Hmm… which oranges should I choose, let me see… California? Too dry… Florida? Too “smoked” these past days [dry, black humor, I know…]. Oh, I found it! Star Wars oranges… these must be great, from… “a galaxy far, far away”…
I found the following paragraph (and the header image) in this wordpress site:
I have never seen a film achieve this kind of massive awareness before a release…ever. Not even the release of Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 could top this. If you were around in 1989 you would understand that you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a Batman logo.
That’s not all. In addition Disney/LucasFilm will make an estimated $5 billion next year just from selling Star Wars merchandise licensed under Disney’s Consumer Products division.
Products including t-shirts, toy lightsabers, action figures, toasters, pajamas, bedsheets, shower curtains, socks, costumes, towels, lightsaber barbecue tongs, Jedi bathrobes, salt/pepper shakers, and the aforementioned Star Wars Oranges.
This makes me think of how much power we give unconsciously to those who know to touch one or more of our senses, but mostly, they grab us by the stories we tell ourselves: “I wasn’t so much into that movie, but other millions find it cool, so, yes, I’m willing to put my money (time, attention, emotion, etc) in it. I’m with it because I’m afraid to stand alone.”
I’ve never cried while out or driving; not even with my eldest daughter’s divorce two years ago, when she dropped the bombshell on us, four years into a marriage based on a love story. Not even when my daughter is being invited over to her son’s school, to meet a whole team of teachers, psychologist and councilor because her five-year-old son is misbehaving again. And I know why: he feels deeply hurt because his loving dad isn’t living with him and his mom, but in a different country. He keeps on talking about “crushing” or destroying stuff, from a toy to planes or even the world.
But today I couldn’t hold it and I kept crying… behind a pair of sunglasses, true, but this didn’t stop people who’d cross my way from eyeing me strangely. It’s my second daughter who made me cry. Because she herself has been crying for the past two days. Because her father and I demanded that she stops seeing the guy she’s been in love with for the past two years.
No,we aren’t that kind of mean parents – we aren’t any Capulets. But we did it because we are afraid for her, and we are trying to protect her – or, maybe, ourselves? Or, maybe, because of our first daughter’s failed marriage?
Fact is, we always had a vulnerable spot regarding our second daughter, now 26, more fragile, in our eyes, than her eldest. And we wanted to avoid her what was, in our eyes, a relationship destined to sure failure.
We had no preconceived, bad intentions before meeting the guy. I even bought myself a dress and tried on accessories that would go fine with it for the engagement. I even made efforts and lost weight. Not that the guy is a terrible one; he seems nice, polite and polished. But what we saw in him was below our standards for her, in terms of personal merits, self assurance, confidence; he gave us all (including the rest of the family) the impression of lacking grounding and centeredness. She said that he’s full of promises, but we didn’t judge him with the same indulgence. At 31, a young man should have already some base, other than the job he recently got after many changes. And now, maybe she hates us. And maybe she’s right.
“It’s her business whether she wants or not to be with him, if she likes him,” some people would argue, or would strongly advise: “Don’t interfere into the lives of your adult children!” I know, I always did that to others, but it’s always easier to shower advice on others.
We aren’t the kind of parents to interfere in their children’s major life decisions. We didn’t interfere with our first daughter’s marriage. We didn’t interfere with all our children’s choices of career; we didn’t either with their choice to go study, work and leave abroad. But this time we felt we had to; our accumulated life experience, our understanding of people’s personalities pushed us to assume this kind of responsibility.
And now I feel lost… I always put my personal interests aside to live vicariously, in accordance to the victories and failures, the comings and goings of my children. I always wanted to be there for them, because my own parents were not always there for me when I badly needed.
I wrote a book on family relationships which I deem important for everyone and relevant in as much as a culmination of a lifetime of focus and from my years of experience; one cannot but build one’s own my philosophy of life, and I deem mine comprehensive, rich and consistent. I believe that living a fruitful life, giving out the product of your accumulated wisdom is the utmost meaning of this brief existence. However, I didn’t do anything to bring this book, this other child of mine into the world, because every time when I would push for it, my children would need me. But this wouldn’t stop me from feeling frustrated and failing myself.
