Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.

In my last 20 posts I have included 138 photographs illustrating the wildness of some of my engagements this past summer. But my engagements come in many different types and styles, wildness being only one of them. In round after round of engagement, I have interacted with people (from family, friends, and relatives, to casual acquaintances, and total strangers); with a variety of locales in coastal Hancock County, Maine; and with a great many engagement accessories (tools) including my toothbrush, 18-year-old car, PC, iPad, favorite mug, books on my shelves, cribbage board, pencil now lost, rowboat, and Super Sky Hawk airplane. Without any one of those engagements with people, places, things, my life would have turned out differently than it did.

Life for all of us is a whirlwind of engagements, some pleasant, some less so. Our minds drive us to interact with one person-place-thing after another in never ending succession. Finish one, move on to the next. Even when asleep, we engage with our dreams. Even when bored, we are engaged with our boredom, driving ourselves to distraction. We take all this for granted as just how it is—how we are and how life is. But seldom do we contemplate the miracle of the whirlwind that is ourselves as powered by our spinning, conscious and unconscious minds.

Introspection is a sort of time-and-motion study of one human mind. When you start to think about thinking, there is so much happening and so much material to include that it’s far easier to go watch YouTube videos for an hour than reflect on your own inner workings. But my many bouts of self-reflection over a thirty-year period have revealed to me that my engagements are what I am all about. I am built as an engager, and operate as one every day of my life. If I weren’t and I didn’t, I’d be dead. In truth, engagements are the stuff life is made of. They are the meaning of life itself—what we do in interacting with the world around us, coupled to what the world does with us in return. Life is one spinning engagement without end until our minds give out and we realize there really is an end after all; but till then, we deny any such thing, and have our daily engagements to prove it.

Though I am sometimes uncomfortable in the face of events, I can’t recall ever being bored. The power of the mind is rooted in the ability to pay attention, and in every situation there is always something to notice and attend to, even if it is the state of one’s mind at the time. But then I’ve never been in solitary confinement for a month, or deprived of sensory impressions for even a minute (except when asleep). In my case, to live is to be awake and attentive to whatever catches my ear, nose, eye, or mind. To live is to engage; to engage is to be active; to be active is to be mindful and alert. Partly in order to survive, partly to be productive, partly to be fulfilled, partly to integrate into and get along with the rest of the world.

Engagement is no special moment and no frill. It is life itself. It is what we do with our two fundamental sources of energy, ambient sensory energy from our surroundings and bodily energy from the food we eat combined with the air we breathe. The point of our personal combustion (metabolism) is to get engaged and stay engaged. To be part of the scene around us. To be somebody. Which we do in many ways—the particular ways (types, styles) of engagement that determine our distinctive personalities.

We engage the world by acting out of the situations we get ourselves into by making ourselves happen as we do. The meaning of our actions flow from those situations as seen from our personal perspective. We aren’t engaging the world so much as engaging our view of the world—the world as it seems to us. Our preferred styles of interaction—our personalities—reflect our outlooks on specific situations as seen inside-out in creating a reality for ourselves that springs from the unique set of life conditions we have become used to and cannot imagine otherwise.

Common types or styles of engagement might be suggested by clusters of terms such as:

  • assertive, dominant, aggressive, authoritarian
  • accepting, submissive, peaceful, tolerant
  • playful, lighthearted, open, humorous, joyful
  • rigid, set, closed, unyielding, fearful
  • loving, caring, compassionate, generous
  • hostile, callous, unforgiving, self-serving
  • adventurous, risky, courageous, creative
  • collaborative, collegial, cooperative, friendly
  • competitive, self-centered, grudging, conflictive
  • composed, orderly, organized, constructive, concerted
  • wild, unruly, careless, unthinking, haphazard
  • and so on.

By my way of thinking, two of the most prominent engagement styles reflect minds that are either open or closed to discovery. That is, minds either looking for answers or set upon imposing preconceived solutions. Here is a sample of what I have written in contrasting the two styles:

The hallowed field of education is based on assumptions concerning the nature of learning, teaching, knowing, truth, inquiry, experiment, language, and other fundamental matters of great importance. In some quarters, questions are regarded as tokens of heresy, so education is reduced to rote memorization of orthodox texts, accurate recitation being taken as proof of wisdom and understanding. With a quotation at hand for every issue, the truth becomes self-evident to all who have undergone proper indoctrination. Again, answers are known before any questions are asked. Reciting the words of ancient masters, pupils build a future for themselves that is meant to be a replica of the distant past. Back to the future; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. (Consciousness: The Book, page 239.)

