Monsters Are Made

We Make Monsters in our Heads

It is a few days after Halloween, and monsters seem to fit the season and the times we live in right now.

A few days before Halloween, I heard an interview on It’s Been A Minute called Our Undying Cultural Obsession with Vampires. And this got me thinking about monsters and how they are made.

In this interview, Kendra R. Parker, who teaches a class at Georgia Southern University about Black vampires in film and literature, discusses the long, sordid history of monsters, especially vampires, and our collective obsession with them.

It is she who said monsters are made. Think Frankenstein, definitely constructed by a human.

And we do this all the time…in our heads simply repeating the stories we tell ourselves that create indelible images, which we then project onto the world we live in. Or better said, the world we wish we lived in.


The Planet We Made

Cover of Time Magazine : The Planet We Made — The Planet We Need — Social Sculpture…How We Can All Participate in Protecting and Seeing Earth Anew — Artwork by Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson is an IcelandicDanish artist known for sculptured and large-scale installation art that employ elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. He designed the cover of Time this month to highlight our collective climate crisis that will affect and impact everyone on Earth. Rich or poor, everyone will pay a huge price for further dithering and delaying on taking immediate action Now.

Olafur tells Time to create the effect on TIME’s cover, he employed a technique called after imaging. By following the instructions on the cover, when the page changes, your eyes re-imagine our overheated planet in the healthy vibrant greens and blues we, the human race, were born into and began our journey as a species through time.


The Monsters We Make

This same elusive after imaging takes place inside our minds. The images that get stored inside our minds are created by the stories we tell ourselves and the images we consume as ordinary citizens.

These images, let’s call them cultural images, are stored in our minds as belief systems. Beliefs are vastly more complicated images than the one created by Olafur Eliasson for the cover of TIME. However, compared to reality, beliefs are pathetic and paltry.

Belief systems tend to leave far more outside (the evil other) than inside (the person who sees the the world like you do). All of us adopt and cultivate belief systems. They help us know who we can trust. And, they help us survive by acting as short cuts to reality.

By popping your beliefs into a situation, you can just get down to action. Or really reaction to a situation because beliefs allow you to skip the work of hard thinking, critical analysis, and feeling into what you are actually experiencing.

Systems of belief are informed by the families we grow up in, the cultures we live in, and the religions we participate in (or do not participate in). Systems of belief are further evolved and informed by friends, peers, teachers, clubs, politics, and media, among many other sources.

Whether you accept the stories and images imparted to you through these systems, whether you believe them or you don’t believe them, beliefs about how the world is or isn’t are formed and held in the mind very much like the phantom image Olafur Eliasson created on the cover of TIME.

Each and every belief are things you have choose to accept, to believe, and to store in your head. You choose to believe the things you think are true or what you don’t believe or believe to be not true, regardless of whether they are empirically true or not true.

Once you commit to a belief (in other words you swallow an idea hook, line, and sinker), it creates an indelible image of how the world is, which gets overlay onto everything you do and everyone around you. Very much like the elusive image Olafur Eliasson made for the November 2022 cover of TIME. You put them there, and then you project them on the world.

Beliefs are more likes wishes, fears, and desires. They accord with more how we want the world to be rather than how it really is. Our wish/fear/wants live inside our minds and are projected on the world every moment of our lives. They hoover and cling to everything and everyone we come into contact with like a ghostly aura. Depending on what our projected system of beliefs tells us we should believe about a person or a thing that comes into our narrow bandwidth of focused conscious attention, aligns our actions and behavior in the world.

This rather simple ability has oversized implications–some good, some bad. It is an ability that we take for granted as human beings. Our ability to create systems of beliefs is a form of ignorance (ignorance, what we choose not to see) and it has gotten the better of us. It is what allows us to turn ordinary human beings into monsters or our world into a wasteland.

Kendra R. Parker explains our creation of and fascination with monsters this way:

When Dracula appeared in the 19th century, there was all of this fear, the English were preoccupied with borders, boundaries and nationalism. Between like 1881 and 1900 there was an increase in the number of non-English Jewish people. There was this xenophobia, this fear of Jewish people, this sort of threat of external colonization. And so these fears about the threatening outsider, who is going to come in and disturb the national pure body, finds its way into Bram Stoker's Dracula. 
And if we come to the United States in 1898, we have newspaper images popping up out of North Carolina that depict Black men as vampires because there was this fear of Black men. There's this fear of black men being in politics and so that if you got black political power, then they're going to take over and destroy white women and all of that. And so you've got all of this propaganda. 
And there are two images in particular. One is called "The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina." It appears in 1898, and it's a Black male vampire coming out of a ballot box. And there's another image that same time period in North Carolina where you got vampires coming out of the grave to vote and they're Black. And so there's this fear that if you let these monsters vote, they will take over and destroy our way of life.
Image From: Southern Cultures: A War in Black and White: The Cartoons of Norman Ethre Jennett & the North Carolina Election of 1898

The Monsters We Are

When we use our system of beliefs to turn other human beings into monsters, it is ourselves who become the monster. When hate becomes our fuel, then the transformation is complete. The monster has been made.

