The Smoky Dragons of Reality

No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon. We are participants in bringing into being not only the near and here, but the far away and long ago. – John A. Wheeler

A distant cousin of mine, John Archibald Wheeler, was one of America’s greatest physicists. He worked with and taught many of the 20th Centuries most talented scientists (Einstein, Bohr, Feynman). His distinguished lifetime of scientific investigations led him to conclude – many basic aspects of our Universe required conscious observation to bring them into being.

Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.George Orwell

Modern physics shows we live in a participatory Universe. Consider the measurement of particles of light. We learned in school that, due to wave-particle duality, light is both a wave and a particle before being measured. But as photons of light travel, how do they travel along two paths, as both wave and as particle? Or, does our experiment collapse the particle-wave into one or the other form, depending on our measurement?

Wheeler described these particles of light as a great smoky dragon. “The mouth of the dragon is sharp, where it bites the counter. The tail of the dragon is sharp, where the photon starts, What the dragon does or looks like in between we have no right to speak.”

In this way, at the fundamental level, our world is not entirely physical. The material Universe is constructed out of infinitesimal bubbles of virtual particles (transient quantum fluctuations of spacetime) which Wheeler named quantum foam. This deep layer of existence is governed by the uncertainty principle. Under this principle, all forms of matter/energy exist simultaneously (superposition) until observed. Our participation summons the world into existence. The observer-participancy creates the information upon which our Universe is based.

Wheeler, however, took this a giant step further. He proposed, and it was later proved, that if the observer delayed the choice to measure for a wave or particle until after the smoky dragon passed through the device – the result was the same. The act of measurement in the future determined the result in the past. This, in effect, demonstrated that the observer had created the past. The choice made after-the-fact summoned the past after it had theoretically occurred.

In a sense, the observable Universe requires our observations to bring it into being. When asked the age old riddle – which came first the chicken or the egg? We can answer both.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.Albert Einstein

The Tao of Now

Your hand can seize today, but not tomorrow; and thoughts of your tomorrow are nothing but desire. Don’t waste this breath, if your heart isn’t crazy, since “the rest of your life” won’t last forever. Omar Khayyám

This moment will never come again because it never disappears. We live in an ever-unfolding present. With each breath and beat of our hearts, we float atop the flowing currents of here and now. I was looking back at my life recently with some measure of bittersweet melancholy. I longed to sit down beside my three darling children when they were in grade school. Tears welled-up in my eyes as I desperately tried to reach back in time. I would have given anything to be by their side again; brush their angel fine hair; cook their favorite foods; play games together; read bedtime stories and kiss them goodnight. So much life – both beautiful and terrible – has flowed under so many bridges since then. But, gratefully, I slowly came to realize – those days are still here/now, glowing brightly in my heart’s memory vault.

{Who-What-When-Where-Why we were /are/ will be} – all merge in the golden ephemeral vessel of Now. But each iteration of this moment is not predestined. Only death turns life into fate. The Tao of Now manifests in the tens of thousands of choices we make. Fortunes foretold can be changed if one releases the selfish wants that weigh down the spirit. There is beauty all around if one’s eyes are truly open to the wonders of now. The true reality – that without delusions – glows like an eternal beacon. By stepping into that positive light, one can rediscover the joys of treasured memories once again and heal the wounds of loss. Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.Albert Camus

But letting go of raw self-interest and self-indulgence is difficult for far too many people. They instead live with a limited view of life constantly projecting forward into a future of satiated self-satisfaction. Glorifying greed is not good. When is enough enough? Such an unbalanced life will eventually swing the opposite way. This is the nature of the Tao of now. Gulping, guzzling greed can never be satisfied. And so in the end, their own emptiness consumes the selfish. Surrounded by a pile of one-time treasures, the egotistical lost souls find only shadows and emptiness.