Voices rising from Wall Street insist that there is no need for more vigilant governmental oversight—even as those same speakers inflict yet another economic calamity on the nation—while a chorus in Washington insists that government, taxes, and entitlements need to be abolished as evils in themselves. Self-serving opinion is rampant in today’s media, while knowledge won through practical and costly experience is dismissed as a fascist, communist, or Islamic terrorist plot, whichever is the flavor of the day. The conflict is not about preserving the primacy of Western-Capitalist Civilization but is an example of warfare between minds—open on one side and closed on the other, or worse—closed on both sides.

Military conflicts arise from failed engagements between minds that have been reared-taught-trained and armed by members of different cultures and belief systems. Wars are never solutions to world problems because they inevitably spawn further problems that are even worse when the next generation comes to face them. On the intercultural scene, passionate speeches in different languages are no substitute for the experience of actually getting together in an atmosphere of mutual respect while working things out—of actively engaging to a common purpose.

I offer loops of engagement as a means for implementing the golden rule because such loops bring up both the self and the other for due consideration at the same time. It’s not one “me” against the other, but start to finish a consorting “we.” In a world of over seven billion unique individuals, styles of engagement make all the difference in getting along as good neighbors. How we reach out to one another determines the responses we get back. Blame becomes obsolete because it only widens the gap between us when what we need is an effectively united humanity that can relieve the pain we are inflicting on our ourselves and on the natural world we claim to praise while mindlessly rendering uninhabitable.

That is my message for today and forever. Y’s truly, ––Steve from Planet Earth

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Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

I am a participant in the Quaker Institute for the Future (QIF) 2012 summer research seminar meeting this week at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. In the early minutes, while we were centering ourselves in silence, I became aware of the loud ticking of a clock. It was an electric wall clock driven by a motor, not by weights and a pendulum, so it had no need for a noisy escapement, but there it was, ticking away simply because clockmakers cater to the public delusion that clocks ought to tick. I thought of functionless metopes (beam ends) in stone temples dotted around ancient Greece, structures fashioned after ancient wooden temples, but having no true beam ends because they had no wooden beams. After all, how could a temple serve as a temple if it didn’t look like a temple ought to look?

Little white cars these days look like they rode off the screen of Star Wars because Star Wars set standards for what helmets and vehicles ought to look like in the future. Now that we live in the then future, what else can we expect cars to look like? I still think houses in New England ought to look like my grandfather’s house in Plainfield, Vermont—complete with woodstove in the kitchen and woodworking shop in the barn—because that house defined for me how a house is meant to look. Movies keep getting made to look as they did in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. We just can’t seem to let go of the old days when our tastes were formed once and forever. Over and over again it’s the same story—back to the future.

But it did strike me as strange to be sitting in a college seminar room equipped with a clock that affected a fake ticking sound as an echo of yesteryear while I was trying to coax my mind into engaging the future. That relentless beat nicely illustrates the problem we are up against in carrying past expectations around inside our heads as we grow more entrenched in what seems to be the future but is really an extension of times we’ve already lived through. Stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck—that was the message of the room we were assembled in to plot our way ahead. How ironic is that?

Fact is, the past is hard to shed because it’s built into the very habits, memories, and expectations we carry around with us as we go. And in our styles of reaching out to the world based on those tired expectations. Even though we realize it no longer works, we still lug it around, lug it around without realizing it because if we shed it, we’d no longer know who we were. Which is who we were once upon a fantasy time when our styles of grappling with the world were formed.

Creatures of limited imagination that we are, we know what we like, and like what we know. So much for change, so much for progress.

Later in the day, one QIF participant gave a presentation about bringing our economy up to date in workable form. He pointed out that the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to collect taxes and pay the debts for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, and, too, to borrow money on credit. It was Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton who led George Washington to float the nation on monies borrowed from banks in New York, a habit that has endured for over 200 years. Hamilton, a man who would not leave politics alone, came to a bad end in his duel with Aaron Burr, as the nation is facing a dire fiscal situation today.