It is a way of being in the world that leads to Hell. It is the path of destruction, of mayhem, and of death.

It is a way of being in the world that may begin by being suspicious, distrustful, and skeptical. But it can quickly eclipse who you think you are and make you into a person who takes pleasure in being cynical, ghoulish, grisly, and grotesque.

Such a journey is often summed up by the popular phrase — Take The Red Pill. This means a person that falls down a rabbit hole. They start out innocently following juicy breadcrumbs of gossip and plausibly outrageous happens that grow ever more implausible. But once you get hooked on these toxic breadcrumbs carefully left behind by Master Manipulators who are experts in making the implausible sound plausible. Indeed, the Truth that you are willing to die for.

Accused Pelosi Attacker Told Police He Was On A ‘Suicide Mission’

How To Make of a Monster

Step 1) Chop the world into absolutely good and absolutely evil, then choose a role to play in this absolute drama (it goes without saying that whatever side you play on… that is the righteous side, the good guys, the side that is going to slay absolute evil)

Step 2) Select a Mask for the role you will play in the absolute drama to rid the world of absolute evil (make sure you are the Super Hero of your story and everyone else is the bad guy)

Step 3) Strap Your Mask Tightly To Your Face So It Doesn’t Slip or Fall Off (you don’t want anyone to see you are merely human like the people and other living beings you are dehumanizing)

Step 4) Cut Up Bits and Pieces from the World and Other Stories, Then Mash Them Into Your Mask So You Become Unrecognizable Like Camouflage (it doesn’t matter if the bits and pieces make sense anymore, you are creating your super hero version of yourself!)

Step 5) Add Lots of Layers to Your Mask, Be Sure to Use Lots of Devilish Deceit and Deception, More Camouflage to Help You Better Play Your Role (God forbid anyone recognize that you’re really human behind your Fake Persona)

Step 6) Distort, Deform, and Mangle Your Mask to Create Fantastic New Levels of Distractions and Illusions, Even More Camouflage… Fighting Evil Isn’t for Sissies (this will draw others to you — your followers, your zombie army)

Step 7) Forget You Are Wearing A Mask: Now You Are A Monster

Image From: Metaflesh by Evan J. Peterson

I have not read this book, Metaflesh. But, the image of the cover is captivating. To me, it perfectly captures how we can turn ourselves into monsters using any system of belief, any one at all. In the land of make believe, nothing is sacred. Once we slip down a rabbit holes inside our minds, the inner Hellish landscape allows us to endlessly violently project onto others what we cannot admit to ourselves that we are.

This is a book review of Metaflesh from where I got the image:

Metaflesh is written by Evan J. Peterson, author of The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir and DragStar!,  the world’s first drag performer role-playing game. Metaflesh is a book of verse and prose from the point of view of Frankenstein’s Monster. The reflections are inspired not only by Mary Shelley’s seminal work (double entendre fully intended) but also by the pop culture descendants of her novel. Sources include a wide variety of Frankenstein/mad scientist movies and song lyrics. The book also contains themes of Jewish folklore, queer culture, camp, and a lot of David Cronenberg-style body horror. The book covers the gamut of the Monster’s experiences through over a century of movies and songs, and portrays the Monster as both gender-fluid and a sort of chimerical film critic, reviewing portrayals of their self through lyric poetry and flash fiction.
This is an ingenious book of metafiction. Just as Dr. Frankenstein cut up different people and stitched the bits together, Peterson cut up and reassembled his sources, turning them into something greater than the sum of their parts. Borrowing from William S. Burroughs cut-up technique, he splices together Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with F.T. Marinetti’s Manifesto del Futurismo (Futurist Manifesto) and with J. G. Ballard’s essay, “Why I want to F*ck Ronald Reagan.” He apostrophizes the sexually explicit films of avant-garde queer Canadian creator Bruce LaBruce and doesn’t forget to include General Mills’ Frankenberry breakfast cereal or select lines from Mommy Dearest and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The combined imagery of classical Greek mythology, white supremacy, drag queens, Judaism, and zombie erotica do not merge into a hot mess but meld together into a deliciously readable book.   
This literary retrospective is sad, funny, quirky, surgically precise, and captivating. I was never bored and didn’t skip through parts. I tore through my first reading at speed and have been taking my time through subsequent readings. The only spot which slows me down, pulling me to a frowning halt, is a simile in the poem, “His Name is In Me”:  “gross as the tallest savage.” Although I’m aware that white supremacist imagery is intentionally used throughout the book—punching up, not down—the use of the word “savage” feels out of place here. It is a racial slur used against Black and Indigenous peoples and stands out awkwardly in a poem strongly based in Judaic imagery. If it is a slur used against Jews, I am unaware, but this is my only quibble with the entire book.  -- Book Review: Metaflesh by Evan J. Peterson

