You Are Not Your Brain, with Alva Noë

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by MEGAN ERICKSON

What’s the Big Idea?

“Contemporary research on consciousness in neuroscience rests on unquestioned but highly questionable foundations. Human nature is no less mysterious now than it was a hundred years ago,” writes philosopher Alva Noë in his book Out of Our Heads.

It’s a bold assertion in an age when fMRI has enabled us to see images of the brain functioning in real time, and when many prominent public intellectuals (Stephen Hawking, Eric Kandel) have argued, either implicitly or vociferously, in favor of reductionism. The “brain-as-calculating machine” analogy assumes that human thought, personality, memory, and emotion are located somewhere in the gray matter protected by the skull. In other words, you — at least, the waking you who gets out of bed in the morning — are your brain.

But you’re not, says Noë. Just as love does not live inside the heart, consciousness is not contained in a finite space — it’s something that arises, something that occurs: a verb rather than a noun. And since the publication of Francis Crick’s influential The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, scientists have been looking for it in all the wrong places. Watch our video interview:

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/htmlFederated?&width=480&height=270&flashID=myExperience&identifierClassName=BrightcoveExperienceID_991&forceHTML=true&bgcolor=%23FFFFFF&playerID=651017566001&playerKey=AQ~~%2CAAAAGuNzXFE~%2Cqu1BWJRU7c26MMkbB19ukwmFB5ysvYz5&isVid=true&isUI=true&dynamicStreaming=true&%40videoPlayer=1602811092001&autoStart=&debuggerID=&startTime=1493204808711&refURL=https://www.google.pt/

What’s the Significance?

The evidence is this, says Noë: we still do not have an adequate theory for consciousness. “Everybody working in this field understands that we haven’t gotten to the stage even of having a back-of-the-envelope sketch of what a good neural theory of consciousness would look like. If I said to you, is consciousness happening in this individual cell?’ you’d laugh.”

A cell is obviously the wrong scale for explaining such a complicated phenomena. Neuroscientists have addressed this by simply expanding their domain: “You get bigger. You look at larger populations of cells and at the dynamic activity of those larger populations distributed in the brain spatially and over time.”

What Noë is advocating is an entirely new approach — what if we were to try expand our conception of consciousness by crossing that boundary out of the skull, to encompass “not just our bodies and our movements over time, but also the dynamic interactions that we have with the larger world around us, including the social world?”

Begin by looking at our connections, he says, and we’ll find the tools for gaining insight into the nature of consciousness. In fact, lots of information that stimulates our nervous system doesn’t get experienced by us. For example: “I might spend an hour talking to you and not notice what color your shirt is. In some sense I saw your shirt. It was there before me and it activated my nervous system and yet I might be unable in any way to make use of that information.” It’s an interesting puzzle: intuition structures our experience in a way that can’t be traced back to the nervous system.

It’s also an invitation to reopen an important debate that has been to some extent buried in a mire of specialization. It’s okay to speculate, Noë seems to be saying, even if you’re not a genius. The question is, will we do it?

http://bigthink.com/think-tank/you-are-not-your-brain

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What Would Carl G. Jung Say about Donald Trump?

by Paul Levy, Guest, Waking Times 

The great doctor of the soul and modern day alchemist C. G. Jung was so far ahead of his time that, more than half a century after his death,[1] he is still barely appreciated. Jung was a genius who had incredibly deep insight into the nature of the psyche, particularly how it informs and gives shape to what plays out in our world. I find myself wondering, what would Jung say about the madness currently playing out in our world if he were alive today? I can only imagine.

Jung was of the opinion that “Active Imagination,” a process in which we actively dialogue and have it out with the figures of our unconscious, was the most powerful practice he had ever come across for working with—and integrating—the unconscious. I find myself wondering, what if I were to do active imagination with Jung himself?