So now we pay interest to the financial services industry for the privilege of borrowing its money, when there is no reason whatever for doing so. That particular habit is driving us into the poorhouse, making paupers of a great many hardworking people. Yet we think it is the only way to fund the nation because it’s a habit we picked up so long ago that it’s now simply business as usual as the founding fathers had it in their day. We haven’t the imagination to change to a less suicidal way of paying our bills with interest for the privilege of doing so. Hostages to the moneyed elite, we send jobs overseas and listen to the ticking of the clock as it tracks the national debt, while that same elite avoids taxes and prospers immensely on bonuses paid with public monies. Strange business. Where is it written we must play by that scenario?

Progress is largely a matter of ridding ourselves of a beloved set of bad habits, yet we remain slaves to that tradition, as some advise us it is our moral duty to do. If we are to be free, we must come round to freeing ourselves. There is no need for a sovereign government to borrow from a moneyed elite. It’s time to free ourselves from the grand old tradition of national indebtedness. To go bankrupt for the sake of a political idea is a risky venture gone wrong. If we are to head for a brave new future, we’re not going to get there by listening to the ghostly ticking of the same old clock in our heads.

With thanks to Keith Helmuth for truly facing QIF toward the future, I remain as ever, y’r friend, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

The dialogues of Plato provide one contiguous illustration of a loop of engagement in action. One theme, one personality at a time, Plato presents detailed arguments in support of the need to doubt and examine one’s own beliefs in order to attempt a worthy life based on truth, not misjudgment or error.

This blog illustrates my own quest to meet the same challenge.

My book on consciousness is another example of the same effort to answer the eternal question, How do I know that I know what I think I know? Living a life of harmony and integrity depends on making a personal commitment to self-doubt and self-reflection in order to achieve a transparent view of oneself.

Socrates was put to death for asking fellow citizens to self-administer the same test to avoid living hollow lives in imitation of false standards of excellence. But self-assurance and self-doubt are hard to maintain in one mind, so Socrates paid the full price for even raising the issue. As did Jesus many years later.

Calling attention to the difference between living an original in contrast to an imitative life is risky in any era. Orthodox or right-answer people have no room for doubt in their minds. Self-doubt is anathema to the image of personified wisdom and authority they strive to present. So they build systems around themselves in which being rich or powerful passes for being wise. With pretenders in charge, is it a surprise to discover we live in the modern world, such as it is?

We live in an age that reveres sham and deceit where appearance is all, accomplishment counts for little, and the solution to every problem is to apply money in great wads.

Do I sound the least bit jaded? If so, my answer to such a situation is to do all I can to know myself as I am, so to avoid falling in with the crowd. I keep on blogging and writing and self-examining to protect myself against the current plague of self-deception.

I can’t have much effect on other minds, but at least I can face into myself through a weekly round of self-reflection as I am here conducting out in the open before your eyes. The more we personally take on that task, the more powerful we become through self-understanding.

The moral of my tale is we are the ones we have been waiting for. Since we’re already here, if we have complaints, we might as well start looking for solutions within, not without, ourselves. Don’t look to authority to draw you out of the mire, but do it yourself step-by-step. A few days ago I was wallowing in the muck of Muddy Cove; today I stand on dry ground. I call that progress because I am a larger man for making the effort. I maintain this blog as a means of keeping my book up-to-date. Keep on, keep on as long as you can. To the future, then.

How are you doing in this big world of ours? Y’r friend, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

In CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, I divide loops of engagement into two segments: on one hand, dimensions of consciousness devoted to perception (including arousal, expectancy, attention, sensory impression, discernment, interpretation, understanding, feeling, and values); and on the other,  dimensions of consciousness preparatory for action (including memory, judgments, decisions, goals, projects, relationships, and planning).

Perceptual dimensions of consciousness lead to consolidation of new memories. Dimensions leading to action combine memory with current values and feelings in planning and executing behaviors appropriate to the current situation as construed by the mind.

That construal (interpretation or construction) of the current situation provides the setting for our looping engagements. That’s where understanding enters the loop as the upshot of the mutual engagement of perception and interpretation. How we understand a given situation determines how we physically behave on any given occasion. Perception, interpretation, and understanding determine the climate in which events occur; action is the specific weather at a given place and time within a specific situation.

Climates of consciousness, in being largely cultural, include the great disciplines of human thought and awareness: economics, politics, theology, healthcare, science, education, military affairs, agriculture, art, fashion, literature, geography, athletics, language, and other components of the cultures we build around ourselves, and which in turn shape our identities.

