Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Do More Justice to the Spiritual Side of Life

Because I see myself as half-human-body and half-soul, and because retirement age is approaching, I have been asking myself more and more: “How can I do more justice to the soul half of my being? It seems as if ninety percent of my life has been focused on tangible, material goals, which certainly express the one half of life… but am I even close to living up to potential on the other half, and what can I do to get closer?” (And no, folks, I am not the kind of person who defines the word “soul” in a formal way coming from ancient theological texts! Like a lot of three-letter and four-level words, “soul” is a bit fuzzy, but it’s still useful and important; the reality behind it can be understood better with some work. I still remember when Karl Pribram said: “We have no right to claim to know about the human mind until we fully appreciate all those four-letter words.” He focused a lot on the “four f words,” but that’s just one example of a general principle.)
This morning, I think I see a bit deeper into how to address that question… but in a way, it’s so simple that it’s hard to explain. There are a lot of things like that, in the realm of spirit and even in mundane human psychology. For example, when my family and I visited Rome last week, from the Vatican to the little Quo Vadis Chapel where St. Peter is said to have met Jesus, it reminded me of Jesus’s central message about love – such a simple message, yet so hard for so many people to really comprehend and connect to their lives. The application and meaning of the message is not as simple as the statement of it. Even in engineering, people learn the basic ideas of probability and optimization in undergraduate years, yet even today most engineers do not seem to grasp the huge power of fully applying these basic principles in practical, working systems. In the Quo Vadis chapel, I thought of my new paper in press (I think) in the little journal Rose-Croix, where I talk about the fundamental importance of always remembering the utility function which we as individual humans naturally want to maximize – characterized as “life, light and love,” when I try to capture what really matters to ME and what really makes ME feel good. And I also thought about the recent talk by Ben Bernanke (chairman of the Federal Reserve) at a conference on neuro-economics, where he asked: “Is this vast economic machine we are building really serving the goal of maximizing human happiness, the goal it was supposed to serve?” (The conference discussed research on four drivers of human happiness – health, community, leisure, control of one’s own life. That’s not exactly the same as “life, light and love,” but I don’t want to split those hairs here and now.) Basic principles matter a lot, ESPECIALLY when they sound simple and obvious.

Here is another obvious basic principle: the three fundamental, inescapable jobs of a knowledge worker are input, output and what comes between – to learn new things by getting more input from the rest of the world, to analyze and understand what can be learned from that input, and to communicate useful stuff to the rest of the world. (Of course, some of us also take direct action, but many of us help more by providing inputs to others.) That is ever so obvious – yet many people strive to be great communicators without doing enough of the thinking in-between, and some of us, like myself, have to struggle with a desire to know the truth (the input and analysis side) without paying as much attention to the communication side. ALL useful knowledge workers must attend to all three, but some of us are stronger in one aspect than the other, and we have different audiences to communicate to. It helps if we remember this simple principle, both to remember to keep a balance between the three aspects of our own work, and ALSO to respect and work with others whose strengths balance us out. The principle is obvious – and yet, in my day job, evaluating and sometimes guiding the very best researchers in US, it has huge practical importance.
But all of that is background. Today, I want to talk about a different simple principle, which I plan to try to apply more in my own life, not as a radical
BUT.. I ran out of time on Sunday 9/9/12. So I cannot give the full story now, or the full experience which clarified it in my mind.

The key is… for the spiritual HALF of our life or value measures… (which may be more or less than half for different people at different times)… there are four major components we should always value.
There is the direct experiment and exercise aspect, which I discuss in my forthcoming paper in Rose-Croix (Volume 9), which refers back to my paper in the August 2012 issue of the journal Neural Networks. Rose-Croix is open-access online; Neural Networks is a standard Elsevier journal, accessed through subscription or library.
Second, there is the aspect of working on close personal relations and sanity at the level of the soul. I think of a light but worthwhile science fiction trilogy, by Jane Roberts, the saga of Oversoul Seven. I also think of Joel Whitton’s book Life Between Life, and the new sequel. I once asked Joel: “If life is just a school, what is the curriculum, and what must we learn?” That’s when he sent me, confidentially, a copy of the new book, which I see as similar to Roberts in spirit. At the level of “soul,” we are part of a kind of vast invisible network of spiritual connections, and of course our growth is in relation to that network.
But in fact, the “invisible network” really covers the whole earth. In a way, Roberts’ vision satisfies what Heidegger would call the “small Being,” but some of us are by nature bigger than that. For many people, larger concerns are about narcissistic illusions, like loyalty to ideologies which mean nothing to them really other than loyalty to their friends. But for some of us, the whole earth is really real, both in our brains and in our souls. (By the way, that kind of connection is really great for avoiding jet lag!) The experience which sparked all this was memory on Sunday morning, in bed, of a brief discussion with Rob Foster of USTETA on Saturday over dinner of Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention. “It’s all arithmetic..” and do we understand arithmetic in our souls? We really are connected with the world economy.
But in the end, there is a larger universe out there, and maybe that connection is what has most driven my own unique tendencies – among other things, trying to understand it.

All for now. Time runs out.

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