Upon imagining this, I immediately sense the presence of Jung. As if in possession of a priceless gift, he seems delighted at the opportunity to share his insights with someone who is open to receiving them. Rather than ghostly, his presence seems substantial, actually quite huge, and very warm. He seems professorial in demeanor, which immediately makes feel like I am in the role of student, a role I am very happy to assume when I meet someone who I consider to be my teacher, orders of magnitude wiser than myself.

Deeply wanting to take advantage of my good fortune, I try to connect by asking him if he can believe the insanity that is happening in the United States today. As if he recognizes what is playing out, Jung says, with the utmost assurance, that what is taking place is “brought about by an upheaval of forces lying dormant in the unconscious.”[2] It is as if darker subterranean powers that have been brewing in the cauldron of the collective unconscious for centuries have been unleashed into our world.

I remember that in Jung’s view what distinguishes our age from all others is that we are being forced to recognize and come to terms with the active world-shaping powers of the psyche.[3] As if hearing my thoughts, Jung comments that the psyche is “the World Power that vastly exceeds all other powers on earth.”[4] Jung adds, “We can no longer deny that the dark stirrings of the unconscious are active powers.”[5] This immediately makes me think of Jung’s well-known insight that if we don’t bring consciousness to the shadow forces within the psyche, we will then most assuredly dream up our inner unconscious situation to play out—destructively—on the world stage as our fate.

I am familiar with Jung’s idea that when the darkness of the unconscious begins to stir, if these forces are not understood, they will magnetically draw people together who will become unwitting instruments for what Jung calls “the powers of darkness” to act themselves out in the world. A leader, such as Donald Trump, will invariably appear—in my language, get “dreamed up”—who will express, reflect and, like a lightning rod, amplify these darker forces. This leader is typically someone who, in Jung’s words, has “the least resistance, the least sense of responsibility and … the greatest will to power.”[6] Jung comments that this leader “will let loose everything that is ready to burst forth.”[7] As if offering a prophetic warning, Jung says with complete certainty, “a mass always produces a ‘Leader,’ who infallibly becomes the victim of his own inflated ego-consciousness, as numerous examples in history show.”[8] I think many of us intuit that Trump’s reign is not going to end well – the question becomes: how can we mitigate the damage?

It is as if Jung is describing exactly what is being acted out in the United States after the 2016 election. I can’t help but to ask Jung’s opinion about the fact that someone as clearly pathological as Donald Trump has become president. As if anticipating my question, Jung says, “As soon as people get together in masses and submerge the individual, the shadow is mobilized, and as history shows, may even be personified and incarnated.”[9] I remember that Jung defines the shadow as “the inferior part of everybody’s personality,”[10] the darker half of the human totality, what he refers to as humanity’s “own worst danger.”[11] I remember that the word mirror, etymologically speaking, means the “holder of the shadow.” It is as if we have collectively dreamed up Trump to embody—and reflect back to us—our unconscious shadow. Jung then matter-of-factly states, as if what he is saying is beyond debate, “It is everybody’s allotted fate to become conscious of and learn to deal with this shadow.”[12] It does feel as if we live in a time where it is no longer possible to avoid or postpone dealing with our darker half.

Jung adds that Trump “symbolized something in every individual.”[13] Commenting on Trump’s supporters, Jung points out that “people would never have been taken in and carried away so completely if this figure had not been a reflected image … ”[14] before Jung completes his thought, I finish it for him by blurting out loud “ … of their own unconscious shadow.” Satisfied that he has gotten across his point, Jung nods in agreement…

more…

About the Author

A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality…

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/04/25/carl-g-jung-say-donald-trump/

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Join the party of love

Resultado de imagem para Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard

image edited by Web Investigator

Love is not just a feeling given or received, it is an action too. It could be a radical force in politics

Max Harris is a fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. His writing has appeared in the New Statesman and openDemocracy.net, among others. His first book is The New Zealand Project (2017).