These cultural influences are aspects of our personal understandings of ourselves as members of particular groups, families, races, and nations as they shape our fields of personal concern. And within those fields of concern, spur the loops of engagement by which we balance our personal awareness against the options for action we see for dealing with our concerns at the moment.

Within our respective cultures, each of us is a distinct individual subject to a unique variety of pressures, interests, and concerns. How we respond in making ourselves happen in the world is influenced by our understanding of both ourselves and our worlds in concert with our feelings and values.

What is truly remarkable about us as a species is the diversity of approaches we take in dealing with our concerns as we construe them according to our experience, understanding, faith, and belief. Some of us follow Catholic ways, some  Protestant or Jewish ways, others Buddhist or Islamic ways. Some of us are democrats, republicans, socialists, communists, fascists, or none of the above. Some make music while others make art, quilts, or batches of beer. Some have families, some have pets, some live in mansions, others in hovels. All according to the mixture of concerns governing how we engage one another and our surroundings.

There is no accounting for the combination of concerns that makes us who we are. Or more accurately, no recalling the forces that acted on us in our formative years when we were young and more helpless than we remember being at the time. Our parents ruled us via their loops of engagements much as we rule our own children, laying down the law in some cases, letting others slip by. But the structure of our understanding of ourselves and our worlds—whether science rules our hearts, religion does, our passions and appetites, or our addictions—the lives we have lived up to now seem sensible to us as the only lives we can refer to, so we live as if we are destined to go on in the same way as before.

If there is a logic to our concerns, it is the logic of precedents from days we barely remember. As we were treated, so do we treat others and call it fair, just, and deserving. Our loops and memories were forged by powerful emotional experiences, most of which we conveniently disremember. In truth, I am still the same little kid I was when I roamed the hills of central New York State in the 1930s, living now as if the conditions that prevailed in those days still apply. My engagements are just that, my engagements because that’s how I learned to make myself happen in my little world. There’s no breaking free from my formative past because it still bears on the neural network that governs my looping perceptions and actions today.

Every one of us is privileged (or condemned) to follow the dictates of our most intimate pasts. Those dictates are rarely codified in so many dos and don’ts, prescriptive formulas, or commands. That isn’t the language our concerns were received in. We duly and emotionally lived them at the time. And they are still with us in the complex neural networks that make up our brains and on which our minds are dependent to this day. We are variations on a theme we first met long ago. We hang around like old songs and poems from childhood, our lives still having the same Mother Goose lilt they did then.

Our religious, political, and cultural beliefs strive to maintain continuity with our childhoods in the deep Paleolithic period of our most intimate selves. We are today descendents of whom we were in those beginning times. We see and hear now as we learned to see and hear then. We think now as we learned to think then. We believe now as we learned to believe because we didn’t know any better in those early days.

So, yes, we look upon the world of today, but see with old eyes, hear with old ears, believe with naive wits, and in all innocence think we behold the world as it is. We are creatures of our acculturation and upbringing to this day. There is no escaping who we were and how we were introduced to the world through engagement with those whose example gave us our eyes and ears, sensitivities and tastes.

We act today by the logic of precedents received in earlier times—as if they were still valid to this day. We may outgrow our clothing but we carry our primal beliefs as if they still fit us as they did when we were brand new.

In fact, the religions, political parties, and philosophies we practice are all in our heads, carryovers from yesteryear, aided and abetted by the cultural institutions we create and maintain to insure we always have a place to go that reminds us who we were and have been ever since. But institutions have particular clout and endurance because they are dedicated to holding fast to our memberships to gain access to our minds in order to set the climate within which we act.

Think of the great temples, mosques, cathedrals, palaces, government buildings, sporting arenas, universities, theaters, and corporate headquarters whose sole purpose is to keep us in our place exactly where they want us. That is, keep our minds in place so that we behave correctly as they would have us behave. Think of the established, authoritarian governments of North Korea, China, Syria, Iran, Russia—and now the United States of America—governments that attempt to institutionalize their peoples lest they wander off track, learn to think for themselves, and risk becoming ungrateful and unruly.

The bigger such climate enforcers become, the stronger they blow on our minds to whip them into conformity. And if they blow our minds away, from the rubble a renewed people arise who are capable of making up their own minds and living their own lives. Freedom is a personal matter that cannot be imposed by force. It is always earned by exercising the creative imagination of unique individuals, and always flows from those few exemplars who show the way. They are true leaders in mapping out the routes we must follow in being truly ourselves. Routes that give glass, steel, and stone institutions a wide berth in sticking to pathways mere mortals can trend on their own.

