The brain can only function excellently…at its highest capacity and energy, when it is completely secure…when it is not believing, or holding onto some illusions, some concepts/beliefs/fate…some fantastic ideas. Or- the ideas of Marx, and Lenin, [krishnamurti,] and so on. Or- our own democratic ideas and holding onto them.
this kid is too darned adorable. I’m currently with him at his momma & poppa’s – they’re out on a date. and lucky them, because both of them are pretty swell folks. as is their little boy here – his facial expressions are so remarkably nuanced. sitting with him & constantly smiling at him, trying to make him smile back – i am instantly reminded that He Sees Through Me, and wont be irrationally tickled into a happy state. immense and subtle is his learning – amazing to watch him move, grasp, re-grasp, squeak, re-grasp, drop……like a drop of ink falling into the water. the ink (baby) & its environment (water) are not separate, but are distinct…..& adjust, mingle, altering one another reciprocally. even most contemporary language in the world of developmental psychology and developmental neuroscience is suggestive of this idea that babies are ‘learning the skills needed to be an adult,’ as if the passivity of embodiment suddenly vanishes at old age. in my experience both the adult (or the advanced adult/senior/cute old prune) and the child follow this same ink-water relationship. perhaps the adult-ink has settled more equally into the water, and is more familiar with the turnings of the water, and vice versa. but both follow the same rules, & neither is entitled to magic intentionality.
as a helpful reminder (or perhaps the very prompt) for these lines of thinking are some of the books that mom & dad have sitting around here. The Soul of an Octopus is the clear Ian-choice:
“Popular naturalist Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus, the remarkable connections it makes with people, and the vibrant community that arises around this complex, intelligent, and spirited creature. Practicing true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, Montgomery befriends individual octopuses with strikingly different personalities – gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma – who show their cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures, creative trickery to get food, and jetting water to bounce balls. Montgomery also chronicles scientists’ growing appreciation of the octopus’s problem-solving as she tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.”
but resting just nearby is another consciousness-themed text. Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy. I would type the description of that one but it’s too long, and this baby over here is murmuring/moving in his sleep.
Be back soon
Baby consciousness. It’s now 4/23/2017 but I have to share some thoughts retroactively. Babysat a very special boy for some very special friends last week. As someone who loves littles more than bigs in this human world it was an absolute gift. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take notes but had zero opportunity to take notes. So I jotted down what I could with the inkwell of my hippocampus and later wrote them down. Just a few moments/observations (These are not written in order, and are not representative of any overall sequence of behavior, as they were put on paper down some hours after the actual experience)
- At ten months baby has good eye contact and according to Dad he is BIG: “He’s in the 90th percentile for size.” “So you’re saying he’s gonna be a big boy?” “He already IS big. 90th percentile NOW. He’s a big baby!” & we had a laugh.
- Baby has a unique behavior I most enjoyed. A sort of hand motion/wave. Less of a wave than a reach. In a literal embodiment of an “approach” behavior his left arm, led tentatively and first by his left hand and wrist, twist outwardly and warmly into the air. He twisted his chubby bubby fingers inward, as if creating a cosmic corkscrew to say HELLO. Once his little hand was twisted inward in blissful engagement he clasps and unclasps his hand – this all (obviously) takes place as he beams right into your soul. Babies seem to be quite good at that.
- A fun bit of behavior on the stairs. After about 20 minutes of spending time with baby and Dad, Dad began explaining to me how to babysit/the ins-and-outs of the house. Nursery is upstairs so up we went. & as myself, Dad, baby & family dog ascended the stairs Dad began to explain a few more of baby’s behaviors. The stairs are carpeted and Baby, w/Dad behind, was crawling up them.
- Baby had been increasingly focused on me before we began the Great Stair Climb – offering more eye contact, smiling at me. So as we began on the stairs, with me and Dad behind, baby was distracted/not climbing quickly. It seemed this strange invader behind him was more captivating than The Great Stair Climb. Me: “Maybe I should go up the stairs [ahead of him]?” Dad: “Yeah, you’ve got his attention. Go ahead of him.”
- So I did, & this incentivized baby to speed up and get smiley. How compelling and ineffably warm it felt to have this massive and newly formed consciousness gurgling and approaching.
lad is conscious of me – perhaps 3 times so far we have met and hung out in the presence of his Dad. Today was a warmup to our first one-on-one hangout on Thursday.