Someone Once Told Me

Someone once told me that my blog The StoryTelling Species Series was just a story. He really just wanted to put it down and elevate himself because we were having a very strong disagreement about COVID. I knew he was wrong, but could not explain to him why he was so wrong then.

Now I can. I knew it is the stories we tell ourselves that make us into heroes or villains, good or evil, saints or monsters. Now I know how it happens inside our minds.

Given how susceptible we are to believe our own stories and lies about ourselves, it is best to give all other people the benefit of the doubt and trust they are not the monster you are afraid of… the one that lives inside of you. It is best just be human and to recognize that we have a little bit of good and a little bit of bad inside of us.

It is when we hang onto the evil inside of us and refuse to let go of it that we make ourselves into monsters and turn Earth into Hell. Trust that reality is far more interesting than the stories we tell ourselves about our selves and others.

Trust that you belong here and now with everyone else and that together we can heal ourselves. This is something we can only do together. And if we heal, Earth heals and our burning hot planet may once again shine in its brilliant, beautiful, life sustaining blues and greens!

Feature Archetypal Image

Graffiti Trump Melbourne Australia | ralfskysegel | Ralf Genge  •  Hannover/Deutschland  •  Member since July 23, 2017

Man Stylish People Putin The President Russia | Inactive account – ID 6964520

Devil Chaos Flames Hell To Burn Fire Inflamed | LeandroDeCarvalho | Leandro De Carvalho  •  Age 34  •  Cheyres/Suisse  •  Member since May 23, 2016

Image From: CNN SPECIAL REPORT: STEVE BANNON, DIVIDED WE FALL Reported by Drew Griffin & Free To Choose
Image From: Tahiti & the Thing | With that, the Old Lady Smiles | Gone, gone, Gone with the Wind
Music: We Are Monsters — Groundbreaking | [4] Fantasy    5:13

First Archetypal Image

Music: Earth — Lil Dicky[ 1] Earth   


Second Archetypal Animation

Music From: Vampire Movies Black Moon Lovers [5] Theme From Frankenstein    2:35

Third Archetypal Animation

Music From: Popular Monster — Falling In Reverse

If It Was My Last Day on Earth?

What would you do if this was your last day on Earth today?

Perhaps write a poem?

It is our perception of reality that determines so much of what we allow ourselves to accept or not accept, what we allow ourselves to believe or not believe, how much we allow ourselves to love or not to love.

Poems are wonderful transformers of perception.

Here are some poems about nature, Earth, and life that have been written at very different periods in time, and yet, there is something universal, something incredibly current, something worth paying attention to in each and every one of them, especially today.


A Minor Bird by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

I have wished a bird would fly away,

And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door

When it seemed as if I could bear no more..

The fault must partly have been in me.

The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong

In wanting to silence any song.

From 7 Poems To Read In Honor Of Earth Day, Bustle, By E. Ce Miller, April 14, 2016

“I have wished a bird would fly away… and not sing all day…” | Music: A Minor Bird by Victoria Darian

Ryokan (1758-1831)

When all thoughts
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of shepherd’s purse.

From Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf:  Zen Poems of Ryokan, translated by John Stevens. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1996.


Basho (1644-1694)

Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die.


The bee emerging
from deep within the peony
departs reluctantly.


Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers’
imperial dreams.

From The Essential Basho, Translated by Sam Hamill.  Published by Shambala in Boston, 1999.

“Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die…”

Music: When Dragons Cry by Bo Johnson

Ikkyu (1394-1481)

My Hovel

The world before my eyes is wan and wasted, just like me.
The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered.
No spring breeze even at this late date,
Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.

From Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu, translated by John Stevens. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1995.