Invention and discovery are ways to the future; dogma, ideology, and correct performance lock us into the past. The most difficult challenge we face in becoming ourselves is in freeing ourselves from utter dependence on our past histories as institutions preserve them. No one becomes free in an institution. To be free in our minds requires us to grow beyond the influence of our first cultural enforcers so that at last we discover who we are as free agents.

As always, I remain y’rs truly, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

What are we but primate mammals with a gift for remembering, recognizing, and recreating (or imitating) situations and sensory patterns we have met before? We call ourselves wise, but wisdom resides first in the ways and beliefs of our families, groups, and cultures, not ourselves. We do our best to learn how to act in everyday situations, and those actions—however skilled—tell who we are.

When aroused from its habitual stupor by surprise, novelty, or concern, consciousness translates our motivated awareness into planning and making a fitting response.  We once thought we were little more than stimulus-response chains on legs, but now we accept it as given that aside from our routine or habitual actions, consciousness can intervene in that chain, allowing us to tailor our actions to our situations as we construe or interpret them. This allows us to moderate our actions in light of our personal experience under the particular circumstances that prevail at any given moment.

As vessels of experience, each of us is unique in the universe. Our genetic makeup is unlike any other. Our childhood learning is our own, as is our subsequent education, our job history, our values and emotional life, the details of our autobiographical memory, and so on. Like our immune systems, our minds are crafted by the lives we actually lead, so are each one of a kind.

When we come to act, it appears we are acting for ourselves alone as motivated by self-interest and and a lust for self-preservation. But if that is the case, we haven’t learned very much from our situated presence among seven-billion brothers and sisters. In truth, when we act, each of us acts for our entire human family. And beyond that, for all species, for Earth our homeland in space, and for the universe that has delivered us to this particular era and location.

If we haven’t learned that by now, for all practical purposes our conscious understanding is foolish if not worthless. Yes, we are individual molecules in the darkness of space, looking to one source of energy or another, ever jockeying for life and position. But if we take life to live life, we are acting on our own without considering our absolute dependence on those around us to give us a place among themselves. We are in this life together, and always have been, back to our original parent in the big bang, the ultimate source of our existential being.

If an Israeli takes water from a Palestinian who then dies of thirst, the surviving Israeli lives at the expense of his regional, planetary, and universal brothers and sisters. Unwittingly, such thievery happens all the time. But to commit such a crime according to a deliberate plan is no better than the U.S. killing and displacing millions of Iraqis for the sake of the oil beneath their feet, or a band of offended Muslim jihadis destroying Buddha statues in the Banyan Valley or capitalist enclaves in lower Manhattan.

When I act, I act for you; when you act, you act for me. When I am conscious, I cannot afford to think only for myself, anymore than you can for yourself. Consciousness is our joint responsibility. By myself as a wanderer in the desert I do not exist. We live our lives collectively, in pairs, families, communities, regions, nations, and our respective planetary populations. Consciousness is a gift to us all—the ability to modulate our actions in light of our understanding of the whole.

If our education treats strangers with different ways of doing and being as lesser creatures than ourselves, it is dangerous to the degree it is incomplete in giving us a a distorted awareness and understanding of the whole.

The charade of the Republican primaries in the 2012 election cycle reveals how dangerous self-centered politics has become in each candidate believing he has the answer for everyone else, and if we would only be conscious in his particular way, we would be collectively better-off. Such arrogant posturing would impose the hopelessly limited and impaired consciousness of one individual on our nation and its world.

The only viable political system must respect and speak to our diversity, not make clones of us all. Policies must be all-encompassing, as good for you as for me. Which is why I advocate the study of personal consciousness before our understanding ossifies as a one-size-fits-all program of mind control.

For myself, I give no one the right or the power to dictate how I am to employ my mind and actions to their liking. That way lies the police state, trickle-down economics, a penal system in which deviant minds are put away in solitary confinement to engage solely with six surfaces made of concrete.

How about you? That’s it for today. –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Yesterday, Occupy Bar Harbor hosted a public showing of Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job documenting the effects from 30 years of deregulation of the financial services industry. What did we get but exploitation of the many by the few?

