People, apes, one-celled animals, we Earthlings are go-getters and getters-away-from. Wayfaring is our primary passion and profession. We head toward what we want, away from what we don’t. Our minds are the navigators that plot our next steps, leaps, or slithers. Baseball is one challenging way people choose to show themselves at their best. Particularly the last game of the World Series. In this case, game 7 of this year’s match-up between the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants as it played out in Kansas City on October 29.

My interest in this game is in how the players reveal the qualities of mind that make them (and us) human. That is, how they perceive, judge, act, and engage in striving to do their best. Only one team could win the Series. The staging was in the superb mental and bodily efforts demonstrated by rivals worthy of each other in that ultimate game of the 2014 season.

Think of the situations that evolve in each player’s mind from the starting pitch that opens the first inning to the final out in the bottom of the ninth. Those situations don’t play out on the field so much as in each player’s mind from his personal point of view. It is very much the playing-out of that inner flow of situations that makes baseball the great game it is.

Behind two games to three, two out in the bottom of the ninth, runner on third, two strikes. Both game and series ride on the next pitch. Think of the hopes, fears, values, memories, associations, priorities, outlooks, intuitions, and dreams as arrayed in each player’s mind in preparation for what happens next. Not only in each player’s mind, but in the mind of every fan in the stadium and watcher on TV. If not do or die, it is win, tie, or lose that hangs in the balance. The pitcher (who happens to be the Giant’s Madison Bumgarner) winds up and throws. . . . Pablo Sandoval catches the high foul and falls to the dirt spread-eagle as if making an angel in the snow, the ball in his glove. The Giants win the game three runs to two. And Series four games to three.

Three hours back, when the outcome was latent, each player had his own hopes. Nine innings later, those hopes are decided by the sequence of events across 54 outs, each a host of situations in its own right. Baseball is each player and fan’s journey from hope to, if not destiny, certainty.

Which is the same as the journey every wayfarer makes in life and stage of life. The Force is either with or against us. The Life Force that drives us to go beyond ourselves every day of our lives. A game of baseball models our own primal strivings to do the best we can with what we’ve got in the time allowed. After that, the stadium lights go out.

(Continued next post.)

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Consciousness is told by the difference between a sink of dirty dishes and clean dishes put away. Between smooth and rumpled sheets. Between a world free of or ravaged by Ebola. Between doubt and certainty. Joy and sorrow. Hope and fear. Sickness and health. Win and lose. Full and empty.

Consciousness arises in the delta signal that tells the difference between old and new, good and bad, pain and pleasure, wisdom and ignorance. It flows from comparison between like and dislike, acceptable and unacceptable, music and noise, here and there, beauty and disarray.

I am speaking of the gap between two opposing states of awareness. Between expectancy and actuality, hill and hollow, straight and crooked, dead and alive, high and low, weak and strong, rich and poor, tall and short, you and me.

Memory allows us to make such comparisons so, strange as it seems, memory is essential to consciousness in the present moment. Memory is the background of all that happens in the now. Consciousness resides in the flow between states of mind as a virtual state in itself. It is there in the mind but not in the brain as a distinct entity. It is nothing you can point to but something you have to experience. Like the flow of a river or flight of a bird.

349. Mind as Comparator

October 29, 2014

I sent the following tweet recently: News is news because it exceeds or falls short of our hopes, fears, expectancies. Ebola. ISIS. Nobel Prizes. The mind is a comparator.

Consciousness is activated by a discrepancy signal, just as depth perception is activated by the difference between what our left and right eyes see. And our sound location is activated by the difference between what our left and right ears hear. And our balance is established by receptors in our inner ears based on slight differences produced by our turning our heads.

How astounding is that? That consciousness exists in the gap between what we do and perceive. What we expect and what actually happens. The outer cortex of our brains is set up to make just such comparisons between adjacent cortical columns. The result is a discrepancy signal that drives our stream of consciousness.

We pay attention to the exceptional, the unusual, novel, disconcerting, and so on. The fly in the jelly jar. The cherry atop the ice cream sundae. And when night falls and everything is cloaked in darkness, we lose interest in the world because everything is grayed-out. What’s to notice? So we fall asleep from lack of arousal. Only to awaken when sunlight hits our eyes.

There are two sorts of consciousness: good and bad, soothing and disturbing, sad and glad, chocolate and vanilla, and so on. Basically, what pleases us and what displeases us at the time. Emotional judgments. That guide our actions to be appropriate to the situations we find ourselves in again and again. Fight or flight, advance or retreat. Stop or go. Try or give up. What a marvelous system that enables us to survive under a huge variety of conditions.

Pity the poor insects that have a very narrow repertory of instincts and automatic responses. Evolution has blessed us by giving each of us our own mind to make up under the circumstances we are in. If only we were wise enough to make use of that gift.

348. Situated Intelligence

October 29, 2014

Situated intelligence refers to the makeup of the mind in any particular situation. It is the structure of the mind as assembled from the collective dimensions of consciousness active at that moment. Those dimensions include some mix of sensory impressions, understanding, imagination, emotion, values, drives, humor, judgment, memory, and so on.

Whatever its composition, situated intelligence drives and regulates the loop of engagement coursing from perception through meaning and judgment to action in the world, and back to the next round of engagement beginning with expectancy, attention, and sensory impressions.

