Sunday, May 7, 2017

Does God want us to learn to drink from a firehose?

 This is not science or The Watch, but a bit above both. (Also, I will not say more about what the word "God " means to me; an earlier blog was detailed enough). 

For many, many years, I have spoken about the importance of learning to “drink from a firehose” of information.

I first heard that phrase many years ago, at an open pubic meeting where some folks from NSA said that their number one job was to “drink from a firehose” – to extract coherent understanding from a flood of data and input beyond what anyone before had ever had to cope with. They even have a little museum along US route 95, where they exhibit the supercomputers which were perhaps the world’s first, part of how they worked to cope with the challenge.

But NSA people are not the only ones on earth called to drink from a firehose. When I heard the phrase, I immediately latched on to it, as part of my own life. (I wonder: has the healthcare experience also raised the interest of our President in coping better with complexity? I hope so.)

Last year, in Udaipur, Luda showed me an article in the Smithsonian magazine about NIH experiments with psilocybin.
Before that we saw a movie “Men who stare at goats” which talked about DOD folks who experimented use of drugs to stimulate psychic abilities.  In Udaipur, I argued hard against that approach, and cited a book by Annie Besant (Thought Forms?) where she said that there are natural barriers in the mind which prevent an inflow of information too complex and challenging for it to cope with effectively. “Don’t break down these barriers by artificial means. Instead, work to make your mind more capable of coping with the complexity, and then the barriers will fade away in a more natural way.” In Udaipur, people were skeptical when I mentioned a book (The Seven Lives of Annie Besant) which described Annie Besant as both spiritual and political teacher and mentor to Ghandhi (a fact understandably not stressed by folks working to build pride in India)... but when we got to Mumbai, they saw the street named after her, and saw her books in Gnandi’s bookshelves. (I posted a photo on an earlier blog here). Besant would probably say “The earth is a school, and learning to really drink from a firehose is a key part of everyone’s highest spiritual calling.”

In truth, I latched onto the phrase for personal reasons. I have worked very hard for many decades to develop the kinds of cross-cutting mathematical foundations, paradigms and cognitive maps which make it possible to assimilate very large and diverse pieces of information without turning into a useless passive sponge-head (like many jellyfish type intellectuals I have met).  I have also worked on the mystical path (first person science, as described in My primary practice now is on the order of an hour in very early morning, in bed, in state I associate with Bucke’s famous book “Cosmic Consciousness.”

But yesterday Luda said: “I am so tired of hearing that old metaphor.  It’s not really a firehose. It’s an ocean.”

This morning, of the hundreds of thoughts which flowed through my mind, this was the one most strongly flagged.
More precisely: “Yes, Luda was right. It is a vast four-dimensional ocean, with vast currents in all directions.” Not a firehose. Not a point in space-time. And not shooting at my face, either. Not exactly a new metaphor, but a metaphor worth revisiting with new clarity, and new respect for others who have used the metaphor in the past. From firehose to ocean...
And of course the currents include what we think of as quantum mechanical currents, and physics deeper than
the best quantum mechanics we know today (MQED, in my view).


But maybe I should say just a little more about "God." At the discussion group this morning, at Quakers, I decided
not to be a negative force by correcting technical details, as people read writings from a medieval Christian mystic talking about "how God gives us suffering, as a gift with love, to help develop us." I resisted discussing the important work of the Harvard psychiatrist Valliant on the important issue of how people cope with pain and frustration.  But after a woman expressed HER discomfort with the idea of too much acceptance of suffering... I broke down and said:
"I would think of God as more like a kindly Montessori school teacher. Sometimes the kids may think she is trying to torture them, when she makes them learn some hard mathematics, and they may even feel mathematics might hurt their soul. She does NOt want them to just sit there with empty minds and a big smile, learning nothing but accepting the pain.  She WANTS them to be active, to learn to be intelligent entities in their own right, but not to create a big mess or bad feelings in the classroom. She wants them to relax and focus and learn what they need to learn." So is this whole world a school?

I do not pretend to know. My main theory is still "Einsteinian materialism," that everything which exists in the cosmos is the emergent result of relatively simple PDE., far simpler than today's physics at its base. We need to strive for a simple solid foundation, the simplest possible axioms, but also for a full ability to be flexible and open to cope with a very cplex world of emergent phenomena. A solid place to plant our feet, and lots of room to move our arms, just like what Archimedes asked for.   Emergent phenomena are a lot more complex and rich than most folks imagine. But I also think at times about two "alternative" (or complementary?) theories from the world of idealism: (1) PARWIN (the people are real, the world is not); and (2) the universe as stories or narratives (as in the little novella "Muse of Fire").  Who knows? Back to curious new stories, a firehose or ocean of them...  


P.S. Of course God wants us all to learn more math. I hate it when people portray God as an illiterate innumerate idiot... like themselves? 

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