What struck me most in this, my fourth viewing, was the unbridled collusion between 1) giant international investment banks, 2) rating agencies that evaluated their offerings, 3) insurance companies that guaranteed a profit even if investments proved worthless, 4) business schools that lent respectability to dangerous practices, and 5) state and national governments that dismantled the legal framework preventing the industry from abusing its clients.

Bill Clinton summed the attitude up in his maxim, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” Which, perversely, I now read as, You’re stupid if you think the economy is all there is. That is, the economy is life itself. No, there’s more to it—this muddling life of ours.

Exploiting others is only one example of an extreme way to live. Of setting oneself as the standard and computing all benefit from that narrow perspective. What’s in it for me, me, me? is no philosophy of life. Particularly in a self-proclaimed democracy that claims to respect all citizens as equal. Social (misapplied) Darwinism that leads to treating the elite as more equal than the rest leads to eugenics, dysgenics, winning at all cost, and exploitation of those deemed inferior and less worthy.

Which is why we play games by rules that apply to all players. We share, take turns, are fair in our judgments, and accept loss as a temporary setback, not an evaluation of our humanity.

As I see it from my individual perspective, the drive to dominate others’ minds for personal advantage is at the heart of entrepreneurship and our capitalist version of democracy, including notions of corporate personhood and the spending of money as a variant of free speech (CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, p. 262).

That’s where Inside Job takes me each time, to the deliberate abuse of public trust for personal advantage—which is called cheating. I continue the passage in that vein:

Capitalism sets up two classes of people: owners and workers. Because owners have wealth, workers have jobs—we take that as the desirable state of affairs. Getting a job means working for somebody else. Owners, on the other hand, are seen as public benefactors in keeping workers off the streets and public dole. This formula gives all power and all virtue to owners, to whom workers owe the duty of arriving on time, working hard, not complaining, and being grateful for regular paychecks. But as company men, workers lose the right to exercise their own minds, which is more than any man or woman should bargain away for the sake of employment (p. 262f.).

Power is the issue here, or the unequal distribution of power:

The powerful have always depended on the labor of others—spouses, children, servants, minions, slaves, laborers, stewards, consultants, staff, hands, and all the rest. Bodily control depends ultimately on mind control, so workers are expected to devote their lives to the welfare of those they have the privilege of serving (from Latin servus, slave). The economy is designed to justify such a situation as being true to the reality of how life really works—as if individuals were born to one class or the other as children of the owning or of the laboring class—an idea whose time should have come and gone long ago (p. 263).

The collusion between various elites treating the public as losers, dupes, and fools is at the heart of the latest financial collapse as depicted in Inside Job. How is it possible for a class of people to evolve the belief that they can duly suck the blood of the masses like so many vampires—and think they are clever in doing so? In the process wreaking subsequent havoc, chaos, waste, and destruction on a gullible public, generating massive amounts of entropy where civilization depends on sustained social order for the indefinite future.

It all comes down to how we choose to engage with (not in opposition to) our fellow passengers on this planet of ours. If we live at the expense of those we deal with, we are so many lampreys or vultures. If we elect to live as peers equal to the cohort we are born to, respecting others as much as we do ourselves, then there may be some hope for us all.

It is no accident the Occupy Movement chose to camp out on Wall Street where the entire financial services cabal could see their faces. Who wants to grow up in a world where your future is co-opted before you arrive?

Enough already. As ever, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Yesterday, Occupy Bar Harbor hosted a public showing of Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job documenting the effects from 30 years of deregulation of the financial services industry. What did we get but exploitation of the many by the few?

What struck me most in this, my fourth viewing, was the unbridled collusion between 1) giant international investment banks, 2) rating agencies that evaluated their offerings, 3) insurance companies that guaranteed a profit even if investments proved worthless, 4) business schools that lent respectability to dangerous practices, and 5) state and national governments that dismantled the legal framework preventing the industry from abusing its clients.

Bill Clinton summed the attitude up in his maxim, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” Which, perversely, I now read as, You’re stupid if you think the economy is all there is. That is, the economy is life itself. No, there’s more to it—this muddling life of ours.

Exploiting others is only one example of an extreme way to live. Of setting oneself as the standard and computing all benefit from that narrow perspective. What’s in it for me, me, me? is no philosophy of life. Particularly in a self-proclaimed democracy that claims to respect all citizens as equal. Social (misapplied) Darwinism that leads to treating the elite as more equal than the rest leads to eugenics, dysgenics, winning at all cost, and exploitation of those deemed inferior and less worthy.

