Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The untwining of death.

Last Thursday was the Feast of All Souls (as a practicing Catholic those words don't sound at all as gruesome as seeing them on the screen), and as a member of the St. James Cathedral Choir, I had the profound privilege of singing Durufle's Requiem Mass last night. This mass is an opportunity to mourn those we have lost, to meditate on our mortality and to look death in the face.

Death is apparently a part of life, a natural progression, inevitable... and yet I would venture to say that there is nothing in life that instills more fear (but then, I like public speaking).

Fear of our own death for sure. And the scary part of our own demise is the unknown, the uncertainty that comes with death. As a catholic, I recite the Nicene Creed each week. And as a conscious catholic, I always stumble over the line:

... and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Do I? As far as I can tell, death is the ultimate adventure, the great unknown. What really happens after we die? You don't know! (kudos if you get the reference) I know I'm supposed to believe something, but REALLY? There is no way to know. Until it happens, and then I suspect I won't care anymore anyway. And while being afraid of something that will eventually happen, regardless of how much I try to avoid it, is a possible way to spend my time - it seems like a rather sad existence.

I think the harder part of death is when someone else dies. Because we have to continue living life without them. My daughter is a freshman at the University of Utah studying Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. The same majors as the young man who was randomly murdered there this past week. When I got the campus alert, I had a visceral reaction until I got her on the phone. Death of someone young or violent death is the most crushing. And as a mother, I'm terrified of the thought of losing one of my off-spring. My parents too. The closer it gets to the end of their lives, the more fear I have of losing them.

My father-in-law died two years ago. Les was the first of our parents to succumb, to go, to pass, to die. It's hard to even call it like it is. It was heart-breaking to be with my spouse's sorrow in losing his Dad, and in my own sorrow, but the hardest part to be with how heart-wrenching it was for my mother-in-law to lose her love/partner/soul-mate. My mind balks at merely having to imagine, much less be, in that position.

Let's talk about that. Hebbian Theory very simply states that "neurons that fire together, wire together". Practically speaking, that means that when two things are associated together, they become intertwined. My daughter's first word was "kitty". A word that was spoken whenever the four legged furry being was present. She associated that sound with that phenomenon. It's what we call learning, associative learning to be precise.

When we associate with another human being, our neural pathways become intertwined. That emotion with that experience of eating at that place with that person... they all become intertwined. Even the routine that happens as you start to leave a place, especially when you have been leaving places for many many years together. A moment that sticks with me from Les's funeral was my mother-in-law turning around after the service to make sure Les was with her.

That funeral was such a surprise to me! It was so impactful, both as a Catholic and as a Scientist. Rituals are the bomb!!! And Fr. Tom was brilliant. He reminded us that our experience of Les continues to happen, regardless of whether or not his body is there. Everything that is associated with Les is still associated with Les which is both the bitter and the sweet part of losing a loved one.

If you subscribe to the notion, as I do, that the brain generates EVERYTHING, then your experience of another person resides solely within your skull. Add to that another thought experiment, think of someone you love, or someone you hate... if you really inspect it, you love not them, but who you are and how you feel when you are with them.

While listening to Fr. Tom speak, I intentionally started to remember the things I loved about Les, like when he first met me and told me that he was a contact. Yes, by aliens. Our mutual love of science and space was one of the things that has him continue to be present for me.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Being Profoundly Connected...

What exactly does that mean?

Let's take a look at experience to explore this question. And by experience, I mean your actual day-to-day, living-your-life experience.

When you look at why you do the things you do, ultimately it is to have an experience.

  • Riding a rollercoaster
  • Giving a present
  • Going in for your first kiss
  • Volunteering at a food-bank
I mean, why would you even go to a horror movie?!

When I saw "It" with my family, the experience of the hackles on the back of my neck at full attention, goosebumps over my entire body, the lightness of my internal organs defying gravity... the entire experience was something my son and I reveled in. The experience of being that terrified (in a controlled environment) was awesome.

If you look at why you do things, even the things you don't want to do that you do anyway, it is  ultimately in pursuit of a particular experience.

Now, if you took the extraordinary experiences, those that you try to reach again and again, can you identify the intention that was being fulfilled in that moment?

I am most inspired, lit up and fulfilled when I am profoundly connected to another human being. Or when I am around other human beings who are profoundly connected. "Connected to what?" you may ask...

  • When I am present to my love for my husband of 28 years. 
  • When my colleague is in touch with and expressing their life's passion. 
  • When my child is aware of their own brilliance and unique expression. 
  • When my other child is proud of what they have just accomplished.
  • When I am watching someone in the zone - performing at their peak at what they love to do. 