Situated intelligence is what we refer to as the self, I, ego, and so on. There is no homunculus keeping an eye on the world; there is only the assembly of particular dimensions of mind as briefly constituted in a given situation. In a few milliseconds that structure will evolve as the situation develops, our judgments will shift, and we will act more or less appropriately to the next stage of awareness. William James referred to this progression as the stream of consciousness.

347. Self-knowledge

October 29, 2014

My quest is for self-knowledge before I act in the world lest I confuse my view of the world for an accurate portrait of the world as it really is.

Just look around you at the world of today. It is largely a product of actions taken by people on the assumption that they look out on the real world and do not have to take their personal assumptions and beliefs into account. Ha! What a mess we are making in putting our unexamined selves forward in that way. Look at politicians, financial advisers, celebrities educators, and most of the movers and shakers who determine the nature of our lives.

My message is: know yourself first before turning yourself loose on the world.

That is: turn your attention inward to focus on your trials and errors, your emotions (which are trying to tell you something) across the spectrum from ecstasy and joy to fear and anger, your trifling grasp of the way the world works. Once you come to an understanding of and with yourself, then you are qualified to make forays into the world beyond your private shell. I refer to that shell as the black box your mind uses to protect itself. Before appreciating the isolation that box imposes on your mind, you are an apprentice just learning the ropes of how your mind works.

Everything I know about my own mind I have learned from careful study of the many mistakes I have made in perceiving, judging, and acting in the world. That study has been the greatest adventure of my life.

346. Self-deception

October 29, 2014

My chief discovery through the medium of introspection is the degree to which our minds are creations of our own experience. They are not given to us so much as made by us out of the wholecloth of our daily living and memory of prior experiences. So when we gaze out at the world, the world we see is not so much the world that is there, but more the world we have created for ourselves to suit our personal temperament and inclinations. When Sunnis and Shias are at odds (or, say, Democrats and Republicans, men and women, young and old, Blacks and Whites), it is their respective world views that are at odds, not segments of the real world.

We all know this in the abstract, yet find it easier to do battle with one another on the basis of our favored, internal perspectives. Strange business! The history of the world is the story of our being at each other’s throats, not of reaching out in an effort to increase our personal understanding of what’s going on. In that, we seem determined to put our worst foot forward, as we did in waging war against Iraq in 2003, and now bombing ISIS out of existence (which is part of the same problem due to our myopic vision of the world).

345. Welcome, Wayfarers

October 29, 2014

Consciousness is largely fed by our engagements with Nature, Culture, Community, and Family. In continuing these posts, I mean to engage by electronic means with the world of conscious Wayfarers who speak English. My personal consciousness guides every keystroke and click of my mouse. What I am doing is setting up a possible loop of engagement between your mind and mine. Let the energy flow between us, me to you, you to me. Together, we can change the world inside-out one mind at a time.

344. Change of Plans

October 29, 2014

Technical difficulties made it impossible to shift my blog from WordPress to mindfarer.institute, so here I am again, blogging away for the indefinite future. I will add the five posts from my other site here, then start anew. Thanks. —Steve

343. Change of Address

October 16, 2014

I don’t seem able to keep two blogs and a Twitter account going at the same time.
With this post I redirect readers to my new blog site, mindfarer.institute

This post is the great divide between my preparatory stages and my last work. I invite you to make the shift with me. At mindfarer.institute, click on the Blog tab to pick up my most recent posts.

Thanks for your attention since 2008. Upward and onward into whatever comes next. Fare well. –Steve

342. Know Thyself

October 9, 2014

When was the last time you heard that ancient Greek adage? The last time you tried to follow it? The last time you gave up because you weren’t clear how to go about it? Welcome to the club of strangers to ourselves.

Everything I’ve learned about my mind is due to trial and error. That, and my emotions, are what I pay attention to. My perceptions are often in error. I see and hear things that aren’t there. I’ve seen a trash bag by the side of the road as a dying crow; snow on the Rocky Mountains as a line of clouds; a cartwheel display of aurora borealis as a procession of snakes, wolves, spiders, eels, and fingers climbing to the zenith overhead when what I was looking at was a stream of flaring lights in the sky climbing the spokes from treetops to the top of the sky.

In each case, I tried to account for the difference between what I saw and what I eventually realized I was looking at. I know a woman who saw a giant rhinoceros waiting on a mound of snow at the end of her driveway. Everyone sees faces and figures in tile floors and stained walls. Dr. Rorschach based his familiar test on that familiar phenomenon. When I have such an experience, I try to figure what my mind was doing in turning one sensory experience into another. If I keep at it long enough, I learn a good deal about the workings of my mind.

Too, keeping track of what gives me joy and what sorrow teaches me a lot about how I make sense out of my world of engagements. Successful engagements make me happy; engagements that don’t pan out make me sad or angry. When I commit myself to a course of planning and action, fulfillment gives me satisfaction, being thwarted makes me frustrated. My mind seems to talk to me in the intimate language of emotion. It’s not the world that has that effect on me; it’s my mind trying to do its thing. That is, guide me to make a response appropriate to the situation I find myself in.

Knowing yourself, it turns out, is wholly up to you. It’s a gift you make to yourself so you don’t blame the world for the workings of your own mind. So you take full responsibility for being yourself, psychic warts and all. I strongly recommend sticking to anything that causes you to doubt your own sanity. You’re probably not crazy, just not up-to-date on the tremendous difficulty your mind has in just getting you through the day.

I find nothing as rewarding as knowing my own mind. If you can stick with such a project, you’ll know what it means to take responsibility for your own mind, and act more effectively and appropriately in the world to boot. Believe me, it’s truly worth the effort.