And now, for the first time in her life, my daughter is not that willing to talk to us as she used to. She wants to be left alone. I don’t think she trusts our judgment… she’d rather listen to the voice of her heart. And I wonder… is this voice ALWAYS right??
This is the moment when you realize that you should have left them alone, make their own choices. Even at the price of you living with hurts and sleepless nights caring, worrying for them… or driving and crying.
This is the moment when you realize that no, you needn’t see yourself smarter than your parents. By now you stop seeing how they’ve done a terrible job at shaping and upbringing you and begin to understand their reasons. By making those mistakes they may have given you the right model… or the wrong one?? Here I am, the result of my parents’ upbringing, they, in turn, the result of theirs… and so on. Who knows which way is right? To care, or not to care? To interfere, or not to interfere? To suffer, or not to suffer?… as if we had any choice.
While advances in neuroscience and insights from psychoanalysis keep on revealing the unfathomable power and the untapped potential of the human mind and especially of the human unconscious, technologists are forcing on us the dawn of a new world; that we have no idea and no saying in it, nobody cares.
We are a society of new everything, starting with new technologies and inventions. We, humans, are no more good enough drivers, not good enough operators, chess or other game-players, not healthy enough, not smart enough, not creative enough.
I have a special interest in the new technologies, tendencies and developments, so I follow the news from developers, futurologists, life extensionists* and transhumanists** – those who are set to improve, even create a new, updated, perfected human race, a sort of “bionic man”. The conclusive argument is that we have already reached our limitations, and the solution would be to resort to artificial intelligence and nanotechnologies. Eventually, according to Google’s Ray Kurzweil, we would be “running nanocomputers through our bloodstream”.
To me, all this sounds like a revival of old eugenistic ideologies, and any attempt at artificially improving the human race, with its inevitable creation of classes and categories (there are many populations around the globe that may have by far more trivial things to fix about their societies before they would recourse to bionic enhancers) sounds like an old Nazi program.
Some questions might serve as guiding lines to get a clearer picture.
Q: Is it feasible?
A:I guess it is. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ever getting more powerful, as “dictated by Moore’s Law”*** in 1965. It is at the very base of any estimation and prediction on IT (intelligent technologies) and AI progress and development. With the advent of nanotechnologies IT are ever “growing smaller” – atomic-scale foil, carbon or silicon, is already being fabricated, like graphene and silicene (atoms with amazing properties: graphene is 200-times stronger than steel).
Q: Are they thinking of the impact this is going to have on the generations of a not too far future?
A: Moore’s Law predicting, the “singularity” **** is going to occur by 2024 (with the deadline postponed to 2030 something), after Vernor Vinge, Ray Kurzveil (see his books: Singularity Is Near, The Age of Intelligent Machines and The Age of Spiritual Machines), and others; after this date “nothing will be as it was before”. We are already “edging towards the future”, in their words.
Q: How close are we, in practical terms?
A: We are quite close. In a series of experiments, scientists connected live animal brains into a functional organic computer.”*****
We heard in many places that “the future is now” – if this is true, what kind of future, we may ask? For whom, and who needs this?
In order to prepare the future “elite” of the world, colleges like MIT, Stanford and Harvard are not the academic stars anymore. Now there is this Singularity University******. But if you ever thought that these aforementioned universities were a little bit out of your league or out of your kid’s reach, don’t fool yourself: tuition cost in this elite institution is so exclusive, that: this is uniquely an ELITE University.
Many are the things around us that go against the logic. Materialists claim that they are for the hard sciences, for rationality, that they will not take nonsense. But, to me, the irrational consists exactly in the idea of projecting and pushing for any future that will be especially destined for machines, intelligent or not.
