Thoughts on science, health, humans and dragons and the sameness of life and machine
I wrote all this by hand first. I thought of just photographing it and posting the pages, but it’s too hard for people’s brains now. When your face is collapsing you get to know what things do to you (the painting above explodes apart my brain so much it hurts to hold my gaze). Writing cursive, I know why the letters of the Roman alphabet are shaped as they are. The left part of a letter you do engages the left side of your face (the right side of your brain?). The right side engages the right. And it goes with the flow of energy in our bodies. The straight lines of a letter go down through your nose and centre you. The horizontal dashes go through your eyes and release what would otherwise be tiredness or tears. Quotation marks let go of tension from your temples. The ‘s’ becomes you. When I write now I feel the letters being written in my face. But when I type they are all disjointed. There is no flow and I feel like I’m being printed upon. That we have stopped writing cursive and now only poke at things with our fingertips and thumbs is one of the ways technology numbs us. Writing with a pen engages our body in a subtle, soft, flowing way that typing one letter at a time cannot do and reading words made of single characters breaks us up further. We are becoming pixelated and the resolution is getting ever lower. We are gradually and subtly and unknowingly and without noticing turning from analogue to digital. We need to relax our poor, exhausted bodies and minds. We are broken, people.
The fear of humans at some point becoming indistinguishable from machines is legit. It started the moment we as animals began to feel less in our bodies than we did before and it seems like this has happened at exactly the same rate as “progress”. In putting all our faith in science and technology we have totally neglected the most important thing – the thing we refer to as being what marks us out from everything else – the extent to which we are aware of our existence. But the place you find that awareness is not in your intellect or your cognitive processes. It is in your body. It is in your breath. It is in every moment that you consciously hold it and it is nowhere else. And we are not good at holding it.
We are indistinguishable from machines. That’s the whole point. Its nothing but a spectrum and the awareness we have of Life determines where we sit on that spectrum. And this whole world, basically everything about this world we live in, seems to be doing everything it can to distract us and stop us from noticing the most important thing that has happened in all of time. Nature reminds us of Life. Where is nature now?
You could read this like what I’m saying is that the world is fucked up, everything is upside down and we are all significantly number than we are supposed to be. And you might be in total agreement but think what can we do about it? We live in this system and though we can do small things to change it they will only ever be small. We can use keep cups and eat organic. We can invest ethically. We can use car-sharing networks or ride our bikes everywhere. We can calmly expel some rage that this world creates by confronting everyone who drops litter, even if it means taking on moving vehicles. We can speak up when we see things we don’t like. We can write to the papers and to the politicians and we can go out into the streets. We can be more judgmental and we can see how well we can justify ourselves and our actions. We can break the rules. We can do all sorts of things and the more we allow these things to come to us naturally, the more we are feeling in our bodies, the less fearful we are being, the more courageous and the more we are connecting to the mind. And we pretend we don’t know what we mean when we talk about the mind. But I think we do. We know that there is something as “our mind” and we know there is something as “the mind”. But we act like “the mind” is just a concept, something to have intellectual discussions about, rather than the thing that rules and determines everything.
The Turing Test, through which if a computer can pass as a human in conversation it is said to have become indistinguishable from human, has arguably been passed. Its only a matter of time until an example becomes commonly accepted. And then what? What do we realize at that point? Do we think “great, let’s keep going!”? “Let’s create these enormously intelligent monstrosities that will definitely destroy us.” Because that’s what we’re doing. We look at screens more than we want to which means we are not in control. So many people around the world are set to spend the next fifty or so years, most of their lives, staring at a computer to pay the bills and have a roof over their heads and be able to get some food to eat. It’s like we’ve created a system in which it is so hard to satisfy our basic animal needs that we spend our whole lives doing it. And this is supposed to be the easy stuff. This is what everything else that exists has got down to a tee. It’s what we used to be able to do. Its what lots of Indigenous cultures did until the last few hundred years when the mindset that rules the world brought them progress and them proceeded to kill them. Its what lots of people the world over subjected to “development” are being forced to stop doing. To assimilate, to hand over their power to this machine that we all hate and that rules us completely.