Politics is inescapably emotional. Political ideas – such as freedom or equality – are often talked about as if they’re dry concepts, sandpapered down in a seminar room or a theoretical conversation. But political ideas involve feeling. The singer Nina Simone once said that freedom is ‘just a feeling’: a feeling of ‘no fear’. Justice is a state of affairs as well as a state of relief, elation, jubilation. And political advocacy, at its best, involves the passionate expression of strongly felt sentiments and experiences. But not all emotions should necessarily be welcome in politics. Hate and fear, for example, drive exclusionary behaviour. They often result in rash and unfair decision-making.

Perhaps love should be a part of politics. Might it not have a better role to play than hate and fear? In the 2016 presidential election in the United States, opponents of Donald Trump repeated ‘love trumps hate’ at protests and on placards. But Trump also used the language of love before and after his election: he said, for example, that the crowd at his inauguration was a ‘sea of love’. For some, this shows that love is an empty value in politics: an emotion so malleable as to be meaningless. I think they’re wrong, and believe that love has the potential to be a transformative force in politics.

In All About Love: New Visions (2000), the American feminist bell hooks says that men writing about love rarely draw on its practice, and even then tend to focus on the receipt of love, instead of the giving of love or the absence of love.

Bearing these points in mind as a male writer, I want to begin not with some abstract pronouncements about love, but with some reflections on my own personal feelings of love.

When I think of love, I call to mind the kind, caring glow of my mother. I remember the tone in her voice that seemed constant in my years growing up: a register of concern, somewhere between sympathy and pain. I think of her steady presence, in person and other ways, exemplified in a Skype call where she listened, unwavering, as my voice quivered with fear and stumbling self-doubt. ‘Love’ takes me to the feeling of being wrapped in the arms of a romantic partner whose commitment to me feels secure, unequivocal, total. It carries me to the moment when my twin brother held my hand, hour after hour, the day after serious surgery.

When I imagine moments where I’ve given love to others, I think of authentic expressions of closeness – to my parents, for example – that have dragged up a well of good feeling in me. I think of an attempt to be present for a close friend in times of struggle and need, through listening, acceptance, affirmation. I bring to mind spontaneous, unflinching outpourings of affection through words and touch. ‘Lovelessness’ makes me think of moments of absence. I have felt unloved when people from whom I have expected love have been distant, detached or disconnected. I’ve known what it is not to be loved when my romantic feelings of deep curiosity and admiration have been unrequited. I’ve felt a deprivation of love when I’ve faced abrupt, unexplained hostility from those with whom I should have had a loving relationship.

Out of these experiences of the practice of love, it is possible to outline what love might be. I don’t want to define the abstract noun ‘love’ here. Instead, what I am interested in, like hooks, is the verb: what it means to love. It is clear to me, from my experiences, that love involves a deep concern, that love is related to a steady state of support, that love is a force transmitted outwards from one person to another, that love is bounded by relationships in which there are expectations of presence and security.

Love, in sum, is a deep sense of warmth directed towards another. This approach, which I developed with the New Zealand writer Philip McKibbin, highlights love’s depth and directedness. It’s consistent with self-love, which involves a deep sense of warmth being directed towards our own selves. The word ‘warmth’ gets at the outpouring of goodwill that is associated with love. And warmth can take more specific forms, such as affection, attention, care, and concern. To love is a feeling, an emotion, but as Simone said of freedom, that’s ‘not all of it’. Love is between and beyond feeling and emotion. One way of expressing this is to say that love is a feature of the spirit: in other words, that loving is spiritual…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/it-is-time-for-love-to-become-a-radical-force-in-politics

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Holocaust Survivor Primo Levi on Human Nature, Happiness and Unhappiness, and the Interconnectedness of Our Fates

Primo Levi

“A country is considered the more civilized the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak or a powerful one too powerful.”

