Intellect and The Parable of The Poisoned Arrow

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What do I know? This. Something sees a dissected brain on a laboratory table and what sees is not an object like the thing cut open on the table. Can I explain beyond that? No.

Sure, I can talk about brain neurons and the optical cortex, and that does provide an objective correlative to explain the processes involved in seeing. But it does not explain the seeing itself.

I found the study of consciousness through brain science quite helpful in providing objective explanations about mind.  There is, for example, neuro-plasticity, which provides evidence that intention (roughly, the "will" part of free will) can help the brain change itself. (See Paul Bach-y-Rita, who taught his father to walk after a stroke). But that was as far as it went.

In The Parable of The Poisoned Arrow (more later), Buddha was in effect talking about intellect but not the kind brain scientists used to discover neuro-plasticity. So this article is about what he meant and what he did not mean.

As I already knew would happen, none of my readings in neuroscience and the philosophy of consciousness got me any closer to seeing as seeing.  Buddha meant that I start with experience. Not my everyday experience, although I could use it, but instead what reveals itself in deep meditation.

A sensation arises in a leg attended by a sensation of the leg itself. The sensation comes with the leg as something "there." The edges of this body are sensations of a location. But all arises in the empty space of consciousness. The space can have faint, wispy boundaries but they too are sensations. Sensations arising and falling away, to be followed by new ones arising and passing.
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Chloe Jennings-White Has Said She Wants Her Spine Severed

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“Something in my brain tells me my legs are not supposed to work. Having any sensation in them just feels wrong,” says Chloe Jennings-White. She has said she wants a surgeon to cut her spinal cord. She wants to live in a wheel chair for the rest of her life.  Is she crazy? Does she want disability payments? 

None of the above. The cause is either organic within the brain or a profound psychological disturbance.

The era in which we live has a name for her situation. She is transabled. She has felt this way since she was four years old.

She thought she was a freak until one day.  Read on.
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Standing on The Corner with Omar and Satchmo

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We are a puzzle, we humans. We find ourselves in the midst of life and don't know how we got here. Our parents tell us we were born but they don't really know. Our teachers say DNA or God or accident. None of them know and both upbringing and education are a form of propaganda which bends our minds to perpetuate the most acceptable myths. By mid life we have settled many of our questions into answers in order to concentrate on pay checks and careers and families. Still, in quiet moments we sense the old, gnawing uncertainties. We think we have settled the questions of where we came from, who we are, why we are here, and what we want, but there they are, still waiting for real answers, not doctrine, so we put them back in their place and go on with our lives until one day we die.
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The Contradictory Sides of Jack London

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend Jack London had contradictory sides in that one did not "talk" to the other, but before that a brief sketch of his life is needed. He was a brilliant man, brilliant but uneducated. Forced to work grueling jobs to support his mother and family, he had no time for schooling, and when he did return to high school he had sailed the Pacific in a schooner, tramped across America with Kellys’ Army, masses of the unemployed converging on Washington, and been thrown in jail for being a bum.
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Are You Made of Matter or Consciousness Itself?

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To explore whether you are made of matter or consciousness raise the index finger on your right hand. There, that was easy, wasn't it? You just told the finger to lift and it did. Now I have something not so easy, a question. How did the finger get raised? So what is your answer? Read on for an explanation.
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Zen Masters and Zen at War

(I will be forever grateful to Zen for what it has given me over the years but I learned to sift the wheat it offered from its chaff. The following article is part of the latter.)

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Unable to Tell Real from Unreal: Charles Bonnet Syndrome

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend The last moments happened in slow motion as the car collided in a sickening crunch. His head smashed into the windshield, fracturing the frontal bones above his eyes and the orbital plates protecting his optic nerves. He was comatose for two weeks until he woke up. When he did, he could not walk or talk. For Larry MacDonald that was just the beginning. When he opened his eyes he could not "distinguish what was real from what was fake." He looked at the doctors and nurses standing by his bed. Behind and next them stood football players while Hawaiian girls danced the hula, hips swaying gently.
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Determinism or Fate (Predeterminism) or Free Will?

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The Terrorist, He's Watching

The bomb will go off in the bar at one twenty p.m.
Now it's only one sixteen p.m.
Some will still have time to get in,
some to get out.

The terrorist has already crossed to the other side of the street.
The distance protects him from any danger,
and what a sight for sore eyes:

A woman in a yellow jacket, she goes in.
A man in dark glasses, he comes out.

Guys in jeans, they are talking.
One seventeen and four seconds.
That shorter guy's really got it made; and gets on a scooter,
and that taller one, he goes in.