The world before my eyes is wan and wasted, just like me… | Music: Time Travelers Coyote Oldman [4] The Fourth Dream    5:26

These Zen poems come from A Sampler of Zen Poetry. The author of this sampler says, “These are a few of my favorite poems by three of Japan’s greatest Zen monk-poets, Ikkyu (1394-1481), Basho (1644-1694), and Ryokan (1758-1831).”

They are indeed very beautiful and holy.


Today is Earth Day!

Go ahead, write a poem! Transcend space and time and perceptions of reality using nothing but your mind.

We never know when our last day on Earth will be.

Seize the moment, see more, feel your rightness in this moment, know you belong and you matter, right here, right now. You are it!

Feature Archetypal Animation

Fantasy Girl Rock Space Earth Moon Composing | Willgard | Willgard Krause  •  Age 58  •  Lutherstadt Wittenberg/Deutschland  •  Member since Feb. 25, 2017  •  #316

Space Galaxy Universe Sky Night Cosmos Star | gene1970 | English  •  Member since Dec. 10, 2017  •  #385

Eagle Girl Moon Mountains Fantasy Dream | gene1970 | English  •  Member since Dec. 10, 2017  •  #385

Astronaut Space Planets Astronomy Galaxy | gene1970 | English  •  Member since Dec. 10, 2017  •  #385

Earth Blue Planet Globe Gaia Planet People | spirit111 | beate bachmann  •  Age 59  •  berlin/germany  •  Member since April 6, 2017

Earth Universe Flammarion Science Spiritual | ChristianBodhi | Christian Bodhi  •  Santa Cruz De Tenerife, London/Spain and United Kingdom  •  Member since Aug. 19, 2018


First Archetypal Animation

Kerala India Manipulated Bird Nature | ambadysasi | Ambady Sasi  •  Age 28  •  Thodupuzha/India  •  Member since Nov. 15, 2017

Bird Singer Singing Chirp Tweet Chirrup Robin | Pfüderi | Age 30  •  Schweiz  •  Member since March 24, 2014  •  #810

Bird Songbird To Sing Spring Nature Park | jggrz | Jürgen  •  Age 66  •  Thüringen/Deutschland  •  Member since Feb. 10, 2018  •  #57

Bird Starling Crested Song Feathers Plumage | YK333 | Yadvendra Kumar  •  Age 62  •  Delhi/India  •  Member since July 11, 2021

King Medieval Celebration Man Handsome | Wadams | William Adams  •  Age 69  •  Manhattan/US  •  Member since April 20, 2015

Belgium Statue Knokke Beach Man On The Beach | pixel2013 | S. Hermann & F. Richter  •  Germany  •  Member since April 9, 2016

Music:

Music: A Minor Bird by Victoria Darian [1] A Minor Bird    5:08


Second Archetypal Animation

Canthigaster Cicada Fulgoromorpha Insect Trunk Long | Josch13 | Deutsch  •  Member since Aug. 17, 2013

Dragon Golden Dragon Statue Sculpture Art Artwork | Josch13 | Deutsch  •  Member since Aug. 17, 2013

Wild Bee Blossom Bloom Peony Close Up Yellow | jggrz | Jürgen  •  Age 66  •  Thüringen/Deutschland  •  Member since Feb. 10, 2018  •  #59

Mountain Field Sky Agriculture Nature Countryside | SwidaAlba | Leng Kangrui  •  Age 23  •  Beijing/China  •  Member since Feb. 13, 2018

Poppy Flower Nature Wild Flower Wild Flowers Field | Candiix | CANDICE CANDICE  •  Français  •  Member since Nov. 19, 2017

Warrior Fallen Combat Dead Injured Viking | Garyuk31 | Gary Chambers  •  Age 52  •  English  •  Member since Oct. 25, 2015

Carving Stone Rock Stone Carving Dragon China | PublicDomainPictures | English  •  Member since Dec. 11, 2010

Music: When Dragons Cry by Bo Johnson [1] When Dragons Cry    4:32


Third Archetypal Animation

Apocalypse Clouds End Time Atmospheric Mystical | Mysticsartdesign | Mystic Art Design  •  Deutsch  •  Member since July 3, 2014

Skin Eye Iris Blue Older Folds Wrinkled Skin Man | analogicus | Tom  •  Andernach/Deutschland  •  Member since Feb. 25, 2018  •  #144

Wood Statue Sculpture Statue Wooden | terimakasih0 | Dean Moriarty  •  Age 67  •  cardiff/United Kingdom  •  Member since Dec. 3, 2014

Thunderstorm Weather Storm Thunder Lighting Bolts | Inactive account – ID 12019

Nature Straw Hay Grass Field Wet How Come Swamp | EM80 | Deutsch  •  Member since March 13, 2015