All this is people being profoundly connected. And I am fulfilled when that is happening around and within me.

So...

What if I set up my life so that what I do, the actions I take, the thoughts that arise, are all aligned with People being profoundly connected. If my life were set up that way, my experience - all the time - would either be inspired and fulfilled or in pursuit of that which inspires and fulfills me. Sounds cool, life affirming and worthy. Lives, people's lives, especially MY life isn't set up so that it is aligned with People being profoundly connected.

As I set out to align my life with that intention, that calling, what I must deal with first is everything that is not aligned. This is non-trivial. A lot of the structures in my house are designed so that I can check out (Hint: not connected).

I'm taking the next 3 months to have my life be aligned with my calling: People are profoundly connected.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Creating Something New

The world didn't end last November, nor in January nor every week since then. Granted it has proven to be a colossal embarrassment, step backward, travesty... you get the picture. I'm still gunning for "Good will come of this whole mess"...

But it's funny how life goes on, isn't it?

So in the meantime, let's create something new.

I recently left the Allen Institute for Brain Science, it was bittersweet - I loved the work I was doing there - Science Communication in pretty much every medium, but the direction we were heading had me realize that I had to get off the train before I was carried too far off track. I've had friends, family and colleagues tell me that I should take a little time off - that amazing things happen in the in-between, apparently. So while I've been looking and inquiring into what's next job-wise, I've also been pausing. It has been about a month since I left. And indeed, some amazing things have started to arise.

I decided to be a scientist when I was 8 years old. I walked up on my best friend in the school library while he was reading a book. "What are you reading?" I asked. "Oh, you wouldn't be interested, it's a book on astronomy, and girls don't do astronomy". That simple innocent phrase set me on a path that resulted - 11 years later - in my crunching numbers on the site of the Very Large Array, and wondering what the hell I was doing there. Granted, my dogged determination to prove that girls can do whatever they want had me excel in math and science - something I may have done anyway - but it left very little room for creating and exploring what there was to do with my life.

I LoVe science. Doing it, writing about it, talking about it - the scientific method is an extraordinary way to view the world. And since I was 8, it has never occurred to me to do anything else. About three weeks post-leaving the 'tute, it occurred to me - "What if I did just start from scratch? What would I do?"

THAT was a mind-bending thought (which I love btw).

And I started inquiring from here:


If you look back in time at my blogging, you'll see (no, not the giant spaces where I stopped writing) that I also love transformative work. I call it practical neuroscience. You can train yourself to see your own view. It's hard, especially at first, but it is the best thing (bar none) you can do for yourself and for the world. I highly recommend it. Do it. The first thing to get is you can't see your own view. Thankfully, other people can.

That's where coaches come in. I traveled to the hot-bed of transformative thinking [sarcastic font], Venice Beach where I inquired into how to live my life in alignment with my calling. Something this grave and profound obviously needs a sufficiently profound name. Seriously tho, the difference engine is a method I'm using to create the next phase of my reality.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
- Buckminister Fuller
Also my take on this whole Administration reality. But I digress...

My calling - that which is more important to me than anything - is People are profoundly connected to Source. The quest then is how to align my life with this calling.

So my inquiry is happening in real-time and I'm tracking it here. You are welcome to join me in this journey. I'm not sure where it will end, but telling a story is one of the things I've always loved...



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Stages of ... what is this I'm feeling?

This tracks some of the emotional and intellectual roller coaster I've been riding the last couple of weeks.


via GIPHY

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial was a long process for me. I think that stage started the second time Bush was elected. I disengaged in a fundamental way after a conversation with my Dad in which he gently suggested that Bush might win. And it was as if I was reliving that moment while watching the returns come in, in favor of DJT. I had to go to bed and bury my head in the pillows. (depression maybe?) But I've been doing that since Bush.

It was like when I came to the startling realization that people don't care about evidence. THAT was dumb-founding to me. How intellectually elitist of me to think that there was another way to operate in life that didn't call upon reasoning, weighing the evidence, asking "is that reasonable"? I'm serious about the intellectual elitist part. I do think less of people who don't use the scientific method, or who can be tricked into thinking something is real when it isn't. I really do think I'm better than them.

People actually thought - I mean ACTUALLY gave credence to the truthiness of the idea that the world was going to go straight to hell (figuratively, not literally) once Obama was elected. And despite all the evidence to the contrary assert that he was an ineffective president and that they were right all along. Contrast that with my pride and joy and gratitude and love for who I got to be as an American because Obama was my president. What did I care what those imbecilic, poorly raised, intentionally dim-witted, racist, grotesque anomalies thought? (ok, that might be anger) The world was moving forward and leaving them behind.