“If during the next million generations there is but one human being born in every generation who will not cease to inquire into the nature of his fate, even while it strips and bludgeons him, some day we shall read the riddle of our universe,” Rebecca West wrote in her extraordinary 1941 treatise on survival and the redemption of suffering. One such unrelenting inquirer into the nature of his barely survivable fate was the great Italian Jewish chemist and writer Primo Levi (July 31, 1919–April 11, 1987), who was thrown into a Nazi death camp shortly after West set her timeless words to paper. Arrested as a member of the anti-Fascist resistance and deported to Auschwitz in 1944, Levi lived through the Holocaust and transmuted his horrifying confrontation with death into a humanistic force of justice and empathy under the lifelong conviction that “no human experience is without meaning or unworthy of analysis.”

In Survival in Auschwitz (public library), originally published as If This Is a Man, Levi wrests from what he witnessed and endured profound insight into some of the most elemental questions of human existence: what it means to be happy, why we habitually self-inflict unhappiness, how to fathom unfathomable suffering, where the seedbed of meaning resides.

Of the forty-five people crammed into the train car that took Levi to Auschwitz, which he notes was “by far the most fortunate wagon,” only four survived. Toward the end of his memoir, in diaristic form, he offers a harrowing perspective barely imaginable to any free person:

This time last year I was a free man: an outlaw but free, I had a name and a family, I had an eager and restless mind, an agile and healthy body. I used to think of many, far-away things: of my work, of the end of the war, of good and evil, of the nature of things and of the laws which govern human actions; and also of the mountains, of singing and loving, of music, of poetry. I had an enormous, deep-rooted foolish faith in the benevolence of fate; to kill and to die seemed extraneous literary things to me. My days were both cheerful and sad, but I regretted them equally, they were all full and positive; the future stood before me as a great treasure. Today the only thing left of the life of those days is what one needs to suffer hunger and cold; I am not even alive enough to know how to kill myself.

It takes an extraordinary person to not only survive such a devastating extreme of inhumanity but to emerge from it with the awareness that existence always leans toward equilibrium. Reflecting on his experience in the camp, Levi writes:

Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite. Our ever-insufficient knowledge of the future opposes it: and this is called, in the one instance, hope, and in the other, uncertainty of the following day. The certainty of death opposes it: for it places a limit on every joy, but also on every grief. The inevitable material cares oppose it: for as they poison every lasting happiness, they equally assiduously distract us from our misfortunes and make our consciousness of them intermittent and hence supportable…

more…

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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How to Tell a True Tale: Neil Gaiman on What Makes a Great Personal Story

 

Neil Gaiman (Photograph: Amanda Palmer)
Neil Gaiman (Photograph: Amanda Palmer)

“The gulf that exists between us as people is that when we look at each other we might see faces, skin color, gender, race, or attitudes, but we don’t see, we can’t see, the stories.”

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion memorably wrote. And perhaps we live in order to tell our stories — or, as Gabriel García Márquez put it in reflecting on his own story, “life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” To tell a story, Susan Sontag observed in her timeless advice to writers, “is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.”

And yet our means of making a clearing through the chaos of events matter as much as, if not more than, the events themselves. The best of our stories are those that transform and redeem us, ones that both ground us in ourselves by reminding us what it means to be human and elevate us by furnishing an instrument of self-transcendence.

What it takes to make such a clearing is what Neil Gaiman, a writer who knows a thing or two about what makes stories last and how storytelling enlarges our humanity, examines in his foreword to All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown (public library), celebrating a quarter century of storytelling powerhouse The Moth.

The sequel to the volume that gave us what I continue to consider the greatest Moth story ever told, this wondrous collection contains forty-five stories about courage in the face of uncertainty by tellers as varied as a cognitive scientist and an Ultra-Orthodox Jew.

Reflecting on his own improbable path into the Moth community, where storytellers tell true stories in front of a live audience and end up feeling like they have “walked through fire and been embraced and loved,” Gaiman considers what makes a great Moth story — which is ultimately a question of what it is in a human story that anneals us to one another through the act of its telling:

The strange thing about Moth stories is that none of the tricks we use to make ourselves loved or respected by others work in the ways you would imagine they ought to. The tales of how clever we were, how wise, how we won, they mostly fail. The practiced jokes and the witty one-liners all crash and burn up on a Moth stage.

Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything.

Having a place the story starts and a place it’s going: that’s important.

Telling your story, as honestly as you can, and leaving out the things you don’t need, that’s vital.

The Moth connects us, as humans. Because we all have stories. Or perhaps, because we are, as humans, already an assemblage of stories. And the gulf that exists between us as people is that when we look at each other we might see faces, skin color, gender, race, or attitudes, but we don’t see, we can’t see, the stories. And once we hear each other’s stories we realize that the things we see as dividing us are, all too often, illusions, falsehoods: that the walls between us are in truth no thicker than scenery.

All These Wonders is replete with wondrous true stories of loves, losses, rerouted dreams, and existential crises of nearly every unsugarcoated flavor. Complement the theme of this new anthology with Anaïs Nin on how inviting the unknown helps us live more richly, Rebecca Solnit on how we find ourselves by getting lost, and Wisława Szymborska’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech on the generative power of not-knowing, then revisit Gaiman on why we read, the power of cautionary questions, and his eight rules of writing.

For a supreme taste of The Moth’s magic, see astrophysicist Janna Levin’s unparalleled story about the Möbius paths that lead us back to ourselves.

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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What Jesus, Judas and Nutella can tell us about women’s bodies

Lucy McCormick in Triple Threat
‘A ludicrously charismatic presence’: Lucy McCormick in Triple Threat. Photograph: Tamsin Drury

It’s rare to see a truly avant garde performer – one so effortlessly boundary-busting that you can hardly believe your eyes and ears – who is also at home in the mainstream. It’s also rare when the performer is hilarious. But Lucy McCormick is one such artist. Her show Triple Threat (the theatrical term, I’m reliably informed, for a performance that involves singing, dancing and acting) has to be seen to be believed. In fact, I’m not quite sure I believe it even now.

The show started out on the queer circuit, where McCormick was known as part of the performance company Get in the Back of the Van, which describes itself as “playing with glory, endurance, artifice and the banal”. But despite its radical content, Triple Threat made its transition to the general audience without causing controversy. It was a huge hit at last year’s Edinburgh festival fringe, and is now coming to the end of a successful run at the Soho Theatre, in London. “I’ll shout So!” McCormick tells the audience at the start. “And you shout Ho!” All good, transgressive fun.

Triple Threat is McCormick’s retelling of the New Testament – which she feels, with some justification, has until now been lacking in “strong roles for women”. McCormick plays pretty much all the roles, Christ with particular relish. She is ably assisted by two scantily clad lovelies, who spend a lot of their time looking humiliated and resentful: which is, of course, extremely amusing, because that’s how people cast in such roles really ought to look, although these two only get away with it because they’re men.

Triple Threat has a certain amount in common with Jerry Springer: The Opera, the musical written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee. The show was widely condemned for its irreverence towards Christianity and its general profanity. One suspects Triple Threat hasn’t attracted similar disapprobation simply because it’s playing on small stages, with small budgets, and none of the people who would be horrified have realised it exists. Which is sad, because they’re exactly the sort of people who have the most to learn from seeing it.

McCormick is a ludicrously charismatic presence, singing, dancing and acting with prodigious power and skill. It’s her material as well – the satire, the gags, the intelligence, the insight, the complex, perfect pitch and tone. McCormick is absurdly talented.

She tackles gender roles by re-enacting the nativity from Christ’s point of view, slithering in a tight bodysuit through a cervical passage formed by her two-man Girl Squad’s arms – breasts and pubis casually coming in and out of view as if they were like any other parts of her body – which, of course, they clearly are, in the context McCormick has created.