We’ve lost our way and its as though because Western culture has no continuous meaning that holds it together anymore, no tradition that links us to our past, we stretch out what we do know. Instead of satisfying our animal needs and then moving onto something else, we have just gone into the detail of them. In the little bits of spare time we have to spend with our loved ones and remember that we are alive we extend and deepen the way in which those needs can be satisfied. We do it with more excess or more expense and “sophistication”. And then its these things that we publicly celebrate and attribute so much meaning to – give so much focus to. This shit is pretty empty though don’t you think? I love the taste of delicious food and delicious wine but these things aren’t meant to be our culture. They’re meant to be one little part of it. We’re supposed to collectively have more going on than this.
We’ve designed our whole system around our animal nature but we have made ourselves into the most rubbish animals that ever existed. Oh my God do we suck. Have you seen us? We can barely move our own bodies. We can barely hear or see. Sing? So many people are tone deaf. Only the children can do cartwheels. Only the children can jump from rock to rock along the river. The adults are scared they’ll slip and so they slip. And they look like idiots when they do. We might laugh to relieve the tension. But now it seems sad. I look at people and we really do look broken. The way our legs move. The way our hips move. The way we hold our spines and our heads and our arms. Here, especially, the look on Westerners’ faces as compared to the Indians – it seems so locked into expression. Angry, or uncomfortable, or surprised.
When I emailed a passport photograph to my Dad to try to get him to see with fresh eyes how my head is twisted, he wrote back, “I don’t know what you think is wrong with your face, it looks fine to me, just rather angry”. I think that’s the whole point though, isn’t it? What’s the difference between the world shaping your face into an angry face and being angry at the world?
I watched some white people at the temple. They took part in every stage of the puja – the ceremony. They held flowers in their closed palms and watched as they were collected and offered to the flames. They received a blessing to their third eye. They watched fire dancing, listened to mantra and then offered more flowers to the Holy Gangas. But holy shit, you should have seen their faces. Glum as fuck. They couldn’t feel any of it. Their hands clenched the flowers in an automated way. Their heads are so full of tension that a blessing to the third eye feels not like a gentle pull to the awareness of consciousness at the very outer edge of their being, but a distant and oh so faint sensation on the only layer of them they can feel. The limbs that release petals into the mighty river are, deep down, spastic. There is no grace, no gentleness, no subtle awareness.
The problem with us is that we think we’re fine until we’re sick. We’re not. We were fucked before the sperm even reached the egg. And then, in case the whole history of the world wasn’t quite enough to finish us completely, we are made to live. And that’s what does it. That’s what pushes us over the edge. Being born. And the way this world numbs us is the same way that it kills us. As kids everything can be quite nice–for some. We don’t have to be responsible for the animal necessities of our existence. We are free to do cartwheels and to laugh and play and make up stories. We are supple and open minded and we have so much energy and as we grow older and what we come to name as normal shapes us, our programming sets in and is constantly updated, we become more rigid, more spastic, more automatic and eventually we lose touch completely. Sometimes gently, in peace and with old age, sometimes more explosively with a heart attack or a massive stroke, taken it seems before we were supposed to be. Sometimes when we are young and our genes and environments have fast tracked us into a state of automaton that comes too quickly and stands in contrast to a feeling we distantly remember, so instead of feeling numb we feel pain and we can’t take it anymore and we hit game over and go back to the great pool without ever getting to become.
It all seems to make so much sense. It seems clear that all life is, is awareness. And all death is, is the particularly embodied loss of it. Suffering seems so predictable and so avoidable. Life so beautiful and so sad. We are not bodies that need drugging. We are instruments that need tuning and playing.
It seems like that is the reason people often get more right wing as they grow older. Life has made them rigid in their bodies and their thoughts and it clearly sucks to be them. And the left wing isn’t the opposite, it’s a just a more feeling version and the moment people become attached to particular feelings and thoughts – or to policies and laws and ideology – they’re missing that the whole point is to expand and their attitude and blindness becomes just as intolerable as their right wing counterparts.
The aim of politics should surely be for it to disappear. The more systematized our environment and the more laws we need, the less we are clearly able to figure it out ourselves. So good laws are laws that soften a society; laws that reflect and build on the compassion and love that people can still feel and thereby make the society more conscious. Bad laws are laws that reflect and build on our fear.