Nature has been taken billions of years for the evolution of the human brain and now man, the highest in intelligence of all the animals, will end up serving as biologic support to some organic computers – until they learn to create one from scratch.
At the same time and in the same world there are billions of people who firmly believe, and many also know, that they have a soul, and that this soul has come from a Spirit that is infinitely wise and knowledgeable, because it is the Natural Intelligence at the base of Creation.
Maybe we are at crossroads. But whichever way, we should take our stances and voice our creed and concerns. The worse thing that could happen would be to suffer ourselves from the boiled frog Syndrome.
I began this writing here with my story – what just happened to me, and what countless humans around the world know dead-sure to be true – there is Mind, or Soul, or Spirit , and we are going to access powers than we never thought of – if only we had enough knowledge as to how to use them.
We have this infinite power as being part of this Spirit that created worlds, so why would we want to create machines instead?? We don’t need ultra, super machines, be they mechanic or digital to do our work for us “better than humans” – “Just” human would be enough to make us live happy and content. Who has a different agenda, and what about those countless situations and examples when machines have failed us?
OK, let’s create machines – I am using one here, and happily so – but let them be just what they are: dust of this world, transformed and processed by a human knowledge that grew along generations of creativity, perseverance and human genius. We don’t need IT and AI to help improve human potential and knowledge artificially, through implants, in ways that nobody can guarantee will remain harmless. Like we have done all along, we can surpass our limitations through our own efforts.
*Life extension science, also known as anti-aging medicine, indefinite life extension, experimental gerontology, and biomedical gerontology, is the study of slowing down or reversing the processes of aging to extend both the maximum and average lifespan. Some researchers in this area, and “life extensionists”, “immortalists” or “longevists” (those who wish to achieve longer lives themselves), believe that future breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation, stem cells, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, pharmaceuticals, and organ replacement (such as with artificial organs orxenotransplantations) will eventually enable humans to have indefinite lifespans (agerasia) through complete rejuvenation to a healthy youthful condition. see Link: wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_extension
**Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
***”The observation made in 1965 by GordonMoore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future.” It is still valid and functional – a graphic representation shows the exponential growth, with transistor counts doubling every two years.
****** “Our mission is to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.” And for that, the singularity university needs to “identify key business and government leaders for possible partnership opportunities – interfacing with policy makers or influencers in your area”.
“To represent the organization around the world, SU has appointed Ambassadors to act as liaisons for Singularity University abroad. Ambassadors are selected from alumni who have participated in SU’s various programs. To contact an SU Ambassador on inquire about the initiative, please email email@example.com or head to http://www.singularityuglobal.org”
Today science and technology have enabled us to live with different donors’ organs, with artificial organs or limbs, more recently 3D printed, or with newly grown parts from stem cells. We have the ability to change body parts like we do for our cars, yet we are still capable of identifying ourselves as being the same person as before. What is this thing that makes us form and keep an identity, a basic feeling of who we are?
It’s ok to change a limb, or an organ – even as crucial as the heart. But what if we were to change, for instance, our brain, in a head transplant? Would we still keep your identity after that?? For my part, what makes me be who I am is not my hair, or liver, or legs, but my mind (ok, maybe my soul: my brain and my heart), because it’s behind the way I feel, think, remember, act and react. So, I guess, identity is mostly provided by our mind.
Which brings me to this crucial question: If a doctor were to transplant a head on a different body, who would the new person be – what would be his identity? If we had a John’s head on a Bill’s body, would that be Bill, still, but with a different head? Or would that be John, “wearing” Bill’s body??
As absurd that this may sound – and it did seem so out of this world to me when I first heard about it, this is a real scientific project, already performed on dogs, rats and monkeys. But between a monkey and a human there is not much of a difference, right?
Why would scientists do that? I think that people, when they do crazy things, they do it firstly because they can; many things are happening in the world today because of the high disproportion between wisdom and intelligence, and power doesn’t seem to care about wisdom – not even when it comes to science. Is it in quest of fame? Even though this fame may well turn into notoriety a few years ahead, when the results may turn out to be disastrous?
