Reflection 4: Crash

October 10, 2008

 (Copyright © 2008)

I am on the sidewalk heading downtown. Glancing left, I see sunlight glinting off a giant plane just over the rooftops, angled downward where there is no airport. I look ahead to get my balance, then look back. This time I see not a plane but a TV antenna on the ridgeline of a house with, yes, sunlight gleaming on its many swept-back elements.

 

Consciousness appears to place a series of bets about the nature of our current situation. Through successive approximations, it gets a better hold on circumstances and offers a clearer sense of the situation as a basis for judgment and appropriate action. I didn’t have to call 911 after all.

 

Which in my mind takes me back to the days when I briefly worked at Boeing in the 1950s. The servo group had a problem with the ground-controlled approach (GCA) system that was supposed to make it possible to land prototype B-52s at night and under rainy or foggy conditions. Except at that time it didn’t. A signal was beamed up along the runway at the desired angle of approach, and the plane was meant to acquire that signal when it crossed the beam, then smoothly track it down to a safe landing. Initially, when the plane crossed the beam, it did a U-turn and crossed it heading the other way, so turning back again, and again. The same action was repeated, not improved through successive approximation to the direction and angle of the beam. The ideal was to have the plane acquire the beam in one smooth turn without having to re-cross the beam. Eventually the bugs were worked out and the system worked as intended.

 

What we need now is a GCA system for the global economy so it can make a soft landing when difficulties arise. As it is, we’re still in the design stage trying to work out the bugs. Or more accurately, some are gaming the bugs as loopholes to make a killing when no one is looking. Self-regulation promotes experimentation—and deception. Financial experts have come to speak with forked tongue, cloaking high-risk skullduggery in terms that will seduce investors to bet on a sure thing. Everybody’s doing it, it’s got to be safe.

 

What we’ve got is the reverse of my illusory plane crash. Here is a financial crash being passed off as everyday business under the guise of entrepreneurship. Until it’s too late and bankruptcy catches the gullible off guard. Proving again that glowing claims and reports are only words and numbers, which can be manipulated so they appear to mean anything you want. The credit crunch results from deliberate deception of national and international consciousness. It creates illusory prospects for high profits through allegedly safe investments when the sky is falling with a thud all the while.

 

Bankruptcy is an interesting word. The underlying concept is breaking (ruining, depleting) the bank. Bank comes from Old Italian banca, meaning bench or table where money is changed from one currency to another. Rupt derives from an ancient root meaning to snatch, with overtones of rob, loot, or rip-off. A bankrupt money changer, then, could not ply his trade or pay his debts because his bank was broken and he was insolvent. With consequences which vary culture-to-culture and change over time. In old China, three bankruptcies were punishable by death. Elsewhere, creditors could lay claim to whatever assets were left, or some protection could be provided so the bankruptee was not left totally destitute in order to work off his debts over time.

 

Financiers and bankers are not the only ones to perfect the art of deceiving consciousness. Corporations, advertisers, and politicians do it. Image has become the gold standard, not actual conduct. All are magicians making a living by fooling the public mind. Sexy curves and smiling faces convince us to lower our guard. Has AARP ever depicted a senior in pain or with a frown? Happy, happy, happy is what sells. The Bush-Cheney apparatus has set the tone of the age by hoodwinking the nation and much of the world for eight years and counting, as if what we didn’t know wouldn’t hurt us. And what about the Chinese milk industry adding nitrogen-rich melamine to mask watered-down milk? The deception of consciousness never ends.

 

Truth is, all of the people can be fooled most of the time. Consciousness is a huge issue because it is so prone to hand waving and subterfuge. The mindless don’t care; so let the mindful beware. The cumulative impact of these many deceptions doesn’t just tarnish our image, it heralds our demise. As Emily Dickenson wrote:

 

Ruin is formal―Devil’s work

Consecutive and slow

Fail in an instant, no man did

Slipping―is Crash’s law.

 

¦

 

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4 Responses to “Reflection 4: Crash”

  1. Kevin Gorman said

    Hi again Steve, this is a profound observation…
    “Truth is, all of the people can be fooled most of the time. Consciousness is a huge issue because it is so prone to hand waving and subterfuge. so let the mindful beware. The cumulative impact of these many deceptions doesn’t just tarnish our image, it heralds our demise.”
    What I’m wondering is if you hold this truth to be all pervasive?
    I am currently of the conviction that it is, and that it is particularly true within the context of the study of consciousness. This does not make such study impossible, but does require that intense investigatory discipline, and rigor are applied to the task.
    I have a fairly long history with this question, having had four FIRs (fundamental interpretations of reality) crash on me by the time I was 30. For a brief period at right around 30 I had the opportunity to study the issue within an academic setting with a few rather remarkable people. My research partner and I appeared to have made some startling conclusions, as a result of a multidisciplinary approach to the issue. Unfortunately divorce brought an end to that period, and it has taken me nearly two decades to come to a place where I might once again, seriously turn my attention to this issue.
    I moved back to New Hampshire about 18 months ago, out of the utter insanity of The Valley of the Silly Cons, (Sunnyvale, CA) and over the last few months have been doing the mental housekeeping necessary to convince myself* to take up the issue once again. I had just ordered a new copy of the book I recommended, for myself when I came across your blog. There are a few things that I am nearly confidant enough to say I know, nothing is held indubitable, except for one thing.
    The study of consciousness can not be successfully done by a single mind, and partly because of the principle you stated above.
    Kevin from behind my eyes.

    • Steve Perrin said

      Kevin, Fascinating history, or trajectory. We can only get a grip on consciousness by living our lives through stressful times. It’s as if consciousness doesn’t want to be examined too closely for fear of having its warts revealed. I feel strongly that the great moments of my life reflect a personal integrity or synchrony in which all parts work together to create a whole far larger than the sum of individual modules or components. It is such a great feeling to stand on the brink of that integrity and catch a glimpse of what it is capable of doing. The business of our lives degrades consciousness by frittering our attention and energies into bits. Drive kids to soccer, ballet, music lesson, get groceries, go to vet, get car inspected, make dinner, fix the curtain rod, and on and on. Living such a life–or not living it but being led down the path by others–is epidemic in our times. No wonder we act as stupidly as we do. I am very fortunate in being pretty much able to keep my attention focused on my particular consciousness without being distracted by the many who would divert my energy to their own purposes. When raising children and working two jobs, you don’t have that luxury. I love the life I lead–as if it wasn’t even my life but life itself living through me. I try to pay attention. Which raises issues about the nature of life, and I get glimpses of that, too, at the heart of my consciousness. Those glimpses keep me going.

  2. “All parts work together to create a whole far larger…” yes
    I am enjoying reading this blog from the beginning

  3. You are entering uncharted waters from my point of view because I’ve forgotten what I wrote in 2008, preferring to remember the gist or spirit, not the specific topics. Wading in as you are, I wish you happy splashing around. Thanks for the effort you are able to put in.

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