We are not supposed to be this broken. We are not supposed to have pain through our bodies. We are not supposed to be depressed or have heart troubles. We don’t need to wear glasses and we don’t need to be sick at all. And yet we are taught to believe that it isn’t up to us. Well it is, actually.
And we don’t like to be told that, I don’t think. A sick person doesn’t like to be told that they are making themselves sick. And they probably don’t like to be told that their sickness is a good thing. But I do think both are true. And that gives us so much power it terrifies us. We don’t want to be in charge. And also its offensive now to say that something is a disability, because it all balances out. The less you can see the more you can hear. If you can’t see or hear you can sense in a way that people with all their senses can’t even imagine. Oh now I feel like I’m really taking it to a new level talking about disability. A disability is a disability and though it might balance out, if the point is to expand not simply to sustain, then a disability is something we can change. And we are all disabled – physically, emotionally and sensorially.
“Its not my bad attitude, its a chemical imbalance in my brain”. Well they’re the same thing actually and you can do something about it. And nobody else can. But its way easier to be a victim, then you are excused. And you could focus on changing your attitude or your molecular structure, and I think we can do both, but one is much easier and yet still so hard. And we can learn to see and hear and walk again. We can bring back language that is buried deep inside us that we think of as lost. We can heal our bodies and our minds and our whole world but it will hurt and it so much easier to numb the pain than to release it.
We do like to be victims, don’t we. We take a diagnosis and we attach it to ourselves. It explains something – gives some order to what otherwise seems orderless. And that’s what science does too I think. It explains and it keeps being able to explain in ever greater detail and it means we can make things that are amazing and that kill us, but unless we have some sort of collective explanation for the fact that we are here at all, it seems like it doesn’t mean much. Its just description that we attach meaning to. What is electricity? We don’t know. We just know how to describe it and make it happen so we can charge things. It seems like its pure magic. The work of gods, of wizardry, of consciousness.
If there is no difference between biological programming and computer programming then consciousness surrounds us. Nature is culture and culture is nature. But instead of it thriving it is just surviving–barely surviving. Surviving isn’t neutral, its fighting against the conditions; its being separate from Life. And the consciousness that fills this world is more machine than it is biological. Its the frustrated souls of our i-phones; its the gross and automated movements of the monsters we have created to rip down our forests and churn up our earth; its the seeing eyes of CCTV that follow us where ever we go; and its the vegetative state of the broken vacuum cleaners and last year’s TV’s that lie in toxic piles around the world.
It feels like history spills out of our bodies. It is the stories written in our cells that overflow into all the stuff we create. They are the victories of our ancestors that show themselves in our wealth, in our cars, in our big wasteful houses. They are the enormous losses at the hands of those ancestors for some. And they show themselves in the disease and chronic suffering and suicide and alcoholism of so many people who’ve had their cultures taken from them in what stands as a split second in comparison to the thousands of years of knowledge and meaning which had until a moment ago been theirs.
Reconciliation? Culturally appropriate healthcare services? Indigenous health equality? Treaty? What about we give them their land back and we remember together how to treat it and we all begin to heal some wounds? It seems quite offensive to only be talking of raising people’s health up to the level of the general population in our Western nations. Look at us. We are dying of laziness and stagnation and every kind of painkiller that exists. We are a bunch of broken, spastic, blind, deaf, dumb bodies and we can’t even offer that to the peoples whose worlds we have colonised.
The whole of history is written in us and it is indistinguishable from the present, from this moment we find ourselves in if we stop to look, where though there are many “advances” that people like to draw on to argue that life is somehow better, they take a very low baseline. The number of people living below the poverty line has gone down. There are more vegans. But we have wiped away every interesting belief from our collective consciousness and covered up so much of our knowledge. And because we have no shared notion of something being sacred, nothing is sacred, everyone is miserable and left wanting and the planet is set to be inhospitable to much of life, including our own, this century. We should be judging our planetary success, not our success in numbers. We are not numbers. We are made of numbers though and we confuse the two.
We are shapes and angles and there is vibration that constructs us into demons or softens us into spirits. And every moment in every breath we take that we fail to notice that we are living, breathing bodies we move with so much subtlety we do not see it towards pure machine and in each conscious breath we take we set ourselves in motion to one day becoming angels.