Which is why we play games by rules that apply to all players. We share, take turns, are fair in our judgments, and accept loss as a temporary setback, not an evaluation of our humanity.

As I see it from my individual perspective, the drive to dominate others’ minds for personal advantage is at the heart of entrepreneurship and our capitalist version of democracy, including notions of corporate personhood and the spending of money as a variant of free speech (CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK, p. 262).

That’s where Inside Job takes me each time, to the deliberate abuse of public trust for personal advantage—which is called cheating. I continue the passage in that vein:

Capitalism sets up two classes of people: owners and workers. Because owners have wealth, workers have jobs—we take that as the desirable state of affairs. Getting a job means working for somebody else. Owners, on the other hand, are seen as public benefactors in keeping workers off the streets and public dole. This formula gives all power and all virtue to owners, to whom workers owe the duty of arriving on time, working hard, not complaining, and being grateful for regular paychecks. But as company men, workers lose the right to exercise their own minds, which is more than any man or woman should bargain away for the sake of employment (p. 262f.).

Power is the issue here, or the unequal distribution of power:

The powerful have always depended on the labor of others—spouses, children, servants, minions, slaves, laborers, stewards, consultants, staff, hands, and all the rest. Bodily control depends ultimately on mind control, so workers are expected to devote their lives to the welfare of those they have the privilege of serving (from Latin servus, slave). The economy is designed to justify such a situation as being true to the reality of how life really works—as if individuals were born to one class or the other as children of the owning or of the laboring class—an idea whose time should have come and gone long ago (p. 263).

The collusion between various elites treating the public as losers, dupes, and fools is at the heart of the latest financial collapse as depicted in Inside Job. How is it possible for a class of people to evolve the belief that they can duly suck the blood of the masses like so many vampires—and think they are clever in doing so? In the process wreaking subsequent havoc, chaos, waste, and destruction on a gullible public, generating massive amounts of entropy where civilization depends on sustained social order for the indefinite future.

It all comes down to how we choose to engage with (not in opposition to) our fellow passengers on this planet of ours. If we live at the expense of those we deal with, we are so many lampreys or vultures. If we elect to live as peers equal to the cohort we are born to, respecting others as much as we do ourselves, then there may be some hope for us all.

It is no accident the Occupy Movement chose to camp out on Wall Street where the entire financial services cabal could see their faces. Who wants to grow up in a world where your future is co-opted before you arrive?

Enough already. As ever, –Steve

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

All people on Earth depend on looping engagements with their surroundings for air, water, and food—both intake and elimination, as well as for reproduction. It should come as no surprise, then, that the human nervous system should depend on a similar looping engagement between energy received by the senses and actions directed at the physical environment. Yet we tend to look upon our brains as the whole story on the theme of consciousness without considering the inherent order of sensory stimulation and the ordered serial gestures we make in response.

The job of consciousness is to make our actions appropriate to the situations we judge ourselves to be in. Those situations as told by the energy they relay to our senses are every bit as essential as correlates of consciousness as the relevant regions of our brains. Consciousness requires embodiment in a physical body within a situation that includes air, water, food, and opportunities for sexual engagement. And a brain to boot.

Without brains there would be no consciousness, just as without sensory stimulation and occasions for action, ditto. Nothing new there. We all assume as much. But what we forget to mention is the unbroken circulatory relation between environment and brain on which meaningful perception and action depend.

Our loops of engagement are responsible for the kinetic quality of consciousness, what William James called the stream of consciousness. Memory is essential to our realizing that stream as an ongoing process of situated awareness. Without a glimmer of short-term memory, life would be a blur of one moment of “booming, buzzing confusion” merging with the next without end.

Instead, we are able to fix our attention on the instant, and to develop stable relationships with the many tools or accessories we use to boost the effectiveness of our actions in the moment. We enlist a host of accessory devices in accomplishing our plans—vitamin pills, Doberman pinschers, monkey wrenches, computers, skateboards, Glock handguns, etc., upon which we come habitually dependent in conducting our engagements in order to feel like ourselves. We relate to such possessions in a master-servant relationship as if our engagements gave us the authority to actually own them and determine their use.