Dr Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group proposed to use surgery to extend the lives of people with degenerated muscles and nerves or cancer-permeated organs: “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible” – he is preparing to do it himself in two years from the date of the announcement (June, 2015, according to New Scientist). The head will belong to a 30 y.o. Russian patient who is trying to offer himself a chance this way. He is suffering of a rare degenerative genetic disorder, a muscle wasting disease, which would be the main reason behind operating head transplants. Now, if the volunteering patient feels and knows for sure that there is no other way for him than do it or die, it’s easy to understand: the guy is kind of playing the “Russian Roulette”, but in reverse: of all the deadly bullets, there may be a single one to shoot life back into his body, give him a probable chance to life.
I have no doubts that, if this experiment will fail in 2017, chances are that it may become routine in 2020. That is why I would like to take you off the course of current way of thinking: “Let’s take the next step ahead, even though, who knows, the stepping stone my foot is currently on may go tumbling down into the abyss as soon as I move it, leaving me stranded above a gaping void.” What sort of a life would that be? How, and who could one feel with a new head, or a new body?
Identity – What Makes Me Be “Me”?
I know who I am not only because I read, studied, listened, exchanged information with the world outside of me. But I am who I am because this body of mine that I’ve been gifted with years ago has been the source of endless experiences, pleasurable or not, but mostly through my senses – my body has provided them to my brain, and my brain has been labeling them in categories and memories from least to most joyful or painful. I am a full package of all this, a whole circuit of an entire chemistry between my brain and my body – a package of memories of sensations and emotions provided by my brain-body system. To these I add my dreams (wishes and literal dreams), my ambitions (which mostly are not for recognition, but for realizing, I hope, happiness), my relationships – I can’t see my life without them (would they relate the same way to me when I’m no more the one they knew??). This is what makes me and defines me, gives me the feeling of who and what I am, and I wouldn’t exchange them with anybody or anything. This is how I relate to my inner self and to the world around me.
When I feel tired, or sad, if there is a breeze of wind, a fresh scent of freshly cut grass, some scented oil on my skin after a relaxing bath, a beautiful plateau with mountain flowers and grazing sheep with bells by a gurgling spring nearby, or the taste of freshly picked, ripe raspberries, any of these would immediately project me into a different dimension, and would effect a sudden change to this complex “I am”: any of these can instantly change me from a grumpy person into a five-year-old jumping bundle of joy. I am not so sure that my head alone could provide me with any of these – I can read about a love scene, but it would always leave inside me a craving for the real experience – to me, quality of life is not tradable in exchange for longer life, not even for the long-held humanity’s dream, immortality.
What brought me to these musings is all this talk about the increasing role that information technologies (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are going to play in our lives sooner than later. Maybe I am old-fashion, but I am not such a big fun of virtual reality, and in the next post I am going to explain why.
Let’s say you have a great job that has been passioning you for a number of years, you have a great life, your husband/wife is as much in love with you as in the first month after you met, but there’s been a shadow lately that seems to take away the brightness off all these blessings, leaving your soul bare. Because you just realized that time is passing by, you are not getting any younger. But these are just the exterior things. You have inside a growing emptiness that, some strong inner voice is telling you, only one or two little children might fulfill. And your sister/cousin/friend, far from having all the comfort that you are currently enjoying, has already two gorgeous kids that are growing up under your very eyes and seem to bring their parents joys far greater than any job could ever provide. And then you feel quite a nostalgia… for someone you never knew before, a tiny being who, eventually, if coming into your life, will change you in ways never imagined. You just entered the powerful influence of the Mother/Father archetype.
Or, another story, another archetype: you tread the alleys of life in all ease and happiness, believing in your bright star and your right to independence, in your own power of self-expression and your right to enjoy life. The more you seem to praise your independence, the more those of the opposite sex seem to be attracted to you, and excuse is good if it helps you to stay free. And then, the unthinkable, the unbelievable happens: you’ve met that person for five minutes, but now, living even one hour faraway from him/her seems an eternity of loneliness and darkness… you have just fallen in the Love archetype.