Lakeside Reed Hut Timber Construction Piles | webentwicklerin | Gabriele Lässer  •  Österreich  •  Member since June 18, 2012

Mushrooms Moss Fungi Lichen Forest Nature | adege | Andreas  •  Age 65  •  Gelterkinden/Schweiz  •  Member since April 3, 2017  •  #128

Music: Time Travelers Coyote Oldman [1] Time Travelers    8:04[2] Dark Beauty    5:07[3] Peaceful Blue    4:09 [4] The Fourth Dream    5:26

Now — The Taoist Way

One fine day you realize to your astonishment [that] there is no way at all of having your mind anywhere else but in the present moment because even when you think about the past or future, you’re doing it now, aren’t you?!

Alan Watts — The Taoist Way
Alan Watts — The Taoist Way

Alan Watts lectured often about the concept of being present in the Now. Being in the now is a practice of Buddhism and Zen, which is a way to stay on the path of the inner Sage. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched.


In Carol Anthony’s book The Philosophy of the I Ching, she writes:

“Freeing out mind (what we focus on and listen to within) of the dominance of the ego and our inferiors [Note: the I Ching refers to our worst impulses and instincts as inferiors. It is plural because there are many troublesome instincts, attitudes, and rigid beliefs to contend with inside of ourselves.] is part of the work by which we re-attain our natural state of innocence. Through self-discipline, we keep our mind’s eye open, and our inner space free of the thoughts that our inferiors would introduce if we fail to resist them. In the time of youth we are automatically open-minded; it is unnecessary to make a conscious effort to be so. After we learn structured ways of dealing with the world, and listen to the urgings of our fears, our inner view becomes blocked and our inner space filled. We are no longer able to see or her within, but are attuned only to the external world and how we think we need to be to deal with it. Through self-development we de-structure our patterned ways of thinking: by conscious effort we keep our inner view and inner space empty. In this manner we reconstruct our original innocence. The only difference is that our new innocence is consciously maintained; it is not the unconscious innocence of childhood.”

Carol Anthony — The Philosophy of the I Ching

Indeed, if what Carol Anthony has come to understand through her own life and practice using the I Ching is right, then she is showing us how to heal our inner selves and how to bring forth our inner unconsciousness in gentle, constructive, non-violent ways. Without this conscious effort, we are bound to fall prey to our own karma and act in the world in ways that are harmful to others and that will bring great pain and sorrow onto ourselves as we try to make our way through and navigate our inner flow of consciousness, which is time.

Time is the great equalizer.

And, it is always happening Now.


Alan Watts continues saying:

"Even when you think about the past or the future you're doing it now, aren't you? And that results in a very curious transformation of consciousness you feel that you that the present moment is flowing along and carrying you with it all the time just like the flow of the Tao. The flow of the Tao is what we would call the flow of the present. Zhong Yong in his book The Unwobbling Pivot says the Tao is that from which one cannot deviate that from which one can deviate is not the Tao.
To put it into the form of a zen story, the Master Joshua said to Nansen what is the Tao? Nansen replied your everyday mind is the Tao. Joshua asked how do you get into accord with it? Nansen replied when you try to get into accord, you deviate."

Watts says there is no recipe for learning how to be in the present and in the flow of the Tao, which is the eternal Now. Every person must learn to feel it for themselves.

Alan Watts tells how Christian missionaries translate the Tao as logos.

"They took as their point of departure the opening passage of Saint John's gospel in the beginning was the word. Now if you look up a Chinese translation of the bible, it says in the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with god and the Tao was god. (...)  So they've substituted the Tao with God. Now, that make a very funny effect on a Chinese philosopher because the idea of things being made by the Tao is absurd. The Tao is not a manufacturer and it's not a governor. It doesn't rule as it were in the position of a king.  The Tao flows everywhere...both to the left and to the right. It loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them. And when good things are accomplished, it lays no claim to them. In other words, the Tao does not stand up and say: I have made all of you I have filled this Earth with its beauty and glory... now fall down before me and worship me."

Alan Watts goes on to discuss the idea of mutually arising. It is a very important Taoist expression that all things arise mutually together. Watts loved to says, “although the bees and flowers look different from each other, they are inseparable.” He talks about how bees and flowers coexist in the same way as high and low exist together, or back and front go together, or long and short define each other. He further explains how all of the opposites and things that look completely different from other things interdepend on each other for existence, this is the Tao. Mutual arising is one of the most important concepts to grasp in understanding the Tao, the eternal Now.