A great portion of human law is given to regulating human loops of engagement through legal use and possession of personal property. That is, local, state, and federal governments have an interest in how we conduct our loops of engagement so not to cause harm or undue discomfort one to another. What freedom we have in conducting our affairs is supervised by judicial bodies in assuring we do not inflict mayhem on our neighbors through the use of private automobiles, weapons, animals, toxins, and so on. 

Our relationships with our partners and children are of particular interest lest we abuse those we are most intimate with in our everyday engagements. But, too, those with great wealth can arrange for laws to favor them in particular, so a great many special arrangements are protected by the law, giving significant advantage to those in positions of power and wealth, rendering the law itself unjust in favoring one group above another.

My purpose here is to suggest the importance of our individual loops of engagement by which we act on those who share our life situations, and are in turn acted upon by others. Marriage is a form of engagement, as is education, warfare, commerce, and entertainment. Nothing is more important to each one of us than how we engage our life situations.

Neuroscience would make a significant advance by acknowledging and accounting for the looping engagements by which we conduct our affairs. There’s more to our relationships than we commonly allow. And it lies at the heart of how each one of us views the world through personal consciousness.

Thanks for stopping by. As ever, –Steve

Copyright © 2011

Here’s the last installment of the synopsis of my upcoming book, KNOW THYSELF: Adventures in Getting to Know My Own Mind. –Steve Perrin

Chapter 13, Reality. From my perspective, the big picture in my awareness constitutes my sense of the real world. That assumption is the basis of the human condition, or as I see it, predicament. Usually we assume that such an overview captures the essence of the physical, cultural, or economic world—as if it were somehow external to ourselves; but these are highly elaborate constructs or belief systems in our minds. Through introspection, I have learned that reality is a dynamic creation of my mind engaging what I can experience of my situation in the world through a looping engagement of continuous action alternating with paying attention to the results of such action. I create reality in subjective consciousness through a bioenergetic engagement between the unknowable-in-itself substrate provided by my embodied brain in dynamic relation with the unknowable-in-itself substrate of the physical world. In that sense, reality is a virtual figment maintained at considerable expense by my devoting a good portion of my life energy to the mutual interaction between my unknowable brain with its unknowable situation in the world.

Chapter 14, Conflict. Each of us being mentally unique, no two people live in the same world of awareness. Conflict comes with the variety of our outlooks on the world. To get along with one another, we have two options: cooperate, or do it my way. Another source of world conflict is caused by one person (group, corporation, nation) attempting to dominate the minds of others so they come around to a preordained way of thinking (voting, consuming, fighting, believing, buying). Much of America’s stance in the world (e.g., claiming to be the world’s only superpower) is based on convincing others to grant us a larger share of world resources than is warranted by our portion of the global population, allowing us to live higher on the hog than others may find fair or deserved. In daily life, we group ourselves by our common interests, forming subcultures (unions, managers, executives, artists, entertainers, immigrants, men and women, the young and the aged, etc.) that speak different languages and define themselves by their differences with subcultures viewed as standing in opposition to them. At the same time, we are great game players and watchers, pitting ourselves against other people, teams, nations, and so on in rule-governed competition. Rules make the difference between ruthless anarchy and civil society, but they require enforcement to make sure the field is level for all players. As a means of conflict resolution, games are played out in the minds of participants and spectators alike, loss in one game not being the end of the world because there’s always the rematch or next season to aim for, and the one after that. I include a post to my blog on the topic of harvesting rockweed in Maine as an example of dealing with conflict between seaweed harvesters and fishery managers, a topic I got into because of my conflict with one particular harvester.

Chapter 15, Power. The source of personal power is the assumption that I am right and you are wrong about an issue, and I am going to set you straight because it is to my advantage to do so. Each of us is more-or-less determined to dominate the mind of the other to the point of agreement, submission, or surrender. This is predominantly a patriarchal or “father knows best” strategy, in contrast with a matriarchal strategy such as “let’s build a relationship,” thereby spreading networks of mutual support to children, spouses, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and surrounding communities. Exerting power over other minds is a way of dressing personal authority as a virtue, personal ideology as a civic benefit. Wealthy politicians and corporations these days have legal teams, publicists, bank accounts, minions, profit-hunger, and arrogance enough to want to exert control over the reality in which others live their lives. This invites well-funded elites to dominate large sectors of the public mind, even depriving entire classes and generations of the right to be conscious for themselves.

There you have it in summary, a rough outline of my upcoming book, INTROSPECTION: Adventures in Getting to Know My Own Mind. More about its availability in subsequent posts.