The present moment is overflowing with opportunity for the generous of heart. The chance for success increases when greed decreases. The Tao of Now responds to the sincere of heart. One opens doors to more favorable circumstances not by force but by accepting what is real. Do not yield to self-involved temptations. One must allow the twin forces of yin/yang to find equilibrium. In this way the past and future are balanced on the fulcrum of the Now. Don’t go in and hide; don’t come out and shine; stand stock-still in the middle. – Zhuangzi

We all must become more generous to the here and now. The real world passes by unnoticed if one is forever clutching onto the missing parts of the past and grabbing at the shiny bits of the future. Relish this moment and the next, Know that the spirits of those you love and who love sing and dance upon the light of your spirit. Savor the Tao of Now.

Thrive on Change

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. LaoZi

Would you like to thrive on change? How are you doing at this moment? Don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow. Think about these ever-flowing present moments. Are you okay? For years, I would greet my students with a typical American – “How’s it goin’?” They would look at me and smile, not certain how to answer. How (positive or negative) is it (Life) going (changing) in the here/now? Reality is change. We cannot resist change any more than we could stop time from flowing. To thrive on change – you first must accept it.

When discussing change, great thinkers (myself not included 🙂 have often quoted the ancient Greeks such as Plato, who wrote “Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things pass and nothing stays. Comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river.” To thrive on

change realize that all things pass, No matter the hardship or anxiety it will pass. Perhaps the change will be gradual. Little by little your thinking will change and the world around is made anew. Dive right in and move ahead with this positive current. Embrace and dance with the changes that come. Manifest the positive changes.

But so much of life is made of little changes. Tiny little shifts in the winds of fortune arrive and sweep away the dead leaves of worry or tickles our noses with the sweet scent of simple joys. To effortlessly accept the reality of the present is true living. Life flourishes when things are allowed to flow naturally forward. Rest in stillness. Soak in today like a newly opened flower at dawn. Bask in the warmth of the all-encompassing loving universe. Don’t fret about unmoved mountains and unobtainable glories. Celebrate the person you are right now. Imagine the changes you want to see in your world. Manifest those changes into your life.

Several months ago I wrote about my favorite ancient thinker Zhuangzi. Zhuangzi was a Taoist Master. Several officials from the king once offered him a high position in the imperial court. Zhuangzi, always the storyteller said: “I understand the kingdom has a sacred turtle, which has been dead for three thousand years. The king keeps it in a fine cloth, and it is boxed and stored in his ancestral temple. Now, would this turtle prefer to be dead and have its bones preserved and honored? Or would the turtle prefer to be alive with its tail dragging in the mud?”

The officials answered, “Alive with its tail dragging in the mud.”

“Go away then.” Zhaungzi said, “I prefer to drag my tail in the mud.”

To thrive on change, follow your true nature; learn from great stories. And drag your tail in the mud. Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness. – Zhuangzi

The Sweetness of Patience

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.Ralph Waldo Emerson

The pace of life can be overwhelming at times. We live in an era when time is marked down in nanoseconds (billionths of a second). In the past I taught teachers about GPS, and I was often asked – how fast is a nanosecond? One light foot (the time it takes light to travel one foot) equals one nanosecond. Like the good tools they are, many of the nanosecond wonders of 21st Century technology make our lives easier. But being hyper-connected is unhealthy. The human mind needs to be unplugged in order to regenerate. Luckily, you don’t need wi-fi to connect with Nature.

Each seed is a tiny world waiting to be born. Late last winter, I unplugged from the pandemic and politics by preparing our gardens for planting. First I pulled weeds and composted the tattered remains of last year. After turning over the soil, I mixed in bags of composted cow manure. While mixing the soil, I found several hidden wonders that, like me, had survived the winter. Some garlic, taro and potatoes. Sleeping through the cold rainy days, these beauties patiently poked through the dirt days before spring. With all the disasters of the winter, I welcomed the joyous green shoots like returning friends.

When I first met my wife, I was surprised by how many vegetables she ate. I had only eaten her favorite – “greens” a few times before. She has introduced me to dozens of vegetables since our first meals together. Last fall when she left for China, I promised to plant her favorite vegetables before she returned. I patiently waited for months for her to tell me when she would be coming home. When the specter of the pandemic haunted me, I would look through our seed collection. Many types of Chinese vegetables are only for sale in Asian markets. So I planted a patch of different Chinese greens and watched over them – waiting to send photos of rows of lovely green sprouts.

Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables. So I planted two varieties near my other favorites – potatoes. Each day I steadily added to our potential vegetable bounty. Over the months alone, I was stricken by the near absence of color outside, except for sunrise and sunset. I created four flower beds, on each side of the entrances to our gardens. I wanted my wife to see the flowers each day upon her return to remind her how beautiful our life together can be. I tended the veggies, but ignored the small patch of carrots that managed to sprout. There beside their leafier Chinese neighbors a handful of scraggly carrot tops staked their claim to the sunshine.

When my wife returned, she was thrilled to see so many flowers, and familiar greens. I backed off from my daily tending of the garden to give her time to nurture and increase the bounty of our garden. As the summer days have begun to wane, I took note again of my little carrot patch, which had joined together into one massive two foot long half pound miracle. I called it Grandfather Carrot, because it looked like a face coming out of the dirt. I cautiously excavated Grandfather Carrot making sure not to damage his roots. What an incredible miracle of a veggie. When I cleaned and sliced the carrot, you could see growth rings where the fabulous plant had steadily grown through nearly two full seasons. We saved the top and roots and have started them re-growing. My wife seldom eats raw vegetables, because the water is not clean in China, and farmers use too many chemicals used. When we tasted Grandfather Carrot, we both agreed we had never had a sweeter carrot before. Just like love and life, they get sweeter over time with patience.

Poem: Blue Moon Rising

Pulsating sinuous strands

Spread along sandy flesh

Like a lover’s luxuriant tresses across a pillow

The approaching lantern of fertility

Brightens the aching heart

Drains away negativity

Positive tingles prickle the spine

Musky incense tantalizes the tongue

Face into the wind and listen

The blue moon’s siren call

Echoes throughout the briny deep

Silky steps slip silently ever closer

Tender will be the night

When we reunite in nectarous dreams

And sail away upon the sapphire sea

WTF is Crypto?

A dollar picked up in the road is more satisfaction to us than the 99 which we had to work for, and the money won at gambling or in the stock market snuggles into our hearts in the same way.Mark Twain

Have you heard about the $2,000,000,000,000 cryptocurrency fueled economic revolution sweeping around the world? For a couple decades, since the Internet first entered people’s homes, there has been talk of electronic payments leading to digital money. That time has come. In 2008, the digital currency bitcoin was created by people using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The use of digital money has exploded this year. And if you don’t want to be left behind, you need to start learning some new terms such as: HODL – Holding On for Dear Life; and FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. Let’s take a little look at our global crypto-future.

If you are a person who focuses on FUD (see above) you are referred to as having paper hands. If you are someone who adheres to the HODL philosophy you are said to have diamond hands. The comparison between the two types of crypto-traders illustrates the differences between success and failure in the nanosecond cryptocurrency world where prices are measured down to the millionth of a dollar. And the rapid movement of numbers between the millionths and thousandths decimal point mesmerizes the mind like a strobe light flashing directly into our reptilian brain stem.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of new digital technology behind this Cryptoworld. Just as with past technological revolutions (Stone, Bronze, Iron, Steam, Computer, Information -Ages), decentralized economics are built atop the foundations of the previous Age. There’s another term that needs to be defined DeFi. DeFi (Decentralized Finance) does not rely on traditional centralized “middlemen” like: banks, brokers or exchanges. It is built on blockchain technology to issue “smart contracts” for such things as: loans, speculation, trading cryptocurrency and a whole lot more. Unless you never read a newspaper or watch the news, you have probably heard of blockchain technology.

A blockchain is a database that stores information in blocks. When the block is full, the block is locked and chained onto the previous block in chronological order. Once this is done, the information in the block cannot be changed. A traditional database stores data in tables and block chains store data in what? – Yes. Blocks. See you are getting the hang of this already. Blockchains are a form of Digital Ledger Technology (DLT). Digital Ledgers are distributed across linked nodes and protected using cryptographic keys. Hence the name “Cryptocurrency”. Since Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, others are called “altcoins” (alternative to bitcoin), and there are over 10,000.