All of us living in the Western world have been taught that everything is separated. This is a very Newtonian philosophy of the world, as if it’s a huge amalgamation of billiard balls that don’t move unless they are struck by another ball or a queue (Watts describes). After explaining this, Watts loves to say, “But of course from the standpoint of 20th century science, we know perfectly well now that that’s not the way it works. We know enough about relationships to see that the mechanical model which Newton devised was all right for certain purposes but it breaks down now because we understand relativity and see how things go together in a kind of connected net.” [Note: See Indra’s Net.]

“Now figure a world in which everything happens by itself it doesn’t have to be controlled it’s allowed.”

Alan Watts — The Taoist Way

Watts says here, “This does not mean that everything is in chaos. It means that the more liberty you give the more love you give the more you allow things in yourself and in your surroundings to take place the more order you will have.”

This sounds very hard to allow in 2021 when the whole world seems to be besieged by polarized opposites. In the U.S., for example, you have the extreme Right and the extreme Left bombarding each other with word bombs that are blowing up into real life consequences such as the January 6 insurrection of the Capitol that left people dead and maimed and traumatized. Or the mistrust that has grown like a cancer in our country of one side or another side (or mistrust of doctors, scientists, anyone seen as other) that is contributing to hesitancy of the COVID-19 vaccine, a deadly virus that has killed more Americans in a year and a half than died in both WWI and WWII. Right here and now, COVID-19 (the Delta variant) is surging this summer. NPR reported recently that COVID-19 cases are particularly surging in areas of low vaccination. More than 97% of people entering hospitals right now are unvaccinated. This mistrust, this rampant partisanship is destroying the gentle, fragile fabric of democracy.


This is what Alan Watts was trying to warn us about more than 50 years ago. We know what to do, but we don’t do it. Why?

Watts goes on in this lecture to talk about karmic debt, which I find utterly fascinating, but that’s not what I have chosen to focus on here. I am pondering the point in this lecture when Watts comes to T.S. Elliot’s idea that the person who has settle down in the train to read the newspaper is not the sam person who stepped onto the train from the platform. Watts says to his audience, “Therefore also you who sit here are not the same people who came in at the door. These states are separate. Each in its own place. There was the coming in at the door person, but there is actually only the here and now sitting person, and the person sitting here and now is not the person who will die.”


Jerry Seinfeld talks about this idea too. He talks about Night Guy who likes to eat cookies at night and he is the guy who also likes to stay up late at night. He wants to live for the moment. But, then there’s Morning Guy who has to get up and go to work and has to deal with 5 hours of sleep and too many cookies. He feels awful! HiddenBrain did a spectacular episode on this too, the different phases of self in You, But Better.

Jerry Seinfeld: Night Guy vs. Morning Guy // SiriusXM // SiriusXM Indie JAN 2014

So, just what is Alan Watts getting at? Surely we are not a bunch of separated unconnected selves sleep walking through life. It is all a grand illusion of being? Or maybe we are?!

Now…now…now…now | Image made by Genolve

Watts tells us. He says, “We are all a constant flux and the continuity of the person from past through present to future is as illusory in its own way as the upward movement of the red lines on a revolving barber pole. You know it goes round and round and round and the whole thing seems to be going up or going down whichever the case may be but actually nothing is going up or down.”

Revolution | Animation by Genolve
"So when you throw a pebble into the pond and you make a concentric rings of waves there is an illusion that the water is flowing outwards and no water is flowing outwards at all water is only going up and down what appears to move outward is the wave not the water.  So this kind of philosophical argument says that our seeming to go along in a course of time doesn't really happen. The buddhists say: suffering exists but no one who suffers, deeds exist but no doers are found, a path there is but no one who follows it, and nirvana is but no one who attains it."

This is a confusing concept. When a person rushes to understand something that has happened to them or a new concept, the person is bound not to understand the thing at all. Watts explains that it is a matter of getting to a position where you no longer feel the symbol the thought the idea the word as a block to life, no longer feel it and something you are using as a means of escape. He says: “liberation of the mind from identifying itself with symbols is the same process exactly as breaking up the links between the successive moments the illusion of a self continuing self that travels from moment to moment and picks them all up corresponding to the illusion of the moving water in the wave.”

We are more like a melody being played, Watts describes. We must select the notes in relationship to the places we exist–that means in relationship to everything around us and rising inside of us. If we are not discerning and select everything, the music becomes a jumble and does not make sense. So it is as human beings that we have the capacity to focus in on certain things, to see the symbol of these things in our minds, and select how to arrange these symbols in our mind and how it flows in our never-ending stream of consciousness (i.e., our inner story about what has happened to us during our journey through time and space). When we become more attached to the symbol in our mind rather than to how we are in relationship to each other, with our inner Sage and inferior, and with the whole of nature (indeed the universe), then this is where and when we get into the trouble of bad karma and the cycle of suffering.

