Sunday, October 9, 2016

3 am - A Poem

You're never more alone than at 3 am.
when the cold wraps around you,
no matter how many blankets you hide under -
Because it's not the cold of skin and bone, 
but the cold of the soul.

When your only companions are regret and nightmare
And they huddle close to you, and push the world away
And Death sits on the foot of your bed
It's too late for yesterday, and too early tomorrow
Too late to sleep, but too early to wake
Too late to live, too early to die.
You're never more alone than at 3 am.

Friday, October 7, 2016

What if God was all of us?

As humans, for a long time we believed that we were the only sentient beings in the universe. Only we, given form and thought by God, were able to comprehend our own existence. That was what defined us, seperated us from the rest of life on the planet. And of course, only the planet Earth had any life at all.

Nowadays, we know that the answers are not so straight forward. We haven't found life outside the planet yet, but most scientists believe it's out there. Also, the question of sentience has gotten a lot more murky. We have a lot to learn about animal intelligence, but we know that animals can think, understand, and have a sense of self. In the Season 2 Star Trek: TNG episode, "The Measure of a Man", the question of Data's sentience is brought up. The question of what is required of sentience is asked. The answer is "Intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness". As little as a half century ago, humans believe they were the only beings that meet that criteria. Now, we know that other creatures - Great Apes, Cetaceans, Elephants, even ravens could be considered "sentient". Lately, there's a movement that implies that believes we're grossly underestimating what qualifies as self-aware. Perhaps ALL creatures is self-aware. Does your dog know he's a dog? perhaps. It's not an extreme jump to suggest that all LIFE may be self-aware, although we don't have any way currently to test that.

But, let's go with the theory that it is. The quality that really sets life apart is self-awareness. If a thing is alive, then it IS self-aware. That would mean that plants, even fungi are aware. All the way down to Paramecium and bacteria. Now, when we think of ourselves, we are a being, right? I am "Brian". One living life form. You are "You". Another life form. The dog is "Dog", still another entity. But, that's not quite true, is it? I am not just a solid piece of mass, but a collection of organs working together. I am a heart, and a brain, and a liver, and a couple of kidneys. I am bone and muscle. And each one of those organs are made up of individual cells, which are themselves living creatures, in a manner of speaking. Certainly, a cell removed from my heart and placed in a petri dish could not survive long on its own, but along the same lines, I would not be able to survive if I were removed from the networks that keep me alive, either.

This brings me to my point. Imagine you ARE that heart cell. You have a job, you are aware of yourself, and your neighbors. You see other cells come and go, living their own lives. To you, this is the meaning of existence. There may be something bigger out there, but probably not. To think there's more to just being a cell, why that's absurd. Of course, the blood cells are always talking. They've seen things that aren't the heart. There's the lung cells that provide oxygen, and the kidney cells that clean impurities. What if the purpose of all these cells is greater than just being a cell? You might laugh at the blood cell. Of course there's not anything "more". Life is what it is. We're not part of anything bigger... We CAN'T be, right? There's no way to even fathom what such an intelligence could be.

I trust you see the similarities. To the earth, we are but a cell - a piece of the whole. This isn't a new theory, either - The Gaia Hypothesis posits that the earth is a living being, and just as we are made up of hearts and lungs and livers and kidneys, so to is Gaia made of Humans and Trees and Elephants and Turtles. And if that is so, could that life also perhaps be sentient? Could the earth be self-aware? And if it IS self aware, wouldn't an intelligence that unfathomable be godlike?

From there, we could perhaps reach further. If cells are living creatures that make up organs that make up humans, and humans are living creatures that make up the living planet, could the planet then be part of a even more incomprehensible part of a chain of life? Is the entire galaxy possibly an entity in and of itself? from there, perhaps the entire universe? It has been remarked upon several times how the broad picture of the universe resembles the same pathways of neural receptors. If that is true, the entire universe may indeed be sentient, in an incomprehensible manner. And That truly would be godlike, would it not?

There's a quote from John Green, from "The Fault in our Stars", that goes, "I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed." If that is true, Then there might be a god after all, and we are merely part of one of its organs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

You have to love yourself, OR ELSE.

There's a common phrase that pops up just about any time someone expresses a desire to find someone to have a relationship with. Invariably, someone will say, “You have to learn to love yourself first.” or “You have to be comfortable being alone before you can be comfortable with someone else.” I've discussed my dislike of these before, because it makes a lot of assumptions, not the least of which that they don't love themselves, or they're not comfortable with themselves.

The other day I was at work, and one of the coworkers mentioned a bad dating experience. This brought up a conversation, and someone asked me about my dating experience. I made a offhanded, self-deprecating comment like I usually do. Almost immediately, someone gave me the “you have to learn to love yourself first.” Normally at this point, I point out that if that's true, I'll NEVER find someone to love me, since loving myself just isn't in the cards. This time, however, I had an article on my mind from the night before. The article was on Maslow's Pyramid. For those who don't know, Abraham Maslow was a psychologist in the 1940s, who published a paper titled "A Theory of Human Motivation", where he outlined the heirarchy of needs for a human to become self-actualized. Most of the time, this is written as needing to fulfill the lower levels before moving up to the next. For instance, one must fulfill the physiological needs, before progressing up to the safety needs, and then must complete those before moving on to Love and belonging. Of course, this isn't necessarily the case, because even people that are struggling with the “safety” level still have a desire for friendships, self-esteem, and morality.

What it DOES show is that things higher on the list become more difficult if things on the lower levels aren't fulfilled. Notably, It's difficult to find esteem without Love/Belonging being fulfilled. And likewise, it's difficult to achieve love and belonging, if your unable to feel safe.

“You have to love yourself before anyone else will love you” is literally saying that you must fulfill the “Esteem” level, before you're able to fulfill the “Love/Belonging” level. You have to have self-esteem, confidence, achievement before you can begin to find friendship and intimacy. This is actually a difficult feat, because self-esteem and confidence come primarily from friendships, family, and a sense of belonging. Humans are social creatures, and without a social framework to build on, it's difficult to find a level of self-esteem.

Most people that say “you have to love yourself first” miss this point. To them, they love themselves, so it's natural that people accept them. It's always been that way, as far as they know. But the truth is that in most cases, that self-esteem came from others. Family, friends, colleagues, or others helped build it up first. Yes, if it already exists, it's easy to assume it's always been there. And of course, confidence, self-esteem, and achievement ARE attractive qualities. So if you have those qualities, you'll see people attracted to you, and it's natural to assume that self-esteem leads to love and belonging, rather than the other way around. In terms of relationships, though, saying “You have to love yourself first” literally is the romantic equivalent of “If they have no bread, let them eat cake.”
When a person DOESN'T have a support network, they haven't fulfilled the Love/Belonging tier, and it is incredibly difficult to build the esteem tier. How do you feel good about yourself, if there is no indication that you SHOULD feel good about yourself? Just assuming you're awesome is fine, but it will only get you so far, especially when there's literally noone to verify that. Or worse, if things happen that make you question that, like not being able to find a relationship.

Unfortunately, I don't know what the solution is. “Just love yourself” isn't an answer. I don't know about other people in this situation, but I just don't see that as a possibility. What's more, speaking personally, I don't know HOW to love myself. You might as well say “before you find someone else to love you, you have to prove there's life on mars.” It's not a matter of not wanting to, it's a matter of not knowing what to do to even start. And without a support network, that continues to be harder, rather than easier.