This is just a very brief introduction to the world of Crypto. Many mainstream media outlets are dismissive of cryptocurrencies saying they are phony, unreal pipe dreams. If that is so, then why are so many giant traditional financial institutions investing hundreds of billions of dollars into the two trillion dollar (and growing rapidly) Crypto? What does the future hold? This is an earth-shaking global economic tsunami. For example, there are games where players earn cryptocurrency “tokens” and those tokens can be redeemed at local markets, pay bills or saved in DeFi banks – where they earn interest. Get out there and get your hands on some cryptocurrency. May you have diamond hands, start mooning and not get rekt. See you out there in the cryptosphere

What is Enough?

I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough? – Vincent Van Gogh

We live in a time of great material abundance. But the haves and the have nots stand on opposite sides of a deep chasm of inequality. Many people focus on the holes in their lives because they internalize commercial media’s portrayals of glittering lifestyles which impoverish their spirits. Snobbish mass media intentionally affects contempt for the seemingly threadbare fabric of day-to-day life in order to push products and relentlessly fuel consumption. But money won’t nourish the soul. What is enough? There are paths which lead away this hurtful social separation and towards a unity of spirit. Nature, Art and Poetry offer us transcendent realms to explore far beyond the reach of base consumerism.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn. John Muir

We, my distant cousins, are all children of this earth. Nurtured by mother nature, our common ancestors strode together across vast primeval swathes of grasslands and forests. Crossing mountains and fording rivers, our common grandparents caught the scent of pure, raw abundance. By reading the great book of nature, physically fragile but mentally agile early humans prospered. Nature, the great creator/destroyer, gently raised humanity’s eyes to the horizon and urged their feet to follow. Those primal trails course through our veins like life-giving currents back to the cosmic ocean from which we came.

What keeps my heart awake is colorful silence. – Claude Monet

While there is no agreed upon definition of art, it calls to our souls. Art is the human spirit made manifest. The desire to create lies within us all. Paint, pen and paper capture the will-o-the-wisps of the imagination in order to share our dreams with one another. Whether lofty music or an improvised whistle, art fills the soul with grandeur. From imaginative re-purposing to great masterworks, creativity accompanies our daily lives like a guardian against dark oblivion.

He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life. George Sand

Condensates of whispers / Flow through the caverns of the mind / Lyrical soul-steps cross the void / Track the prismatic light of infinite color / Share the heaven within / Sow common ground / With the seeds of a brighter future

Consider the beauty of your life. Appreciate those around you. Know that you do not need expensive things to thrive. Live freely without accumulated piles of unnecessary things. Minimize greed and envy. Ignore the so-called “influencers” pushing their commercially sponsored crap. Gaze instead upon our marvelous real world filled with manifested wonder.

Happy Birthday to the WWW

The Internet? We are not interested in it.Bill Gates, 1993

The very first webpage was posted on August 6, 1991. Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee posted the “plain vanilla” web page on the servers at CERN where he worked at the time. The computer wizard developed the protocols for HTML, HTTP and URLs which are still the underlying structures of the Web.

A copy of the first web page is still hosted on the CERN website.

You can view it here:

http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

Like so many things these days, the “Father of the Web” Berners-Lee recently sold the World Wide Web source code as a NFT (non-fungible token) for $5,400,000.

And like so many things these days, we often have to look up the definitions of new technology. A NFT is a unique digital asset protected by blockchain technology. Blockchain is a “digital ledger” which records information in a way that makes it nearly impossible to change. The information is stored in digital blocks that are chained together using algorithms and then distributed across a blockchain network to prevent hacking or alteration of the data.

MOSAIC, the first web browser, was created at NCSA at UIUC ( University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign). As something of a digital dinosaur, I first used the Internet back in 1979 on the PLATO system at UIUC. PLATO was the world’s first distributed computer aided learning system. And in addition to learning many things, of course, we used it to play games :-). In fact, at UIUC I once got to shake hands with the John Bardeen, the only person to ever win the Nobel prize for physics twice. Professor Bardeen co-invented the transistor – the amazing devices that helped make our technological age possible.

Do you remember the first time you used the Internet? How about the World Wide Web? And if you are truly a dinosaur, like me, do you remember TVs and radios with vacuum tubes? Please leave a comment below about your first time on the Net or Web or old bygone tech, like black and white TV and rotary phones.