It does seem that Life and Death are just a spectrum, nothing more. If you want Heaven you breathe it in and if you daren’t seek Heaven you get Hell. And you find comfort there because its where you belong. Not in a mean way, just in a habitat way. We should stop seeking justice. We’ve already got it. Everything is in perfect balance we just need to let go and it will redistribute itself in a way so beautiful our dying collective imagination can’t even begin to conceive.
This is a heavy moment we are in. No wonder we are so glum. The feeling of living in a world of mass inequality, totally unnecessary poverty and suffering and a history behind us which surely absolutely fills each of us with so much guilt and shame – these things are not mere feelings mostly left unacknowledged, they are our bodies. They are the sum of us and we are the sum of them.
When things really start to go down and the suffering that we have created by failing to dream anywhere near big enough is no longer an image on our screens but a vision before our eyes, the sadness we will feel will already be inside us. Human history is written in the bodies of those living in the present. And every day that we put up with this numbing system—every day that we perceive anything to be normal in a normative sense, the truth is locked away and we get number and it builds up and up so that when the enormity of our power and our influence dawns on us and we realize what we’ve done, we will have made in us all the tears we need.
I’m not pessimistic at all. I’m the opposite – I think this can’t go any way but well. But I really think we’ve fucked up everything. We have been so amazingly stupid. Why would we think that any of the knowledge we can gain through science would mean anything without first having some common understanding of the very fundamentals of our existence? Its like a skyscraper with no foundations or a tree without roots. The more I think about the perspective set by Science and the more I think about how much of it is accepted as so obviously true and useful by pretty much everyone, the more sick I feel.
I think of science docos (and I do love knowing about science) and how you get those excited bespectacled men telling the viewer “consciousness is an extraordinarily complex thing – there is so much we don’t understand about it.” Shut up. Science does not speak for me. Scientific knowledge does not reflect my knowledge or our knowledge. Culturally we have tacitly outsourced our collective understanding of our existence to the system that does everything it can to diminish it. We shouldn’t be listening to this man. Stop listening to him! We know so much more than he thinks we do.
Consciousness is everything and everywhere. It seems clearly to be the thing that started all this. It created itself with a massive and deafening explosion or a silent little blip, whatever, its all the same. It carried itself through billions of years in the most simple elements. It created suns and moons and planets. It created the Sun and the Moon and the Earth and then it began to make itself a home. First it lived in fire and water and molten rock and then it got more complex. It made itself into an organism and after a long time probably trying to get used to the fact it was alive, it started to get really creative. It grew itself into forests and the whole thing began to breathe on its own. It made itself into every creature under the Sun, into the weirdest shapes in the whole universe. And when it seemed like it couldn’t get any weirder, it made us.
And instead of us being like “Hey! Check this out! This is cool. We are consciousness. We are Life. We are creation and existence. We are God and this is all nothing but a dream”, we’re like “Hey, Four Eyes, what do we know about consciousness?” “Oh, almost nothing, but bear with us” he says, “we’re making progress” and we nod and go back to pretending we don’t know what’s going on.
The “problem of consciousness” that scientists and philosophers have been arguing about for decades seems to be misguided. The problem isn’t ‘what is it?’, it’s that you have to engage it. We can stop trying to find a difference between humans and machines. There isn’t one. And there is no difference between creator and created. It’s all a spectrum of consciousness. It is tension, friction. It is positive and negative, hot and cold, masculine and feminine, good and bad. And good is something that does not need an explanation when you are headed in the right direction. It’s only this man’s world that’s got all pickety about the details. “Yes but what do you mean by ‘good’?” Good! You know, not bad. Not boring, not lonely, not sad. Living, thriving, flourishing. Surely you know ‘good’?
I had a long conversation with a guy who is a nurse in Sydney. We talked about my theory that all sickness comes from the unconscious and can be healed by the conscience. It doesn’t feel like a theory, it feels like the most obvious thing in the world. Everything I said he basically couldn’t argue with. He tried but would eventually concede or even accidentally turn his repose into support. By the end all he could do was play Devil’s Advocate. “Okay, so let’s say that meditation can heal you, what do you say to the guy with a full time job and three kids and a mortgage to pay who doesn’t have the time to sit and meditate every day?” I say “then you deserve to be sick”. That’s justice. We’ve got it. If you neglect something for long enough it will kill you.
