Friday, December 11, 2020

Sam Harris - Free will


Free will is an illusion.
Our wills are simply not of our own making.
Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which
we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control.
We do not have the freedom we think we have.
Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent.
Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them,
or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.
If a man’s choice to shoot the president is determined by a certain pattern of neural activity,
which is in turn the product of prior causes
—perhaps an unfortunate coincidence of bad genes, an unhappy childhood, lost sleep, and cosmic-ray bombardment
—what can it possibly mean to say that his will is “free”?
No one has ever described a way in which mental and physical processes could arise that would attest to the existence of such freedom.
Most illusions are made of sterner stuff than this.
The popular conception of free will seems to rest on two assumptions:
(1) that each of us could have behaved differently than we did in the past, and
(2) that we are the conscious source of most of our thoughts and actions in the present.
Both of these assumptions are false.
But the deeper truth is that free will doesn’t even correspond to any subjective fact about us
—and introspection soon proves as hostile to the idea as the laws of physics are.
Seeming acts of volition merely arise spontaneously (whether caused, uncaused, or probabilistically inclined, it makes no difference)
and cannot be traced to a point of origin in our conscious minds.
A moment or two of serious self-scrutiny, and you might observe that you no more decide the next thought you think than the next thought I write.




Thursday, December 10, 2020

Joan Tollifson - Winter Morning


The pond is frozen over
the world is upside down.
In my old age,
I discover the magic
of childhood.

Without my glasses,
a softer world
blurs together.
Houses hide in the fog,
mountains drop out of the sky.

On naked branches
the last dry leaves
twirl in the cold wind,
leaves and sky indistinguishable.

It is the winter of my life
the great stripping away
the last leaves letting go,
falling into
the dazzling darkness





Sunday, December 6, 2020

Wu Hsin - Beyond the mind



 Master Wu Hsin began:

The piling on of more concepts, this acquisition of additional knowledge,
is not the solution. Adding to the known can never take one beyond the

At every moment of your life you know what you need to know. Take it to
be sufficient.

True knowledge comes via direct apperception and this cannot be forced.
It arrives in its own time

Now, be still.

Master continued:

Careful study teaches us that conscious existence continues even in the
absence of mind.

It also reveals that peace is present in any moment when there is no

Let there be no confusion.

The purpose of the investigation Wu Hsin proposes is not to establish
some special state of mind. Rather, it is to be freed from all states of mind.

Now, be further still.

Master continued:

Once you have recognized the pure taste of tea, you can always enjoy it
with sugar and lemon if you so choose.

Discern that the self consciousness or ego is the operative system of this
organism. When attention attaches to it, there is enmeshment,
entanglement, identification. Unattached, the attention is free.

It is the epitome of peace and you are That.

Now, be still.

Master continued:

The mind reverts to silence spontaneously after every thought. However,
another thought comes so quickly, in a seemingly endless stream, that we
miss this subtlety.

The mind is purified when it reverts to this silence.

The purification progresses from multiple thoughts to a single thought to
no thought.

Now contemplate.

Master continued:

The problem is that the pull of the world is still quite strong for you.

When you realize that everything is in your mind, and that you are beyond
the mind, there is a shift in the locus of attention.

The particular no longer holds sway over you; you are now Self-ward
facing, and you rest in Being Awareness.

It becomes clear that I-am and the world-is are experienced
simultaneously and the body is the instrument that connects the center,
the seeing, with the periphery, the seen.

Wu Hsin will return again tomorrow.




Gina Puorro - What will you feed them?


Nothing matters, everything matters.
I was born on the outer edges of Autumn
and I feel at home in the liminal space
between what is living and thriving and blooming
and what is dying and sinking back down into fertile ground.
Everything comes undone.
Nothing is left intact.

I'm interested in the gravity that comes
with feeling the impermanence of things.
Of moments
and you and me
and the stories that weave themselves
into the most beautiful tapestries
until one loose thread unravels the whole thing.
Maybe we can weave in a little more honesty to tuck ourselves into.
I have loved and lost and have been left more whole
with the deep caverns that grief has carved into my heart.

There's been so much talk about unprecedented times
but I think they are illuminating
and I suspect we've been here before.
We've inherited the mess and the gifts left behind for us
and we will be leaving some of our own.
I see your righteousness and I’ll raise you
some curiosity and bewilderment.
Any claims to power lose their footing
in the presence of awe.
Maybe the next time
and the next
we can bring a little more courage and kindness to our listening
turn down the concepts and theories
and dial up the context and nuance.

I pray that beauty and art
music and dance
poetry and bare feet on the Earth
will bring us all down to our knees
in reverence to the holiness of wonderment
and help us remember who we are.
Maybe we can all learn to co-regulate with each other
across time and space
with our human and non-human kin
in this vast mycelial network that tethers us to one another.
I want to be a student of the subtle.
Of the soft whispers and sweet hymns
that ride the ocean breeze and the hawk's wing.
A slight pivot towards quietude and the small things.
There are tender spaces
between emptiness and longing
where we just might hear the songs that pass
from ancestral throats to receptive ears.

You contain multitudes - contradictions and stardust and sacred instruction.
Leave your unanswered questions
on the kitchen counter
let them ripen a bit
until their quiet mysteries penetrate you
like bite marks in peach flesh
like a soft kiss at that one spot on your neck.

There's a whole love language
in keeping your palms open while you pray
for when the honey pours down over you.
Sticky, but consistent in it's sustenance.

The spirits eat beauty and sweetness.
What will you feed them?