Cognition & Reality

Monday, 11 May 2009

Fan Dance Of The Nukes

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 2:04 pm

As I suggested in an earlier post, the existence of open secrets about government policy is a symptom of authoritarian rot and government clumsiness. Such pretense undermines legitimate government and fosters contempt for the law. The running joke among Soviet workers was, “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.” 

At his first White House press conference, President Obama blew off Helen Thomas when she pointedly asked about “other” Middle Eastern countries, besides Iran, who have nuclear weapons. Everyone knows that Israel has dozens of nukes. It is probably the case that Israel wants this information floating around, because it incites the very fear that makes nukes worth having. OTOH, they can’t admit publicly to having the weapons, because that would put them in violation of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and of long-standing public agreements with the United States. 

Of course, it’s unhealthy for the President of the United States to have to dissimilate in the East Room in service of commitments to Israel and its supporters in this country. He’s the President; they are clients. What is more unhealthy is for our government to act in accord with a fantasy that no one believes. No more pretending!

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Friday, 8 May 2009

Maturana

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 10:30 pm

The other day I was searching for a workshop on Ericksonian hypnosis. To my surprise and satisfaction a link from “Milton Erickson” took me to a site called “Radical Constructivism,” presenting non-dualistic ideas. Mainly, the site discussed the implications of the idea that experience is a construction emanating (?) from a closed system. 

As I read, I found myself thinking, “this applies to Piaget.” Practically in the next instant, as I shifted to another section, I read something like, “These constructs obviously connect with Piaget’s work…” More to the point, I ended up on a page dedicated to the Chilean who won a Nobel for his breakthrough work on frog’s eyes (yes, the study of frog’s eyes can get you a Nobel Prize…if you’re a fucking genius neurophysiologist.) 

A 1980 book chapter by Maturana had as much influence on my own ideas as anything I have read. I had, however, forgotten how ridiculously hard he is to read. Although he writes fluently in English, it’s not his native language; the idiom sometimes escapes him. The real problem is that his sentences leave no stone unturned in an attempt to address a legion of potential criticisms. Anyway, he long ago began extending his scientific work into the area of human interaction, but without abandoning any of the principles guiding his science. 

As Piaget understood, a dualistic ontology does not withstand scientific scrutiny and collapses when it comes to explaining consciousness (human experience?). Maturana offers a non-dualistic explication of these problems and he offers a solution…in horribly complicated but ultimately lucid sentences.

According to Maturana, experience is a function of a biological organism existing as a closed system interlocked (but not interlaced) with a “medium” (defining world). The mind is in a self-organizing entity comprising all of its possibilities, including those that appear to be “outside” the organism. An organism out of balance with its medium adapts in characteristic ways, but is in increasing danger from excessive accommodation to environmental perturbations. 

I don’t know if I have clarified how this connects with our work. In time, I hope to “translate” Maturana and Piaget, another difficult writer for a lot of the same reasons, into terms that can help us deepen our clinical understanding. There are strong connections, as well, between this “package” and the Advaita school of Vedanta (HInduism) Right now I’m tired, but I wanted to share my excitement. 

As the Governator said, “I’ll be back”…driving a great big truck.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Business of Mind

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 2:06 pm

Some time ago, I had been having trouble sleeping for a while. This one night I was sort of stuck awake. A lot of times when that happens, I watch TV or listen to a radio podcast. Other times, I meditate in a more or less formal way. This time, however, I just sat there with my right leg stretched out, my left leg crooked with the foot on the couch; I draped my left arm on my knee as if I were perched on a rock somewhere looking out on a scene, a little valley or glen. Just looking. And then I was looking, and what I was looking at was, let us say, the “solar system of my mind” with all of the planets whirling around, so easy for me to see, like Ezekiel: All the thoughts I could have, all the systems I could create. And then I saw it or thought it, and wrote words that could have come to me any time in the last 30 years or so. Here is what I wrote at 3am one morning:

The business of mind cannot possibly take place within the internal narrative. Like the smoke in the old commercial for Pall Mall cigarettes, the business of mind takes place over, under, around and through the narrative. Over, in that the actual activity, whatever it is, is out of reach of the narrative and its various constructions. Under, in the sense that there are activities, not necessarily, indeed probably not physiological processes, without which the narrative cannot take place. Around, in the sense that the real business of mind need not include the narrative, although both occur “within” the mind. And through, in the sense that the narrative can play an instrumental part in the execution of the business of mind. Once the business has taken place, the narrative often can include elements of what was, but no longer is, the business of mind.

The stories we tell ourselves are, in short, dispatches from the past, from the workings of consciousness occurring a moment or a year ago.

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