Monday, February 22, 2021


Mental Entities

After a radio story on Thomas Edison, my imagination was fired up by his idea of humans as swarms of life energy units that persist for awhile then disperse and eventually join other energy units to form something else. As an image for death it’s more comforting than the image of a body decaying. It also puts emphasis on the energy of consciousness as opposed to the physical body. I’ve always liked the idea of a soliton as an image for a particular existence. Like the shape of an eddy in a stream that keeps its form as long as the conditions of the current and rocks stay the same, once the supporting conditions are gone, so is the shape. A similar dynamic occurs with a class. For a time we are a swarm of minds that each influence the other and bring out different qualities and ideas that none of us might have arrived at alone. It’s a mental organism that grows and matures over time. It’s a dynamic with its own qualities and behaviors. The mixing of different backgrounds and ideas fuels a broader creativity and the participatory energy has its own field of influence. When it’s time frame ends, the energy units disperse enriched by the shared experience and new understanding. The disintegration of any strange attractor (pattern of energy that holds its form) is a kind of death of a specific form, but the word shifts meaning with the understanding it was always part of a sea of energy flow that is constantly reorganizing. At every level from cells and systems, to societal groups and the larger fields of consciousness that organize the physical realm like a semester organizes a class, the patterns of collaborating elements of consciousness repeat at every scale. Too much emphasis on an individual physical body doesn’t give enough weight to the many collaborative mental entities with which we participate. When the entity disperses, the ideas and points-of-view are still available in the larger consciousness.

Friday, January 22, 2021


Beauty's Guidance

One of my most popular posts, “The Sense of Beauty”, ties together ideas that emphasize the guidance that our attunement to beauty can provide. Not the marketed beauty of glamorized physical appearance, but the inner response to what goes together, what’s in harmony, the sense of things in place. Philosopher Susanne Langer sees it as a sense in its own right, like smell and taste which don’t wait for cognition to decide if something is bad or good for us. What we see has within it a discernment of what matches, what is wrong or out of place in a scene, a precognitive judgment led by an instinct for beauty. In a time when we’ve been bombarded with so much behavior that’s been ugly, the importance of beauty needs revaluing. I recently read that left hemisphere thinking, which is what most education is directed toward, is narrow and utilitarian and not responsive to values. This is where the sense of beauty and right hemisphere assessments can balance the distortions that come with limited focus by seeing the whole as one. Alan Watts talked about the need for both spotlight and floodlight consciousness. The spotlight is great for seeing more of one thing but we need a floodlight to see the context, how it works with the rest of the scene. Focusing on one area is an act of separation. The floodlight may be dimmer, leaves out the details, but shows the whole so the spotlight can zoom in on what’s needs attention. Looking at art is an opportunity to refine the floodlight consciousness. The experience of art always starts as a whole. It refines our awareness of the feel of experience all at once. This leads to better understanding and attention to the intuitive feel in other situations, what’s right, or wrong, or off about it. Looking at art is training the sense of the whole and the values shown by harmony, graceful form, attention to detail, appreciation of virtuosity in all things. We all have an inborn ability to set the picture right when something looks off. We when respond to an image it connects to our own inner world. We’ve witnessed more delusion than we could have imagined and see how important self- knowledge can be. Looking at art is a powerful tool for learning about oneself. The pleasure that comes with beauty is a signal of the reward system in action, encouraging what is good for us and fortifying our capacities. With so much visual imagery in our technological world, refining the visual sensibility will develop a long-neglected capability necessary to navigating the future with awareness of the interlocked whole.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Bookmark 2020

Celebration in Time of Covid- Part 2

Six months from the last post by this title and the pandemic is even worse. Numbers beyond imagining six months ago, still galloping higher. Though many have given up on precautions, many others are celebrating in new ways. In my neighborhood, every street is alight. Looking down the hill from my bedroom window is a wonderfully disorganized succession of elaborate and imaginative displays, far more than in previous years. Children have made contributions, a lawn full of hand-painted Christmas lollypops is my favorite. As I walk during the day I keep smiling at so much inventiveness, the use of white clothes hangers to make beautiful, giant snowflakes hanging all over the yard. It’s refreshing just to walk around in the daytime and be drenched in everyday creativity. Going at night is even more spectacular. This is joy, this glimpse into the minds behind the scenes and variety of imaginations. Inflatables are everywhere. I’ve seen a chorus of singing penguins, and Santas, riding not just sleds, but cars and dinosaurs. One extensively decorated front yard even has a Grinch that’s taller than me and furry. Walking gives me time to examine the details, and people have really knocked themselves out this year. To see and feel that effort is uplifting. It’s a reminder of how spirit can be shown, and seeing it everywhere in the neighborhood fortifies the heart at a time when discouragement comes easy. Nature is cooperating. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen snow on the ground in the days before Christmas, natural encouragement to stay in, enjoy the transformed neighborhood, maybe bake cookies, and listen to the children sledding on the hill across the street. Two separate notes Having just finished teaching my last Illusionism and Personal Ideas classes ever, the break has a new openness about the ways my mind may range, one less thing knocking on the door of the current here and now. With a better sense of how to use zoom, I’m in a better position to enjoy the last semester ever. The collage painting I did over the summer is now posted on And a hi-res image is on the Baker portfolio now is the Visual Commentary section.

Sunday, November 22, 2020