Consciousness is a rare and precious gift. It does create problems such as present self and future self and the natural conflict between them.

Yesterday, Jeff Bezos blasted off with his brother and Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen. You’ve already seen the headlines: Lefty Democrats hit Jeff Bezos over space trip, want him to pay ‘fair share’ of taxes. The dividing and the othering and the criticism goes on and on. If it’s not Bezos, it’s Dr. Fauci or a scientists working on climate change or a researcher working on viruses. It seems recently that this is all human beings are really good at doing, othering and dividing things up so they don’t go together any more.

But we can put the pieces back together again because we did this all inside our minds. We got attached to the symbols we created to explain to ourselves what is happening to us. When we get attached to symbols created inside our minds, we divide things… cut them up into little pieces and stand on sides lobbing bombs at the other side opposite our points of view. But, don’t you see… it all goes together?

I really like something Bezos said in an interview with Anderson Cooper when he was asked about this criticism he was getting about this all being a race to space by billionaires. Anderson asked, “Don’t you think it is better to spend you money here, now to take care of all the problems we are facing on Earth?” Bezos replied, after a moment of consideration, “We have to do both. We have to work on the Here and Now. And we have to work on the future. That is what humanity has always done.”

He is right. Because we can see the Present Self (the Here and Now), but also the Future Self (a brighter, better future on the horizon). Men and women throughout human history have taken care of their needs in the here and now and ventured boldly into the unknown. That is what Homo sapiens does. We are a species who originated in Africa, and then we boldly voyaged far and wide until we filled every niche of our beloved planet. We used to live caves or congregated grass huts, but we used our abilities to take care of our needs in the here and now as well as envision a bigger, brighter future and build it. Often such envisioning is seen only by a few individuals of any particular time. Those who cultivate their minds to see distant inner horizons of being. Not all future possibilities are possible, but all visioning of such future possibilities cause conflict for a tribe or group of people of any time because such seeing into the future means change. But it is precisely these abilities that have allowed Homo sapiens, sapiens to build great cities with towers made of glass and to fly around the world in a day inside airplanes. We are able to see ourselves in the Here and Now (like Jerry Seinfeld’s Nighttime Guy), and we can see our future self. Using nothing more than our minds, we can play out inside our minds what the future consequences of the choices we make in the Now (or do not make), which then inform the actions we take in the Now (or do not take).

Bezos told Anderson Cooper his vision is to create the infrastructure so that future humans can move toxic and polluting industries off Earth, so we can protect our beautiful and fragile planet. This is a beautiful vision, and he is right to hold it and to start something small that will grow into something big. And he can also take care of the here and now and did with $100 million gift each to Van Jones and chef Jose Andres. Sure he could pay more in taxes and probably should. But we do this together, moment by moment… we all create reality.

What will you do with your plot of consciousness today? How will you step into the flow of the Now without a train of burdensome thought cars following you into it?

Have a great day!

Anxiety & The Bigger, Better Offer

Yesterday, I was corresponding with a friend about our mutual experience of anxiety and depression. We were talking about what was working and what was not working. As I was crafting a reply, this aired on 1A: Why Willing Yourself To Be Less Anxious Doesn’t Work — And What Actually Helps Instead

Image from 1A: Anxiety can be really hard to manage. What does research say about how to help? Paul Kane/Getty Images

The timing was uncanny. Indeed, it was synchronistic. So, I paid attention. And, I took notes. I will share some of the take aways I gleamed for this important show. If you have been struggling with anxiety and depression, especially this year, this show is well worth a listen.

1A Description:

Between the uncertainties of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, going back to the office and staying connected with one another, it’s no wonder anxiety is on the rise

As the pandemic recently reached its one-year anniversary, about a third of U.S. adults say they have experienced sleeplessness or anxiety in the last week, according to the Pew Research Center.

We’re talking with Dr. Judson Brewer, a neuroscientist and associate professor at Brown University about the science behind our anxious feelings and explains why common fixes, like simply willing yourself to be okay, don’t work. His new book is Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind.  

What’s causing us to feel anxious these days? And how can we treat it?


My Notes:

Dr. Judson Brewer discusses how worry and curiosity are binary functions in the brain. When the brain engages in worry, it cannot engage in curiosity. Worrying makes us feel smaller and contracted while curiosity makes us feel bigger and expansive. Both have evolutionary origins and functions. The problem is how complicated our modern lives have become tricking our brains and causing destructive habits and patterns to develop and become entrenched in the brain.