Babies are tremendous and wondrous. To anyone fascinated by biology, physical forms, learning, animals, family…I’ll shut up now. Babies are amazing & everyone knows it. But to be clear – this journal of mine is for observations of living things, and today’s opportunity was a rare gem amongst the daily dirt.
Baby – small. large head, of course. His presence rendered me compelled to observe and also eager for eye contact. Eye contact is rare in this day & age – normally I feel I am seeking it, adults frustrate me in their lack of it….to sustain in it (or persist in it) seems to require or signify a type of FORTITUDE.
Not so with a baby.
Baby instead had me requesting his eye contact but, unlike larger humans, made me follow his lead in that attempt in a much happier and rewarding way. In general (with big people) it really feels that I am trying to lead them into a substantial interaction, or at least into eye contact, but in this instance it was Baby who was leading me – to look/not look/wait/not wait. With Big People it seems I am forceful and am compelled to channel. With Little People I am gleefully and willingly channelED.
sorry. the machine-consciousness bandwagon is catchy. it really is. and the same caravan of wannabe-theories (extending backward through history) has similar bandwagons worth hopping onto. not unlike rich kids today who experience their first metaphysical considerations at the sight of a overpriced virtual reality headset, roman elites looked away from theology or metaphysics & instead proclaimed that fountain technology would rip apart the very fabric of reality. when a pocketwatch was amongst the most complicated of mandmade artifacts there was only a single thing on earth in the minds of their owners nearly as glorious or intentional in its construction- yes, duh, the brain. whenever a new technology emerges that outraces its predecessors the first audible noise is a human making proud and inept self-reference.
post-enlightenment egotism serves this notion that humans (the only sentient thing) are special (after all, we are the most complex thing of all things) and therefore other complex things (almost as special) are also sentient things (almost as sentient as people). Folks on this machine-consciousness bandwagon often love to drool over Alan Turing but are creeped out or dismissive of panpsychism. That is to say they believe their silica-based electronics, envisioned by some obsessed white entrepreneur somewhere, have consciousness, but trees and gusts of wind do not. computers think, but Sister Silica does not. today in 2017 this allows flashy characters with inaccessible toys and tech-speak to swallow up an entire culture’s worth of dialogue about consciousness and quietly slink off to shit it all out, revealing their intellectual indigestion. i encounter so many of these types in the world of neuroscience. The same attitude against these passive panpsychist “spooks” existing within or as all matter (“nah dude, my Macbook is conscious but not a rock. btw, machines are gonna take over the world”) is incredibly phobic of the singular machine consciousness they somehow cling to. Don’t get me wrong- Terminator and Ex Machina are splendid movies but they aren’t scary. I did read Frankenstein, after all.
if you’ve made it past philosophy 101 and have still invested all of your ontological energies into the folly end of the Can Machines Think? question, and find yourself in disagreement with me, please leave me a comment. it’s 3:56am and as much as I’d like to keep challenging machine consciousness I need to power down for the night
last wednesday i was finishing up acting class at Macalester when my tummy began to rumble. time to stuff some food into my abdomen! despite receiving some 200 hours of acting training from professor Harry Waters Jr since last year he and I had not yet grabbed lunch together – big mistake. we walked down to the St. Clair broiler & sat down in a booth next to the uncomfortably large fish mounted upon the wall.
mr marvin berry & i discussed some of the more topical/superfluous/symptomatic elements of our conscious experience: how things are going lately, a few stories about youth & a bit of personal background, etc. it was the typical type of conversation that most humans have. amidst our conversation about parenting, teaching, and life there was an older gentleman sitting one booth over reading a book. when we finished our dessert & got up to leave the fellow, wearing a red sweater and a friendly smile, got our attention.
“Sorry to interrupt you two, but did I hear you talking about teaching a few times?”
“Well, yes, you did!”
“Are you a teacher? Or, I mean, do you teach? I teach. I used to be a professor over here at St. Thomas, which is why I ask.”
& so the conversation began. Harry had to leave after a brief period of time but professor Tom Sullivan and I went on to chat for over an hour. he’s a philosopher who is extremely well respected and well versed in the areas of philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and theology. it was quite enjoyable to have an extended conversation about consciousness with someone who is equally (or more) informed, intrigued, and stumped by the hard problem of consciousness. we discussed the merits of nagel and chalmers (duh) and the shortcomings of koch and crick (sorry, boys). Tom was nice enough to offer an extended explanation of what he finds to be the problem with creating a theory of consciousness. In a later blog post I will lay that out (or perhaps just upload my notes from the conversation).