One seventeen and forty seconds.
That girl there, she's got a green ribbon in her hair.
Too bad that bus just cut her off.
One eighteen p.m.
The girl's not there any more.
Was she dumb enough to go in, or wasn't she?
That we'll see when they carry them out.

One nineteen p.m.
No one seems to be going in.
Instead, a fat baldy's coming out.
Like he's looking for something in his pockets and
at one nineteen and fifty seconds
he goes back for those lousy gloves of his.

It's one twenty p.m.
The time, how it drags.
Should be any moment now.
Not yet.
Yes, this is it.
The bomb, it goes off.

by Wislawa Szymborska
(Nobel Prize in Literature)


Poppa Neutrino: The Happiest Man In The World

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Poppa Neutrino was the free spirit (or lunatic according to some) who sailed across the Atlantic with his family on a raft made of trash scraps.

In his book The Happiest Man in the World, Alec Wilkinson chronicles the life of Poppa Neutrino. Poppa was then preparing for a solo journey across the Pacific. You can listen on NPR.

You can check out the DVD featured on the picture above at this site. Here are earlier links in Mind Shadows: Poppa Neutrino: "The road to the mystical is triadic. To get through the doorway is nomadic." and 72 Year Old To Cross The Pacific On A Raft of Scraps as well as another project by Poppa Neutrino

Below is a video of Poppa and other comments.

Poppa Neutrino, born William David Pearlman, was born in 1933 in Fresno, California and died in 2011 in New Orleans, of congestive heart failure.  Musician, raft builder and free spirit, he looked around, saw others slaving for dollars, chained to a mortgage, and eight work hours a day, and turned his back on all of it.  At his funeral a New Orleans Jazz band played.   Some seek a quantity of years, others the quality.  He had the quality.

If he was crazy then what about the social narrative on normalcy?  What about the rest of us who sacrifice the best years of our lives believing that narrative?


Steven Pinker on Free Will & The Fear of Determinism

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There was a young man who said "Damn!"
It grieves me to think that I am
Predestined to move
In a circumscribed groove:
In fact, not a bus, but a tram.

  • "One fear of determinism is a gaping existential anxiety: that deep down we are not in control of our own choices. All our brooding and agonizing over the right thing to do is pointless, it would seem, because everything has already been preordained by the state of our brains. If you suffer from this anxiety, I suggest the following experiment.
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    Non-Duality’s No-Self and Antonio Damasio

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    Non-Duality is the term for a view of the world as not two, nor one but undivided  and without a second—not the duality of a person and the world outside him or her, but instead a totality which is wholly subjective. Oneness, or unity, itself implies something outside, which is not the case and why those terms are not used instead. If there is one, there must be another. But with non-duality there is no second. The view derives from Eastern belief, principally Hindu advaita, which literally means without duality. It also finds support in Buddhism (Zen, for example, where form is emptiness and emptiness form as stated in the Heart Sutra).

    A central tenet of non-duality is that self—that which we call our self—does not exist. The evidence is offered by a methodology.
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    The Duel Over von Trautmansdorf's Moustache

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    “In Hamburg in 1834, a handsome young army officer named Baron von Trautmansdorf challenged a fellow officer, Baron von Ropp, to a duel. The precipitating offense was a poem that von Ropp had written and circulated among his friends about von Trautmansdorf's moustache, stating that it was thin and floppy and hinting that it might no be the only part of his physique to which those adjectives could be applied.
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    Here Lies The Heart: Mercedes de Acosta and Ramana Maharshi

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    Descended from the legendary Dukes of Alba, daughter in a wealthy Cuban family, Mercedes de Acosta was born in 1893 in New York, raised near Fifth Avenue, and had a beautiful sister Rita de Acosta who was a model for artists John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini. Married to painter Abram Poole, Mercedes was socialite, poet, playwright, Hollywood set and costume designer as well as script writer. She knew many of the greats of her day: Bessie Marbury, Rodin, Edith Wharton, Stravinsky, Sarah Bernhardt, Elenora Duse, Picasso, Cecil Beaton, Elsa Maxwell, and Krishnamurti. Near the end of her life, she met and befriended Andy Warhol, and introduced him to many of the people who would count in his career.

    Consuelo (Hatmaker) Sides, whose husband had been the World War I French flying ace Charles Nungesser, accompanied Mercedes on her passage to India. After arriving, de Acosta met former President Woodrow Wilson's daughter, Margaret, a devotee at Sri Aurobindo's ashram.
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