Dr. Brewer talked about the part of the brain that gets engaged when a person worries. It is an older part of the brain known as the cingulate cortex. This is a critical part of the limbic system and involves a group of interconnected brain structures involved in emotions along with processing emotional destress of pain. It helps us survive.


The Cingulate Cortex

I found this image of the part of the brain that gets engage when we worry while I listened.

Image from BrainFacts.org | This interactive brain model is powered by the Wellcome Trust and developed by Matt Wimsatt and Jack Simpson; reviewed by  John MorrisonPatrick Hof, and Edward Lein.
Structure descriptions were written by Levi Gadye and Alexis Wnuk and Jane Roskams.
[Go to this website and try out the very cool interactive model!]

Dr. Brewer discusses how the Cingulate Cortex is a much older structure of the brain, making it very powerful in establishing behaviors and patterns in our life. The parts of our brain that get engaged when we become curious are more complex and they also activate and engage the Prefrontal Cortex, which is the newest part of our brains and the weakest.


The Prefrontal Cortex & the Role of Curiosity to Our Wellbeing and Mental Health

Image from BrainFacts.org | The Source of Curiosity | Author Hannah Zuckerman | Published7 Aug 2019

Why is the sky blue? Staring up at the big, wide space above their heads, children often ask a variation of this question to an adult. Although the answers may seem clear enough, we’re not always satisfied with what we get. Why we know, or why we care to know about the world around or inside of us is due to a distinct desire: curiosity.

Curiosity motivates us to understand the world, our communities, our bodies, and our brains. Click on the targets in the image to explore how curiosity inspires us to investigate the mechanisms of our daily life.


Dr. Brewer explained how we can strengthen this part of our brain and ability through mindfulness training. Meditation is one part of a bigger circle of learning how to be more mindful in our bodies, especially when we begin to feel to collapsing feeling of worry and anxiety.

Everyone learns habits that get encoded in the brain through the Cingulate Cortex and other lower brain structures. Everyone also has the ability to bring awareness to their situation, both internal (e.g., are you worrying, feeling anxious, feeling fearful) and external (e.g., what triggered this inner feeling [the present], where did this feeling originate from [the past], how valid is this feeling now and moving forward in your life [the future]).


The 3 Gears of Changing Your Brain

Once you bring awareness to your situation, you can begin to remap your responses to them. You can rewire your brain! Dr. Brewer outlined 3 gears to work through that include:

Gear 1: Mapping Habit Loops

Ask yourself what the behavior you are engaging in (e.g., going on social media, over eating, compulsively cleaning, compulsively shopping, binging Netflix, taking mind altering drugs) attempting to help you do. Often these repetitive behaviors are attempting to help you overpower intense, uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear that have become ingrained in patterned repetitive behavior that does not do a good job of calming these feelings. The trigger is less important than the behavior you slip into to calm the rising anxiety and worry. Bringing your awareness to map you habit loops is the first step, the first gear to get yourself out of it.

Gear 2: Mindfulness

This is where you use your ability of awareness to get curious about your behavior: “Hmmm… what am I getting from worrying?” So you realize by becoming curious about your behavior of planning a trip to the airport 20 times isn’t doing anything to keep yourself and your family safe. This insight give you a space to do something different. You can also use mindfulness to practice retrospective reflection as well because sometimes the compulsive behavior is so powerful it is impossible to avert it until you strengthen this other part of your brain: curiosity, mindfulness, and awareness.

Gear 3: The Bigger, Better Offer

This is where you offer your brain a better offer to deal with a situation that triggers anxiety, worry, or fear. Dr. Brewer talks about how we become habituated to compulsive attempts to reduce our anxiety (e.g., ‘Oh, I feel anxious, I am going to look at puppies on the Internet’, soon the brain becomes habituated to puppies and needs a stronger stimulus, so now you need to find puppies and kitten together; then the brain become habituated to puppies and kittens, so now you need to find puppies, kittens, and baby chicks… and so it goes on and on… a compulsive addictive behavior has been established). What the brain does not become habituated to is curiosity! This is the key to get out of the loop.


They were running out of time at this point in the program, so go to Dr. Jud Brewer’s website to learn more:

Image from Dr. Jud | We all struggle with something… Anxiety. Emotional Eating. Smoking. Shopping. Self-judgement. Anger. Bad habits. Whatever your struggle, change is possible.

Have a Great Day! And remember, you are the master of your Ship of Self — go forth and explore new inner territory inside your mind and by doing so, repattern your brain.