Or the Transformation archetype…When this one takes over, it’s time for you to search for meaning, think deeper, ponder over the big life’s questions… over the Big Roles one must play in life…
If there is really nothing you can do but drop everything and follow these deep urges, you have just fallen under the compulsive influence of an archetype. There is intense discussion on how much we act upon rational decisions, and how much we are unconsciously motivated: when we fall in love, it is not a rational decision, but we act as if driven by an almighty force, a force that we cannot resist. When falling in love happens instantaneously, with a passionate, consuming and out of control emotion, it is because we have just activated an archetypal “program”. It is archetypal because it characterizes humans no matter the culture, social position, age, race, etc, and it is a program because, like with any digital device that functions in certain ways, we, too, behave at times as if “programmed”, outside of our control. In a less mechanistic view, an archetype is a universal pattern of behavior that motivates everything we do.
Archetypes (archein, meaning “original or old”; and typos, which means “pattern, model or type”, that is “original patterns”. The archetypal images of the Hero, the God andthe Goddess are so ingrained within us since primordial times that mankind has elevated them to cosmic proportions, identified them with celestial bodies – they are now part of World’s mythologies.
The Father, Mother, Lover, the Trickster, etc, are also archetypal, “primordial images” according to Jung; the Self (the archetype of wholeness or of the self), the Anima/Animus (the part of the soul characterizing the opposite gender: a man will look for his feminine part of the soul in every woman he encounters, and similarly the woman, for her masculine part), the Spirit, the Shadow – that bad vs good duality in conflict also within ourselves; the Self: our strive for wholeness, or for oneness, that we represent or find in a Mandala.
Mandala, as a circle, is the symbol of completeness and perfection of the being, an expression for heaven, sun, and God; it has, since ever, expressed the primordial image of man and of the soul.
In ways not unacknowledged by today science (subliminal perception existed way before modern advertising, politics and so on, started to use science’s discoveries), symbolic images affect us at levels below the threshold of consciousness. Just by contemplating it as a spiritual exercise, a mandala takes us through a complete journey towards finding the Center, the “navel” of our personality, as our ancestors used to see it – it has a healing role, guiding, helping one settle and find own grounding. During such exercise, images talk to the soul before talking to the mind. Christianity has discovered these same fundamental realities in the three-dimensional representation of the mandala, the cross. This has in time acquired the highest possible moral and religious significance for Western man.
But these symbols are universal; any quaternity – the four cardinal directions , or four corners of the world, the four seasons, the ancient Greek classic four elements : Earth, Water, Air and Fire (like in Tibetan Mandalas), Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the Four Gospels, the Four Rivers in the Garden of Eden, the Four Vedas of Hinduism, the Four Archangels of Islam, etc., is intended to cover any aspect in its wholeness and be complete.
But what is the need to feel complete, or what is the meaning of that? Jung has introduced us to the Archetype of Wholeness, or Archetype of the Self : the psyche’s need to achieve the totality of its conscious and of its unconscious components. According to Jung, when one realizes, knows and accepts the totality of his personality with his goods and his bads, his Conscious and his Shadow, he will have achieved the totality of the self – he will have attained the Center. As ultimate goal, self-fulfillment is an universal instinct, called by Jung individuation; according to our capacity for flexibility and non-resistance, all our experiences, good and bad, pleasant or unpleasant, serve to take us there, sooner or later.