Happy Birthday WWW – what would we do without you?

The Oneness of It All

All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything. Swami Vivekananda

In Eastern thought, One has the dual meaning of number or quality. The modern concept of mindfulness flows out of the spiritual traditions from both East and West. Mindfulness emphasizes the non-separation of the self from the Oneness of true reality. To become mindful, is to become aware of how our individual selves are interconnected within the Oneness of it All. But, for most, the all-encompassing unity of existence is obscured by individual perceptions and interpretations of reality. Those who do experience the oceanic feeling of oneness return to the innocent state of a newborn infant before the self separates from the One.

The central concept of Taoism is the oneness of the All is the Tao. At the end of the first chapter of the “Tao Te Ching, the great sage LaoZi (LaoTzu) wrote: The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name./ The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. /The named is the mother of the myriad of things… The Tao cannot be named because there is no re-representation by the mind. This concept echoes throughout modern studies of consciousness. Many researchers have tried to understand the metaphysical roots of consciousness. This concept of consciousness-as-such is called a “Minimal Phenomenal Experience”. Or: Buddha- Nature; Atman-Brahman; being-awareness-bliss; and so many more. Essentially though the Oneness of it All has no distinctions. Distinctions require language and language separates the One into Many.

My Chinese name, given to me by my mother-in-law, is Zhuang Dao Bai. Zhuang for ZhuangZi my favorite ancient sage. Dao – for the Dao (Tao). and Bai – for Li Bai the ancient poet.

Division is the same as creation; creation is the same as destruction. There is no such thing as creation or destruction, for these conditions are again leveled together into One. Only the truly intelligent understand this principle of the leveling of all things into One. They discard the distinctions and take refuge in the common and ordinary things. The common and ordinary things serve certain functions and therefore retain the wholeness of nature. From this wholeness, one comprehends, and from comprehension, one comes near to Tao. There it stops. To stop without knowing how it stops – this is Tao.Zhuangzi, “On Leveling All Things” (tr. Lin Yutang).

Taoist thinkers connect the meaning of “Heaven” with the concepts of: ziran – self-so/self-affirm; xing – nature; and de – potency. In Zhuangzi’s writing we see that it is our human consciousness which separates us from the Tao – the One. To be truly natural one must be mindful of their own “I/Me/Mine” consciousness creating the distinctions from Heaven / Oneness. Nature offers us a gateway back into the Heaven on Earth into which we were born. Researchers have named this state as “consciousness-as-such. In Eastern traditions there are two views of this state. In one, there is a state of being which is fully absorbed into the One, like a dreamless sleep. In the other, although there is no conscious thought, there is an awareness of being within the One.

We all experience this reduced conscious awareness every day when we transition to and from sleep. That fugue state of flow is the One – the Tao. The goal of meditation is to bring about this state of awareness without making conscious distinctions. Perhaps you have heard of the concept of Non-Dual Awareness (NDA). NDA is a mirror and objects/actions/distinctions are reflections in that mirror. When a Self-Transcendent person achieves Oneness, they experience the clear light of awareness. To be One with the Universe is to be blissfully content with no sense of a lacking or needing more than what simply and naturally is. May we all seek to experience oneness and become aware of our natural connection to this heaven on earth. Peace.

Poetry: Touch of The Wild

A touch of the wild resides with us all

Our soul-songs resonate with nature’s call

Instincts stirred by nameless scent trails drifting in the wind

Rise from ancient gray-green mind-mud

Nostrils flare and pulse quickens

The net of consciousness far cast into the wild landscape

Subconscious skills engage gathered sensory echoes

Body hairs bristle at imaginary beasties lounging in the undergrowth

The lack of modern life’s artificial structures

Unnerves the urban primate’s sensibilities

But after a few dozen heartbeats

Soothing grasses, and luscious leaves soften the scene

The vivifying tonic of fresh air

And cascades of pure light

Nourish the spirit

Soft fascinations instill the scene with wonder

Wrapped in the primal cloak of creation

Our higher brain submerges

With the first touch of the wild

We are home