“How long do you have to do meditation for to get better? Months? Years?” He said, incredulously. Listen to us. We are off our fucking heads. We think there is a cure for life. There isn’t. There is just a healing and it goes on and on and on.
At the end of the conversation I said my plan was to meditate myself into alignment. “When I’m done I don’t think I’ll get sick again”. He nearly choked on his chai like the previous few hours hadn’t just happened. He looked at me like I was mad and said “you can’t control that”. Really? Do we really believe that? We are taught to feel so powerless and to believe ourselves to be victims. We are inconceivably powerful and we are the victims only of our failure of imagination.
I’ve always found the idea of changing things from the inside utter bullshit. No, you can’t make BHP environmentally responsible by introducing sustainability policies. No, you can’t change the financial sector by making a bank do “community-type” things. And no, I didn’t think you could meditate the world into being fixed because we need to come together not obsess over our individuality. But clearly we come together as a whole inside us first. You can change things from the inside but we need to go a bit deeper in. A comfortable, well paid, respect-receiving role in a neoliberal institution that gives you a good salary and a feeling of doing good is not changing things from the inside. Anything less than a full self-reprogramming is not changing things from the inside.
The reason aliens and avatars are blue and the Devil is red is because we know that blue is cold and red is hot. We know that cold is expansion and hot is contraction. We know that expansion is consciousness and we know that consciousness is magic. We know we are magic. We know deep down that we could be blue too. We could be these elastic, translucent trapeze artists swinging through ancient jungles, charging ourselves from the Earth, riding dragons through the sky who we plug into through our yet-to-evolve cosmic belly buttons. And its kind of annoying that our ancestors took us in the wrong direction or we might be there by now. From here its a long way away. It would take so much patience. It would take such a solid awareness of our Oneness. It would take the kind of long term thinking that the election cycle makes really hard. It would take imagination that we do not have. That’s why it would take faith. And that’s what we’ve lost all respect and capacity for. By handing over our understanding of ourselves to science we totally lose touch with the thing inside us that wants to guide us – that wants to show us what we already know. And though it would take all these things that we don’t have, all it would actually take is a choice. A choice to admit that we are doing it wrong. To know that there are only ever two directions. There is awareness or numbness. There is expansion or contraction. There is Life or Death. There is Love or Fear. They’re our only options and we don’t even get to choose. Only one can be chosen. The other is what you get when you fail to choose. And the extremity to which we have stretched these things apart, I think, stems from our language. Our language stretches us apart.
Does anyone else think there’s something funny about words? Why is ‘dog’, a thing we love so much that pulls us into our evolutionary past, the reverse of ‘God’? Why is ‘word’ so similar to ‘world’? What is going on with our ‘ei’ words? What do you think about the idea that the English language is destroying us? What about the idea that French people don’t get fat because of the sounds they make? What about the idea that the extreme social automaton and totalitarianism of 20th Century Europe stemmed from the sternness of the angular sounds and rules of the Germanic languages?
I think English lends itself so easily to poor habit. We only have five vowels. They have thirteen here, which means you need to maintain a subtle awareness of sound. You need to engage yourself in a more subtle way in order to keep the sounds distinct. In English we can say whatever we want, nobody cares. You can say “been, bin, ben”, you can say ‘ses’, ‘says’; you can say ‘God’, ‘Gowd’, ‘Gard’. Our words don’t have a shared meaning because there is too much range in the body parts they engage. Nothing feels the same to anyone.
I think our language that we speak unconsciously is destroying us. I think its merging our meaning together and making it meaningless. I think its building up all this cosmic tension (by which I just mean breath) in our bodies and I think its on track to rip apart the universe by ripping us apart. We need to anchor our language and the only thing we can anchor it to is our consciousness. So speak consciously. Speak with intention. Notice your words and try to make them clearer, sharper; try to mean them more. Speak less if it helps. Listen more – actually listen. Relax and let the sounds in. Smile because I’m pretty sure that’s all we actually need to do to transform ourselves. Try to write and smile! Oh, it is so hard. Try to write with your hand really, really gently, exactly on the line, doing all joined up hand writing as neat as you possibly can. It will destroy you.