A lot of good that way of being does me in the current surreal reality tv reality. The links in the previous paragraph are URLs to google searches. On November 23, 2016 the "facts of obama presidency" search looked like this:

Who knows what this search will look like 6 months into a DJT presidency. The fake news wave surrounding this election, not to mention the "trusted" news networks that gave DJT so much free advertising through out the campaign have left all of us, intellectual elites and luddites both, suspicious of... well suspicious of everyone. And worse, gave legitimacy to the anti-intellectual.

Which leaves us in the beginning stages of a fascist regime in which it is quite possible historians will look back and say "why did they let this happen?". As an intellectual, I look at history, at what has gone before to inform me of when a tyrant appears - to be able to recognize it when it shows up. And we have, we did, we pointed it out, we called it by name. And it fell on deaf ears.

I find it odd that the anti-establishment vote is counting on the establishment to work well enough to withstand a take-over by an autocratic despot. I'm not so sure.

But...

What if I'm as deluded as those people who thought that the world was going to end with Obama's presidency? Hear me out for a second... I think I'm smart, I've got some evidence for it, but I didn't see this coming. We are all talking about our bubbles. After Bush, I said I would never be blind-sided like that again. Lotta good that did. Even the actions I took to ensure I had a broader view did nothing. I didn't know people thought it was the end of the world when Obama was elected. They weren't in my experience.

So what if? I have great respect for the fact that our brain gives us the world we interact in. And our context gives us how the world looks. If you alter your context, everything looks different. Altering your context is hard because it's invisible, you can't see the thing you see with. It's true for your eyes and it's true for your context. And if you look for evidence for that there is another context, you can find it. Again I say it's hard because no one wants to look for another context, another perspective so to speak.

There are people out in the US that are not terrified of a DJT presidency. It's weird, but they aren't. They are excited, thrilled even. That is a perspective that doesn't come easy to me, but I can easily see it in others. And if I don't just attribute it to their stupidity and ism-ness, what might I learn?

Here is what I know I don't know - I don't know anything about DJT - apparently he's written a book, The Art of the Deal, where he describes how he goes about winning. I've never read it. I've never watched his shows - which some people love. I'm not a business person - I'm a scientist, I leave business up to others who (to be honest I used to think couldn't cut it in science - I mean...why get a business degree??). There's an art and maybe even a science to business. I guess. I've never applied myself to it.

So given this is what we've got, I've got some schooling to do. I've started to read things that seem to indicate that DJT is just doing his thing - it's a way of getting what he wants and he's pretty good at that. There is evidence that people get trampled on his way to getting what he wants, and I must never lose vigilance about that. And stand for what I know is right. But I'm gonna go eat some crow - find another perspective and see if I can see what so many others are seeing.

'Cause what I have been doing hasn't made the difference I'm committed to making in this world.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Antidisestablishmentarianism

I woke up this morning with that word on my mind.

Do you remember when "antidisestablishmentarianism" was the longest word in the English language? I say 'remember when' because in reality there are words that are much longer - but if you don't count technical words (the chemical name of tin has almost 190 000 letters) or coined words, it still is the longest word. I remember teaching myself that word because it felt so good rolling off my tongue.

But it also taught me about English, about  how it is perfectly legitimate to add prefixes or suffixes to words to make a new word or meaning. So I laugh when people tell me things aren't really words - like ongoingly, 'cause - sure it is. Just because it gets a squiggly red line under it, doesn't mean it's not a real word - you can make out its meaning. That's English for you.

Historically, antidisestablishmentarianism (go ahead, say it out loud) referred to a political position that opposed proposals to remove the Anglican church as the established church throughout most of England. Just for shits and giggles, lets dissect this word instead of looking at it historically.

Let's look at this word from the base "establishment".

establishment - a public institution
dis establishment -  having a negative, or reversing force - against the establishment
anti disestablishment - opposition to disestablishment (ugh, double negatives)
antidisestablishment ary - pertaining to opposition to disestablishment
antidisestablishmentar ian - someone who is opposed to disestablishment
antidisestablishmentarian ism - the movement  associated with being opposed to disestablishment

I guess the elections of 2016 will go down in history as a sort of antiestablishmentarianism. I have this election on my mind. In fact I'm writing this - right now - just so I don't brood. Hell, let's brood a little bit - haven't you thought about the end of the world as we know it? Not the song. But the event - it's all the rave in young adult fiction (which is awesome, btw). You've probably enjoyed the story line at the theaters - The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent. I'm currently reading the Emberverse series by S.M. Sterling about an event referred to only as "the Change". I love this shit. I've had thoughts all my life about making the world a better place... which typically (and weirdly) concludes with thoughts like - well lets erase this one first.