Jung could be just the new voice added to the chorus, as the most familiar aphorism to have traveled along times and cultures, since the oldest antiquity to our days, must be probably “know thyself”. It has been taught, written, shouted, advised, sang, cast in metal and chiseled in stone, from the Greek “gnothy seauton” (“know thyself”) inscription written in stone in the forecourt of Apollo’s temple in Delphi, to Socrates, to Plato, to Brias of Priene, Heraclitus, Thales of Miletus, Pythagoras, to more recent days Thomas Hobbes, Alexander Pope, Samuel Coleridge, etc., in all languages and all cultures; it is the motto of Hamilton College and of a few other educational institutions around the world – this just to wash away the New-Age-ish coating that many apply to it in dismissive ways. No matter the interpretations that many have thought appropriate to express, Pythagoras speaks with most clarity: “Man, know thyself;then thou shalt know the Universe and God.”
Other archetypal images refer to the axis, like the World Tree, or Axis Mundi – the axis that links the Heavens to the Earth, and relates Man to the God primordial image: The Creator up there made us down here to serve and elevate Creation. Some native peoples name him/her The Wise Old Man/Woman.
Having grown up with holy images each of us in our respective cultures, we have consciously and unconsciously been absorbing their substance; their meaning has become part of us and they are now our models of growth and evolution. So much so that, at times (too many times, in fact) they talk to us so loudly that they deafen or blind us to the only reality: that they are universal. God, in any language around the world, is equally holy, unique, awesome, tremendous, as we are equally human, mortal, imperfect, striving and questioning.
Archetypal images fascinate me more than anything since I had to realize that, if I seemed sometimes unreasonable and obsessed with one or other issue in my life, it wasn’t me – I can, in all honesty, blame it on the Archetype in action at that time. Nobody can resist or oppose the irrepressible power archetypes have on us, and everybody should be well aware of the key role they play in our lives – this could spare us many conflicts.
Do you relate a phase of your life to any of these archetypal energies? Initially I started writing this after pondering for a long time over the action of the many archetypes in my life. Then I just realized that no more had any of them such an effect on me as at the “peak of the action” – nothing seems to matter to me as much as it used to at given times in my life. Having thought of all that, of all those memories, I could give a sigh of relief, together with asking God, or any divinity that might hear my prayer: no more of that, pray, I have had already enough.
But then, I heard a laughter: “Hold on, not so fast!”. The divine voice (or it was a Muse, which I highly hope), wanted me to think of how long, and how stubbornly I have been clinging on to my latest madness (it only began like 13-14 years ago). How self-absorbed, lost to the world, obsessed, selfish, burned with desire, haunted by ideas waiting for, asking to be written have I been? The inner voice, not wanting anymore to leave me in my darkness, clarified it earnestly to me: I have been “possessed” by the Writer Archetype. And I have a feeling that I may not be the only one around, since we all seem to have been pondering and weighing the perspective of starting writing, on a blog, at least??
For some of us, the urge for writing is quite an irresistible need, and one may try and oppose the idea of exposing oneself and going public for as long as he wants (here read: “fight … as long as I want” – because it is myself that I am trying to write about), but, fight as he may, here he will end, eventually – we are all already on the stage here, already under the spotlight.
I wouldn’t have considered my urge to writing an archetype, but I subscribe to Mark Nepo’s idea about the need to be authentic and true to oneself, no matter what. Here are some quotes from his inspired and inspiring book: The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life:
–“…the need to express who we are is archetypal; that is both necessary and timeless. And expressing who we are is less about describing ourselves than it is about letting who we are out in a regular rhythm that is an imperative as breathing.”
“It is this exchange or flow of who we are- in and out- that keeps us connected to all that is living. ‘Ultimately, expressing who we are has a physics all of its own. More than being understood, it is about not hiding our basic nature.'”
“Essentially, the life of expression is the ongoing journey of how we heal each other… for by telling our stories and listening to the stories of others, we let out who we are and find ourselves in each other, and find that we are more together than alone.” From Mark Nepo, The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life”
Literature definitions for archetype:
Archetype is a repeated pattern of character, image, or event, which recurs in story, song, myth and art
In literature, an archetype is a typical character, an action or a situation that seems to represent such universal patterns of human nature.
But maybe I am just imagining things, maybe others would not agree with me on the Writer Archetype? Or on any other, as a matter of fact??