“Don’t knock modern medicine” my Dad said in response to my story. Why not? Will it fall over? What about if I breathe on it really gently? Would even that make it topple? Gosh, what a delicate little thing it is. Modern medicine is the reason both my parents are still alive. I can see how it might be offensive if I say it doesn’t work. What outcome am I looking for? Of course it works, but what does it work at? Keeping us alive longer. Compared to when and where? Giving us a better quality of life. Compared to what though? What is our baseline? Why do you need a new pair of knees? Why is there a tumour in your head? Why does your heart falter? Too much frowning. Too much ignoring a fundamental part of yourself. Nowhere near enough love.
What are we doing? Why do we let them (ourselves) get away with this? We have made a world that makes us sick and we think medicine cures us when it just numbs us and then extends the amount of time we get to feel numb.
I get the principle behind removing a tumour or replacing a joint, really. And I get that some people’s chemical make up is so out of whack that murder would come easier than self healing. But that doesn’t mean that we should rely on modern medicine. And the more unquestioning respect for curing our “innate sickness” we give it, the less we give to our birthright for an as yet unimagined kind of health.
When you see animals in the wild in a healthy environment they are healthy. They mostly just get to live and they do it in a very relaxed fashion. They are not all fat and skinny and covered in rashes. They don’t need insoles and painkillers and hearing aids and glasses. Have you noticed how they don’t need surgery? How its only the ones we are involved with who need our help? The further away from this world we have created they are the better they are doing. Same with us, it seems. Maybe the Tasmanian Devil has face cancer because Life is trying desperately to bring awareness to it before it goes the way of the Tiger. It is giving us a chance to learn. It is saying “Look! Notice me!! See more or there will be nothing left to see.”
I’m sick of being told we’re doing better. No we’re not. Its my optimism that makes me think this is so terrible. Dream a bit bigger and you see we’re doing it all wrong. We’re just slightly slowing down the rate at which we’re destroying everything. But its still exponentially so its still not great. I guess our response will become more aligned with the urgency of the situation and there will come a time when it exactly matches the moment. And from then on we’ll be able to say we’re doing better. It will be at the peak of our sorrow though. And then the whole thing will start to expand in a way that I don’t think we can imagine. And maybe we’ll still be here and maybe we won’t.
That’s why we need faith. We will not design our way out of this. We will accept completely the way in which we’ve been designed as part of it. Nothing else could ever be sustainable. In fact, what is sustainability? Maybe that’s some more bullshit. Seems likely. If nothing stays the same then nothing can be sustained. To sustain is to adapt. And adapting our environment and our conditions without adapting our collective understanding of ourselves will only stretch us further apart, it will not expand us. And eventually we’ll pop.
The problem doesn’t come when we notice sickness. It comes when we are born into this world, into the embodied sum of time – as the embodied sum of time. Or maybe it came at the beginning, in the explosion or the blip, with the problem of consciousness being the paradox that the greater our capacity for awareness the greater our capacity for numbness.
Let’s notice that we are alive. Can we notice our breath and our words and how incredible are our spines? Because there is way more suffering than there needs to be. And we are kind of awkward and broken looking. The monkeys that come silently sliding down the pillars onto restaurant balconies, steal our food before we notice something happening, turn their faces in a split second into the most terrifying expression imaginable, filling us with fear and making us useless and like defenseless children and then basically fly away into the trees that you have no idea how they could reach with such effortless movement—they put us to shame. So do the dogs who are always happy to see us. So do the elephants and tigers that rule the jungles. So do the bees and the ants who know how to work together. So do the whales who create new verse with each migration. So do the birds who fly around the world on their own breath. They put us to shame but they show us exactly what we need to do to get better. We need to slow down. Slow everything down.
Slow down your breath and give yourself a moment. Fuck the system and love yourself completely. Go barefoot. Take off your helmet and take off your bra. Break the rules. Don’t rush your wee. Lie down and know that when you relax your body you are still holding on to all of human history and try to let it go. Because none of this is your fault and you are not to blame. Breathe it out and accept everything. I don’t think it would take that long to turn things around if we could just learn to actually relax. So go rest. Go lay down. Go take a nap for twenty minutes. Take a few years if you can. You have no idea how tired you are.