There are so many things not to like about how our government - the establishment - works. And I've often thought, "Gah, we need to do something, but it's so big - so established..." and then the train of thought usually ends with something like "shit! that was my stop, now I'm gonna be late for work...".

Watch the pilot episode of Designated Survivor. I'm not recommending that plan - but hell, I'm clearly not the only one who's thought it.

I've never been more proud to be American than when we elected Obama as president. It felt like such a huge thing, like we were making great strides, then the supreme court ruling on marriage equality, it almost made the ineffectuality of our republican congress palatable because we were growing as a nation - species even. I am quite aware now that my views on the last 8 years aren't shared by all. I'm trying to wrap my head around what happened and I'm usually pretty good at seeing the others point of view, but really? You were that threatened by a black family in our sacred white house!?

I know that my point of view is likely skewed - I was one of those who took him literally and didn't take him seriously, while his supporters took him seriously and not literally. I don't believe that politicians will do what they say (even the best ones), so why was I so sure he'd honor his words that I found so nauseating?

And I know he's not the first rapist to live at the white house, and legally he just played the system so he didn't have to pay taxes, and all his justifications about how you do business are a valid (if deplorable) strategy. And I really think/fear/hope that the establishment is going to be so ravaged by his attempt...

no... what I really fear is... The establishment is going to get rid of him and running rampant will destroy so much of what we have accomplished, and this ground swelling of change (even tho it's not how I would have brought it about) will come to an abrupt halt, shattered before it had time to transform into something new (and potentially beautiful).

Yes. I want him to succeed. I want him to prove me wrong. I want the role he has accepted to transform him, to have him value the spirit as well as the word of the bill of rights. To have this movement to up-end the establishment be an unprecedented peaceful resolution to what isn't working with our great country.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Establishment lost last night

This is what the 21st century peasant revolt looks like. It's not just the United States. It's a global phenomenon. People are tired of the establishment. They are revolting against the establishment. The people want a say. It makes me laugh with tears a little to see the poster child of the people uprising against the elite, but there it is.

Hillary was the establishment. She is an amazing woman who I am proud to have voted for and she was the epitome of the establishment. Hell, we democrats also had the opportunity to turn the whole thing on it's head with our "people's candidate", but... as a party we are a little too much ok with the establishment. Remember when we said only that ultra-progressive could beat the likes of their front runner in their primary? Remember how we mocked them for how their base, those peasants, couldn't tow the line and work it from the inside - like we were going to do? If the system worked the way it was supposed to, we would have had a progressives voice in this uprising. Kind of points to why the establishment lost, doesn't it?

After the crying at 4 am this morning, and the crushing despair, I had to deal with reality. Hello reality, good to meet you. We voted in a black man 8 years ago to change it all, and that didn't work. I've never been prouder to be an American with a black man at the helm of my country, but even that extraordinary leader couldn't make a dent in what doesn't work about this vast machinery.

So this is what a peasants revolt looks like. It is a boil that must be lanced - painful, messy and smelly. But its what is there to be dealt with.

Here is your charge: Be light. In every meaning of the word.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth101472.html
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth101472.html

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rekindling

Hi. I'm back.

It has been a while. Seven years in fact. Much has shifted in the intervening years, and I've grown in immeasurable ways. I worked for an organization that is making a profound and real difference in the world. I learned a lot about running a business and making promises and being empowered even when I broke my promises. The thing I liked best about that job was how trained I got in messing with my mind. One thing that has not diminished is my urge to write. I like this medium. In the past 5 years, I've learned the business side of running things. I've taken on more than I thought I could handle, succeeded and failed. But, I cannot escape my love for the scientific method. My context is always "is that reasonable?" and not in a transformed way either. Maybe a better way to say it is "How real is that?" I still have no urge to return to the bench. I occasionally have a thought about running a gel again, but mostly that is accompanied with a snort.

Now, I talk about brain science. I have the extraordinary privilege of working for a company that isn't federally funded and is doing cutting edge neuroscience. And I get to talk about brain science. I get to travel the world and interact with neuroscientists and talk about brain science. And did I mention I get to talk about brain science?

In the next 10 years the field of neuroscience is going to dramatically change, and being in the thick of things is unbelievably fulfilling. And I'm gonna talk about this, and things I love like, my job, consciousness, twitter, being a catholic scientist (yep, I'm on that recording) and probably my kids.

I'm rusty. But it's good to be back.