wagte,
wird mir einmal unwillkürlich sein.

Ist das vermeßen, mein Gott, vergieb.
Aber ich will dir damit nur sagen:
Meine beste Kraft soll sein wie ein Trieb,
so ohne Zürnen und ohne Zagen;
so haben dich ja die Kinder lieb.

Mit diesem Hinfluten, mit diesem Münden
in breiten Armen ins offene Meer,
mit dieser wachsenden Wiederkehr
will ich dich bekennen, will ich dich verkünden
wie keiner vorher.

Und ist das Hoffahrt, so laß mich hoffährtig sein
für mein Gebet,
das so ernst und allein
vor deiner wolkigen Stirne steht.

— from the Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke (1905)

A word of caution to those approaching the oracle

You’ve come because you want to learn what’s coming;
You hope to dodge a blow or cheat a blight.
You hear the drone of distant drummers drumming,
And wish to circumvent a nasty fight.

A fear has blurred your thought, you feel alone.
Like many gallant men, you’ve lost your mooring,
Forgotten things that once you’ve deeply known.
(From where you sit, they’re hardly reassuring.)

The sybil’s work is not to help you hide;
Your destiny, we know, is to be bold.
You’ll neither fight the future nor evade it;
You’ll co-create with allies far and wide.
The outcome in advance cannot be told—
You won’t know destiny until you’ve made it.

— JJM = #00 from the I Ching Sonnet Project


Arbeit macht frei

In my meditation this morning, I asked for a transcendant experience of reality, right here and now.

It didn’t happen.

One of the great unspoken lessons that I learned from toddlerhood through grad school, not to mention from the culture in which I’m steeped—a lesson I absorbed most deeply is that it is dangerous to live for the present. That shortsightedness is the most common cause of dissipation and a life that is empty and unfulfilling. That the best thing I can do with this moment is not to dance or sing or try to live it to the fullest, but rather to invest in the work that I need to lay the foundation for a better future.

I learned. I’m ascetic. I fast and I exercise like a demon. I’m careful to a fault about what I eat, and obsess chronically about the effects of my actions on myself and others.

“Be Here Now,” wrote Ram Das, and a generation later Eckhart Tolle echoed, “The Power of Now”. This is spirituality packaged for Westerners because it is only people so well-educated in the Protestant Ethic (with deep Jewish roots) that need this message. It’s my experience and the report of anthropologists that Africans and Asians know much better how to have a good time than do we of European culture. 

My problem is that I go into my meditation in a spirit of work, rather than play. Meditation is its own reward, and not a means to an end. If I meditate because I think I should, I’m missing most of what meditation has to offer.

But how can I change the habit of my orientation toward sacrifice and work? Maybe I can trick myself into believing that what I really need to do is to practice enjoying this moment.

So I can do it better someday.


The leaders never want us to unite
Our squabbles leave them firmly in control.
Defending each his independent soul,
We miss the opportunity to fight
Collectively, each for the good of all.
We isolate, behind a private wall
And squander our consolidated might.
Then fear triumphs, we panic and take flight.

The dread of death is man’s Achilles heel.
Confused, we’re easy prey when we’re afraid.
The remedy needs discipline and grace.
Surrender to this truth: all flesh must fade;
But, seeking self within, we find a place
That knows it’s our collective soul that’s real.

— JJM = #8 in the I Ching Sonnet Project

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