Let’s just say that the surprises keep coming. The listings magazine Time Out described the show as “joyously depraved”. The three kings scene has the trio and some of the audience caked (due to budget constraints) in Gold Blend, frankfurters and meringue; and an extended snogging scene between Jesus and Judas somehow conspires to leave McCormick’s face slathered disgustingly with Nutella left over from the temptation of Christ in the desert.

Among the many power ballads lustily belted out with untampered lyrics fitting the Christ story perfectly, the enlistment of the Bryan Adams hit (Everything I Do) I Do It for You to communicate the crucifixion scene is particularly pleasing.

The doubting Thomas scene is the transgressive peak of the show, and features the investigation of all of the orifices of Jesus for proof that he is risen, not just the nail holes in his hands. By that point, however, the audience is merely delighted to discover that it can still be shocked. A bit. Although full “what the hell just happened?” astonishment does set in within minutes of stumbling dazed out of the theatre…

more…

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/22/lucy-mccormick-triple-threat-jesus-judas-nutella-feminist-difficulty

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The Deep Space of Digital Reading

LaFarge_BR-machine.16TH-CENTURY INTERNET: The “book wheel,” invented in 1588, was a rotating reading desk that allowed readers to flit among texts by giving the wheel a quick spin.Wikipedia

Why we shouldn’t worry about leaving print behind.

In A History of Reading, the Canadian novelist and essayist Alberto Manguel describes a remarkable transformation of human consciousness, which took place around the 10th century A.D.: the advent of silent reading. Human beings have been reading for thousands of years, but in antiquity, the normal thing was to read aloud. When Augustine (the future St. Augustine) went to see his teacher, Ambrose, in Milan, in 384 A.D., he was stunned to see him looking at a book and not saying anything. With the advent of silent reading, Manguel writes,

the reader was at last able to establish an unrestricted relationship with the book and the words. The words no longer needed to occupy the time required to pronounce them. They could exist in interior space, rushing on or barely begun, fully deciphered or only half-said, while the reader’s thoughts inspected them at leisure, drawing new notions from them, allowing comparisons from memory or from other books left open for simultaneous perusal.

To read silently is to free your mind to reflect, to remember, to question and compare. The cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf calls this freedom “the secret gift of time to think”: When the reading brain becomes able to process written symbols automatically, the thinking brain, the I, has time to go beyond those symbols, to develop itself and the culture in which it lives.

A thousand years later, critics fear that digital technology has put this gift in peril. The Internet’s flood of information, together with the distractions of social media, threaten to overwhelm the interior space of reading, stranding us in what the journalist Nicholas Carr has called “the shallows,” a frenzied flitting from one fact to the next. In Carr’s view, the “endless, mesmerizing buzz” of the Internet imperils our very being: “One of the greatest dangers we face,” he writes, “as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system, is … a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity.”

There’s no question that digital technology presents challenges to the reading brain, but, seen from a historical perspective, these look like differences of degree, rather than of kind. To the extent that digital reading represents something new, its potential cuts both ways. Done badly (which is to say, done cynically), the Internet reduces us to mindless clickers, racing numbly to the bottom of a bottomless feed; but done well, it has the potential to expand and augment the very contemplative space that we have prized in ourselves ever since we learned to read without moving our lips.

Critics like to say the Internet causes our minds to wander off, but we’ve been wandering off all along.

The fear of technology is not new. In the fifth century B.C., Socrates worried that writing would weaken human memory, and stifle judgment. In fact, as Wolf notes in her 2007 book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, the opposite happened: Faced with the written page, the reader’s brain develops new capacities. The visual cortex forms networks of cells that are capable of recognizing letterforms almost instantaneously; increasingly efficient pathways connect these networks to the phonological and semantic areas of the cortex, freeing up other parts of the brain to put the words we read into sentences, stories, views of the world. We may not keep the Iliadin our heads any longer, but we’re exquisitely capable of reflecting on it, comparing it to other stories we know, and forming conclusions about human beings ancient and modern…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/the-deep-space-of-digital-reading-rp

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